Saturday, December 31, 2022

Pole Position for 2023

 I'm spending New Years Eve in the best place possible under the circumstances, and I'm grateful. 

 I'm on the HQ, all the maintenance gripes have been resolved, we don't have cargo orders, AND I'm at a lay berth at the foot of the Brooklyn bridge.  It's raining and there's a mighty pea souper of a fog, thickest I've seen in a dog's age, in fact. 

 I like foggy nights... when they're not interfering with navigation, cargo, or outdoor drinking in my off time. 

   Now, no booze at work, so that's not an issue, and I'm not stumping around out on deck in 20lbs of foul weather gear, either. Rather, I'm indoors, enjoying a quiet night, a hopefully peaceful night to cap off 2022.  

 I'm not into New Year's Eve parties or anything. I know it's a holiday, but it's one I don't give a shit about. I'm privileged to not be particularly affected by the calendar in my life. Tide, time and weather are far, far more important to me workwise. I often don't know the day or the week or the date.  It's just not that germane. I do know these things when it's getting close to crew change, of course. I start paying attention then.  This sometimes causes friction with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, of course. 

 "Hohnnee, what we are doing Chanuery de 7?"

   Me: "...ahhhhhhhhhhh... I have no idea. what day is it today? Saturday? Is it still December?" 

 Her: (Eye roll) 'Oh, por la amor de Jesus. Is Wednesday today!"  

 You get the idea. You might get the idea I'm as numb as a pounded thumb about a lot of things, and you'd be right.   

   So, yeah, I'm not a big calendar person.   I'm not a big holiday person, either, except for the important ones.  Irish Christmas (AKA St. Patrick's Day), Easter, Memorial Day, July 4, My wife's birthday, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.   Heh. I guess I am a holiday person after all.  

          So, yeah, this was a hell of a tough year for a lot of people. I am extremely blessed to have sailed through it easier than many. I'm mindful that there has been a lot of people silently struggling this year, and I am very grateful and sympathetic to them. I'd ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers, "All those most in need of Your mercy" as the formula goes for us papists. 2023 doesn't look to be much better, but we have to do our part to make it so. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Thanks, I hate it.

 Well, I got my wish. I am back on the HQ. 

So, as I suspected, there was no running water when I got back here. The heating coils that sit in our water tank were shut off and B for some reason didn't look in the got-damned breaker panel when the water stopped flowing. So we have a truck-sized ice cube slung under the house and it would take a while to thaw. 

 It took about 36 hours, in fact. We have running water now. 

 I believe in comfort. When I get bounced around the fleet, as much as I'd like to pack lightly, as some do, and live out of a duffel for a few days, I don't. I bring what I want, not just things I need. 

    There are sailors who live on board and act like they're going camping, living on hot dogs and beans and sleeping on a 15-year old prison mattress (they're fireproof! I know that because they say FIREPROOF in huge letters on the mattress. And also they cost $54. And are almost as soft as 3/4" plywood).  Nothing but quality. 

    This time when I travelled, I brought my seabag, a gym back full of winter-weight foul weather gear, my float coat (a winter coat that is also a Coast-Guard approved life jacket), a laptop bag, a memory foam topper for the inevitable prison mattress, and my food and drink.  I try to be comfortable at work. Nary a hot dog to be seen. 

 So, yeah, 2 minutes after I got back to the HQ and realized it smelled like an uncleaned hamster cage because there was no running water for B to shower or use the head, I had the house breaker panel open and the potable water tank heating coils fired up. I then proceeded to move back in. 

      So yesterday early, while we were unfucking the HQ, I also cleaned up out around the manifold area on the cargo deck. With the flash freeze last week, the rain that had been falling turned to ice rather than evaporate. And it had been raining heavily. So ice got everywhere, including in between the flanges of two sections of pipe that were bolted together, forcing the flanges to separate when the ice expanded as the water froze. Sadly this flange was connecting two lengths of cargo pipe, diesel fuel piping, in fact, so we had a mess, and as it was in the manifold area, cleanup meant crawling, climbing over, and climbing under other piping, which  led to me becoming covered in diesel and dirt. Tidying up was easy. Having to get cleaned up using a half bag of wet wipes proved insufficient, but it was all I had. So it was wonderful that the water got working so I could shower. 

         Plans didn't all work out as expected, though. I really needed groceries before I got back to the HQ, being down to a few staples mostly made up of long-stored items like rice, beans, carbs, you know?  I had 2 days worth of caffeine, it was that bad. I was promised an opportunity to get groceries, which has thus far failed to happen. Our schedule keeps changing, with cargoes getting assigned, reassigned, unassigned, delayed, moved forward, etc... long story short, Today is St. Famine's day, the last day I have food aboard, so while I am on nights this week, when I wake up later, around noon, I am going to ask someone to send a tugboat to get me, probably burning 200 gallons of fuel, and get me to land so I can eat.   I CAN live like a savage here, if I have to. I just don't want to, but food isn't something I will be able to get away with not having. 

Still, it's good to be home on the HQ. 

Saturday, December 24, 2022

And now she's gone from suck to blow!

  Another day. Christ. 

    I said that out loud in the dark at 0445 this morning when I got up. That's my usual wake up time, but of course I'm not waking up on the HQ, I'm in exile this week. 

    The storm that the media has been whipping people into a frenzy over finally hit us yesterday. The tzar bomba cyclone of death and AIDS e11venty!  or whatever cute bullshit name they gave us. It's the first winter gale. Same one we have every year.  Not the last, chances are. 

       But shit yeah, it blew like a mad mother, even tucked up in the protected corner of the container terminal where we were standing by, it was blowing hard. And then the temperature dumped. 

 So it was 9 degrees when I got up. Yesterday we took a bunch of those little plug in box heaters and put them in strategic places, like the deck fitting under the galley sink where the fresh water line enters the house. and another where the poopoo water line  gray and black water line leaves the house, and by the main water feed pump for the house, all places that share a bulkhead with the outer skin of the house and where water is apt to freeze.  This barge has heat trace tape wrapped around the water lines and a heating coil in the main water tank, like mine. Alls I know is that today we have a warm place and running water, praise Jesus and pass the hand cleaner. 

     So with just B holding down the HQ as watchman while it's laid up awaiting my Glorious Return next week, I assumed he'd  go over the water system, as this iteration,  HQ3.0, has poor cold protection for the water system. I checked in with him today and he is going to be the proud posessor of a dirty ass, as he's got no running water.  My suspicion is that he didn't go over the water system yesterday and is paying for that today, although to be fair, at 9 degrees, anything short of throwing a blowtorch into a cargo tank probably wouldn't stop the water system from freezing as is. I've been asking for the cladding and heating system to be replaced since I came aboard 2 years ago. 

     So, I guess I am grateful for having warm quarters and a minty clean ass this Christmas, even if I am not where I want to be exactly.  In that spirit, I wish you all a very merry Christmas too. Hug your loved ones if you can, or Facetime them if you can't. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

My turn now



    Well, I'm getting ganked tomorrow. After my partner B got ganked last week, pulled off the HQ to work at a less pleasant place to work to fill a need, it's my turn now. So, tomorrow, in the middle of the first winter gale that will be hitting us, I get to go ashore, pick up a week's worth of food for myself, and do a ruckhump with a bunch of grub bags too down a pier at a refinery, there to go aboard an oil barge. 

