Sunday, April 22, 2018

Finishing touches (not in the naughty sense)

Well, time is flying by now that I'm home, of course. The sense of 'never enough time' is strong as it always is, but it's been great to be home.

         I am well into the process of selling the B family home up in Boston. The million little things that everyone complains about really are worth complaining about. What a pain in the ass it is to sell a house! Still, another few weeks and if all goes well we'll be closing the deal and that will be one less pain in the balls for me. The implications of selling my childhood home is an issue to be dealt with after the work is done at this point. I'm mostly just sick of dealing with it, as is the entire B family, I'm sure.

         Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's cousin and her kids were visiting my home when I got here. I got to spend about a day and a half with them, which isn't a lot, but it was nice to see family, anyhow. When it was done, we spent 2 full days completely cleaning and rearranging the house. Not that the family was messy- kids are kids, and that's no problem there, but the opportunity was there, so we went all-out and two 14-hour days later, my house is looking beautiful. I declared by eminent domain that I needed more space for my hobbies, so I doubled my shop space- I have a 2 car garage that is more like a 2 1/2 car garage, which is now my personal ManTown.
  I've been opposed to having a man cave. My home IS my man cave. Part of being a neanderthal patriarchal pig that I am, I refuse to be relegated to a single room in my own home. But, truth is that I really only want my garage to be my space.
  At any rate, I extended my workbench another 7 feet, so now I have 14 feet of bench plus a 3-foot wheeled bench that I can scoot where I need. I also added shelving to keep my wood supply out of the way and some under-bench shelving for paint and such. Our bicycles and such got wall-mounted, too, to free up storage space. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife can still park her car in the garage when I'm gone- everything can be easily stacked and rolled well out of the way, so she's content enough. The last few days have been a nice distraction from the stresses of life. This morning, after church, I made a huge breakfast, and this afternoon my kid and I are going to an open house at one of the high schools in the area that he wants to check out.

 Domestic bliss? Pretty close.

 Oh, the little boat... I have everything I need with the exception of the electronic speed control to make the boat an r/c unit.  I fine tuned the reduction gearing, pulled the drive shaft and loaded it with lithium grease (waterproofs the shaft), installed a u-joint and the steering servo, and bought the ni-cd battery packs I wanted. I have to pick up 50lbs of lead for ballast, and finish wiring everything once the ESC comes in, and I can take the boat out for a spin. My neighbor is also a giant geek, and he has an rc speedboat. Since we share frontage on our pond, it's not like we have far to go.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

winding down

Well, I'm winding down here from yet another tour here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/The SS Betty Ford.   Looking forward to going home and enjoying all the rights and privileges therewith.

 That's (I think) three tours in a row that have been miserable. Morale in the toilet, weather just absolutely awful and a plague of headaches both onboard and off that have made me a bear to live with. Just a low time. But, whether things pick up or not, I'll at least get my full two weeks home this time.

I'm hoping that I'll come back with a better 'tude and maybe things here will get better too. If you've picked up on the tone here that all is not well in HAWSEPIPER land, you're correct. BUT, I'm not one to use my thumb as a fart cork, so whatever changes are required to make things a little happier, I'll look into it.

I don't like being a downer. Another couple of watches to stand, another storm to get through today and tomorrow, and I'll be home and sweating out some whisky fumes in 72 hours, Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Reining it in

Yesterday might have been a bit of a capstone for me... or, better put, a warning sign.

 I'm pretty good at multitasking, but I don't like it. Working with oil, multitasking is a bad word. Cargo watch is for cargo watch. Mishaps almost always have more than one cause. In Risk Management for handling liquid cargo, once you're at a post-oops moment, we refer to the root cause as an 'error chain,' something most people have heard of. Every link in the error chain is an opportunity to stop the mishap that wasn't taken, which means there are often enough multiple ways to stop a disaster.

     We had no disasters yesterday, thank the seven mad gods of the sea. Not even any near misses. Prior to signing on the watch, I had carried out a ton of personal business which left me stressed, but not preoccupied. I was able to focus on the watch.

 So why am I talking about error chains? I didn't carry any distractions into my watch, except for way too much general stress, which I am actually damn good at setting aside when I am on watch... except that I'm human, and the easiest form of delusion is self-delusion. After a good off-watch sleep, I woke up still feeling the lingering effects of the stress. So, obviously I dealt with it well but it was still extant while I was on watch.

         I'm selling the B family home, my parents' house, and accepted an offer on it the day before yesterday. Like it always does, prepping the house for sale cost twice as much and took twice as long as my time and fiscal budgeting allowed for. OK, no real problems there.
    Managing personal business that is a time sink becomes an issue when it interferes with work, specifically, elevating risk. But life does not stop because I'm on watch. Stress and preoccupying factors have to be managed before signing on the watch. I felt as though I managed the situation well, and stood a safe watch with proactive concern for risk management... mostly by being aware.
     Ten years ago, I would have laughed to hear me talking about worrying about my stress level before I did a job that I could do in my sleep. Holy shit, I actually might have grown up a little.
     Looking forward, I'm going to have to be careful about not letting personal business stress me out. I could get stressed worrying about getting stressed, and then where would I be? Taking stock of my personal situation, I suppose I should feel that I've crossed a small threshold when it comes to workplace safety... but it feels more like I just realized I stepped into traffic for a second and wasn't even aware of it. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Less Than Sacred Sunday

Sunday has never really been a day of rest for me.

   While I am religiously observant, I have never been good at observing the Day Of Rest rules for Sunday. That started with one of my first legit jobs at age 14, and continues. Perils of not liking working indoors, I guess.

 When I was lobstering, Sunday was airport day. I'd work for the local lobster pound, (the buyer of the local lobstermen's catch), who was located across the parking lot from the docks where we kept the boats. The pound was a 50x20 concrete tank about 4 feet deep, with a recirculation system and biofilter, refrigerated so the pound was always pretty cool and damp. There was a pump room, storage area, pump with stacks of styrofoam shipping coolers, lobster cars (floating wood or plastic crates that held about 100lbs of lobsters each that we would fill and keep in the tank), a pair of reefer chests for ice packs and a small office.

I'd unlock the door, shut off the alarm, and check the office for the order. The owner of the pound was a schoolteacher who didn't like working Sundays and spent about an hour a day at his shop. Great 2nd gig for him. It was damn near self-serve for the local lobstermen. The price of lobster off the boat is actually very low. It hasn't changed much since I was about 10, because lobstermen were obligated to sell to buyers, and forbidden from selling direct to customers in New England. While this has changed, it is still discouraged via arcane and ridiculous legal hoops that must be jumped through.

 At any rate, once I saw the order, which would look like
 "12 chickens, 5 quarters, 3 halves and 1 select" (translation: 12 25lb boxes of  1.0-1.2lb lobsters, 5 cases of 1.2-1.4 lb lobsters, 3 cases of 1.4-1.7lb, and 1 of 1.7lb and above.

