Tuesday, April 9, 2024

New Post: Now with 77% less whining!

 The busyness continued for several more days, and then... silence. 


 I bunkered an American ship last night. Well, registered and crewed in America, which is about as good as it gets these days. Anyhow, it was nice to get to speak the lingua franca for once when calling back and forth to the ship during the course of the discharge.  And we got all fast and things shut down around 0230, which left me a couple of hours to myself, catch up on end-of-tour things. 


     And it IS the end of tour. I'm going home tomorrow, if God is good to me.  It's been a busy one, but things went much smoother than earlier in the winter, so I'm going home, if not rested, than in a better headspace, certainly. 


   Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has some family coming to visit next week, so I'll have just one week to do whatever I want to do before having to be host.  Her cousin Boobzilla is coming with her family. 


     Boobzilla is rather curvy and shapely. Hence the nickname. She too, married an American from Boston, and praise God, he's a down to earth and normal dude, someone you can sit down with and have a drink and some laughs with. They have a lovely family, to be honest. Good people, which is why I'm not having a temper tantrum about sharing half of my precious free time. Between my wife, Boobzilla and her mom, who is also coming to visit, they'll be rattling away 12 to the dozen in foreign 90% of the time, which means the husband, my kid, me and their kids (who didn't learn Portagee for some reason) will be left to our own devices much of the time. My kid's dreading having to be chief translator, as of all the Brazilians and half-Brazilians, he is perfectly 100% bilingual, and nobody else is. My wife and Boobzilla both think in and speak English primarily, if endearingly imperfectly, but Boobzilla's mom is a monoglot, and they're all three of them accomplished gossipers. 

    But of course, I think I have mentioned before that my portagee has improved significantly,  which makes it more difficult to discuss me while I'm still in the room, as Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's cousins and friends learned this past summer. when I caught enough of a conversation to realize that given my exotic coloring, there was a general interest in the particular color of my wedding tackle. Ye Olde  Pink Torpedo being something of a wonder, apparently for not being a more familiar shade of brown. The hilarity and embarrased laughter when they realized I knew what was being said made the whole thing funny. Brazilians are earthy people and love to laugh as a rule. 

    Anyhow, I'm headed home tomorrow, and it looks like it will be a nice time, which I need I think. While this wasn't a bad tour by any means, 'not bad' is not the same thing as a good time. I already told my wife I plan to drink beer in my underwear on the couch at least once. There will be scratching and belching involved. 

               

Friday, April 5, 2024

This job would be great if it wasn't for the work involved

 Damn it got busy again. We're working hard here on the HQ, and pretty steady. Now, I was SUPPOSED to have tonight off. I had to settle for a half-watch off. My employer shoehorned a little job on us to give  some diesel fuel and a couple hundred tons of heavy fuel oil to an old rusty bulk carrier. And like many small jobs, the smaller it is, the bigger a pain in the ass it ends up being. 

         Usual M.O. 'Krainian engineer has his Filipino black gang so scared of him that they won't take a shit without written permission and constant radio contact the whole while.  

 "Shithouse 5, Engine Control Room."

 Engine Control Room, this is Shithouse 5, go ahead." 

"Manuel, reduce your pushing. Do not exceed one bar of sphincter pressure. There must be NO splash. Repeat, No Splash... and I can't find a copy of the Job Hazard analysis sheet for your wiping. You must not wipe until I have your JHA signed and stamped. Come to my office, but remember, no wiping."


 Anyhow, you get the idea. So NOTHING got done without the direct orders of the chief engineer. That included lowering me a bucket to pass paperwork back and forth. I was told "wait, wait my friend. The engineer has not tole' me eef I can lower you da bucket or no." 


 A chief engineer in port is a BUSY guy. So a job that should haver been 4 hours tops, was 9.  6 of those 9 hours being the time we had hoped to be at anchor between this job and our next load. 


 BUT, we finished the work, and the engineer being a bohunk, naturally he accused us of trying to short him on fuel and basically accusing us of stealing it. And I, having been exposed to the dishonesty of bohunk engineers weekly for the last 15 years, God help us, gave my usual unemotional reply. "Chief this is not Singapore. We don't steal fuel, and we don't negotiate the volume or cost.  Here, accusing us of being thieves is aserious thing." 

    Suddenly the problem of the missing fuel disappears. Every. Time. With. The. Fucking Bohunks. 

   Still, I haven't taken it personally for about 14 1/2 years. I just light my little candle, attempting to correct engineers, one at a time. 

     Unfortunately, I still haven't written part 2 of the post I was writing last week or the week before. I haven't been in the zone. No time. 



      

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Some maritime memes about the Baltimore incident

  It's been painful as hell to watch the internet reaction to the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse. 


 I'm not sure which is more awful; the pleasureboaters' hot takes based on their vast experiences with 21 foot plastic toy boats used about 50 hours a year,  or the conspiracy theorists' insistence that it was all a big, carefully orchestrated plan. 


 In between are the poor SOB's who just don't know what is reasonable and what isn't, given the absolute awful state of the world at the present moment and the retard circus that is the internet. 


    So a little gallows humor is due.  I stole all these memes from smarter and funnier people. None are mine. I ain't that clever. 














Friday, March 29, 2024

Whew!

 Man, I went and loaded that delayed job a week ago, and that was the last time I had a moment to myself, with the exception of 45 minutes yesterday, when I called a quick time out at the company pier and ran to the store to get food, as we were between jobs but had a cargo hose that was reaching its replacement date and the bunker gods (Long may they sow confusion; long may they shit light on the heads of the tankermen) with much wailing and gnashing of teeth overestimated the time it would take to swap out a measly 60-foot steel-belted 6-inch diesel hose by a fat guy who was running out of food and was within just a mile of a grocery store. 


    So, yeah, we swapped hoses, I jumped ashore still in my foul weather gear (it  being day 2 of a gentle soaking rain), leaving the hydraulics on and the deck crane sticking up vertically, and got my grub, before putting the deck away, admitting that I was finished, and getting bumped by a tug to go to the next job, with just 10 minutes in between. 

    This morning we had a nice small job to do, pumping off the oil that we loaded yesterday, on a Hapag-Lloyd chartered ship. Hapag-Lloyd uses the same cargo surveyor for almost every job, and he and I work really well together. A mutual appreciation club I guess. 

         I was done by noon and at anchor here at the foot of the Statue of Liberty about 2 hours later. And now... we rest. 

  Lordy, busy time. I haven't had a meal sitting down in 4 days I think. The sun came out and although there was a biting wind, the air temp was moderate. Not a bad day. 

         I'll pick up where I left off the other day, shortly. 


Friday, March 22, 2024

New Blood, and New Bloodletting (Part 1)

 Good morning, 

          Well, when I went to bed, I had planned on us being nudged and nosed over to a tank farm in Bayonne NJ to load up 4 grades of fuel (two of which would be partially combined together and also partially segregated from each other) in some proportion, for 3 ships over the next few days. 

