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.