Friday, March 31, 2023

Me, I'm fine.

A lot of hurting people out there this week. 

 Me? I'm fine. Doing well. In my more selfish moments I'm whining because I volunteered to go back to work a week early and so I only get a week with my family. But we know how to pack a lot of good living in a week- it's been a minute but we've had practice. And I'm grateful for the time, however short of long, with my family. 

 Other people I care about are having a bad time. My brother's ex dropped dead a few days ago, age 50-51. Heart gave out. They had a complex relationship but a good son out of it, my nephew, who is now a 17-year old boy who just lost his mom.  Generally he lives with my brother here in Florida, but he went up north to finish his last 2 years of high school at our old hometown's vo-tech school, which had an IT program that no high school in FL could match, and gave him a chance to have a nice relationship with his mom. I suppose I'm grateful that he got 7 good months with her but Lord knows what happens now. 

 A very close friend is mourning the end of his marriage, having decided to pull the plug after a number of years and kids who reached adulthood. 

    Seeing people you love in pain is awful. I feel a little bad that I had bitched to them in recent months about little things like having no time at home. Had I but known what was in store for them... 

 Anyways, my wife is back from the sore. I'm going to go get a hug I think.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

paying dues

 I'm on my last week of the tour at work, and this month has been one of those times where it seems like 90% of the work is happening on my watch. Certainly earlier in the tour, all the Coast Guard visits, inspections and assorted people wanting things were left to me to sort, but this was mostly as a result of my working days anyhow- business hours fell on my watch. Now that I'm on my last week and working nights, strangely all the things are suddenly happening after hours. 

 It's like that- just as you think you're being picked on, suddenly it's the other watch's turn to get shit upon from a great height, and you don't even notice that the chocolate rain has stopped falling on you. 

 I'm waiting for that time now. 

 Anyhow, 4 watches to go after this one. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

2 days to St. Patrick's Day.

 I'm trying to remember when the last day was where it wasn't gray, sleeting and the fucking wind wasn't blowing over 30.  It's sure been a minute.  My raingear has mildew stains on the inside, and smells like a frigging bible story.  3 days at this point? 4?    Lord. 

 So it's been a bit of a long march these past few days. It happens. The ruck hump aches are here for sure, where after a few days of spending 12+ hours a day head down with 10-12lbs of raingear riding on your shoulders and neck where you carry their weight, headaches and soreness are constant. The antifungal kits were broken open yesterday to dust the boots and feet so we don't have an athlete's foot outbreak. 

 Situation normal. We're fine, just a bit short-tempered and demoralized. God has forsaken us, or at least has punished us for what are probably an unusual amount of sins. I mean, we're sailors. We're not saints.  God watches out for us, obviously, childhood friends of his kid and all. 

 BUT, it's only 2 more days' until St. Patrick's Day. 

    Growing up in Boston's Irish Riviera, St. Patrick's day was probably the most fun day of the year. For adults. For kids, it's still a school day, and at least in my childhood, that meant we had spent the last 3 weeks in school learning 1-2 new songs along with the standard 5-6 old standby classics to sing en masse at an evening assembly with everyone's parents watching.  Oh, this wasn't on St. Patrick's Day, of course, it was the Friday before... St. Patrick's day was for adults to drive to watch the parade and day drink all day in South Boston on the one day when the Irish mafia wouldn't make trouble, and catch up with childhood friends.  If you weren't in school but were under legal drinking age, there were certain bars where you could put $20 in the hat for gun money for the IRA and drink anyhow. 

      As an unmarried adult, and this was after the blessed Good Friday Accords, I was home from sea or fishing on many occasions for Irish Christmas. We never got into trouble, just woke up early for  blood pudding and bangers with Jamison or Bushmills and coffee, then proceeded to drink and eat too much, go see live music at a pub, sing until we were hoarse, curse the English forever and go sleep if off. 