    When I woke up at 0430, having slept 9 solid hours (I was pretty damn tired), we had been ordered to remain at anchor for the night. So here we are, swinging our dicks in the breeze at 0630, and my ass has already weighed in (I'm trying to lose weight again, and succeeding, 25lbs gone since New Years) and breakfasted (today being 2 slices of bacon and 2 eggs, which makes today a VERY good day so far).   


    We had a gale comes through the last day and a half, which brought some mild cold with it, somewhere 30's and low 40's, but with the breeze I couldn't get warm yesterday despite it being a mostly indoor day for me. I mean 40's used to be long-sleeved t shirt and a flannel shirt weather for me, all day outside. What the hell happened? Florida and anno domini, I guess. Sucks though. I'm a fatass, I shouldn't be getting cold. Not too many years ago, it took single digits and a gale before the cold bothered me. Getting soft and silly in my old age. 


      Some stuff is going on in the background. I have picked up some side work as a scientist, doing, may the good Lord help us, some analysis of testing methods and project planning for a for-once well budgeted study... I'm unfortunately being tapped for the planning stages, not the execution stages which would be fun AF, but what the hell, my services as a quarter-assed (not even halfassed) biologist haven't been in demand for some time, so I'm happy to have a couple of bucks thrown my way in exchange for a little algebra and some redneck CAD. plus the money is more than welcome.

 While my munificent Tankerman pay is adequate, construction in Brazil of my new batcave there is, while on budget for overall target, the money up front parts are coming faster than expected. Materials costs are rising rapidly there, as spendthrift econimic illiterates  are in power there, just as they are here, with similar results, so I'm being pushed hard to cough up the reals to buy stone, mortar and tile, lock in concrete deliveries, and secure rebar and consumables.  Same as 3 months ago, the house looks like present-day Gaza, only moreso. Construction on the 3 meter tall wall surrounding the house and yard came to a halt with the change order from Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, who wants piers sunk in the ground to support expanding the wall to 5 meters in the future and to add a 2nd floor to the annex to the big house, where we're going to reside. 

    What I love about Brazil is that if you want to build, and you own the land, you can build. Construction is  all stone and concrete, with no water table to deal with and stable ground down to 100-130 feet that will always pass a perc test in the arid region where we're building. So adding, say, a second floor is a matter of either prior planning to sink piers and columns now, or adding them later and being more disruptive, either way it's cool. 

    Still, it looks like hell right now, and my savings account is on a diet just like me, but showing much more rapid progress, if you get me. oof. 

_____________________________________________________________________________


 The breakneck pace that we've been setting the past few months here on the HQ hasn't been confined to just us. The other guys who are also working the Spot market (as in on-the-spot job charters, rather than long-term charters) in my company are also running around like a cat trying to bury a turd under a marble floor.  Perhaps as a result of the uptick in work locally without a commensurate increase in tonnage to perform the work, some of the major players in the oil trade have increased the number of vessels they are chartering on longer-term contracts. What this means is that, if, for example, an oil major picks up another tug and barge unit on charter, there is one less tug and one less barge available locally to work for companies other than that oil major. End result, each time this happens, the workload on moi and guys like moi, increases... and we're running low on tugboats. 

      Thing about a tugboat is that in the oil trade, they're an expense, not a generator of revenue. You spend money on a tug. You don't make money on a tug. And they're not cheap to fuel, man up or maintain... but a barge isn't getting from A to B without one.  Still, barges generate oil money in a more direct fashion, though both tugs and barges are needed as part of the process. The tug crew isn't going to carry oil in their pockets, and the bargemen aren't going to put a tow line between their teeth and start swimming, either. 

            What is happening is that companies often have more barges than tugs. A tug can drop a barge off at a terminal, and go move another barge or three before the barge at the terminal is loaded or discharged. It makes sense to have plenty of barges to work, and enough tugs to move them. But oil companies are fickle. They'll tell you they need oil moved on such a date and at such a time, but they're competing for berths with each other at tank farms and refineries, and the best laid plans etc etc... there are times when tugs and barges are all loafing, and times when everyone gets orders to move at the same time. Like a frigging anthill. 

       What ends up happening is that at times there might be 8-9 barges scattered across 15 miles of harbor and rivers, and at any one time between zero and all barges might get movement orders with no prior warning.   I'll give a more likely scenario, however. 

     Lets say one tugboat has orders to put a barge alongeside a ship at  0600, and also has orders to put another barge at a terminal at 0900, then return to the first barge at 1000, and move that barge to yet another ship.  The two barges are only 30 minutes apart from each other. At 0600, the tug has the barge alongside the ship, but the ship for some reason isn't sending men on deck to catch mooring lines, and so after blowing the whistle, cursing and hammering on the side of the ship with a 20lb sledgehammer, the barge is all fast and the tug breaks down... at 0700. It took an hour to get all fast, instead of the ideal, which is 10 minutes. So the Tug leaves the ship at 0700, steams the 30 minutes to the second barge, and arrives at 0730. Between making up (lashing the tug and barge together) and sailing, the tug leaves the berth at 0800, and arrives on time at the terminal, putting the second barge in on time, and on budget. 

    The expectation is that the first barge will be done at the ship in just 4 hours, so somewhere around 1100 with the delay, as it was a very small 350 ton splash of fuel oil the barge was transferring, which only should take 1 hour... but the ship is old, and the engineer on the ship is afraid that 60psi which is their normal loading max pressure, is too much for the piping, and wanted the barge to pump the fuel slowly. Instead of one hour, it takes 3. Plus the engineer is eastern European, and that means that no matter how much fuel the barge delivers, the engineer will accuse the barge of attempting to shortchange the ship by 40 tons of fuel (It's always 40 tons with the bohunk engineers. Don't know why). The engineer will spend an extra 30 minutes atttempting to browbeat the tankerman to give him 40 more tons of fuel, for free.  The engineer sent a crewman down earlier to measure the volume of fuel in the barge's tanks before they even got started, so he knows exactly what the barge has on board. But the tankerman actually gave him every drop of that grade of fuel on board that he asked for, and it was the correct amount of course, since the barge can not leave the tank farm unless the amount in the barge on loading agrees very closely with the amount that was pumped out of the shore tank.  So the tankerman tells the engineer too get his dishonest ass on the barge and stick his head in the barge's empty cargo tank. But the engineer never does. Instead, he says he will issue a Letter of Protest because the barge is a bunch of filthy liars and children of filthy liars who also practice usury and buggary at the selfsame time.   Now, a Letter of Protest is an official document, which can be used to start a legal process when disputes arise, so once a Letter is issued, it's a punctuation mark on the job. But the letter is never issued. Instead a Letter of Protest is issued, but not for the volume, but because of some minor inane thing (The barge refused to take the ship's mail or the like) and the volume is never mentioned. This document is delivered along with the actual bunker paperwork and the handheld VHF radio the barge lent the ship, and is delivered by one of the sailors, not an engineer, who coincidentally has no idea what is going on but who is vaguely hurt that the tankerman wasn't more polite and friendly. The barge is now about 3 hours behind his schedule as it stood at 0600.  And that means that the second ship of the day, who is waiting for his fuel at the anchorage, is also being  held up. 

