Monday, November 30, 2020

She's coming on boys, and coming on strong

 Blowing a gale here today on board the HQ. Well, off the HQ too. We sailed off a container ship this morning, and made a short jog to Newark NJ to come alongside a ro-ro... the wind went from a blustery 30ish to 50+ and blinding sheets of rain came down- unfortunately, we were taking the breeze di-reckly up the bee-hind, and that made tying up a chore. Luckily we had  the best tug handler in my company at the wheel of his chariot, and even with his mad skills, it was a nail-biter. It's been a minute since I was nervous out on deck. Lines screaming, can't settle down, half blind and all-deaf, we got fast with a combination of great boat handling, some old-fashioned linehandling, and using my capstans to winch us into position. The buffeting effect of the wind was enough to prevent us from getting snug alongside. My captstans were bogged down, and I regularly use them to winch us up and down a dock when we end up having to load multiple products at a single dock when one of the manifolds is out of the scope of my deck cranes. The capstans have plenty of ass... but not enough to overcome the weight AND wind. The tug did a little throttle mojo and eventually we got in there, though. After all that, the job itself was anticlimactic, and the wind settled down into a small gale about an hour after we got fast. 

 It's been a while since I was grateful not to be sailing blue water. The Filipino deck gang on this afternoon's ship is NOT looking forward to the first day or two of sailing south after this evening. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The rewards of Being Mean

 So some time last week I got a 30 day Fecesbook ban for being mean. And by being mean, I called someone low-class. A real pearl-clutcher, I guess. 

     You know, it's actually been pretty nice not having to devote any of my energy towards all that noise. I'm not an end-of-days enthusiast, but the whole 'wars and rumors of wars' thing seems pretty accurate. Truth and logic go out the window. I like both those things, and I'm a believer in choosing sides, perhaps because I have too much faith in myself and my ability to judge fairly and harshly. But whatever, it's been pretty nice not having to put up with all the bullshit and all the ridiculously awful opinions of idiots who lack the self-awareness to be ashamed of the things they say. 

           So... yeah, it's been good to have an extra 20-30 minutes a day to do things I enjoy, rather than get pissed off at everything. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I've got 90 minutes free before I have to start making bread for the rolls, but I wanted to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there, especially to those who aren't home to enjoy dinner with family. 

 I am very grateful to have a great partner/friend on board the HQ, B Himself. We've been working together for 10 years now, and God willing we'll have at least another 10 more. 

 I'm setting aside eating healthy for the next 2 days to feast. I'm down 53lbs so far this year, don't want to stop now, but I'm going to be dining well today. 

 I come from the place where Thanksgiving happened, which always made it sort of special, and next to Easter, my favorite holiday.  So today we celebrate when a bunch of religious exiles came to this wonderful nation, experienced great hardship, and then successfully withstood enormous peer pressure from the natives who tried to bribe them in an effort to commit genocide on all other native tribes from Maine to Connecticut. 

 Not only did those brave people not commit genocide, they shared their faith with all natives, and over time, taught many of them to not commit infanticide or practice cannibalism. For these brave souls I am grateful too. 


Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Christmas rush is here

 I've been watching a slow incremental rise in container ship traffic for a few months now, and this week the nation has noticed it too. Amazon has been having an unusual spike in shipping delays- last minute delays, in fact, with long-lead items... and this is where my laziness coupled with a certain intellectual rustiness has left me unable to form a clear picture in my mind of what is happening in my business right now. 

  So I'm going to speak off the cuff on trends, and what I see, and all three of you who read this can make of that what you will, and bear in mind that free information like this is worth what you paid for it. 

