Sunday, August 28, 2022

Short Sleep

 With just a few days remaining before I go home, today was the first opportunity we've had in a bit to get a boat to bring us ashore and, for me at least, to stock up on bulky items like chicken, meat, bottled water and soda, shit tickets and paper towels, that sort of thing. Coming back to work is always a drag anyhow (the process sometimes referred to as the 'bag drag'), and doing so with 150lbs of food and drink that has to be humped from the cab to the office, then the office to the pier, then the pier to a tug or launch that may or may not be rafted up alongside another so you end up doing a hug n' lug across a couple of boats, then onto my ride, sail out to wherever the HQ might be at that moment (80% of the time it's at least an hour's steam away), then pass the bags up to the deck of the HQ on a heaving line, then up the ladder I go, get the bags into the house, then put my grub away, make up my bunk, change out of the clothes, etc etc before I can catch a nap and start working a few hours later. 

         This is pretty much tankerman routine. My partners and I all have been burned in the past with other shipmates who skimped on food, or bought too little and ate too much, etc, so we buy our own and my company pays us a grub stipend (That covers about 60-70% of food costs for one in New York, but with purchase power in numbers, tugboats can do pretty well by combining grub allowances for 5, usually sufficient, barely, to cover costs. And that's fine). 

 This is not me complaining (except about the actual amount of the stipend, which some use as  justification for living on hot dogs and cereal), it's just to illustrate that carrying our ass to work, along with luggage and a half dozen 60lb bags of grub is annoying, and thus, the stocking up we did today is an opportunity for which I am grateful. When I come back in a few weeks, I will be carrying a gym bag, a computer bag, and probably 2 grocery bags of green stuff. 

 The cost of doing this is lost sleep. I got off watch at 0530 this morning, having been up since 1400 the day before, and the tug came for us at 0830 this morning, so I got about 2 1/2 hours sleep.  Fortunately we were able to shop at man speed, so I was back aboard and in bed by noon and slept another 4 1/2 hours solidly.  

     Given the insanity of our broken-hearted world these days, I very much still am mindful of what a gift it is to be able to have my world at the moment be a matter of basic needs an no extraneous noise. It being Sunday, there wasn't even traffic to speak of in our quiet little part of Red Hook in Brooklyn, so going to the grocery store wasn't the usual feeling of an army convoy leaving the green zone. It was mild. 

 In some ways this is part of the compensation package for my job, for me at least. I do get some days where I don't have to give a fuck about the zeitgeist. Granted, my partner of 12+ years out here, B, knows enough to know that I was pretty low-energy with a bit of sleep debt, so we didn't talk much except when we did, if you get me. After I woke up tonight for watch we had plenty of time to complain to each other about the dumpster fire that is the outside world. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022


 Finally, we're out bobbing around at our mooring, and I have a watch off. We ran dog watches after midnight to flip watches, and I will be on the back watch (1800-0600 for my last week here on the HQ. 

        And what a time it's been. We've been running around like a $2 whore on Dollar Day. I think the most time off I've had since last I wrote was a 3-hour block a few days ago... which I spent doing oil changes on our generators. There's been shit getting me up out of bed a few nights, and the days... the cooler spell of seasonable summer weather (seasonable to me being under 85 degrees here in the Dog Days of August) last week ended over the weekend, and we're back to baking our balls off, although for the last few days it was more about steaming our balls off, as we got dumped on with torrential rain Monday, then one of those fogs that amplifies the sun and manages to burn your skin so much the light's actually painful. Anyone else have that? Or is it just my Irish ass? I mean, I have a tan of sorts. I'm brick red and it doesn't hurt, and that with sunblock so high that it's probably giving me skin cancer anyhow.  

 Point being, it's been busy AF, and I'm feeling it, which makes me very grateful for a night at anchor. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

being grateful

 We're scrambling here on the HQ like a cat trying to bury a turd under a marble floor.  It has been NON STOP since I came aboard, minus a few small unintentional breaks caused by missing a tide or waiting for a tugboat- none over 2 hours. Today, with 3 hours to go until the tide, will be the longest break I've had since I came aboard 10 days ago.  The heat wave hitting the northeast has made this very unpleasant, but it broke yesterday and this morning before the sun came up I had to put a long-sleeved t-shirt on with the breeze blowing. It was glorious. 

