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.