 So the tugboat moves the barge, and the tugboat's schedule is fucked too, courtesy of the dirtbag engineer. The barge is 3 hours late, and the tugboat  was supposed to pick up the second barge after finishing the second ship with the first barge... so now the company has to find another tug to move either the first or second barge. Turns out, both are ready to sail at the same time. 


      And so, when my employer runs out of available tugboats, they hire a 3rd party tugboat, whether it's for a single job or for a period of time, 7 or 30 or 90 days.  and at any time, in the past few months we have had 3-5 3rd party tugs helping us out in NY harbor. 

      This means, for me, we have tugs that know the area, but don't know the idiosyncrasies of my barge, or other barges, and we don't know each other...strengths and weaknesses, people skills or lack thereof, communications style, needs, habits... which means there's a learning curve, which can be frustrating for all. But it also can mean new friendships or at least cordial affinities forming too. Positives and negatives. 

   And that is how my partner Big E and I got to know and like one very young, very nice but very volatile  deckhand.. 

(To be continued)


Friday, March 15, 2024

Good evening?

 Crew change went pretty easy this time. For the first time since we started loading the absolute cold dogshit oil that one customer started giving us this past fall, on our second cargo since I got back, we loaded a blistering hot, thin, high-quality fuel oil from another customer, one of the oil majors, and the stuff was so wholesome that it scoured a full inch of old, crusty resudue off of the 18 inches or so of unpumpable filth that is glued to the bottom of our tanks. 


 I wish we could load that stuff 17 more times.  Sadly, tomorrow morning we're back to load a big parcel of nastiness again. 

 But that's for tomorrow. Tonight we're free and at anchor, Glory Be and long may the bunker gods squat down and grunt to shit light on the heads of we the damned. 


       I slept this morning. Some delays last night caused by an awkwardly-placed support beam on the large container ship we were pumping off to caused the ship's crew to not be able to connect our main fueling hose before we reached 0530, my watch change where Big E takes over. As I am still much too calm and stable after having a week at home, the newly arrived has to work night watch. After a week of night watch I will be sufficiently unhappy to take over as the day man, the guy who is the face of the HQ when it comes to interacting with the office drones, engineers, bosses, etc.  Heaven forfend that I give the wrong idea and say hello with a smile when outsiders interact with us. They need to know exactly how much we hate life while dealing with this oil on board which acts like gelled lukewarm diarheaa. . 

            So yeah, back to normal. I'm still armored by the "If you don't give a fuck why should I' mentality as we complete cargoes poorly given the nature of the cargo.  I guess that's what makes today's discharge so special to us. I was still asleep when Big E finished the job, but where this was the first time where we actually pumped off all the oil we were given in... 4 months I think? Big E was in tearing high spirits. 

          One thing about E and I, we've discovered that we tend to absorb the other's emotional state. E had cautioned me several times back in January that after talking to me he wanted to put his head in the oven, back when we were finishing each job with the HQ sitting an inch deeper than it was the job before. I apologized profusely for it and last month made a point to not look at the HQ through shit-colored glasses, which actually put both of us in a better place, as he did the same.  So today I let myself bask in his inner glow and we celebrated after I drank a quart of energy drink by pulling a couple of our mooring lines out of service and dragging some replacement lines in.  300 feet of hawser is heavy and our to-go-ashore storage for old running rigging is a long walk from some of the lines. The weather being downright pretty helped- long-t-shirt weather and sunny, which is ideal. Just cool enough to prevent a sweat at the workload involved. 

    Really, the old mooring lines are just a couple of hundred pounds each, so we grab and end and pull it until it's a strain, then go grab another part of the same line 100 feet further down and pull that until the whole line is close enough that it can be faked down (stowed neatly where it will feed out neatly when moved) out of the way in its' temporary home. So we put 3 lines out of service, and put 3 new lines in. The new lines are heavier than the old, as the old lines generally wear out at the eyes, the terminal ends, and when they break, which happens as they age, we resplice new eyes, which costs 15-20 feet of line, shortening it... so if we resplice a line twice at each end... 60-80 feet is lost. 


 Anyhow, tonight is quite lovely. The sunset was really nice. I missed my wife something fierce. She's one of the only non-sailors I know who is a true sunrise/sunset aficionado.  I may demand cash on the barrel in exchange for my work, but part of my pay is all the sunrises and sunsets I can stand. 'S always been that way, too. I LOVED watching the sunrise when I was 8-9 and loading 5 gallon buckets of bait on the lobsterboat- the old timer who taught me to fish poured out the barrels into buckets so we could tote them in manageable lots. Child labor is the best labor.  Later I learned in high school to roll Irish barrels (42 gallon barrels by partially tipping them about 20 degrees an-end and steering while I rolled. At age 18, I would just hug and lug the barrels.  As an actual adult after my first pulled back muscles that caused me to miss fishing for 4 days, I went back to rolling them. 

   I've still got the core strength from all that. It's just that my joints don't like it no more. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is flabby and aches. 


 Anyhow, tonight I crack open the books and fire up my desk to get paperwork up to date and then I should have time to made a decent stir-fry for night lunch.  I'll be working all night tomorrow, but there's a possibility that the evening of the 17th, the highest of high holy days of those born in Boston, Irish Christmas itself, the feast of St. Patrick, we might have a break between jobs.  As I'm on nights, I will be able to catch the Irish music on the Boston radio stations online I hope. The corned beef will be defrosting starting tomorrow. 



Monday, March 11, 2024

Much much too fast

 I'm sitting at my kitchen table, putting together travel arrangements to go back to NY tomorrow for work. It was a fine, FAST 6 days at home, but all in all it was a good run ashore. It's sunny and warm, around 80 with light breezes outside, my wife has some kind of focaccia bread and cheese and tomato thing in the oven cooking and the whole house smells like garlic and olive oil.  Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has been cooking up a storm, and being half Italian, the girl can COOK.   


   I made a few mistakes, attributable to enthusiasm. I drank too much on my first night home, and got up early the next morning and did a bunch of heavy labor, and by 8 am I had sweated through a couple of shirts and was dehydrated. And hung over. Because I am an idiot, that's why.  At any rate, I spent the rest of the day more or less on the couch nauseous, but by that evening I was good to go again and my wife had taken a couple of days off so we got to spend about 4 days joined at the hip, which was exactly what I needed given that I've been home for a total of 3 weeks I think since October and only had 6 days at home this time... I won't be doing any overtime this trip and will have a more normal run ashore in April, and time enough to be social.  


