Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Week 4 begins and also we ate fried bull testicles

 Today starts the final week of the tour. We are still busy, but it's now seasonably busy, not the insane rush we had the past few weeks. Today we dogged the watches, going from a 12-hour watch to 8's, so that instead of days, I'm now on nights. The guy going home gets to work nights here on the HQ, which has positives and negatives. I no longer have to play stepnfetchit for every office worker who wants something and is happy to call for it 20 times rather than email, but OTOH I'll be colder and we tend to discharge cargo at night and load during the days, and loading is quieter and a more calm process... so, mixed blessing there. I'm not complaining (for once), going on nights means I'm almost ready to go home, and that... well, it's definitely harder to be out here than it was 20 years ago. 

       So, last week my partner of almost 11 years out here, B, came back, and he brought some treats with him from the middle of farm country in Nebraska where he lives. B brought us 5lbs of Rocky Mountain Oysters... bull balls, in other words. I'd never eaten them, and had no particular compunction to do so. I mean, if I want to horrify people by telling them what I'm eating, I'll have a slice of haggis, which I do enjoy. 

 So, B breaded and fried the sliced cow scrotums, and watched with glee as I tried it. I mean, I couldn't NOT try it, and risk being thought less of. 

I tried to upload a picture, but Blogger is being an asshole. I mean, it looks like a flattened chicken nugget, pretty unexciting.  It tasted OK. decent flavor, a little chewy, but tasty and the breading gave it a nice crunch. 

 Well, there goes another thing I swore I'd never do. 

 6 more watches to go! 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

It ain't even my birthday

 Glorious and appreciated SECOND WATCH OFF IN A ROW! 

       My gratitude and sense of perspective has perhaps been properly recalibrated as we are the recipients of a surprise second watch free, courtesy of terminal congestion at I Missed Today's Tide terminal here in NY harbor. 

 The Catholic in me is feeling guilty for not suffering today in exchange for my munificent pay. As penance, after breakfast and a 30 minute sit in my sweatpants and slippers at the galley table, spent communing with the universe (read: playing solitaire on my phone), I kitted up and scraped the gunk out from under the generators and washed the area with mineral spirits. Since it's colder than all hell, we have reduced ventilation in the gen house in hopes of not freezing everything (the air compressor farts out about a half gallon of water a day, and draining it keeps it out of the deck air lines, which in turn keeps moist air from freezing up the starters on the cargo pumps), and the vapors were not to be despised as I orbited Venus. 

        There's plenty to do to keep me productive and humble, of course, but I also have the leeway to not work at lightspeed for once. I may even get to crack a book open should I need to do my business later on. We have a cargo fixed for loading tonight, and after that we'll be steady for a few days with another one following, which, in my line of work, is about as far ahead as one can plan. 


Friday, February 19, 2021

Glorious Watch Off (The Angry-Sounding Foreigner Edition)

 Well, I set a new personal record for the highest number of ships visited in a 14-day period at 14 ships. Yesterday marked the end of the marathon work session. We pulled into the regional company HQ at 8pm, (but I was already in bed) to stand by until the next load was scheduled. 

 So, when we are between jobs, we will either go to anchor, go to a mooring buoy (a permanent anchor tethered to a floating steel buoy to which one attaches a line and hangs off of, and then other barges go alongside the moored barge and lash themselves to it), or a lay berth (a pier with places to tie up to it, basically). Many lay berths have no shore access for anyone tied up there, but three of ours do allow it. As such, they are in demand, as they are places where people and spares and supplies can be moved back and forth. 

   Well, we got the equivalent of seats behind home plate, as we're alongside my company's regional HQ here in NY. 

    Now, the weather... is awful. Still.  We got a bunch of snow yesterday, and then freezing rain part of the night, and then more snow today. So not much us happening. I got to the local grocery store at 7am to stock up for the rest of this trip, as halfway day for me was earlier this week. So I'm in a good position. And since we had a couple of hours free the other day and I was feeling energetic, I got caught up to date with recordkeeping already. So, today, after stowing my grub and flinging some salt about on deck, I am free. First time since I got here several weeks ago, I'm free AND I have shore access. 

 Well, screw going out, it's awful out there. I'm staying in. 

       When we need food, we have the option of using a company-paid car service to get us to get food. I know most of the drivers, who tend to be Egyptian or Algerian. Today's driver I didn't really know, although I have seen him once or twice. He was listening to (I think) an imam who was really pissed off about something, and not afraid to talk about it. It was in arabic, so I'm assuming. I mean, I can say 'please' and 'thank you' and that's it. However, linguistic cues that hint at emotion apparently are not in my wheelhouse when it comes to other languages. 

