Thursday, December 26, 2019

winding it down

I started writing in blog format some time in maybe 2003 or so?  It's been a long time. I've met some great people and had great experiences.

    These days I'm not updating the blog very much. The value in writing here has declined for me. Life happened along the way.
       When I started writing I hadn't even gotten rated as Able Seaman aboard the ship I was working on. I was an Ordinary Seaman, the very lowest rating aboard. My original plan, to receive an unlimited license, made sense to me- I just had to put in time and effort, and learn the job.

      Along the way, that employment market died. The maritime academies still crank out kids with 3rd mates licenses for jobs that no longer exist. I settled on a smaller license and work on smaller boats, which is where I started anyhow.
    Thing is, I have a life too now. Family, other obligations and priorities. My job no longer has to be the central core of my sense of self. If you had asked me 20 years ago about who I was, the first sentence would refer to making a living off the ocean. Now? Husband and parent. That's who I am and that's enough for me.

    I'm sure I'll still write here from time to time, but I no longer have the compulsion to race to the internet whenever I read something. I've got other things to do now.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

To work

Well, I flew in just as some weather hit, and in just a few hours I went from sunny and 80 to freezing rain and snow. So that sucked

     I'm back at work now. It's cold. But I had a hell of a great time at home. I'm pretty beat, though, even so. Maximizing time with  family, etc etc. Makes me happy.

 I got my house looking just so, for our first Christmas there, and, although I won't be there, we had a nice 10 days or so, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife went all out in decorating. I was the labor behind the vision inside, and I did the exterior of the house too. Mostly I just paid for the stuff, and since we tripled the size of our home when we bought the new place, the decorations were not cheap, which sucked, but what the hell, it looks nice.  the 11 foot tree isn't quite finished in the picture below, but we got that done before I flew out.

As with marriage, part of the secret to success despite my being a sailor seems to be putting the effort in. We had a great time, and even though this year I'm not even remotely close to coming home for the holidays, we enjoyed what we could, I put some good presents under the tree, and if the timing wasn't all that we could wish, we had plenty of time to be together and will pick up where we left off when I get home next month.
 At which point I get to take down all the lights and decorations.

Friday, November 29, 2019


I got home in time for Thanksgiving, and completely enjoyed a gigantic meal with the Florida contingent of the B family. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's aunt is here visiting as well, so the extra person at the table was very welcome for my wife and son, who don't get as much opportunity to speak the mother tongue all that often.

   I've been eating clean for the past month while I was onboard. Nothing processed, nothing that grows under ground, low carb, no sugars. No alcohol too, of course, but that's normal at work. Felt great, lost weight. Today, the morning after a mountain of turkey, bread, sweets, potatoes and whisky and champagne, I feel hung over, logy and debauched.
 Worth it.

 Now I am actually home. I flew  in on Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year. I have notoriously bad luck when it comes to flying in and out of New York for work anyhow, with about a 90% rate of delays, and 2-3 flights outright cancelled per year. After listening all week about what a shit show Wednesday was going to be... it was easy and everything ran smoothly. Like storms, politics and any other bullshit the press reports on, everything was not a miserable disaster despite their best efforts to present it as so. God I hate the press.

    Seriously, that was one of the easiest travel days I've ever had. People were in a good mood despite being there in higher numbers, the bartender at the bar I chose had a heavy hand with his pour, and it wasn't too crowded. Flight was mildly turbulent the whole time, which seems to be normal on the east coast, but it wasn't too bad. I got home at about 2100, caught up with the fam and was asleep by 2300.  B, my relief at the HQ, got caught in that blizzard that bombed the midwest, so I didn't have a relief, so I only got about 2 1/2 hours sleep in the last 36 hours of work, so I conked out pretty quickly on getting home.  8 hours later I was up and prepping the turkey. I didn't slow down until about 7pm, when my brother, sister and I went outside to sit by the pool in the warm air.  By 2200, the house was cleaned up and everything stowed, my siblings headed back home, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I had a last glass of wine together before calling it a night.

   Oh, and after 6 months of owning my home, I finally ate in my dining room and had to lead the prayer. First time in a long time I was at a loss for words, and it took a minute, but being generally grateful for all that I have, it wasn't too hard once  I got started. 

 So, finally here, in this moment, while I'm caffeinating and waiting for the slight headache I woke up with to pass, my time is my own for a few hours.

 Whether you were at work or home alone, I hope your Thanksgiving was enjoyable.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

going all out

My writing has been pushed to the back burner this month with all the work we're getting here on HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ. It's been a while since we had a real blitz like this, where we're finishing one discharge and headed directly back to load more. It's pretty widespread. Berth congestion is an issue at the moment.

 At the moment, the HQ is the only dedicated Heavy Fuel oil barge that my company keeps in NY/NJ. Everyone else is transitioning to Low Sulfur Fuel oil and Ultra Low Sulfur Fuel Oil as the December 31 deadline for sulfur content limitations approaches. With demand dropping, feedstock supply has been erratic apparently. We're loading from multiple tanks, every job, cutting fuel with better fuel to get to an acceptable level of quality for the recipient. Pain in the ass, really. We loaded a few days ago directly from a ship that was a few berths over, using the terminal's pipeline. That was fun. We talk to the shore, the shore talks to the ship, the ship talks to the shore, and the shore talks to us. Worked fine, just slow. Only reason I have time to write at the moment is that I am waiting for inspectors and samplers to come aboard and go over my load figures and pull samples out of my tanks prior to us sailing off for another discharge.

 And they're coming down the pier now.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

gee that's swell

I had a heck of an off-watch time last night.
(he said sarcastically)

       Long couple of days, with not a lot of quality rest. Our plans keep changing, with the upcoming rule changes to fuel quality coming on Jan 1.

 So we loaded for two ships a couple of days ago- a large quantity of heavy fuel oil and a lesser quality of Marine Gas Oil (basically that's diesel oil). We loaded just enough for the two ships, so when we were done we'd be empty in case the next job that was available was for another customer.

 We discharge the first ship, and then the customer cancels the second job, and instead we go back to the loading terminal and load for two more ships, plus the job we already have on board. No real problem, a lot of paperwork, but my 2nd man is not up for blending calculations yet, so I had to get out of bed twice the other night to get the calculations done and write up a loading plan for him. Twice.

       Yesterday I went to bed as the first of those three jobs was coming up.

 I had a long day yesterday and in the break in the middle of the day I actually lifted weights and walked around the deck for an hour, so I went to bed sore, and it being chilly, I was pretty content under the covers after dozing off.
     And then we started rolling.