 To get these, I would first raid the pre-sorted cars- as lobstermen come in, they pull lobster out of the holding tank on the boat and place them in lobster cars which are usually stacked on their dock. These are hoisted up to the pier from the dock with a block and tackle, 2 at a time, and then dragged to the back of the owner's truck and driven over to the pound, where each car was weighed on a scale.  At that point, the lobsterman is done with the owner, unless there is a 'split price' in summer, when new-shell (recently molted, and therefore holding less meat) lobsters are sorted from hard-shells, which haven't molted yet this year, survive better in shipping, and contain more meat per pound.
 When lobsters molt, they have a bigger shell than they need, which they grow into. While this is happening, they fill the space in between the shell and muscle with water. Shell hardness is tested by grabbing the lobster by the carapace and squeezing just above the legs. If you can buckle the shell inward with a strong squeeze, she's new-shelled.
 So, after weigh-in, the lobster cars are either opened and the lobsters sorted by shell hardness and weight by whoever's at the pound, or simply closed up and thrown in the tank. Cars were identified by using colored pipe cleaners to mark who was whose, and also to mark the sorted cars.

 So my job was simple. I'd slap preprinted shipping labels on a number of styrofoam coolers, drag the digital scale over by the tank, and pull out a couple of cars of pre-sorted hardshell lobsters, and fill the coolers up. If I ran out of pre-sorted lobsters, I'd have to pull over a couple of cars of unsorted catch and grade them, return the sorted cars to the tank, and continue on. Once I had the right number of coolers filled with the right weight and type of lobster, I'd put the lid on, wrap the cooler in packing tape and set it aside. At that point, I'd back the owners' box truck up to the garage door, load the truck and clean up, reset the alarm, and drive to the airport.

 Airlines have their own cargo terminals. Your passenger flight is probably carrying a fair bit of cargo along with your ass when you fly. In this case, all the lobsters went to a single food distributor in Switzerland. So I'd drive to the cargo terminal at Logan airport in Boston, unload the lobsters onto a pallet at their loading dock, sign a sheet, collect a reciept and drive home. It took about 4 1/2-5 hours from start to finish, generally, for which I received $50, and it was a lot less back-breaking than lobstering. Plus, Boston has awesome Irish music on AM radio on Sundays, which helped.

   I did other work on Sundays, before and after my time at the pound, but none was as pleasant.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


I'm reviewing the Rules of the Road in preparation for an upcoming licensing exam to up the tonnage on my captain's license, and oh, Lord, am I rusty. I'm muddling my way through OK, but minds and metal do rust with disuse, and it's been a while.

 It still strikes me how much easier this was to retain when I was younger, and getting around in a fog with only a stopwatch, the engine tachometer and a compass was pretty much the standard. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson yet again, nothing concentrates one's mind like the prospect of being hanged.  I've been able to view fog as mostly an inconvenience for quite a while. I'm sure I'm going to miss the apathy.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Keeping up with Mr. Bobby

Mr Bobby is now the seniormost citizen among our afloat staff. He's in his mid 70's, and is the Able-Bodied Seaman aboard one of our tugboats. A lifelong commercial fisherman, shipyard worker and mariner, calling Mr. Bobby spry is an underwhelming statement. Dude is FAST. Leathery and wiry, with a very strong Virginia country southern accent (a Matthews County accent, or near enough, to my nothern ears), keeping up Mr. Bobby is like herding cats. You can try. He walks at a jogging pace and is always ready to meet you with a positive outlook so long as you bring one too. Otherwise, he's merely quiet and polite.

 We call him Mr. Bobby because while the man himself is very humble, by virtue of his age, seniority and by the way he comports himself, the man is worthy of deep respect. Even his captain, a younger man, refers to him by the title. I took to it right away. He just IS a Mister. 

 I've been getting to know Mr. Bobby better the past few months. We've had more time to talk, and his tugboat has been paired with us more often than normal of late. It's been a pleasure to work with him. Guy knows his stuff, and at a time when morale is lower than snake shit within my company, conversations with Mr. Bobby tend to uplift instead of making me want to tongue punch the barrel of a pistol, which, sadly, has been the norm of late.

     Last night we made our way out to an anchorage in sheer fog. No BS, we couldn't see the tugboat, just 300 feet away, from my bow. Just the warm glow of her lights, which meant the captain couldn't see us, either. We creeped our way along, and I got to be lookout for a bit alongside Mr. Bobby, something I haven't done for a LONG time. It was actually pretty nice. Professionally done, we settled into our spot for the night, and come sunup, off we went again to the next job, which is where I am now.

 Despite some good old boys coming in, young, strong energetic kids, we're still getting a fair share of low-T soyboys from up north too, crippled by having T-rex arms, unable to pick up lines or throw them, just barely able to operate a radio and keep their soft widdle hands clean. I could use a dozen more Mr. Bobby's before taking on another maritime academy kid who can't coil a rope and is pissed off at having to do so.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My day so far

 I picked up some kind of bug. Feeling crappy.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wicked Smaht Girl Is Wicked Smaht

One of my good friends during the college years was Susanne, a German immigrant who came to Boston and lived in the next town over. We were both commuters who lived our lives and commuted into the city every day. She was smarter than me (no surprise there) and we were both students in the Biology department at our college, and hung out on weekends at times, and both lived and worked in Maine at the college's remote field station during the summer. She ended up missing as valedictorian by a spot or two by virtue of choosing physics and chemistry classes as electives instead of underwater lesbian basket weaving or another retard gimme class like that. We ended up working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA together, too.
 Pretty girl. Statuesque. More refined than me, certainly, but a good friend. She got 2 master's degrees while working on her Ph.D, ended up in the math side of biology while I ended up running away to sea. Last I heard she's a professor somewhere and also a fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. We drifted apart as our lives diverged.

           The funny thing about Susanne is that she refused to buy or read newspapers or watch TV. She couldn't stand all the propaganda, screaming, hate and noise of the world, and keeping up with news that didn't affect her directly wasn't interesting to her.
      She was one of the most competent and upbeat people I ever met. Looking back, Lord, 20 years ago now, she was on to something I think.

 I spent doday watching with some dark humor this Children's Crusade, the parades in DC with kids who aren't weating pussy hats this time, but are pretty much doing the same thing, which is to say, nothing at all. "Protesting" by taking a vacation and having a meetup is pretty light fare to me, but whatever. I do care. I mean, I bought a (another) new AR-15 today to mark the date,  and the harassed clerk on the phone who took my order was absolutely slammed.

 Well, whatever, I'm looking forward to my new rifle, and hopefully I don't lose this one in a tragic canoeing accident like all the other rifles and pistols I've purchased (Hello to the DHS! I saw your ping, btb, you cocksucking vampires!).

