Friday, September 23, 2022

It's NY harbor. If you don't like the weather, go F*&k yourself.

 So there's like 2 dozen expressions we use about working around NY harbor that all end in "go f*&k yourself" 

   "Hey, do you know what time it is, or should I just go ahead and F&#k myself? 

 "You know what they say, if you don't like the weather, go ahead and F@ck yourself!" 

"There's a dead body passing down the port side in case you don't want to just go F*$k yourself like usual tonight." 

        NY is famous for being crude and rude. And tugboaters call that just another Tuesday, so we don't notice until someone from away makes us notice. 

      So yesterday evening I was in shorts and a t-shirt out on deck after watch, it was sunny and calm, and today, when I took the watch over at 0530, I'm in a sweatshirt and watch cap because it's 50 degrees out and blowing 40. Our tugboat has a deckhand trainee from Maine who's so new he smells like pine trees still. And the crew of the tanker we were departing from alongside was a little negligent when they cast off our lines- at the first chock, they drop my stern line directly in the water, and a spring line  he heaves out the eye directly over my head. I'm standing well out of the path of the line, so it took work to get me in the danger zone. I quickly step out of way and give that 'Hey, hey, hey!' yell that means I am looking for attention- I tell the deckies up above me to be careful dropping lines so nobody gets hurt, and to please drop the lines on my deck, not in the water.  I get a wave back, and everything's cool, I think, until at the next  chock forward... the guy again fires the eye of the mooring line at my head, sidearming it at my melon. 

    I immediately cuss him out, hard, calling him all manner of things foul, scattering f-bombs and questioning his competence, before going nuclear and dropping the "Yo momma's a 'ho" in tagalog, which got him pie-eyed. I don't know what the problem was, but  he dropped the last two lines like a Christian after that, so good enough. 

     In talking with the new tug guy, I cautioned him against doing what I did. The guy on a ship up above has all the means and ways in the world to hurt the guy closer to the water, higher ground and all, and the best defense against getting an object thrown at you is to be nice. I normally really, really try to be nice to foreign ships- for one, they're our customers, two, full of guys trying to make a living and getting paid shit for it under hard conditions and 3, to avoid getting hurt.  Of those things, #3 is the one that is most self-serving. I have taken part in games more than once where  a supervisor on my then-ship promised $25 to anyone who could knock the hard hat off a rude linehander's head below us, with a thrown monkey's fist. Honestly, I never won, but it wasn't for lack of trying. 

 So, in talking with the kid, out there in a t-shirt and too proud to admit he's freezing his nuts off, I stressed that cussing out someone as I did was a last resort, and not a first resort, which is more normal, sadly, here in NY. I also told him that he might be from the land of ice and snow, but somebody already killed Jesus, so no reason to die for other people's sins, and to put on a damn sweatshirt.

 I really do wonder what the hell was going on in that tanker deckie's mind. Maybe trying to brighten up a shitty day by ruining someone else's? Who knows. 


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Deep in a mild grind

 So, one week in today, and I'm well into the routine- today we run dog watches (because they're cur-tailed, har har!), as I shift from working the night watch to the days. Today is warm and sunny, very pleasant outside, and we're at anchor, so I spent the morning spot painting outside, just enjoying the breeze. There aren't too many painting days left, and we have already done what we set out to do this year, painting-wise. 

 Really, I'm just in the grind now. We've got work coming up, and the schedule has been pretty humane this week, so I got all my indoor and outdoor honey-do's done.

   I've been following the news in seeing that the world is getting more insane, not less, and I am grateful to have my job, not just because it's a job, but because it's a job that keeps me out of pop culture's reach. I do wish it didn't keep me so close to New York, just because there's plenty of angry people elsewhere who feel like NY needs an atomic enema, and here I am sailing around the 'taint. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Brooklyn's Industry City, or The Most New York Walk Ever

 So we're sitting at a lay berth in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, not one of our normal haunts. This particular berth is usually reserved for the clean oil royalty Retirees, a half dozen clean oil barges whose crews have been doing one cargo a month for the past 15 years and sitting and chewing their cud the rest of the time getting paid. 

That's a whole 'nother story. Anyways, the HQ doesn't normally hang out here but the retirees are out of town, either at anchor, working, or at a different lay berth and so here we are. 