 It was strange. We were in the middle of Bay Ridge anchorage in New York. Alongside an anchored containership, and pretty well secure. Our tug had left as he had other work to do while we were pumping off. Pretty normal.The wind had come up to a small gale, which was predicted, but we were rolling and rolling and rolling, and it didn't stop. Deep into a harbor, that's really unusual, unless we anchor in the mouth of the Verrezano Narrows during a NE gale. But we weren't in the mouth and we weren't in the narrows. We were off to the Staten Island side. But wind and tide were opposite each other and while I was dozing off, we swung broad to the swell, which surprisingly, was pretty decent, and worse, was timed in some fraction of our natural rolling period, so over the course of 5 minutes, we were rolling a good 15 degrees each side, which would not be much in a traditional situation, but when you're rafted up to a giant ship and you start bouncing and swaying, with mooring lines screaming and a couple of them parting, it can actually be quite dangerous.On getting out of bed and looking outside, I had my 2nd man run new lines to the ship plus some extras,  made a few changes on where they were running, and called my office and requested a standby tug ASAP in case we ended up drifting off. We didn't. Eventually, after 15 minutes more, the ship swung into the wind instead of the current and we settled down. I was only out of bed about an hour, but I didn't sleep soundly for sure.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

halfway day

Well, today's the halfway point of this trip and it's been busier than usual for sure. We had a little downtime- yesterday we were free and there was one other 20 hour period last week, too, but beyond that, it's been steady work. But time has passed by pretty well so far, too, as a result.

         I'm sort of watching what's going on in the news, all the chaos, 6 different stories on the same subject all with radically different points to make, and twisting the news into propaganda. It's disheartening. Folks who put out work I like to read often point out that in order not to be subsumed one must stay engaged, but hell, not wanting to be bothered with the bullshit of our culture is half the reason people want to go to sea in the first place. No, I'll enjoy bombing people I disagree with using sarcastic points while I'm sitting on the can, but I'm not going to waste quality oxygen during my non-bathrooom time by pissing myself off reading all that crap.

          With the death of D, my old captain in my teen years, his daily reminder that even a bad day is pretty good on the water if it don't kill you, I feel a bit recentered. His death hit me more than expected, especially in that I haven't spoken to him much in the past 5 years, and of those times, many were him chiding me about the value of my time spent being a shit to people online.  Smart guy, was D.

       Today I had the fortune, good (for me) enough to finish loading cargo about 90 minutes after the turn of the tide, while we're in a tide-restricted berth- that is, unless we have 2 tugs working together, we have to sail only on the tide, and so I get a 4 1/2 hour break. I cooked lunch, got my paperwork done for the day, and headed outside to splice a broken line and wire-lock some shackles that weren't wire-locked on our hydraulic powered fendering system. Busywork, really, but necessary in that I don't want to waste a lot of budget losing a $6,000 fender over a $1 shackle pin, which has happened.

 Today is the first real cold day here in NY harbor. It was blowing pretty good and in the low 20's when I woke up at 5am. Going out on deck was a bit of an effort of will, until the sun came up and it got above freezing. Hydraulic controls were stiff as hell, valve wheels didn't want to turn... all the things that make us not love winter. So it goes, though. If I got upset over every one of those things, I'd be a hell of a pill. It's still better than being at a desk for me. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Oh Captain My Captain

"Stop! Look around! Today is a beautiful day and it is never going to come again!"

     It took a couple of years before I grew to understand when he said this to me, on days when the weather was poor, that he was right.  

    My dad gave me the love of the ocean, and of ships and science. The Old Man taught me how to catch lobsters, and how to steer a boat. D taught me how to make my living from the sea, starting with cutting classes twice a week, with the connivance of my teachers, his coworkers, to go fishing with him.

 DOHERTY, William.
   Seize The Day! If you're reading this, I am dead and you're not. William Doherty of Weymouth died November 1, 2019, with family beside him including his wife of 52 years, Dorothy Kamison Doherty. With apologies to Dylan Thomas, I have raged, raged against the dying of the light, but now it is time to go gentle into that good night.

 God Bless and keep you, D. Thank you so much. I will miss you.  

Friday, November 1, 2019

settling into the routine

As much as I wish I could stay home full time, I'm not enough of a prick that my company will pay for me to not go to work. I've been back for a few days, and have settled into the routine again. My first week back, I'm working nights, which is never fantastic, me being a day person, but I don't have trouble with circadian rhythms. If I've been up and moving about for 12+ hours, I can sleep. I'll make the adjustment back to working days next week.

 It's been a busy time here on the HQ. Lots of work. The whole maritime industry is struggling to adapt to new anti-pollution legislation that will change the type of fuel ships can burn after Jan 1 of next year. Refiners have added Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil to the types of fuels sold to ships recently, and between finding storage space and vessels to move it, it's been an adjustment. With sulfur content being a huge deal in fuel (cost of the fuel is inversely proportional to the sulfur content), and fuel being the number one expense on ships, this is a big deal.  Now, terminals have to have stocks of Heavy Fuel Oil in 700, 500 and 380cst viscosity, as well as Low Sulfur Fuel Oil, Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil and Ultra Low Sulfur Fuel oil.
Now, to an extent this can be offset by cutting fuel oils with Marine Gas Oil (a type of diesel fuel) to decrease viscosity or lower sulfur content, and therefore there could be ways to not need to rent 6 tanks for 6 grades of fuel, but this is offset by increased risk of contamination or improper blending by custom blending fuels for individual ships.

     Without going into massive detail, the greatest challenge I see here is getting the infrastructure in place to get the right grade of fuel to the right people at the right time. Currently there has been a dearth of berthing at fuel storage terminals to get fuels to ships. Only a modest percentage of ships have invested the millions of dollars in an exhaust gas scrubbing systems to allow them to burn high-sulfur fuel after the cut-off date of Dec 31. Everyone else will need LSFU or ULSFO... but this represents such a high cost to shipping, which is a VERY low-margin business, that many companies have been paralyzed, waiting until the last minute to see if things change, and this has led bunker suppliers like moi and co. to also not have a way to read the tea leaves, too. Now, my particular dog in this fight is not a big one- I sign my name to documents that certify that as far as I know I'm giving a ship fuel in compliance with the law, but it's my employer and the oil majors who have their asses in the breeze here. Recently, some of our barges have been flushed out and put into exclusive service for low and ultra-low sulfur fuel. Currently, the HQ is probably going to carry the heavy stuff still, which is fine for me.

 I'm as curious as anyone as to what will happen Jan 1.

Monday, October 28, 2019

last day

Well, tomorrow I fly out to work again. This has been the most mellow time off I've had in a long, long time. One one hand, I got a bunch of things knocked out on my punch list of things to do at my house. On the other, I took at least two days and did almost nothing productive at all, which surprisingly didn't make me all grumpy with the guilt of not doing something.

 Last night we tried out a Mexican restaurant in my area. The food was excellent, great atmosphere, price was even OK. We hadn't had Mexican food in a couple of years.
 Today, however, I am suffering. I guess I can add Mexican food to the list of foods I should no longer eat. Luckily I am home alone this morning. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the bathroom. Probably crying.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


I've been home almost for a week, and it's been excellent if busy. One of my oldest friends flew in for the weekend, and we had a lot of fun, ate too much, drank too much and caught up. Pretty much exactly what I needed.

       Today, 6 days in, is my first real day to myself. Headed out to start working on the house, of course.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Welcome to the party

 Well, my new guy had his first really bad night.

 Yesterday... yesterday was a dumpster fire. This last load we carried was trouble from even before it started. It'd be comic if I wasn't there. Some jobs are like that.

     We were 4 hours late to our berth because someone was in it, and the terminal where we were picking up fuel is perpetually late on everything. The place is so bad that there's an internationally known acronym made up of the letters in their name regarding how they always make you miss work.

