Monday, January 28, 2019


It's time for me to get a second job.

 My time as docent/Charge D'affaires aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Foundation for Enforced Celibacy has been unsatisfying. Plans are in process to make a jump elsewhere when I am interested in doing so.  In the meanwhile, though, I don't actually want to leave yet. I have a good thing going, and am not ready to go.

       When I go home next week, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I are going house hunting. It's time to get out of our small but beautiful little house. I am looking to get a little more rural, maybe, or at the least into something with a little more space. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is ambivalent about leaving a gated community where we have a million-dollar-view and privacy but not quite enough space. I may end up at another community, which does have benefits like not having to do yardwork and keeping the riffraff at arms' length... but I prefer the country, and I can move to an unorganized township just 30 minutes away, and have a few acres and be able to pee off my porch if the mood strikes. Plus, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife would look good driving a small tractor cutting the lawn while I drink beer and watch. 
*checks Amazon for daisy dukes, flannel shirt and cowboy hat set*

        I've been looking at properties with barns and large sheds. I've been building my model boats, and while I can't freehand draw, I do know how to draw boat plans, and I have been learning how to convert them to a CAD form. I have a few designs from 9' to 26'  that are actually good enough to try building, I think. I'm thinking semi-seriously about opening up a boat shop. The more I ruminate on it, the more I like the idea.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rogue Waves at sea

 I've sat in on half a dozen conversations with peers and elders on Rogue Waves over the years. Many mariners believe they have encountered one. Of these people, many have not.

 If you're a science nerd like me, you'd care more about the Gaussian wave prediction model, which any watch officer knows as the wave height prediction chart.To really get into this, you have to get into physics on a practical level, which is beyond the need of most mariners except as a curiosity (see 'nerd').

 Essentially, when we talk about wave heights, we talk about averaging and finding mean values too. Generally, when we talk about 15-foot seas, the 15 is the Significant wave height. As soon as a science nerd sees the word Significant, it means that there are statistics involved. It's a big signifier word in science geekdom. It means there is data already sorted, and it's incoming.

 So, a significant wave height is calculated by taking the highest 1/3 of waves in a recorded set, and taking the mean value (not the average!) of those waves.

 A rogue wave is a wave more than twice the height of the significant wave height.

 Read the infogalactic entry. It's a neat subject.  There has been a school of thought that rogue waves don't exist. They are transitory in nature, thought to last only a few minutes or less, but they can be devastating. In Force 12 (e.g 'really awful') conditions, a rogue wave can present  a 15-20 fold increase in pressure on a hull form over surrounding waves that already approach the maximum strength of most ship's hulls. In other words, imagine you are curling a 50-lb dumbell, about 80% of your maximum for a single arm. Suddenly there is a 750lb weight added to the dumbbell.

 That's what a rogue wave can do.

 Oh, hey, want to see one?

 That was in very mild seas. It still buried the bow of the ship. This picture can be found online. At the time, it represented the strongest photographic evidence that rogue waves were real. The cool thing is that I first saw it in the captain's office on a ship I was on. IIRC The picture was taken by a friend of his when they were both chief mates on two different ships.
 So that gorilla of a wave came from 5-8 foot seas. Imagine what a 35-foot sea can produce...

 Now, continuing with a little geekdom, Rogue waves are also referred to as Draupner waves, because that was the name of the oil rig where the first one was recorded using scientific-grade instruments.
The rig was dealing with 36-foot seas, which is a real shit show. Then an 84-foot wave struck from out of nowhere.

So, this is pretty cool: Given that there used to be a reasonable doubt whether or not these things existed until 1995,  and that modern telemetry has since recorded several more, we still don't know much about them. Why they form, when, etc.  BUT, a group of scientists have created rogue waves in a laboratory setting for the first time. 

The data so far has been fascinating. 

   Now, story time. I am NOT sure whether or not I have ever been through a rogue wave. There are other phenomena that can wrack a ship or cause a sudden loss of stability. Ships getting into a rolling period coincidental with the wave period, freak waves (which can by caused by wind, gravity, seafloor upwelling, whatever, it's a handy general descriptor. 

Now, I HAVE been through Head Sea Parametric Rolling, twice, in fact. I was an Able Seaman on the tanker 'The Monseigneur' in 25-30 foot head seas passing north well offshore on the West Coast. We were pitching heavily and rolling 15-20 degrees running at reduced speed. Pretty uncomfortable but doable. Twice in 30 minutes, we pitched up rapidly and snap rolled to 50+ degrees out of nowhere. Shit flying everywhere. I was on the bridge on watch. The roll was far faster than the normal roll of the ship.  Now, years later, I recognize that we were in a head sea parametric roll. Essentially, the bow came down off the back of a wave, and wave behind it was EXACTLY the same distance from the wave next to it as the ship was long. So the bow came down off a wave, the stern came up on the one behind it, and by chance, as it washed away, the stern fell off the wave on one side, and without water there, fell, snap rolling. 
 So that sucked, but it wasn't a rogue wave. 
 Now, Hurricane Ike, it is far more likely that I WAS hit by one, but I'm still not sure. I've written about what a nightmare that was, it being the only time I have actually prayed to God and made a legitimate Act of Contrition under fear of death. It makes a certain amount of sense that we did encounter a rogue wave. A large hurricane, 35-45 foot seas, and cross-seas almost equal to the primary storm waves, and after 3 days of getting dragged backwards we got knocked down, rather than fell into a hole. The captain estimated that we were hit by a 70-80 foot sea, almost directly broad on the beam, but it being 2-3 AM, we couldn't see much. It sucked, either way. 