        I run into a similar problem at home. My kid used to switch to rapid-fire portagee when he was annoyed at me or worried and wanted to cut me out of a conversation, as my Portuguese is... not great. When speaking about something in really specific detail with his mom, he'll often revert to Portuguese, as well, which is easier for her. Occasionally I've cut into conversations, telling them to calm down and lower their voices, thinking that they were arguing, only to find out that they were talking about something harmless and not negative at all... 

... so, armed with that knowledge, I sat and listened to what might have been an acid-tongued imam pissed off and telling everyone why, or possibly some arabic-speaking dude reading a grocery list. Either way, I found it agitating but also kept my mouth shut. 

 Anyhow, my day is possibly done. I might just go play a video game. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

The ass kicking continues

 Well, we're still running around like a bunch of one-armed paperhangers here at the HQ. 

   We're on pace for a record number of individual cargo discharges in a 2 week period, but that number is now in danger. In busy times, there is always a bottleneck for loading oil, courtesy of the largest terminal in the area, a place so notorious for causing delays that the name of the facility, which is an acronym, is commonly referred to by an alternate acronym referencing that they make people miss today's tide.... 

 And sure as shit, we missed today's tide, because while quieter terminals generally start loading us about 10 minutes after we sign papers, the place in we are at today generally makes you wait between 90 minutes and 8 hours, with an average of about 3 hours delay.  So it goes. 

    Now, the upside to missing this tide is that I've been getting my ass kicked, and I'm frigging beat but I'm also behind on paperwork, and we even had an engineer sent over with parts to fix my potable water pump, which was acting up, so now we have drinking water in ample supply again. 

   I'm about ready for a watch off, but I don't see even the potential for a light day until the weekend. 

 Big positive- we loaded heavily today, and with a hot product, which is melting ice on deck. 

Big negative- another storm is coming in this afternoon, right around when we'll start pumping this stuff off and cooling off the deck again. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

everything's fine

 Damn, it's busy. I don't know how other maritime companies are doing, but we're running hard here. LOTS of cargo, lots of movements. It's busy enough that we had to hatch a conspiracy and I had to forego sleep for a day so we could stop for 2 hours to get food. So, although there's nary a sight of a free day, we've got food, heat and caffeine, so we're attacking the days as we can. 

 The weather? It's really awful. Snowstorms every 2-3 days, ice everywhere, and pretty damn chilly when it's not snowing. as I enter my 2nd week aboard and my partner E enters week 4, we're both awful sore from slipping and sliding everywhere, shoveling, and trying to stay upright in said icy conditions. Slipping and catching yourself from falling hurts when you start to get older. That's something I know now. 

      So, yeah, it's been balls to the wall here at the HQ. And the weather is bad. We ache. As sailors, this is fine. We're like seagulls. We eat, we shit, we squawk. I don't know that we'll beat December's record number of jobs, but we're doing well. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

...and back

 Back to work. My first watch back has been messy. There's about a foot of snow and ice on deck, courtesy of a winter nor'easter that walloped the northeast a few days before I flew in. 

  It's been a busy time. I may be able to sleep more here at work than I did at home. Now, I had a great time at home, but it was not the ball of sunshine that it normally has been. That being said, we had a great time, when we could, but life intruded, and yelled in the outdoor voice, too. 

 That being said, I punched the days in the face, getting the scut work done in clearing my shop, finishing my giant tool cabinet (less the topcoat of paint), and making room. 

I briefly thought I was rescuing a cat. Turns out he was just an old
timer from down the street, out larping, pretending to be homeless. 
That's the mess that my shop had become. 

I find that a disorganized shop messes with my head.

building the big tool cabinet

Just needs paint. That's a full-sized door next to the cabinet

So much room for activities. 

 So, my kid has a strong artistic streak. He thankfully wishes to not be an artist as a career, but finds it a hell of a hobby. Recently, he asked if he could repaint his room, like really, really repaint, as in use the walls and closet doors as a canvas. As it happens, I really hate the textured walls in his room, and someday I'll happily sand them smooth, so I told him to go at it... and he has... including painting his ceiling fan with 4 different abstract landscapes. Probably one of the most creative ways I've seen to make the most of limited space to work in. The murals he's done on his closet doors and the back side of the main door in the room are really neat, but incomplete at the moment. He's doing a jungle motif in the room, and has outfitted one wall entirely in a VERY real-looking ivy. 
  I'm not the most easygoing parent, likely, but my kid doesn't get in any trouble, is super-helpful at home, a pretty good shot and an A student. The fact that he's got a giant mop of hair approaching 'fro status and his room looks like an acid trip doesn't bother me in the least. Since he asked me NOT to put up much online, I just posted the fan, because it's pretty neat. 

     Well, we're into the February tour now at work, everyone's least favorite time to work on the water in the north Atlantic. My first watch has been less pleasant than many, but I'm content enough to be settled in and getting back to my routine for the next month.