 Well, so it goes. The funny part is that the guy in our berth was heading to the same ship we would be, with a different grade of fuel. So they did their job, arriving 4 hours late.

  I was asleep by the time we got to the berth, 4 hours late as I said... once we were at the berth, checked in, paperwork signed and cargo hose connected, they didn't start pumping fuel to us for 5 hours. No reason was given. I don't know if they were using the pipeline, or the tank was being pumped to someone else, whatever. Either way, 5 hours.

 This was a triple hand blended oil... that is to say, we were taking three different parcels of oil of differing qualities from 3 shoreside tanks, and blending them in 8 of mine. Fine. A couple of extra steps, some more math on my part to figure out blend ratios for all my tanks, and the computer does some of that for me, which helps.  The bitch of it was, the third parcel was cutter stock- clean high-quality diesel, and only like 900 barrels, which, when divided into my 8 tanks, means that It would take 30 seconds per tank to load this stuff on top. Which is great except that you can't pinch down the flow rate of the fuel much, or the back pressure could blow out something. It takes a few seconds to open and close valves, and even at running speed, it takes time to get around deck. So even with an extra man outside, there's a level of coordination that is normally not required, and multiple opportunities to make mistakes.
    A diesel cut into heavy fuel generally means they need to improve its' quality, that is, they want lower sulfur content (heavy fuel being 2-4% sulfur, generally), or lower viscosity, or to change the density, specific gravity or lubricity, or mineral content, as this stuff also has trace mineral content that they may want diluted too. So, by the time we actually got started loading fuel, 5 hours after we signaled the terminal we were ready, we were now 9 hours behind schedule. By the time we got to the diesel cut, it was into the next day, yesterday, in fact, and I oversaw the diesel cut.

   So, the terminal made us about 12 hours late, by the time their delays ended. Then, the cargo survey.

   For some reason, the three men who were handling the third-party cargo survey (a way to verify volume transferred, and also to take samples, in this case, 3 liters per tank, one each from the bottom, middle, and top of the oil level in each tank. So, 24 samples, and the guy doing the paperwork with me, where we actually measure the height of oil in each tank, temperature, and density, and then come to independent calculations of final volume (which we then compare and which must agree)... well, this should take about 30-40 minutes. I know most of the guys and they're pretty good. I didn't know these guys yesterday. It took over 2 hours. So... another 90 minutes lost.

 Anyhow, around the time I was *supposed to be* finishing this whole job, we were coming alongside a massive containership to start pumping it off. 12 hours late.

 The chief engineer is pissed off. A young, kind of pissy Russian (rare to find one pleasant, to be honest) starts bitching at me as soon as we're all fast. I invite the guy in, and he's borderline rude, and whiny to boot. I let the guy go on. He's right to be upset, and he's not being insulting or anything, just kinda cunty. Eventually, as we work through each other's paperwork pile, and he's still bitching, I get to drop the first bomb. The cargo surveyors have yet to send me an analysis of the oil samples. No sane engineer is going to accept fuel that hasn't been tested. Engines have been ruined, guys have gone to jail over it Seriously. If the sulfur content alone is .01% higher than allowed, someone's gonna pay.
    It normally takes 3 hours for sample results to get back to me, that is, from the moment the surveyor's sample man steps off the gangway to an email being sent to me, 3 hours. It's been 3 hours by the time I finish being yelled at by the engineer. So we get to wait.
 Oh, he drops a bomb on me: They're leaving in about 7 hours. It will take me 7 hours to pump off this modestly-sized fuel order.
 ... and it takes 2 more hours for me to get the sample results back.

       By this time the engineer has come down twice to vent his spleen at me, and on the second one, I, being someone who doesn't do well with being yelled at when I haven't actually done anything wrong, yell back. I have some information in my back pocket. His company leasesthe oil tanks we were loading out of. The bunker supplier who owns the oil is also a division of his company. THEY hired the surveyors, not me. The little fella never once accused us of  anything negative, just was angry, but it was his people dropping the ball.

 Not long after I got loud at the guy, the sample results came in. There was a point somewhere where the job had just gone so far south that I was not all that upset anymore. We hit ludicrous speed, I guess. Anyhow, we got the pumps engaged and by this time I'd been up and about for well over 12 hours, so I handed off the job to my 2nd man, who, being green, was still pretty upset over how things had gone so badly when we were doing everything right on our end.
 I took a shower and went to bed. We'd only be able to pump off about 60% of the fuel we had for this ship in the time we had, so it was all over but for the pumping and closing paperwork.

 I hadn't slept well the day before, so I just crashed when I went to sleep. I never heard the pumps wind down, never heard the engineer yelling again at my second man, and never felt us sail off the ship. I woke up about 0430 to us rocking gently at anchor. Peaceful. On getting up, my second man, who had had time to wind down by this point, was still pretty upset. Apparently the engineer had not felt the need to be restrained and impersonal at the end of the discharge. My guy is super nice but his response to ugly situations like this is to be polite and perhaps a bit retiring and I know the guy finds it hugely stressful. That's sort of the opposite of my tendency to get aggressive and mean... and I know I could use a bit more being polite, though in this case it seemed only to encourage the engineer to be petty. Thankfully, the ship had to sail, so the guy ran out of time before he ran out of vitriol. 
  So, all said and done, it's over, and while for me  this was merely the most recent job that didn't go off well, and is at worst annoying and forgettable, it was a lot more than that for my right hand man, and I think he saw that there's a need to watch for certain personality types that  don't respect men who are respectful. Good training.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

dirty deeds done dirt cheap

Well, courtesy of what I think was a paper towel thrown in a toilet here on the HQ we had a blowout again in the holding tank, so we lost half a day getting cleaned out, which was mostly done by me with the help of a couple of guys and a honey wagon. This being the second time in two months that this has happened pretty much makes it hard to have a nice day after something like that.

 Marine toilets are delicate. You can put pee, poop and single-ply toilet paper in them, and anything else but that will destroy the system causing things like last month's energetic loss of containment, the Shitsplosion, or this month, when the system just got clogged and we had a Crapalanche.

 Either way, I got to clean a couple hundred gallons of ghosts of meals past, which (I looked) isn't in my job normal job description. So it goes, though. They give me my munificent salary and expect me to care for the HQ, so care I must.

         Since then, it's been really busy with straightforward work, no really crazy jobs like we've had in the past few weeks, just a lot of work. Some go really well, like the last job, where I was working with great folks, and the enormous Ukrainian engineer took a liking to me because one of us on here has an NRA cap, and the guy's an avid hunter, so we got to bond over stories of things we've killed and eaten. That made a blustery rainy wet day go by nice. The job last night OTOH was an exercise in patience, where the all-Chinese crew was more interested in arguing with each other and it literally took two hours to connect my cargo hose, which I can do in 10 minutes, and then they disappeared for another two hours before someone remembered that they were supposed to take on fuel. There are days like that too.

      Either way, I kinda got my ass handed to me today, physically it was a pretty demanding day, but tonight we get to sit out in the anchorage. I'll be asleep and there's a job when I wake up for watch again tomorrow morning, but I guess if they're gonna pay me I'm OK with that.

 ah well. One week to go.

