Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Swerve in the road

 As things always seem to go, there was a flurry of phone calls from home right at watch change. You know, watch change, when you're supposed to start winding down in preparation for blessed rest? 

 Yeah. Always, big things happen at home either when I want to sleep, when I want to use the bathroom or when I have only 20 minutes to cook my only hot meal of the day. 

  At any rate, my plans for my time home (a week from tomorrow!) just got changed utterly. Not in a bad way. Or in a good way, really. Just... life intervened. 

 I'm being deliberately vague, yes. Not a big deal, just a private one... and anyhow, as I tend to do a little more these days now that I don't do social media, I'm looking at the positives as much as possible. 

 So, suddenly, I have a whole week that I no longer have commitments made. That's awesome. In exchange for a bunch of logistical legwork for me to do today, to undo a long-term planned process, I will have 6 days that were originally planned to be busy doing something else. Hot damn. I'm annoyed at the last-minute nature of the changes, but dang, I have time to do something. 

     Now, being, well, me, I don't like last minute changes to long-lead projects and plans. But who does, really? I guess I just dwell and ruminate over such things more than I should. What's the word? Hidebound? Yes. I am hidebound perhaps more than I should be. 

 Well, annoyance aside, what to do with my time? I'm going to have more time with my wife and kid, and my son and I will surely go to the gun range. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is mulling getting a Concealed Carry permit, I think more in a show of solidarity with her adopted culture and also to be a nine-days' wonder among her 100+ cousins and their insane online community. But that might be fun, and now we have time maybe to knock that out. 

I REALLY want to build a ladder-style planter for an indoor herb garden that she also wants, but I don't want to have to take out a mortgage for the 4 2x4's and sheet of 3/4" plywood it would require. And for the first time in years, almost decades, I'm performing daily exercise and eating healthy on a daily basis, so days of swimming, drinking booze and eating comfort food, AKA my weekends, are also no longer an option. 

     I have an idea in my head for a little wooden rowboat. I think I have a sheet of 1/8" plywood somewhere. I might work on that, see if I can make something without a plan, try to work by eye, like the old school skiff builders when I was a kid. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

painting season!

 Of the many, many weird things about me, the fact that I enjoy painting at work is certainly one of them. 

 It's painting season, the time when, until my employer went supersized, the port captains inquired just how much paint we wanted for the year. They allowed us to set goals, and then in our idle time, we'd paint for a few hours when we had an off watch, to pass the time. 

   Well, idle time until recently was nonexistent, and morale being in the toilet generally as we older mariners adapt to a more corporate employee structure with management, painting became something we didn't do, one, for lack of time, and two, for lack of interest. The era of taking pride in your barge ended when... when it ended. Frog, warming water. 

    last winter was a 6-month flurry of jobs the likes of which I've never seen, but we're having a little summer lull compared to that. In fact, we're working on a schedule reminiscent of my early days bunkering 10+ years ago, which is to say, we have work, we have cargo, but we have idle time too, not so much that we're bored, but enough to think more than 6 hours ahead. Morale for our little crew has rebounded. Without the constant pressure of jobs stacked back to back for days on end, this little interregnum has been very, very welcome. We have maintenance done, we have identified some medium-and long-lead projects we'd like to do on board, and I get to paint. 

Photo taken this morning

 I enjoy painting on deck. I always have. It's mindless work, and I tend to get some things worked out in my head while I'm doing it. Being a type A personality, mindless work that doesn't bore me to shit is soothing, and painting isn't a daily task for me, and the rewards, well, nobody likes working on a deck that calls to mind a junkyard. So I like to put my tall socks on, an old pair of dad shoes (New Balance 4lyfe, yo), and my last (and treasured) pair of Jorts, and get down with a roller, a man-helper (one of those extension stick broomhandle things) and some International one-part topcoat. 

       So, for example, while we have a job at midnight tonight, today is hot and sunny, and so I can hit the ladders over my fuel manifold with some yellow, and it'll have more than enough time to bake on before dark and be hard enough to withstand foot traffic. And honestly, I enjoy being out on deck without my 10lb Red Wing boots on. 