      I'm thinking it's time to take a step back and respond to these media crises and circuses by enjoying my family, taking time to do my hobbies and reading good books. I believe that is an appropriate response to all the calls in the media for me to fear and hate everything. I mean, I have a good job, good family, and am an awfully small fish in a big pond. What will it profit me to constantly move from one discussion to another and spout opinions that neither increase my happiness, add money to my wallet, inches to my genitals or years to my life?

 It seems the most sane response to the insane mediae nvironment is to let them fuck off and die. I do my preps, I'm ready for fire, flood famine (well, the modern equivalent of the traditional major disasters), and really, things are pretty good despite all the screaming that this is not so. I'm not getting any younger anyhow, so I'd just as soon worry about things that are going to affect me.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Shot and and hit, shit at and missed

Well, we weathered another nor'easter here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Ice Station Zebra. That's #4 for late winter/early spring. We got a little under a foot of snow, which courtesy of the wind, wasn't drifted too badly, but as it was wet snow, that shit was heavy to shovel.

 We had a small cargo yesterday, but it was enough to heat up the decks around my cargo pumps and manifold area, where we spend most of our time while working, so this meant that by noon yesterday, there was bare deck peeking out here and there, and, courtesy of a nice warm day yesterday (mid 40's and sunny), by the time I woke up for watch at midnight, the deck is currently 90% snow-free, and since we have a full load coming on tonight, that should be gone by afternoon, which is a nice thought.

    Given that this winter has mostly been windy and dry until recently, I'm not holding my breath as to whether or not this was the last snowstorm... but I hope it is.

 I'm starting a review of the materials covered on the licensing exam for the next higher-tonnage than I currently hold. To call me rusty is a complement. It's really showing me how much I've forgotten in the past 10 years. as tankerman. Figuring out stability equations, deck safety (Is that 1 B-2 or 2 B-1's, or are both OK?), lifesaving that is no longer an issue (seriously, when is the last time someone shot up colored flares shoreside to guide a lifeboat onto a beach in shoaling water? I gotta know this stuff, along with what horizontal vs vertical shaking of a lantern means in that same situation. I've absolutely forgotten, shame on me. Still, ignorance has a cure).

One of my friends in this company had his last day the other day. We've lost a lot of young talent to other New York-based companies. It makes things more lonely. We haven't lost nearly enough assholes and hacks, however. Like hemorrhoids,  some of those folks. My employer is one of the lower-paying companies here in NY, and it's starting to tell. Non-monetary issues that aid retention here aren't what they once were, I suppose. I'm lucky enough to work with true friends aboard my own place, and have a great shoreside boss, so I'm not looking to run away. Still, I can't say that I am upping my license just for the hell of it. It's hard to not be doing as well as everyone else for the same quality work. Not to say I'm bitching, however. I'm here voluntarily, and grateful for the work, and hopefully I'm doing a decent job at my trade.

   Tonight's the first watch where I feel like I'm back into my routine, and that's a welcome feeling, anyhow. We're triple-blending a cargo tonight, mixing 3 differing grades of oil to make up a final volume of a particular density. It's all in the math, which was actually kind of nice to have to do, to work out the cobwebs from between my ears.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Townie for a day

     I get to ease into my first watch at work, at least.

     I've got about 2 hours before we leave for our loading port and pick up a small cargo destined for an anchored tanker tonight. We've got a nor'easter headed in, so I anticipate this being a real shit show, but the pointy heads at our office care little for what I think. So it goes.

 Goddamn, though, I'm tired of this winter. I've missed a grand total of ONE little storm while I was home. It just hasn't worked out timing-wise. I've been here for all the weather.

          I wasn't able to see as many friends as I had hoped while I was in my hold hometown last week. The workload I had, coupled with constraints on my time in handling other business (lawyer, family, municipal, etc etc) meant that I was on the go from 6 am to about 9pm most days. Not that it was all work, either. That would have been great. I lost a lot of time waiting on things to happen... like the 3 hours I lost one morning at a Bank of America, while opening an estate account.

 Judging by the obituaries, people die every day. You'd think it would be routine to open an estate account to handle the final expenses of a dead person who didn't choose a viking funeral and take their things into the next world. Apparently it's nothing routine at all. Giant pain in the ass, in fact. But it did get done, though it cost me the best part of a productive day- the mid morning.

          It wasn't all rotten tomatoes, though. I got to see some people I wanted to see, and spending St. Patrick's Day in the Boston area is pretty much the best place to spend St. Patrick's day. I ate like a king and drank just enough Guiness and Jamison to enjoy myself, and not a drop more. I even got to see a neighbor who literally gave me the shirt off his back- serious, I told the guy I really liked his shirt (a freebie got when he had breakfast and an Irish coffee at a local Irish-owned restaurant), and he told me that he'd leave the shirt at the door of my mom's house that night... which he did. I loaded him up on shepherd's pie, beef and guiness stew and other delicacies as a thank you.

 I also got to go to the local old men's bar, which I had never done in my 40 years as a resident. This is a tiny hole-in the wall (it had 6 seats for 30ish years) bar up the road from my neighborhood, which no young person would bother to patronize... turns out it was awesome. As I'm in my 40's, I was one of the younger of the 30 or so patrons jammed in the place. It is a tradesmen's bar- most of the guys there were 50-70, and union tradesmen or builders or contractors. I spent too much time away or out fishing to really be a townie, but I see the appeal now. It was nice to just talk about whatever came up. I could get my head out of my own ass for an hour and talk about good tools, dumb shit that happened in the past, things like that. It felt normal in a way that I haven't had in a while. I'm not really a bar guy. I like to drink my drinks outside, either with my wife or in solitude, but I used to like pounding drinks with friends, of course, like most working-class people. Escaping from my roots comes at a cost, I suppose.

         Although the weather was utter shit for the week I was there, this past week was also a capstone for me. I was able to have one last block of time in my old hometown as we prepped the B family home for a new family to make memories in. In a few weeks, or a month, our familial base of operations will be gone, and my childhood home will be someone else's, While I was unwilling to spend a small fortune on a beautifully-situated small and old house in (blech) Massachusetts, that doesn't mean I'm not sad about it. The quiet peninsula located so close to Boston but far enough that the locks never worked, where the ocean was never more than a couple hundred feet away is a beautiful place.

hard to believe that it's only 15 miles to the city. 

At some point, though, moving on requires moving on. I'm sure that the future holds good things, and while I'm a fairly sentimental person, I do not require things to be foci of my emotional connections. Without the people I love,  our family home became just a house after my parents passed on, and the labor and preparation for sale has made it easier to let go. I'm pretty damn tired of worrying about it all.I didn't go back to work with the best attitude, feeling unrested and somewhat discontented, but the reestablishment of routine will be good. I am looking forward to things being more predictable and simple for a few weeks. Oil goes in, oil goes out. Rinse, repeat.