        This time other than one night out with my wife and another with my wife and son (who is home from sea too), we spent most of the time cooped up in the house, which I think we all needed. 


 I'm not going back to work relaxed, I didn't have enough time for that... but I am going back to work feeling better than I did, and that's all to the good. February was a good month aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Center for involuntary celibacy, but I was still reeling from January, which sucked massive camel wang. I was telling my wife over the weekend about how badly January at work fucked me all up emotionally by making me doubt my career choices, this being my 42nd year of working on the water coming up (I started at age 8 for the princely sum of $10 a day baiting lobster pots), but thankfully February had enough days where things went OK enough for me to get back on an even keel, and hopefully March will continue that trend. 



Anyhow, lunch is ready, gotta go. One last day before crew change. 


Sunday, March 3, 2024

3 watches and a wake-up to go.

 Wow, OK, thank you very much to the good people who left a comment on my last post. Tonight's another quiet night aboard (thank you God), and I was able to go for a walk ashore this afternoon, too. Good day. I go home in a few days, though just for a week. 

     All of New York decided to go for a walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park, which shares an entrance with the container terminal/lay berth piers where the HQ is docked while we wait for a berth to open up at the tank farm where our next job will start. This meant that on my walk, the sidewalks were so congested that it wasn't possible to stay in step for more than 15 seconds at a time (not exaggerating) and I spent much of my walk winding my way around people. The smell of weed and foreigners (B.O.) lay thick enough that it wasn't possible to forget about it... and the side streets were little better, so my walk wasn't all that enjoyable, but all the same, it's still better than walking in circles around deck ad nauseum, so there's that. 

   The past 5 weeks have been pretty good overall. We're still dealing with  solidified oil in our tanks that will not pump off, and more building with every job, and it now takes compressed air being blasted into the pipelines to clear a path for oil to flow within our pipelines... the problems of ow temperatures and oil that is stupid to use in cold locales, oil with very high pour points (the temperature below which the oil stops flowing) haven't been addressed, but I have finally stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb, as my spirit animal Dr. Strangelove recommended. The office folks don't care. Should I? 

 It's been hard, detaching my ego, sense of pride, the desire to do things well and correctly and my work ethic, too, from how I do my job. If nobody gives a fuck that the oil we're carrying is a nightmare, that the receivers hate it and hate us because of it, and every job leaves less and less room in our tanks as residues build,  why should I? So long as I can keep it out of the water and go home with 10 fingers and 10 toes, I'm still doing the job to the best of my ability. Agonizing over the fact that no matter what I do I can't do my job correctly  enough to have the satisfaction of a cargo completed is exhausting, so I try not to dwell on it, and I have stopped apologizing to the victims receivers. Ships that are regular visitors to NY are already avoiding the supplier of the problem oil, so I figure that this problem solves itself. 

   And it has been slower. Thank God for that. With time in between jobs, since everything takes longer than it should, and since part of the time we have to return oil to the supplier because we literally can't get our pumps to pump it  (which means returning the oil by loading MORE of it, heated higher, then pumping it off and reloading it, which leaves an inch or three of new cold oil bottoms on top of the oil that was already there), and try to get it to the next ship before it turns solid again. 

    So, yeah, the pace is more reasonable than it has been. it's like things were up until COVID. We have free time every week, sometimes just a half-day, sometimes more, but I have been at this company for 15 years, and for the first 12 years THIS was the pace. Optimum for sustainability in terms of our equipment, mental health and well-being too. Going non-stop is hard on the metal and hard on the meat. Actually its made me realize how much I hate my job now compared to just 3 years ago, because this past month I actually enjoyed the work a couple of times. Splicing a damaged mooring line the other night, it was cold and quiet and the ocean was calm enough to reflect the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Really pretty moment. Shit like that is worth it's weight in gold. 

   I'm still trying to figure out what happened, in that I've been working on the water for, wow, 42 years. I started at age 8, and I've always loved it, and then I didn't, and then I was trying to avoid thinking about it because I hated it so much that I stopped looking out at the ocean, stopped taking enjoyment of the little things that made shoreside work so unpalatable in comparison... I'm hopeful that I have again found a place to hang my hat in terms of justifying being a mariner. Time will tell I guess. This past month has shown me that there's still a lot of good things attached to my work for me. I hope it keeps going. 



Tuesday, February 27, 2024

dear diary

 More and more I am thinking that this blog has run its' course.  It's certainly been a number of years.  I am at a point career-wise where things are on autopilot and I just work to keep my credentials current. I have the connections. credentials and the pull at my company to switch to being tug crew if I want and make more money... but I don't' want it. In less than 3 months I'll be 50.  I haven't grown MORE tolerant of being in close proximity to coworkers over time, so being hotboxed with 4-5 other grown men in a rolly-assed tugboat for weeks at a time sounds like punishment at this point.  I'm good where I am. 

Instead of a story, I offer you these fine things:  







Monday, February 19, 2024

That's better

 Thank God for small favors we have returned to a sane pace here on the HQ. 

     It's actually been on the slow side. I hate even writing that lest it come to an end, but we've been working at an age-appropriate rate lately. It's been great. I feel a lot better, even moreso than I did 2 weeks ago when I said I was feeling good.  Not that I'm running around shining sunshine out my ass or anything but I am not living with regret for my career choices at every meal, which was unpleasant. 


         So, construction in Brazil continues but slowly. Outside contractor REALLY tried to fuck us on the pool. Guys wanted 130,000 local bucks, about 30 grand for the pool, start to finish. Our architect/builder, who married into the family a few years ago, said absolutely not to take the deal. He agreed to dig the hole with his excavator for gas money, about $100, as he could use the fill elsewhere, and offered less than half of what the bidders were suggesting, until someone took it, who turned out to be a franchise pool builder with a good rep.  The demolition, with the exception of some excavating, is about done.  The main house is about ready to be closed up again, as right now there aren't any windows and it's just bare cement walls, a roof and window holes ready for windows to be installed.

       Since I don't plan on owning a car in Brazil, I am putting a big pergola over the side yard where the driveway used to be.  

     I decided to have columns sunk to support a 2nd floor if we ever go that route. I already have a big walled yard, and won't be able to expand OUT without buying the 3-house compound next door that belongs to one of Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's cousins. I ain't giving up my backyard to add to the big house. 

    My wife and I will be staying in a detached master bedroom with en-suite shithouse in the side yard. It'll have a decent sitting room attached, and the outdoor covered kitchen we'll be using to host get-togethers outside that. There's a cabana/pool bathroom/laundry room on the other side of the pool so the fam doesn't have to track shit on my floors in the big house or mine. 


       I'm one of those people who doesn't like anyone in my bedroom, pretty much ever. I pretty much even trained my kid not to go in there without there being a pressing emergency. So my little bedroom area will be locked up tighter than a bulls ass during blackfly season when I'm not in it. 

