Saturday, December 30, 2023

Hu's on first?

 I had one of those moments this morning where I stopped what I was doing and looked at the crew on deck of the ship opposite me, and said out loud (to myself) "Are these guys fucking with me?"

    It was a legitimate question. We had finished transferring a small parcel of ULSFO, (ultra low sulfur heavy fuel oil, a clean burning heavy oil) to a ship with a Chinese (I think) deck gang. There was a Filipino engineer with great English, but the deck gang was... well, they sure were trying to speak to me in English, that's for sure. Points for that. But the poor guys... they weren't there yet.

 And yeah, unless someone speaks to me in English or Portagee, I'm just as lost as can be. I'm not poking fun. 

         We finished transferring the oil and I had passed over the documents for the transfer, so I was waiting for them to sign for the fuel and start disconnecting my cargo hose.... and waiting... and waiting. 

     After 45 mins I called on the radio, and asked for the papers.  "Yis papiz my fren', yis yis.  Beedee enn. (BDN is the Bunker Delivery Note, the chain of custody document/bill of sale).    I take this to mean they're still working on it or he has them ready, so I hang out on deck and wait.... and wait. 

    Call again on the radio, and it's the same thing.... and I get this feeling... either there's a communication gap or this guy's asking me for the papers I already gave him. So I remind him that I gave him the papers an hour ago.  "Ok Ok.  I send for you give me papers now." 

 This went on for a couple of back and forths, but the poor guys were trying like hell to work with limited English and didn't know the words to tell me that they didn't know I had already given someone the paper work. 

    And truth be told, I couldn't say who I gave the papers to. I won't say that all the crew looks alike, but rather that I didn't notice what any of them looked like.  So I asked for the engineer. 

 I can understand Tagalog-flavored English. Most Filipinos speak very decent English, and even when they don't I have enough experience to parse it out and the accent doesn't interfere. So finally we figure out that somehow they lost my papers and it'll be faster for me to reprint them than to continue searching. 

       Thing is, younger me would have been yelling and making drama.  Me of today, with a chronic shortage of shits to give, shrugged it off and we got things done in short order... and truth be told, when I was running our deck crane to retrieve the cargo hose from their ship, they were grinning about the language barrier too and waving and so I think they got the humor in all of it. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Hey, who shat in the Santa Hat?

 With Christmas coming up on Monday, The gods of the Office (Long may they manage; long may they shit light on the heads of the damned) headed home early today, leaving us with a tentative schedule of  cargo ops for the next 4 days.  It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, I'm free tonight, which is nice. OTOH, it looks like Christmas day will be a pisser, and busy.

    So it goes. 

     I'm generally late to pull my santa hat out of the bottom of my locker, where it is located for storage along with pocket change, balled up store receipts, one sock from 2012, 4-6 Qtips of questionable provenance and 3-4 unwrapped Jolly Ranchers.  Tomorrow's the day. Good day for a lint- crusted Jolly Rancher too. 

   I'm late to pull out my Santa hat because 1), it's just a little too small, and therefore slightly uncomfortable and 2) I remember one boat at Christmas when someone shit in the santa hat and left it on the icemaker. 

 Seriously, every sailor, and even the sailors of the US navy who can't navigate from A to B without doing an elephant walk and following the one guy in the fleet who can read a chart,  in the course of a long enough career, has had to deal with a Phantom Shitter aboard. 

    Well, my experience came with, along with an unlikeable mate's coffee cup, someone crapping in a santa hat. 

     Even though I know it's not going to happen, I still don't leave my santa hat out where someone can mistake it for a polling station when they go and Vote Someone Aff The Island with their ass. 

Return to the HQ

 Well, my trip spent working over (meaning working during my scheduled time off) is now over, and I got the Barbie Dream home babysitting gig that I have been asking for, finally. Occasionally as needs must, opportunities come up for afloat staff to act in more of a caretaker role aboard tugs and barges, rather than a crewing role... oh, we're still crew, mind, but compared to, say, a mellow day on a bunker barge, a babysitting day means rest, time off, and work generally consists of Fire Watch (Am I on fire? No? Fire watch continues. and cooking and having idle time. 

       So, I have babysitting gig PTSD.  My company likes to offer be babysitting positions from time to time, then anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 days after I get aboard, woops, change in plans, you're going somewhere miserable and you'll be working with so-and-so, who is a super nice guy who screams himself to sleep and has bedbugs.  Yeah, I've been Charlie Fucking Brown and my company's dispatcher has been Lucy with the football a few times. Fool me 8 times, shame on you, fool me 9, etc etc. 

 Well, I got my 2 weeks of babysitting. And it was grand.  There was daily chores to be done, and something broke, every single day, and most of the tools were stolen off of there while the barge was sitting idle for a few months this past summer, so fixing the broke stuff required fabricobbling things and using tools wrong because I had to make do with what I had.  I'm actually pretty good at ghetto fixes, you know, redneck engineering, so that's OK. 

     The other night we had hard gales hit the northeast, and while flooding don't mean shit while you're on a boat, the wind gusting past 70 sure as hell does. Luckily we were sitting in a flooded drydock with lines out on both sides like a spider sitting in the middle of a web. 

...and that's how it is in the US coastal northeast from New York to the Canadian maritimes. One day in mid-November, the wind starts to blow, and after that it doesn't stop until frigging May. 

   I made it back to the HQ on Wednesday, and with the holidays here and so many crew positions unfilled and not being supplemented by guys working overtime (it's Christmas, nobody wants the overtime work and instead wants to be at home), we're very busy- I had to wait until Friday at 3am to sit down finally, with the current 3 hour block of free time I have tonight. 

    Anyhow, it's good to be back on the HQ. Babysitting was awesome, without a doubt, but the HQ is home, and I feel better here. The noises are annoying, not strange at all, which is the opposite to the babysitting barge I was on, which had a nice water hammer effect going on in the heads, causing a gunshot-like sound everytime someone flushed the toilet. There was no peeing over the side, either, as there was an office building with a LOT of windows looking down on us, and I don't want to deal with the paparazzi while I'm trying to fill the ocean back up. 

          I bought a whole chicken for Christmas. I made turkey for Thanksgiving, so Christmas dinner we're just roasting a chicken and making good fixins. From the look of things we have a cargo set up for the day that will keep us focused on work. 

 This is week 7 for me. I'm getting too old for staying away from home this long, lol. It's not as easy as it once was. 

   Still, it's fine and good to be back on my home away from home. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Still here

 Well, I'm still at work. I got off the HQ last week, loaded up on groceries and headed for the Brooklyn Navy Yard to my 2 week babysitting assignment. So far so good one week in! 

     So, NY city has multiple power plants, no surprise there, it's a massive city and has grown organically over time, so there are a mix of old, new, and old-as-fuck powerplants all over the city, all of varying sizes and all using various fuel sources as well.  I believe all the coal-fired plants were converted to Heavy Fuel Oil some years back, so there's heavy fuel, natural gas and or gasoil (diesel) for fuel. Of the powerplants, there are main plants, cogeneration plants (that make both electricity and heat, usually as steam), and peak plants too, that run only when electrical demand is high, like during heat waves and the dead of winter when temps are in the single digits.  

            So my babysitting gig is basically me being a caretaker of a barge that is being used as floating storage next to a couple of very large shore tanks, and topping up the tanks as they are drained down. It's the opposite of bunkering, where we're always on the move, and half the time we go to bed not knowing what the next day might hold for us.  In my case, every morning I check in with the powerplant's control room to check our comms, and he'll give me the skinny on anything coming in the day that might affect my barge. 

 It's all so professional and controlled and managed. Unchaotic.  I should be in tankerman heaven here, with a predictable schedule and lower-than-normal workload. 

     And I am, more or less. Except that I'm still dealing with fallout from home, with the construction on the new house being at a standstill because while Bank of America was retarded about me getting house-building money out of the US, my local Brazilian bank is even worse in terms of bureaucracy. So my wife has been very patient, except when she is not, at which point she becomes hell on wheels. So that's where things stand there. 

   Trying to stay positive, I'll just say that I'm grateful I have the time during the day to spend about 90 minutes on the phone EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY emailing and talking and forwarding attached documents and practicing my swearing in Portagee.   

