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.