My part of the house on the left. The gray wall in the background is an error






outdoor kitchen with wood-fired oven, gas oven, gas range and bar

pool cabana/head//laundry on left, fountain on the right is now 7 feet up. 


       I don't have renderings of the main house or the side yard and such. My wife might. I pretty much only care about the parts where I can hang my hat. the main house is more or less where the ladies are. I want to stay close to the bar. 


Thursday, February 8, 2024

I crack myself up

 The other day a 3rd party tugboat was charioteering us for a job, and one of the deckhands was pretty green and had some attitude. 

     Welp, here I go again. 


       This kid, he was a worker, and seemed pretty quick to pick things up... but the attitude... naw.  18-19, black kid, urban accent, you know, generic.  Hell, good for him, kid's working hard and making good money out of the box. We need 50 more like him... but we were approaching a PCTC, a car carrier, those retarded-looking but VERY useful ugly ass mofos. 



These things are awkward AF to deal with. Good ships, apparently, to work on and to sail on, surprisingly enough.  They're floating parking lots with multiple decks inside that you drive stuff onto and park... but to make more room, some of the decks are mounted on hydraulics, so you can lift or lower a whole deck if you've got compact cars, say, and can make room for more rather than leaving an air gap between the roof of the car and the next deck above. 


    At any rate, these things are awkward to tie to for us.   That main deck, 100 or so feet in the air? We don't tie up to there. Instead, the ships have Panama Chocks- mooring bitts mounted INTO the hull in recesses, to which bunker barges (or Panama Canal railroad engines to drag you through) can moor. 

   In the ship above, down low towards the stern, you'll see a ling rectangular recessed area under the Y and the K. That's the Accommodation Ladder, the ship's gangway, more or less. Also in the recessed area is a Crucifix Bitt, a cross-shaped bitt ideal for bunker barges to moor with.  But under the N there's another recess, about 8 feet on a side, and that's the bunker station, an area with pipe connections for heavy fuel, diesel fuel, and various grades of lube oils for the engine and generators.  

    So for me, I like to have the HQ lie head-to-tail with the ship, where my bow is at his stern. Our mooring fenders, three each side, each able to withstand multiple tons of crushing force, I try to land at least two of them and a portable fender (small rubberized solid fenders, about 3' across, weighing about 100lbs, and slightly compressible that I hang wherever two men can muscle it.  In PCTC's my forward fender usually ends up not being able to contact the side of the ship (the flat, also called the parallel midbody), and so we end up resting on a portable fender and two of our fixed fenders.  The issue there is that it's possible to wedge part of my barge under the non-flat parts of the ship's bow and stern if we don't land exactly flat to the ship. This causes much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and possibly a hole in the ship, or more often, it simply flattens things like our light masts used for flood lighting and such. Either way it's a nightmare, and so everyone is vigilant for the least sign that we're getting 'out of shape' and might not be square to the ship's side and therefore able to touch up safely. 


   Anyways, that's a long setup for a 5 second joke for sure.   So we're coming alongside this ship somewhere around 2am, and I'm talking and walking around with a walkie-talkie, talking to the deckhands and the tug operator. The experienced deckhand is calling out distances and relative motion to the tug operator, the new kid is handling lines and we're all trying to work together to be sure the tug operator knows what is happening, since much of his view is obscured by my barge's houses and the deck itself. This is where an experienced team of tug operator and lookout are absolutely worth their weight in gold. Imagine having a kid 30 years younger than you, who can't even drive a boat, telling you what you need to do in terms of throttle and movement, giving advice or simply asking you to make us move one way or another... there's a lot of trust involved. 

   So the new kid is my hands, pretty much, and the deckhand is the tug operator's eyes AND hands on deck.  I have to split my time and attention between what the tug is doing, what the people are doing, and what I need to be able to do in terms of mooring safely and being able to do my job. It sounds harder than it is. It's not a difficult thing at all, but important of course. 

    At any rate, I have a habit, maybe good or maybe bad, of not wanting to get involved with the mooring lines while I'm still trying to figure out the best way to tie us up and get us into position. And so when we get the all-important first line made fast to the ship, the tug now has good control of the whole operation. He can clutch the throttles in and out of  gear to come into the first line and keep the barge snug against the ship, using the force of his engines to push the barge ahead, and the now-tight first line will cause us to spring ahead and alongside the ship. 

         I try not to be rude to the deckhands, but I'm rushing, we're all rushing. And so, thoughtlessly because these guys are strangers, once we have the first line made fast to the ship but not made fast to one of our bitts or cleats, I think I just said. "Here, take this and make it fast. After we're snug alongside he'll tell you to let it go again, just let the line pay out when the mate tells you and I'll call out distances to the Spot I want. '  and I think I said this abruptly and I sort of thrust the bight of line in my hand into his. 

     So yeah, the kid was nonplussed.  I guess what I said and did could be interpreted as rude, to a landsman. I didn't cuss or say anything bad, and I don't think I had a snotty tone of voice or anything, but it rubbed him the wrong way, which rubbed me the wrong way, you know?  It's marine work. No place for your precious fee-fees to get hurt.  It's true, though, I didn't say please or thank you. I often do. 

 Either way, I could tell that the kid's feeling real soggy and hard to light. As we work our way through the other 5 mooring lines I used for that job, I'm now annoyed he's annoyed, and so I'm still not saying please or thank you. I'm not antagonizing, either, though.  When the last line was secure, I said "OK, all fast. You guys did great. Thank you both,"  which is both recognition and a dismissal, and  we wandered off. The experienced deckhand  gave me a friendly pro-forma  'no worries, thank you too,: and the men went back on their tugboat. As the tugboat is casting off (they have 4 lines made up to the barge, so it takes a few minutes) I ask about their next job, as the same tug is due back in 6-8 hours to take us off the ship when we finish pumping, and they tell me they've got a quick job and will be back in a few hours to wait for me to finish. I said,  "OK, good enough. See you in a couple of hours. Go. Go Make Daddy Proud."  The experienced deckhand  laughed at that, but the new kid, boy howdy he didn't like that. But what the hell, if you can't take a joke, you have no business working on the water, I figure. 

   Eh, the kid will learn. He doesn't seem a bad sort. Maybe he was King Shit back home, but here he's just another dancing bear at our Retard Circus. Joking is a pressure relief valve, and jokes that don't single out anyone are the best kind. 



Monday, February 5, 2024

Centered

 Well, damn, I feel a lot better. 


      I've been trying to articulate why it is that I've had constipation of the soul for the past few weeks after a particularly trying tour on the HQ over the holidays... and I still can't quite explain it, except that I note that I feel fine now. Back to what I laughingly call normal. 

             My job was making me look bad and making me feel incompetent, through no fault of my own and my ego wasn't having it. I'm a pretty fart smeller, I can make things better even when the job isn't going to go right. I can make it go less wrong. 

