Wednesday, February 27, 2019

staying indoors

We've had a breezy few days here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Glorified Gas Station.

         It blew a hard gale (45kt, gusts into the 50's and 60's) over the area waters for a day, then settled into a plan gale (35+kt) for another day, before settling into the usual cold and breezy/gray and shitty weather that is the norm for winter in the US northeast.  At the height of the gale, a incompetent cargo sampler made a mess on my deck, dripping a little oil over a lot of deck, and then walking around through it and going on tour like fucking Billy from Family Circus.


        footprints over 3,000 sq feet of deck. In a screaming gale, in pounding rain. Boy howdy, I cussed that guy out good while I was scrubbing on my hands and knees to prevent a slick.  Shit happens, and I'm not going to jail or getting my ass sent ashore for getting in the news by putting a sheen in the water, but had I not been bird-dogging the guy at 3am, when sane people are asleep, or at least indoors, I'm confident that he would have ignored the mess. At any rate, the nonskid on deck chafed through my foul weather gear and the tips of my boots. I guess I'm not used to working on my knees. I'd make a terrible hooker.  It all ended happily, however. No oil in the water, filled up a couple of barrels with oily waste, and I got my exercise for the day.

 It was a hell of a week and weekend. Haven't had much good luck on board recently. I'm more hopeful for this week.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Chinese Water Annoyance

Sigh. Another God-damned day.

          My trainee had a restless night. I don't know if he's colicky or has gas or what, but he kept me up all frigging night.  Maybe he's teething, I don't know. If they let us have whisky on here, I'd hit him upside the head with the bottle and have a big gulp and go back to bed.
 Alas, if wishes were horses, etc.

       OK, it's hard enough being forced to have a man older than me pretty much hanging onto my pocket like we was in prison, following me around, asking me questions while I'm juggling numbers in my head, talking on the radio and filling out paperwork at the same time. It leaves me exhausted. Then I go to bed, and he's there too, in my spare bunk, getting up a half-dozen times to see what my partner is doing, when the hydraulics kick on, when nature calls, whatever. When he gets up, I wake up.
    The poor guy is earnest and trying to learn as much as he can as fast as he can. How the hell can I complain about someone who wants to be there and wants to work?   I feel like a whiner. Oh well, I'll own it. I like the guy well enough. But Jesus, I'm going to hang myself if I don't get some fucking sleep and an hour by myself soon. A little bit of false advertising by the lying liars at HR doesn't help. The man was supposed to be already trained. He is not.

Little things become big things. The slow drip of water on the forehead becomes a hammer over time. Curiosity becomes pestering. Distraction becomes danger.
   This is not a good look for me, I realize that. I don't like men who show weakness in public. This blog is my pressure-relief valve. It's keeping me, and him, alive. I guess that's a good thing. Doesn't feel like it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"It'll make you weird, man"

"This job... it'll make you weird, man."

       I can't even remember who said that to me, but whoever it was, it was said to me on the first day at my current job. I passed the 10 year mark here last week.

          The HQ has small quarters. I've grown to love the place in the 7 years that this has been my home. It's not perfect- the gross-ass Tangerines who had her  for 5 years before me were disgustingly filthy animals, and ruined her house, sufficient that despite our best efforts, she'll never be truly pretty inside. How the fuck a sailor can call himself a sailor and not mop a deck in 5 years, for example,  instead choosing to just put new outdoor carpets down every year, after the black mold makes them crusty. 5 layers of moldy carpets. That was the Tangerine way.

 Sailors have an instinctual hatred for filth. Real sailors do, anyhow. Sadly, my employer recruits many failed commercial fishermen from one area whose knowledge of the sea is limited to about a 200 square mile area of brackish protected waters.  It shows in the difference in standards of seamanship... including hygienic practices in living spaces. There are many guys doing the same job as me who are equally as tidy, but there are many who are not.  Luckily, B, my partner on here, was a Navy guy for 12+ years, and, if anything, is even more allergic to disorder than I am.

         So, when I arrived, fresh off the boat, literally, I felt like a real sailor. "No, I come from ships." was something I said a lot. Not that it mattered much, except that I perhaps had access to better mentors prior to arriving. And on day one, when I mentioned that I was off product tankers, I was warned that after a time, I would be changed by my job.