Monday, March 19, 2018

I'm not dead yet!

That was about the busiest two weeks I've had in the past 10 years.

 I'm pretty beat.

     I spent a too-fast 6 days at home and then a week in the Boston area, prepping our family home for sale. One of my brothers and a couple of friends of the family provided the skilled labor. I provided the retard strength. My other brother and my sister also chipped in. We got about 90% of the work done- about $30,000 worth of renovation, for materials cost and a pittance for labor as a pro-forma thank you. My role in all this was as purser, painter, labor and cheerleader, pretty much, but 10 hour days were the norm, (minus an afternoon off for St. Patrick's Day, which was glorious)

 The implications of all this are a matter of another day's posts. NOw I'm sitting in the fleabag discount refugee-plagued Brooklyn hotel that my company favors for a flophouse for oncoming crew, listening to the Somalians scream at each other (and their many, many children running down the halls back and forth), which is getting me into the right mindset (read, impatient and shitty) for work. Tomorrow it's off to the HQ for hopefully some better-quality sleep prior to starting my watch rotation.

 But it was an emotionally and physically week. Not the best way to prep for another month at work, but it's what I have.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Last watch, first steps

After a VERY busy month, the storm last week threw a kink in our routine... things have been a little more quiet here on the HQ, and that has made for a good final few days for yours truly. I was able to get all my end-of-tour business done, and I'm currently on anchor watch on my last watch here for a few weeks. Home later today to hug my family.

   I've been preoccupied this past month with planning out and carrying out a few projects unrelated to work which have required near-daily oversight. It's been a LONG time since I had to multitask at the level I'm operating on now. I've sort of stagnated these past few years in my position, which was easy to gloss over as I've been satisfied here, but minds and metal do rust with disuse, and I'm now working out the cobwebs and starting to get off my ass.

 I'm selling a home up in Massachusetts, and dealing with lawyers, bills, real estate folks, taxes etc etc. All things where I am not dealing from a position of strength. Working with a contractor to make the house sell well has been a trip. I'll be glad when it's done in a few months, hopefully. I have to be there personally to deal with some things, so I'm heading to my former hometown for what I believe will be the next-to-last time during this time off. I'm learning a lot, though, mostly about how I don't like dealing with lawyers, bills, real estate folks, taxes etc etc.

     The bigger deal for me is that I'm heading back for more training and to up my license tonnage.

     I started this blog 13 years ago. When I started, it was called "Blue Water: News of My Escape" as I had already transitioned from being a marine biologist to a commercial fisherman, and from commercial fisherman to merchant mariner, as I wanted to escape to a deep ocean job. A few years later when I got serious about pursuing an officer's license, I changed the blog name to HAWSEPIPER, which was what I was becoming. Eventually I did get a limited tonnage license, but I settled into a tankerman's position that played into my strengths- experience in handling fuel oils and liquid cargoes on tank vessels. 99% of my higher-tonnage sea time has been on tank ships and barges. In my off time I've been able to spend time on boats for fun, some work here and there in the wheelhouse of non-tank vessels, but not as much as I like.

      We get into careers to enjoy certain aspects of them. As we rise in position, we spend less and less time doing the things that attracted us there in the first place. That's a truism, and it's OK. Until it's not.

       I am hawsepiping again. I start classes this spring. I'll be staying at my job. I have a good gig, and while my company is not the close-knit and warm employer that hired me anymore, it's a good job and I work with some great people. I don't know what the future holds for me anymore, but I've been too long in brown water. I miss the deep blue clean sea.
A much younger me. I miss wearing white, too.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Battening down and stuff

Well, we got a nor'easter coming in, and that's going to be unpleasant starting this afternoon. I spent a few hours this morning doing a walk-around on deck, tying down things that might like to fly and doing a FOD check, as I have a habit of collecting flying bits of things in my damn eyes during wind events.
     As we're not heading to sea, this is more a pro-forma habit than anything else for me. Still important, of course, but it's easy to get complacent when you rarely go out where the horizon touches the sea. I think that's why I try to keep my chops up.
         I go home next week. I'm curious as to what's going on at my local gun range and such. I don't live too far from the recent school shooting, and my wife and son are close with a family who have a daughter at that school, who is thankfully alive and well, but traumatized, poor girl.

 How ugly and divided we are. I have a massive hate on for kabuki solutions, which informs my own opinions on dealing with school shootings. Rather than expound (seriously, who cares about my opinion?), I'll say that hurting me is not a solution to making others safe, and that's that for me. I'm looking forward to some bench time with my own guns and some range time with my wife and son.

 I have to leave home early, unfortunately, to go north and work for a week on some non-maritime projects, but I'll be in my old hometown, so I at least have time with friends and family. Not as good as a week sunning myself and having my nuclear family to hand, but necessary.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I got nothin'

Well, we had a quiet weekend here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Center for Excellence in Achieving Diaper Rash.

     We're in day 4 of rain. Seriously, I have and have always loathed working in the rain. Funny because I have always chosen to work outdoors, and sometimes, you know, it rains.
 But seriously, I'm tired of it. After a couple of soggy watches, you get baboon ass, running around with winter-weight foul weather gear on. So it goes.
 On the upside, we haven't had a cargo in 36 hours, which meant that other than being shuffled around (limited berthing space means that we raft up to other folks when we dock. In fact, the lay berth we're at now, we sometimes go 5 wide, which makes it a 10-15 minute obstacle course to go ashore if you are left along long enough to go ashore), we've been able to do indoor work in the generator room and house, which has been nice in terms of catching up on some maintenance tasks.

 We have a cargo fixed now, set up for after lunchtime today, so it's back to work, which is good.
 Yesterday was a loss for me. I picked up some sort of bug, but since we weren't working, I could spend extra time in the rack and in the bathroom (I think I split time there about 50/50), the time for which I was thankful, but time slows if we sit too much.

 I'm feeling uninspired just now, so I don't have much to report beyond that I feel soggy and tired of  rain and having diaper rash because my ass is damp 12-16 hours a day. 

True story.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


It's my turn to take the midwatch tonight, and I woke up just as we were finishing a cargo discharge. I saw that we were socked in with heavy fog, a real pea-souper. It took most of an hour to wrap up the paperwork and retrieve our cargo hoses, at which point our tugboat inched over and made up to us, there to stand by, as VTS has the area we need to transit shut down from fog. That means we're stuck here alongside the ship for now, which is fine, as they can't leave either, and I'm hopeful that the next change in tide or the sun coming up will clear things out so we can get on with our next load.

      It's a pretty thick fog tonight. Viz under 1/4 mile. Maybe 500 feet for unlit items, a little more for things that are lit up.


