Friday, December 31, 2021


 I'm still alive, still home, and while I've probably gained 10lbs the past week, today is New Year's eve (I don't care) and I've got just a few more days to enjoy my time at home. So that is my plan. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

 Just stopping by to wish all 3 of you that read this a very Merry Christmas. I am home and I am exhausted but happy. It's been a whirlwind the past few days. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is still working 100ish hours a week but training new help, and so we're getting 3 hours or so a day together before sleeping from about 1am- 6am before both doing what needs to get done, and dealing with household business as well. 

         We got my house dialed in, and it's Christmassy AF, too. Couple of trees, and it takes about 10 minutes to get all the lights on and such, inside and out.  Last night we did Christmas Brazilian style, eating coxinhas  and Pao do queijo  and appetizers with champagne before opening presents at midnight. 

 I got a nice woodturning lathe and a still for making my own booze. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife rather liked her presents too. Notably, as a man who appreciates a well-turned leg in very high heels, and my wife being rather more fond of heels than not (never leave home without 'em, she says), I got her a pair of Valentino stilettos in red that cost more than my first car. I'd make fun of her for it, but she'd just point at one of my guns and compare my favorite 1911 with a dogshit Hi-Point and she'd be right. 

 My kid got his driver's license the other day too, lol. I think I was more nervous that he was. As penance for the sin of costing me 3 hours of daylight I put him to work for the same amount of time doing things I didn't have time to do. 

 And so here I am at 11am on Christmas day. My kid is up but groggy, as we went to bed about 2am, and while my wife and I were up at 7 as she had to work, I found myself with free time for the first time since I got home.  Later today my son and I are heading over to my brother and sister's house for Christmas dinner Part I.  I have other family flying in tomorrow night, so Monday night will be Christmas dinner Part II: Cholesterol Boogaloo where we'll have a dozen people to feed, and by we, I mean me, as my wife will be working until 2 hours before dinner.  Should be a good time. I laid in plenty of booze and grub. 

 This being my first Christmas home in 3 years, and me being as mature as the average 12-year old, I'm a Christmas person, obviously. 

      I hope that wherever you are and whoever you're with, you have a very Merry Christmas too! 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

getting short now

 I've only got 3 watches to go here on HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ .  Unlike last year, when weather delayed me enough to miss Christmas, I should be home with a couple of days' grace to run the final stretch until Christmas. My son being 18, and me being home for the holidays only once every 3 years, this will likely be the last Christmas before we hit the Empty Nest phase, so Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I planned a good Christmas...

 But you know that thing about the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men? 


     So, once our kid was 16, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife rejoined the workforce and got into the healthcare field, quickly rising to a home care manager for Alzheimer's care, as she has a particular warmth that lends itself to working with kids with autism or cerebral palsy, and elderly folks with Alzheimer's and dementia. I'm obviously very proud of her- the emotional cost of that sort of thing could very easily deaden the lightest of hearts, but she thrives in it.  

   Unfortunately, she lost some employees this month, and fired a management-level helper, so she's going to be putting in a 90 hour week this week.  For the first time in our relationship, I will be having to enjoy Christmas while working around HER schedule. This is obviously weird for us. I mean, I think that this is only our 5th or 6th Christmas together, because of my job, and I'll be home, while she'll be home only for 6-8 hour blocks here and there. 

         In the meanwhile, though, we have family flying in to visit, and my brother, sister and nephew are only a few minutes down the road, so we're going to have I think 9-12 people for Christmas dinner, which will be on the 27th.  We'll be doing our own nuclear family's Christmas Brazilian style this year to accommodate my wife's schedule... which means opening presents at Midnight on the 25th, having wine and  good but unhealthy appetizers all the while to keep us awake.  In the meanwhile, though, I'm just happy to have some time with family. As I age, I appear to be suffering from homesickness and sentimentality more and more. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Night watch, post-bunker blues

 It's a nice quiet night here aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Hot Dog Safari. 

       I did a quick bunker job on a pretty little bulk ship, the BALSA 94. As noted before, Blogger for some reason no longer allows me to post hi-res photos, so there aren't great pictures to share today... but if you know me in meatspace, I did post them on my Instagram, which is about the limit of what social media I consume these days. Instagram lets me look at boats and boobs, and that's about all I need out of social media these days anyhow. 

         The BALSA 94 job was a lot of fun. The weather was unusually fine for December, there being a light breeze and temps around 50. The crew was mostly out on deck catching the cell signals to call home, which the ship being almost 100% top-down Filipino crew, meant that as people finished their phone calls, socialization happened, and also there were extra hands helping the Black Gang on their side as we moved hoses, passed papers, etc. Several guys hung over the rail and shot the shit with me, which is something I haven't done in ages, just chatting sailor to sailor.  We quickly commiserated on long contracts, short pay and shore leave no longer being what it once was: fun.  naturally, we talked families and kids, as sailors often do. The only childless unmarried guy in the group, who was a first-voyager 18 year old, was hounded and made fun of for being unmotivated and possibly gay for his lack of progeny, but the kid took it in stride. With a well-paying job, I suspect that he won't remain childless for long. 

The job itself went off well and efficient, and when it was done, we sailed to the company mooring buoy and went alongside another bunker barge, where we currently now sit. 

      I threw some chicken on top of a salad and called it dinner, and had to make some pickled onions, as they're easy to make and I was out. The galley still smells like onions and vinegar. Makes me hungry, to be honest. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

it's quiet...

 ...too quiet. 

 Shit's making me nervous.  My partner-in-crime of 11 years, B, was ganked off of here last week for a few days. I got to sit at a lay berth for 2 days all alone. It was awesome. I walked 6-7 miles every day around Brooklyn. He returned, and we haven't had orders since. We've taken the time to work on all the cold-weather maintenance we could get to, changed out some cargo hoses, took on stores, did cargo pump oil changes, etc etc...all time-consuming projects that took advantage of having shore access where a truck could pull up alongside us and our deck crane could swing heavy shit back and forth. 

Today was my last day watch. As I go home in a week, I will go to bed and get up at 1am to take the second half of the night watch, and while I can sleep tomorrow after breakfasttime, I will be working in the dark and going to bed with the sun thereafter. 

 Working nights sucks, honestly, but the positive aspect of it is that there are no office phone calls barring any surprises. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

"The Wheel of Time' tv show is awful

 Once again, Hollywood has taken a big steamy creamy dump on my childhood. 

 It was bad enough when Star Wars ruined the Hero's Journey by making all the heroes failures, quitters and weak assholes at the end of their lives. 

 The Wheel of Time TV show has done Star Wars one better. They took a complete book series, gutted and skinned it, and are wearing the skin as camouflage to ruin the story from start to finish. The series is so poorly miscast to meet diversity quotas that the tv  characters would be considered caricatures of the book's characters had the tv characters not been rewritten to be almost universally awful people. Seriously, 5 episodes in, EVERY character has been rewritten to be unlikeable, even the characters like Mat, who is supposed to be a fun-loving troublemaker,  and universally likeable, is a broody thief, and generally as likeable as a burlap bag of smashed assholes on the show. Perrin, the hulking blacksmith is a retarded Geico caveman, a mouth breather who accidentally killed his wife, a tormented character,  where in the book he was a very soft-spoken and humble but intelligent teenage apprentice blacksmith. In fact, the 3 main characters of the story are all relatively happy teenage boys in the books, and in the TV show each gets saddled with more weepy terrible backstory than story. 

 If you read the books, the Wheel of Time has it's flaws, in that it makes and relies on some tropes (men and women can't communicate with each other is a popular theme, and carried to the point of sillyness), and goes too deeply into irrelevant sideplots. But for all that, it's an amazingly complex, BIG story. Epic. And innovative in that it's essentially the Hero's Journey again, but with fresh takes and a massive cast of characters. 

 Put another way, I always thought of "Game of Thrones" to be a terribly-written hot take derivative of The Wheel Of Time books. Piss-poor competition, in my eyes... but that's just it- in my eyes. I get that YMMV.  But fuck me, why take a good story and make it bad?  That takes actual work, to fuck up a pretty great story. And somebody got paid to do that. Why? 

    I suspect that the concept of a Heroic Journey offends the sensibilities of Hollywood these days. Imagine a man bettering himself and overcoming a terrible challenge. That sounds classist and maybe racist, almost certainly capitalistic. Let's make everyone hate everything instead. 

 Anyways, the show has managed to ruin another great story. 


Where the Power Be At

  I learned a good lesson about the oil shipping industry a few months ago. 

 For all the talk by mariners, columnists, managers and politicians, when it comes to charting the course of the future of the oil trade, only bankers and shipowners truly matter. Money matters. 

 for the most part, a single investment bank has a much more important role in shipping than every single mariner in the trade combined.  For all that we are needed, sailors are at the very bottom of the totem pole, which makes most of our bloviating just so much noise. At best, we can be useful resources for information. At worst, we are like taxes, merely the cost of someone doing business. 