 Ah well. At least the workload is light. Other than a snapped serpentine belt on one of the generators here, things have been pleasantly predictable.  If I could keep my eyes and my mind in the boat, it sure would be a nice tour here at work. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Damn, I just end up with 3rd worlders with B.O. next to me.


Female air passenger 'who forcibly performed oral sex on man sitting next to her before he "stopped resisting'' is escorted off jet to cheers from fellow travellers after flight lands in Moscow

   What the hell, man? I always end up with either an elderly Hasidic gentleman with the hot farts or some stinky foreigner making me gag for 3 hours because deodorant is Colonialism or some such excuse. 

       Some bohunk dingleberry just flying from A to B  gets a hummer from a crazy blonde stranger (and we all know mentally ill women give the best blowjobs. Sorry not sorry), and I get either someone with BO issues or a person taking up the middle seat whose tailor is Omar The Tentmaker. 


Lucy and the Football

    So with the new house in Brazil looking distinctly like a present day home on the Gaza strip after a vigorous JDAM-powered renovation, and in need of attention in the form of money,  I am planning on staying at work rather than going home in a few days.  I have secured promises of a good fill-in position to keep the coffers coffed. I am learning much about the Brazilian economy. It cost me more to buy nice matching doorknobs for all the doors than it did for the beautiful exotic hardwood to build the doors themselves. That's another thing. It's cheaper to build a custom real wooden door than to buy a vinyl, metal and plastic McDoor  like we do in the US.  I have no idea what the final look of my house will be, but I can tell you it's gonna have some right fancy doors. And a disco ball and lava lamp, which I just remembered I always wanted since I was 7.

 So, yeah, long story short, since I was just gonna be home for early-mid december and back here well before Christmas, I am just going to stay, I think, and get the OT.  My wife AND my kid are both working Christmas this year. I'd likely drink a glass of hemlock if I sat in the living room alone on Christmas day.  

     The last few months have been really busy and on the high side, stress-wise at work. The only reason I AM planning to work over is that I have a good spot lined up. Thing is, my particular fleet manning coordinator has to play whac-a-mole to fill the constant manning gaps we have had for the past few years. 

   I have NEVER had a prime overtime position that I was able to keep for more than 2-3 days. Always, always, always, my company will call, apologize and transfer me onto some spot that is something far worse than where I was promised to be assigned.  I know that this is not maliciously done, just an unfortunate confluence of need on their part and experience on mine. 

 Thing is, as I age, and as my daily work stress and job satisfaction waxes and wanes, it affects me more, and my tolerance for Taking One For the Team becomes a matter of trying to remember if there has ever been a time that the Team has ever Taken One for Me.  

  Well, that's pessimistic. I am overdue for a satisfactory OT gig. This could be my time. And if it's not? Well, same-day flights to my local airport are a thing. Being big and in the middle seat isn't THAT bad for me. It's hell for the folks on either side of me, granted, but I Take One For The Team almost every time I fly in that respect, whether I'm in the aisle or the window seat. It can be someone else's turn to spend 3 hours with a numb arm. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

dinner with a side of bribery

  Well, Thanksgiving day was a shit show but it worked out in the end here on the floating prison that I call my workplace. We had all the signs of a rare day off on a holiday, a double win, only to have a nasty phone call come in late at night with orders to sail immediately for a load. 

    I was asleep, visions of Thanksgiving dinner, which it was my turn to cool, dancing in my head. We had been given a few hours to go shopping and load up on supplies the week before, so I actually had all the things we needed. So yeah, I went to bed feeling good about the next day, and woke up when a tug bumped us and I heard an engine light off and the hydraulics kick on. Fuuuuuuucccccckkkk. 

     BUT, it was a small, single product job. Just one grade of oil to load, straightforward, and I finished the job by 2pm and started cooking. I bought a turkey sans wings and legs, so it only took 2 hours to cook, and we ate really, really well.  

 Good thing, too, because when dinner was over, the phone calls started. 

          So we've bought a wreck of a home in my wife's birth city in Brazil. Not being wealthy or connected, the US is VERY reluctant to allow ordinary douchebags like me to transfer a large sum of money overseas. Worse, I'm buying a home from an estate- the owner died 10 years ago, and is son and heir is selling it to me, but the son is poor like everyone, and can't afford the legal process to bring the house out of probate- hence the deal I got. I'm paying for that out of the cost of the house. The realtor who is making the deal is the owner's cousin, who also grew up in the home, who is also a childhood friend of my wife, who grew up next door to this house. 

    So the first time I tried to wire the money to Brazil, Bank of America queered the deal by doing some seriously sketchy shit. I have not had good luck with B of A. They are assholes. But they're assholes who are conveniently located in almost every coastal city and town in the US.  So, yeah, B of A hires a 3rd party company to handle the wire transfer. Why? Because BofA says they'll send the money in reals, the local currency, so I have an American company handling the currency exchange. Presumably opportunity for graft, which Brazil lives and dies for...  But the 3rd party tells the receiving bank in Brazil they want 0.5% of the money as a fee for the transfer BEFORE the bank even hands it to me. Now I already paid B of A's fee.  The Bank in Brazil, being a bunch of like-minded ball-washing bastards, knows that American banks are a colossal pain in the balls and while reliable, awful to deal with, so they're already kinda pissed off. And they tell the 3rd party company to pound sand. 

   It takes 2 weeks to recall an unclaimed wire transfer internationally. B of A actually assigns a person to run down the money.   And to their credit, B of A got my money back in 13 days, every penny. 

   So we resend the money, in US dollars this time. The bank in Brazil will give us the exchange rates, which means we figure we're going to lose a couple thousand bucks compared to the real exchange rate of the day. BUT, the bank is already spooked by B of A. They're so bad to deal with, and the US government is so intrusive when it comes to tracking ordinary citizens, that they want the real estate transfer papers BEFORE they'll release the money to the realtor. They figure that B of A is going to accuse them of money laundering if they don't have a paper trail as long as my crank.  And the worst part for me is that I KNOW, in my heart of hearts, that the local bank just wants my to slide them a couple hundred beans their way to make the problems go away. That's how Brazil works. Graft is predictable there. They'll even be super polite doing it. The IRS's onerous total control over US citizens is so pervasive that the rest of the world finds interacting with them on our behalf as a form of punishment. The manager gets no bribe, and the home purchase is held up yet again. 

 You know, it would have been easier to get the money in the realtor's hands illegally or quasi-legally. Withdraw the money from my bank over the course of a few weeks, and give it to my wife's friends to remit to the realtor's account a few grand at a time using the cash transfer systems set up by the Indians to funnel money out of the US for illegal aliens to send money home. .Western Union, Remitly, Xoom, Zelle, Cashapp, Easy. Nothing to it. But my idiot ass has to want to do it the right way and generate a paper trail for legal purposes so it doesn't appear sketchy, and I mistrust the financial system in Brazil at the moment because it is controlled by socialists who HATE America right now. 

        This better be worth it. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

sun shines on a dog's ass some days

 Well, howdee-do, I think we got Thanksgiving off! 

          This is a breath of fresh air. It's been right steady work-wise this tour. Plus the prospect of not going home at the end of it, for like a dog to its' vomit, so this fool has returned to his folly (of asking for and receiving overtime work), so with about 55 days of work to go before I breathe the free air, it's hard to get excited about much... but... tomorrow's a holiday, and my ass may be able to stay tied up at a lay berth and cook an honest meal. 

     This morning Big E, one of the kings of overtime this year, is going home for his full 2 weeks off, and has committed to not working over as much in 2024. I hope he does. I spent the last several years doing minimal overtime, and it was wonderful. 

    With Big E headed home, B came aboard at oh-dark-thirty, just before 0500 this morning. We had a small gale hitting us last night, so B and I caught up while waiting for the stores to open and the rain to stop, and just after 7 we went ashore and got the last of the Thanksgiving fixin's purchased. We also had a chance to get breakfast at Junior's, the famous Brooklyn diner that lays claim to inventing the modern cheesecake. This is the first time in I can't remember how long, maybe a year? since we had time to sit down and eat a meal while ashore. 