        Where are we? We're at an abandoned waterfront parking lot with collapsing warehouses, rusty chain link fences, weeds, metal scrap and mooring bitts  at the water's edge. And oddly enough, there is shore access here. You have to walk through the abandoned area, past a couple of abandoned guard shacks at abandoned fence gates that are open, all looking post-apocalyptic AF, and THEN, you come to the gate. The gate has a guard protecting the steel scrap, rats, trash, and abandoned warehouses from the neighbors. And the gate has a guard. A shirtless monoglot Central American watching TV on a 30 year old portable TV, who doesn't look up if you go through the gate. 

     I guess the parking area was where FEMA stuck all the reefer trucks that Covid failed to fill up with the predicted bodies at one time, as the falling-over fences had relatively new barbed wire, now mostly trip hazards.  The whole place looks like a set from The Walking Dead. I mean it's gross... but you know what's worse? The neighborhood outside the gate. First off, there are a half dozen sketchy people, some wearing a nondescript unarmed guard uniform, some not, all gathered around the partially stripped remnants of a rusty Honda Civic.  The abandoned massive building across the street has trash blowing out of it, and glass from the hundreds of broken windows is all over the street and sidewalks. There aren't any burning barrels, but then again, I haven't been out at night. 

         Anyways, armed with my trusty roll of quarters that I keep in my pocket because I can't have guns in NY and even carrying a sap is illegal, I pass by the bad 80's movie set that is this slice of Mogadishu in Brooklyn, before crossing the gentrification line and hitting Industry City. 

      It's hard to describe Industry City. It's a half dozen or so identical WWII era massive industrial buildings, possibly ex-military, that has been turned into hundreds of small shops, factories, restaurants, distilleries and furniture showrooms. It's a very cool concept. I bought a cut of good meat from a butcher, the spices and ingredients to make tzatziki from a middle eastern grocer, and checked out the blacksmith's shop that was forging parts for the maker's workshop the next floor up. The assorted distilleries and brewhouse restaurants had an appeal too, but being as shipowners are puritanical beasts, I did not partake.

     The biggest two negatives to me was that all the public spaces were infected with hipsters smoking weed, including the restaurant seating and playground. Aside from working a job that requires me to be drug-free, I absolutely abhor the smell of weed, and there were at least two dozen people smoking weed in my 30-minute walk in the common spaces between buildings. God I hate that smell. And I hate hipsters. Now I have a reason to hate them even more. The dingy-looking probably-wealthy assholes who were smoking joints upwind from where a half-dozen kids were messing around in the pretty decent playground deserved a punch in the throat or at a minimum to have ground glass shoved in their eyes and then to be thrown on the ground and kicked about the face, neck, head, chest and genitals until they changed shape. 

 But I digress. At any rate, I had a nice walk, minus all the damn people.  The walk back to the dock was pretty much as it was on the way out- I crossed the gentrification line, shifty people started going by, trash blowing about underfoot, and the 'security' guards, who very obviously are criminals with cover stories, were side-eying me again when a Canadian goose stepped in my path from between two broken down cars, got startled and flew off, honking, but unable to get much altitude in the short distance, it barreled down towards the ringleader, who let out a pretty fair high-pitched shriek and ran with his hands in the air. I then passed by the shirtless gate attendant shortly thereafter, who was still watching Univision on the 1985-era Radio-Shack portable TV and scratching his armpit fairly energetically, too much so to notice me. It is about a 10-12 minute walk to the pier from that gate, and not a soul to be seen in 50 or so acres of cracked and weedy asphalt,  which is an odd feeling in the heart of NYC.  

 I dunno. The whole thing is weird. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Two A Days

 So, I know the expression "Two a days" is a sportsball reference, but it's appropos here. I'm not into televised sports. Or organized sports, really.  At all. I reluctantly played football briefly in high school before quitting in relief to go work and make money instead of playing children's games for free. So I participated in two a days for a time over the course of two years. They were awful. The whole thing was awful as I recall. Even as an adult I can't even stand to be around people watching sports. The whole thing is just very very gay. Unnervingly so. 

   But I recall two a days having a particular effect on me as a teenager, and I experienced that same feeling last week. Sick, dehydrated, dizzy, unhappy, uncomfortable, unmotivated. Oh the memories. 