 Funny thing, not the last time, but the time I got ganked before, it was to fill in for the same guy who wasn't there. Huh. I'm crossing him off my Christmas card list for sure.  

     Christmas at work is never fun as it is, and now I will be getting no Christmas dinner, and I doubt that the barge where I'm going has been decorated festively like the HQ, or has a Christmas tree like we do. I always figured that what with missing 2/3 of all Christmases because of my career, we should have a big ass meal, presents and just a little fuckin' cheer aboard in the galley.  Well, I can't be dragging a goddamn whole ham and 5 courses along with my clothes, winter gear, boots, foul weather gear and greenstuff to eat. 

 And to be fair I am not going to be feeling festive. I'm 90% sure I'm going to be working with a guy whom I like a great deal, but who is green as grass, so I don't want to be all cunty and shit up his holiday, too, but I just got fucked, and I'm not in a turkey-cooking mood, yo, so i plan on just being quietly dyspeptic. 

         Ah well. It's not the work, I don't mind work. I was expecting we'd have a cargo ourselves on Christmas day. It's that I believed that I would have a nice day with my shipmate, eat well, get some work done, maybe let off a 12 second belch into the VHF mic on the house VHF channel and make all the other juvenile man-children in the harbor laugh or curse, or both. This is just a nice little impersonal fuck you for Christmas from fate. 

 And shit, I shouldn't whine. Hell, my brother's dog died last night. People are out there with real problems, I know. It definitely could be worse. 

 I'm usually a Christmas enthusiast, I confess. I like the holidays.  

 Better luck next year. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Rain Day, Soogey Away.

 The scab fell off my nose today, I am back to being handsome and ready for my closeup. 

       My partner E got ganked off the HQ, poor soul, and was placed somewhere where another guy was missing. He's working hard. Me? Not so much. Short a tankerman, we are temporarily Out of Service here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ, which means we are also temporarily a very pleasant place to be for me. 

    E is awesome. We get along great, and are friends besides, now, after living and working together for over two years. Along with B, my partner and counterpart out here for many many years, the HQ 3.0 is by far the most efficient and pleasant of the HQ's I've ever worked on here, and while HQ 2.0 was better in terms of efficiency and layout, it's the crew that makes all the difference, and we've got the best bunch I've every worked with. 

    But with E gone, and us all tied up until we've got bodies to spare again (next week), it's just me, on watchman duties. 

   Yes, I have acquired that rarest of rare birds, a babysitting gig.   It's only for a few days, until Monday, in fact, but I get the whole HQ to myself for a few days and no cargo.  

 Way back when I first run away on ships, rather than on fishing boats, rainy crappy weather days like today meant that barring anything critical, we wouldn't be working outdoors. It's raining and blowing a gale today, which on ships used to mean that it was a day for soogeying. 

     I don't know where the term 'soogie' (pronounced 'soo-jee') comes from, and I don't even know if I am spelling it correctly, as I've never seen it written down. I suspect it might not be a real word, at least in the context that we used to use it in, but it used to mean filling up a bucket with warm water, adding a little bit of pine sol, and wiping down all the internal bulkheads (walls) of the ship's living spaces. An all-day affair for 5-6 men.

  These days, we soogie the HQ too, but the house being what it is, it's a quick task for 1 guy.  Today, with nobody underfoot, I was able to soogie the house, strip and rewax the deck, and do a little extra cleanup than normal. Truth be told we keep the HQ nice- the day before going home, the offgoing tankerman does a pretty deep clean, but pulling out the floor wax and shining it up isn't part of that. Normally we just mop n glo it once a week. 

     In the olden days I'd have gone ashore and gotten a burger and a pint of whiskey, but the olden days are long behind me. Brown-water work, that is to say coastwise and harbor vessels, don't allow alcohol or drinking on our off times, whether ashore or no. That suits older, smarter me well, as I can give my liver a fine workout once I'm home and let it rest here. These days, getting out of control for me means putting an extra tablespoon of dressing on my salad. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Gotta go buy a lottery ticket

 In my corner of the maritime trade, when something dumb or unusual or "y'all ain't gonna believe this shit' happens, we generate 'near miss' reports. These are used to delight and entertain inform mariners of hazards and issues that almost happened, in the hope that it will decrease the chance of a repeat. 

 I get to write a near miss report tonight. 

So the HQ is 300 feet long, and the freeboard, the distance from the water's edge to the deck, is just 15 feet. An Ultra Large Container Vessel might have 60-70 feet of freeboard. They're just massive. When we moor to them, we put out 6-8 mooring lines that stretch up to their decks. We use lightweight synthetic mooring lines to help make them easier to lift those kinds of distances. The lines weigh 3-4lbs per foot.  

 Earlier tonight, I got hit in the face, hard, with the eye of a mooring line that had been dropped from about 50 feet overhead.  Luckily, I was able to stop the mooring line from falling directly onto the deck and maybe scratching the paint by using my face to give it somewhere soft to land.  As we started casting off from a ULCV,  it was dark and I looked down to be sure of my footing as I stepped over a bunch of conduit, and just before stepping out to the deck edge, I looked up just in time to see the eye splice, the 5' diameter loop in the end of the mooring line, coming directly at my face. I got a hand up in time to partially protect my head, but part of the eye splice hit me in the bridge of my nose, knocked me right off my feet.

        You see, I wasn't in an area where I was expecting to encounter one of our mooring lines. I just happened to look up at the deck of the ship to see if the deckhands up above were standing by. 

 Unfortunately, the retard sailors on the ship above me took advantage of some slack in one of our mooring lines, and cast it down on deck before we were ready for it. For some reason, rather than just dropping the line, the cocksuckers threw  the eye splice out into space, and so it sailed a good 10' past our deck edge, and the eye splice, which is about 30lbs I guess all told, happened to make a beeline for my melon. 

      The shitheads on the ship weren't trying to brain me. They were just being lazy douchebags, trying to hurry us up so they could go on about their business. 

   So, yeah, I end up on deck staring up at the sky wondering how fucked I am. The two tugboaters who were on deck with me helping cast off are squatting down on either side of me with looks of concern. Is my nose broken? Am I concussed? In shock? I feel OK. My face feels hot, and like I've been hit by something.  So, I look up, and far, far above us, the ship's deckhands are looking down on us, with the "oh shit' face. So I raise one hand up and give them the finger. Meanwhile I look up the guys around me. "Is my nose busted? I feel ok."   "Naw, it don't look broke. Little blood and you got a bit of skin missing, but it looks shaped allright, but don't get up."  

    I kinda took my time. The guys did the right thing, telling me to stay lying down, and so I talked my way through my thoughts and after a minute or so, I realize that I'm fine and I just dodged a bullet. And also that I should have been looking up a few seconds earlier than I did, even if I thought I was outside the area where I might have been in danger. Before I got up, though, I refocused on the deckhands up on the ship, still looking down at me. I yelled something unkind along the lines of hoping they get cancer. 

 I am nothing if not eloquent. 

    Anyways, the good news is that the mooring line is fine, although there's a fingernail-sized piece of skin in it somewhere now. 

   I get up, a little shaky with that adrenaline, and mindful that I might be running around with something that the adrenaline is hiding, a concussion, or the like. But within a few seconds, other than that little numb/little hot feeling around my beezer, I realize that for some reason I am fine. Considering that I got knocked down, that's both odd and very lucky. 