   My job has gotten a LOT less fun in the past 3 years. I don't believe I could do this work any longer if I didn't have B or E working with me. Too much stress, too much negativity, not enough quality of life while at work... but when carried out with a friend, or even better in my case, with two good friends, the work becomes tolerable, and nothing makes a shitty day better than sharing it. So that helps. 

           But I didn't come here (entirely) to bitch and moan. It's thanksgiving and I have a LOT to be grateful for.  Sure, my job satisfaction isn't among them, but having the damn job is. 

        The house in Brazil is coming along, but slowly. There's a lot of demo happening, which is a tad depressing to look at, as the house looked ROUGH before they started fucking it up even worse. But still, one step at a time, I guess.  

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

EDIT:   Yeah, at midnight we got a call. Tugs dispatched to help us out of the berth, time to go to work after all. There was a breakdown on one of our barges, and we got the nod to pinch hit, On the upside, it was straightforward, and we were done by 1300 today, so I got to cook and we did get to eat a hot dinner.  Could have been worse. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

nothing much to report

 The days are running together- I've been here about 2 weeks, but it's hard to tell the difference between one day and the next. There's plenty of work, some off time here and there, too, but not much. 

 The weather is turning colder, and while I'm not seeing the massive backlog of container ships bringing all the cheap Chinese crap for Christmas, I am seeing a LOT of tanker traffic, and I'm doling out small parcels of fuel for these ships almost every day.   Weird. 

    Not much inspiration happening at the moment. Thanksgiving is Thursday, and we'll cook well here on the HQ, small as it may be. 

Also, whoever said air fryer french fries are just as good as the real thing can eat a dick. Ruined a perfectly good russet spud. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Back to it

I had an amazing two weeks at home. I spent the first week with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife in Ashe County, NC, where we rented a remote isolated cabin and spent a few days just enjoying each other's company and wandering around.    The second week was more routine at home, but full of good times. 

But back at it today, and on arrival, before I was even out of my street clothes, I was climbing over a dead generator. Serpentine belt let go. Replacing it is annoying, but not difficult. It's one of those things where I have to remove parts in order to get at certain nuts to remove other parts. Engineering like that makes me weep, as I am neither a confident nor knowledgeable mechanic, so tearing apart half of the radiator in order to remove one section of safety shroud has me clenching fabric and chewing a hole in my underwear with my butthole. 
   And worse when I discovered that the replacement belt is the wrong size.  We went from some NAPA clone belt to what looks like a Chinesium grade belt, so I couldn't match part numbers anyhow, but as we have only one type of serpentine belt for our gensets, I thought it was a correct replacement. 

 Anyhow, turns out, we don't have the right belt. And now I need new jeans because I am institutionally unable to not get covered in shit or grease when there is shit or grease within eyesight. 

 Ah well. Welcome back, and here's an extra set of work pants for the month. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Home tomorrow, and a new phase begins

 Well, tomorrow is another trip done. I'm going home, briefly. Months ago, I booked a long weekend trip in the Blue Ridge mountains, and so we're packing the car as soon as I get home and headed out Thursday morning. 

     It's been a minute since I did a road trip with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, who is a good travel companion, once we get out of south Florida, anyhow. She is an absolute pill when it comes to highway driving close to home for some reason, but once we're a bit out of town she settles right down. 

 I don't plan on being home for the holidays this year. It's my year to work Thanksgiving, Christmas AND New Year's day, anyhow, and this year we've been in the final stages of a BIG project that has been in the works for about 3 years, and finally got enough of our ducks in a row to pull the trigger. 

 I bought us, I suppose I should say WE bought us, a house in Brazil. Closing is next week. 

   I bought a house in Brazil about 8-10 years ago, a tiny little place for my mother-in-law. I paid for it and put it in her name, so technically we don't own property in Brazil yet.  The old house itself is too small for anyone but her and her maid/caregiver, my MIL being blind as a bat. It's also across town from the rest of the massive giant family, which makes visiting happen less frequently than it should. 


   So, yeah, my pasty fat ass is going International. 

             The new house is in a city named Vitoria Da Conquista,(Victory of the Conquest, because conquistadores were badass mofos) in the state of Bahia.  It sits on the leeward side of a ridge on a plain, giving part of the city a gradual slope with ravines cut in it from a few streams and rivers.  It's arid land, very temperate- when I was there in August, it was winter, and temps were about 60 at night and 70 in the day, while summer sees temps that usually max out in the low 80's because of the altitude. 

    Yeah, I am not a city person. I hate urban areas, and yet I will now have about half an acre in an established urban area. And me, a guy who likes water and green things, am in an area that is about as dry as Oklahoma. It's NOT a pretty city. It has its parts, of course, as it's an old city built on the crossroads connecting the fazendas, the massive farms with hereditary family workers, as well as coffee plantations, and the port of Salvador, the nearest seaport with intermodal  cargo transportation about 300 miles away. 

 The house and property? It's pretty gross right now. It was a family home for ages, but the family moved to Sao Paolo, and the property has been vacant for a decade or more. The house is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath behind a gate and a facade facing the street, which is a quiet neighborhood, in Brazilian terms, anyhow.  It's 70's tile everywhere, with a laundry shed and 2 additional bedrooms detached in the yard. 

       Being an arid and temperate area, there's a lot of outdoor living, which appeals to me, as do the massive walls that surround the property, which, while ugly at the moment, will give great privacy and potential to use the large yard as I damn well see fit. Thank God labor is cheap there, because there is a lot of it, and while I don't relish not being there to do much of it, I'll have to trust the architect and construction company who will do the work, which will be done in steps- first to made the house adequate and cozy and neat so I can move my mother-in-law in and sell off her house,  second to landscape in preparation for major upgrades, including putting in irrigation and a pool, and third to build a masive open outdoor kitchen, living room and cabana with 2 really nice bedrooms over it, on the far side of the house, which will be for our use when we're in town.

   If I survive to retirement, I will snowbird it and live in Brazil for a few months a year. Since Brazilian banks don't want to get involved with Americans right now, the current leftist shitstains in both the US AND Brazil in power being dicks, paying cash for everything is a hellacious burden, but OTOH, no big monthly bills. 

 But OMG what a dump it is at the moment. I'm being ordered to view it as a canvas, a velvet Elvis, ready to be overcoated and redone to our taste. I've got the Mrs on it so I don't need to worry we'll trade velvet elvis for dogs playing poker, at least. She does have good taste. 

Owner is a childhood friend of Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

It's quiet

 I hate this. 

          The past two weeks has alternated between Busy and Goddam Busy.  Lots of cargo coming in and out of NY. It's the ramp up to the holidays, where things that aren't part of the Just In Time logistics chain are getting warehoused, plus the usual daily economy of the busiest cargo port in the US. 

      I'm aware of what's going on in the world, more or less. Although I've been away from blue water sailoring for 15 years now, I still like to be semi-disconnected from the broken hearted world we live in, and I still very much enjoy letting my world shrink down. I get all the socializing I need from my coworkers and shipmates, and a daily phone call with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife. But I have Instagram to look at boats and boobs, which is about all the internet is good for, and some daily news does leak in between the cracks. 

 But yeah, busy.  We're doing a lot of small oil parcel moves between storage terminals and ships, just gassing them up and off they go.  

      Gimme half a million of the regular and a pack of Marlboros will ya? 

          With all these rinky-dink parcels, ships taking 500, 1000 tons of fuel oil at a time, and 100-200 tons of diesel to keep their lights on on top of that, we're not filling anywhere near all our tanks, and then with with the supersize China-bound container ships, they're taking 6000 tons at a time, which is clogging up the storage terminal docks...  and the storage terminals are being reduced in number, as the Biden Admin and the Watermelons at the EPA (green on the outside, red on the inside) makes it impossible for small oil companies to survive by pressuring banks to refuse to lend to companies not favored by Green Inc. 

 So, yeah, lots of scrambling, lots of phone calls to hurry up. 