 I say all that because I got another good lesson this week, in a related vein. 

 I'm pretty good at my job. I mean, you can shave a monkey and make a tankerman out of him; I'm not bragging, certainly. A shaved monkey will get a good seal on his respirator, and that, coupled with the presence of a beating heart, is enough to sign a Declaration of Inspection, the founding document at the terminal end of an oil transfer. Those of us who aren't shaved apes often get picked on by being given more challenging work for the same pay as the shaved apes. So it goes. There are benefits, too, though. We can submit useful feedback to the office, and sometimes they even listen to us.  

       This week we had to do a debunkering. De-bunkering is when a ship has to transfer its' fuel to a fuel barge for some reason.  This is done for contaminated, off-specification, or fuel that does not meet the minimum sulfur content required by environmental regulations in some nations. Essentially the fuel needs to be returned to a terminal to be reblended, reformulated, re-refined or stored and given to someone else who CAN use it. 

 Thing is, when you get heavy fuel oil, the residue sticks to the tank walls and bottom of the tank. This eventually drips down and hardens on the bottom of the tank. We call these 'bottoms' and they are carefully accounted for in our assorted calculations. 

 Well, we don't want the wrong type of bottoms in our tanks. So, before debunkering I had to come up with a plan for flushing our tanks out, as the supplier did not want to pay for us to spend a week getting our tanks cleaned professionally at the local tank cleaning facility. As such, I came up with a plan that required us to flush the tanks twice with good clean oil (unlike product carriers designed to switch between highly varied oils, we can't self-wash our tanks), but which would result in almost zero bottoms, something we normally can't have this time of year- colder oil congeals on cold steel tank surfaces, and it's chilly these days. 

 Doing this stuff is a matter of trimming and listing the hull over, to allow semi-congealed oil to slump downhill. Since not all of my tanks have the pump suction sump in the back inboard corner of the tank, sometimes we have to do things like trim us way down by the head, but also to be able to recover from that position and then reverse it, by going down by the stern, or listing over from port to starboard by varying which tanks we pump out of. 

Essentially my plan was to shift bottoms around using trim and list that we normally couldn't do, and shift as much bottom oil into a particular tank that I can pump out better than others. This required I reload twice, which was doubly adventitious, as I got to flush my tanks clean twice too. There was no way to do what I wanted to do by flushing just once. 

    Not rocket science, just good basic tank vessel ops.  And my gosh, you'd think I asked for gold leaf paint, caviar, a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle and a footrub. 

Our office gets to be Lucky Pierre, stuck in the middle in talking with the oil company. I don't speak to the oil company directly. I am a mushroom. So our shore ops guy gets to get yelled at on both ends. 

 Can you do x instead?  No, we can't. We'd gain on bottoms. 

 OK, the customer says let's do Y.  No, we can't. We'd gain on bottoms and it wouldn't flush the last tank. 

 Ah, OK. We'll do X, then. Very good. 

 No, no, we don't want bottoms containing that oil. The next time we use that tank, we don't want to blend it into the new fuel. 

OK, We'll do y, but this time we'll just use less oil on the flush. 

*Facepalm* That's even worse!  Look, if they can suggest a better way than what I came up with, lets' hear it. Otherwise, after 20+ years of these sorts of thing, maybe just listen to what I had planned to do? 

 OK, very good. Let's do your plan. 2 cargo flushes for each tank.

...and, at the end of the first flush "OK, great, all done. See you next time."   "Wait, what about the second flush?" "What second flush?" 

 Phone calls, and now it's 3am, and the night ops guy has no idea what is going on, and we have to take a few hours explaining things, so he can explain it to the night guy at the customer's company, who also has no idea what is going on. Because of course the oil company didn't want to do the second flush.  

 End result, we got our second flush and it did exactly as planned, reducing bottoms by 75%.  

 Thing is, I knew what to do, and I get that the shaved apes don't. I get that the presence of shaved apes makes an oil company turn a gimlet eye at suggested plans that cost money. They don't know me, or trust me to optimize a plan. They want to save time and money. Now, my company's ops guy knows me, and also knows that the oil company just wants this problem to go away without costing them time or money, and therefore will not be willing to part with either.  I just want to save time and be efficient so I don't go home at the end of the month in a frustrated rage.

 Like with shipping in general, money determines who has the power. The resistance to my plan the other day wasn't because it was expensive or slow. It was because it was MY plan, not theirs, and a certain contrary nature on their part. They don't want other people telling them what the best plan is when they are being forced into doing anything at all. They want their plan it seems. And that's fine, if it's a good plan, or even workable. It's a good reminder that the guy in the field has little power or agency no matter what benefit experience may provide.   It's not unlike listening to the maritime crew unions talk about the future of shipping.  The future is what the people with the checkbook says it is.  And while that sounds pretty pessimistic, it makes sense. The guy who cleans the toilets doesn't usually have a board seat at the office. I get that my purview ends at the handrails around the perimeter of my deck. It doesn't bother me that I have little say about what happens ashore. It was a bit silly that I had to negotiate so much to get clean tanks, when the negotiations took longer than the fix. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

A better day than yesterday

 I have grown to hate putting politics on my blog and in my very limited social media presence. 

 I believe in boobs, positivity and boats in my social media life. I'm not sure why I wrote yesterday's piece. It's not like I'm on a diet where politics are concerned, and avoiding the matter. I'd say it's more like not looking in the hole after using a porta-potty. 

     Today we are at a lay berth again, and I was able to get up before watch and take a 7-mile walk through Red Hook and Brooklyn to get to my favorite salad place and back. 

 Seriously, this is what middle-aged me has been reduced to.  20 years ago if we had shore leave in a likely port like Savannah, Corpus Christie, Port Everglades or the like, my shipmates and I  was all 'Fuck yeah, let's go ashore, eat hot wings 'till we fart blood, and get shitfaced drunk!' 

    20 years anan, middle-aged me these days is more like 'Let's go ashore for a long walk, just go crazy and get big salads! I just got to take my vitamin first.' 

 I don't miss being hung over at watch. Like at all. Not drinking ashore used to be like not opening presents at Christmas. It was an effort, and I hated it, but it was never something that I'd risk my job for, after it was outright banned. Social responsibility and age have done what regulations could not- eliminating not just the occasion to sin, but the temptation too. 

    My experience in walking through Brooklyn is often flavored heavily by my mood. Often I'm at my most misanthropic when I am going ashore. Today I left late in the afternoon, as I'm on the back watch (1800-0600) for the week, and so, after my walk and successful retrieval of a salad, on my walk back to the HQ, I got to walk through a pretty busy neighborhood and see it at twilight, with the lights on. It's not something I see often at all. It transformed my very-well-known route into something new, and I could look into shops that are obscured during the day, see the people inside. Overall, it made me far less misanthropic, able to see and appreciate the lives around me. 

       Not a bad day at all. Tonight on my watch, as our next cargo isn't until tomorrow after lunch, I'll be mucking about in the generator house with a clipboard, catching up on parts inventories and the like. Not exciting, but better than freezing my nugs off out on deck. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Thanksgiving at anchor

 2 days out, we're down to some turkey scraps in the fridge of the HQ here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Home for tryptophan recovery. 

Thanksgiving was actually really nice. We had a *huge* meal, and as we were out at our mooring area at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, and had 3 other barges rafted up to us, after dinnertime there was a lot of visiting and everyone tried to pawn off leftovers to everyone else, in an effort to collect complements and, I dunno, be crowned King of Thanksgiving or something. 

 I do know that I didn't eat for 24 hours after that. No need. 

   I grew up a couple of towns over from where the first Thanksgiving was, and out on the edge of the Irish Riviera where I grew up, Thanksgiving was always a big deal. This year we're really getting the collective ancestral guilt trips by people who also weren't there, though. Like everything else, they hate our traditions and values, and as such, must try to ruin all holidays because they hate everything including themselves. 

     The revisionist history du jour now is that suddenly the Indians DIDN'T try to bribe the pilgrims to commit genocide against all other tribes in the area by taking the pilgrims and their guns under their wing. This despite a very clear history and clear and unambiguous writings of the people involved. Food for genocide against all non-wampanoag, especially those fucking Pequod.  Say what you will about the Pilgrims, they were a bunch of pacifist communists right up until they realized they could either starve,  join their hosts in endless wars as a mercenary force, or pull a Nancy Reagan and Just Say No. 

  We actually used to get taught in Massachusetts about what utterly shitty people the pilgrims were, and also how horrible the Indians were too. These says it's all White Man Bad, of course, and masturbatory fantasies of the  Noble Savage. 