    So in the back of my mind, as we continued casting off, I am very relieved that I'm OK, and realizing that I'm actually fine, no bs, no posturing.  One of the tugboat deckhands on board with us is a trainee, a kid who's on maybe his 4th day at sea, ever. Poor guy looked shook. I spent the rest of the time reassuring him that I was fine. And I mean, hell, he probably thinks I'm pretty rugged now, shaking off getting my bell rung, even if I didn't get my bell rung all that bad. 

 And here I am several hours later at a lay berth, in between cargoes, and I can sit in my chair and laugh about it. It's been a minute since I got the old blood moving with a little excitement. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Well that only took 30 years.

 Back to work, back to sea, etc etc.  I'm aboard the HQ. Home was awesome. Pics to follow. 

 For some reason I feel like I was gone a lot longer than 2 weeks. Might have had something to do with me not traveling this time at home, and not getting balls-deep in any large projects. I'm not going to say I was bored, I certainly wasn't, but I did a lot less than I normally do, and it was a pretty good time. 

So, something cool DID happen during mail call one fine day at home this time.  Every 5 years mariners have to renew their licenses and credentials to give free money to the government.  It was time for me to renew and I got my new MMC, the passport-like document that lists all licenses and certs for each mariner, and my new MMC showed up. 

    This is renewal #6 for me, so I guess that means I'm on Issue #7.  I believe that might qualify me as an old salt. How, in the name of the seven mad gods of the sea, did 30 years go by? And worse, those 30 years started when I was already an adult? 

 I've averaged 240 days at sea a year for most of that time. That's a lot of days at sea. The slow years I was just putting in 180, except for college and grad school where I only had fishing time, but still got in 150-180.   After my very first 180 days at sea on a ship, I got credited with over 3 years of additional sea time (1080 days at sea)  from prior service as a commercial fisherman to allow me to get an unlimited rating as an Able seaman. 

     I started baiting lobster pots when I was 8. So, fair trade I guess. 


1986 I think. I was about 12. 

present day. Unlike my wife, who doesn't age,
anno domini isn't kind

      In 30 years, if I am still alive, my maritime career will have been wrapped up for some time. It's strange to think about, dealing with Swallowing The Anchor.   I'm not ready yet, although I think at this point it wouldn't kill me. You can't do anything for 30 years and not have it become something with a lot of routine. 

Friday, December 2, 2022

And there goes an hour


 When I'm home, I try to limit my internet consumption to when I'm taking a dump or cooling off after working outside or the like. 

    So I read a whole post about what's going on in Tom Brady's life. 

  Tom Brady plays a children's game really well. He may be the greatest adult player of his particular children's game, of all time.  Wow.  He has beaten many other records held by other adults who were also good at playing this particular children's game. 

 I view the guy who shovels elephant shit at the circus to be a more valuable human being than Tom Brady.  I mean, shoveling shit, that's a job. You're doing something helpful. Being an adult who is really really good at playing children's games? Not so much. 

      So, I posted my thoughts like a dumbass, and got shit upon from a great height for it.

  LOL. Sure hit a sensitive spot I think. So I said something about defending a man who abandoned his children to play a children's game.   

 At that point, why not. I'm getting banned anyhow. 

 And that's how my legs fell asleep and I ended up head-butting a crack in the drywall when I stumbled with my drawers at half mast during my dismount from the crapper.  So now I gotta get out the joint compound and the paint. On the upside, my complexion is already kinda ruddy so there's a good chance I won't look like I used my forehead to break my fall. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Finally... nothing.

 I've been home a week, and finally today I'm all done with the shit I had to get done.  So today I officially can do whatever I want to do. 

     I started off by doing nothing for 3 whole hours. It was awesome.   Just read the news, looked over the blogs a bit, etc etc. 

    This was the first year where I remember hanging the Christmas lights was a bit of a slog. I sort of go pretty hard on my Christmas lighting. I enjoy Christmas, but this year it was work  to put the lights up. Maybe because I am not going to be home anywhere near the holidays.  I'm grateful to have gotten home in time for Thanksgiving, but the Christmas lights will be long down all over the next time I am home. 

 Still, I can't complain too much. I have all day today to do what I want. That's a rare thing. 

 Headed to the gun range. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I flew home the day before Thanksgiving. You know, the OMG busiest travel day of the year we're all going to die etc etc that we've all read about ad nauseum for years? 

 Yeah it wasn't bad. Little busier than normal, and I mean, I flew out of JFK in New York. That place is a dumpster fire on a good day. It was fine. 

 So yeah, my kid picked me up at the airport, as for the first time ever, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife couldnt' get the night off from work, and so I didn't see her until mid-day on Thursday. 

 I ended up cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted a big turkey, threw together corn, stuffing, balsamic glazed carrots, rolls and I made a cheesecake with strawberry glaze from scratch.  I got my sister to handle the mashed potatoes.   It was a weird one, just 5 of us for dinner, which might be the smallest Thanksgiving ever for me at home, but it was a nice day. 

 Plus, I mean, I'm home, too, and that's awesome. 

 I got up at oh-dark-thirty and I'm writing this to kill time as I have to go get blood drawn for my annual physical next week.  I dunno, maybe it wasn't a good idea to schedule that for the day after Thanksgiving and a day of eating too much and killing off probably half a bottle of Jamison over the course of the day and night. I certainly don't feel hungry yet, that's for sure. 


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Ugly and awesome

 We had a pretty average week here since last I wrote. Work 2 days, rest one, work 2, rest one.  And by 'rest' I mean we didn't have cargo so we'd take half of each watch and do work , so 12 hours of maintenance and projects got seen to, and 12 hours of leisure time, which was welcome. 

       Demand for bunkers is pretty steady this week, and one supplier in particular got the bulk of the jobs. This company charters some of our tonnage, but even working all out they have more work than they can do with existing equipment reserved for their use. 

       Enter guys like me, who run equipment that works on a 'spot' basis- that is, we're not on charter here on the HQ, but rather, we CAN work for multiple companies when they need us, on a short-term basis. In a given week, I'll usually have jobs from 3-4 major suppliers, companies you've heard of and some you wouldn't too. 

    So this week with work so steady and the temperatures cooling, some of our tugboats were out of town running longer-distance jobs out of state. My company chartered a tugboat from another company to be available as needed, and that tugboat was the ugliest and weirdest-looking tugboat on the East Coast. 

     Some guys call it 'the wedding cake tugboat' for sort-of obvious reasons. 

            So, this is a pusher tug. It's got two cushioned 'push knees' on the square bow to shove stuff around without causing point loads.  The knees are watertight compartments, so they dont' drag the bow underwater. The house, way, way up high, offers unbelievably good visibility. She's got a modest 3,000hp of power, but must be turning big wheels, because she doesn't have a lot of speed but she's got a LOT of 'ass' which is to say torque. 

 Oh, and the push cables that hold her against the hull of a barge being pushed? They're on automated spools. Push one button to tighten, another to loosen.  Normally, messing with push cables, getting them positioned and tensioned, is one of the most common evolutions where tankermen get injured on the job.  Shoulders get torn up, and fresh handsburger gets served up with a side of  I screams.

 So, push knees, lots of ass and low-strain making up. This tug is as ugly as an ape's foreskin, but she's a a pleasure to work with. It really helps that the crew have been polite, friendly and hard working too. We've had a good week working with them. 

