Thursday, April 30, 2020

a gauntlet to run

Yesterday was a crew change day, and the halfway point for me for this voyage.

  We're pretty busy here at the HQ. We've been sailing between Philly, Baltimore and Wilmington a fair bit. Lot of work to be done. Today, in fact, is our first fully free day, and sadly it's gonna rain, as it'd be a great day to do a little painting outside, which is something I enjoy for some perverse reason.

        I've been trying top figure out how to get home after this trip is done. My original plan was to rent a car again and drive the 1200 miles, but it seems that people are now choosing rental cars for travel more often, and the price has tripled from the last time.

 As much as I don't want to spend all day in a flying leper colony that may or may not get me to my destination, it seems I am going to be flying home, which is a disappointment... and judging by the lack of seat choices I had for the tickets that cost twice what they normally do, I'm going to be in close quarters with other potential plague carriers.

   Well, hopefully I get home on time, but hell, at least I got a damn job. I've been saying that a lot lately. Florida has a HUGE service industry, and so things at home are not good. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I are essential workers, and haven't had any interruption in pay, and that is a real blessing in a time and place where so many are struggling. It seems indecent to complain.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Well, I've already been on board for about 10 days. Time is passing pretty quick. We're staying busy, too. It looks like clean oil demand (gasoline, jet, diesel) is in the toilet, but black oil (which is what I carry) has been popular here along the Delaware river, where the HQ is currently working.

       There's pretty obvious reasons for that, however. The Delaware river hosts a lot of food and metal processing plants. That is to say, there are a lot of food companies that own their own dedicated refrigerated ('reefer') ships, either old school bulk carriers with refrigerated holds carrying breakbulk (palletized or unitized) or container ships with a set of electrical connections for every single refrigerated container. Add to that, the steel ships. There are a lot of small ships that call on the area, carrying steel blanks, rolled sheet steel or other forms like scrap. This is a gateway area to the Rust Belt, after all, secondary maybe to the Great Lakes, but a hell of a lot easier for metals going across oceans to and from the adjacent Ohio Valley.

 So we're actually pretty busy here on the HQ. It seems like when I went home last time they had a fair bit of time lying to between jobs, but we're not doing a lot of that while I'm here.

    I'm content enough, though. Happy to be working. I still don't know too many people who lost their job, myself, but I'm aware that there are millions struggling.

  I need to decide how the hell to get home next time. My 2nd man lives in Dallas TX, and getting home was a shit show for him. He ended up at 3 different airports around the country from what was supposed to be a direct flight, and that doesn't seem to be too unusual. I can rent a car one-way for about the price of a round trip ticket, so the math suggests flying, but I don't relish the idea of being trapped in a flying leper colony and not getting home, either.
 Plus, there's a sawmill in NC that has a deal on walnut wood, which I love the look of, and which would keep me supplied for a long time at home.
 It's a conundrum.

Friday, April 17, 2020

sorta routine

I've been back on board the HQ for a few days now, and settling in. Things proceed as they usually do, just working the routine watch, on the routine jobs. Comforting right now.

 We're still working out of Philadelphia, running a 30 or so mile stretch of river, and keeping fairly busy.

   I started out here with this company, 11 years ago. I spent about 2 years working these same waters. It's been fun to wander across old grounds, seeing some old faces. There's some positives to having been shifted down here... the biggest, of course, being that we're not in New York for the shitshow that has been their response to the Kung Flu. Philly is quiet in comparison, and especially so for everything being idled.

       I'm extremely grateful for being fully employed. Although I didn't want to come to Philly for many reasons, I'm happy enough to be here. I'm insulated from some of the struggles that so many (Most?) people are dealing with, but that doesn't mean I'm ignorant of it or ignoring it.

       I got to drive from S. FL to Philly earlier this week, and it was surprisingly pleasant. I set the cruise control at 80 most of the ride, and with the diminished traffic I made excellent time. I stopped in Dunn, NC on the first day, about 6 1/2 hrs from Philly. I hadn't been sleeping well, and so I was pretty beat after just a single long day of driving rt 95 the whole way. Ate well, slept well, and off I went.