 You know what happens when children learn actual nuanced history instead of a propagandized fantasy? They develop critical thinking skills. Why has Massachusetts been lagging so far behind in handing out Free Shit to anyone with Indian blood?  Education.  This is changing, of course. 

    Now, I grew up in the Irish Riviera, the area south of Boston where the Wampanoag used to call home. 90ish percent  of the population is less than 3 generations removed from Ireland. It is the most dense population of Irish ancestry outside of Ireland. Being that the potato famine started this diaspora and the potato famine displaced Catholics almost exclusively, no surprise that until recently there were  3-6 large Catholic churches in every town in the region. Hell, the church I grew up in was the smallest one in the area, serving only 5-600 or so families  And by families I mean Irish Catholic families, with plenty having 6-12 kids.  

 I say this only to note that this is the area that provided the bulk of the fiscal support for the Irish Republican Army right up until the Good Friday Agreement, not so many years ago.  This is a people who famously carry a grudge across generations,  to whom the name of Margaret Thatcher still sits in good company with the names of Stalin, Mao and Hitler.  For a people who still bad mouth British Protestants regularly, and even have their own holiday to do so ('Evacuation Day' is a holiday in Massachusetts) , the people of the Irish Riviera, having been educated about the realpolitik of the first Thanksgiving, side with the British.

 And thus, in our modern era, with there being a risk of no side being able to claim victim status, and worse, no delicious self-guilt for the spiritual descendents of Calvin to get their rocks off,  the story of the First Thanksgiving must be changed, history expunged until we have only a constant present and no past, except where it is beneficial to do so to destroy the sense of community and bonds of tribe and of shared values. 

    Whatever, I moved out of the area.  I've long since come to accept that despite their limitations, British people are OK. It's been a generation since the Good Friday accords. Nobody, literally, is worth hating for their past. Even Margaret Thatcher is not worthy of my enmity anymore. It is long past the time to stop seeking amends from people who did nothing to incur our grudges, merely on the basis of genetics. The people who do so are the worst sort of scam artists. I believe that there is a word, starts with R, ends with 'acist' that describes people who blame innocents for perceived slights based on their genetic makeup. 

 Seriously, fuck those people. 

 At Thanksgiving out at anchor, we sat, a 2nd generation refugee of Irish descent from the People's Republic of Massachusetts, several men who were the descendants of slaves (one of whom, and this is cool, being a great great grandson of Newt Knight, the man who started a rebellion and founded the Free State of Jones during the Confederacy). There was also a Cuban who as a teen swam 90 miles on a rubber pool toy to Miami, another guy is the son of an Orangeman, and there were others, and none of that political bullshit mattered. We are away from our homes, dealing with loneliness for pay, and we shared what we had so that everyone could eat their fill, then overeat their fill too. Things get real simple real fast when you stop looking for a reason to hate, and stop looking for a scapegoat for your own decisions. 

    I'm grateful to have had such good company on a day that can be a bit lonesome. I'll say it. I LIKE Thanksgiving. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

First Watch

 OK, back at work again.  Rather than use this as another Dear Diary post, I'll say that it was awesome, but my wife had a crisis at her workplace that she had to unfuck and I spent a lot of time translating documents back and forth. For all her efforts, mastery of medical and legal-grade English is elusive. Mastery of medical and legal-grade Portagee on my part also is not very good. Hell, mastery of English on my part ain't wicked pissa either, if we're being honest.  Either way, all's well that ends well, and I'm back on board. 

 I got my trash stowed away and made up my bunk, and was pleasantly happy to see that we had no orders for Thanksgiving or for after that, as well.  Since I stayed last night at the whore-and weed-saturated hotel my company puts us up in for crew change, I slept only fitfully, as is tradition, and so I caught a 4 hour nap prior to my first watch. I woke up to see we have a bunch of cargoes fixed for the next 5 days or so, but tonight, my first watch, I am free. I'll be working for Thanksgiving, so I guess I'll have to be thankful for my job, but will likely be eating Thanksgiving standing up and one handed. So it goes. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Little Projects

 I've been home for a little over a week, and it's been great. I've been doing a bunch of yardwork and exterior maintenance around the house, and messing with my potted plants and such too. It's been a fine break from the burning diaper that is the internet, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I have spent about every moment possible together. 

 Pool season is over, sadly, and now my pool is just there for show until May. One of these years I'll put a passive heat exchanger in my AC units, using bleed heat from the AC to warm the pool and extend pool season. 

 Politics, screaming hate, all that stuff that our culture tries to throw at us, very little of it gets through when I'm at home. God Guns and Good people down here in my part of Free America.  

 I'll be back to the shitshow in another week. Until then, I plan to not think about it. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

last watch

 One more watch and a shower to go.  The last week, beyond getting some maintenance issues addressed, has been deeply uneventful. It's been great. 

 God willing an' the crick don' rise, I'll be headed to the airport after breakfast tomorrow. 

  Last time home I was pretty low-energy. I'm feeling more productive in theory this time. Plus, I love the holiday season, and although I have to come back to work the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year, and the airlines have really gone all-out in 2021 to make air travel more miserable than ever before, I'm looking forward to seeing the sun and boiling my balls off in the jacuzzi for a few weeks. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Weekend update

 Well, my last weekend aboard for this tour is coming up. We have 2 small cargoes fixed for the weekend, which will keep us busy. We spent the last 2 days lying to at a lay berth near Brooklyn Bridge park, which was wonderful, in terms of being able to do maintenance and get some needed stores, and I could walk every day, and not in circles around the perimeter of the deck for once, which was nice. I'm eating healthy these days, with my blood pressure higher than a junkie holding a 50lb crack rock, it's been good motivation. I've made it to my late 40's without needing any daily medication, and while I do have to take BP meds now, I hope that weight loss and a good clean diet will  enable me to get off the meds. 

      So, one bummer of a thing to see is how badly NY's vaccine passport has screwed restaurants. Takeout places are booming, and shops that built outdoor seating areas on adjacent parking metered spots on the sides of streets are also pretty full of shivering patrons. When I walk by places with indoor dining, it's not so good. Shops are required to verify a potential patron's vaccine passport before allowing them in. 

   The whole 'papers, please' thing tastes like copper in my mouth. And while this isn't an issue for me, as I am eating clean and my favorite salad place is take-out only, I feel bad for the residents. OTOH, most of them could leave if they want, I suppose.  I sure am glad I live in Florida. I'd be the subject of ridicule if I said that in public up here, though. 

        With no orders, I've been up at night standing my watch, and it's been peaceful. I really need a new book series to read, though. I'm not really a TV person, and Farcry 6,  the video game I was so excited to play, has proven to be utterly disappointing. I loved the predecessors. 

      I heard that the new federal vaccine mandate put a Jan 4 date on when companies like mine will have to enforce employee vaccination. Knowing this is unworkable, I wonder if this executive order was designed to be a white elephant for optics' sake. 


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The last day, but a week of nights to go

 Well, today is my last watch working days. I'll go off watch tonight for an abbreviated sleep period, and my next watch will be dogged too, to get me into the schedule of working nights without messing me up too much, and without foregoing sleep. 

 So, one week to go, and I'll be up and moving about at 2am on watch tomorrow... well, later on, really. 

 Working night watch has many disadvantages but there are a couple of advantages, too. The main one is that I don't have to deal with the shoreside staff much at all, as they've got the sense to not work nights. It's generally quieter in most ways, although we tend for some reason to load more at night rather than in the day, but that's OK, too. It's more pleasant to load the HQ than it is to discharge. No screaming diesel pumps, no traffic, even the VHF radio is quieter. People speak in quieter voices. 

 A mixed bag. But the best part is that it means that I have only a week to go on here before I can go see my family. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Highlights and lowlights of this week so far


 An officer and two deckhands showed up to moor us to their ship. The mooring line we put up was really heavy and wet, a struggle for 2 small Filipino deckhands to drag 40 feet straight up to their chocks. The Indian or Pakistani officer just stood and yelled at them for not working faster.  The deckhand who was throwing the heaving line down to us was an artist. He threw the line to me directly to me safely, 3 feet to my side, so I could shuffle over, snatch the monkey's fist out of the air, and tie it off to the eye of our line for them to haul up. The officer, like a dew claw, like tits on a tree, utterly useless, continued to complain, although quieter, so I couldn't hear him anymore. Twice the deckhand stopped what he was doing to move a pace away from the officer, who was crowding him, so he could sidearm throw the monkey fist without striking the officer.

        On the 4th line, after moving a pace away to make his throw, the officer again moved too close to the deckhand. Sadly, he didn't get hit by the thrown monkey's fist, but the heaving line caught on the handrail, causing the line to stop. Physics being what it is, the monkey's fist accelerated in the tighter arc, swung back, and struck the officer directly in the genitals. He didn't make a peep as he collapsed. 

