San Pedro was a storm of activity. Crane lifts of stores and engine parts. Crew changes. A total swap of cargo. The noise of boxes slamming into other boxes, cell guides, or empty holds, hammering of lashing gear, and the variety of machinery claxons and engine/motor noises was welcome after the monotony of the transit.
As we hoisted the gangway during cast-off, the wire rope that supports the crew-rated ladder sheared almost all the way through. There are two pieces of equipment I most distrust on a ship: lifeboats and gangways… and that parted wire illustrates my distrust exactly. The potential for loss of life and the slow awareness of the implications of that dodged bullet lodge in the psyche and grow like a tumor- I saw no less than 10 longshoremen on that plank at one point…
The new bosun jumped right on it and we changed the wire first thing in the morning- an all-hands piece of vital work that went as smoothly as could be hoped for.
I had the joy of slushing the wire between where it came off the spool and where it made its way through the series of sheaves that allow for the raising and lowering or our ship’s only civilized exit. Slushing the wire consists of laying down cardboard, putting on layered nitrile and cotton gloves, and grabbing handfuls of grease and smearing the wire as it runs.
If you leave too much grease on the wire it makes an ungodly mess; too little and the rope’s core doesn’t get wetted. I like to think that if you’re not covered in grease you’ve done it wrong.
Yes, I was covered in grease.
My watch partner, the third mate, got off the ship and my new watch partner turned out to be a familiar face from my last ship… too bad we only had the opportunity to stand two watches together! I had gotten used to long stretches of silence broken only by a stream of bitter invectives so those last two watches flew by.
We slow-belled from San Pedro to Oakland through whale-infested waters, catching up on events from real life, and then I went down from my watch to the bow as we came into the San Francisco Bay at 1700.
Tie up was smooth, but I lost style points when I flubbed casting the heaving line to the dock- the modern equivalent of a monkey’s fist (a bean bag) hit the rail when I threw and didn’t make it to the dock on the first throw. The shame was all mine! Such a rookie move…
Getting paid-off involved a lot of running around… the delegate didn’t get us paid up through tie-up so I had to ferry paperwork from the chief mate’s office on A deck, the delegate's board on D deck, and the captain’s office on F deck through several iterations until we got it just right, because said delegate was stuck on crane duty.
Special Note: Always wear gloves when you go down the gangway- the rails are covered in grease.
I had a room and a flight booked. I don’t know how, but the same suitcase, filled with the exact same stuff, weighed 7 pounds more on the way back to Seattle than it did on the way down to San Francisco.
I carried my dirty overalls and boots onto the plane in a black trash bag for my flight back to Seattle.
And now I am on the beach.