Thursday, October 3, 2019


    It's a shitty day outside. Thankfully, we're at anchor, so I'm doing my best to not be outstide.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Boom goes the chemical ship

  Over the weekend, the chemical ship "Stolt Groenland" suffered a massive explosion in the port of Ulsan, Korea.

 Yeah, that's no joke, and amazingly, despite 10 injuries, mostly among the terminal staff, nobody was killed! Very lucky there. Less lucky was the ship next to it, the "Bow Dalien" who suffered as a result.

 It's believed that the Stolt Groenland was carrying styrene, which may be the cargo that blew up.

          Both Stolt Carriers and Odfjell Seachem, the owners of these vessels, have lost ships to explosions in the past. There's a certain amount of fatalism in dealing with casualties in the chemical trade. In speaking of this disaster with the dockman at a local fuel terminal that also tends to chemical ships, the man's response was along the lines of 'Well, that's what chemical ships do; they explode.'
           There's some interesting video at the following link. I've got a shitty signal connection today so I can't embed better video here, because I am in New York, and it's apparently a savage wasteland where 4g is taboo.

            The first video shown is from the perspective of the crew of the Bow Dalian, who were abandoning ship, a reasonable reaction to having the ship  next to you blow up, when you're on a godamned floating bomb yourself.

 I remember the "Bow Mariner" incident off of Virginia about 15 years ago. I was in the Gulf of Mexico at the time working.  That one was deeply upsetting to me because I was just learning tanker operations like tank cleaning, improper performance of which caused that particular ship to explode.

 The cause of the Stolt Groenland explosion is as yet unknown.  Styrene is extremely volatile, and accidents have happened before.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

stencil day

For some reason, my newish tankerman mate here on the HQ decided to go nuts with a white paint pen out on deck and mark off the pipelines, ullage ports and hatches.  He never thought to break out a stencil kit, as is actually required, and  for a bit there, the HQ looked like a goddamned train station in a bad neighborhood. I've since unfucked the HQ and repainted this week.

 I like this guy a lot. He's an interesting dude, from Argentina originally, who grew up in Miami, but is now a Texan. Thing is, he's not a sailor qua sailor as I think of it.  By that I mean he's never been to sea, but rather spent a few years on deck on the Mississippi, building tow and not standing watches,  a job I know only a little about, save that it's brutal on the back. Somewhere along the way he acquired a Tankerman PIC certificate and went to a tug and barge company that is famous for being a repository for criminals and the lowest of the low, and where working safe gets one fired. Sadly, given that he has an accent and came into the tankerman's position without the seamanship skills that you find in an Able-Bodied seaman, that company chose not to train him, and instead used him for scut work and heavy lifting. As such, the few habits he had, were mostly bad. He was smart enough to change jobs, and landed with us. We've been training him in the ancient art of being honest while appearing to be shifty ever since.

   The HQ doesn't need AB's, and while I have trained my share, the HQ is not a suitable place to teach and AB. Given that I stay in my job because I get to stay the hell away from people in the first place, that's not good either.  As such, we've ended up with a tankerman who doesn't know shit about seamanship and has no experience as a sailor, but who is a fully qualified tankerman by legal standards. The poor guy fell through the cracks, and didn't even know it.

           Legally, it's all good in the neighborhood. Socially, the guy has been shit upon from A Great Height by other guys in my company, who have been merciless in their interactions with him. We all assume that to be here, one must have a common background in a professional capacity. This isn't true, of course, but that's the state of the zeitgeist here, and people hate it when there's a nailhead standing proud.I sympathize, which is why we've kept him on. He learns very fast and unfortunately has never been in a maritime environment where people were nice to him before. I mean what the hell is that about?  Granted, I've met some assholes on boats, but overall, I like most people out here a lot more than any John Q. Dingus out on the street. I can't help but think that oceangoing mariners might be a more welcoming bunch than river rats. Maybe because the environment is so much more dangerous? I dunno.

 I'm one of the few tankermen in my company who cut his teeth on Product tankers, ships carrying multiple products, what used to be called 'floating pharmacies' at least in the textbooks. Before I had anything to do with what was in the tanks, however, I had an Able Seaman Unlimited, having spent 1080 days at sea, presumably learning something along the way. 3 damn years at sea, if you don't learn how to be at least a semi-competent sailor,there's something terribly wrong. In reality I had a couple thousand more days at sea, having grown up around fishing boats, but whatever. My point is that I already had had a sea-daddy to teach me the language and bearing needed  in basic seamanship, and how to communicate effectively, as well as Basic Seamanship. There was structure, and learning was an incremental process. I learned basic seamanship on small boats, then on ships, how to be a tankerman, and later how to be a bunker tankerman. My second man has had no such structure.
    Well, he's becoming a pretty decent tankerman. There's not much I can teach him about being an AB, beyond some of the ancillary skills. Really, the guy needs to spend some time offshore, to be immersed in the gestalt of being a mariner, rather than being a floating gas station attendant.

 I can't quite capture the right tone here. I am not complaining. I pity the guy and see some potential there. We're keeping him on here. The principal part of his job he can do fine now, especially now that he is being treated like a human being.  I still foresee him getting a fair bit of grief from others, but he's a known quantity to us on board.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

ordinary time

Well, I'm back into the routine at work. Nothing of note is happening here. Work, some rest, rinse, repeat.Boring is good.
   I tried watching the news on TV. Other than the weather, which was ridiculously sensationalized, it was all bullshit. Ugh. That was a mistake.  Maybe there'll be some free ice cream tomorrow.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Uh-oh. 34 Sealift Ships Were Just Activated

By Sal Mercogliano, Ph.D. – In a week punctuated by a drone missile strike on two oil production plants in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, the United States Transportation Command on Monday initiated a Large-Scale Sealift Readiness ExerciseAs part of its Turbo Activation series which began in 1994, the joint command, located at Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois, issued activation orders for 22 ships from the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force and 6 vessels from the Military Sealift Command. This activation of 28 ships at one-time is the largest single-day activation in the history of the surge sealift force. Even during the conflicts in 1990 and 2003, when a total of 86 and 58 ships were broken out of the reserve fleets respectively, this figure exceeds any single day.

 Read the rest of the article here 

        MSC ships carry larger crews than civilian ships, although both are mostly crewed by civilian mariners.  Along with the 28 ships activated the other day, 6 additional ships were activated yesterday. 


Round two
6 more RRF vessels activating please contact your Union hall tomorrow

 It's not too hard to read the tea leaves. The RRF had a massive spectacular fail this past spring when it became apparent that the ridiculously antiquated mothball fleet will be unlikely to meet the sealift needs in any overseas conflict. Hence the turbo activation. Never mind a twofer, this is a multiplefer. Given Iran's saber rattling and a lot of seeming interest in not avoiding a direct conflict with Iran, a little scrimmage was scheduled.  I'll leave it to brighter minds to parse out the details, but it doesn't seem all that opaque an exercise. We're likely going to kick sand in someone's face before too long. We no longer have the ships to support a rapid invasion. A demonstration would serve multiple masters.