     I lost both of my generators on board over the weekend. We only have the two. One threw an idler pulley on the serpentine belt- the spring-loaded pulley that controls tension on the belt so it doesn't slip. So that beltless genset went down, and the other generator fired right up, and then promptly died 30 seconds later. Injector pump died. I cannibalized the deadlined gen with no fuel pump, and got a working idler pulley in place on the overheated gen, then proceeded to burn my balls off (and hands,but I mean who gives a shit about hands, my balls were baking from having to lean on the engine block to get at the belt and pulleys). reinstalling everything. 

 It was concerning. I mean, I like my balls. Granted, I'll be 50 in a few months, and not planning on having more kids, so they're mostly just decorative at this point, but still... I want to keep the aesthetic I have going on down there. I'm fond of it.  

   All this while a small chemical tanker was pretty upset that they had to wait while I sorted this out. My gens don't power our oil pumps or hydraulics, which are run off of  other, larger dedicated diesel engines, but they do power the alarm system, computers and the printers that make all that lovely paperwork that the .gov  and the accounting department just loves; it can't happen otherwise. I got us online, got the job done and onto the next only 1 hour late. Which prompted a couple of phone calls and a few of those "This fuckin' guy" whispers from me, with the phone held to the chest instead of against the head. We've all done it. 

            So, finally, today I am free. We burnt the midnight oil yesterday doing all the things that were being delayed- taking on supplies, filling the water tanks, getting trash off and food on, swapping out the dead injector pump and getting the offline gen online, etc. We even took delivery of a bunch of new mooring lines. some of the old ones were getting frayed and just shedding everywhere, like a Portuguese girl in the spring. 

Manhattan, dead ahead.  Statue of Liberty is about 2 points off the port bow

     And today everyone's pretty keyed up. And dammit, that includes me. Apparently every single NY cop has to be at work and in uniform today, because some shitbird is making threats against Christiandom again and it's enough that NY is taking it seriously.  Although I'm at anchor about a mile of so from the foot of the Statue of Liberty, we're getting waked pretty hard (rocked by the waves made by the big harbor ferries which are passing unusually close today), and it was enough to knock some shit off the shelves in the galley. I should know better, being a mariner, but the HQ hasn't hit some spicy seas in years. 

     Looking out the portholes, there's a LOT of flashing blue lights around the harbor. The Coast Guard's rubber ducky boats I've been seeing have a Ma Deuce mounted on the bow.  Everyone's on edge. 

    I'm determined to enjoy my day off, but it's like smelling a jug of milk and knowing from that whiff that it needs to go in the trash tomorrow.  It's OK, and you know it's OK, but you can't stop thinking about how it's almost not OK.  THAT's the feeling here in the harbor. 

     Some happier news, though. We passed the single biggest hurdle, one of the last, on the long-term life-altering project at home. I'll share that on a happier day up ahead. 


Monday, October 9, 2023

They Hate Us 'Cus You're an Anus

 So there's another bunker barge like mine in our local fleet, which I generally refer to as "The Retard Circus" because, well, it is. 

         I hear these guys on the VHF radio at times, and no matter what is being asked, they're going to complain. "Why do we have to do that?" "Well that's a lot of work, man" both being things I've heard more than once. 

 We all get a shit sandwich plated up for us now and again. The Retard Circus is entertaining because they take it personally, and it's been going on for years. It's not like they have it bad. They carry one product only, and just fill up to the top and pump it off as they go in little burps as needed while being pushed around by a tugboat.  Meanwhile the HQ carries 3 products generally that all require isolation from each other, and a fair bit of gaming out when it comes to load planning to do so safely and completely- which is actually pretty normal for bunker work. 

 So after a busy few days, we got to tie up at a lay berth at a container terminal in Newark NJ to wait for a berth to open up for us at an oil terminal so we could load 2 parcels of oil for two different ships, some of which has to be mixed together, some of which has to be segregated... and shortly after we arrive, the Retard Circus is pushed alongside of us to also wait for his next job. 

 Thing about the Circus is, the lead tankerman, the barge captain, along with being lazy and a whiner is really unpleasant too.  He comes alongside, complains immediately that we weren't standing by to help him catch lines, and he had to actually throw out one of his 6 lines without help, his barge being 3 whole feet from mine, and thus much too far to throw mooring lines that are meant to be thrown 10-15 feet. We're both in the 300' range. If you can't moor yourself in calm air and no current on a sunny day 3 feet from the mooring bitts which are at eye height to you, you're no seaman at all at all. 

            So the tugboat pushing the Circus is one of our chartered 3rd party tugs. We charter a couple of tugboats from other companies even though we have lots of our own because sometimes everyone's busy and ships can't be left waiting, being too damn expensive to operate to sit around, whereas a tug only costs a couple thousand bucks an hour to operate. 

           The tugboat in question is a good boat. I mean, the tug itself is a good workboat, and the poeple are pleasant and very competent too. I enjoy working with them when we have the chance. They've always got extra hands on deck, because they're always training new deckhands for their company's fleet. 

       Apparently for the ringmaster on the Circus, tying up one of his own lines without one of us to standby and admire him in the process was just too much and made him grumpy.  When the deckhand trainee didn't know what 'two parting' a mooring line was, instead of explaining, the trashbag in question yells at the kid.  "How do you not know what a two part is? They should teach you that on day one!"

 Two parting a line is just doubling it, BTB. It doesn't make a line stronger, it just increases the elastic modulus, the resistance to deformation when a line is put under tension. Most of the brown-water dummies don't know that, of course, and I've gotten tired of explaining that and getting the blank look that a baby gets when he's shitting in the diaper in response. 

 At any rate, the ringmaster there on the Circus is berating a kid who has been on a tugboat for 4-5 whole days in his entire life, for not knowing jargon.  I sure did want to throw a fid at the ringmaster's head, but whatever. Sadly, all I did was undermine his authority when he left. "Hey kid, Fuck that guy. You'll be fine. This is a good gig, but there's a few assholes here and there. "   I got a crooked grin out of him. 

     I dunno. He seemed like a good kid. A bit nerdy, all gawky with glasses, underweight with oversized hands and NBA sized shoes, so he's prolly gonna be a gorilla in 2-3 years. I know that when I was that green, a kind word went far. 

          There are times when I am working with tugs where the operators are strangers, and start on a de-facto assumption that we're all either assholes or incompetent.  The Ringmaster on the Retard Circus is a good example of why I can't always blame tugboaters for not liking tankermen.   

Thursday, October 5, 2023

I H8 NY, part 1 zillion

 I ran ashore today to get groceries, as it's been pretty steady, cargo-wise and Lord knows when I'll have another chance. Our lay berth near Brooklyn Bridger Park has a small grocery store about a 10 minute walk from the terminal gate. So I put on shoregoing clothes and off I went.  I always expect some negativity when I go, because the people here are awful. 

 I know there are well-adjusted and positive souls like Tugster  who actively enjoy living in NY, and I wish them well. For me, it's hell on earth. 

   So, I had a driver at an intersection who got offended I was crossing the street bywalking between his car and the car in front of him, and so he let up on his brakes and tried to press me up against the bumper of the car in front of him. I had to hurry my step a little, but it was fine; he wasn't trying to hurt me, just being an asshole. And whatever, he lives here. He's being punished already. 

   The little asian lady who got me in a perfect drive-by. Zooming through foot traffic with her little grocery cart, cutting people off and running over toes, she gets alongside me, then outpaces me, crosses my path, lets out a monstrously loud fart for me to walk through, and zooms away. My mouth was open and everything. Broccoli and cabbage I'm guessing. I hate that. I hate that I could identify what she had for dinner last night. 

     At the grocery store, I'm the only one at the deli section, the only customer, and the shaved headed rainbow-flag tattoo on the front of her neck deli-counter lesbian studiously ignores me while I'm waiting politely. For 5 minutes. Finally she looks up, waves me off and says "I'm really busy, come back later' and goes back to texting on her phone. 

      Do you know that NY can't get unbroken eggs to people, apparently? I have never, ever opened a package of eggs in a NY grocery store, and found 12 or 18 unbroken eggs. What makes it so hard compared to other regions to drive a forklift or, you know, put out packages of eggs without breaking them?   If there's more than 1 broken egg I'll usually open another package and get me some whole eggs, but less than one broken egg and I just let it go at this point. 