 Not gonna lie, I really miss Irish Christmas.  I haven't been able to properly celebrate in years and years. 10-15 I at least. 

 I mean, it's not the same. The South Boston parade was organized and funded by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a  Catholic organization.  Since half of Boston's union tradesmen, city workers and EMS were both Irish and Catholic, the city of Boston was heavily involved, too. When a group of non-Catholic gay men were refused welcome to join the parade, as being neither Catholic, an Irish organization nor members of the EMS or trade unions, the Mayflower descendants in the state house, who also were not Catholic, and not overfond of the people of South Boston for their ancestry, ruined everything for everyone forever. As leftists often do these days, but this was a new thing back then. 

     Anyhow, I'm old and don't live in New England anymore, God be praised. But for some reason, I can't ever properly be home and free of obligation enough to properly celebrate a wonderful feast day. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is amused by the whole thing, but to a Brazilian lady, a bunch of gringos acting silly doesn't have cultural connotations and just looks like a fuss, but I have a brother and sister who both live close by, and one of these years I'm going to put a fun day together for us. 

 Sadly, this is not my year for that. But some day. 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

catching up

 Well, it's been steady and productive here at the floating bulk gas n' go.  

    When last I wrote, my flight back to work had been cancelled. I made it in the next day, and in the end only an hour late for crew change, so there was effectively no disruption to the schedule. At least none that I caused, anyhow. BUT, behind the scnenes, other interests broke my precious routine. Big E, my partner here on the HQ, was ganked and placed elsewhere for a week. I got a green kid as a replacement. BUT, I knew him slightly from before, back when he was a deckhand, and I know his father, who is someone I've enjoyed working with in the past, and like father like son, the kid was pleasant to work with. Green, oh so green like a fine lawn, but good company and it kept the workplace somewhere I'd want to work, which is important to me. It wasn't all tea and roses, we had some headaches, but as sometimes happened, all the key events happened during regular business hours, which happened to be when I was up and about anyhow. So there wasn't much of me getting out of bed at oh-dark-thirty, except for a few times here and there for me to peck away at the computer or hold an anxious office worker's hand over the phone. So overall? Decent. 

          Big E volunteered to get double ganked a few days ago, and got sent to a floating shit bucket a barge with substandard quarters and a shaky maintenance history (for what I hope was additional compensation), and my partner B came back to work a week early.  This is I think 13 years we've been partnered up now, so obviously we get along great, and know each other well.  I spend more time with B than I do with my own family. So once B came in, routine quickly returned to normal.  Except for the first job. 

       So there's this one ship, a super-size container ship, that we never, ever bunker. Not that it's verboten,  just the oil supplier who regularly fills her tanks has a few of our vessels on charter so it's not normally necessary.  But the HQ here works the spot market- which is to say... we's a 'ho. A harbor whore. A 'habah hooah', as I pronounce it with my articulate and classy command of the king's fuckin' english. 

   So, yeah, we got a weird ass double load- oil for two ships, two VERY different grades of oil, in weird volumes. certain  grades of fuel have to be segregated from each other, in pre-designated tanks- that is to say, I have tanks aboard the HQ that are ONLY designated for particular grades of fuel- this is done to prevent contamination, as a .003% change in the sulfur content of a particular fuel type is more than enough to make it illegal to use in many areas. Oil companies don't believe in allowing a lot of room for erring on the side of caution in fuel blending, when it costs money to err on the side of caution. 

 So, I get handed weird orders, and a 'sorry' because my shoreside connection knows he just served up a hot steaming poop sandwich for me to eat.  I made it work. The first ship... it's big. It's a big fuckin ship. We're just teeny next to this thing.  We're loaded  deep for us. My deck is only about 7 feet above the  water. 