 Either way, there's a massive demand for mariners this week. I'm curious to see how that pans out, let alone the ships. I'm glossing over the defense and global security aspects here. I'm out of my wheelhouse when it comes to military issues.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

making stuff

With just a few days to go before heading back to the HQ, today was my last day of goofing off in my shop. Next time I go in there, I'll be tidying up in preparation for heading back to work.

 I didn't buy much new wood this time, and in fact I cut down or used a a good bit of my cutoffs, stock that doesn't have much use. I made a couple of charcuterie boards

 And also a wooden flag made up of the last of my 1x2 castoffs.

 Carving those 50 stars was a royal whore for me, and I don't love the waving lines, but I wanted to try freehand carving with a dremel tool, rather than picking at it with a chisel, which, given the low-quality of the soft pine, wouldn't have worked out. Still, it was a fun project, and the boards were a good lesson on what my bandsaw can and can't do- I snapped 2 blades putting too much lateral force on the work, and since I'm working with walnut and rock maple, it's just too much for my little bandsaw. Luckily, the dings weren't too bad, and some superglue loaded with sawdust hid the scuffmarks pretty good in the joins.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Catching up

I've been home for 10 days already. Hard to believe. The first week was a matter mostly of hurricane prep and then restoring the place to normal. We got a glancing blow that did no damage to the B homestead beyond being physically draining. Very, very grateful. After the hurricane passed, the heat and humidity went back to early-July levels, where it's been staying, so doing much of anything outdoors has been deeply trying. I've been swimming a lot, which is an exception. Great swimming weather.

       Today is really my first day to myself where I don't have a big list of shit I have to get done before I get to do the things I want to do. I'm going to be cutting some expensive wood up, the last of my good maple and walnut, which is really just a couple of  3x6x8 rough cut lumber that'll have to be planed down and shaped to make my next little project, a charcuterie board in a drunken curved pattern, one of my favorite cuts. The leftovers, I dunno what I'll do. Maybe make some boxes or something. I have the pine stock to make a wooden American flag on hand, which is going as a gift to a disabled vet I know, also. Having 3 weeks off is awesome, although I sure do miss the paycheck I won't be getting this week.

          I took an extra week off last fall to care for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife after she had abdominal surgery, which was a lot of work requiring near 24h effort for all 3 weeks. This is way better. I'm pretty beat, though. Since I'm not at work, I'm trying to take advantage of every extra minute I can. Soon enough I'll be back at the grind.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

buttoned up

Well, Castle B is all shuttered and ready for come what may, as best we can be, anyhow. My preps were more or less ready on day 1 of hurricane season, so I have a week's worth of water for everyone, not to mention plenty of beer, booze, ice and other critical supplies. Hurricane Dorian is a category 5 at the moment, just a beast.
 It's not healthful to drink whisky in high temps and high humidity, so I have enough ice blocks to keep my fridge and freezer happy for 4-5 days, plus about 10-15lbs of ice cubes. You know, the important stuff.

      So, having spent thousands of dollars I didn't have to buy hurricane panel shutters earlier this summer turned out to be wicked smaht after all. In the end, I put up just over half of them, and managed to get heat exhaustion AGAIN, second time this summer, and retreated inside to have a good barf and a cool shower. I got gouged pretty hard by a local contractor who put up the remainder of my shutters for cash on the barrel, but it seemed like a good idea. I have a SHIT TON of windows, and many of them are on the second floor. I was useless for the rest of the day, and helped Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife clear the patio furniture and the like, shit that didn't require being in the sun too much.

    Yesterday I was back at it, helping a neighbor with a similar house to mine. Single dad, so he definitely needed the help. I got roasted again, but since I wasn't up a ladder or anything, I made it through OK.

 I learned a lot from judging the state of things around where I live. Gas and bottled water become impossible to get early on. I was lucky enough to spot a gas tanker truck at a local station and was only like #9 in line for the pumps, so I was able to top my tank, which was only like $10, but still, who knows when there'd be another chance.

 So, guns are clean and clear, and we're enjoying the last day of nice weather. I have a couple of little jobs to do today, putting up the shutters over the french doors at the back of the house, so I will have to say goodbye to the sun for a while, but so it goes.

 Weatherwise, it looks like we caught a break and it went from a projected direct hit to a glancing blow. If the forecast is right, we shouldn't see too much over 70kt winds, which is enough to fuck things up a bit, but a hell of a lot better than the 140mph they were predicting 48 hours ago. I hope it is so, but if it isn't there isn't much I can do differently.

     As has been pointed out, it is a super dick move to pray that some other poor bastard take the hit and I be spared, but if it pans out like that I will be relieved of course for my own sake, and I do hope that there will be minimal impact to all. I didn't pray for anything like that, and yet I'd probably still feel guilty anyhow.

          As often happens in a crisis, I've been getting to know my neighbors more here in my new neighborhood. Super nice folks.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

broken voyage

Dammit. Gotta break this trip a week early. Head back home to shutter the house. Doesn't look like much of a storm, but I have an awful lot of windows and trees right near the windows.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Midway day

Well, yesterday was halfway day on this tour, and we're well and truly in the doldrums here aboard the HQ. Routine AF. Boring is good, and this is true. But boring is also boring. Nothing too exciting.

Monday, August 19, 2019

light days

Not much has gone right in the past 48 hours, but I have a watch off, so I'm going to enjoy it by watching boatbuilding videos and doing minimal work-related work.

 If you came here from Peter Grant's page, welcome! I don't always tell stories that turn the stomach, and I don't normally have an absolutely awful job. Some days are just... shitty. So to speak.

 We bunkered an absolutely massive CMA-CGM container ship a few days ago, one of the largest vessels to ever call on New York. Between my deck height and my crane height, I was reaching 75 feet in the air, and I could only reach about 2 feet under their lowest deck. Just an absolute beast, but the crew was amazing. So fast and responsive. Makes a huge difference in our workflow.

...and then we did another CMA-CGM ship last night and it was just rage-inducing. Crew were a soggy bag of smashed assholes.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Code Brown on board

We had a Code Brown emergency on board the HQ last weekend. It's been  a busy week, and between our schedule and the recovery time needed, today was my first real chance to write about it.

    Hiding behind technobabble, we had an explosive loss of containment in the Marine Sanitation device. Put simply, the shit tank blew up REALLY energetically in a confined space.

 How bad was it? There was shrapnel (crapnel? Heh.) out to about 25 ft, and as the MSD is located in a void space underdeck, and that space runs the full width and full depth of the HQ. So, it's 50 by 20 by 20, with closely spaced framing running across all surfaces. Framing that traps liquids and solids to a depth of about 6 inches.

 So, the shit tank blew out, unfortunately more or less straight up, and put simply, it contaminated the entire compartment.

 I won't lie. I considered sealing the compartment, putting in my notice and finding new employment, but there wasn't much to do but fix the problem.  We had to wait 24 hours to get time and space and the equipment necessary to handle it.  When it was time, we docked at company HQ on a sunny, hot and humid day.
      The technical part, causing the failure, was that an air regulator (MSD's are made to break down the poop a bit using bacterial colonies, so they need air, like a really really awful aquarium) failed, so the tank got...impacted. a Blivvy, in other words.
  Before the engineers could come at the problem, though, we had to set up ventilation, using big air horns under compressed air to blow out the space and test the air. After just an hour, the compartment registered perfectly safe.