    Oh the hubris. We had bad oil. Nobody gives a shit in the office. Why the fuck should I?  Sure I look like an incompetent, along with all the other retards in this circus who have to hump this difficult to pump oil to suckers  the charterer's customers. 

   Anyhow, couple of days off meant that I had a couple of days to cook, clean, and lose myself in some tankerman Arts N' Crafts projects- organize some storage lockers, stack boxes of supplies, test the coolant's specific gravity in the gens and cargo pumps, have a suck at the bottom of the hydraulic tank sumps and look for metal filings, water or other contaminants... I even got to lube all the zerks on board early this month. Wintertime is hell on the machinery.  Plus, with the new year, there's dumb shit that we sometimes don't give much thought to, like swapping out the batteries on the life ring emergency lights, and the water-activated lights on our gumby suits, the survival suits we have to wear if we want to survive going in the water. I'd be a bit put out if I got woken up from a dead sleep and told that we had to ditch, only to find that the Here I am light on my Jolly Green (the suit is red, the bag it comes in is green, signaling that the suit is size Fatass) isn't working.  

 So, yeah, the HQ's stocked up and later today we've got a small batch of cargo fixed for a car carrier who's coming in late tonight.  


     To go back to what I was bitching about earlier, I was pretty stressed in Jan. Shit going wrong in Brazil at our house under construction, work/life balance getting a bit fucked, etc etc. We all have things bothering us.  Sometimes I feel like I have too low of a bar set where I start to get stressed.  Still, I had a particularly relaxing time home that soothed the burn and coming back to work has been startlingly enough, a return to normalcy for values of normal, anyhow. 

    

     While I was home we spent some time in Miami- I had to get a Brazilian CPF, their equivalent of a social security number, and so having knocked that out at the consul, and anticipating that it might be a classic Brazilian Government interaction (turning a 5 minute process into a 2 day affair), I reserved a hotel room, so we had the rest of the day to ourselves, and so among other things, we wandered around the market around pier 5 and had a blast, day drinking and playing tourist. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I sucked down a bunch of mojitos and ate local seafood, and after, the feeling of decompression was palpable to me, as my stress levels ratcheted down. My wife got hit on by a Cuban bartender, but only once, and was feeling a little down as a result. But she ate an ice cream cone and attracted a bit of an audience in the process, to which I later pointed out, her being oblivious, and she turned as red as her blouse. Anyhow, ego restored.  I'm kind of used to it. 



 




      I was already a lot better by the time I came back to work, and now my liver is resting comfortably too, as it got a bit of a workout at home. 




Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and roses outside of my little sphere of influence. Blog buddy BCE learned recently that his Mrs. has breast cancer. This is at the tail end of a nightmare year where he had to leave home to try to gain custody of his grandchild out of state against a startlingly corrupt DCS system which meant heroic efforts that affected his mental health and damn near bankrupted him. Guys' a machine, and a good egg to boot, another reformed Masshole like me, too,  and his wife getting cancer of the cans is a real fuck you from above, IMO.  Now, BCE has reason to be stressed. I feel like a cunt crying that my job is hard lately, waah.  I mean, couple of months, I turn 50. We're not kids anymore, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I. The trials of old age are coming, of course they are. I hope i can keep my shit together as well as some of the people I have met when they come. I wonder at it, at me. I hope I conduct myself as well as the people I've met who have real stress to deal with. 


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Better than expected.

 I had psyched myself up to come back to work. I had to. I was dreading more of the poop sandwich that was my last tour on the HQ. While I was home the workload stayed steady here, daily alternating between being busy and it still sucked and being really busy and sucking even more.  No breakdowns at least, so with the trash oil we're moving from A to B, it was just a matter of embracing the suck that is doing your daily best while everyone hates you because of things that aren't in your control. 

  So that is what my partners E and B were up to while I was recovering at home from the last time I was at work.   B especially, he got it with both barrels, having spent  331 days of 2023 on board the HQ.  Guy wanted to make buckets of money, but the last 4 weeks were hell, and he rode that ride to hell. 


 I came in, B went home.  And 4 hours before crew change, for the first time in I think 6 weeks, we went to a lay berth with no cargo orders on the books. 

     The last two days have been one of busy days and quiet nights. It's been glorious. I'm on nights. Oh, I'm pitching in, doing chores and updating the books, puttering around the silent decks here on the HQ between dusk and dawn... it's peaceful, and productive. Food for my soul. I really do enjoy being able to work and do worthwhile things with no need to deal with people at all. I enjoy being alone. Truly. And when I do want to be social, I can chat with E, whose a friend, and who is running the show during the day, when engineers are running around with parts and tools, the port captain and port engineer are here punching out things on our punch lists for mechanical and administrative things, and I'm basically left to do fire watch and help as much or as little as I want.  

     This is my second watch on board, and it's quiet again tonight. I've got a little list of things I want to do, and somewhere around 0430 Big E will get up and we'll chat about the plan for the day and what got done, what needs to get done, and etc. And tomorrow's Friday, when Dispatch hands out clusterfucks and hate mail, and we'll find out what awfulness they have planned for us. 


      E says we had 2 cargoes a week ago that weren't utter trash, and pumped fairly well.  Not from the supplier we've been saddled with lately, but one of the Oil Majors, who we sometimes work for on Spot basis, maybe 2-3 times a month.   I hope we get some time away from the bad oil people. But even if we don't, two days free to get maintenance done, supplies received and stowed, and daily being able to stock up on greenstuff for the inevitable return to nonstop work... well, we'll be as ready as we can be now. 

   So I dunno. February can still turn into a shit sandwich here on board. But perhaps it won't be a soggy one. 


Sunday, January 28, 2024

How...timely

 This morning I was puttering around my garage and yard, doing little projects, when I got one of those weird mood swings we all get and started really seeing things through shit-colored glasses. 

    Today was bleach day, one of those twice yearly tasks I do to keep mildew and green slime from building up on vertical structures in FL, like fences and walls and such.  Basically I spent 30 minutes bombing sections of my fences that were getting green with algae, and killing the mildew that pops up anywhere moisture might linger on my house, using a 1gal spray pump.  It's oddly satisfying and makes everything look shiny and newish, and usually one of those low-effort/high reward tasks. 

    So it was a bit of a bummer that suddenly I'm feeling like someone shat in my cornflakes. Sun is shining, it's like 70 degrees, gorgeous day.  But a random thought popped in... in 2 days or so I have to be back in fuckin' New York for work... and that was enough to make me feel like really knocking the hats off of strangers, if you get the reference. 

       Also, Big Brother Bob (nobody calls him that) gifted me a bottle of Proper 12 whisky, which I am sucking down now like a 2 dollar ho on dollar day. That is some TASY sippin' whisky. 


