Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Monday, August 29, 2016
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 2016
The best part of Karachi, Pakistan was, indeed, “getting the fuck out of Karachi,” as so eloquently stated by the 3rd Engineer. The smell of the city, the pollution in the waterways, the open dislike for Americans by the Paki longshoremen, and the slow extortion of the ship by a port that does business the same way a kidnapper does- holding the ship hostage until it has extracted as much as is possible- makes for a tedious stay.
The seas have been on our beam since leaving the coast and the roll, roll, rolling of the ship has taken its toll on my sleep- not so much for the motion (which is lulling) but for the odd banging door, the rolling of things in drawers, and the falling over of non-permanently affixed things… my sleep has been interrupted!
I have also started to run out of steam. When motivation erodes you must rely on habit and doing-by-rote, and that’s where I am today. Perhaps with a good night’s sleep I’ll be recharged, but today ain’t that day (a good night’s sleep fixed me up, after all).
We have been advancing clocks. One hour last night, one hour today during the day, and tomorrow during the day- soon I will return to 15 hours later than Seattle time. The only people aboard who dislike advancing clocks during the day are the steward’s department- their shorter day means they have to work much harder to be ready for mealtimes.
The flies we picked up in Pakistan are still with us.
I trained a man on the crane who was, by all accounts, unable to operate that kind of equipment. He does fine… better than some, even. Since he went ashore last time we were in Singapore, this next time he will remain aboard to do what I did last time - operate the crane. Give a man a fish/ Teach a man to fish, and all that… but I’m gonna shore-hound my happy ass this next visit, come hell or come high water.
The elevator was on the kaputz since I came aboard. A day out of Karachi the electrician and reefer requested I build them staging on C deck (4th deck above the “ground floor” of the Upper Deck, 6.5 floors above the lowest stop down on one of the decks in the engine room) in the elevator shaft. I had to have them request it of my head of department (chain of command, and all that) but soon I was requisitioned to build them staging.
As with all projects, I started by combing the ship for the best - usually only - available materials… which means digging in the forecastle and steering room, rummaging in the tunnels, and even going so far as to dismantle other non-vital, forgotten stuff if necessary. Walk a mile in my shoes (in a moving convection oven) and you’ll feel me.
I found three old boards and two stamped walk-boards (certified to a maximum weights for staging). Instead of cutting the expensive, regulated and stamped walk-boards, I figured I’d cut one of the old paint-covered planks. Yeah. It was teak. I could have cried. The last board of teak I bought was 100 dollars a board foot (my 1.25” x 10” x 10 foot board cost a thousand dollars)... it felt like burning money.
The four foot section of 2 inch by 12 inch iron-wood was also a good score. I don’t know what I am gonna do with it… but I haven’t lost my wood hoarding skills while at sea, apparently.
Anyway- they spent a few days repairing the elevator and finally- after over a month aboard- I didn’t have to climb the 13 story ladder 200 times a day anymore. My first ride up to the bridge was a luxury unlike anything I’ve experienced since the Polk- it seems the elevator on every ship I’ve been on since has been broken! And then like That! We had elevator.
Until we started rolling- which has been every single day since they repaired it. Now, before I start the climb, I check to see if the light is back on, yet…
And that is how it is.
NOTE: It is easier to climb the ladder when it’s rolling if you wait for the ship to roll in the “helping” direction. You can also climb against the roll if you really want to suffer the additional G’s working against you. Often times I’ll go into the ladder well and there will be someone standing at the landing, frozen, waiting until the ship rolls back around before they start their climb up. I do it all the time, but it’s quite funny to witness. An 8 second period between swells is the perfect amount of time to casually walk up the ship’s switch-backing ladder with the least amount of effort. That is how sailors do.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Our illustrious delegate had been getting annoyed that the sanitary guys kept taking out the trash in the bridge head, putting in a new bag, and then replacing the trash can lid- apparently, it was an unacceptable amount of work for the delegate to wash his hands while on watch and then lift the lid to throw away his paper towels. I get it. Small things at sea can chafe like ill-fitting underwear and soon grow intolerable. It's happened to me on more than one occasion.
And I really shouldn't laugh.