 So, me being unwilling to pass such an awful task to anyone else, I took a solo adventure into the compartment with a high-pressure garden hose and fresh water. No fire hoses for this sort of work. Too much risk of blowback. I put on a Tyvek suit, rubber boots and rubber gloves duct taped to the suit, a bandanna over my head, goggles and a respirator.

 And I went down into that 100+ degree dark and drippy hell to the first platform, 10 feet down, opened up the MSD fully, (protip, don't look in the tank. Pretty sure my hair is gonna come in all white now), and fired up the hose, flushing down everything from overhead, the bulkheads, and the grating, down to the bilge. While I was doing this  a vacuum truck came in, with a septic tank crew, and put a hose in the bottom of the compartment.
 I then lifted the planks separating the platform deck from the tank tops at the bottom and crawled down another 10 feet below into the darkness.

Dodging the water droplets still falling from above, I cleaned up that space, and it took an hour. By the end I was overheated and gasping for air, and just as I finished, the air meter clipped to my suit zipper went off- stirring the shit displaced enough oxygen that it was time to go anyhow. So I headed up, and felt poorly for a while, with minor heat exhaustion and having been breathing mephitic, slightly oxygen poor air for so long.
 After about 30 minutes, a half-gallon of water and pouring the sweat out of my boots, I went down with a case of bleach, and sanitized the compartment, then rinsed and vacuumed it out with the hose from the honey wagon on the dock. Took about 45 minutes. Then repeat with a 5 gallon bucket of powerful concentrated soap. And rinse. Only THEN could I approach the MSD and vacuum out the... contents, then rinse, sanitize and rinse again. At that point the engineers came in and fixed the actual problem, and I was so overheated and ill that I jumped in the shower and sat in a chair for an hour, feeling poorly, drinking water slowly.

 It was hell. But OTOH, we have a shiny happy crapper tank, so we can do our business in a businesslike manner again, I guess.
 I threw away everything I was wearing, right down to my socks and drawers. It all went into a bucket, and after my shower, I put on gloves, closed the bucket, put it into a heavy plastic bag, and that went to the dumpster. At that point I was done. Our shoreside staff didn't ask any more out of me, which is good, as I was done in a literal sense. It took almost 2 days before I felt 100%. Getting older, getting heat-sick is not so easy to snap back from.

Monday, August 12, 2019

slips and falls

There have been two fatalities recently on American ships.

          These were falls related to work performed on military-contracted cargo ships. The Military Sealift Command are the folks who move beans, bombs and bullets for the US military, and they're ships crewed by civilians.

   I've never worked for MSC. I have never heard anything positive about working for MSC beyond that any mariner in need of sea time to qualify to test in order to advance in rank can do so quickly. In other words, you're away a lot.

          From what I've been told, MSC employment consists of a lot of sitting at docks in places like Norfolk, and even more sitting at docks in places like Guam, with trips to sea feeding and following naval ships.

     I've also been told that there is no going home as scheduled when your time is up. The MSC 4-month contract often enough ends up taking 4-8 months to see you relieved after your time is done, so that's up to a year at sea in a single voyage. And this I actually have seen.

 I was taking the Medical Person-In-Charge (MED-PIC) course years ago at MITAGS, a maritime school in Maryland. Week one was MED-PRO, or Medical First Aid Provider, basically how to put on bandaids and ace bandages. After that was the fun stuff, stitching, injections and IV's, intro to diagnostics, etc.  Well, we had one MSC guy, a cargo mate, who had been working 10-months or so a year for the last 15 years. He hadn't been home in, sure enough, over a year, and had to take this course, poor guy. He'd been divorced, of course, and hadn't seen his teenage daughter in a couple of years and was so excited about that. Well, week one gets done, we all finish MED-PRO, and on like Wednesday of week 2, he gets recalled to his ship after 10 FUCKING DAYS for another cruise out in the ass end of the Pacific. Guy never got to see his house, let alone his daughter. 10 days off in 2 years. That's insane.

 So that's what I know about MSC, that and they have a higher accident rate than most if not all other sectors of maritime trade. I doubt it's a single-source issue, in terms of root causes, I mean, MSC does UNREPS and other dangerous tasks... but I've also heard complaints about competence among unlicensed crew, and high rates of theft, violence and even a little light prostitution, although I have a hard time buying that last one. So my take is that there are probably more links in the causality chains that lead to accidents on MSC ships than dingleberries like me are likely to face, which at the end of the day means statistically higher potential rates for accidents.
  I'm perhaps not doing service by not exploring this subject further, in that it would be really interesting to actually identify if MSC has a weaker safety culture at operational level than other companies do, or if there are other factors involved, or if it's just a matter of risk management in higher-risk work. But, truth be told, I don't actually care enough to do the work involved. I have my own problems and my own little floating hot dog cart to worry about.
         The safety guys in my employer's HSE department probably spend a lot of time grinding their teeth. Lots of guys, myself included, at times, are resistant to certain safety practices that appear to offer less benefit than cost, at least until something happens, anyhow. Cost, to me at the operational end, means getting my own ass hurt or killed. For the HSE guys, it means paying out a shit ton of cash times something like 600 guys. So I do see the point pretty clearly. My old attitude of  'hey, it's my ass and my decision to ignore the safety nannies and not wear a condom when out on deck, and just raw dog the shit out of that cargo discharge in comfort' doesn't work when you have 600 guys doing higher-risk stuff and probabilities being a thing. Plus, times being what they are, the retards who want to wear fucking flip-flops out on deck are the first ones calling the lawyers when they lose a toe.