  With the push cables in place, you can see they're made of Dyneema, which in the commercial boating world is called 'Spectra."  It's a synthetic rope that is far stronger and lighter than steel. Push cables have to be screaming tight to be effective- Sadly, it's also enormously expensive, but no bullshit, one guy can pick it up and return it to the tug without much effort. A steel cable of similar strength would be familiar looking- you see them on suspension bridges, and they're far, far beyond what mere men can pick up and walk around with. 

 Edit: I should be more careful and note that while mariners use the names dyneema and spectra interchangably, they are actually different. Dyneema is made by a Dutch company and Spectra is made by Americans. Chemically, they're identical, although both companies vary in what other fibers they include in their lines, as neither company usually sells lines made of the pure material, instead adding other fibers like aramid (kevlar) or nylon, polypropylene or other low-weight high strength synthetic material.  It should be noted that Dyneema and Spectra are braided differently, which makes them easier to differentiate, and this makes them behave differently. All ropes have Creep- initial elongation as the braid tightens as loads are applied for the first time. This is not stretch or elastic modulus or anything like that, just the braid 'fetching up' or 'shaking hands' as they tighten. Spectra has more creep than Dyneema, just because of the lay of the braid, which means that it might be necessary to retension it as it settles into use the first few times. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

That Boy Ain't Right

 We were rafted up at anchor the other day and I got to catch up with some friends. 

  My old captain on the tanker NEW RIVER used to say that "AB's (Able Bodied Seamen, mariners who are rated as more skilled than baseline mariners) are like seagulls. They eat, squawk and shit."  

I mean, yeah. 

 The squawking part is doubly true for tankermen. We talk. A lot. Even a quiet guy like me, who treasures blessed silence most of all, won't shut up once there's a few of us catching up. And the other day this happened out at anchor, and after greetings and pleasantries, the gossip started along with the complaining.  Now, because this particular group was made up only of core guys who have been here for 10+ years and none of us under 45 (I think I was the youngest at 48), we're of an age where the natural course of doing this job comes with aches and pains for us, and so who was sore where was a pretty hot topic, but moreso we all took the opportunity to bemoan the state of the talent pool for help aboard. 

     I'm going to bet that this has been a discussion ongoing on boats and ships since Jesus was a greenhorn on his friend's boat (good guy to have on board when the weather turns foul) and maybe even before. You know Noah had a shitty crew. He ended up running aground, on the top of a frigging mountain. There's running aground, and Running Aground, you know? 

         Still, I'm going to bet that in the golden days of sail, there were crusty sailors and officers too who bitched that there weren't the same quality of sailors coming aboard these days as there were 25 years ago. I mean, complaining on a boat is an evergreen subject, where every day a bottomless mine of raw material is discovered.  I'm sure that in the distant past, and maybe even not so distant, somebody talked about me and said 'Jesus, look at what we have to deal with. How can we make a sailor out of this sow's ear?' 

    Anyhow, we were in a group, like I said, talking, which means complaining, really, of course, and up comes a particular tankerman's name. Almost as one, we all said the same thing:


     What followed was 20 minutes of stories of ridiculousness, things we experienced while working with this particular individual. In discussion, I realized that a pattern was revealed. The man in question, a real soup sandwich, if you know what I mean, had been placed at some point with all of us, and rejected, not because he's bad at his job (he is minimally competent, we agreed, able to work under modest supervision), or a bad person (he's not), he's just too weird for us, too Borderline Personality Disorder, where the disorders he's walking the line on are paranoia, autism and schizophrenia). 

     Do you know the type? Someone who's not insane or inane, but 'not quite exactly' as the old timers used to say. Depending on the severity of being not quite exactly, it can be lived with, or not. 

 So we realized that the man in question had been forced on all of us at some point, in the hopes that we'd settle him down and find a home for him, but this never happened. 
     I know several minimally competent tankermen. These are guys who have to be monitored carefully to ensure they're doing their job, but who can be trusted to do basic tasks. Often these are men who are universally liked, truly nice and kind, champion human beings, who are just not able to rise beyond where they are. These men rarely move around the fleet. They find a home and are best kept there for their own sake, but are pleasant company and know their limits, and not the sort to get into too much trouble. In the case of this man in particular, he was very much like having a flu on board.  Unwelcome, likely to be passed on to someone else as soon as possible.  
        One of the most universal statements to be found on any boat is "It ain't like we're normal; if we was right in the head we could work on land."  Weirdness is tolerated, even enjoyed if the weird person is skilled at their job. "That guy's insane. I like him." You hear that sometimes, too.  But there has to be something to hang your hat on.  
    The conversation widened out into other people who we had issues with, and was a laundry list, as it often is.  My partner B and I have been working together for 12 years or so now I think. We know each other, and as we're close, we can argue and be honest with each other, and so we own our own shortcomings, which makes it unnecessary to have to bitch about each other to 3rd parties. We keep it in-house. We're blow off steam and talk to our other partner, Big E, of course, and often it becomes humorous. I know I'm a messy eater, for example. I'll get crumbs on the ceiling after I eat lunch, I swear. I try to not let it impact my shipmates. 
        Listening to my friends talk about their personnel issues on board, it makes me very much appreciate what I have.  What we have on the HQ, our shortcomings and complaints, are a deep well mostly of humor that refills on every tide. Even when we have a problem child on board, like our former partner who liked to microwave fish at 2am and make the entire house smell like a brothel in a leper colony.  
    And on that delicious note, I'll sign off.  

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veteran's Day

 Today the US marks Veteran's Day.   I am one of the few shameful exceptions in my family who didn't serve. My dad was in Korea and was ramping up to go to Viet Nam when his heart gave out and ended his career. My uncles, every single one of them on both sides served.  My oldest brother, my sister, one of my oldest brother's sons, and now my nephew who broke the mold and became a marine, and who just started Force Recon school. 

 Today also marks the 5th anniversary of my mom's passing. Time moves so fast once you're over 40, my God. I'll always be grateful for the wonderful graveside service that they gave my mom at the National Cemetery on Cape Cod.  It being Veteran's day then too, the grounds were lovely and the honor guard was putting in that extra 2% that makes such a difference. 

 I'm profoundly grateful for every person who served. 


Thursday, November 10, 2022

Light falls on Marble Head

  Sometimes the dumbs hit me hard. 

        I finished writing a comment elsewhere on complaints about safety standards on US ships... specifically that some government and the oldest of the old rotten merchant ships that the US allows to still trade are not required to have enclosed lifeboats.  Open lifeboats have a 0% chance of saving anybody in severe weather, which is when old rotten ships often get in trouble.  There's a Grandfather clause that allows cheap and immoral owners of old and superannuated ships to not invest in enclosed lifeboats which might save some crew on sinking ships in bad weather.  Enclosed lifeboats are required for everyone else, pretty much. It's a real dick punch to anyone who is guilted into working on old rotten American ships. 

 While I'm bitching from up on my soapbox, an email comes in saying that we now have to carry out a formal New Crew Safety Orientation on board the HQ from here forward, and there's a form to fill out... and me, hypocritical me, my first reaction is to roll my eyes. 

 Thankfully my second reaction was to read the form... and it's actually a really good idea. Anything that keeps fingers on hands, meat in the seats and increases the number of vertical mariners at off-going crew change is good... and common sense safety things, to me, are of greater value than pencil-whipped paper shielding for appearances' sake. Something as silly as '...and here is where the fuel shut off is in case you dont want to end up looking like a hot dog that fell through the grate in the grill'  is one of those obvious and helpful things to hear early on in your trip to sea. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

You've got (hate) mail!