         When I was a kid, between ages 8-13, foggy days were a mystery to me. My mom liked to walk around the perimeter of the peninsula I grew up in on foggy evenings, and I always went with her. The fog, the groans and whistles of the various buoys just offshore and the silence everywhere else were mysterious and different, and to a kid who grew up pre-internet where there were 6 TV channels, mysterious was thrilling.
                In the daytime, on the lobsterboat of the old man who taught me to fish commercially, at the same time period, fog was a nuisance for him and for me, too, as it slowed down the day considerably.
    The old man was a savvy business owner. He owned a gas station, and auto body shop and a couple of multi-family houses. His boat, while smallish, was trim, well built, and efficient for an elderly man who didn't need to go far offshore and didn't like electronics. Navigation with the old man happened with his wristwatch, the boat's compass, and the engine tachometer. The boat DID have a VHF radio and depth sounder with an ink stylus and paper readout, but in the 8 years I fished with him, those things got turned on maybe twice, not for work, but as a curiosity.

The old man had the compass bearings (and their reciprocals) between various points in the harbor and islands, as well as the channel markers, as our part of Boston harbor and Quincy bay had a shipping channel as well as smaller channels for private boats to Hingham harbor and  Back River. He kept those numbers in his head, as a 70-something year old man might after a lifetime on the water.
      Only once did I see the old man confounded and truly unsure in the fog. He missed his mark somewhere, and, with a few expletives, shut down the noisy Detroit engine and disappeared into the cabin, emerging a moment later with a tube of axle grease and a rusty 1-foot length of pipe dangling at the end of a coil of rope. It was a sounding lead. He daubed a handful of grease into the little depression at the bottom of the lead, and threw it over the side letting the line slip through his hands.      
     The old man wasn't worried about the little oil slick this created. Things were different back then.
     When the lead hit bottom, the old man counted off the length of rope to get the depth of the water, and looked at the grease. He showed me. "Look. 14 feet, with sand and broken clamshells. We're out of the channel and just west of Jacknife Ledge near the mooring field. You could swim to your mother's house in time for lunch."  He threw the rope and lead at his feet, said "Here, coil that for me and hold it," and started the engine. We steamed along at idle for a moment or two, before he took the lead from me and took another sounding. Deeper water. We were in the man shipping channel. He had me stow the line and go back to looking out while he turned the boat, looked at his watch and followed the compass at a slow cruise. In a few moments we spotted a buoy and he got his bearings, and we made our way to the next set of gear.
That's the old timer in the foreground, on board the ALGIN II, the boat I grew up on. 


 In later years, when I was in high school and working for one of the English teachers who also had a lobsterboat, he had LORAN, which gave two numbers in a grid pattern (not latitude and longitude, but a repeatable and mature system of x and y coordinates) that helped with navigation and made finding our lobster buoys a lot easier, too. He, too, had spent his life on these waters and knew them well. His boat, while smaller, was set up to fish much more intensively. From D, I learned how to fish in a much wider area, using modern wire lobster pots instead of the heavy and old-fashioned wooden ones the old man kept. the way a dedicated lobsterman did it, and in the fog we went slower, listened to the VHF for traffic, and made our way in a similar way, moving across distances using the TD's, (TIme Delays- the LORAN numbers. Along the way I learned how to be a real sternman. LORAN, was still a bit of a mystery to me.

 Midway through high school, D bought the ALGIN II, the old man's boat. Al was in his late 70's by then, and arthritis and an active life had caught up to him after he came down with shingles one winter, which damn near killed him. The last year we fished together was mostly him just coming to grips with it being his last year. We only worked 4 hours a day, and he spent more time teaching me than fishing. It was a gift, and cemented my path in life, although I didn't know that at the time.
 When he sold the ALGIN II to D, D rerigged it to fish more intensively, and made a lot of improvements. He turned it into a true commercial fishing boat, and along the way, installed a GPS chart plotter, which had among other things, a digital chart display. This was revolutionary.  He later added radar and an even better chart plotter. At this point, when we got fogbound, he turned on the chart plotting function and this made navigation simple.

That's D's boat (formerly the old man's). Note the name-an obvious choice for an English teacher.

        I matured in the age of the chart plotter. I'd like to say I'm a crusty old salt who could find a silver dollar in 30 fathoms of water using the TD's, but that's a stretch.  When I was running the RITA C, years later, our chart plotter died, and I was forced to use LORAN overlay- along with the chart plotter, the boat had an old GPS that converted GPS coordinates to LORAN  TD's, and since it was summer and I was spending every penny on bait, fuel and paying the sternman, I got a crash course in LORAN. Luckily, the Notorious B.O.B. had drilled into me years before the need for recordkeeping, and we had the LORAN numbers for every string of gear written down along with the charted position on the plotter. When the plotter died, the notebook became the centerpiece. I occasionally screwed up, like the time D called me and asked me why the hell my gear was set 90 degrees to everyone else's in one spot, ruining a few people's afternoons. I missed a turn in the shipping channel by about 500 feet, and made a shit show of it. I learned.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Carnival 2018 (NSFW)

With the horrors we've experienced as a nation in the past 48 hours, it's easy to forget that Brazil's Carnival season wrapped up on Fat Tuesday, just a few days ago.

 I assure you it was a fine year, as far as Carnival went. It's quite a spectacle. I still haven't made it down to Brazil to experience it myself. I'm just not enough of a social person, or not brave enough, I guess.

 Well, at any rate, we could all use a little more warmth and happiness I'm sure, so here's some highlights for you to enjoy from this year's festivities! Click to enjoy without your reading glasses.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What's a-happening now

I've been a little eclectic in my reading lately. I'm all over the board. It reflects the somewhat chaortic nature of the projects and concerns I'm balancing these days. It's enough that I'm happy I have to be at work for the next few weeks, to act as a buffer between the predictability of my schedule now, and the stress-inducing shitpile that I'll be dealing with next time I get off. I've got a major project firming up that will require being away from my home for a week, a necessary evil that absolutely requires that I use talents and skills in which I am conspicuously weak or useless, and which I, like a dumbass, volunteered to do. It's made me somewhat sleepless and grumpy. As such,  my social media interactions have mostly been limited to shitposting when I see something so absolutely retarded as to inspire disbelief. I've been on a tear. It helps.

         On the upside, it's Carnival season down in Brazil, and soon I'll be enjoying the videos and pictures of human excess that this always produces. So stay tuned, the ladies of Carnival are coming soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

first watch back

Well, I count myself lucky that the majority of my first watch back can be spent on things I want to do, rather than cargo operations.