   Yesterday I was a bit of a soup sandwich from the get go. The day before was very busy especially in the late afternoon, in the peak heat of the day, and I overheated, despite my best efforts. Got dizzy and nauseous. At some point in my job, there is just no avoiding that, and the safety nazis can go suck a diseased elephant cock if they preach otherwise.  Burning my balls off in the sun, wearing the approved PPE, neck in agony from staring straight up (and into the sun more or less)  for 20 minutes running a crane with a ton or so of hose hanging 60 feet in the air to help 2 overworked tiny Filipino gentlemen on the lifeboat deck of a monster container ship to wrestle the hose flange into position to bolt it to their fuel manifold.  Sweat is pooling in my eye sockets, so on top of being half blind my eyeballs burn like a mad mother too. The staring straight up is agonizing after just a few minutes and so I need to roll my head around every minute or so, but even so, how many years has it been now since I had full range of motion in my neck? Gee, I wonder why. Container ships are getting taller, crews are getting smaller, and the time it takes to connect a hose is increasing.  So, the other day, the candle on this cake was that with all this happening, it had also rained that morning and so I had damp drawers and a nice case of diaper rash as a result, in with high 90's temps with high humidity in the afternoon, I wanted to empty my stomach of the shitty wilted salad I had for lunch, because we've been so busy that we're out of good healthy greenstuff, and the last of the salad represented the last uncanned green thing on board, so I didn't want to throw it up. You just can't eat anything but light foods in this heat. Anyway I held it in until I could go back in the house and put my head in the sink to run tepid (no such thing as cool water on a steel boat in summer) water over the back of my neck and have some ice water, which we do have, thankfully.  Anyways, it's a picture that every military person and every construction worker outside of Alaska has had to deal with, so it's nothing special, just miserable, and I wanted to paint a picture for a reason. 

   So that was the other day. Yesterday I woke up ready to be displeased by the world. Feeling cunty, as we say. But... the heat had broken in the night. There was a strong wind, 20 knots, not quite enough for whitecaps but refreshing and it lasted until about 9am before gradually tapering to a breeze, and the heat came back, but not as bad. Still, it wasn't enough to turn my frown upside down. My neck ached abysmally, breakfast came from a can, and we were running late on a job, and if I did hurry, I had a safety inspection waiting for me when we got to the next tank farm to load, so I could do double duty. 

       Yesterday's ship was a pretty but elderly small breakbulk ship, loaded deep, but not to her marks, because they were light on fuel and so stopped by in New York harbor to bunker on their way from the Caribbean to Canada. The crew were the usual gaggle of Filipino unlicensed and Eastern European officers that you find on bulk ships- which tend to pay lower than tankers or container ships, but go to better places for longer port stays. The Filipino guys were the type that I like to work with- friendly, hard working, and good team players- they had my cargo hoses connected and slung properly in short order and my deck height and theirs were level so we could talk. No staring into the sun for me, which is a blessing and a treat. 

          The chief engineer and I had our pre-transfer conference right there on our decks, about 5 feet apart, passing papers and talking through the process in a very satisfactory and professional way. After, waiting for the crew to swing valves, we got to talking, and I knew I could hear a Ukrainian accent and that's a whole can of worms right there, but I asked about where he was from, and he was from Odessa, and out came the story. 

    A month ago the chief left his home in Odessa, hitched rides and snuck across the border to Moldova along with some refugees, which involved a lot of running from various people in various uniforms, and no food for a few days, in order to get to an airport and to meet an agent from the shipowner to smooth over the irregular entry into Moldova with customs (presumably with cash gifts), and to get on a plane to meet his ship. This guy is supposed to have a 6 month contract but will likely not be going home any time soon and will have to see what he can do to help his family beyond sending them money. 

     This guy looked tough, resolute, but... obviously deeply troubled. A tortured soul, I would guess, with a good game face. He had an Immaculate Heart of Mary pendant, so I pointed and said "Eastern Orthodox, not Russian Orthodox, right?"  He laughed and said "Yis, exactly! I pray whole time I travel to Moldova. She very good for me." He pulled a gold and jeweled rosary out of his pocket. "This too. You know what is?"   "I do. I'm Catholic, but mine is at home, and not that nice."  "This was my mother's. You should travel with. You no want die without. Is good to have when you go." The Filipinos are all smiling. Of course they're all Catholic too. Generally ships seem to be either Catholic or moros, who tend towards Islam, when it comes to their Filipinos on board. How such things are organized I don't know. 

   Anyways, this all hit me like a bomb. I'm a sentimental person, although I take pains to not appear so. In talking with these guys, part of me is deeply ashamed at how self-centered and pitying my thinking has been the past few days. It was a good wake up call. I shouldn't be crying because it's not perfect weather. Here's some guys who are really dealing with some shit, and I'm all 'waah, my ass hurts and I'm hot, waah." 

 So at the end, when all was done and we called 'released' which means we're all free to part ways with all the work done, the chief waves to me and says "God bless you, now, keep you safe,'  and no bullshit, I choked right up, hard. I had been dwelling on his lot while we were working.  Near to shamed myself when he said that, I came that close to tearing up.   After about 5 seconds that felt like an hour I got out a real froggy "God and Mary and Patrick be with you," which is a nice and very old Irish parting blessing I'm very partial to but have few opportunities to use. 

    The rest of the day and this morning have been a little better, and I'm feeling more grateful for what I have. I think I got my clock reset. 

Monday, August 8, 2022


 I had to delete my last post. Shoulder Man Is Going To Be An Engineer Some Day  was on board yesterday again, and he did a fine job in a professional manner, and worked up a sweat from his labors. 

 As my post was about my oddball encounter with this boy, and he is now batting .500 in my book after working with him twice, kid deserves not to be immortalized by being made fun of. He stands a chance. He done good, and it makes me wonder what the hell was wrong the other night that he left such a terrible first impression, but whatever, the kid was in boy scout/astronaut mode, and  we've all fucked up before. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

I was actually ready to go back to work. (recipes included)

 It's always a bummer to see the end of my time off come. 