 It's been a while since I got a nastygram in my comments. I really regret deleting it now, as it was actually pretty funny and I should have let it post. 

    Look, I realized that my last post was a real skim job of a serious subject. I am not a serious person on this blog. It's one of my relief valves while I'm greasing relief valves and doing other boat things here on the HQ, since I can't drink, shoot guns, chase my wife around the kitchen or parse datasets (too many distractions here. Yes, I actually do still keep my hands in as a scientist at home, mostly helping out others with low and mid-level analytics).  So I engage in dick and fart jokes and absurdum ad reductum on serious issues like, for example, safety systems on big metal boats. I like to hide the odd pearl in the pig byre. 

        SOMEBODY got awful assmad that I had opinions and didn't put in enough effort to fully flesh out the issues I was kvetching about in my last post. My reasons for not doing so are both significant and nuanced; because I didn't want to and I got bored writing.

    I make no excuses; my writing is not expert nor professional here. You want that, pay me. I can be assed to write properly about serious business, and occasionally do, but fuck me, I get bored writing my own writing, never mind reading it. Juvenile humor and piquant observations are not mutually exclusive, and the hope that I can entertain both my readers out there, and that one Indian call-center scammer who is still trying to get me, well, that's fun for me. 

 So, dear hater, thank you. I realize that in the real world you're probably someone I was rude to or dismissive of, and I hope, if so, that it was intentional on my part, because it isn't always, and I feel terrible about it when it's brought to my attention, but when I do intentionally insult someone, it sure is fun. 

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Let's all talk about my gas problem

 So last week I mentioned that I have a...difference of opinion an issue with one aspect of how my industry handles oil. 

  Ships moving oil must inert their cargo tanks- that is, they pump oxygen-free gases into the cargo tanks so that the oil can't catch fire- you can't have fire without an oxygen source.  Usually, when discharging cargo, gases with low-to-no oxygen from engine or boiler exhausts are pumped into the tank, so that as the oil level in the tank is lowered, the gases fill the vacuum, rather than plain old air.  The end result is that with oxygen levels ideally around 1% in the void space in the tank, it gets really hard to blow up the oil during the course of the day. 

   IG systems come in all sizes but generally just one or two general shapes. Once you know what they look like, you can spot the deck seal and on-deck portion on any tanker, just forward of the house. Sometimes this is referred to as 'The R2D2' for its' shape. 

HERE's A GREAT article on how they work 

   It's an idea so good, it's now the law. 

  You can't 100% fill an oil tank. Well, I mean, you can, but you really, really don't want to. Oil changes density based on temperature, surprisingly a lot, with small temperature changes. As an example, we have to be VERY careful monitoring temperatures in my cargo tanks- and they're quite small compared to, say, those of a big ship.  We can gain or lose tons, literally,  of weight, with just a degree and a half error in temperature when calculating volumes at the end of a load. That adds up when you've got 10 or 12 or 14 tanks.  So you need to leave room to expand in a tank when you 'top off.'  I like 95%, as a round figure. Mostly because at 96% a shrill alarm goes off and it wakes up the sleepers and causes loose bowels.  98%, the red lights come on and the louder 'end of the world' alarm goes off, and at that point it's fine to just go ahead and shit yourself, because it usually means you're seconds away from getting in the news and needing a new career.  

    But I digress.  So ever since the introduction of inert gas in oil tanks, the number of tank vessels that blow the fuck up has reduced enormously. 

 But, oh, wait, sometimes in your local news you hear about a company with red tugboats whose big almost ship-sized oil barges go boom, kill the people on board and make a mess, right?  Hell, right in NY harbor, years ago, and Texas just a while back... and the little barges from other companies on the inland waterways, every year or two, also, they up and go snap crackle and pop here and there as well! 

 Barges don't need to inert their tanks. It's not legally required as it is on ships. 

      Boy howdy wasn't I discomfited by this when I went to work for a tug-and-barge company. Not only are IG systems not required, NOBODY has them and less than 1% of barge tankermen know anything about them, as there's a dichotomy between ship and tug crewing and less crossover than you might think. I'm a rare bird, I guess. 

          I don't know the reasoning beyond it being expensive and requiring running water, which barges don't always have. I know I don't like the reasoning, being as I am a huge raging fanboy of going home alive, but so be it.   For me, I avoid high vapor point cargoes like gasoline or naptha and the like, the really volatile stuff. I work black oil, the smelly, tarry gross thick stuff that is hard to light on fire either accidentally or on purpose. That's my personal risk mitigation. 

 Sure, it's definitely possible to safely move volatiles by barge, un-inerted. Odds of blowing up are up there with winning the Powerball lottery. But you know, people win that fucking Powerball sometimes. On a well-run barge in a well-run company, it's vanishingly rare, of course, But some companies like the red tugboat people cut corners and pay really well, or used to, in the case of the red boat people, until they blew up one too many tankermen lol, I mean they cost an oil company too much money, and got run out of business.  Nobody cares about crewmen, of course, that's silly.  People think SOLAS came about because the Titanic killed too many people. The Titanic cost too many life insurance companies too much money by killing the rich ones and so we got SOLAS.  Thanks heaps. 

        Anyhow, those of us without red tugboats to work on are pretty safe if we use our heads. But still, I don't like it, and I don't work gasoline, personally. I have lived among the upper-crust, the shitbox, rotten rusty old tankers on shoestring budgets that still had IG systems that worked just fine. Like the song says,  How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, once they've seen IG?  

   So it's a personal thing for me, I don't have support beyond my feels as far as my preferences go. People in hell want ice water, and I am not a crusader for expanded IG use.  And I don't speak as a rep for my company, or in criticism of it. Just giving my opinion as an overopinionated and undereducated asshole, and you know what they say about assholes and opinions. 


Friday, November 4, 2022

Brown Greens and other New York delicacies

I say a lot of negative things about New York for a guy who doesn't live there. I mean, the last few years I've spent 8 months out of the year in the harbor pretty much, and that means I spend time flying in and out of the city, staying in hotels for crew change, plus going ashore and to the office about once every 10 days or so for food and supplies and such. So I spend some time there. That is why I hate New York so much. Because I spend a fair bit of time there. 
       I appreciate that people used to love it here. And some of the older folks, they have a lot of memories here that have deep meaning to them... and there are people who are attracted to the lifestyle New York offers. Great, more power to them. 
   Positives for me? I can find whatever ethnic food I want here. OK, that's actually kind of cool. And hey, all the people means that I have a steady job here. 
 Now, some of the containers on the ships that I'll bunker are refrigerated containers. So that means they're bringing food in, but I see a LOT more food being moved on the reefer ships in the Philly/Delaware City area, where there are refrigerated containers on deck, more than you see in NY, and the holds of the ships themselves are refrigerated, so palletized and breakbulk food AND containerized food is kept fresh. The cold storage warehouses in the Philly/ Del City area must be numerous and massive. 