     I got to NY last night, and stayed at the usual hotel set up for us by my employer. As always, it was 90% full of refugees and homeless, but for once, the screaming and fighting wasn't overwhelming once I had my door closed. Just a background annoyance, at that point. I guess the city of NY turfs their dependents at discount hotels within the city. At any rate, it's in a modest but safe neighborhood, so what the hell, the price is right. I can't get much sleep there, but it's a good way to transition from the pleasures at home to the austerity of HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Hot Dog Emporium.
      Towards the end of my watch we'll head for a terminal to load up on heavy fuel oil, and from there, it's on. But for now, I was able tonight to cook some portions of my meals ahead of time, pay bills, get caught up on work-related emails and do a walkaround the HQ to see what there is to see. Prepositioning myself, in other words, so when we do work, I have minimal distractions and can get back into the groove.

 I wish it was always at this pace. Still, I was a touch groggy when I woke up for watch, but that got dispelled fairly quickly. I was able to get a 4-hour nap before my watch, so that's a good start. Hopefully I'll repeat that at the end of this watch too.

          I can't remember the last time I came back to work rested and in a state where I was ready to work, where it wasn't a trial of patience. It's been too long, too many months of working extra weeks. This was my second time in a row of not working any overtime, and it's paid off in terms of my well-being. I feel better. Hopefully this translates into a more peaceful and rewarding tour than the last few!

Friday, February 2, 2018

little boat update and looking ahead

It's time to start winding down my vacation and doing the hundred little things that need to get done before I head to sea again next week.

 This past week I had mornings free to work on my little boat, which is now just about finished. I still have to do the lettering for the name and install the battery, radio control gear, rudder and servo motors, and after that I've got to put in 8-9 5lb bags of ballast to get her to sit at the water level. Click to embiggnify.
 You can see past posts about construction here

And earlier ones here

Also here

And the first one here

rigging the mast suports. I used black twine for the wires

Adding details like the ladders, lifeboat davit, etc.

She's not small

little details, like the lifeboat, liferings, etc. Wood, thread, paint.

soldering motor and aligning the reduction gear

installing power plant

Friday, January 26, 2018


I'm at home, and in my first few days I've hammered the hell out of the honey-do list. I haven't had a chance to sit in my shop and be creative, but that'll be happening tomorrow.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Last watch

Well, that's another one for the books. One of the busiest tours I've ever had. Still got a few more hours to go, but I'm just waiting for a tug to free up and get us to the office in Brooklyn. We finally got our errant tank cleaned and now it's a matter of ventilating it and getting it ready for inspection and entry of the repair gang who will swap out one of the valves. After that, it's a matter of a turnover meeting with my relief and I can head home.

Friday, January 19, 2018

in need of cleaning

There were a few things going on this week that pulled me out of The Zone. You know that feeling when you just put your head down and bull through a heavy workload before coming up for air? Yeah, that. I got yanked out of that and I'm trying to get back in.

   We're still working with just one cargo pump here on the HQ. Haven't had time to visit the local Honey Wagon and get our ducks in a row to have the tank cleaning and blow down done, marine chemist hired, and engineer& mechanic team available for a tank dive, all steps necessary for human entry into a tank vessel's cargo tanks. So while we were trying to get through a few last cargoes, the radiator on our one good pump engine started to go. It held up for 2 more days, so we lost  half a day swapping it out with a new one, but this cost us our window to get a cleanout.

 On board a ship, the chief mate is trained to oversee and issue permits for tank entry and cleaning procedures. I am not, as 1) we do not inert our cargo tanks and 2), my company does not want to pay me to be certified for this. Oh, and also 3) we do not carry the necessary testing and support equipment necessary, seeing as we usually stick close to home so the company doesn't have to buy 8 million Coppus blowers, air horns and testing kits. We do carry oxygen meters, explosimeters and crickets (personal gas sampling alarms that get pinned to your clothes), which is what we need to stay safe under normal circumstances.

Tank cleaning is a pretty neat process- well, it's supposed to be, anyhow. On a ship, tank cleaning can make an absolutely pristine clean job. You can go from carrying black oil to jet fuel with a day's work (jet fuel being required to be *aboslutely pristine* in every way, crystal clear, no color, no contamination. On a ship with a well-designed tank cleaning system you can eat off the tank bottoms after a good douching.

click to embiggnify

the gold color is paint that has had the tint bleached out so it can't tint any liquids

   The HQ does not have built in tank cleaners. We use high pressure hoses and a Butterworth sprayer.

 A Butterworth sprayer is a pressure washer that rotates slowly on two axis (axes?). By opening a cleaning hatch (called a Butterworth hatch, originally enough) and sticking a hose down a fixed distance and running high pressure water through it, the machine rotates and spins slowly while sending a very high pressure stream to scour any contaminants off the bulkheads, overhead and bottoms of the tank. Basically you set the machine to a certain depth, tie off the hose, turn it on and a little while later (15 minutes to an hour), you drop it some more, and repeat. Generally  I like doing 3 drops.
 Oh, you heat the hell out of the water. 180 degrees is good. It cuts the oil, and you pump the oil/water emulsion out of the tanks as you go. I like using 2-3 machines per tank if I can. It reduces 'shadow areas,' spots the machines can't clean.

 After the machines are done, the tank should be clean but damp. Properly speaking, a tank should be inerted (filled with gas with minimal oxygen in it so nothing can combust- those Butterworth machines can cause a real lightning show from all the static they can generate), but you can get around that in several ways if you happen not to have an inert gas system. The tank can then be Blown Down by force ventilating it with massive volumes of air. We use Air Horns and Coppus blowers for that. Air horns are just simple venturi cones that use small air jets to suck large volumes of air into the cone. A coppus blower is an air- or steam powered air turbine.

Air Horn

Coppus Blower

Forced air is then blasted into the tank to ventilate it. A marine chemist (a licensed safety consultant) will then test the air in the tank and issue a permit for people to enter the tank if the air tests as safe for entry. The criteria for safe entry is strict. A tank can be entered if it is marginally safe, using certain PPE if required- respirators, OBA's (basically a fireman's oxygen kit), certain clothing and such) under VERY strict circumstances, although this is best avoided and I have never had to do a hazardous entry tank dive with my current employer. I actually didn't mind doing it back in the day, if I trust my gear, my spotters up top and the guy who issues the permit to enter I'm cool.


   Well, at any rate, I'm hoping we can actually get all this done before I go home next week. I don't like passing off major projects to my relief, but the work is just stacking up and we'd need a solid day and a half free to do what needed to be done, so I don't think we'll have time. Have to see.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

good reading

Hello. My name is Dave and I came from a shit-hole.
My friend Sarah Hoyt pointed me to a self-righteous fury spewing from the South African ANC (the political party which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid) about the idea of South Africa being a shit-hole and bad America was. I was born there, and eventually migrated to Australia, of which I am now a proud citizen, and which I love, and try my best to pay back for its enormous generosity in taking us in.  Now, South Africa is a beautiful country, with some fine people… but the ANC have presided over it now having one of the highest murder and rape stats of any country in the world not at war. 

