It took us over a week to escape the oil spill, the days of which were spent in the Oahu sun on my hands and knees cleaning impossible to reach spots. Divers cleaned the ship’s waterline, the oil booms, and the underside of the dock. Shoreside personnel cleaned the dock with pressure washers, collected the oil-soaked absorbent from ship crew, divers in the harbor, and their own waste and put it all into drums.
It sounds like a total of 1,800 gallons spilled. The company threw everything at it, and the entire operation included a tent on the dock where the shipping company big-wigs met with officials while making their presence known to contractors and employees, alike.
But once we were OK’ed to shift over to the cargo dock the proverbial winds changed and it wasn’t long until we were loaded with boxes. We let go and have been steaming west by southwest ever since.
It’s the first time I’ve sailed as a watchstander in a few years… and I forgot how much I like it, which bodes well for my future at sea: Officers are watchstanders.
The greatest difficulty of standing a watch is getting enough sleep… and since a sailor named Blythe shared her melatonin with me 5 years ago I haven’t missed a day or night’s sleep since.
Watching the color of the sea change from day to day, taking photos of the sunrise and sunset, seeing the green flash and the rise of the planets on the horizon… these are things I went to sea to enjoy, and when you’re a dayman you don’t get to enjoy these things. I have been soaking it all in. Relishing it.
Of course, this is a ship and half her cargo is the pure, undiluted dumb of the seamen aboard. The petty infighting, the squabbles over overtime, the sheer dissatisfaction of being away from home all continue much as they have since the first boat large enough to float two people was made by our knuckle-dragging ancestors. As I’m soaking it in and relishing it, I’m simultaneously amused and annoyed in equal parts by the maritime of it all.
While this crew is remarkably normal and professional, in spite of all the dumb, one sailor in the shore gang that helped us clean the oil spill stands out as one of the more memorable flavors I’ve encountered in years: He is a union applicant named Pete.
Sporting a body style and manner of locomotion that can only be described as “penguin,” his perfectly spherical and hairless head sports a thick pair of glasses that magnify his already large eyes into gigantic proportions.
Pete punctuates every sentence with “Hooters! Oink! Oink!” at which point his facial expressions cycle through three or four exaggerated states of surprise. I am not certain, but I think he has a form of Tourette's and it’s probably a horrible thing to make fun of him.
Of course, we’re all still exclaiming “Hooters!” randomly throughout the day.