   I spent last night at the Weed Palace, the 0-star Brooklyn hotel where my company stuffs us to rub elbows with the finest discount prostitutes and low-rent shabby pimps, and angry loud people who insist on only using speakerphone on their Obamaphones.  The teeny tiny pillows offered to us who don't rent rooms in 4-hour blocks have the exact consistancy of partially cooked cauliflower. That's new. I know I have a big head, but a pillow should be larger than a decorative mini couch pillow, even for people with normal sized melons. 

  No blood or semen stains on the coverlet this time, so that was a bonus. 

       I allowed myself 7 hours of rest time, which gave me about 2 hours of sleep. At the Weed Palace, you choose from the side of the building that faces a VERY busy fire station with hourly call-outs, or a busy aboveground length of subway junction, where you get both the squealing of trains making a tight curve AND the clunks of train wheels changing tracks on a tight curve. I opted for the train, as I have a white noise generator on my phone and headphones that are so loud they leave my ears ringing. 

 So that was a fun night.  I will say that Brooklyn has the enormously positive feature that you can get food from anywhere in the world locally.  I had an early flight yesterday so I had arab food for lunch and takeout Korean barbecue for dinner.  Great stuff. I'm not kidding when I say it packed a punch, but I will say that the pigeons outside the windows backed off a solid 1/4 mile when I kicked on the bathroom fan. 

     This morning was the usual crew change rigmarole. Because New York is retarded, I have to pack bulky reusable grocery bags in my luggage from FL, as it's a felony to offer grocery store customers plastic bags. Or smiles, probably.  I also bought heavy, as I'm once again making a concerted effort to lose weight and last night's feasting was the last hurrah. I have about 12lbs of chicken and a 4lb picanha (a sirloin cap) in the deep freeze on board, so I loaded up on fresh vegetables, cases of water, 0salad, eggs and also a large quantity of diet soda, normally about a week's worth, but which will have to last me 4 weeks, as I am also in need of drinking more water and less caffeinated artificially sweetened beverages.  Normally I avoid too much water. Fish shit in it, you know. 

 I'm still having 2 slices of bacon with breakfast, healthy eating or not. I'd rather just die than give up bacon, especially at work. It's not always fun to be a sailor. At least I have bacon. 

         My time home? Amazing. The first week, I was pretty good. Mostly sober. Got some exercise, sun, but limited in what I could do with my shoulder being sore. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife took a fair bit of time off from work so we had a lot more days and nights together.  Second week was much better in terms of comfort, and so I swam a lot, went out a lot, and ate and drank to repletion (and beyond) a little too often.  We also threw a little barbecue over the weekend, and that, while small, was amazing fun. My brother and I were the only gringos there, and one of my wife's friends is a private bartender for events in Miami, so we had some amazing Brazilian-inspired drinks, I grilled picanha, chicken, Brazilian linguica, and the ladies, led by my wife, worked to cook rice, Farofa (If you don't know what farofa is, you are seriously missing out) as well as roasted yuca, and a Brazilian Vinaigrette salsa 

      Most of my guests being Brazilian, after dinner the drinking, swimming, and dancing went up a notch. It was very pleasant to watch, Brazilian women being what they are, but I held off from dancing until after my brother had gone home to wait for the meat sweats, and our bartender/dance instructor handed me a glass of whisky to wash down all the food and fruity drinks and I got out there and lumbered my way through what little samba I can manage. 

    I haven't woken up hung over in a while. It's been even longer since I woke up hung over and with sore legs. The ache in my knees wasn't there 20 years ago last time I did that, though. Thanks, aging. At any rate, I also had a raspy voice from laughing and talking so much. Not everyone made it home, as I didn't want to see anyone driving drunk, and so my somewhat decrepit ass put together a hangover cure breakfast to restore body and soul. Scrambled smoked eggs, bacon (of course!), expresso-ground coffee made as strong as possible, mimosas, fresh biscuits and roasted leftover yuca fried in butter. 

       One VERY cool thing about Brazilians is just how social they are. Cleaning a kitchen after a major event is also a social event. Everyone participates, and it makes things go faster. My wife being the Dona Do Casa (The lady of the house), she ran the show like a conductor and it went quickly. I went out to fish champagne corks and wire stops, a flipflop, and some lime slices out of the pool and reunite bikinis left to dry on the table with their owners. By noon we had the house to ourselves and had tidied up the remnants of the night before and retired to the couch to take root. 

     I included links to recipes and descriptions to those foods above, but I'll warn you that the farofa article is insane. I have never had fruit in farofa, and instead of corn, the Brazilians I know use green pigeon peas. For meat, it's usually finely chopped bacon, linguica, smoked shredded rib meat or the like. 

 So, yeah, I maybe waddled onto the plane when I flew up here for a couple of weeks of Freehab here at Hawsepiper's Afloat Global HQ/ Fat camp. Next time I'm home I'll have to take it easy if I want to be able to see my toes again.