  Still the millions of people here in the city, by the time the food gets to them, the shit's old. 
    Fresh lettuce purchased in NY lasts between 2 and 6 days, at least from what I've experienced these last 10 years. After a bit of time, it turns brown.  At home? 10 days to 2 weeks.  
    Back to the positive column, all these people means that there are many fresh produce stands and markets, and the smell there... is divine. Seriously, that's worth the price of admission right there. One of the few positives- I tend to do a quick pass through a couple of fresh produce markets on my walks through Brooklyn, although I no longer get to do that very much. 
      So, long story short, after 10 days aboard, I am waiting for a ride ashore to load up on green stuff. We've been doing without for about a week and I'm tired of frozen vegetables and canned shit. 
   In a lot of ways, I expect living in NY is a lot like living as I did in Boston as a kid. The suburbs were nice, and far enough away from the insanity of the city as to make it pleasant. I suspect that our shoreside and office staff here, out on Long Island and in the NJ suburbs, live just fine as is, in a manner that would be similar to where I grew up. And really, that's not too bad. I wince at the thought of a daily 2 hour ride home, but I did that plenty of times in the Boston area. There were days when I fished out of the Cardinal Medieros dock in South Boston that it took me 20 minutes to drive in before the sun came up, but 90 minutes to get home, and I survived just fine. Well, I hated it and yelled a lot, but I tolerated it. I think part of the reason I chose a less well-traveled path in life was to avoid traffic.  
     At home now, with the post-covid migration into nice places, we've got a LOT more people, mostly from the northeast, moving in. Traffic has definitely increased. Jokes on them, though. You should see the northerners white-knuckling it when traffic is bumper-to-bumper and everyone's going 80.  It is funny that I bitch about traffic jams because 95 was slowed down to 70mph with all the lost refugees from NY. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Dog days

 Today is the first of two dog watches I'll stand during this tour.  We move to short watches to allow some sleep when we make the switch from nights to days. Normally night watch is quieter than day watch, but that wasn't the case. Oh, there' no phone calls from the office on night watch, which is nice, but workwise the first week was steady busy for me. Luckily we're at anchor today so when we made the watch switch, even with shorter sleep we had a nice easy day. It takes about 5 days for me to get fully adjusted to working nights, where I can get 7+ hours of sleep, so I only get a day or two of good sleep before it's time to upend my circadian rhythm and go back to normal. 

   I'll do the same thing in 2 weeks again, switch back to nights. But the upside of the 2nd dog watch is that it means it's almost time to go home. 

    With the day at anchor, I went out on deck with a grease gun and a couple of tubes and did the monthly lube circuit on all the grease fittings.  It takes about 3 tubes to see everything all slicked up. The big thing is that this gives me a reason to really go over the deck cranes up close and personal, to really eyeball everything, look for wear, etc. And I did find that the brake to stop the #1 hoist from two-blocking 

had slipped a bit- there's a 75lb steel weight that gets moved if the #1 block gets within bad-breath distance of the head of the crane, and on moving, a wire attached to it slacks off, tripping the brake and shutting down the hydraulics to the #1 hoist. And so I saw that the wire holding the weight had slipped a few inches, and I was able to reset it and crank down on it to prevent further adventures... so that's a way of saying I got to spend 45 seconds turning a wrench and prevented an annoyance later in the week, and at any rate, it's good to eye-bang a crane's bits and parts on the reg anyhow, but going over it with a finer scrutiny is not to be despised. 


Monday, October 31, 2022

Improvised decorating

Well, happy Halloween everyone.  Normally, with space in the living quarters on board the HQ at a premium, I just bring a teeny little 4" pumpkin to carve a jack-o-lantern out of, but I forgot this year so we had to improvise. 

Anyways, We're too busy to answer the door, and we're at anchor, but just in case anyone comes by for Trick-Or-Treating, they can reach in and take a treat. But just one. No being greedy. 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Advancing Rearward

 Ever since I got aboard the HQ earlier in the week, I've been getting bombed with negative news. 

    The single largest benefit to a life spent on boats is that there is almost always something pretty to see while you piss over the side. I can't overstate the value of inspirational views while filling the ocean back up.  One of the secondary benefits is that I don't have to participate fully in the rat race. And I'm mostly not into social media, and yet, why, in the name of the seven mad gods of the sea, do I pour over the news? There's nothing there but links to click and more bad shit. 

           So... yeah, amidst my preparations for suppuku I realized that there is an easy solution. I cracked open a new book to read. Fiction. 

   Seriously, I gotta stop reading the news. I have neither an unlimited supply of Lisinopril or patience. 

Falling into routine

 It's all quiet aboard here on the HQ.  We have a couple of small cargo parcels fixed for the weekend for multiple charterers, so we're running back and forth between fuel terminals and ships and back again, although we're running to different places each time. The pedigree of some of these jobs is making my head ache- we're loading oil for a 3rd party charterer who bought the oil from an oil major who bought the oil from another oil major. I'm assuming everyone gets paid, so this serves as a reminder to me that I don't know squat about the office side of moving oil.  I just turn wrenches and valves and do sailor shit. Still, if all goes well, we'll have been pretty occupied during this whole thing and while we're moving oil we're earning. 

 Also, while we're moving oil my own office folks aren't  going to gank me off here and put me on board an unhygienic POS moving oil that shouldn't be transported without being under a blanket of IG. 

     Just before getting relieved on my last voyage I was pulled off the HQ to go aboard a gasoline barge that had been laid up for a time. Unfortunately, whoever laid up the barge failed to perform any basic cleaning, and so I arrived aboard with no linens or towels and no means to clean them, and so I had to sleep fully clothed with a hooded sweatshirt covering my head. I got a fuckin' rash out of it so at some point I guess my shirt must have ridden up. There are some disgusting motherfuckers who work on the water. I wouldn't doubt but that someone at one point wasn't using linens on the God-damned bed. I mean, there were a couple of ancient pillows, a diseased stained yellow color, and quite crusty and about 1/2 inch thick, yet they each weighed about 6lbs. I had fantasies about throwing hot grease on whoever gave me that rash. 

 The whole IG thing is a personal beef of mine. Not the time or place. 

         Still, it's a couple of weeks later now and the quiet and peace is welcome. It makes me appreciate being on the HQ a little more. 


Monday, October 24, 2022

Quick range day before work

So tomorrow it will be time for me to fly out again, catch a nap at the Weed Palace and psych myself up for heading back to work. Good tour off, busy tour off, expensive tour off. Time to go stick my head in the cargo tanks and taste the color 7 for a bit. So if you follow my on Instagram, which is the only social media I use (to look at boobs, guns and boats), yesterday we had a Very Special Episode. Inaproppriately Hot Foreign Wife for the first time went with me to the gun range. This was VERY cool for me. I've known it was coming, and we've been doing a lot of talking through the 4 rules, safe and responsible handling, etc, etc, but there is just nothing so good at cementing an interest in guns as just shooting guns.
My son is also an enthusiastic shooter, so it was a nice family day, and we got sushi afterwards. And I got the sushi farts after afterwards, so it wasn't perfect, but it was good. ...and now she wants a gun for Christmas. Shooting a rifle for the first time was a real treat to watch.
"Oooohhhh. I like dat." Being a giant ham, I did have to stop for photos a fair bit. You can see the smile on her face, and it stayed there a fair bit. I gave her one of my AR-15's to shoot, and she took to it well, just plinking at paper targets at 50 feet. Holy hell, 5.56 is still expensive AF. the 9mm we were shooting was my oldest stuff at about 6-7 years old, so it was good to get it gone, and the replacement I bought was at a fair price. It's been a good 2 weeks. Lots of living packed into a short time.