 Lowlight:  Our washing machine broke. We're gonna be hand-washing clothes for a bit. Gonna smell magical, like feet and onions in the quarters in a few days. 

Monday, October 25, 2021


My free commentary being worth less than what you paid for it, I'll throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks this morning, vis my observations this weekend. 

 I saw a whole bunch of small container ships that are new to me, visiting the terminal in NJ that usually only berths large ships.

 So at two different points in the same day, I saw small  (< Old Panamax) ships leaving Elizabeth/Newark.  Both completely and fully loaded with boxes just under the windows on the bridge, and yet both with their bulbous bows way way TF out of the water, in ballast position. 

 Full ship with light draft= empty boxes. 
      One of the big players waved some money under the nose of a small company and got them running empty containers is my guess. Larger companies do keep small ships on their books to service islands and small ports around the world, so it's also possible that one of the big players just diverted a ship and sent it over here to get some boxes out of the way, but I can't imagine that they'll go all the way to China with them. 

 Well, today there's another ship, the TAMPA TRADER, visiting us from the far off land of Canada, home of beer, hollywood comedians, and being arrested for being mean on the internet. Same thing happening so far. Another cookie-cutter 1000 TEU ship, although the Trader usually runs a triangle trade route between Florida, New Brunswick in Canada, and Jamaica. The Trader is either chartered or owned (it's hard to say) by ZIM, the smallest of the large container companies, whose baliwick seems to be mostly servicing medium to smaller ports via a hub-and spoke-system like the airlines do. Jamaica being one of Zim's hubs, I won't know until she sails whether she's cubed out with empties or not. I'm at anchor for the day, with a good view of the Verrezano Narrows, where shipping must pass to get to sea. 



Friday, October 22, 2021

on walkabout

 It's not my birthday, but we're at the lay berth in Brooklyn today, moored to a barge that is laid up (unmanned, shut down), and out of the way, and I don't have orders today. Amazingly, I have today free, and other than waiting for an electrician to show up (the compressor for our air receivers (tanks) is acting up), I can go out for a walk and pick up some fresh produce. 

    My plan today is to walk down Brooklyn Bridge Park, pick up the pedestrian bridge entrance in the Dumbo neighborhood, do a lap across the bridge to Manhattan and back, and stop at the grocery store. 

 7 miles all told. 

 Oh, the laid up barge was the one I rode in the Caribbean a few years ago. Good adventure, great barge. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Little boats where big boats berth

  I've been back aboard the floating HQ for a couple of watches now, and settled in. We're keeping pace with where we were a few weeks ago, which is to say steady but not crazy.  We carry all 'clean' (low sulfur) fuels, and many ships are still in the process of installing exhaust gas scrubbers that enable them to burn cheaper, dirtier fuel. As such, demand for dirty fuel is increasing as ships visit shipyards only once every 5 years, and a shipyard period is required to install scrubber systems. So, so far so good. 

      I am content to carry cleaner fuels. The reduced sulfur content is easier on the eyes, lungs and person. Used to be that Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife could barely tolerate me at home with the stink of sulfur coming out of my pores, so I'd have to load up a massive belt of whisky and a screaming hot shower to sweat some of it out before even laying down in my own bed, and even with that, she'd change the sheets the next morning, and she was correct- after a couple of days home, I could catch a whiff of heavy fuel oil on the sheets. Brazilians are EXTREMELY fastidious people, and while I am used to their practice of twice-daily showers after all these years, I am happy I no longer am treated as a leper in my own home on crew change night. 

        I mean, when we first met, I stunk of fish from lobstering, so I am sympathetic to the plight of her nose. 

    So we're not running balls-out at the moment, which has been a welcome relief considering that in the last 12 months we've still serviced more ships than I had ever done before. 

       Funny thing, though, on Wednesday, Port Newark had at least 4 small container ships moored. We bunkered two of them. 

     Newark usually hosts large and ultralarge container ships. I suppose it's either a sign of small boat owners wanting a piece of the insane hire rates and willing to walk away from their normal trading patterns, or shippers looking desperately for anything to carry their glut of containers from A to B. 

     I still don't see a major traffic uptick in NY/NJ's secondary container ports like Howland Hook or Red Hook, though. I don't know how to interpret that, except that infrastructure and intermodal shifts don't appear magically out of the ether. It's not easy to get containers across the NYC area as it is, and last minute changes in shifting port destination for a given container is probably not easy or efficient to set up. Somewhere along the way truck or rail transport has to be involved, and I can't help but think that the sheer amount of boxes would make efficiency without careful planning possible. It may actually be cheaper to leave the ships at anchor rather than try to set up new links in the supply chain all willy-nilly. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

You can't make this stuff up.

 After the disaster that is the US supply chain performance these past 6 months, the Port of LA/Long Beach is going to start running 24/7, like every other port in the United States has been doing for years. 

 I knew about this from a while back.  The largest seaport in the US doesn't have workers who will work nights. All other container ports in the US are 24/7/365. Except the largest one. 

 I guess someone finally noticed that the highest paid longshoremen IN THE WORLD don't work nights. 

 6 months of things getting steadily worse, and the powers that be finally realized that every container port in the US that isn't fucking the dog when it comes to job performance has one thing in common: they turn lights on and keep working after dark. Not LA/Long Beach, though. With a starting salary well over $100,000 a year that can easily be doubled with some overtime, I guess it was unreasonable of us to wonder why the fuck the ILWU had no interest in working more to help soften the impact of their laziness  on the rest of us. 

 The ILWU: Fuck You, we're doing fine.  

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Men Who Wanted to be Left Alone

  I stole this from Old NFO

The most terrifying force of death comes from the hands of “Men who wanted to be left Alone”. They try, so very hard, to mind their own business and provide for themselves and those they love.

They resist every impulse to fight back, knowing the forced and permanent change of life that will come from it. They know that the moment they fight back, their lives as they have lived them, are over.

The moment the “Men who wanted to be left Alone” are forced to fight back, it is a form of suicide. They are literally killing off who they used to be. Which is why, when forced to take up violence, these “Men who wanted to be left Alone” will fight with unholy vengeance against those who murdered their former lives.

They fight with raw hate and a drive that cannot be fathomed by those who are merely play-acting at politics and terror. TRUE TERROR will arrive at these peoples’ doors, and they will cry, scream, and beg for mercy… but it will fall upon the deaf ears of the “Men who wanted to be left Alone”.

– Author unknown

        I had a good conversation with my son about social media last night. Many young kids ignore Facebook, as there are too many old people there and it limits their interest in the social aspect of it.  For me, being almost 6 months out from quitting most forms of social media, and happier for it, I understand him. My daily dose of outrage is not something I find addictive any longer. Hell, I even read the shampoo bottle on the toilet the other day. First time in years. 

      One of the parts of sailing professionally is that your world would shrink to mostly just the space inside the hull. Your boat became the sum of the world for practical purposes.  In many ways that was actually nice, right up until you get to miss people bad enough that it's not. Modern technology makes that quite a bit less of an event than it used to be, of course. I rarely leave sight of land these days, so I get to say goodnight to my wife every single night at work. It was a treat to do an offshore passage a while back, to not have to be available by phone for every little thing, to focus on the moment. 

     Anyhow, last few days at home. I have barely left my yard these past two weeks. I wanted to be left alone and I was. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I have barely been apart in that time. To that end, it'll make both of us desire more of the same sense of privacy by spicing it with a trip to work next week, I suppose. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

At home

 I'm at home, and it's everything I had hoped it would be. Back in a week or so. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Last watch

 Well, I guess the summer lull is over. Holy hell it's been a busy few weeks here on the HQ. Luckily, I'm going home tomorrow, God willing an' the crick don't rise.  I noticed a mild uptick in the number of cargoes we were getting a few weeks ago, and then suddenly, boom. 

      My employers are offering crazy overtime for those who want to work in their time off, but they could offer me a judge's slot at a blowjob contest and I'd still say no. I just want to go home and see my family. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ha! We think we're people.

 We got take out tonight here on the HQ. 

 The charterer messed with our schedule badly, such that we sailed from Newark NJ, planning to steam just 1hr to go to Brooklyn, with 24 hours until the next cargo, we could go get groceries and such. 

 Within 10 minutes of sailing, our plans changed 3 times. The last time, our next load got moved up, and we would head directly to a tank farm to take on 2 grades of heavy fuel oil. 


OK, disappointing, but so it goes. I don't mind the work, it's the dangling of free time, carrot and stick, that bums me out. I'm Charlie Brown, and on the other end of the phone is Lucy with that fucking football. 

 So we got all fast at the terminal about 45 minutes later, and the dockman notes that they're short a man on shift, so everything on his end is a little hectic, but he's going to order out for Greek Food and have it delivered if we want in. 