 12 eggs, a pack of tortillas, 2 tomatoes, some bananas, lettuce, a red onion and a package of chicken breasts. $54.  

      I and everyone within a mile was treated to gangsta rap and a contact high from a $500 Nissan with a $3000 sound system and about $500 worth of weed being cooked up while waiting at a red right.  NY, all of NY, reeks of weed. Constantly. The whole city. 

   By the time I got back onto the HQ, I was ready to be away from people again. That's enough socializing for me for the next 10-12 days. 


Saturday, September 23, 2023

"She's not invited to my funeral"

Every family has that one bitter aunt. 

 You know who I mean. The one who occasionally says mean-spirited and viscious things in between bouts of making proclamations on The Sorry State Of Things. 

      My wife has one or two. I had just one. 

 My aunt was the cool fun aunt when we were small. She was always up for adventures, and she and my mom took us on them for day trips or camping, etc. She was an awesome aunt. But her health failed and being a proud person by nature, she refused pain medications because of the dulling effect it had on her brain. Chronic and brutal pain became her daily bread and butter right around retirement, and thus she never did get to have fun in her last years, and the medications she did take cost her her mobility and dignity. She became someone confrontational and short tempered in her old age, someone who could really brighten up the room by leaving it, you know? 

   When Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I were still newlyweds, between my father's poor health, my aunt's general decline and me spending half the year on a ship, I missed out on a lot of family get togethers. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife just wasn't welcomed into the family with carte blanche yet. I suppose there was some lingering suspicion that being as she was well, disproportionally attractive compared to me and rather in dire need of a green card at the time we met, I know that my family, with the exception of my parents and one brother, while liking her in general, were leery. When one of my brothers hooked up with an Eyetalian girl, I thought that particular glass ceiling had already got broke. And then I show up with the Girl From Ipanema. Turns out, nope. 

      My aunt had met my wife before, but she must have been having a bad pain day one Thanksgiving towards the end.  My wife, God love her, dresses well, and with class always. I might see her with jeans on once every 3-4 months.  She's more a dress and makeup 7 days a week girl. But nice clothes can't hide that she has the sort of figure that adult actresses aspire to,  and a nice dress with heels tends to emphasize a narrow waist, flared hips and my personal favorite, Ye Old Life-Affirming Milk Trucks. My wife has DD boobs, a gift from God because He obviously loves me the most. 

       On the Thanksgiving in question, my aunt, mother sister-in-law and sister were in my brother's kitchen talking, and a bunch of us, including my wife and I, were in the living room, which was visible from their position. Apparently my wife was stumbling on some English phrase and trying her best to muddle through, and there was a hint of cleavage visible, which was Too Much for my aunt, who informed the table with great gravity "Look at (Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife). She's not invited to my funeral. Her boobs are much too big." 

     My mom and sister shared a great sense of humor. They managed to nod with understanding and keep a straight face, and ease out of the conversation a moment or two later. My mom, knowing that her sister was no longer herself after years of living in hellish daily pain, knew not to take such things to heart, but she was unable to keep such a gem of a statement to herself. With brownian motion and a promise to not say anything to me or my wife and cause embarrassment, everyone heard about it but us. All I noticed at the time was that I was hearing a lot of sudden loud barks of laughter every few moments. 

      Eventually my sister spilled the beans with my mom there to remind her to remind me to take it in stride. I thought it was hilarious, and so my mom and I went and told my wife, who reacted exactly as I did. I remember Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, after the laughter died down, looking at my mom and sister wide-eyed, and said "Ai mom, but what I can do? God gif to me really big boobs, I am supposed to wear the potato bag for hide dem?"  This caused my mom and sister to burst out laughing before my mom again had to explain that her sister wasn't quite exactly anymore.  



 I'm down to my last few days here at home. Crew change is coming up fast. Inappropriately Hot Foreign wife and I started a feijoada last night for dinner tonight.  If you don't know what a feijoada is, it's Brazilian poor people food, a black bean and meat stew, and it's incredibly good. I may post pictures later. 


Friday, September 15, 2023


 I must have been pretty tired, because I'm sleeping 10 hours a night. I've been home for 2 nights. It's a little annoying, waking up later than I want to when I'm one of those people whose productivity drops off quickly in the afternoon, but oh well. 

  Anyhow, I'm home, and it's lovely outside. I got rained on for the last 5 watches I stood. At least it's sunny and quiet here. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

One week to go

 So yesterday I switched watches again, as we're coming into my last week aboard the HQ for the hitch, and that means it's my turn to take the back watch again, 1800-0600. 

      The heat came back on in a big way this week, so I'm thankful. I got my ass handed to me the other day after a busy 12 hour watch combined with complex cargo ops more or less kept me outside turning valves, swining wrenches and running the deck cranes for the entirety of the 12 hours, in high heat, direct sun and high humidity.   It was pretty gross. 

    Now, however, I'm working in the cooler half of the day and that's entirely to the good. 

    So my initial plan was to work over- rather than go home for my off time, I had agreed to go on an old beat up bunker barge that was being brought back into service and sailed to NY to go to work. I was dreading it a little, as it had been mothballed, and wasn't well cared for by her crew prior to the mothballing, and I know the barge well- it was my first barge when I joined this company 15 years ago and the living conditions aboard are not good. I mean, it does have a head, a working bathroom, but you can't actually wipe your ass if you have to poop. The stall, made of heavy steel, is the same width as the toilet seat, which is to say, narrow, and you have to enter the stall backwards, hips dragging against the stall sides, to sit down., and wedge your ass into position. . My shoulders don't actually fit in the stall, being wider than my ass, fat as I may be, but by clasping my hands together and reaching out with my arms and hunching my shoulders together, I can make it. Barely.. So yeah, to clean up you have to stand up, step out of the stall and wipe yer bungus out by the sink. My partner Big E, who is the size of an olympic powerlifter and also tall AF, can't even use the stall. He has to crap in a bucket on that class of barge if they make us go on there. 

 Yeah. But I volunteered. The money is good, and I spent a lot of it in Brazil last month. 

  Thing is, the deal fell through. The barge was left in Philly to work down there, and they have their own peeps to take OT down there, so I no longer had work for my off time. 

 And glory be, I am damn glad I am going home next week. I only had two half days at my house in the past few months. I'm actually pretty tired. I'll miss the money, but I miss my wife and I miss my bed more.   I am content to muddle through my last week here aboard, go home and recharge, and be back here a couple of weeks later ready to do it all over again. 

 Plus I'm not going to get more skin cancer this week, working in the dark. Trying to be positive here. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Fit To Burst

 August has been a hell of a month in all kinds of ways. 

    Expensive, expansive, adventurous, exciting, stressful too.  But the candle on the cake came at about 0300 a few days ago. 

 I'm on days now, but for the first half of the week, I was standing watch at night, 1800-0600. And although my son has been working on one of my company's tugboats for about 5 months, I have never worked with his tug while he's on it. Until now. 

      So he was on the captain's watch (0600-1200, then 1800-0000) and it being 0300 I figured I missed him again. Sleep is in short supply on a tugboat, the 6 and 6 watches being what they are. 

       We were coming alongside a ship out in Bay Ridge anchorage in NY, and I was very happily surprised when my kid comes up the ladder and jumps on deck along with the other tugboat deckhand. 

      So we got caught up, chatted for a minute, and then it was time to nudge up to the ship and raft up. 

        My son's had good luck in that he's mostly had good crewmen to shadow during his training process, and I had a real moment, seeing him working competently as I started my routine. For the most part, the deckhands are calling out distances and relative motion to the tug operator, and I'm calling out information to the deckhands either to keep them informed, or to repeat to the tug operator so my hands are free. While I have the same radio at my belt as the deckhands, I prefer to have my hands and mind one step more independent than that, as I have my own slightly different priorities than the tug operator. We have overlapping interests and separate interests, more or less. Safety, securing the barge, etc, but I have to know where my deck cranes can reach, where the ship's fueling manifolds are, and where the best spots to run mooring lines up to the ship will be to keep me snug alongside when the tug leaves later on. 