       All the major container ports in the US are experiencing delays, but throughput appears relatively normal, (though perhaps slightly off the maximum efficiency experienced in the past year or two because of shitty governance given the lockdown kabuki). China is by all accounts operating at pre-covid efficiency and throughput there is at highs and at times record highs. Demand for goods seems to have recovered. Ship traffic is... seasonally appropriate, I guess. Oil and cruise traffic is in the toilet still, so I don't know what I'm looking at. For my own part, we're looking at steady business, although we still are feeling the burn of lost business from the cruise and oil trade, although a cold winter could certainly mean an extra ship or two a day just in NY/NJ for the heating oil trade, which will be a blessing, sort of. Anchorage jobs with ships in the winter are uncomfortable jobs for yours truly. Small volumes, a lot of delays, and a lot of arguing.

        So, have our ports recovered from Covid?  Sorta. Local restrictions are still messing with things, by all appearances, but the presence of anchored container ships coupled with steady throughput suggests that demand is driving this spike... but what about the season?  The Christmas rush is a real thing in container ports, and it's late for that by a few weeks. I thought that October's increase in traffic was a combination of things returning to normal and wholesalers starting to stock up on inventory for the holidays. That, along with November's ramp up on traffic and ships simply being more FULL (it's pretty easy to see the difference in  a full vs. partially loaded container ship), suggests that we're doing better and the seasonal rush is happening, albeit delayed slightly. So what's driving that? I'm not sure, myself. Perhaps late orders, and also perhaps differences in shipping efficiencies pre- and post-covid, too. Shippers formed some alliances to weather their own problems in the past few years, and some for Covid, too. So I don't know what I'm seeing, given that. I'm optimistic, though. 


Saturday, November 14, 2020

work begins

 I've been on board the New HQ 3.0 now for a few days. I'm settling in. My partners out here had been plinking away at our master list of things to make living conditions more comfortable out here, my shoreside manager has approved these little comforts, and it's become a happier place to live for sure. Everyone gets along, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. 

    Business has picked up, too. The pre-Christmas rush has begun, and ship traffic has been increasing month by month. I expect this year will be a moderate Christmas for many, but I'm happy for my coworkers and I that there is work to be had.

 The world's going mad in the meanwhile. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife took so much abuse by her native family for wearing a MAGA shirt (having grown up in a country that went from a military dictatorship to a socialist shithole and back out again, and is currently backsliding, she's awfully fond of her adopted country as a place of sanity) that she took a break from social media. Me, I'm in. I've chosen my camp, too, even if I don't go on and on about it, but it's still more important to me to put politics dead last in my hierarchy of needs. 

        So holy shit it was warm when I got up north, and now it's damn cold for me. The difference between the weather some 1200 miles of latitude is startling. 

        Covidmania continues apace. I live in a place where we mostly ignore it, and live our lives. Masks are worn indoors, still, and that is what it is.  I come to NY and it's fear and madness, so rather than embrace the suck, I avoid it, and stay aboard. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Eta Porra!

 'Eta Porra' is a Brazilian Portuguese expression that doesn't translate well but is quite versatile. I sometimes here Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife mutter it when something goes wrong or when I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Directly translated, it means 'that is semen' which doesn't work, but the real meaning is something like 'that is some messy bullshit.' 

  There are other unladylike colloquialisms that get said here and that which also make me laugh. Saco translates to 'ballsack' and is an expression of frustration. Also, again, making me laugh. 

 I said all these things when I had an incident in my shop the other day. About 15 hours in to a series of laminations, shaping and jointing some VERY expensive hardwoods, it was time to make some sweeping curved cuts with my cheap bandsaw. And at the tail end of the 40 minutes of shaping, I realized that the bandsaw blade was wandering all over the place, ruining every bit of the work I did. 

 It's the height of stupidity to trust about $200 worth of wood to a $300 bandsaw. 

    Do I really want to buy a $1500 bandsaw?  Yes. And no. I'm deeply torn. 

 Anyways, the project that was going to make me proud of what I did on my time off is so much trash now. I'll be headed back to work in a few days, so I only have time for one more little project. We're currently getting pummeled by feeder bands from tropical storm Eta here in Margaritaville, so there is time for one more good shop day.