 Of course we want in. 

     It's funny to see a bunch of adults act like kids who hear the bell of the ice cream truck when the gate guard calls and says that there's a food delivery out front. One of the terminal operators rolled up on the dock not too long after with a big bag of food for us here on the HQ... and just like that, the day got much better. Sometimes it's the little stuff. 

 I guess it pays to be on good terms with the folks around you. The terminal we were at happens to be my favorite anyhow, because it's quiet and small, super professional, and I know everyone. And even so, after 10 years of coming here, this was the first time we were ever included in something like this. I've never actually gotten take out at a loading terminal before. I'm not going to make a habit of it, the logistics are such  that the juice isn't worth the squeeze, but still, tonight was a gesture from the shoreside guys that B and I sure appreciated. It took the sting out of losing our only chance to get groceries for the next week or so. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Coming on Strong!

 She's blowing a gale today, and Hawsepiper's Floating HQ/seagull crap collector is in an anchorage getting vibrated like a housewife sitting on the washing machine.

 I am smack in the middle of New York Harbor, VERY protected water, with about 2 miles of fetch to the north and south, and a mile or less of fetch to east and west. For you non-mariners, fetch is a stretch of open water that wind can work on to build waves. 

 With strong winds and short fetch, we have a small chop that is making the HQ's hull vibrate significantly and constantly, with a tangible 'bang' feeling from waves slapping on the hull, and the resonance from this as it travels back and forth along the stringers in the outer hull makes the whole place vibrate, with the occasional really loud vibration when new waves slap in resonance with the existing vibration, setting up a harmonic. Along with this, we're falling in little holes, as the chop is only maybe 3 feet tall, but the current is setting in another direction, and so we're slightly off-axis from pointing up into the wind and taking the slap of the waves about 2-3 points off the bow and so we're occasionally corkscrewing just 3 degrees or so, but it's enough to feel and add to the hum of the resonance. The whole effect isn't unpleasant, we're riding well in protected water, it's just... active. There's things to see and feel, and when the rhythm changes, it breaks concentration, as it should to any sailor. It's good sometimes to be able to feel the lift of the sea, especially for a spoiled harbor guy like me who no longer sails on blue water much at all. And best of all, we're at anchor, as there are flooding rains coming tonight and if the schedule holds we don't have a cargo fixed until tomorrow afternoon. Maybe, just maybe, I can keep my powder dry tonight. 

 I'm standing the night watch, as that is what I do on my last week aboard, to let B get his circadian rhythm set to days. When he first arrived last week, he worked nights, as I had already been aboard for weeks, and having been there, was more up to date on events, maintenance, schedules, etc. It's good for the day guy to have a masterful sense of situational awareness, as the home office only calls for routine matters during the day. It's also good to let oncoming guys get into the routine without fielding phone calls and handling minutia, IMO... and on the last week, to switch to nights and the more quiet peace that that can instill with no need to interact with the shorebound under routine conditions. Plus, sometimes after a month or so, it's possible to come down with the 'Fuckits' where there's a temptation to be short-tempered and less vigilant, so the shake-up of changing watches can mediate that by cutting down on routine. 

 Anyhow, it's a nice, slightly nautical day aboard. I'm feeling happy about that. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Mom Blogger Rant

 Dunning-Kruger is in the house. 

         I hate that the internet has given voice to people who used to be safely ignored and tuned out. 

 I wanted to find out if I could substitute evaporated milk for regular milk to make biscuits, so I did a search online. 

 I say 'did a search' because I can't say I 'did a quick search.'  There is nothing quick about what happened. 

       I am going to order more recipe books for my kindle. That's the only way I can  keep from having a stroke I think. 

   I used to be so happy about the community of online recipe-sharing for people who like to cook. I even contributed 2 recipes, for cilantro lime tilapia and a confection called Olhos Do Sogra. 

          I just wanted a fuckin' biscuit recipe. I have only been a southerner for 7 years, mea culpa. Shit ain't natural to me, and don't be shitty about it; people in the south can't choose or cook a fuckin' potato to save their lives, and I forgive them. We eat spuds along with mother's milk up in the Irish Riviera. 

 I'm not really kidding about that. My sister used to just grab a raw potato out of the bin and eat it on the way to school. I'm not even sure she rinsed them. My mom used to hate it. But you can do that with a Golden Harvest potato easier than you can with a russet or Yukon Gold. Oh, that's another thing. The south only has like 3 varieties of potatoes available. A paucity of choice, truly. 

        So, yeah, I click on the first 3 biscuit recipes those tech assholes send me, and I have to scroll through 20 hi-rez pictures that take a minute to load, the articles are so long and wander off point so much that I either give up or the scroll wheel on my mouse catches fire from spinning it for 45 minutes. And I still haven't gotten to the recipe! 

 Ladies of the internet: I am married. I do not want to hear your life story, and nobody wants a 15-page  creative writing essay when I just want to know CAN I SUBSTITUTE ONE TYPE OF MILK FOR ANOTHER! 

    The struggle and sacrifice these poor WASP's go through, my gosh. Tens of thousands of iterations, babies born in the pantry and back to work before the cord is cut, and OMG, here is a 2,000 word subsection on my favorite type of butter and a 12-minute mini-documentary on organic cow farming! Oh, and turns out, there is no listed recipe. You have to read my biography and the 5 pages of that contains the description of this particular recipe. There will be a quiz on my prom details from 1992. 

 While I was pulling out my white robe and a steak knife to commit seppuku after doing this on three websites, going through the trials and tribulations of motherhood, a treatise on why one cook is sure her 18-month old is trans, and how ungrateful we all are regarding her hard work to bring us a recipe that is available on the back of a Bisquik box, I gave up and decided to throw my laptop in the ocean. Humanity deserves to end.   I gave up on google and opened the Brave Browser I normally use and had a recipe in about 20 seconds. Thank you Brave and thank you Duckduckgo. You're not all that good, but you're better than the competition. 
    Tl;dr.:  yes, you can substitute evaporated milk for regular milk when you make biscuits. 

 You know who's recipes I like?  Cedar Sanderson's.    She makes great food, and being both a professional creative writer AND a full-time scientist, she writes a recipe and gives directions that make her cooking repeatable. 

Oh, and one week to go aboard this floating tin hot dog cart, too. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Using my brain for once

Over the weekend, I was contacted in reference to a VERY old post I put on a forum where I talked about solutions for water quality issues in fish farms. As I've mentioned a thousand times before, I spent a lot of time and money to become a marine scientist in my yoot, but in the end found it to lack satisfaction to both mind and bank account. I am a simple person but I also like money. Not much opportunity to be those things on the trajectory I was carving out. So, it was a big surprise when a few days ago I got an email from a forum post I made like 10 years ago on the subject. There's this whole backyard industry for moneyed people with time, space and energy who want to grow their own fish and plants on little cottage farms. I haven't kept up with the trend, as I no longer travel in those circles. In a chain of emails, the person who read my post told me that he wishes to expand his 500lb a year backyard tilapia tanks to a commercial level operation. It was fun to talk about, as the guy is in New York State, within easy trucking distance to NYC and had an idea about getting a labeling campaign about his 'clean' fish, tilapia being of questionable provenence when you buy it from a store. It turns out the guy stalked me a bit, which is flattering, as much of the work I did on the subject isn't available online, as I signed away any intellectual property rights to much of my work. So, we talked about design aspects, contingency planning, resources for consulting, applicable law (me being out of date, I still feel pretty confident that the EPA are still soggy and hard to light when it comes to permitting issues) and esoterica. and man, it's good we emailed, as brains, like iron tools, rust when disused. I found that I could still do the caveman math pretty good, but stuff I haven't thought up in years, like mitigating pump head loss to friction (lot of friction is caused by moving water, requiring bigger pumps or optimized systems to cut down pump size requirements) or Biological Oxygen Demand, bigger brain stuff. I can no longer recall the math for making good homes for beneficial bacteria, things like surface-to-volume ratios, etc, and I had to do a lot of pecking and hunting online to find information that I used to have on command. Ah well, time wounds all heels, I guess. It was really fun to break out and do critical (caveman) math on a napkin like in the old days. I regret not being up to date on technology in this area, as it was nice to use my brain for once.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The best scam ever- The Ocean Cleanup

 There's a lot of plastic in the oceans. 

     I HATE seeing plastic trash in general, doubly so in the water. 

        You might have heard about The Ocean Cleanup, the company started and run by a young Dutch kid who was Test Bed #1 for Greta Thunberg, an early iteration of the WASP green wunderkind , who envisioned running ships dragging massive nets to scoop up trash from the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch,' a semi permanent ocean gyre that has roughly .1% more trash in it than the rest of the ocean. 