          I was about as proud as could be to see my son working seamlessly with the other deckhand and I could hear him talking to the mate on the tug and the deckhand too. "Got it." 'He needs 20 more feet aft" "I got the headline on the capstan, not heaving in, bow's hanging 6 feet off the ship, good coverage on the yokies now."  Terse, almost muttering, which means his mind was multitasking, which is exactly what a deckhand needs- to be present in the moment and also thinking ahead while observing everything and reporting only what is needed. 

     Not going to bullshit, I got a little emotional, had one of those 'holy shit, he's grown up' moments that rocked my back on my heels. And he has. High school leftist propaganda and programming near to left him a useless article, full of subversive marxist ideology that ruined his education for the most part. The whole 'math is racist, white people are the devil' shit even though I'm phosphorescently white, and indeed, he himself is part honky.  

      6 months in the real adult  world and that trip to Brazil to see what real life is has changed much. He's always been one of those kids who can more or less do basic calculus in his head, and I wasn't able to help him on his homework after Calc 2 in high school. He wants to be an engineer, and sees marine engineering as a good fusion of tech and hands on that will let him make 6 figures and have a second career at home in his off time, hustling. He wants to be a landlord, lol. Who says that at age 20? He's right, by my lights. And magically his politics shifted significantly after a few pay stubs, as such things often do. And Brazil, in Brazil I saw a side of my kid I had never seen- he bounced around the family like a ping-pong ball, talking and being in the moment, enjoying everyone, just like his mom, who is the most social and friendly person I know. He got to hear about my relatives' resentment at the lack of opportunity in Brazil, and how hard they worked for so little, which is all too true. Every single one of my wife's people have a second job. Hell, the cousin who's a busy clinical psychologist sells  things out of his car as a side gig. People don't think anything about it. They're hustlers, the Brazilians. 

        All that, and in that moment when I stopped what I was doing just for maybe 20 seconds and watching my son work, absolutely swollen with pride, I feel like I helped raise a good 'un. I think he's going to be OK in our broken-hearted world. So I guess it's OK I was all emotive and such on the inside. Along with several moments in my recent trip, this is yet another thing that happened in August that I believe will stay with me for the entirety of my life. 

 Couldn't be more proud.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Brazil: impressions

 I loved my trip to Brazil. 

  My first time there, I didn't enjoy myself. Oh, parts were cool, but for the most part I didn't want to be there. Getting a grip on the language helped. Being older and maybe wiser helped too. 

      This is a maritime blog, though, and my trip was intensely personal. How much to share? Probably less than more. 

       Did you ever have one of those moments when you realize right there that your world just expanded massively in a short while?  I had one of those lightning bolt moments. 

    Brazil is the new world. It's a shit show in all too many ways, courtesy of their leadership and acceptance of corruption in daily life. 

        My Brazilian family was wonderful. I got hugged and kissed more times than I could count. The kids wanted to have their picture taken with the giant white man and try out a few words of english. I laughed a lot more than I remember having done in a long time. The natural beauty was stunning. My wife's city, built under a ridgeline in a hilly area, was lovely in macro, often ugly and dirty in the micro. The area itself is arid and in the middle of winter. It was in the 50's at night, high 70's in the day. As it's at a higher altitude, the weather is quite moderate.  The landscape can be severe and in some of the valleys is a deep green while just a few miles away the land is dry as dust.  It's cowboy country. 

       Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife celebrated her birthday while we were there. Her mother's family, indio mostly, and short but not squat the way central American indios are, are all from the city where we visited. We also crossed a mountain range and visited the area where her father, an Italian immigrant, came from, and where his family settled. That area, dominated by waterfalls and lush forested mountains and hills, was a contrast to the sere and sometimes stark city. But the birthday party was mostly her mom's people, and it was a country party.  So when I got handed a bolo tie and a cowboy hat, I put them on. And you know, they felt pretty good. Altogether there were about 250 cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews who showed up that day, and another 50 or so who showed up the next day, a hangover brunch day. My mother in law, blind and undergoing chemo, danced and sang with people 40 years younger than her, while we drank moonshine cachaca , the ultrapure Brazilian white rum as well as homebrewed pineapple brandy and case after case of beer. 

mother and daughter. 


Pity the 19-hand monster horse that I rode in on.

Where's Pauldo? I feel like I might be pretty easy to spot. 
Also, I pinched my wife's butt really hard just as the camera flashed. She just started to yell when the camera flashed. Classic me. Moment ruined. 


Gratuitous moment in the mountain town of Iguai. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

feet dry

 I made it back from Brazil.  I am BEAT. 

 Amazing trip.   Back on a plane tomorrow bound for NY and work.  

 Lots of stuff happened. It was a life-altering series of events these past two weeks, all in good ways.  

 More to come. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

That guy. Don't be that guy.


Nothing, but NOTHING makes a bad mood a little more bright than sharing it.


  I’m at Laguardia airport in NY, the consistently worst airport in the US for delays. #2 and #3 are the other NY airports, so I’m fucked anyhow.


  Naturally my plane was delayed because Jetblue, while by far the most comfortable and clean airline to fly on in the US, is also absolute trash when it comes to being on time. They purposefully stack their planes’ flight time too close compared to other airlines. Delta, for example, allows for far more turnaround time generally.

  So while I’m getting lunch at the airport, I get the first delay notice. Usually it’s 20 minutes, and then another 20, and off we go... this time delay #1 is 90 minutes. Groan.


  Oh, and I have this evening to get my shit unpacked, take care of the Triumverate (The 3 S’s), pack ANOTHER bag for 2 weeks in Brazil, get my family’s paperwork sorted for the trip, and THEN maybe sit with the wife or jump in the pool for 30 minutes together before getting a few hours sleep and putting my house in order and flying out again.


  So this delay, as expected as it was, is especially unwelcome. I’m looking forward to the trip south, to be fair, but I’m also not going to find it relaxing. There’s a hefty element of work involved while I’m here, and then when we do come home, I get 12 hours before getting back on a plane and flying north for work.


  Yeah, I’m a bit grumpy and antisocial. Good I got to have lunch alone.


  In the bathroom, there’s a little wait for a urinal. And there’s one foreign asshole talking in a busy airport bathroom, LOUD, in foreign talk, on the God-damned speakerphone to some other equally belligerant asshole. And the guy’s just an absolute trashbag, there’s no mistake. And unfortunately, he’s at the urinal next to me, talking one handed, elbow cocked out, and while I’m trying to piss I get elbowed. And I’m seeing red, and my left eye is twitching.


  I stop what I’m doing, look at the guy until he makes eye contact with me, and I look directly at his phone, and make a very long, very loud fart noise with my tongue and mouth. You know the sound. I really breathed deep to get the volume and duration right up there.

  Before I run out of air, a good 5-6 seconds, a very kind young soul a couple of pissers down lets out a loud toot, a solid trumpet blast, same way as me, tongue sticking out. Then a third guy. . And I can breathe before starting up again. And now the 3 of us, out of maybe 10-12 guys, just let it go on and on, and it works, it’s annoying the hell out of him. It lasts a good 15 seconds, maybe more before silence reigns. The guy’s not talking now. Just standing there looking dumb and upset with phone in one hand and presumably inadequate pecker in the other.

  By now I’m finished pissing, and I zip up, and make the hand gesture of a person talking too much- you know the one, flapping 4 fingers against your thumb, miming a flapping mouth.

  Sadly, I’m not badass enough to do anything else. I just quietly say ‘asshole’ as I turn and leave.


 One of my helpers catches my eye as I’m rejoining the crowds outside the head. Dude gives me a grin and a nod, and I return it.

  My faith in humanity is restored.



Wednesday, July 26, 2023

the grind, the sweat, the Windows 95 game come to life.

 It's been a minute since I posted, but I'm just working the routine at the moment, nothing exciting to mention, really. Wake up, work, sleep, rinse, repeat.  

     I've gotten to get ashore 2 1/2 times now in the last 12 days. That's finestkind to me. I basically just walk for an hour and get whatever fresh greenstuff and items will fit in a cloth grocery bag. NY being NY, there are no grocery bags provided by the store unless you want to buy one of their $8 foofoo plastic grocery bags that fall apart strategically when you're 3/4 of the way home. 

