Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Conclude cargo ops.  Depart Shanghai.  North through the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan for two days.  While on deck during our transit of the Tsugaru Straits the winds picked up the spindrift and soaked me to the bones- there was no lee side of the ship that day.  On the far side of transiting the strait we were met by storms in the Pacific.

"Sea of Japan" Green (TM) 

Advance clocks to ZD -09.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’.  6-8 meter swells on our quarter means the frequent sound of crashing from around the ship as items welded in place by entropy and through the neglect of familiarity are suddenly ripped free from their near permanence and sent flying.  Fly birdie, fly.  Like my laundry basket, scattering my dirty clothes about my quarters in the same way diffusion scatters gaseous vapors into the air.  Like the wheeled carts we use on deck, their leashes not hitched to a more stationary neighbor, roaming about forward of the house as randomly and single-mindedly as robot vacuum cleaners.  Plywood, keys, remote controls, game boxes, water bottles, mop buckets, milk crates, and the ubiquitous long-handled items that lurk in every corner of the ship… given a freedom they do not deserve nor know what to do with.

If you look out the window of the bridge you will see (faintly- sorry)
nothing but water where normally you see horizon.
Advance clocks to ZD -10.

After the last voyage I foisted the responsibility of being the delegate back onto the gang, from whence it came.  We elected a new one from the pool of members, and this person immediately lost his mind with perceived-but-not-present power.  I was the first to be castigated for having the audacity to disagree with their interpretation of things, and since Honolulu last time I have effectively had no shipboard representation after my reply to said castigation.  It all came to a head recently, however, when this person could no longer get along with his watch partner, who happened to be the Chief Mate- his boss’ boss.

The wheels came off that car as suddenly and publically as it is possible to do, and the taste of schadenfreude was so sweet in my mouth I had second and third helpings of it… I find the ambrosial taste truly intoxicating.  My resultant good mood was bullet-proof.  The gang stripped the delegateship from him and it became the responsibility of another (I would not have it).  People leave the room when he comes in, now, lest they catch the severe case of the unwanteds from him like an airborne pathogen, and the only guilt I feel for enjoying the entirety of it all is the guilt I feel for my own capacity for sadism.  For three weeks I suffered that bastard alone and in silence, and now- by his own hand and through no action of mine- he is undone.  My satisfaction is complete.

This informational poster hangs on the board
on the unlicensed deck crew deck.

So I got summarily moved by the Captain from my familiar and prefered midnight watch to the 4x8 watch.  New overtime schedule and meal times, new watch partner, and a new affront to my already-insulted circadian rhythm.  The first night I didn't sleep at all.  I stood my watch, then went out for overtime.  I had a one hour nap in lieu of food, went back out for more overtime, then went to my next new watch.  All I could do was think of sleep while on the watch- but once I was done and I hit the rack, sleep became elusive and I merely tossed and turned with such force that I stripped my mattress of its bedding.  So I repeated the whole process one more time through, completely sleep deprived in the second iteration, and when I finally had 8 hours into which I could cram a 7.75 hour sleep I was actually thrown out of bed we were rolling so badly.  

If you’re curious, that roll was exactly 25 degrees to starboard.  Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’...  

This is what a 12-14 degree roll looks like. 

Advance clocks to ZD -11.

While the storms chased us east there was no sea life to be seen, just the mesmerizing waves.  The stern has been closed to the crew because every 7th wave of every 7th set has broken over the transom and flooded the stern’s quarter, in some instances, up to the overhead.  I have wandered around with my phone camera trying to get a photo or video that captures the raw power of it all, but nothing flattens a wave like a camera, and so I have failed.  If only cameras could capture the sensation of sudden weightlessness, or that momentary disorientation that overcomes the human brain as the world heaves from one inclination to another without any external stimuli to indicate which way is what.  

Advance clocks to ZD -12.

Last night I was treated to the spectacle of the full moon being fully eclipsed astern of us.  The moon seemed particularly bright last night, the only other heavenly body visible was Jupiter, bearing 090 at about 40 degrees ahead of us.

Advance clocks, confoundingly enough, to ZD -13!.