 With TWO exceptions, I understand these things. My disagreement with PPE standards comes on clothing and hard hats for tankermen. Most shipping companies require mariners who are potentially exposed to fuel oils to wear coveralls. I think I still have my nomex-and-cotton coveralls from when I worked for American Heavy Lift.
 Here is where I am at odds with HSE standards for clothing,  and pretty much always have been. Full suits in hot weather, to me, is not necessarily the best idea, unless you have an unlimited supply of coveralls available. Myself, I was issued 2 pairs per 120-day voyage in my tanker days, and if they were ruined, needle and thread and rags to make up the missing material. Carrying residual fuel cargoes (bunkers and diesel), let's say an ounce of oil gets on my sleeve. After I notice it, and who knows how long that will take, I curse, and wipe it off, maybe even throw some soap on it, but I'm going to still wear that garment, and the whole while, petroleum residue is going to be contacting my skin, and even if 90% of it comes out in the wash (it won't) I'm going to be exposed for an extended period. Distillates flash off. Residual fuels do not.
 OTOH, lets' say I'm in a t-shirt, and an ounce of oil gets on my arm. I'm going to curse. Then wipe off  95+% of whatever doesn't run off my arm and hit the deck. Within a moment, I am going to hit that oil spot with soap or other cleaner... and then its' gone. Time-weighted average for exposure is in favor of the man in shirtsleeves.
 But, truth be told, this ignores other factors, like potential for burns, cuts, scratches, things like that that coveralls would have prevented. OTOH, I have fried enough brain cells after one summer in the southern Gulf of Mexico, to know that I'd rather deal with the consequences of being out of uniform than to get heatstroke twice in a 10-day period again. You don't bounce back from that quickly, and even less quickly when it happens twice. I had headaches and nausea on and off for over a month, and after that experience, I learned quickly that however much the safety nannies may wish that you operate safely, the job will need to get done in a timely manner, and if if is not done in a timely manner, you will be, at best, resented. I have never found saying no to work to not have consequences, myself.
 The other disagreement I have with maritime PPE standards is the wearing of hard hats outdoors. This I don't really care about that much, except that it's kabuki at best, in exchange for mild discomfort, which, end of the day, is no big deal, except that I hate kabuki policy for its' inherent dishonesty. The protection hard hats offer from overhead impacts is not an issue when there's nothing overhead, and I  personally have never experienced something falling on deck where a hard hat would have saved a life. Obviously they have their place. I wouldn't want to work on a supply boat or an oil rig without one, for sure! For my own part, most anything that goes up high is on my crane, or a crane, and will kill anyone under it if it lets go, regardless of what they're wearing. The smallest dangerous overhead objects I have to worry about falling on me are turnbuckle parts and twist locks from a shipping container, neither of which are going to be stopped by a hard hat. Getting hit by either means a closed casket funeral regardless of what's on one's head. For that reason, we never work under a shipping container that is being lashed or unlashed, and certainly, we never work under a container that is being lifted, and in the case of being adjacent to a container being moved, we're eye-banging that thing nonstop. It's been a few years since a container dropped on a bunker barge, but it happened not that long ago, and I've twice been there when a container was knocked into the water close to us by a crane operator who was smoking his lunch. Wearing a hard hat in those situations is like when Wile E. Coyote opens the dainty little umbrella as the giant rock falls on him.
 I suppose there is always the possibility of vertically flying objects, things thrown from a collision or a chain snapping, or whatever. When required, I do wear one  because it isn't a big deal and it makes the office happy, not because I believe I am more safe with one on. A certain amount of cynicism applies.

  I rarely work aloft, but I do take it pretty serious when I do. I don't mind heights at all, but I do mind that my ass is at the higher end of the weight limit for the harnesses I have aboard. THAT makes me more nervous than not relying on a harness at all. My own approach is never to use the harness to take up weight, in effect, acting as though it is not there, while it's there. I find this works pretty well, although other than light bulb changing, I am not working aloft much at all these days, which is fine by me.

 Slips and falls, OTOH, happen to us a lot, and preventing them is a big deal here on the HQ. I absolutely am a nazi when it comes to no slick spots on deck, applying nonskid and keeping tripping hazards (of which there are many) to a minimum. Even so, I fall down every few months, I'll admit. I am very aware of what my ankles and wrists will be doing when I step over things I can't go around. We do have some on-deck piping that would snap an ankle if you got a foot stuck and then did a pratfall. As such I like my deck looking like 30-grit sandpaper, and even so, I still end up on my ass here and there. Shit happens, so I want to be sure that when shit happens,  it as as mild as possible. More graceful people than I would probably never fall, but I am no ballerina. With the exception of eye protection, proper footwear is probably the single largest safety item one can wear in my situation.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

back to the bunker mines

I'm back at work already, and although time passes by much too fast when I'm home, I just got a whole shit-ton of stuff done while I was there. Along the way we celebrated Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's birthday a few days early, as it's actually tomorrow, and, well, here I am at work and not with her where I should be. So we went out to a Palm Beach gem of a hotel bar, a place called the Leopard Lounge , which, turns out, is a restaurant/nightclub  for exceptionally wealthy people... of a certain age. At early-stage middle age, we were by far the youngest couple there, until some WASPy couple came in and stared at their phones and ignored each other, anyhow, but they didn't stay. 

 We stayed. Diner was exceptional- Chilean sea bass for my wife, a shrimp stroganoff for me, along with a couple of drinks. The crowd ranged from 55 to 80 for the most part, and very wealthy and very white, which made Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife stand out like a fly in a bowl of milk. But, turns out everyone was super nice. And, amazingly, enough, they were mostly there to dance.  Seriously, at that age, folks were out there, and the live band playing 70's numbers (it was a 70's night) was fantastic. And some of those folks were really moving well, for slow numbers and fast. 

 Now, I have to be pretty well shitfaced to get out there and dance. Well, I used to. Turns out, in a welcoming atmosphere, I only had to be half in the wrapper to be comfortable enough to dance. But bearing in mind that Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is from Brazil, the woman can dance. Following her was hard at times. Doing some real samba dancing made us look good, and I didn't even fuck it up or anything. 

Plus, um... my wife looked good, and anyone dancing flawlessly in stiletto heels is going to be worth watching. For me the highlight was seeing a couple, 80'ish years old, who danced every single slow song all night, and just radiated having been being happily married for ages. A departing group even said 'good night you kids' to us, which is funny in that we're knocking on middle-age at this point.
beauty and the beast.

 After the band said goodnight, we decided to head over to HMF, the club at the Breakers hotel, also in Palm Beach, for a glass of champagne before heading home. This is one of our favorite spots, as we always see celebrities or sports figures there, and it's a gorgeous, elegant place, but again, also hideously expensive, so we maybe go twice a year.
Anyhow, end result was a memorable and fun night, I pulled another memorable birthday off, and just a few days later, I am back on the HQ to let my liver and checking account have a little rest.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I made a thing on the thing I made

DIY stuff continues on my time off.

     So, with my rolling assembly table now finished, I wanted to actually make something on it, see how it felt and what needed to be changed.

 I haven't attacked the side of my garage with the widows and orphans boxes left over from moving into my new place, and that side of my garage also holds my larger tools and saws and such, so until I work up the energy to organize and set up that half of the garage, I will still be lugging things like my drill press and chop saw around when I need them. Tough on the back, but I don't feel like making a chop saw station since it's still in the mid-90's here, and humid.

 But, with the wood scraps that a cheap prick like me accumulates, I could still make something even with the extra steps of lugging stuff around.

 So I grabbed my chop saw, screwed it to the table, screwed some 2x4's together to make temporary guides, and cut down a couple of scrap 1x2's that I used to keep my nicer wood off the floor.

 I then planed the 1x2's lightly to give them one semi-finished surface. 

I lined them up and ran a torch over them to toast the wood a bit. 

 I then stained the wood with a blue water-based stain and cut some bright red paint 50/50 with water to make a wash, which comes out brighter than a red color stain would. 

 I then started freehand carving. This was a ballbuster for many reasons:

1) I have minimal talent.
2) I have limited dexterity for fine work after too many accidents, infections and injuries involving my hands.
3) Low quality cheap pine strapping is fibrous and doesn't cut nicely.
4) I had never done that before. 

  In the end, after just 2 hours from start to finish it came out pretty well. The street number of my house is 1776, so this sign is headed out front I think. It took longer for the coat of polyurethane to harden up than it did to make the whole thing.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

home again

Great to be back. Lots to do, lots to enjoy. The first few days were a blur of doing things that needed doing. Today, Sunday, was my first half-day to myself, so I took advantage and built a big assembly table for my shop.