 Well, they were right.

        We have a trainee on board the HQ for a few weeks, who came over my objections. Somewhere between Day 1 and today, I have become misanthropic enough that I am extremely uncomfortable with living, working and sleeping with a strange man who shadows me every waking and sleeping moment, never more than 6-8 feet away, and demanding of my attention constantly, forcing me to socialize, forcing me to divide my attention between him and doing my job. 

EDIT: OK, I wrote about 2,000 words more on why I am in hell, having a trainee, but on rereading it, I just sounded like a whiny bitch, so I deleted it.  So, TL;DR version.I am 100% completely miserable and I hate my job completely right now. I am trying my best not to take it out on the people around me.  Eh, bitch bitch bitch.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Carnival time (NSFW)

It feels longer, but I've been aboard the HQ for 6 days now. I came in a week early, because I have a massive purchase pending.
        Although I was only home for a week, I came back in decent shape upstairs, ready to work, and at this point, with a month to go, I'm into a routine. The negative here is that it is utterly mundane, nothing exciting worth talking about.

  So, February being dreary in general, it's a good time to think warm colorful thoughts. It's Carnival season.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

back to it

Well, I'm back on board the HQ. Took a little doing to get here. Tuesday dawned beautiful- about 68 and sunny when I woke up just after sunup, and it was sunny and 75 all day... at home. Unfortunately, the weather at the HQ was ice and snow, so my flight got cancelled. In the end I stayed home an extra day, and flew in yesterday after several hours of delays.

 I was lucky enough to get rebooked on a before-noon flight. BUT, not so lucky in all things. I ended up in the middle seat, and it was a seriously bumpy flight. Pretty usual running up and down the eastern seaboard during wintertime. IT also being snowbird season, the average age of my fellow travellers on the completely full flight was 70-75.

 So, it definitely could have been worse. The poor old ladies on either side of me I'm sure were not thrilled to have my carcass between them. And the turbulence was pretty gnarly. After about 20 minutes in the air, and a lot of griping about the temperature being too cold, it started to smell like hot old people. Then... the nervous farting. There were old timers putt-putting all around. It would have been funny if it didn't smell like an open grave. Seriously, if I had that kind of power, I'd be kind of proud.

 The nice thing about flying with an older crowd is that there isn't a lot of fighting and people yelling back and forth. There was a lot of complaining, for sure, and it took FOREVER to get on and off the plane, but I kept the peace. One day I'll be hard-pressed to make good time getting on and off the plane too.  On the upside, it was yet another MIRACLE flight, one where 20+ people get wheeled onto the plane early in their chairs, and yet only 3-4 get wheeled off.  Hallelujah!

Anyways, I returned to the Land of Ice And Snow late, got to enjoy NY rush hour traffic, and I got a grand total of 45 minutes sleep before watch tonight, but I'm here in one piece and no more or less sane than usual, so mark it as a win, I guess.

Sunday, February 10, 2019


So Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I went house hunting, and sadly, all the houses out in the country were owned by Florida Man. All had ponds, land, 1500+ sqft detached workshops... and all had problems... insurmountable problems, unfortunately.

 OTOH, we found some places we also liked in surburbia. Put in two offers today.

 So, I'm kind of bummed that I won't be experiencing country living, but as much as I love my current home, and having my back yard be a pond, it's time. I'm going to miss my savings account, too, I'm sure.

 Stressful, though. I, being the staid, conservative type, liked a small, affordable but pretty property that needs a little TLC. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife preferred a larger turnkey house that needs nothing, is in one of the best school districts in FL and has a 3-car garage for me to make sawdust in. Either way, it's fine.  Shit is awful stressful, though.

Monday, February 4, 2019

An open letter to Bishop Hurley

Something a little different today. I wrote a letter to Bishop Walter Hurley, who recently removed a priest from service, not, for once, for an act of horror, but for trying to bring some reverence to a Catholic Sunday mass with the goal of trying to do something within his power to help stop the decline in attendance by younger people.

 A note- I make reference to Protestant religious services several times, not in criticism, but to emphasize the formerly gigantic distinction between a Catholic mass and a Protestant Sunday service. If you don't know, the formality, ritual and familiarity of the mass is an essential identity of Catholicism.

