Friday, October 30, 2020

accept no subsititutes

 My time was up, I went home, and I'm really good at it. 

  I heard the northeast got snow today. It's sunny and 85 at my house. A tad warm still, but around sundown it should be a nice 75 or 78 with a breeze down at the beach, which is surely where I'll be. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

On Board HQ3.0: Home of That Smell

 Well, the Harbor Whore has been reinstalled here aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Retirement Castle. I came aboard a few days ago and we went to work soon after. Month over month, business is picking up. This month is merely anemic, where as last month was more or less a writeoff as far as work went. We've got a busy weekend planned, with 3 cargoes fixed. 

          The New (to us) HQ was in pretty poor shape. A friend was the lead guy here for the past few years, but he was partnered with two old timers who lived, well, like slobs, to be fair, and gave the bare minimum of fucks. E, our friend on here, after years of being the only one who actually did maintenance, recordkeeping and cleaning, lost some motivation in the face of so much apathy, but did his best. With some new blood aboard, things are coming along nicely on HQ3.0. My first 2 weeks aboard were mostly putting out fires and cleaning the quarters- the smell of unwashed old men and unwashed old linens was powerful and resistant to exorcism. I failed to eliminate it completely, but did get it reduced. Every bit of linen and bedclothes and blankets went in the trash- some quite ancient, all quite crusty. Scrubbing down the decks and overhead, soogeying the bulkheadss with straight bleach (at one point my wet soapy hand left a clean print on the bulkhead prior to cleaning. Turns out the bulkheads are off-white, not dark yellow! Anyhow, I got a fair bit of cleaning done, but not enough. We had multiple mechanical failures on deck. HR didn't keep one of the permanent crew on board during shipyard this past summer, and as a result, no one was onboard who gave a fuck about the place or who knew her ideosyncracies. Sad. Dumb avoidable things, some serious, and some not avoidable, too. 

       With a newer, younger, dare I say more hygenic and seamanlike crew aboard, while I was home, E and B went nuts, outside and inside, and cleaned, organized, repaired, replaced and maintained their asses off. E was pleased as punch at coming back to a tidier home that didn't smell like unwashed old timer. The two of them blitzed the quarters, and I came back to a much nicer place than I'd left. It was gratifying. 

    The new HQ has a long way to go, and has some issues... it's LOUD- the sound of the cargo pumps is unbelievably present when one is trying to sleep, and that sucks, and also I hope that whoever thought to put the fucking engines 25 feet from the house and then not insulating the place well gets himself a flaming case of scabies. But so it goes, we'll survive. There's a lot of potential, too, though, and I do enjoy the opportunity to work on projects that improve our quality of life. Cargowise, it's a little weird but doable, and she strips (empties the last of the residue in the tanks) like an absolute dream. That's wholly positive. It's nice having two long cargo cranes instead of one, like the old HQ. 


Friday, October 9, 2020

Well that's better

 All my whoring around the past week has come to a halt.  #soblessed 

        No, really, I haven't been needed in the past few days, so I have been able to babysit the barge I'm sitting on and catch up on things... not to say that I'm sitting on my ass. I've been walking 6+ miles a day, doing basic maintenance on here- oil changes and the like, and sleeping soundly at night, which is the best part of all. Not sleeping well sure made me cranky(er) the past week or so. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Harbor Whore and Clock Watching

 8 days to go. 

     Now that we have an assigned HQ (which I'm thinking about calling the Handyman Special), it falls on us to get into a proper crew rotation. This has resulted in my partner B working 8 weeks straight, and with me staying on rotation but working elsewhere for my first 2 weeks at work. 

       Sadly, I was given a babysitting gig about a week ago- that is, I would be boatkeeper/watchman on a laid-up barge that is awaiting the end of Covid to go back in service- a dream job, in other words... except that I would also be used to fill in where people are missing or short on crew. 

 So far it's been... unpleasant. I don't like change anyhow, and I don't like filling in in general. Without a baseline level of familiarity with a vessel, the odds of an incident increase, out of ignorance. Still, it's my job to be there and to be able and ready to do my job, so I go, elevated risk and all. 

 Right off the bat, before I even stepped foot on the layup barge, I get assigned for 48 hours to a hardworking, large unit to cover a guy who will be in 'on Friday morning, early.'  I buy groceries and soda to last me 48 hours.... and then spend 5 days there, waiting for the guy to show up. 

