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.