 Oh, that 1/2 trip ashore? I was out for my walk since we had 8 hours until we were scheduled to sail for the next job, and while I was 2 miles from the dock, partner B called and said there was a tugboat smashing into our stern and blowing the whistle, which woke him up of course and had him all soggy and hard to light. 

   The tugboat operator, an outside company that my company charters to take the load off of our own tugs, called my company and said he wanted to sail right now, early, because the tide was in his favor. As our regular dispatcher wasn't there on the phone to tell him where exactly he could go fuck himself, one of the bosses happened to answer the phone and just said sure and went about his day. 

    So my fat ass ends up powerwalking the two miles back to the dock on a 90-degree humid morning. We make up and sail, and the 45 minute ride to the loading terminal from our lay berth takes 4-5 hours... because he had to wait for the tide to be fair to dock, too. 

       I actually like the tug crew, having worked with them a fair bit, so other than being a bit grumpy at first and trying to hold my temper for the hurry up and wait BS, I just wrote it off in my mind and pre-cooked lunch and dinner. 

   Generally we say that any time we're in a rush, the tugboat will be late. If we want the tugboat to arrive alongside, we need to either take a dump or make a sandwich. Guaranteed they're gonna bump us in the middle of either one. 

     After roasting my pasty ass off the past 3 weeks, I am thankfully switching over to working the back watch, 1800-0600, which started tonight. We do that by dogging the watches- cutting them short (called dogging becuase as Patrick O'Brien said, they're 'cur-tailed' ) to 8 hours, which allows us to rest, but also rotates us around over the course of one day, so the night guy goes to days, and the day man to nights.  This is also symbolic, as the night guy is 1 week from going home. And indeed, this time next week I'll be packing my stuff up and heading home for 18 whole hours before getting on ANOTHER series of planes, and there to go to Brazil for a few weeks. 

 Sadly, I'm not going to the beaches of Brazil, or any beautiful tropical paradise. I'm going to an arid region, far inland,  to a city on a plateau, during their winter, not somewhere beautiful and certainly not the Amazon, but where inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's family are. 

       Minesweeper, or the Rooster in the henhouse:     

 About the only thing beautiful where we're going is the half-breed Indio girls like my wife. Mediterranean blood admixed with native Brazilian produces an unusually high percentage of startlingly lovely ladies. So, I mean I got that going for me. My wife isn't the type to get jealous, thankfully. She in fact likes to point out the most stunning girls when they appear, so I don't miss them. I've already learned though, that this is a trick, because Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has an earthy sense of humor, and while I'm just peoplewatching, she's playing "Minesweeper."

  Remember that game?   You try to uncover tiles on a board without setting off hidden bombs? Yeah, that. 


  So when we're in public places in her city, my wife will point out the prettiest girls and say something and get my response. 

 "Hohnee, look. Linda (Pretty), si?" 

          Me:  "Wow, yes" (side-eyeing my wife the whole time.  Possible wince in there). 

   I have to say something. She'll repeat herself until I acknowledge the attractiveness of the girl she points out. 

 Except every now and again... 

 "Amor, look 'dere. So gostosa,, verdade?"   (So hot, yes?)
      "Eh, wher... oh, I see her. Wow, yes. Super." 

 "BAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAHAAAA!! Dat's a travesti (Transsexual)!  My husband is the gay. My husband so is the gay!"  Wait, we need go to HomeGoods so I buy heem and heem towels for you bafroom". 

You have found a mine. 

 I swear to God sometimes I just can't tell, yet she can, and there's an unusual number in Brazil. It's given me PTSD. I don't like this game and she plays it like every other day when we go to Brazil. 


 "Wow, amor, look the her. She's so..."  

         Me, starting to cry now.  'No. No more, please. I'm not looking!  I'll be good I swear."  

      Then she'll do something like pinch my butt. In public.  This is her revenge for my grabbiness in the house when the kid's not around. 

Notice only one of us is smiling. 

 And joking aside, she really is a lot of fun.  Maybe I can avoid alcohol poisoning this trip. The indios do love to drink, and also love to play 'who will pass out first.' I can hold my own, the problem is that they will play one person at a time until he drops, and then the next one steps up... vs me.  I had a couple of cousins laid out comatose before I woke up 15 hours later while contemplating my reflection in the toilet bowl water.  So I don't think I will play this time.  

telegram from my liver to my brain. 

Friday, July 14, 2023

Lie down with dogs... etc.

 So, Iran is at it again. 

       Iran's non retarded unit, the Revolutionary Guard, has a habit of harassing western-owned ship traffic in the Persian Gulf.    

              Chevron Oil seems to be a pretty consistant target for them. Chevron operates in every oil-laden shithole there is, though. They're like McDonalds or Mattress Firm.  A Chevron-chartered ship got seized earlier this year, and there have been a few harassment incidents. Since Uncle Sugar's World Police Navy is active in that part of the world too, every time the haji's act up, the navy has to dispatch a ship off patrol to shoo the Iranians out... although sometimes there's nobody close by.   In the most recent case, the tanker RICHMOND VOYAGER which, despite the name, is a foreign flag (foreign registered and foreign crewed) ship, but it's owned by one of the largest oil companies in the world, who outright owns a few senators, so obviously they were getting helped when they called for it. 

 The Iranians took a few potshots at the ship as a fuck you for calling for Big Brother. 

 So we can add that to the dumpster fire that it our world in the present day too. 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Thank God for high blood pressure meds

  So, it's a nice quiet night. Now. 

      I got to run to the store to get grub today, as we're in a lay berth alongside the Brooklyn Bridge.   With heavy rain forecast for tonight, which is now here as I write, I walked the mile and a half or so to the store, a big chain grocery across the street from the Barclay Center, where the Nets play.  It's in a busy commerce area. 

 It's also your friendly neighborhood hoodbooger grocery store. 

         When I told Big E on here that I was headed up, E (who is black) said "Oh, man, no way I'm going to that place, bro. It's the hood in there."  And it is. I usually avoid it, but I wanted to load up while I could, get a walk in, and get back before the rain. 

 And, I mean, I did, but it was super unpleasant.  Stop & Shop is a very large grocery chain, not a bodega or a low-price shop, but solidly middle of the road but with stores that tend to be large and well-stocked. 

 Except this place. First off, they don't have enough grocery carts. I had to wait 10 minutes to get a cart. Also, the carts can't go outside the store. It's a busy main drag in NY, and there's no parking lot. You have to hump your shit to the local parking garage that feeds the mall and stadium or one of the 30 gypsy cabs driven by African illegal immigrants will help you. 

             So, yeah, I get my cart and inside the door is the vegetable section. And it reeks of weed, because of course it does. Also, everything's disorganized, there's no bags for your vegetables, and the staff... well, the girl who was at bakery section was yelling at another girl who was restocking the cut fruit. An agitated 300lb hood rat with nails the size of 12 penny spikes yelling 'You's a stupid fuckin' ho, ho! like 8 times. 

 Welcome to Erf. 

            I got my shit, anyhow. Surprisingly, most of it, anyhow, but it took a while to find, as nothing was in stock, and nothing was in the bin with the labels as to what it was, but if you looked, you could find it where it wasn't likely to be found.  

   And then I was #4 in my chosen checkout line, and there I stayed for one hour. One entire hour. 

     It seems there's no check day for EBT this week. So everyone in front of me was getting their stuff rung, up, and then their cards rejected. So they'd pick one or two things out, the manager would come to delete this from the list, and try again. By the time the card was rejected again, the manager was already elsewhere doing THE EXACT SAME FRIGGING THING.  

      Place made my local Wal Mart look like Whole Foods. 

              Turns out I got the slow cashier. Her nails were a good 3 inches long, filed to points, and must have been freshly glued on, because she moved them only very carefully and very slowly. She could maybe scan 5-10 items a minute, and when a bulk pack of chicken couldn't be read, didn't I get the stink eye. 

      How the hell can she wipe her ass like that?