 I'm not going to link to this company, as they're about as legitmate as the ol'  Gypsy Driveway Paving Scam . I WILL link to that scam, as unlike the Ocean Cleanup, the gypsy scammers will do about 10% of what they said they'll do, which is about 10% more than the Ocean Cleanup will do. I mean, that's just science. 

According to the company, 'We develop advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic. 

 Apparently 'Advanced Technologies' now means using the same techniques Jesus and the Apostles used to catch fish, but catching plastic instead. 

 That's advanced?  

 Note that I said 'roughly' when talking about plastic in the ocean. The oceans being unimaginatively vast, the numbers used are imaginary, best guesses, because nobody knows how much plastic is actually in the oceans. I mean, it's a lot, obviously, but have you seen the oceans? They're 72% of the world's surface!

 Look, to put it in realistic terms, if you had just one coke bottle every square mile in the pacific ocean, just one little teeny coke bottle in a mile of sea, you would need 60 MILLION bottles just to do that in the pacific, never mind the Indian, Atlantic, inland and polar seas. I believe the pacific is like 30% of the world's surface. So you'd need, what, another 70 -80 million more soda bottles? 

 So Greta 1.0's idea, which the green weenies got all erect and drippy for, was to drag for plastic IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN.  This got millions of dollars in funding and investments to make this into a company, to which He-Greta, a scientist of some renown  boy who bombed out of college and monetized a C- (at best) junior-high science project as CEO.  

 So, Maersk, the world's largest shipping company, is supplying two of their many and mostly idle PSV's, small ships (or gigantic tugboats, I suppose), because this is some fine-ass window dressing. And also because Maersk has a bunch of these ships moldering all over the 3rd world doing fuck all but costing them money. 

Wow, look at all that 'technology'. 2 boats and some rope!

At any rate, because brown people are all NIMBY to green WASP's , The Ocean Whoozits  is not collecting trash at its source, seeing as 90% of the world's plastic waste comes from just a handful of rivers in Asia, and not the clean asians, like in Singapore where you do hard time in jail for spitting on the street, but the Asia where child slaves work to make green weenies their Iphones, fleece jackets and sneakers. Who the fuck is going to make your Trader Joe's 100%  hemp tote bag if not an 8-year old chained to a weaving machine for 18 hours a day? 

  So, yeah, it boils down to that. The Ocean Cleanup collects money by running a kabuki show to end all kabuki shows, taking the SS Minnow out for a spin and going where the trash isn't. Like, save the planet, dude. 

 Holy-O-dogshit, you know how many tons of sulfur those PSV's are dumping in the air while they're not collecting much plastic at all?

 You know who does far more for the environment and DOESN'T pollute in the process?

 Yeah, the guys with idiot sticks working off community service punishment from local courts.  Green legends, these folks. They're actually doing something. 

    The Caribbean has VERY reliable trade winds. As such, there are many places where geographic and oceanographic features form a confluence of features that make them depositories for plastic trash. 

 I've seen one or two of these places, there are many. It's absolutely heartbreaking. Honestly, if you're a Haitian kid, malnourished and destined to be target practice for the macouts in your area, you can be forgiven for not being overly fashed for dropping plastic trash on the beach. Bigger problems to think about, kids like that. Panama has many ruined beaches that have plastic trash feet deep all along the shore. 

 Now, I'm pretty tongue-in-cheek today, because I hate scammers and I don't like green kabuki. I'm an actual environmentalist. I get to make a difference every day, because I work for an oil company, and I can be a positive force in my little square of metal. It took years for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife to not think I was a dope for always picking up a little plastic wherever I went for a walk out away from people.  I don't like places where people are. I actually really like nature, and I like it clean. I have a vested interest in keeping plastic out of the pretty places where I like to be, away from people. 

 I don't take the green weenies seriously because they're not serious people. I don't respect the green scammers because... they're green scammers, and the cynicism they show off sends a completely open message. We Care. So Hard. Pay us.  

 Doing something for the sake of being seen to do something is the very essence of what for-profit faux environmentalism is about. 

 Now, put a floating  pair trawling net out in a river estuary in Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria or China, and you're going to be a highliner in the plastic trade. But nobody is doing that. They're doing blood dialysis to a body with Leukemia.. You don't filter the blood. You bomb the shit out of the marrow aggressively. 

 "But at least they're doing something!"

 Yeah, they're f**king the dog. 

 Now, if we were to, say, embargo or tax the ever-living shit out of  products from places that don't police their waterways for trash, and companies that don't help,  that'd be something. I'd be on board. It'd be an idea. It'd be 'doing something.'   I like ideas with teeth. I also like being smart about it. Plastic is a miracle for the 3rd world, for hygienic purposes. Not every place that pollutes is a land of desperation. Nestle or Coke isn't making billions in Haiti, but they are in Malaysia, Africa and much of Asia. They're actually serious bad actors in those places, in all truth. It's shocking how awful they are where round eyes aren't watching. They could actually help reduce plastic pollution at the source via initiatives like smarter packaging.  But that's it's own article, and actually deserving of discussion, and I was here today to fling crap at some green scammers, not to go all kulturkampf at corporate lowlifes. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

4 months to wait

 Finally, we're at the good lay berth at work. 

 It's been 4 months since we moored at the lay berth near Brooklyn Bridge Park here in NY, where my company rents one entire pier, suitable for tubs like mine to lie to. I can't imagine what the rent is on a berth like this, prime parking, really, with a million-dollar view of the Manhattan skyline. Great vista to enjoy while peeing over the side. And for anyone in Manhattan's high rises who happens to have a telescope: you're welcome. Add some mashed potatoes and you have a traditional Irish lunch. 

        So, with a pretty good current down Buttermilk channel, getting into a berth 90 degrees off axis of the current during max tide is a bit of a maneuver, and the HQ being what it is, bit of a naughty girl, the Village Bicycle, if you know what I mean, I guess our dispatchers probably don't like putting us here where we can be called out on short notice to load cargo. That's a shame, because this is by far the best lay berth we have in NY harbor. We have several, and the company HQ dock besides, but all of them either lack shore access or require shuffling to move hulls in and out, so even when you can get ashore, you often can't get ashore because someone else has to move at a certain time, and that means you have to move, too. 

 So, here I am, after 4 months, I can go ashore, shortly. I'm just waiting so I can get lunch before I go to the grocery store. One of the ONLY real benefits to working in NY is that there's amazing food from anywhere in the world close by to you, no matter where you are. Today I'm going to a Cajun place run by two displaced Coonasses who're probably grateful at the moment to not be in Louisiana. Cajun food doesn't really agree with me, so because I love my wife I don't cook or eat it at home, but here, I'll just make the cargo surveyors and other visitors work ever faster to get the hell ashore. They tend to linger more than I'd like, the cargo surveyors, I mean.

 I'm not kidding about Cajun food kicking my stomach's ass, though. One time on the tanker SS MONSEIGNEUR , after 2 days at Buck Kreighs shipyard across from New Orleans, I set off the carbon monoxide alarm, woke up the whole ship. Not bad, considering that the sensor was on the engineer's deck, one deck above mine.  One AB, I forget his name, called me 'The Punisher' for a few days after that. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

One of the best sea stories I've ever heard

 I'm going to leave this one up a while. 

        When we crew change in New York, my company often hires a launch service, a small steel passenger boat that acts as a water taxi. At the wheel is the owner, a retired tug captain in his 70's, a well-known Dutchman who was a fixture in New York harbor. 

      He and I get along well. We both worked as Ordinary and Able Seamen on ships, although he did so 40 years before I did, having started as a cabin boy around age 10 in his native Netherlands. 

      We got to talking about ports we liked and disliked. I mentioned my father's deep dislike for Recife, Brazil (he got stabbed there one time), although the captain said he said the worst barfight he ever saw was in Argentina, but it was also deeply satisfying. 

   As I mentioned, the gentleman in question was born and raised in the Netherlands, at the end of WWII. And so he was talking about sitting in a bar with some other Dutchmen from his ship one day in the late 60's, somewhere close to Buenos Aires. The bartender was speaking German, and all the sailors could understand him more or less,  but one of the mates from the ship kept staring with a sour look on his face whenever the bartender was talking. . Sensing trouble, the captain was pretty keyed up as the mate quietly drank and drank and got into a darker mood. 

        Finally, hearing the bartender answering another customer in German, the mate jumped up and spoke loudly.  "Don't talk to him in German. I know you. You're no German. You're Dutch, like us. And you know how I know? I remember you. Yeah, your name is *says his name* and you're from the same town as I am... Not only do I remember you, you son of a whore, I remember you collaborated with the Germans during the occupation!" 

 The mate in question then proceeded to attack the bartender and beat him unconscious, then continued to beat his unconscious ass some more for good measure while everyone watched in shock.