Friday, October 21, 2022

History and hiking with the Mrs... Now with Irish Breakfast

 With a 5 year absence from Massachusetts, and I think 8 years since we last lived there, our recent visit to the Boston area gave me a chance to show Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife a little bit of local history that I was remiss in showing her years ago when it was local to us. I had my reasons for skipping over things. First off, my wife only developed a sense of patriotism after leaving Massachusetts and it's nihilistic sense of self-hatred when it comes to history, and second, by the end  I was discouraged myself by the anti-American propaganda that has infected leftist enclaves. 

 BUT, on reflection, I thought it a good idea to take a 30-minute detour from one of our family visits, and show my wife a few places.  That particular day we were to spend the morning in the woods on a pond in the forest, where her cousin had settled down in a little house with a retired Marine Corps vet. 

        I instructed Inappropriately Hot Foreign wife to dress warm, and to wear comfortable footwear for a fair bit of walking on uneven ground and maybe taking a spin in a canoe on a cool, windy day.  

Brazilian hiking heels

"you should wear jeans, shoes that are good for the woods, and a warm top" 

Advice Given: 2

Advice Taken: 0

Not a historic site, but no adventure starts with getting a salad.

        Seeing where we were, I thought it important that my wife see Plymouth Rock, the spot that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year,  that commemorates where the Pilgrims first landed. I spent a lot of the drive talking up this deeply impressive monument, promising that she would be deeply impressed. 

yes, it's a rock. Wow. Lol. 

OK, so everyone who grows up on the Irish Riviera, the seacoast between Boston and Cape Cod, has to take a school trip to see Plymouth Rock, a site of deep historical significance  rock.  With a date stamped on it. In a hole. That is for some reason always filled with dead sea life. It's a bit like "The Great Egress" of PT Barnum fame. It's a monument to tourism-based dollars. 

"Wait... is a rock, hohnee. Dat's eet?  Chu took me 30 minoots to see a rock in a hole dat smells like a mens room?"

    If I had to suffer through it multiple times as a child, I was going to disappoint her, too. Disillusionment is best savored in company. 

   Luckily for me, she has a good sense of humor and she was more impressed with the MAYFLOWER.  She made an interesting point on the 1620 arrival date carved into the rock, though. It was 2 years after the Portuguese had already built the "New" marketplace in her city in Brazil. 

       Our visit to Massachusetts coincided with peak foliage season. I'll admit it's a beautiful 2 week period, even in Massachusetts. It's easy to forget that something like 80% of the state is still shaded by tree canopy. There's lots of trees even in urban areas.  In the 8 years we lived in MA together, I never once took my wife apple picking, which is something of a fall tradition. Luckily, my oldest brother set it up as a family activity while we were visiting him. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife luckily packed her hiking high heels, which is a thing, but not a practical one. 

     After complaining about very cold and damp feet as a result of leaving the Irish Riviera and travelling inland where the Swamp Yankees are (the approaches to Cape Cod away from the seashore), I was happy that my wife's apple picking hiking high heels at least had closed toes. 

    ...and I should have remembered that my wife is Brazilian and has been wearing heels probably since she learned to walk. She wore boots with giant heels and this was mostly not a problem for her on a farm, despite my predictions of "you're gonna end up with your ass in a mud puddle."  

     She did of course wipe out, but just the once and got the whole family laughing. Latinas are not quiet people. Her yell was pretty echoey and I'm pretty sure knocked a few apples out of the closest tree.  Then she got up and scooted up a tree in 4 inch heels,  quick as a blink to join my nieces and nephews in getting the good apples that were up high.  

You can take the girl out of the Amazon but...

    By late afternoon, my brother lit a fire on his deck and we had time to drink some local microbrews that were actually pretty damn good. After that, we drove the hour into Boston proper to visit another cousin of hers.  This required a wardrobe change, and while it's true that Brazilian women are not shy or self-conscious, American men who marry Brazilian women are moreso. So that was how I ended up distractedly driving down the highway, briefly, with a naked wife, who, to be fair, is good at it. 

I get along really well with her cousin's husband, and so while the ladies were chatting away, he and I settled into the arduous task of drinking a lot of Irish whisky and laughing about the ridiculous but fun parts of being married to the foreign women we chose.  My wife got to drive us back to the hotel that night. As long as we kept up stories that made the other laugh, we kept having a drink, and so my liver got a serious workout. Luckily I drank a ton of water before bed, and in the middle of the night too and avoided a hangover. The next morning my voice was hoarse. I talked more that night than I had in years. 

     The next morning, feeling the lack of energy presumably caused by my bruised liver, we went out for an Irish Breakfast. And not just an Irish Breakfast, but THE Irish breakfast, if you live in Massachusetts. 

   O B.'s Cafe in Quincy MA   is where you go for Irish Breakfast. Because I am me, I know the owner, Stevie.  Point in fact, we went to high school together and my sister was best friends with his aunt, and since she was one of 16 kids (Hello, we're Irish Catholics, nice to meet you), naturally the family consisted of about a hundred people in a relatively small section of town. 
     I hadn't been in OB's in 5 years, and even so, got a great welcome.  I have a particular fondness for Stevie, as I brought my parents in for breakfast every week or two all through their declining years, and he was there as a part of a lot of great memories (and Irish Breakfasts), and for their parting as well. Even at the end, for both my parents, Steve was always ultra warm and welcoming, would come out for a chat with them, and went out of his way to make sure they enjoyed the meal. And so I have a very strong association with his food and his restaurant and good memories. 
       So, OB's Irish breakfast is scrambled eggs, toast from homemade bread, bangers (with brown sauce on the side), a grilled slice of tomato, Irish bacon, some sort of wizardly home fries that are a secret recipe that I have never seen bested, and both white and black puddings and also beans, if desired. I usually don't get the beans, myself, as I don't want to subject my loved ones to the results all damn day long. 

White and black puddings are a type of sausage. Black pudding is blood pudding, by the way, as in made with blood, yes, and it's peppery, complex and insanely delicious.  Really, the blood pudding is the crown of the meal, as it's something I can't get in my area in Florida, which bans the sale of offal-based foods.   My wife pretty much threatens divorce and pulls out a wooden stake and a crucifix every time I suggest she try a piece, but she admits that her father, an immigrant to Brazil from Italy, used to make his own. 
     Other than seeing family, Irish Breakfast was the best part of my visit to Boston. Not gonna lie. 

A Former Bostonian in Boston

 They say you can't go home again. Son of a bitch, that sure turned out to be accurate. 

    Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife flew into NY last week to meet me, and while we had other plans, a last-minute crewing issue caused me to get ganked right off the HQ and put on a gasoline barge that... wasn't a pleasant place to work. With the timing of my crew change in question, I changed plans,  and so the wife and I rented a car in NY and drove to Boston to see friends and family. 

What followed was a VERY busy time. Mostly wonderful. 

 I drove my my old neighborhood, to see where my childhood home used to be. It was leveled and a massive and really pretty house was put on the lot, which given it's location was worth more than the nice and sunny but small raised ranch I grew up in. So, no going home there.  That was a weird feeling.  

I definitely didn't get to see everyone I wanted to see, but we did pretty good. We got to spend time with friends and family we hadn't seen in years, literally.  Now I'm at home again, my real home in Florida. I've got the weekend and then it's time to head back to work. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Aging like fresh milk

 So I got a vist from my old 2nd man, RayRay, tonight. Ray is rafted alongside of us here at the HQ, out ta' anchor here in the 3rd world seaport where we're currently working (New York). 