But each day he'd pull the lid off and stow it in increasingly less accessible locations, hoping they'd be "smart enough" to understand it was an unwanted lid and to leave the goddamned thing off, already, but they'd diligently find it and doggedly replace it back on the can where it belonged. This battle of wills had been escalating for weeks. It annoyed him so much that when he reached a certain point of frustration, the escalation came to a head, and he took drastic measures to maintain his sanity: He threw the lid away.
In the CFR's (Code of Federal Regulations), however, it specifies that be in compliance with international treaty- being the law of the land as soon as the US became a ratified signatory- as set forth by the IMO (the International Maritime Organization) that we must have trash cans with lids in specific places on the ship- And that head is one of them (as is the galley, mess hall, laundry, etc.). When the Old Man couldn't find the lid and he found out that the Delegate threw it away, he ordered him to find it. Or he was fired.
Being a white dude from San Francisco, oblivious of his privileged American Equality and, therefore, unknowingly holding the entire concept of the chain of command in contempt, he went back to the Captain and asked him to clarify what he meant. All he'd tell me of this conversation in its aftermath was the Old Man reiterated "Find that lid or you're fired." Lucky for him he found it.
So today the crew is rolling their eyes and grinning about the kerfuffle (all but one crew member, of course), relishing saying the words "garbage can" as often as possible. Which is why I spent 4 hours this morning putting lanyards on all trash cans, marrying them forever to their lids. I would have been whistling, contentedly- but you never whistle on a ship (you'll whistle up a storm).
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
The elevator is still out (it hasn’t worked since before I got on). There are 8.5 floors above the main deck, and another 5 below. I probably climb the equivalent of a 100 story building every single day.
The air conditioning hasn’t been able to cool the inside temperature of the house much below that of the air outside of it, thanks to the conjoining of the Reefer’s inexperience and the system’s complexity. I mistakenly thought the Reefer was in charge of air conditioning when I first went to sea, but he’s actually aboard to handle the power, maintenance, and monitoring of the refrigerated containers. We joke that the Reefer is only aboard to plug them in when they’re loaded and unplug them when they’re offloaded.
Once I am exhausted by the schedule out here I actually slow down, mellow out, and pace myself… too bad that takes so long in the first place.
The chimney effect created by the height of the ship and the many different ways air can flow from deep in the heart of the ship below to the bridge, many decks above, causes some doors to be vacuumed shut and others to swing wild when opened. I’ve been chipping, grinding, and painting the tunnels from the sideport aft to the engine room water tight doors, and each time the engine water tight door is opened, the blast of furnace-like air cooks us. Thank god it’s a dry heat.
There is absolutely no concievable way to use a grease gun without also bathing in grease. It cannot be done.
I have finally sunk so low as to wear cut-off carhart overalls. After work, when I kick off my work boots, the toe-socks with flip-flops doesn’t help.
It has rained every day since leaving China. The heat and humidity are constant. The gray is constant. The salt on the decks is a quarter inch thick and has a greasy feel to it. Everything is damp and salted.
The color of the ocean changes every time I look at it and there is no language, on the sea or off it, that can adequately describe it. Its luminous nature, surface texture, aeration, biological content, interaction of current, wind, and wave, the inclination of the sun, all affect it with equal degrees of variation, and I can contentedly stare at it for hours.
Pakistani fishermen are all around us and I find myself envious of their 50 foot fishing boats. Their sterns look like Chinese san pans, but their bows are unique to these waters (in my experience), where the stem stands about 10 feet perfectly vertical and whose apex is a perfect semi-circle. There is a horizontal plank bowsprit that is a mirror image of the stem in size and shape. The bow is remarkably blunt. I have seen only a few spritsails in the distance- these boats are mostly powered by unenclosed gas engines with straight exhausts, long shafts and props bolted directly to the flywheels, and to get thrust they lift the front of the engine which in turn pivots the prop down into the water. Each boat has between 8 and 10 men, and they fish with lines directly in their hands- no poles or other gear. The men who came down our starboard side landed a 4 foot tarpon (according to my Filipino brothers) and tried to sell it to us there on the spot.
Some days you are the hammer. Some days you are the nail.