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.
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.
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.
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.
So, today wasn't a great day here on HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ home for failed male escorts.
Just another job- a larger cargo, and problems with our ship- they were slow, mind-numbingly slow, achingly slow. A job that should have been done in 9 1/2 hours stretched out into 13+.
And it's always that way with ships belonging to this particular container ship line. They must put their people through hell, or hire assholes, or both, from what I have experienced.
So at the end of today's job, the ship sent a junior engineer and a motorman down to me to take closing gauges- ships are supposed to come aboard and witness us measure the level of cargo in each of our tanks. Only about 1% of ships take closing gauges, though. Most take opening gauges only. So be it, they're actually carrying out due diligence, which is cool by me, except by this point I just have NO patience left, so I'm merely being polite and did ask them to be quick, as we were already delayed hours on end.
So I'm walking in already in a bit of a brown study, but I'm not going to be rude about it, it's not the fault of junior crew, after all.
The young engineer has good english, with a strong obvious French accent, and is a happy, likeable little guy. He had that gift that some people have, the ability to share a sunny disposition, and while we were gauging out the tanks, we started chatting away, banal stuff, but I felt my mood lift. What the hell, we were almost done anyhow. It's unusual to have French mariners to deal with for me, and it's really unusual that they're friendly, likeable guys.
When all was said and done, we pumped off more oil than we had loaded- we had a skin of oil in several of our tanks' bottoms before we loaded (called, originally enough, 'bottoms' ranging from less than 1/8" thick to 1", this is the unpumpable stuff we can't always get out of the tank, often congealed oil that cooled too much to pump. Well, today's hot oil and high temps in air and water, we pumped off EVERYTHING in every tank. The engineer couldn't figure out why they gained 10 tons more than predicted, until I explained. No arguing, either. The ship is one of the new post-Panamax beasts, the largest size that can be taken in the northeast. They were loading 60,000 barrels here, 8000 tons, to top off their tanks. That's a hell of a fuel bill. 2.5 million gallons.
At any rate, it's amazing how encountering the right person at the right time can change your day so much. I felt better after just 15 minutes of normal conversation with a stranger. I guess I was being pessimistic after the job turned into a bit of a shit show.
Anyhow, next cargo is in 4 hours. Tomorrow is the halfway point of this tour.
It's been a good couple of days here at the HQ. We spent July 4 at a lay berth in Brooklyn, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge- next door to Brooklyn Bridge Park, in fact. We went ashore to have lunch, got some groceries, and generally had a bit of a holiday, which is unusual for us, but also was welcome. Neither B nor I are fans of New York on any level, so there's no special treat for us, beyond the food, since EVERYTHING is available here, and probably within walking distance of any given part, too.
The lay berth has a nice view of the Manhattan skyline, which is cool I guess, but after seeing it a few times, meh. We had a great view of the Brooklyn bridge, too, which is actually cool, as something about the design of that bridge has always been visually very appealing for me. As luck would have it, we were also right in sight of the fireworks barges for the night, too.
The July 4 fireworks were AMAZING, and we had million-dollar seats. Photos don't do it justice, as my camera minimizes the view, making things look further away than they really are. But wow. I actually took video of the fireworks, and everyone knows that everyone hates being shown video of fireworks. I'll spare you that, anyhow.
A couple of our tugboats tied off to us for the duration, so we got to yell back and forth a bit, do some visiting, too. It was actually kind of nice to do all this sober.
Our view for the evening. Click to embiggnify
Yeah, that picture doesn't look like we were right across the channel, but we were. Easy swimming distance for me 10 years ago. Maybe 3/4 mile?
The fireworks show was insanely good. Loud, bright, and well-timed and paced- there were few breaks in the action longer than 1-2 seconds.
One of my friends is captain on the outside tugboat, the one who blocked my view slightly, but we managed. Plus, I'm used to it. He's the only person I've met out here whose head is larger than mine so this is in keeping. At least we weren't at the movies I guess.
Anoyhow, it was a great day to celebrate American Independence from Great Britain.
Today, however, it's a different story. Today, July 7, the British have their revenge, at least on yours truly. Today we have to bunker the ocean liner QUEEN MARY II.
1000+ feet of misery to fuel this bitch
The QM2 is the most difficult ship I've ever had to bunker in 10+ years of bunkering. It's just a cast iron whore from start to finish. Thank God the crew are professional and nice.
From what I've been told, she's gorgeous inside and sails like a dream. Outside, though, they forgot to put any way for other vessels to get alongside to give them their goddamn fuel.
So, in about 90 minutes, we'll sail to go get them that fuel, probably put a fresh dent among the thousands already there, and I'll get fussed at by the crotchety old captain who our dispatcher assigned as our tug. Normally I can call and ask for a tug crewed by people I know I get along with and work with well for this one particular ship, as it IS known to be a battle, and there's a bit of a safety dance to be done, and better to do it with people with whom I have a history of working well together. BUT, I didn't, as I don't want to be a nag and get a rep as a whiner, plus I have a good rapport with our more senior dispatchers, and I don't want to strain that by trying to get my way every damn day.
I am not looking forward to this morning, anyhow. We'll be fine, it'll go well I'm sure. And Queen Mary can look up from hell where she's roasting for what she helped do to Ireland, and she'll smile at how her namesake made one of those descendants have a shitty morning, ending a great couple of days.
So far so good. Well, so peaceful, anyhow. I'm into the onboard routine, we're working steady, not killing ourselves, as it's hot as hell outside anyhow. I've been on board for a week today, and shortly we'll have shore access, so we can load up on food and such tomorrow. 3 weeks to go. I MAY try to work extra elsewhere before going home, haven't decided yet. About $8000 in unexpected expenses while I'm still trying to settle into a new house hasn't been the best timing, so I'd be nuts not to take advantage. Plus, despite the discomfort of 90-degree humid days here in NY harbor, 96-degree humid days at home are not great anyhow, and my pool is literally 90 degrees most days around 5 PM, not refreshing at all. Rather the opposite, so it's a good time.
I'm still mostly staying away from the news. Such news as leaks to me is depressing enough. I chose this life to stay the F away from pop culture and the people who like pop culture, after all. While I love being able to call home every night, I don't love how connected I am to the world as a result. It takes a lot of the joy of being a sailor away, and there's already scanty joy in being stuck on contract in a seaport, so... nah.
I am Paul B, and I spend most of my life at sea. Ships, Science, the life of a mariner, biology and (mostly) true stories of life among the best and the worst people in the world, the United States Merchant Marines. You'll find it here, maybe. You'll definitely find rants, raves and discussion on life aboard a merchant ship. Come back and see the Brazilian girls, too, who show up fairly regularly.