   I'm a caffeine fanatic. Now, I can't drink coffee as it will make me crap myself or at the least will give me debilitating intestinal cramps. I drink energy drinks and diet soda. Too much of both, if we're being honest, but even so, I have never gone on full caffeine withdrawal before.... and the next three days were busy, and not much sleep to be had. 

     Hey, so you know I learned that despite physical exhaustion from sleeping 90 mins to 2 hours twice a day, it is very difficult to sleep with a screaming headache that no medication will touch for severity... luckily I worked with a very quiet, nice guy, who like me wasn't a conversationalist at work, so we talked for a few minutes at watch change and not at all after. So that helped. It got bad enough that I drank coffee, and while I did not in fact poop my pants (VICTORY!), I was severely cramped and it was a near-run thing a few times... and the headache stayed albeit at a lesser level. 

 So, anyhow, the guy comes back to work at 3am, 3 1/2 days late, but off I go and 90 minutes later I'm on the layup barge, having sucked down a couple of diet pepsis from the tug (and Ohmergerd, thank you to those guys), and in bed. I get up at 9am, walk the half mile out to the gate from the dock, and stock up on sodas at the grocery store. I return, hump back all the soda from the gate (no cars allowed), and head back out to buy actual food, and bring that back too. 

 By then it's 4pm, and I shower, do laundry, and cook. 

 The phone rings. 

 Tomorrow they need me to go to Port Elizabeth to another barge for 'a few hours.' 

 Tomorrow arrives, and I am on a tugboat headed for Port Elizabeth.  The few hours change to '24 hours' on the hour steam there. Had I believed the text message I got, I would have been in trouble. Luckily, I packed a seabag for '24 hours' with a change of clothes, extra socks and drawers, a couple of meals, and 3 days worth of soda and energy drinks. 

 If they're gonna use me like a bitch, I'll bitch a bit about it, but it's work. Today looks like it won't be a hard day. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

This is NOT Singapore!


    I've yelled those words over a radio, yelled from my deck to another ship's deck, yelled through a bunker hatch in the side of a ship, yelled from a gangway, yelled from a pilot ladder... and spoken those words calmly and/or firmly but at a reasonable volume no less than 1,000 times. 

    Singapore is famous as the largest ship refueling port in the world... and also as the most corrupt ship refueling market in the world. 

 I've written about this before. In many places, the vast majority from what I can see, bunkering operations are rife with corruption, prone to scams, lies, and dishonest practices.

 And nowhere is this more blatantly carried out than in Singapore. BUT, every now and again, someone gets a little too greedy, a little too blatant, or perhaps gets a touch near with the baksheesh for the local officials, and gets put on the altar.

   I enjoy seeing this sort of thing. Not that it represents anything other than a single point-source of news; there's no big changes in practices coming here, but it's nice to see someone get ganked anyhow. 

 In the 6 years since I wrote the above blog post, I have seen a mild reduction in the number of engineers that have tried to run scams with my assistance, but have seen an uptick on the number of engineers that have accused me of shorting them on fuel. I attribute this to the change in trading patters for fuel, with the US becoming a net exporter, and with the Hovensa transshipment tank farm on St. Croix being shuttered (although it's actually being rehabbed to reopen, rumors are). From what I've seen, smaller tankers were (pre-Covid, anyhow) bringing more expensive finished products out of our area moreso than we were seeing crude ships coming in, although this may be an artifact of ships taking on fuel prior to sailing overseas, and also, more recently, the shift in sulfur requirements that changed the types of fuel ships take on.  Regardless, a near-constant 20, 25, 40 or 50 ton claim of fuel shortage has become a near-standard claim whenever I complete a bunker job on a tanker. 

 Funny, though, only about 1 in 100 of these claims actually result in extra paperwork. When I reiterate the usual platitudes  ('This isn't Singapore, chief, we don't cheat here. Where am I putting the fuel, in my pocket? Please issue a Letter of Protest and I will sign for it (a LOP is a legally admissible document, the first step in documenting a dispute for legal resolution). for some reason the claimed shortage goes away.  I've only twice proactively asked a priori an engineer how many tons of fuel he was planning to accuse me of stealing. This was related to one particular tanker company who has never simply signed a document without trying to fuck me in any one of several ways. Both times the engineer did not enjoy my humor, but both times I called it correct. 

 Ah well, lie down with dogs, wake up etc etc.  I can't help what other companies do, or other nations' well-deserved reputations.  Provided that I'm not being rained on, or otherwise discommoded beyond just wasting my time, I can usually laugh at it when it happens. Amazing thing about honest business practices. There's very little need to stress.