Sunday, June 21, 2020

The countdown begins!

I'm entering the last few days here on this tour. 3 barges in 4 weeks and a bout of homelessness. Quite a time. As I pretty much say daily, I still have a job. Gotta be thankful.

       So anyone who knows me knows that I do not like change. I like things predictable. I don't like surprise parties, I don't like shopping without a list or at least a mental list, and I don't like not having a destination in mind or a plan for the day unless that plan is to not have a plan. So not having a permanent home or any seniority is a challenge for me.

      Bear in mind I'm not bitching here. I landed on my feet. I like the new ride, I like the guy I'm working with too. I got lucky. I'm not the easiest person to live with because I like to be left alone, and for a social person, that's not always easy, wanting to talk with someone who doesn't want to talk with you much of the time. and my new shipmate is cool with all that. We have a nice talk 15-20 minutes a day, and that's about it.
 I dunno. I'm not that much of an isolationist at home. Just at work. Balance in all things I guess.
   The new ride is comfortable enough. The quarters are small, but tidy. I have all I need except storage space is at a premium, which often happens on a boat. With B and I spending more time than average aboard for this company (90% of the crews work equal time. The other 10%, including us, work more), we've tended to bring our lives with us, rather than having a rigid separation between home life and ship life.  We like our creature comforts, and generally more stuff than you can fit in 1-2 seabags.
           I don't know if this will ever be my home per se. Not just because we may get sent elsewhere when business picks up and laid up vessels break out, but also because the guy on here is fairly senior, and has been on here a long time, and besides that, he's had his crew ganked and replaced not with a new subordinate, but two equals. So now we're all chiefs, no indians. The last thing I want to do is piss in this guy's cheerios after he's already been messed with. It's not his fault that we got our barge taken away, I'm not going to take it out on him, and make him suffer too. End result, I'm not doing things the way I'd like exactly. I'm doing things HIS way. His way happens to be just fine, he's good at his job. But it's not the way we do things at home, so to speak. Of course. I'm used to co-parenting the HQ with B. Policy is a matter of comfort, not compromise with each other, which it must be on here for now, with no indians and all chiefs.
 Thing about compromise, no one gets what they want. They get what they can live with.

 Again, not bitching. Things are good. A golden era ended, and we're in the interregnum at the moment, not on unemployment or trapped with no crew change for 8 months like so many sailors.  Shit happens. Payday came and went already, and will come again.

           So, looking ahead, I'm excited to head home. I might be able to go out a little more while there, although I'm actually very happy not going out. Best quarantine ever.

      One big positive about getting sent to NY, direct and more affordable flights home are resuming. I don't have to pay a fortune for a discount ticket on a grade-z dirty airline, sitting on chicken crates and trade goods.
 Seriously, flying from America to Philadelphia, Occupied America, was pretty stressful. Nothing says pandemic like 100% full flights and 3 layovers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Working in the Third World (Brooklyn, NY)

Things are going OK. I'm settled into my 'maybe temporary maybe not' barge, and although it's pretty quiet (ship traffic being slow still), we've spent a fair bit of that time at a lay berth in Brooklyn, near downtown, and that has meant good shore access, so I have been walking for 2 hours a day when I have that kind of time. It's looking like later this week and weekend will be busy, so the past few days' idle time has been good but is coming to an end. That's not a bad thing. Pretty sure my employer would like to get paid.

      I've got just one week to go here at work, and to make things more comfortable for the one guy on here who kept his position, I will work around his preferred schedule, the hated eight-and-four.  This was based on the horrible suggestion of the Human Performance Eval studies carried out a few years ago. I tried it for a few weeks once. It was so bad it made 6 hours on/6 off look good.
 Basically, you work 8 hours, then sleep 8 hours. Then work 4 hours, and sleep 4 hours.
 Supposedly this is better than anything else. I found it exhausting and disorienting and apparently so do many other people. Hell, there are guys that prefer 6 on/6 off and chronic fatigue rather than the 8/4.   Still, it's just for a week. I'll be fine.

            The weather has been amazing. Cool mornings, comfortable warm (not hot) afternoons. It's been great. Normally, with some idle time like this, I'd be out on deck chipping and painting, my version of therapy, but I'm not comfortable enough here to do that, so instead I've been walking and lifting weights after daily chores and maintenance is finished. We have had a couple of small jobs prior to sitting, so bills were paid, at least.

 It's peaceful-ish. If I was truly feeling at home here, this mid-Covid time might have been a golden era here at work, strange as that is. Even so, I've really enjoyed the past week.

 We've got a fairly decent sized cargo fixed for later this week, so we'll stay rolling.

Thursday, June 11, 2020


The term 'rehomed' is a nice way of saying 'given away' or 'unwanted' in many cases. Problem dogs spring to mind.

 Hopefully I'm not a problem dog. I have been rehomed, though. We left Philly last week and this week I was assigned to my new home. Whether it's temporary or permanent rides on a number of factors, not least of which is the recovery period from the quarantine.

     It's good to have a place to store my crap. My new assignment is fine. Pretty similar to the original HQ, in fact. It's not mine, though. Of the existing crew, the senior guy is still here, and this has been his home for a number of years, so while I am aboard and would wish to make some changes to the quarters and some very minor changes to the SOP aboard, doing so would really be stepping on the crank of the guy who happens to be home this week, but who left here a few weeks ago thinking things would be normal when he got back.

 Think about it, you've got a new associate at work, and you get to work on day 1 and he's moved your stuff, changed procedures, and everything is different. You'd be upset, and justifiably so.

 So I'm moved in, but not all the way. But I'm working, and given the upset of the past months, that's about all I can hope for. It's disheartening, but the alternative, to be sent home or to bump other guys and take their place, send them home, would be worse.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Return

After 8 years aboard, we had a lot of stuff to move off the HQ when we vacated her this morning.

    Hawsepiper's Afloat Global HQ/Refugium is no more. It is now being run by people we do not know.

      As for us, we packed up our duffels and ditty bags, and drove to New York. Well, B drove. I navigated, which is to say I rode bitch.

    We have a LOT of stuff. We filled a 15-passenger  cargo van to the top, and also filled the bed and cab of B's truck.

   It's uncertain times here. We knew that our final disposition was not set, but it's even worse. There's a glut on staff at the moment with so much of the global economy shut down. Many companies are having layoffs. Rather than follow suit, my employer has tightened belts and cut costs to maintain the employee roster, something I was aware of, of course. So in meeting with the bosses when we arrive to NY and commandeered half the warehouse floor temporarily,  we learned that we do not yet have a new home. It will be a few weeks at the soonest before we are assigned a new permanent home.

    And that's disappointing but understandable. B and I have been split up for a week, something neither of us wanted, but which is temporary. I am camping out in Brooklyn aboard a bunker barge for the week, and have settled in temporarily. B is hanging out on a gasoline barge. He's right next door to me at the moment.

 We're good. It's not the same, but it's work, and we're back amongst friends, and given how many people are either laid off or just had their places of business burnt down, I'm doing just fine.

     I don't love change. I really don't. But I do love being able to feed my family, which today's events will allow me to continue to do. 

 In talking with the big boss, I saw first hand that he was troubled by not being able to just give us a nice home and send us off with all our crap. I watched him game out how to get us a permanent berth, and know that the dude is absolutely doing his best.
   Am I anxious? A little, of course. I am homeless at the moment. But they brought us back to NY for a reason and I'm working. I really can't complain.