    I've been fortunate enough to correspond with some great modern authors. Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer among them. Dave's an interesting guy, and we have a lot in common, except that he seems a lot smarter and a much nicer person than I am. Being able to chat with interesting and intelligent people via social media has been about the only thing I actually like about social media. 
    At any rate, Dave's the real deal. We both have a background in marine biology, an affection for commercial fishing and commercial fishermen in general, and have worked at fish farming here and there.  As such, I tend to hang on his words, as in many ways his life as an immigrant on a remote Australian island sounds really goddamn cool if challenging. I'd love to do something like that, but alas, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife doesn't really enjoy being somewhere where it's challenging to walk in high heels. My being more fond of her than I am of remote islands, I choose suburbia. So it goes. 

 At any rate, read the whole thing. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

burning bridges

    Sometimes, burning bridges is the best thing you can do. Eliminate your lines of retreat and reduce your chances of missing something ahead by eliminating the desire to look behind.

 Without being overly cryptic, I recently closed the door on some people from my past who used to be friends. Rather than continue to be annoyed by them and saddened that we'd grown apart over minutia, or politics, or lifestyle, religion or all of the above, it made more sense to just not worry about it anymore. I like things simple anyhow.

          I figure if someone gets so upset that my personal politics, or my faith, or their lifestyle choices become so difficult to accept that they can't be a friend, they certainly aren't and haven't been for a while. So it goes.

  One of the most helpful things that happened this past fall in dealing with my mother's death was that when I would return to my old hometown up north, a few friends immediately stopped  what they were doing and rallied to check in on me, visit with my mom, say goodbye, that sort of thing. I didn't even realize that I needed any emotional support until I had it. Some of those folks I hadn't seen much of in the past 10 years, but the distance and time turned out to be irrelevant, and I'm very grateful for that.

 Other people who used to be in my life... well, different story. I think, upon reflection, that my career change, in going back to my roots and being a fisherman after college was done, was something of an admission of failure on my part. I failed to change as a person. Perhaps that was the impact of treating college and grad school like a job and not a social round. Being a scientist wasn't satisfying, just dull, as were most of the people. I aspired to enjoy their polite company more, though, thinking it a benchmark of what I would need to take part in in order to shake off my working-class roots.

 Well... shit. After I realized I was pretty unhappy and changed my life to something I'd actually enjoy more, I tried to stay in touch, to be friendly. I just couldn't change my basic nature. I may do well in polite company, but truth is I'd rather be with impolite company and having a good time than sitting around being pleasant with people I don't have anything in common with except for a desire to not be thought stupid.

 I remember one party at somebody's apartment in Cambridge, MA, maybe 2002. Friend of some friends. I had started the day with a mild hangover but had woken up at 4am anyhow, hauled lobster pots for 12 hours and gotten back to the dock at like 5:30pm. I drove home and showered, ate, and by the time I had driven the 40 minutes or so to Harvard Square, it was like 9pm. I had to be up at 4am the next day anyhow, but I was in my 20's. No big deal.
    It was pretty dull, but pleasant enough, I suppose. I listened to a lot of talk.  After everyone had had a few drinks, some of the ladies who I knew made a few digs at me for being a caveman and foregoing the opportunities that my education provided. I explained once that I was happier with what I was doing- it was exciting, rewarding, and the higher-risk nature of the work was satisfying to the part of me that liked doing what others wouldn't want to do. I might as well have been talking to the wall to my associates. Nonetheless, as I am wont to do, a couple of sea stories got told, and a likely enough woman showed some interest in me and I didn't complain at all. Some upper class young ladies really do enjoy slumming it with someone who can be polite and inoffensive.
 Thing is, it was all an act for me. I still wasn't enjoying it, and other than a desire to get laid, I was having one of those 'I don't want to be here' feelings. The most vocal of the women I knew at the party got fairly drunk, and let her mask slip a bit, turned pretty mean. She said some vaguely cutting and dismissive things in response to the last story I had told. Cock-blocking me, essentially. I was still housebroken enough at that time that I didn't really do much beyond pretend I didn't realize she was being shitty. I ended up getting the girl's number and by 11pm I was in my rotten bait truck headed back to the suburbs, but the night sat heavy with me. There was nothing truly wrong with them, the problem lay with me. I didn't belong, and never did, and never will.

 The next morning, when the Notorious B.O.B. showed up at the dock, I had the engine warmed up, our 1,000 lbs of bait already loaded on board, filled up our fresh water barrel and was loaded up on caffeine. I had slept maybe 3 hours and was still somewhat annoyed with myself for being a drama queen and not just enjoying the company the night before. Over the course of the day, we talked about what was going on inside my head, and by the time we got back to the dock, Bob's dad had dropped a 24-pack of Heineken in the bait cooler, and we proceeded to drink at least half that suitcase. "Fuck 'em," was Bob's advice. "You got people. How many do you really need?"

 Bob gave some damn good advice.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Its the Weekend!

 Weekends just don't matter when you do what we do. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A night in Facebook Jail

   Cleaning out my hard drive, I was looking over some old pictures from 10ish years ago.

Well, we're fogbound, and rather than being productive, here I am.

        I got put in Facebook Jail the other day, a 24 hour ban. Someone took offense that I called them a retard, and so I apologized and referred to them as a 'mongoloid' thereafter. I got Zucc'd off for 24 hours shortly after that.

I don't do too well when I get scolded by strangers, I guess. Facebook, along with right here, is where my id gets aired out in my day to day interactions. I really do try to be nice to people who are nice to me in meatspace. So it goes.

 The only real difference I noted from being without social media was that I spent less time on the toilet.


The rapid pace continues. I've been trying to get ashore for the last 5 days. Just hasn't been happening, despite being within swimming distance half the damn time. I've got another 2-3 days before St. Famine's Day, when we run out of caffeine and the bloodbath starts. Oh, and food, too. But fuck food. The caffeine is critical.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Dude Mindset

I read a really neat blog post by Cedar Sanderson this evening while cooking breakfast for myself at 11:30pm on her writing and go-to productive mindset, specifically, what I guess the touchy-feely types would call mindfullness, or the Jesuits an  Examen-style step back to assess things internal and external.  It's good stuff and she's a good writer-

There’s a balance, obviously to living in one’s head, and withdrawing from the world into your own imagination. Both have their times and purposes. But when you can’t live in your own head you lose the ability to self-analyze. Self-analysis is another of those tools that can paralyze, or free, your ability to act and react. In the sense of freedom, it gives you the ability to rewind a little: make a mistake, look back and think, what did I do? Why did I do that? How can I correct that for the next time? But if you aren’t fully online, then you can’t visualize your thoughts and actions.    