 So, yeah, I got out of there for just $300 for about 10 days of healthy meat, chicken and vegetables for just me. Because it's New York and I can buy a trash can sized bag of pork rinds for 99 cents but a pack of lettuce is fuckin' $7.  Anyhow, a cheerful Sudanese guy was birddogging me as soon as my cart locked up the wheels near the front door, and we were off back to the terminal gate. Honestly, the guy was 10x nicer than anyone I met at the grocery store. He was the high point of my trip ashore and $20 for a  quick cab ride was good for him too. 

 I got my shit aboard and stowed it, then sat in the chair and just...existed a while.  

      I think I'm well suited for an isolated work environment.  The rain came in before dark, and with it came a whole lot of aching shoulders and back. I knew that those days would come eventually. Apparently it's now Eventually. 

          BUT, less you think I'm ONLY here to bitch (I'm only MOSTLY here to bitch), I had good fresh food, and since I'm on nights, breakfast was a couple of medium tomatoes with the guts scooped out with an ice cream scoop, then I dropped a tablespoon of basil pesto and cracked an egg in the hole and baked em for half an hour.  Little salt and pepper, you should try 'em.    Only downside is I'm sitting here in the semi-dark in the deckhouse, and every 20 minutes or so I'm farting out the first 7 notes of the opening from "Smoke On The Water." And I mean I'm the only one up. Is it really a downside if you're cracking yourself up? 


            With only about 3 weeks to go before our next trip to Brazil, and the now 300ish person family reunion we're throwing for her family (Tribe, really. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is half Italian, half Brazilian Indian (feathers, not dots), I'm getting photos from past and present with said wife in various outfits for my comment as she winnows her wardrobe down to about 5 suitcases for 2 weeks.  

 Today's Yes/No was a yes from me.   

     I know.  I'm actually a discerning sort when it comes to women's high heels at this point. How the F that happened to a man who has like 4 shirts, I can't say. The picture doesn't show them, but they're a pair of wedge heels from Chanel. Christmas present from me year before last. Wedge heels are good for wallking and do fun firming things to women's backsides the whole while. In that respect it was also a Christmas present for me too. 

 Tomorrow is Bikini Try-Outs when I get up for watch, so I'm excited about that. Fuckers are expensive for what is essentially 2 lengths of shoelace, 2 postage stamps and an eyepatch's worth of material. I am told she's gone more demure, with Brazilian "Mom" bikinis (which are about as risque as most American women will go), suitable for a more mature crowd.  

 See? Not all negative bitchery here. 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

First Thursday in Ordinary Time

 I'm back on board, and things are as they often are, which is to say: thinks are right fucked up. 

      Last night was my first watch on board after a lovely 2 weeks home. As I'm fresh aboard, it's my week to take the back watch, 1800-0600.  Luckily we had ample free time until a load scheduled for 0300. I was looking forward to it. 

          One of our units got a nasty lightning strike before I came back to work, and while the company will have it back in service in short order, there was some scrambling to get a barge assigned for every job.  I got a phone call that because of an outside vendor's semi dick move, we were getting assigned a cargo of high sulfur heavy fuel oil.  Now, the present HQ doesn't carry HSFO, which can contain around 3% sulfur. We carry VLSFO, Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (<0.5% sulfur) and ULSFO (Ultra Low Sulfur fuel oil (<.1% sulfur). The less sulfur there is, the more expensive it is, and the cleaner it burns, emissions wise. 

      Thing is, once you put high sulfur in  a tank, the residues after pumping it off remain.  So for us to have to carry high sulfur fuel in our tanks means that we're gonna need to get flushed out but good after, which is not a cheap proposition. Just the way things work. 

  Turns out, while we were filling our cargo tanks last night, the ship our fuel was destined for had a massive fire break out in nearby Newark. 

Fire still blazing on ship at Port Newark where 2 firefighters died. Cause remains unknown.

         From what I understand, the firemen who died were getting overwhelmed working in the confined space but were unable to back out of the area.  

      The ship in question is a Con-Ro ship, the bastard child of a container ship and a car carrier. It's half of each.  This company's ships tend to move used cars from the first world to the 3rd world. Car fires aboard these types of ships do happen from time to time, but obviously something made it worse than normal. 

   So I'm sitting about 3/4 of a mile from the ship right now, in another channel at a different terminal, hanging on with this burning ship's fuel. There's shipping containers between me and this ship, so I can't see anything. I heard a big damn boom about 2 hours ago, though, which makes me think that they're still fighting to save the ship. The 1200 cars aboard are probably mostly fucked, but that's just a guess. 
         I do want to be smart here. The oil company that entrusts us with their oil probably wouldn't want us speculating too much or ripping on their customers, so I won't.  I'll just note that shipboard fires are a fucking nightmare, and while I find these ships to be uglier than a 90 year old's ballsack, the international used car trade is always fraught with risk. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Tuning the world out

One of the big appeals of working on an oil tanker that I wrote about years ago is that by necessity we needed to tune the world out and focus on getting through the voyage. The world for those of us not in management-level positions shrinks to become just a matter of what can be seen horizon to horizon, or, at most, what we see with our eyes plus a little beyond the horizon which were just dots on the radar screen. 
   This is a joy. Life simplified. The most important things become doing the task you're assigned, and wondering about what is for dinner later. Having a talented steward on board makes such days close to joyful. A day of working hard outside on deck, doing tasks that leave tangible results, with the prospect of an excellent meal when the work day is done. Plus, if the next port was a good place, we could all take time to go ashore even if it was for just 7-8 hours, eat, drink, be social, meet a girl etc etc. 
   Those were fine days. 
 The world has intruded. Emails require constant contact with the world. Mandates, updates, connectivity have made it easier to stay in touch, which I don't view as a good thing. The wholesome positives are there, whereby it's possible to stay in touch with loved ones, but 1), the companies discourage this because they don't want to have to pay an extra couple hundred dollars a month to allow crew to talk to loved ones, and 2), the company employs people who interfere and stay in constant touch with the ship. In that vein, senior management on the ship bear the brunt. 
 Staying in constant contact is usually reserved for the office to control what the slobs on board are doing, not for the unshaved proles to talk to their families. 

    There are negatives, too. When you're on a long passage, finding out right away that nana kicked the bucket isn't going to make things any better for you as you live with the knowledge of death of a loved one, while surrounded not by your family but at best a friend or two and no family whatsoever.  
         The quality of life of seafarers is decreasing with time as externalities intrude, pay stagnates and intangible benefits like shore leave are eliminated. 

      It's often said that as you progress in a career, you will have less and less opportunity to do the things that attracted you to that career until it becomes merely a job. 

 I thought of seafaring as an exception. It once was. I transitioned from blue water sailing to brown water sailing because perversely, a ship that travels long distance now allows almost no agency when it comes to decision-making by its crew, including the captain. 20 years ago I witnessed some office nudnik who had never been on ship before, who was not an executive, and who wasn't even a full-time company employee, harangue the captain at length for the crime of  printing documents on both sides of copy paper, thereby halving the amount of paper used. The guy went on and on. My captain, an elderly, grumpy soul who looked exactly like Santa Claus down to the twinkle in the eye behind his gold-rimmed glasses, was both an amazingly experienced and GOOD captain, and turned a particular shade of purple at the disrespectful nature of someone less than half his age scolding him like a bad dog. 
 Sadly the guy escaped the beating he so richly deserved, but this is how things were 20 years ago and I think it's gotten worse since. 
       As I progressed into my stolidly middling maritime career, I reached a point of homeostasis when it comes to being left the hell alone as a bunker tankerman, where I have a certain limited amount of agency on board, a fair bit of responsibility, and a shoreside office staff who know full well that the only reason I stay in my position is because I absolutely love to be left the hell alone to do my job, and when that can be arranged, I'm pretty good at it.  Obviously I have a very good relationship with the powers that be in my company. And I guess I'm ok at the job, too, because they put up with my antisocial ass. 
        Tuning the world out is STILL one of the intangible benefits of my job as a sailor. It's being chipped away at, of course, as the interconnectedness of all things increases and contributes mightily to the decline in civilization, but I still have my moments where my horizon shrinks. As my horizon sadly has to include the shoreline now, given the brown-water nature of my work, I prefer to allow it to shrink down to just my deck area, where the space inside the hull becomes my center of attention, and the world can wait until I'm done with what I'm doing before I'll turn my mind towards things past the handrails.