 20 years and halfway across the world was apparently not far enough to start over after the German occupation of the Netherlands ended. As smart sailors know, there is no such thing as fair treatment for foreign sailors on shore leave, so, once the beating appeared to go on too long, the whole crew grabbed the man in question and ran for the ship. And they got back aboard too. 

Night watch


Blogger still won't upload photos properly for me. I'm tech savvy enough that I no longer believe that this is my fault. Grrrr. 

         Well, I'm at work, anyhow, and we got to work through the remains of Hurricane Ida. and boy howdy didn't that suck. We spend the majority of the storm at a terminal in Bayonne NJ, where the city made national news for having gotten utterly tooled on. The on-shift guys at the terminal all lost their cars when 5' of floodwater hit the parking lot. Poor guys. This is NOT the time to buy a car, either. Folks died in the flood, and a fair number of them, too. We weathered the weather pretty well, beyond some minor inconveniences, and resumed normal operations the next day. I bunkered a loaded bulk carrier out in Stapleton anchorage, and it was apparently an all-hands affair, as I had no shortage of crew to work with. It may have been the single most smooth-running bunker job I've ever carried out. Nice crew. All Russian. 

       My first week back I always work night watch, and tonight, after 2 busy watches, I'm at anchor myself, and we are enjoying a quiet night. I'm about to start cooking, and firing up Youtube. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Cleaning up the woodpile


 I spent a lot of the week just cleaning out and organizing our home. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife had a list of heavy things that needed moving, and of course there's almost always a set of stairs involved, because of course there is. 

 With the price of wood coming down to somewhat less insane levels, I dug into my cut-offs woodpile and made a seed starting bench for my wife's houseplants. I've been getting the side-eye from the War Department about the growing assortment of boards and bits that are too big to throw away but too small to ordinarily find a use for. 

 In addition I took a glued up walnut and maple board that I had started laying into a few months ago when my bandsaw went all cattywampus and ruined the cut. With my shiny new bandsaw I finished the cut, but the ragged ends from the first sawing were too messed up to work with, so instead of trying to fit compound curves, I made up a thick paste of food-safe epoxy and coffee grounds, and troweled that into the gaps. The resulting black curves look less bad than they once did, after shaping the board,  bringing it down to 1000-grit finish and dunking it in mineral oil. Anyways, it was a bit of a rescue but making a cutting board out of a sow's ear is better than throwing it all in the trash I guess. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Reporting from on scene at my house

 I'm home, and I've been home for a week now. I don't think I've been more than 2 miles from my house since I arrived here. All is well. I've been productive in my shop, my little projects are going well and there's a bottle of champagne cooling for a night swim with the Mrs. tonight. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Home stretch

 Well, under a week to go on this hitch, and that's nice. 

     We've been pretty steady work-wise, with cargoes every day, or at least movements every day. There were times when we'd have 18 hours off, which was nice, although this time the off time rarely coincided with my watch. Right now is in fact the first watch off I've had in the past week. 

 I made the most of it, though. We took on stores, and I overheated badly towards the end. It's 98 and sunny without any wind today, and so the steel deck was radiating heat as well. Still, stores and spares are on board, and I'm inside the house with the AC blasting and B is catching a nap, so I have privacy too. 

 I have some repairs to make at home, and a little furniture building project, and I got a sheet of 1/8" plywood that arrived at my house the other day, so if we get a rainy day I might try to cobble together a little model boat for my new office at home. I was thinking I'd make a Swampscott dory, one of my favorite designs, and something I've never made in model or full size.  

It's a pleasant thought, but between indoor and outdoor projects at home, I don't know if I'll have time. 

 In the meanwhile, I'm done with my projects on board for this tour, anyhow. We're into the Dog Days now and I'm old and senior enough that I feel no particular guilt in not working until I vomit for something I don't get paid for anyways. I'll try not to break anything, in the meanwhile. There's lots of things here I can accidentally turn in to a smoke machine if I break it enough and I'm looking forward to sitting on my ass at some point this weekend. 

Friday, August 6, 2021


 I was returned to the HQ this morning, to much rejoicing... well, I mean, I was rejoicing. And B seems happier, although I'm sure he'll miss being able to eat spaghetti and meatballs in his underwear with his feet up on the galley table while playing video games.   Just 48 hours, and as I expected, the work part was fine. Actually the work part was easy and pleasant... of course, I didn't sleep much to speak of. I never do, for the first few days somewhere new, until utter exhaustion sets in and I can sleep finally.

 I think I mentioned how much I hate change. I'm not the most pleasant person during forced socialization, and not sleeping for 2 days doesn't make that better. Mostly. I'm writing now because I am doing laundry and in a little while, like the colicky baby I am, I am going down to sleep for a few hours so B can have some peace too. 

              On a positive note, I got a ride from Newark to Bay Ridge anchorage on my friend Tim B (of Youtube fame)'s tugboat. Always, when I hang out with Tim, we spend a lot of time laughing. Politically, he and I are probably close to 180 degrees apart, and it doesn't matter. I always enjoy his company; he's one of the handful of people I work with who I wish I could sit down with at a bar in our off hitches.  That's the way it's supposed to be and it's a shame that it is rarely so. 

 Anyways, laundry is about done. I'm for bed. I'm happy to be back on the HQ. I guess I can cancel my appointment with Dr. Kevorkian. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Ganked, or My Turn In the Barrel

 Yesterday promised to be a good day. 

 The HQ is out at our favorite anchorage here in NY, with a cargo fixed for this weekend, giving us a few days off-hire, and an opportunity to turn our eyes inward for some maintenance. 

    Weather was nice, a bit overcast, and not too hot. I was up at 0445, as is my wont, and after breakfast, I pulled out a 5gal bucket of deck paint, a gallon can of nonskid additive, and some painting tools, and figured I'd get to rolling paint around 0700. I knocked out a few procedural things in the meanwhile, specifically the  NPDES inspection, an EPA-mandated weekly walkthrough where we look for sources and potential sources of things that could put oil in the water. As nothing changed in the last week, I took a little extra time to really look over the hydraulic hoses on our capstans and deck cranes where the potential for UV damage can make the outside layer of the hoses brittle. Nothing yet. The hoses are only about a year old, having been renewed after the last shipyard period. Oh, fun fact, I got Ganked last year (definition to follow) and put on the current HQ for a few days, whereupon on the very first job a hydraulic hose INSIDE the base of one of the deck cranes blew out, dumping 80 or so gallons of hydraulic oil into the crane's interior, which oozed out and had to be collected and cleaned up, as well as repaired. While it was pouring rain. It was a whole thing, and my 2nd man had just come back to work after a hip replacement, and was in real pain still, and refused to not help, making things more stressful, seeing a very nice and earnest person putting himself through agony. It sort of gave me a set against the then-future HQ, but actually worked out well, a systemic defect in the crane being found and fixed after the cleanup. 

 So, when 'Something'  (anything really, but the office never gets specific) happens, and a Qualified (read: has a heart beat and/or is not dead) tankerman is not available on board, the office will occasionally choose someone situated nearby whose week they wish to ruin and pull them off of their own assignment, and will give them 30-60 minutes to get their shit together and move them to another vessel for a few days. This is sometimes called being Ganked. 

 I've been ganked 3 times in the past year, and have been increasingly cunty about it. Now, I don't have the magical ability to say no, as generally, short of  *clutches pearls*  calling someone in  from home, there aren't always willing and smiling faces available, and, you know, being a tankerman and all is what I do. Do I feel picked on? Fuck yes. A combination of availability, bad luck and not being a bad tankerman conspires against me, as well as not having enough Fuck You Money to dare them to fire me for saying no.  I came close this time. I have a very good relationship with my shoreside boss, though, and I know he needed to put meat in the seat, and I didn't want to insult him. But fuck me, it's not easy.

        I'm not a kid anymore. In fact, I forgot to bring my glasses with me here, and it's been a problem. 

        I don't like change. I like being alone, and working with my shipmates who know my ways like I know theirs, and I'm not someone who beings the A game when my wa gets disrupted. What does that make me? Other than a whiny bitch, I mean. I don't feel good about myself, being so perturbed by helping out elsewhere, but there it is. Sure, there's a part of me that wonders about fairness, as I don't know anyone with a permanent assignment who gets ganked as much as I do. I'm sure they exist, I just don't know who. But I do know that fuckups and aggressively angry people don't get ganked. I have joked in the past that I either need to start caring less about the quality of my work or pick fights with everyone.  And yet I realize I sound like a bit of a bitch here, or a prima donna. Maybe I am, or maybe I'm just a grumpy asocial coot who can't sleep and can't function optimally without a sense of permanence of place. Realistically, if I was more tolerant of impermanence, I'd be chasing the  higher salaries that some other companies offer. 

