Yesterday was a good day.
Things have been stressful on the HQ for the past few months, not gonna lie. We've got a deep talent pool aboard, and my company is short of what they need in terms of good tankermen, so unfortunately, we've been Shanghaied a lot lately, and it's got all of us stressed. Getting ganked and put on an unfamiliar barge where we know the job but don't have the vessel or the souls aboard truly integrated in our minds elevates the risk profile to one degree or another in every job we do, of course. Given the nature of the job, that risk can be minimal. Or not. I realize that right around at my age, mental flexibility becomes less easy to achieve. The concepts we drill green tankermen on, situational awareness, positive control, stop work authority, and the negatives too- analysis paralysis, tunnel vision, stress-induced insomnia, all those things... it becomes more difficult. As does the job itself. We have some of the largest bunker barges in the US. Shit starts to hurt at a certain point as you fossilize, and after a number of years on the water, nobody escapes anno domoni without some permanent aches and pains. The important thing becomes maintaining the 'it's a marathon, not a sprint' mentality, which is critical when you were sprinting for 10-15 years.
Years ago, I brought one of my very good friends out lobstering with me. We were going to do the usual workload for 2 men despite having 3 aboard- haul 400 pots over about 10-11 hours. The weather was fine, and we had good bait that day for the bait bags- salmon heads and herring, very fast to stuff in between 25 pot strings.
So, we fished shorter 3-foot pots, not the 4-foot 'coffins' that ruin the back but fish a little better. BUT, the Notorious BOB and I built the 3-footers heavy, with extra heavy gauge wire, extra reinforcement, and an extra 5lb brick, 4 bricks per pot, so each of the 400 pots weighed somewhere around 50-60 lbs. We'd sling the pots FAST aboard- with 15 fathoms (90 feet) between pots, we usually pulled each 25 pot string in 15 minutes before setting it back out. Setting out the half mile string took 5+ minutes, when we'd be rebaiting bait bags and sorting and banding lobsters. And then the steam to the next buoy, anywhere from 1-15 minutes, but usually somewhere around 5. Every other string we'd take a minute to take a drink and get situated. It's VERY fast paced most of the time.
My friend was in great shape- lean, athletic, and a daily exerciser. Me, I was fishing. I'm overweight, don't jog or do cardio. I've got the ruck hump back shape from working bent over 5-6 days a week as a teen and adult, and I knew how to balance the pots on their center of gravity to more easily pivot and sling them using momentum and my legs rather than my back, but I also had the hard pad on my upper quads from the motion of sliding the pot on edge down the gunwale of the boat, then lifting the pot and quickly pivoting, taking enough steps to get to where I could toss the pot in the stack properly, and then shifting the pot's weight onto one thigh and bounce the pot using my thigh like a springboard. 400 times a day every 45 seconds or so at a jogging pace.
My healthy in-shape friend was dead on his feet 200 pots in, when we have a snack and are in the zone. Before the end of the day I had him sit on a water barrel and resting. He was done. He did well. Very well, for someone new.
Thing is, my friend knew about my job, in good detail. We talked about it, and had years and stories so he knows quite a bit about a job he didn't regularly practice. But the doing of the job, no. He learned, though. He respected me a fair bit more after. The things he didn't get, the fatigue, the repetitive motion, the discomfort, the mental game that gets you through discomfort and mind-numbing repetition... he didn't get that, until he did. And even then, of course he'd never understand the mental game from a day with me, not for a job I'd been doing more or less since I was 8. But what was so positive for me is that he now knew he didn't know, and couldn't. It made me feel that he appreciated the challenges of my unimpressive little job at that point in my life.
I miss that feeling.
BUT, yesterday. It was a good day. I had a good day. Mental Health Day. I cooked, I did things I enjoyed, and I didn't do too much that I didn't enjoy. Provided I don't get pulled off of the HQ to go elsewhere, I feel like we got our batteries recharged.
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