     This particular ULCV (Ultra Large Container Vessel) isn't the largest container ship I've ever bunkered. BUT... their fuel manifold is a deck higher than any other ULCV, for some reason, higher on the superstructure of the house than I'm used to seeing, and this ship has more freeboard (the part of the ship above the water) than most ULCV's, AND they weren't loaded deep. At all.  The fuel manifold was in the neighborhood of 100 feet in the air.  And in talking to the crew, the manifold connection was 4 meters from the deck edge. So... 13 feet or so. 113 feet of travel between my manifold and his.  And my cargo hose is only 80 feet. My cranes are only 60 foot cranes. 

         I know what I have to do. I consider first if this life is worth living because what I have to do is neither complex or dangerous. It's just hard work and really, really messy.  I have to cannibalize the hose setups on one side of the HQ- disconnect a 60-foot length of cargo hose out of the array, blank off the now open length of hose left behind, clean up the mess of congealed black oil that will be dumped out everywhere, shift this hose using one of my two deck cranes, drag and position one end of  the now-free hose length where I can work on it, take my too-short 80-foot length of hose that was too short, position it close to the end of the unconnected hose, unbolt the end of the 80-foot hose's flange, position it near the disconnected hose's open end with the 2nd deck crane, drag the open ends of the two lengths of hoses close enough, and connect it to the disconnected hose length by bolting the two flanges together.  

 Black oil being what it is, it is oozing like ketchup this whole time. And the hoses weigh a couple thousand pounds, btb. Each.  Also, I'm by myself. And the two deck cranes I'm using, I can't let the heads of the cranes clang off each other. 

 Like I said, not complicated, not really, and not dangerous. Just really messy and really tiring. There's a lot of labor involved, and swinging wrenches is the easy part. I guess there was what? 24  1 1/4" bolts to mess with?  BUT, I now have 140 feet of cargo hose connected and ready to use. Whole shebang took about 2 hours because I wasn't going to wake B up. Dude had been awake for about 30 hours when he showed up on board, and he needed his sleep. I would have allowed him 2 1/2 hours sleep if I'd woken him up.   So, no big deal, except that my middle-aged fat ass got a workout. 

   At this point, I am talking via handheld VHF to the engineering staff on the ship, a bunch of polite Indian gentlemen. There were 4-5 of them staring down at me working, in their white hard hats and immaculate white coveralls.  The ship lowered their bunkering crane ( a stubby 10' boom they use to hold bunkering hoses while they connect to their own manifold way up high), which thankfully had enough cable and ass behind it to lift my cargo hose up to their manifold. From there the job proceeded normally.

 With the extra hose and high height, my cargo pump had a shit-ton extra head pressure to overcome to pump into their tanks, so even with the big Cummins diesel that powers my pump, we only got 300 tons an hour maximum rate. I can't exceed 100psi pressure in my pumping system, legally. With this fuel that was like 2000 barrels per hour, or 84,000 gallons per hour I think. Slow by our standard. We were there all day. 

 And when it was all done? We had to put the hoses back together the way they were. By then B was up, though. It goes a lot easier with 2 men, especially being able to operate the deck cranes simultaneously and being able to swing 2 sets of wrenches, not just one.  In the end, although I didn't say it to B, the last time I had to do all this BS was before B and I worked together, so probably 14 years. I was younger then, obviously, but it was good to do, in its' own way, as it allowed me appreciate that this is not a regular occurrence in my work routine.

 The second job went off far easier. and we had a break in between ships to remove all traces of residual oil on deck from all the hoses. It was a French container ship, a more 'normal' size ULCV too. Only... the cook was French too. And we were there at lunchtime. the smells coming from the house down to the HQ were just  divine. And my fat ass had just a salad for lunch. I could smell tomatoes, garlic, onion, and I think basil, whatever it was.  My salad fixin's are 10 days old at this point, which is to say there is no crunch to my salad, either. Altogether, it made me want to cry, except that when we finished the job, long after my watch had ended, we headed to anchor, where we sit at the present moment. AND, it's pouring rain, and I don't have to spend the day back and forth out on deck, and I appreciate that too, even more, for the twinge in my shoulders from the other day.