 And really, I don't mind working at all. The work part is fine. I can turn valves, type and sniff toxic fumes all day.  The increased risk of being unfamiliar with the workplace and the stress of being on a strange deck an in a strange bed is unpleasant. Being less than 15 feet away from a stranger the entire time is far more stressful. There's nowhere to go other than the bathroom for privacy. I can't talk to my wife in private, and must rely on the discretion of the other guy not to listen, as he hopes for the same in me. Close Quarters ain't innit. 

 Anyways, I'll hopefully be back aboard the HQ tomorrow, whereupon B, who has been keeping up the home front and likely playing video games in his underwear in the galley, will make fun of me for being grumpy and oversensitive. 

 This shit isn't getting easier as I age. On my personal wish list, being left alone more is currently #1 with a bullet. 

 #2 is still being reincarnated as Sofia Vergara's bicycle seat, so there is that, anyhow. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Smiles and Miles

During one of my several rare and always ill-fated attempts to work indoors, a female co-worker said to the group around us that I always had a smile on my mug when talking to people, and as a European it made her wonder if I was simple-minded at first. 

    Cultures vary widely on how to get along in forced social interactions, I get that. Generally, I am someone who appreciates a positive atmosphere, so I tend to try to start off that way when dealing with people. Be friendly, you know?  Apparently, for certain cultures, that is off-putting. Someone who smiles too much is creepy in every culture, but 'too much' is a YMMV definition. 

       When I arrived at the Weed Palace, the rent-by-the-hour Brooklyn hotel that we use for crew change, I said hello to a prostitute and her pimp who were ahead of me in line, while we waited at the front desk for the woman behind the bulletproof glass to process their check-in. After dumping my bag in the room, I headed back downstairs to walk to a store for my caffeine fix, and ran into a very good friend and coworker, one of my former crew, in fact. D couldn't stay long as my 2nd man because he was too good at the job and was all ready for promotion when we met. That was 10 years ago, and we've been good friends since. In D's truck was a young guy with the same Mississippi accent, his nephew in fact, and introductions were passed. Turns out, D's nephew was getting ready for his first job on a boat, and day one was the next day. He was to be paired with an experienced deckhand who I know pretty well, and was excited to start.

   The next afternoon we sailed for our first load in Bayonne, NJ, a short hop, and our assist tug made up to us, and there was D's nephew on deck. We both grinned at each other. Me, for my part out of happiness for the guy, and also because I know full well that a friendly face and a few kind words on day one at a job make all the difference in the world career-wise. 

     The job itself was uneventful, except that it made me reflect on a few things I said. At some point I had to explain that we had no good heaving lines on board, as I got tired of making them after the first hundred or so got stolen. At this point I think I am known well enough as a somewhat curmudgeonly sailor when pressed, so it's rare that I hear much griping when I tell someone that I don't have the things they want.  As I do, I quickly made up a heaving line by tying a Franciscan Friar's Knot in the end of a length of rope, and performing an underhand throw like a softball pitcher, threw it with precision. 

 Experience counts. Years ago, during my first transit through the Panama Canal, I bought a switchblade knife with a mother-of-pearl handle from a linehandler, and overpaid him to teach me how they threw heaving lines with precision. The softball-fastball pitch for medium-distance throwing was the result. The Franciscan Friar's Knot is a makeshift workaround suggested by the WWII-era Merchant Seaman's manual. Worth reading even today. 

 Now, compare that with an interaction I had with a hardheaded deckhand a few weeks ago. A young and green-as-grass Ordinary Seaman of about 9-months experience. Fairly rugged, quiet kid. Reserved. 

     When I meet deckhands, we're on my barge, but when a tugboat is made up, for multiple smart reasons, the man on watch on the tug has to call the shots. Barring safety concerns, I am required to defer to the guy with his hands on the throttles and the TOAR in his little red book. My first concern, speaking honestly, is that the job go safely for all of us. My second concern is that the job goes smoothly and efficiently FOR ME, because the tugboat is only relevant for 10-15 minutes, the time  we're relying on his skillset and knowledge, and I will have the next 6-12 hours to do my job, which does not include the tug or any of the people on it. 

         I know what I am and what I'm not. My M.O. tends to be that I observe a lot, and tend to use the tug's deckhand like an extension of my own hands while I'm thinking about what I'm doing. The deckhand works for the tug, not for me, although ideally we all work as a team, and 95+ % of the time that is what we do. For that reason, and hopefully because I try not to be a prick, I am often given a bit of leeway when it comes to asking deckhands to do things that I am capable of doing myself while I'm thinking over what I want to do. I'm also not a 19-year old anymore, too. That's a hard truth.

  So, occasionally, all the smiles and goodwill in the world won't help with an obstinate, surly or unseamanlike tugboat deckhand, or one that just plain doesn't like me. 

   The kid I had an issue with hadn't yet picked up the ability to listen and talk at the same time. He wasn't someone I knew, and wasn't regular crew on the tug. He wasn't very polite, either. I really try to leave my ego at home, but politeness is important when strange men have to work together. In an environment where you can punch someone for pissing you off,  it's not as important, but my job is not one of those environments. Throwing a punch gets you fired and if unlucky, gets you referred to the Coast Guard. So no dispensing Great Justice in situ

Right away he had a habit of ignoring me, which while rude isn't a big deal, until it is. I mean, the job's not done until we're all fast and in the right place to my satisfaction.  After failing twice to listen to me (which was frustrating and irritating) when we were trying to pass a line to a ship  with a tricky current making the tug mate's life hell, the kid finally acknowledged my existence and said "I have to listen to  the mate, I don't have to listen to you." I had been speaking with the mate and I was OK with his plan for what we need to do, so I felt the kid was being rude unnecessarily. Well, no more smiles from me.

  I said something mild about needing to work as a team, which felt weak  to me, as I really wanted to kick him into the water. Not being a hardo in that case left me feeling pretty dissatisfied. Then the kid cussed out the Filipino AB's on the ship. Already feeling like I wanted to throw my weight around, I told him to be respectful of the poor pricks on the ship, as they were perfectly capable of throwing a shackle at either of us and caving in our skulls, and to satisfy the shameful little part of me that wanted to be shitty, I said that the ship's AB's knew twenty times more than he did anyhow. 

 When we finally did get a line up to the ship, the kid immediately went the wrong way with it. I don't know if he was being contrary or just got turned around. Doesn't really matter, I guess.  I called out, probably too sharply, that I didn't want the line running that way, and the kid said 'that's not what we're going to do.'  This being something simple that I've done thousands of times, the kid's rudeness coupled with poor seamanship finally made my cup runneth over. The whole time I was thinking, however, that if I said or did anything out of ego, rather than professionalism, I was going to get called up short or end up feeling bad over it, as kicking someone off your deck almost always ends up getting back to the office, and new hires don't always weather that well. 

       I'd like to tell you that I kicked his ass, or said something smart and pithy. I will occasionally swallow when given a mouthful of shit, though. Instead I just said "OK, get off my deck and go back to your tug, right now." He said something quietly about that being fine by him and I was an asshole anyways. I didn't even swear; I was that put out. Talking to the mate on the handheld radio, I worked alone to get us all fast, and the mate, to his credit, said nothing about my kicking the kid off. I can handle people being rude when it's just their nature. I am less able to handle disrespect. 

    The cool part of this was that when it came time to cast off the tug, the mate and I, who are on good terms, bantered back and forth briefly, ignoring the deckhand. He never came up at all. I'd like to think that the office never got wind of what happened and maybe the tug's mate or captain could get through to the kid that pissing off someone who gets along with almost everyone is a bad thing. Of the few people I truly don't like that I have to deal with, almost all of them are hated near universally, so it's not just me. It does make me wonder about who thinks of me in the same way I think of that small number of people, though, and that I've never been made to feel unwelcome when on someone else's deck. Is that a sign that not too many folks find me an asshole or that others are more professional than I? Hmmmm. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Dread

 Well, it was another fantastic time home, but today I fly out to New York for crew change tomorrow. 

 Usually by the weekend, I start getting a touch maudlin, but this time I was pretty happy, right up until 11pm last night, when I suddenly felt like somebody pissed in my cheerios. 

 It's a weird one today. I usually fly out around noontime, so I can get up a little late, have a couple of hours at home, and then I start the journey north. Today I have a late afternoon flight, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is at work, so it's really quiet. I'm not used to my house being so quiet. It's a touch depressing, and by a touch I mean it's awful. 

    Some crew changes are like that. I mean, nobody is joyful at the prospect of leaving home, but sometimes it hits particularly hard. Still, it's time to cowboy up and get paid for it, and after 2 weeks of eating and drinking to repletion far too often, the more austere and health-conscious diet I follow at work will perhaps stifle the screams I hear coming from my liver, whose criminal treatment has earned a respite.