Finally, today, the infernal rolling and yawing has given way to a bit of pitching, which is a much nicer ride, particularly when your bed faces fore and aft.  The sun came out, and noddys, gray backed terns, and one great frigate bird skimmed the smaller, 4 meter swells and 2.5 meter wind waves.  We have hung so far south to avoid storms that I am still in shirt sleeves and sweating on deck.  We didn't start our great circle until yesterday!  Rhumb lined it more than half way across the Pacific, two cyclones astern and the entirety of the ocean north of us blanketed by a low pressure mass causing us to start, and to keep on, a Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’....

This magnetic finger is used to hold the buttons that pump water into the ballast
tanks.  Leave it on too long, however... "Hey mate- why do we have a port list?"

Advance clocks to ZD +10.  

At this point anyone familiar with the globe and paying attention to the clock advances I keep mentioning must be wondering “what in the hell happened to ZD +11?” and all I can explain is, that for reasons I don’t understand, we replace +11 with -13 in the accounting of 12 hour days when we cross the Prime Meridian.  I know, right?! I know there is a reason for it, but nobody can tell me why.

Something I forgot about the 4x8 watch (to where I've been banished) is the lengths I must go to get adequate sleep.  I eat breakfast between 0745 and 0800.  I take a nap between 0800 and 0900, during the hour off work our contract demands for meal times.  I take a nap between 1200 and 1300 and skip lunch altogether (on the flip side, I get relieved at 1645 and get paid to eat dinner).  Then I have 75 minutes, from 1400 to 1515, to grab another nap between the end of my OT and my watch in a space of time mandated I have off in order to comply with international law.  At 2000 I finally get my big block of time, 8 hours, into which I pour myself - like a liquid- into my bunk.  If I wake up early, I take that time to do my personal chores.  

If I don’t wake up early then clearly the time changes need to be accounted for.

Advance clocks to ZD +09

My overtime has been to clean those parts of the cargo holds not full of containers- mostly the scuttles, ladders, landings, and whatnot that lead from the weather deck and tunnels down to the tank top.  Respirator, broom, dust pan, and plastic bags have been my weapons.  Spiders, rust, sand and dirt, lizard carcases, Chinese takeout boxes (from China, no less), and what’s-a-nizzle have been my targets.  Sweep it, bag it, and haul it by rope up narrow, vertical scuttles that meander first port, and then starboard, and back again several times to a height of six containers.

This is called a "taco-" It's the only way to stay
in bed when the ship is rolling.

Advance clocks to ZD +08.

This morning I watched Sirius, Jupiter, and Venus climb in a sky again washed out by that big ol’ squid-boat light in the sky- the almost full but waning moon.  And then I saw a meteor the likes of which I have only seen once- while standing pirate watch on the stern of the Polk in the Red Sea.  The tail filled half the sky and was visibly made of billowing fire and smoke, lit by  white hot, eye damagingly bright and burning space rock that almost made it down to earth, almost into the same ocean we transited.  Instead, just before splashing down, the burn slowed and fizzled and the sky was left hidden behind the superimposed meteor-facsimile burned into my retinas.

Advance clocks to ZD +07, the last clock change!  Yay!

I saw a herd of Pacific White Sided Dolphin about 50 strong leaping from wave to wave in almost perfect unison.  They were lined up, pectoral to pectoral in a long line, and they came down our starboard side, then altered course to take advantage of our wake, before disappearing in the distance.  They were smiling.  All of them.

I painted on the flybridge for OT, the view of the low clouds stunning, until the same low clouds began to dump their payloads on my head and onto the surfaces I painted.  Everything seems to take longer to do on a ship.  Or time moves slower.  Either way, that project wasn’t completed and it will have to wait until another day.

I have 8 days and a wakeup to go, or maybe I have only 7 days and a wake up- I’m not quite sure which.  I do know, however, I am ready to be home and off this here “Bird of the Ocean.”  I got a full day of sleep and had crazy dreams about taking a long journey, at night, on a highway made of water, through an ocean.  It featured mermaids, faces made of mud, and unseen things lurking in the deep.  And a creepy vibe.  Cue.  That’s my cue, right there.  Exit stage left.  See you next show.  Very good… you did very good.  Goodnight.  Go home, now.

Coming into the Port of Long Beach.