 The US Coast Guard requires that whether or not you participate in fire and boat drills in the course of your maritime career (both being required on every inspected vessel and most uninspected ones too), in order to maintain STCW credentialing enabling you to work on oceans, you have to have refresher training in water survival and firefighting every 5 years. 

 Last week was that day for me. And to save on time and be efficient, participation in water survival and firefighting is done in the same day. The same very long day.  This is good in that it is efficient, and not so good in that it can kick your ass if you were to do these things in, say, South Florida in the summer. 

      So, last week one day I spent the morning in a pool, in a gumby suit, doing things like donning the suit very quickly, racing up a 10' ladder and jumping off a diving board. Which is actually good fun except that doing this in a survival suit meant to keep you warm in arctic  ocean conditions in winter isn't all that much fun on a 95 degree sunny day. While overheating badly, ironically while swimming, albeit in a thick neoprene suit that fit badly, the liferaft exercises kicked my ass.   Flipping over an overturned liferaft, then getting in the stupid thing unassisted, then getting out, repeat, rinse. Kicked my ass, made me nauseous from the heat. Good training. 

           I did this class with the same South FL maritime school I've been using for the past few years. As mentioned in other posts, this is mostly a school for yacht crew, and this was no exception. My classmates were young, fit, inexperienced and attractive people with great hair.  But there were 3 of us who were commercial guys, all far older than the beautiful people. One bosun from an oceanographic ship, one federal mariner from the Military Sealift Command, and me. Arthritis, joint aches, beer bellies, experience. So we got set up by the instructors as 'liferaft commanders' and each of us had to run the group liferaft exercises for our little 6-men teams. It was fine, all of us had been there, and unlike the yacht kids, actually have to drill, rather than have logbooks pencil whipped for fear of chafing the upholstery.  I found my kids pleasant to work with; they took very well to being nicknamed in order to assign tasks (I named them Stick-Bird, Jeorgeous George, Shemp's Nephew, Probably Jailbait and Hot Topic), and when the time came, they were very solicitous of helping my flailing ass get positioned in the door of the raft after I had a hard time getting onto a 4 point stance at the very end of the exercise, where I was starting to see double from the heat.  Anyhow it all went well, other than my being in hell at the time. 

   The afternoon was firefighting, and it was here that the gray-hairs had the advantage- the firefighters all were afraid we'd die on them, and so we got to do all the exercises first. Getting suited up and on air in 95 degree weather wasn't so nice, especially after courting heat stroke that morning. And so, on the last exercise, which was a body recovery exercise done in the dark while on air in a smoke-filled compartment, and sensing that I had only a very few minutes of work left in me before either barfing in my air mask or just dropping, rather than doing a 2-man drag of the weighted mannequin out into the sun from the closed compartment, I tapped my young teammate, said 'help keep me balanced' and threw the mannequin on my shoulder and bulled my way out of the compartment, My teammate was good as gold and steadied me until I could get my balance while duck-walking with the the mannequin like a laptop bag.  I threw that dummy a good 5 feet when we got out into the air, and the firemen, who knew what time it was, obviously, hustled to get me around the corner, got me off air and dumped a bottle of water on my head.  I noticed that they did the same with the other commercial guys. I also noticed that my back said that there was to be no more mannequin tossing. 

      I find that these periodic refresher classes are very useful. Like it or not, I always forget things that aren't always covered in on-board drills. And I enjoy playing fireman.  To that end, I regret than environmental conditions definitely detracted from the class for me... BUT, they actually represent good training. Conditions are not likely to be ideal in an emergency.   To that end, I realized that, unhappily, I have to do some additional strength and conditioning training if I don't want to feel like I did during that class. Granted, I'm not going to run around like Tarzan for an hour before putting a cold-water gumby suit on and jumping in 90-degree water, but still, being distracted, sick, uncomfortable is probably going to be the best I can hope for in an emergency.   I noticed that when I had kids to order around I was less focused on being miserable and more focused on making sure they were OK and learning. I guess experience counts for something. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

I'm not dead yet... again

 I had a wonderful time at home. Mostly wonderful. I got my ass kicked in a training class. I'll write about that when I'm installed in the Weed Palace, the by-the-hour hotel (pillow and pimp not included) that my company stows us at for crew change to make sure we don't stay a moment longer than necessary.  That'll be tomorrow if the good Lord wills it.