Bishop Walter Hurley, the apostolic administrator of Saginaw, has relieved a priest from his assignment at a parish in Bay City, Michigan.
The reason? Not because of the theft of parish funds. Not for sexual or moral impropriety. Not for supporting ideas opposed to Church teaching like abortion, same-sex marriages, or female ordinations.
No, the priest was not guilty of any of these. This priest’s crime? Attempting to restore some tradition to the liturgy in an attempt to reinvigorate his rapidly dying parish.

A good summary of what happened can be found here:

Here is a copy of the letter I sent:

The Most Rev. Walter A. Hurley
Apostolic Administrator
Diocese of Saginaw MI

            Your Eminence,

            I read with great sadness of your treatment of young Father Edwin Dwyer. His removal has reached the ears of Catholics throughout the country. 
 Put briefly, I believe you have chosen a safe and utterly wrong action that does no service to our church. Sadly, this has not come as a surprise. 
       Two or three times a year, I attend Sunday mass at a beautiful big old church with a proper choir and organ in Brooklyn when we are in port and I am able to get ashore for a few hours. There is easily room for 1,000 people. There are usually less than 100 there, and at age 44 I am the youngest one there.
       My own home parish in [redacted] is better attended. The mostly retired people there use the church as a social center, advertise for insurance, and to listen to tepid Protestant songs played on guitar and drums while a series of foreign-born pass-through priests try to shore up the dwindling attendance. The one thing missing is anyone paying attention to the priest or anything he has to say. But hey, plenty of free coffee and donuts for 80% of the parishioners to enjoy after walking out after communion and before mass ends.
         The brand new parish next town over has a Latin mass once a week. There is nowhere near enough seating, and the sounds of crying babies, animated young families and plans being made brings an energy that I haven’t felt in the last 20 years. I will change parishes when I next return from sea.
       With respect, I ask that you consider restoring Fr. Dwyer. He has inspired people to come back to church, the opposite of what is happening in the west right now. While I recognize that you have a duty to listen to the subset of parishioners who are unhappy with Fr. Dwyer, I do not believe that removing him represents a greater good than the alternatives available.
    Above all other things, it becomes obvious that Fr. Dwyer believes that he has an obligation to his parishioners, to get them to mass again, to act like Catholics again. This resonated with people who weren’t going to mass!  
       I submit that the aging body of leadership within the Catholic Church represents both chicken and egg in fomenting the crisis that is rapidly becoming existential for us. Aside from the self-inflicted horrors that make the news, our bishops and priests do nothing to inspire the young and ensure a future for our church, save occasionally badly aping Protestant revivals for kids, which are rightfully mistrusted and tasteless from our tradition as worshippers.
       The farmers have stopped planting seeds in favor of tending the dwindling existing crop.  There is no secret that age is winnowing down the number of parishioners AND priests. Local actions, such as the events at Our Lady of Peace, where a reversal of this was happening, is a perfect example of why mob rule is not an effective managerial tool. Serving settled practicing parishioners is part of the job. But the church’s recruiting efforts, frankly, are awful, and I pray that this is not intentional. Young priests are a treasure, and it may be that there is something so horribly twisted and disordered and self-reverential in the chain of command in the Church today, that  preservation of that management has become a more important goal than service to  the people and service to the Lord. This is certainly a popular opinion, with reason. There are other, less tactful references to be made, to which we can not enumerate, but all, sadly, appear to be well-deserved. Let this not be one of those things.

 I fear that there will be no church within driving distance of my home when I am your age. In 30 years the number of priests will be a fraction of what it is today. Possibly the number of Catholics, too. A VERY small number of priests and parishes are thriving- not fiscally, as elderly Catholics are certainly generous, and young families rarely have enough money to spare much, but in the spiritual sense- growing and tending to the next generation of us has become a ministry poorly executed, with evidence to be found at every single mass. Fr. Dwyer’s assertion that
”Old ways” are quite popular among younger Catholics. Smells, bells, classic hymns, chant, prolonged silence, and, hold on for this one, LATIN are all largely embraced by the younger generations of the Church.