   But yeah, this morning went from suck to blow after my mood turned.   2-3 years ago I built a surprisingly charming looking 6x8 foot L-shaped step to get in and out of my jacuzzi, which looked like a million bucks for something made out of scrap wood rejects from my Home Depot Pine Pile.  And naturally while finishing up my bleaching I discovered the thing is rotting out FAST.  Already in a shitty mood, this was a bummer, but with a couple of 2x4 cutoff pieces, a framing square and some 3" screws, I put in some supports that should buy me 6 months before the whole thing collapses on itself. 

     But yeah, the mood was cemented in, and suddenly I felt 50 lbs heavier and 10 years older. I still knocked out the tasks I set out to do, but I wasn't the middle-aged honey-do-punch-list machine I was at 0900. 

             I swear sometimes I'm fuckin' psychic.  That's why I have my other alter ego. In my wife's city in Brazil, I'm Don Paolo, aging fatass foreign playboy married to the city's famous beauty queen of 25 years ago. But at home I'm also Nostradumbass, the predictor of stupid things to come in the future.

            Nostradumbass, as always, was making himself known this morning. Bullshittery was afoot. 

             I'm not right at the moment. Something essential and satisfying is missing from my emotional armor after the last trip I took to work. 

         That's weird to say. I'm carrying some baggage, not because anyone died or we almost sunk, but because things were tense and we were having a series of bad days, and this concurrent with a series of hard jobs and unsatisfyingly concluded cargo ops... I'm having spiritual ennui, I swear, I hate myself for not laughing it off. That being said, I came home feeling off. Thank fuck, I didn't come home with itchy feet like in the old days, where I'd get the spiritual guidance from God or my guardian angel or my subconscious and blow up my life to get rid of the feeling. So no itchy feet, gracias a dios. Still, I am in an emotionally unarmored position as I heal up from whatever the fuck that was the last month. 

    And big E, my awesome partner at work, the 3rd point of the trilateral commission that makes up the best afloat management team I've ever worked with, has a family thing. 

  So, yeah, big E's Mrs. is having some day surgery, as things happen, and E asked me to work extra for a week, while I'm recovering from a 10-week marathon that for some reason fucked me up disproportionately. 

           The positive? I'm getting a week of overtime to work on my own HQ.   Score! I get OT money and don't have to parse out all the weird shit that comes from figuring out other people's ways of running a boat.   The negative:  Things are fucked. We're still getting sour oil that is playing merry hell with our systems and making us look like assholes, but the folks supplying the oil are paying just fine, so things continue. 

     But I do feel quite a bit better. And fatter too, but with 35 days coming up for work, I'll have time to put down the fork and do the necessary.  Still, I have 2 days to enjoy before that's an issue. 

Gott focus on the positive. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Small steps

 Damn, I think I'm OK now.  It took 4 days for me to get over whatever mental and physical baggage I brought with me after the last trip. 


 I've been sleeping 9 hours a night and sleeping really well. That's not like me at all. But I think it's helping. 


   I gained about 20lbs in the 10 weeks I was gone. I credit that from increased stress, decreased sleep, decreased free time, poor weather, and the chase for dopamine where I can find it, which until this past week was only to be found in food. I couldn't even sit down after my watch and read a book without getting a call from a cargo surveyor or the office, and with the quality of sleep being so poor and short at work, that doesn't change that I rarely sleep deeply at work. Part of my mind is always aware of the load on the generators (the noise changes and the ventilation changes pitch just slightly too), the throttle settings on the cargo pumps, and the load on the hydraulics.  I'm aware of those things for about 80% of my sleep cycle- not aware enough to be awake, but I can tell you how many times I hear the air compressor kicking on, which causes the turbo on the generator to become audible, and it's about 80% of the number of times it happens. So yeah, 6 hours of that isn't refreshing after a couple of weeks, but it's enough to keep you going. This is the real impact of the problems we've been having lately- hearing the cargo pumps wind up because they've lost suction, or can't get suction at all, and hearing the cargo pumps bog down at high throttle when E or B is trying to blow a snot rocket plug out of the underdeck pipelines or the cargo hoses at 120psi... It's not possible to sleep lightly through that, because it means we have problems that will be my problem when it's my turn to get up. 


   Well, enough whining, I'm not at work. It was chilly here for South FL today. 60 degrees, lol.  And the house in Brazil has the first signs of renovations starting to show up- the well was dug to 200 feet and capped with the pump and plumbing set, the window frames are square, the stone wall around the perimeter is starting to go  up (at 10 feet it should allow me to sun my giant white ass at leisure should I want to. I mean my mother-in-law will be there but she's blind, so Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife can go full National G if she wants to), and the architect has the plumbing and electrical mapped out for the builder. 


    Have you ever seen those 3rd world header tanks on the roof  that people use to store and up the water pressure in their house?  


    These things are everywhere in Brazil- in some areas running water is switched on and off across neighborhoods,  or flow only at a few gallons per hour, and people are expected to use their header tank contents to keep the taps running in their house. The neighborhood where we're building is in the "Old City" of the city where we are, and got 24/7 running water a few years ago. Even so, between the well and the city water, we're in good shape for the arid area where we are- think Oklahoma with big rolling hills and ridges.  

    Personally I hate the look of these ghetto tanks and they're resorts for vermin, so I had the builder pour a 5,000 gal concrete header tank in the roof of the house. Don Paolo wants to be the posessor of a freshly washed ass on the reg, after all. 



 We had 2 of these that looked like dogshit, real jury-rigged looking, 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

a little less so now...

 I'm a couple of days into my time off now, and like pee left too long in the toilet bowl, I'm starting to mellow, if you define mellow as the unpleasant nature of something becoming less so by exposure over time. 

        I'm feeling better, and if not particularly motivated yet to hit the honey-do list, I'm catching up on errands, doing taxes and keeping a low profile. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has been an angel, very supportive and sympathetic but always relentlessly positive. 


    It's an unusual feeling for me, to feel this blah for so long. Normally, coming home I have to restrain myself I'm so damn excited. 


        On top of work having been about as pleasant as a sack of smashed assholes, the house in Brazil has been a pain in the balls of late. We started the purchase several months ago, but the final sale has been held up by the difficulty made by the US .gov to allow private citizens to move their money overseas. It's 1000X easier to do so illegally or quasi-legally than to do so in 100% compliance with the law. 


    I'm one of those people who can't even speed 15 over the limit without getting a ticket- I am lucky in many, many ways, but I can't break a law or even think about breaking a law. I'll be caught at it. Always. If I look at an irrigation sprinkler that looks like it's coming loose, Code Enforcement pulls up the moment I think about picking up a shovel. 

    So, yeah, it's been a ballbuster to get money wired. On the Brazilian side, buying a house that was part of an estate creates a layer of legal folderol that means judges, lawyers and probate courts are involved. None of which is a real problem, just annoying AF. On the upside, since the sale is final, I don't have to report being a foreign property owner to the IRS for last year's taxes. 