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Battening down

Well, we've got a spot of weather coming later today, and a cargo fixed, so it's gonna be a nautical weekend, even here in the middle of New York harbor.

 We're supposed to be spared the bulk of the snowfall, just 1-3" and a lot of sleet, followed by a cold blast and icing, and what is known technically as a whole shitpot of wind.

 So, this calm, cold and sunny Saturday morning was a great time to walk around the deck and lash some things down, lay out the shovels, lock down some lids and lift shit on deck above the deck in general.

 Gonna be a messy one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

picanha dreams

So, as you might know, I'm a huge fan of picanha, the staple meat in Brazilian barbecue, Chorrasco.

 If you've gone to a Brazilian restaurant, you've probably had picanha (pee-kahn-ya). It comes from the sirloin cut, but a cut generally not found in the US, the sirloin cap. Generally, it's just easier to buy a picanha at a Brazilian grocery store. They're not expensive, $25-30 for the whole cut, which will easily feed a half-dozen people or three dedicated fatasses like me.

If you look at the picture, the picanha comes from the top of the cow's hip. This is NOT a famously tender cut... but it can be.

 First, the cut. Picanha comes in a 3-cornered cut, like tri-tip, with one half of the cut thicker than the other, and a cap of fat, that you need to keep. A full picanha is about a foot across. Do not trim the fat. You need to cut perpendicular to the striations in the meat. cross-cut to the grain, in other words. Generally, Brazilians refer to finger widths as the unit of measurement. I like a 2-finger cut to make a medium-rare steak for myself. My wife and kid like a 1-finger cut, to get medium to medium well. This will leave steaks from steak tip sized to about 8-oz with a big rind of fat on one side.

 Salt. You need large-grained salt, at least 1/8" coarse crystals if you can.  30-60 minutes before cooking, you sprinkle the salt liberally on both sides. The cru (coarse) salt will tenderize the meat wonderfully. Fine-cut salt, like table salt, will penetrate the meat without tenderizing it much, and your meat will be horribly over salted.

 Once your meat has been tenderized, you throw it on the grill at high temperature and close the grill up. Check it every few minutes, until the fat catches fire, and it will.
Note: these instructions are for a gas grill. Charcoal or wood fire, you just cook it like any other steak.

 The fat fire caused by burning picanha fat is where the cooking gets done. When the fat catches fire, you will probably want to shut off the gas and start shifting the not-on-fire steaks into the neighborhood of the fire. Turn the steaks as needed, and don't overcook them. The VERY hot fat fire will cook a steak to medium in just 2-3 minutes per side. When done, the picanha will have a smallish to medium-sized fat rind... which is incredibly delicious.

 It literally is... take a cow and add fire.  And when done right, it is as tender as prime rib and more flavorful.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

rough week for shipping

Well, damn I seem to have come back to work during a rough week internationally.

 The tanker AULAC FORTUNE had an explosion and is on fire off of Hong Kong.  They were preparing to take on bunkers when something happened, and blew the hell up instead.

 At least one dead, but most of the crew was safely evacuated.

   Also in Hong Kong, a Maersk ship had a major bunker spill.

  That one, it's not hard to see what happened. Fuel oil from an overfilling tank or tanks, for whatever reason.  I've been part of that before. Could be caused by many things, but often enough human error. Either way, I have bad dreams about causing something like this and getting into international news.

  The Hapag-Lloyd container ship "Yantian Express"  is on fire and was abandoned after several days days of unsuccessful firefighting attempts. She is currently adrift about 1000 miles northeast of Bermuda.

 The container ship 'MSC ZOE'  lost 270 containers over the side in heavy weather, also in the Atlantic.

 Stay safe out there everyone!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Lsat day

Well, it was a quick 12 days. I'm flying back out tomorrow.  This was a sort of maintenance vacation. I went home sick, and lost a good 10 days to illness, and although I did do things, there wasn't much flavor to it. The last few days I've been busy and enjoying myself, but mostly running down the honey-do list getting everything in order for another absence. So it goes. Not every time home can be Fiddler's Green.

 Still, I got some cool stuff done and had a nice time with the fam. Today is mostly packing, cleaning up the shop and such.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 starts with Irish Medicine

   Well, this is an inauspicious start to 2019. I'm sick AND also hung over.

         The flu bug I've been dealing with has manifested in an upper AND lower respiratory infection but I'm starting to see the end of it now. Today is the first day I haven't felt worse than the day before.

 Since I was couchbound, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is still recovering from her own surgery and has a baseline pain level that is still limiting her activity, we spent New Years Eve pretty much on the couch. I'm not a sickly person, so I don't do well when ill- (read: whiny). I decided to heavily dose myself with traditional Irish medicine, the Hot Toddy, which is a  highly-effective cough suppressant, fever reducer and sleep aid.

 Problem is, I don't like mixing honey, lemon or tea with my Jamison, so I chose to focus on the active ingredient, and added ice. I call it the Cold Toddy. Take ice, cover with whisky, drink.

 So I woke up this morning to the birds singing too loud, the sun shining too bright and my mouth too dry. But you know, I am not coughing nearly as much, and although I have a decent headache, my sinuses are pretty clear. I may have burnt the virus out of my system. It won't take much for things to get better from here.