 I'm going to get out there now. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Exam Day

 Well, today was our 5-year renewal inspection for our Certificate of Inspection, the master document that the Coast Guard issues to say what we can do, who we can do it with, and what we need to do it. This is the big certificate, and the big exam, too. 

 We actually did really well. Always, always always the Coast Guard finds ONE THING if they can't find anything important as a material deficiency, something that we need to fix but that isn't a big deal. It's an unwritten rule. Usually I put a box in front of the emergency escape hatch in the generator room to block the hatch. This gives the inspector an out, and presumably a warm feeling, knowing that he issued a correction. 

 Seriously, I've been doing the box trick for the past 10 years. I actually forgot it today, in the rush. And we didn't get ANY corrections and of course, no deficiencies were noted, because we don't play that shit around here. So that's a first. 

        The rush I'm speaking about is the rechecks and detailed examination of absolutely everything that happens before an inspection, because they can and do look at everything. Today, for example, the inspector took a moment to look at our little air compressor, a model you'd find in any amateur handyman's garage, and had us test the pressure relief valve on it, to see the PSI range where it would open from overpressure. Dude had us overpressurize the tank by shutting down the shutoff, and watched when the valve popped out. Took like 5 minutes. I didn't even know that was a criterion. 

       We actually have a good preventative maintenance and safety inspection program companywide, and I do my best to keep us in compliance, so little stuff like the condition of our survival suit emergency lights, a verbal quiz about the communication chain for oil spills, stuff like that all went down as part of the inspection. Now, at 6am today, little maintenance items that had popped up on the pre-inspection prep got sorted out, and I spent breakfast splicing a line rather than reading a book, but all is well. 

       We even have shore access tomorrow. I mean, we have it today, too, but it's raining, and I hate being rained on. Good thing I always chose outdoor jobs, I guess. 


Thursday, June 17, 2021

This always happens to me

 Man, I really misunderstood this whole 'Pride Month' thing. 

    Anyone want 15 lions? Make an offer. 

Monday, June 14, 2021


 Nothing continues to happen here on board. We work, we rest, repeat. Cargoes come and go, and the weather is fine. It's a good time, but nothing exciting to share work-wise. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

...and back again

 That was one of the best long weekends I have ever had. The Blue Ridge mountains are amazing. As is North Carolina's high country. Wow. 

 my last week at home was spent working on my house and in my shop, and I got to see family, which was always nice. 

 Less nice was the results of all that fun on my waistline. Holy crap. Now that I'm back to work, I'm hitting the weights and walking in circles on deck daily. I have to. I ended last year about 60lbs lighter than I'd started it, and have no interest in going backwards... well, pretty much I just did, to the tune of 20lbs or so, so I'm back to it. What really sucks is that the extra weight can be felt in my joints, so I have to proceed slowly at first. 

        Nothing else to report, really. I fell back into routine pretty easily, although I was pretty homesick my first night back. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I spent a good 10 of my 14 days off together about 23 hours a day. Something of a treat, really, as we're neither of us sedentary types. We overdid it one day, spending the day outdoors swimming, drinking beer,  ordered takeout and next thing you know it was 1am, and we'd been in the backyard for 12 hours. I buzzed my hair the day before and got a pretty fair sunburn on the top of my head, so, yeah, that sucked. Still, great day. 

          And here I am on a quiet night watch at anchor, a blessed event, and rare for it, too. Routine. Not much blog fodder. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Home. And then home again.

 So, I went home about a week ago, and arrived to the car loaded and ready to roll out on the next morning.   It being our anniversary, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I rented a cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains, about 10 miles from the nearest store, and shared a mountain with just 3 neighbors for a few days. I have never been so truly isolated. 

 It was amazing. If you can swing it, go. The 800-mile drive was not as bad as I thought at all. 13 hours, including a stop for a sit-down meal and the odd pee break/gas, etc. My only regret is that I just rented the place for the long weekend. Gotta stay a full week next time!

 Well, today is my first 'real' day at home. Time to get to business, get the house in order.