Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Spik Ingleesh, yis yis"

I liked these little foreign fuckers. 

     We bunkered a bulk carrier this morning, and initially I was feeling a bit soggy and hard to light about the whole op. 

        Our tugboat had a damaged pulley on the push cables, so they towed us on the hip, basically lashed to one side. That's fine, except that bulk carriers have their bunker port (the fuel connection) usually on the side of the wheelhouse, which on bulk ships is located far astern compared to tankers or container ships, and the side where the tugboat was forced us to tie up heads-to-tails with the ship- facing opposite directions, which means half my hull was out in the stream. Only way I could make it work, so I lashed down the hell out of where I could and cranked down so hard on our winches that the hawsers were wrung like sponges. 

        After we were all fast, I quickly realized that nobody I could talk to had any sort of comprehension of English. I asked for an English speaker, and they got me some little fella out of the galley, I think, and he had a bit of English. Now, I have the right to refuse to work if we can't find a common tongue, and as I'm pretty much stuck with English, bad Portagee, sort of,  some song lyrics and curses regarding the British in gaelic,  and just curse words in a dozen other languages, that's not good. But these guys were earnest AF. They were trying. 

      I'm really trying not to fly off the handle and cuss out people. Ever since last week when I cursed a man so loudly that I lost my voice, I've been thinking about how there's no way anyone can respect a man who is absolutely out of his frigging mind with anger. Sure, you can get a fear reaction, or possibly break through a hard head with volume, but it's self-defeating, I have come to see. So, having already had that conversation with myself in the recent past, I was unable to be upset about the language barrier that was an issue today, although to be fair, the ship is informed ahead of time that an English speaker is required on their end for safety reasons. But these little fellas just didn't have anyone. 

     So, the thing that impressed me so favorably was just how efficient these guys were. I mean, they connected our cargo hose FAST, and as a team, passing down their hose blank for me to size up and send up an adaptor flange, using actual REAL crane hand signals (95% of the dildos out there do it wrong. There's an international agreement, dicks!), and getting the hose connected in just a few minutes, compared to the 1-hour plus it takes a pair of white suited engineers all standing around with their thumbs up their asses screaming at 2 overworked Filipinos with one wrong-sized wrench between them, and giving them contrary information, which is usually how hose connections are made.  But yeah, these bros did it in about 5 minutes, like a top-notch tanker crew might. They then hammered through my paperwork, without complaint, sent down theirs with instructions and everything I really needed marked with a highlighter (!), and then hung out at the rail, looking down at me, and everything came to a screeching halt because of the language barrier. 

      There just wasn't a reason to yell. They couldn't understand me at my best, most simple communicatin' English. They didn't understand me when I said that I had to have one guy up there with a radio in case of trouble. Eventually, they did break out the little cooks' helper, with his 'spik Inglish, yis yis!"  but he couldn't progress beyond Yes/No Start Stop, Faster Slower.  Eventually, I just pointed at the rail and said "You! Please! Stay! There! For Help Me!"  and he did. 

       Look, when I met my wife, she barely spoke English and we learned each other's language, sort of, over the next 20 years, figuring it out as we do. The first 6 months we were dating, conversation was pretty basic. I kind of miss that, lol. It was quiet. Point is,  I can speak and understand Bad English at a professional level. 

     Honestly, if these guys had been dicks, the usual sort of inattentive sailors or less on the ball, I would have called my company and bailed. But they just wanted to do what they could do, and I became confident that if the fit hit the shan they could let me know, so I basically just would have to hang out on deck at the hose connection and watch them carefully. 

 They did well. Hand signals for my pump throttles, proper crane directions, teamwork,  safe, careful. Pantomimes and Pidgin. Honestly it was the fastest, least stressful and most pleasant transfer I've done in months. Those little boogers had their shit locked down. At the end, when we passed papers and they diconnected my cargo hoses, while I was swinging the hoses down on deck with the crane, the little cook waved down and said "bye bye, I cook now" and I realized that he was an unhealthy bluish color under the tanned nondescript asian coloring. Dude was freezing his little nuts off, but I hope he got recognized for being The Man today. 



js said...

My SUV is always a mess after a 10 hour drive to Mission To Seafarers,Saint John,NB,Canada.I'm immediately assigned the Wal-Mart run.As many Filipinos that can fit gather around the car.I open all doors & hatch,& simply stand back & smile.With precision & teamwork they delicately rearrange all my possessions in a compact & orderly manner,choose seats,smile & say 3 times in one sentence "Thank you sir".

Paul, Dammit! said...

JS, I should have clarified that the crew on this ship was a bunch of nondescript southeast Asians. Vietnamese, Cambodian, perhaps Burmese, I dunno, but not Filipino. I could write a poem about the pleasant nature of working with Filipino crews. I don't have enough Tagalog to say much more than hi and thank you, but other than a few Moro Filipinos who spoke spanish but no English, in which case my Portuguese will get us by after a fashion, Filipinos seem to be taught excellent English as kids, almost universally, as I'm sure you have experienced as well.
I always feel a little better when I see a Filipino-crewed ship come up on our schedule. No yelling between us, no arguing, and when we have disputes, they're always handled with diplomacy.