      My employer provides a hotel room the night before crew change for anyone who is more than 6 hours' drive from their home port. The last time I was working in Philly, we stayed at the Red Rash Inn, a discount hotel outside the city that was also housing whores, drug dealers and the semi-homeless. Somewhere between then and now, they switched to a NICE mid-priced hotel, and my hotel stay the night before crew change was actually really pleasant. I still didn't sleep well, but that's not the fault of the hotel at all. I don't know what's up with that. I wish the management in NY would follow suit, but to be fair, the shithole welfare/refugee stash house that they send us to probably still costs more than the nice hotel in Philly.

   We're looking at a busy weekend here on the HQ, and although it's going to be rainy and I'm on nights for the week, I'm content enough. We had time at crew change to stock up on basic supplies, so we're good and ready for some isolation.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Life among the natives

It took 3 days for me to get toilet paper in my home town.

      In the end, it wasn't hard to do. It just required a little bit of being a bad person.

 I tried, I really tried to be patient and follow the rules. But it wasn't working. I couldn't get shit tickets, chicken, clorox or a goddamn loaf of bread.

 Oh, I got them. On day 3, after wasting two half days, I came home with everything I needed by 0830.

 OK, so I live in South Florida. Sorta a hotspot for the Kung Flu, because the snowbirds decamped from NY/NJ and all came down here a few weeks ago, and brought their plague with them.

   To protect the vulnerable elderly, all grocery stores are having senior-only opening hours, where the first hour of business is for people 60 and up only.

  Again, I live in South Florida. Fucking EVERYONE is over 60. End result, by the time senior hour is over, everything is cleaned out. I learned this on day 2, when standing in line outside a local Publix with all the other early birds, and the old folks came parading out with shitpaper, meat, clorox jugs, and what have you. By the time I got in the store, there had been hundreds of seniors in before me.

 So, the next day was Sunday, and I was up at 6am, and at the grocery store by 0645. There were 20-30 cars there already. At 0650, I put on my surgical mask and took my hat off, to show off my being half-bald. Being fair-haired and fair of skin, and with a now mostly-white beard. and working outdoors, I look older. With the mask, I thought I looked plausibly middle-aged.

 I rolled in about #10 through the store, made a beeline for the TP aisle, and got a 12-pack of shit tickets. I raced on for the meat section, got a pair of steaks, and on to the next thing on my list, in descending order of scarcity. All told, I was in the store about 15 minutes. I had a system in place.

 By the time I recrossed the paper goods aisle, maybe 3-4 minutes after I picked up my poop paper, there was a crowd of irate elderly people all jostling for access to the goods. The TP was gone within 7-8 minutes of store opening, I would guess.  I hit the registers and bailed.

       So, yeah, I might be a bad person for impersonating a fossil, but I'll be damned if my family is going to have a TP shortage.

Friday, April 3, 2020


The 18-hour drive home took about 16 hours all told.

    Man, driving rt95 for well over 1000 miles was actually nice.

      With a certain amount of the population being good do-bees and staying home, I was able to barrel home with the cruise control set at 80 for much of the ride. The rental agency in Philly gave me a pickup, too. A chevy Colorado, which is OK, but which I certainly wouldn't buy for myself, it being cramped and feeling very plastic and squeaky on the interior. I've always been a Ram guy, anyhow.

   So I'm home now, and I stopped outside Savannah on Wed night for an attempted  nap. Ate some horrible food that stayed with me like a brick in my belly all Thursday, too.

 Unfortunately, some yoots had themselves a party in the room next to me, and the stink of cigarettes and weed lingered in my room after they finished shutting the hell up, so sleep was elusive, but I was on the road by 0430 anyhow. They were don't-bees for sure.

   Across the Florida border, all highway traffic was stopped and questioned as to their origins. My rental truck had Texas plates (plates from hotspots got sent to the waiting area) and my point-of-origin, Philly, is also not on the list, so I was on my way in about a minute. The sun wasn't up yet, but I imagine this will get busy fast during the day. 

  I arrived home and received a king's welcome. My favorite dinner, time with the fam, a massage and a long shower. I was so relaxed that I fell asleep on my couch with a tumbler of whisky and ice in my hand, which I proceeded to dump on my crotch and which woke me up with a yell so I was wide awake for a while after that obviously.

 Today?  Bills and a hunt for TP locally begins.