 RayRay was my first subordinate here, almost 15 years ago. We worked together for several years at different times as he moved about the fleet and worked his way up the ladder. 

   It was amusing to sit there in my galley, compare our aches and pains, his gray hair, and mine that falls out before it can change color, like the live oaks in my yard at home. Talking of the follies of marriage, between two happily married men. The baby whose birth he had to go home for is a teenager. I see Ray 2-3 times a year, but seeing him is usually a matter of 5 minutes, or a wave from 300 feet away from one dock to another at a fuel terminal.  We hadn't sat down to talk for 4-5 years and tonight we had 2+ hours to catch up.  It was a good night. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

We has found the A-hole, and it is me.

 I woke up grumpy this morning here on the afloat HQ. 

 I slept a grand total of 45 minutes last night. We're now in day 2  of the first winter nor'easter here in New York harbor.  Last night was grand. Now, yesterday was a bit longer than planned, as we had problems getting tied up to a bulk carrier that had anchored in the harbor. 

It was blowing about 35, not awesome, but not a nightmare, just shitty, and the pelting rain coming sideways wasn't joyous either. Wind and tide were having a beef, though, and the vagaries of how I had to load a small parcel of oil for the ship meant that all the oil was in the stern, and so we were ass-end squatted down in the water, which meant that the stern was acting like a big sail underwater in the current, and the bow was acting like a sail in the high wind... and wind and tide were not at all coming from the same direction, so our natural inclination was to go about 60 degrees to the wind, and wallow there. Now, we're in protected waters, so it's not like there's a big swell- there was maybe a 4-foot chop, but steep and rapid, so when we were next to the ship tied off to them, we made THEM sit funny in the wind and tide, and we ended up just doing a sideways heave of about 4 feet back and forth regularly, like watching an accordion going in and out...  which was hard on our fendering, which, sadly, on that side of the HQ, are just tires stolen from a 747 jet. 

  So I only got to bed about 10pm, after we were all fast, and by 11pm we were bouncing off the side of the ship pretty well- oh, the tires did their job, but while the tires absorb shock, they do not mitigate momentum, and so every 6-8 seconds we'd bump, and every piece of metal, crockery, door, cabinet, and unsecure item would rattle and maybe go for a quick jaunt somewhere. This included me, in my rack. 

 So, no sleep for me. Listen to me bitching. I wasn't even working in all the shit weather, and the ship's engineering crew was particularly disagreeable, doing the usual complaining and lying ("Zir, ve are missink so much oil, yis yis.") I only spent a sleepless night and got rattled around like the last coffee bean in the can. My partner B got rained on, shit on and his patience tested. He's the one deserves the pity, really. 

  Even so, about 30 minutes before I was about to take over the watch, I came into the galley, opened a can of breakfast (A Monster energy drink), and stepped into the head to throw some laundry in the washer. On getting out of the head, not 60 seconds later, a tugboat deckhand had wandered into our galley, foul weather gear streaming from the rain, sat down in my chair at the table, soaking it, and moved my can of breakfast out of the way.  

 Now, it was raining, he was early coming up aboard to help get ready to sail, and basically did everything right, except I suppose some shitty part of me was looking to brighten up my day by darkening someone else's. I mean, I was really looking forward to having my caffeine and having a quiet sit-down for 20 minutes before starting my day.  B and I, after so many years together, both enjoy quiet when we are not ready for watch yet. Ideally, we just say Good morning, and that's it, until we're fully in the headspace for work or conversation. Then we can chat all day, and do, sometimes, or not. 

 At any rate, this guy's doing the right thing but he's messed up my very comforting routine on a dirty night... dirty morning, by this time. It's like 0500. 

 Now, all I said was "Bro, you wanna get the fuck out of my chair so I can get ready for my day?"  I mean, as far as rebuking someone goes, pretty mild. To his credit, the guy said nothing, just gave me a look and got up, obviously a bit insulted, but whatever. He didn't desserve to be cussed at obviously, and here on the far side of 16-oz of carbonated Attitude Adjustment I'm regretful of my word choice. Well, regretful is a strong word. I wish I had said something less cunty, though. But, to be honest, after ostentatiously getting a towel, wiping down my chair, then planting my ass down, and making eye contact with the guy while I dragged my can of breakfast across the table with a satisfying rasp and taking a big slug out of it, I settled down into a brown study (my father's term for a shitty mood) and quietly caffeinated, but by watch change I was not hard charging at my normal pace, but I no longer wanted to Kill All The Things. 

   Well, B and I had a laugh after.  We all have those moments. This was mine. 

 This is where I was saying I am the asshole of the day. I normally make a point not to be needlessly rude. I'm very specifically rude by choice, when I indulge.  

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The British are coming

 Well, they're here already. 

      The HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, the flagship of the British royal navy, is visiting New York this week. 

        ... and anchored right next to us. 

Change in seasons

 I work outside a lot, and always have preferred to. Oh, every rainy day I lament that I work outside, don't get me wrong, but I prefer to work in the open air and be a little more in sync with my environment. The change in seasons is always important to me, of course, as we go from the misery of summer to the misery of winter- those few weeks of relative comfort sure are nice though. 

    The northeast doesn't have much of an interregnum between hot and cold weather, but such as it is, we're in it now. And of course the changes bring instability. Hurricane season down south, and nor'easters up north. We're in the first nor'easter right now, riding it out at anchor, God be praised, in between jobs, so I don't have to be outside wearing 20lbs of foul weather gear and cursing the day I decided I wanted to work outside as part of my career. 

 There's not much fetch to my northeast from our anchorage here- not much open water for the wind to catch traction on the sea's surface and stir up waves, so we're getting a chop that is making us vibrate up and down a few inches, bouncing lightly, and it is not unpleasant. The occasional 'bong' noise of a wave slapping the stern causes a different vibration, and the two occasionally resonate, making metal objects in the house buzz a bit. There's also a waddling motion as we yaw from the odd reflective wave bouncing off the far side of the harbor- the chop here is confused. 

     So the past two weeks has been that time of year where every day is a fashion show requiring multiple changes of outfits as the temperatures swing widely.  Really, it's that time of year when I'm wearing jorts and a hooded sweatshirt, as being the most comfortable for the longest part of the day. Unless I'm wearing coveralls like a company man, I dress rather shabby on board. Sort of a far cry from when I'm home, where I don't like leaving the house without a collared shirt on. 

 Yes I said jorts. Jean shorts. Nothing fits and feels so comfortably in warmer weather, and my wife will throw them out if I had them at home. Apparently they're a fashion faux pas to even joke about, let alone wear, but until they rot away to the point where my parts are peeking out, I'm down to just one pair, and I plan to enjoy them. 


 We've all seen Hurricane Ian and what it did to the western part of south Florida. It's horrific. I hate saying "I dodged a bullet" because the hurricane missed me, and in so doing, it hurt a bunch of other people instead. So I'll just say that I'm grateful my area was spared but mindful that a lot of people are  in a bad way just on the other side of the swamp from my hometown. Looking over my own supplies, I can see where I need to make a few changes to be able to weather such events at home should we suffer a direct hit. I'll be addressing that in the coming days. I feel like I was a bit lax this year, with the last two years having been relatively peaceful during hurricane season in my area.