   This is patently and obviously true. The gap between Catholic Mass and a Unitarian Sunday service has shrunk.  The terribly sad belief that the church administrators are focused on preserving their perquisites and not on service has grown for a reason.  I ask that you support and foster Fr. Dwyer’s efforts to return some reverence to the mass and thereby try to grow the church again.

                            Submitted with respect,

                                                             Paul [redacted]

Sunday, February 3, 2019


Lealidade  (Lee-aal-e-dad-jee) is portagee for 'Loyalty'. The value of which I have tried to pass on to my son.

 Growing up, I was aware that the Italians in my area had their own values, their Omertas and there cosas, their things, which required incredible loyalty. The Irish community, we had loyalty, and threats of violence against those who didn't display it, I suppose. I really was pretty protected. I mean. I spent two years drinking at a bar regularly, always putting $10 into the hat at the end of the night to the same song being sung ('A Nation Once Again") without knowing they were sending the money to the IRA.  I thought they were paying the band. Christ.

          Loyalty, growing up, meant keeping your word when it came to certain things, especially where you were under pressure to rat to save your skin. "Loyalty to the death, Death before disloyalty." That was not a bad lesson to be taught. Mostly it was good to see who ratted.

 I had an odd moment a while back, while chatting with my shoreside supervisor. He's since changed jobs, and I haven't had this same talk with my new port captain, but it's coming. Have you ever had one of those moments where the words that come out of your mouth come directly from your heart and completely bypass your brain? I had that happen. Part of my was standing back, nonplussed at the words coming out of my mouth. Oh, it was all true. I had never thought the thoughts that propelled this particular message out into the world, but on hearing it, it was definitely so. 

 B and I have been partners on the HQ for 7-8 years now. I can't even remember how many. Along the way, he's become something of an older brother/great friend, one of those people who end up defining the particular arc of your life that they share. Thing is, B and I have that magic distinction of being reliable, hardworking and loyal.  It was inevitable that the office will eventually split us up. They can have two first-tier tankermen in two different places if they split us up. There are other equally talented guys I work with. But not many. Every now and again, the office folks have to remind us that one day for the good of the company they'll have to split us up.

 So, at the last reminder, I surprised myself by objecting to that idea.  OK, I try to be a hardass, but down deep I know I don't want to spend my F You money and lose a great job. I kowtow if I can.

 But you know, I've had discontent issues lately. Itchy feet, the kind of itchy feet that plagued me in my 20's and made me give up being a biologist in favor of being a lobsterman. I'm bored, is the problem.
   So I surprised myself as much as I did my boss when I said that I'd put in my notice on being reassigned. Now, my boss was very cool. He prompted me to move up, encouraged it. I had a great relationship with him. I have no doubt he could have yelled at me if I screwed up, and it'd have been effective. So it surprised both of us when I said what I said. But thing is, it's the truth.
       Loyalty, real loyalty, requires a two way street. B has shown that. We have a great working relationship. We're codependent at this point. We've been holding tryouts here on the HQ for a while, ever since we lost Big O, our old second man. We're having  a hard time finding a person to work with us who can do the work well, gives a shit about doing a great job, and is also a nice human being to live with. So far, no takers.That might say more about us than it does about the job.
            Still, in saying what I said, I cut a line in the sand, even if I happen to think it's a valid one. I really would quit rather than not work with B anymore.
 In this day and age, where it's SO easy for oil transfers taking place on the water to go south, someone has to ride the handsome when a job goes bad. I have someone who has my back. No way I'd risk operating without him at this point.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Deep Freeze

Well, it's that time of year again.

    We've had our second cold spell of the winter. Today should be the last day of the current one.

 The HQ is not built for polar service. Oh, the quarters are insulated enough for the most part, that's not the issue. Our water pipes freeze, as do the drains. But I grew up on the waterfront in New England, I know a thing or two about making do. Set some water taps at a trickle, into buckets, and it'll keep the water moving for about 24 hours extra. Putting block heaters on trouble points and heat-trace tape everywhere, and you gain another 24 hours.

 So, that 48 hour mark is up, and that's it for the running water on here. We're prepped as we can be. Got plenty of stored water, and all that water that dripped out of the taps keeps the head flushable.
 Tomorrow should be better. No showers, though, for today.