    Read the whole thing HERE

     I'm not a creative writer. I very much wish I was, and suspect I have some latent talent there, but a certain intellectual laziness coupled with a greater talent for technical-style writing gives me excuses not to try. I don't have my brother's gift of gab, but when I do get in the zone and start telling stories (usually I need 3-4 pints of Guinness and a dram on top of that) , I'm not above embellishing a good story, and I can usually attract an audience. That could also be my issues with The Irish Whisper (using the outdoor voice while indoors) too, though. Maybe I'm not a good storyteller, but just really, really loud. Probably a bit of both. If that crossed over into writing better, I would try harder. 

             While I'm at work, I try to maintain a steady emotional state. This rarely works, but I do try. Just the other day a foreign engineer was fairly rude to me, and rather than blow up at him I said "Namaste, you cocksucker," to calm both he and I down, so I'm obviously doing great with that. 
   When I do get there, it helps, though. 
        To get comfortable, I too, prefer to live inside my own head. As I get towards my mid 40's, I am less patient with others, but I also seem to be less emotionally invested in offgassing my own anger or frustration by sharing it with others. Blowing up at people just isn't as cathartic as it once was. I miss those days. 
          I've written before about how as our workload increases, my horizons decrease. I don't fixate on just proximal issues, but I'm able to let go of the gestalt and reduce things to task and purpose. Tactically, this helps get the job done, but it prevents strategic planning, which, luckily, I don't much need when I'm just trying to grind through cargo ops. After my watch is done, I have to do supervisor-esque stuff like tracking consumables, payroll, emails, yadda yadda yadda. And, over the course of a half-day discharge, like tonight, I have time to plink away at posts like this over the course of 8 hours.  We've had a hellaciously busy couple of weeks here, and the absolute shit weather has made work challenging, and as a result, I'm less engaged with the outside world, which is nice. I miss long ocean voyages like I used to take, where there was no internet access and no phone signal between ports. I'm too connected now, and, as a result, my go-to mindset is to pine for alone time. 
     Alone time is better than booze, better than fine food... not better than sex, though. Still, it's pretty God-damned good. When we used to have down time, I used to love putting on earmuffs and goggles, wrapping my head in a giant bandanna and needle gunning. I can lose 20 points on my blood pressure with just 30 minutes of needle gunning.  I checked. The alone time lets me get my head in order, plan, and reflect and address my personal agenda for work and life... and there's not that much of it. Big barge, small house. The reason I am so protective of the crew we've got is that I can sit at my table with another man 3 feet away and not say a word for 4 hours, and it's completely comfortable... or we can just talk those entire 4 hours, and that's cool too. Being simpatico with shipmates is a treasure worth hoarding. 
   I do need my alone time to make the most of my not-alone time. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife knows this, although she doesn't truly comprehend it. She's a saint, my wife. She knows when I start sneaking out to my garage to disassemble the vacuum cleaner like it was one of my guns, I just need an hour or so and can come back inside on a far more even keel.  Same feeling she gets from reaching out to a friend and spending an hour over tea. 

    When it's Game On here at the HQ, I have to be truly present on my watch, and to be at my best, I have compensation mechanisms and behaviors... we all do. Whether it's someone who has to have a smoke to recollect themselves or another means, we all have our ways to seek out what we need. As an introvert, I prefer to retreat into my own head and figure things out when I'm not overpressed with issues needing my attention. Others need the opposite, to be around people, or to dive into chaos and make order out of it flying by the seat of their pants... end of the day, we all want much of the same. The next two weeks, I just want to abide with out being all zen and shit about it. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Hump Day

It's been a bit zoo-ey the past few weeks here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ, between wind and weather and work, but today is the halfway point for me, and we had a much-needed thaw, today being in the mid-30's and sunny. Actually pretty pleasant. I was able to do little stuff like put the grease gun to fittings on our deck crane, which had been groaning this past few days between the cold hydraulic fluid and extra weight of ice-encrusted everything. We're not 100%, we still need a day of yardwork and to get into one of the cargo tanks to unfuck things there, which means getting the tank cleaned out professionally and force ventilated a bit before a work crew gets in there. Lot of work there.

 Still, progress. It was nice to be able to go out and kick the tires, make little adjustments to get us back into a better fighting trim, because there is some MONEY to be made. There's so much work available between clean and black oil trade that for all I'm getting run a tad ragged, our tugboaters are working about nonstop and there's just not enough boats to go around. Now, I'm used to busy spells. IT happens to us sometimes for a few days, or a few weeks, or a month or two. For some of the tug crew, it's not their usual M.O., and it's hard. Not that I'm sympathetic, but I do see that many of them just aren't used to it, especially the deckhands, and it's hard on them. Well, I've been there. I know what it's like. In many ways they have an awesome job... until they don't. Which I guess you could say about all of us, I suppose. 

 So, halfway. "Top of the mountain" as my shipmate Orlando used to say.
   Today was the first day in at least a week where I didn't have to keep my eyes 12 inches in front of my shoes to keep warm. Pretty nice.

Friday, January 5, 2018

moar of a moarness

The work keeps piling up, and we're still limping along. Everything's frozen a bit and cranky, but we're still nosing the grindstone.

 Its bloody cold out, but 90% of the country is saying the same thing. Currently its 5 degrees out and blowing 30. 15 minutes outside and I'm about going full Ken Doll.

      It's a great time to move heating oil, except that the terminals and refineries are clogged up, too. Our gas/diesel boats are humping right along, trying to keep several key places fed with enough home heating oil- Long Island, NY and the Hudson River Valley between New York City and Albany. Couple million people have no frigging idea that they've got almost no reserve of available fuel right now available locally.

   There are small tank farms dotting the Hudson River that feed heating oil to nearby communities. We (the royal We, not me) are scrambling to keep them fed. Last cold stretch 3-4 years ago, we would often arrive with 30,000 barrels of oil an hour or two after they ran dry and there'd be a hundred oil trucks in line just waiting for us. By the time we had pumped off (8 hours), sailed and gotten back to the terminal in the city (10 hours), they were asking when we'd finish loading, as they were running low. At that point, getting icebound was a disaster, but it still happened- one of my friends managed to move a half mile in 36 hours.Clean oil work ain't for me- there are too many stretches of sitting around doing nothing when the weather is fine. Still, their busy season is often enough the most miserable times of the year.

   It's not a great time of the year to be bunkering ships, either.

big mouth

Holy hell did I speak too soon.

 The wind did not, in fact die down. It shifted, putting us in a lee where we were lying to. Once we got out into NY harbor, it was screaming. I've never heard the wind moan through our antennas before, but it was shrieking. We tried to get into the lee of the tanker we were to bunker, but there was no lee- they feathered up into the wind, and it created a funnel effect, bashed us around, and while I did put one line up on the ship to see how it held, the line screamed and got about 1/4 of it's normal diameter, so I called it a night and refused the job.

 So it's almost noon now, 12 hours later, and we're alongside the ship again. The wind came down *some*, enough to get alongside, although it's not super comfortable. Frigging cold out, though. My mustang suit might as well be a bible page for all it's keeping me warm.