 It's 4x8, although the base is actually 1 1/2" smaller all around, so I can clamp with small clamps when doing fine work. I put drop-down casters on the bottom, so I can roll the table to wherever, and kick out the casters to drop the table onto the legs for stable and heavy work.

    Only took about 3 hours to make- should have taken 2, but it's July in south FL, and I had to stop to change clothes and drink water. I literally had a sweat trail around the shop.

 So I spent a couple hours on and in my pool after spending 3 hours yesterday shocking it, servicing the filter and scrubbing the shit out of the concrete. I got the thing absolutely pristine today... and then 2 minutes after I get out, a palm tree in my back yard drops a branch, and an absolute cloud of pollen, this .5mm powder, settles onto the surface of the pool, making it look like someone dumped a sack full of flour into the damn water. So now that the sun is down, it's time to go out there again and start skimming with the hand net. Ergh.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Check out 'Sailing Into Freedom.'

Well, it's another Saturday night, and the last one aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Prison on Planet Bullshit.

            We're loaded up with enough oil to fuel two cruise ships, which is our work for the weekend. Between the 140-degree oil and the 98 degree temps, it's frigging hot on board. BUT, the countdown begins, and in a few days I can go home to Florida, and be hot there, which is way better.

      The past months I have been watching the Youtube channel "SAILING INTO FREEDOM" (click on text for link), which has quickly become one of my favorite boating channels, and if you read my BS and come back here, go and check it out, I bet you'll like it too. 

 Peter is an Australian who likes to sail. His dream was of being a boat bum, sailing around Australia's uninhabited and almost-uninhabited coasts and islands, living mostly on seafood and enjoying the company of pretty women who also like to sail. His goal was to share videos of the Outback and the area around the Great Barrier Reef, while having fun.  And this he did.  The guy's all personality. At first I was unsure of how to take him- acting like a ham, making dumb faces at the camera- and you realize with time, he's not acting, he's just a big entertaining goofball, with a wickedly sharp sense of humor disguised in an Australian version of a boat bum redneck.  

 The channel isn't all shits'n'gigs, either. While being very experienced and seamanlike, some real drama happened when his boat got holed in a sea and sunk, in the ass end of nowhere, days from help. Whole thing on film. At the time it was just him and one of his traveling ladies. Guy stays cool as a cucumber, to keep the panicked girl calm, which was impressive to see. His candid after-action report- what he did right, what went wrong, the error chain, was very honest for a guy who just lost his entire means of making a living and was homeless. 

 Well, check it out, anyhow. The story has a happy ending, and they (he and the girl are now married and running the boat and channel together) are rebuilding their lives on a new sailboat they're running on a total shoestring budget in the Caribbean. 

 Anyhow, the channel is lots of fun, there's plenty of eye candy, (his wife is lovely and shares my wife's foreign preference for teeny tiny bathing suits, for which I am grateful) and the videos are beautiful- they go to some amazing places, living on the sea,  and lots of fun.  I throw a couple bucks their way every now and again, and I hope you'll consider the same- it's absolutely worth the entertainment value I get out of it. Plus, the guy's my spirit animal. He does amazing stuff with tape and epoxy, fixing his boat when distance and budget are against him.   Check him out, and maybe throw some money in the pot as they save up to go through the Panama Canal this fall or winter, slowly head back to Peter's home waters. 



Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mark Patey and the Disease of Entitlement

 So, with week three behind me, and week four starting on my next watch after this one, It's already time to start looking ahead.

      For the past year or so, I've been instituting little changes in my life, making plans, trying things, some with success, some with failure. I've taken up woodworking when I'm home to try to slow the loss of dexterity that time and past abuse has inflicted on my hands. It's working. I still can't really write with a pen, but OTOH, I can cut on a curve without my woodwork looking like I'm having ministrokes every time I sit at the bench. So, success, mostly.  I tried looking into a radical change of employment- it failed, this time, although in the process, it gave me greater appreciation for my current job, so that's positive. Failure, but I'm fortunate enough not to be afraid to fall on my face. Better to try and fail than to fail to try, right?

 Bought my dream home. Major positive. 5 years of planning and preparation for that one.
     I've been working within the sphere of my existing competences. Doing things that I know I can do, mostly. And that's good, and safe, but barring that moment I turned the key in the door of my new house, there hasn't been the thrill of accomplishment lately. I am stretching my very limited talent slowly, I guess, instead of making an inspired leap of faith and taking a generational leap in acquiring new skills.  Playing it a little too safe, basically. For a guy who can work a 100-hour week, and often does, having more skills to utilize in the course of those hours is a massive positive.

 I've also been backing off of social media. Sure, I still just get vicious as hell for shits' n' gigs at times, but there's little point to it. Even here, I'm backing off. My career didn't arc the way I expected. I'm reaching the limit of my core competencies until I make a massive leap forward, whether that's at my workbench or at my desk or out on deck. Oh, I still shoot my mouth off, and can still use sarcasm like a scythe, but I don't have the skills to form an experience-based opinion on many cutting-edge issues anymore, and that makes for poor blog fodder.

 So, with a couple of projects lined up at home, like building a rolling torsion-box table for myself, and a little woodcarving idea I want to try, I've been looking ahead at some of the work I want to do, and that is going to mean some composite work. I can fiberglass, but the project I have in mind, I need to use carbon fiber, which is a different animal. I've been watching Youtube videos to pick up some tips, and got into seeing people make carbon fiber parts for airplanes, which is how I learned who Mark Patey is.

 If you don't know him, Mark Patey is an entrepreneur who grew up in the middle of 10 siblings, dirt poor, and is now a multimillionaire and among other things, a motivational speaker. I got to know who is was through his hobby- he and his twin brother engineer, design and build custom airplanes for fun, and carry a few world records. They own a pharmaceutical company, a couple of factories, and an engineering firm. Both have just a high-school education, having started as carpenters at age 15 and picking up the gearhead bug in high school, tinkering with shitbox cars, and moving into racing cars, boats and planes as their business grew.

 Inspirational guy, and I am NOT someone who frigging watches motivational speeches, which I avoid, as I have no shortage of motivation. I ALWAYS have shit to do, shit I want to do, and shit I dream of doing. But, after watching these guys work, and seeing the energy and happiness they bring through the door, I watched one of Mark's speeches, and it was awesome. Here it is.

 He looks funny to me in a suit. After watching probably 20 hours of him and his brother covered in dirt and dust making stuff, I forgot that he's a CEO on top of being a Maker, one of those guys who is a master of most of the trades. 
I feel that he hit the nail on the head, and articulated a great point about the devastation caused by entitlement. I am certainly someone who believes more in working hard and earning my own rewards than waiting to be awarded them. The criticisms here in the video apply to me as well, in part. There have certainly been times where I felt that my presence and availability was sufficient to earn my paycheck. The fact that down deep, I know that this is not so was easier to stifle with time. However, that attitude was also responsible for a certain amount of stagnation in my life, too, and last year when I decided to push out a little and see if the world had anything new for me again, I realized that the entitlement attitude wasn't fair or healthy... but I wasn't able to articulate the thought anywhere near as clear as Mark Patey does.  Check the video out.