 I'm thinking things have turned a corner and are starting to lighten up and my present shitty mood is a hangover effect. 

    On the upside, I'm learning a lot. And eventually I'll get myself a big white pimp hat and a guayabera and a cigar and make everyone call me 'Don Paolo'  when I'm in residence at the casa.  

Thursday, January 18, 2024

That's enough now.

 I was home less than 12 hours before I got a text asking me to come back. 


 I said no. 


 I did 10 weeks. It's funny, 10 weeks is a short tour on a ship. But ships by their nature travel long distances, whereas a bunker barge does not. If I were working the ports of Philly and Baltimore, jobs are anywhere from 3 to 9 hours away from the loading dock. In New York? 30-40 mins. The loading terminals are almost all in Bayonne NJ, which is a 30 minute sail from NY harbor, and a 30 min sail the other way to Elizabeth NJ, where the majority of the container terminals are for NY/NJ. 


        10 days ago we got the first real winter storm.  In the past 10 days, we had ONE nice day, which I define as light winds and a sight of the sun at home point. Other than that, it's been blowing gales every other day and just plain windy in the days in between, along with rain, frozen rain, sleet, snow and Monday night, an ice storm. 

     Monday night I wiped out on deck, and almost fell and caught myself another dozen times or so. Tuesday, more of the same but much much worse. The ice was heavy enough and mirror smooth to boot, thick enough to gloss over the nonskid on our decks. The present HQ has a LOT of obstructions on deck (large pipelines that are thigh high to be stepped over, small pipelines and conduit, 8 inches high, that must be walked on to be passed over, and valves, ports, hatches, etc.   Plus the 4 100' cargo hoses on each side of the manifold, the pipeline junction where the hoses connect to the barge's piping. And our two 60' cargo cranes sadly have trip hazards in the control area as you rotate the crane. 

    I was coming apart on my last watch. It was one of those nights where nothing worked right. Even though we heat the coffin-sized fluid sump for our hydraulics, hundreds of feet of hydraulic piping full of cold hydraulic fluid on deck make the hydraulic-powered equipment SLOW and unbelievably loud to operate until the warm fluid reaches the equipment. So if you're using the anchor capstan on the bow, the sound level in the bunkroom is about what you'd hear from a chainsaw 50 feet away... for the first 45 seconds or so. It's NOT a pleasant way to wake up. 

    So the cargo cranes were barely moving, the capstans for mooring lines were barely moving, and I was constantly slipping and catching myself, which feels just AWESOME after a couple of hours, let me tell you. 

      Oh, and the oil supplier we have been using, in a fit of unbelievable genius, thought it a real bargain to buy bunker oil that was formulated for a tropical zone. The pour point (the temperature at which the oil will turn solid was SEVENTY frigging degrees, whereas it should be 20 degrees or less. So we've been having oil turn solid in our pipelines and hoses, needing to be blown out under high pressure using our cargo pumps... and by high pressure I mean higher than the maximum safe working pressure for the cargo system. 

 Imagine blowing out a snot rocket in your sinuses using an air compressor vs your own lungs.  Same same.  And even then, we've on several occasions been unable to get this oil to pump at all. As of yesterday when I left, this was still to be addressed. 

     I came home sore, and deeply deeply dispirited.   It's brutal on my psyche, having to fight to do my job at every point, where nothing goes smoothly, the equipment is strained, everyone's stressed, the receiver of the oil is deeply unhappy because it's trash and we're risking blowing out their piping too, and they're perfectly happy to let me know that they're blaming me. And my company, while sympathetic, feels no particular urge to do anything, as this is just business, just some crappy oil that will eventually run out, and when we do fail to carry out a transfer, they just send us back to the same terminal to load MORE of the oil and hope that next time the pumps catch prime. Oh, and if we do cross the magic number of PSI in the process of trial-and-error to get a stuck pipeline stuck, if I rev the pump up and it jumps, say 5 PSI higher than I thought it would (there being no fine control, I'm revving a diesel engine using a not-very-sensitive twist throttle) and I do cause any sort of unanticipated consequences, whether it's on my deck or someone else's, the blame falls on ME. Oh, my company too, would get some flack, since they're the ones who keep deciding to accept this trash oil, knowing what could happen, but I'm the stupid bastard who puts his signature on the Declaration before starting a transfer. The company has already told me not to exceed a certain PSI. Think of trying to get to 4,000rpm on your car, knowing that at 3,900 it won't move, but at 4010 it will blow the engine.  Step one, post-incident is to find a convenient bus to throw me under. 

    Thing is, we're burning out.  I'm burning out. I'm coming home after 10 weeks with my mood at a very low low, and still ebbing. Anyone can have a bad day. Having a bad 2 weeks, with bad weather, and a lot of aches and pains related to that AND no prospect of things improving. 

    My mom was right. I should have just been a fuckin pimp. 


    Anyhow, I'm home, everything hurts, everything sucks except for everything related to me being in my house with my family, which is awesome. I hope to enjoy it more by not being such a wet ass blanket today. 


 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Still here!

 Week 10 began with a roar. We're having nasty gales here, and it's been flat-out busy AF here on the HQ. Nonstop for about 2 weeks. Not much fun at all. Nothing has been going according to plan, because the plans keep changing... but we're chugging through it.  


 Honestly, it's been a tough couple of months. Getting older means daily pain. Getting wiser, I hope, along with older means sometimes having to do less when I want to do more. I can still bull through the work just fine, in terms of safely being able to climb into bed at the end of the watch... but sustainable working, long term means that where I might have used brute strength to complete difficult tasks 5 years ago, today I need to NOT bull through onerous tasks and use technique a little more than brute force. 


     Really, this has been the first time I have voluntarily limited myself at work in this way, doing so because it's smart, not because it's necessary.  I'm still thinking about what that means. 


       Yesterday was the capper to this marathon.  Finally something blessedly broke enough to require repair by an engineer, and we got a free day today. Two weeks of nonstop work meant we were going to bed sore every night and there wasn't much time for anything but the grind. The last job was exactly what was expected-  nothing went right, and we were in an area with miles and miles of fetch when the wind started blowing... which it did. From 5-10 knots to 40+ by the time we were done with the job, which was by far the most conflict-ridden bunker job I've done in 5 years. I no longer scream and fuss as I once did when being lied to or mistreated by the other ship's crew, but I sure wanted to. And the delays caused by the other ship being staffed by a passel of human trashbags, we got caught out in the weather and got our asses handed to us when we should have been moored in a safe place. 


 Funny thing, though, when the job was done and we sailed, and it's blowing like a mad bastard, shit flying on deck, the light rain hitting us in the face so bad it hurt, and us corkscrewing more than we have in a long while beating into the weather... I felt GOOD. I felt like a sailor again. It's been a long frigging while since I felt the living sea lift us up like a dog with a bone. And I fuckin' liked it.