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.