Saturday, September 22, 2018

Steaming Ever Westward

We anchored in Subic Bay of the Philippine Islands and took on water, fuel, and some fresh produce; we offloaded the oily waste byproduct known as "slops."

Sadly, I only had a brief stint on the beach, and it was spent primarily at a shopping mall, the single greatest contribution of American culture on a global scale since WWII.  There was Starbucks and Columbia and Apple and... and... all that shit.  BUT, right next to the ship was a beach where the fishing boats, all outrigger canoes- from the tiny one man boats to massive 70 footers- beach themselves each night, like seals on the shore of the Pacific Northwest... and if ever I come back to Subic Bay, THAT is where I'm going. 

We departed and rolled into Singapore 5 days later, dropping anchor in the inner harbor and then proceeding to tie up no less than 5 different fuel barges, a bevy of launch services bringing stores, taking off garbage, more oily waste barges, and yet more fresh water barges.  We had ship to shore launch services on the hour, and about 25 different contractors at any given time doing much needed repairs. It was, in a word, hectic.

The foreman from the gangway replacement when I was bosun on the APL Coral in 2016 was one of the subcontractors, a quiet Indian man named Mutytiara. I remembered him instantly- he was the man who got soaked with the full force of our fire main when the weight-test water-bag burst and he got sprayed, literally, with a fire-hose.

We laughed about it, me more so than he.

I recognized the day foreman, too- Veejay.  He was a lower-cast Indian who nonetheless was "the boss" and we got along well this time we met, too- cursing the bean-counters of this company with vehemence. 

And in the past I've also worked with the small, elderly Chinese bargeman with the huge smile and infectious laugh; whose chi is so healthy and his kung fu so strong he looks 25 from the gap-toothed old man's neck downward.  He ran all over his barge like a cat and there are few his equal, even though I'm sure he's in his 70's.  Just seeing how much he loved his work made me smile, even though I was in a protracted and misery-inducing war of attrition with the out-going chief mate that had me more frustrated than at any point of my maritime career to date.

Thank you, kung fu bargeman.

When I finally got ashore, Singapore was her old self.  Queries of "ma-sah-he" from pretty women in dark doorways.  The smell of durian in the markets.  1,000 different dumplings in the hawker stalls.  Chinatown was a little on the quiet side due to rain, but Clarke Quay was a hive of activity.  I discovered Marina Bay Park by accident walking back to the ship at night, and I walked alone for miles in the dark, next to large ponds, accompanied by the sounds of crickets, frogs, bats, and wind through the tropical canopy, above.

I got ashore twice, and each time came with a heavy price-tag: My Sleep.  My shortest work day in Singapore was 16 hours.  The day we hoisted anchor and steamed west into the Straits of Malacca was a whopping 21 hour day.

Next stop isn't much of a stop, really... we slow down, let off the Greek engineers the crew inexplicably call "the snipes" who've been riding with us since Subic Bay and take on the security detail with their armaments; mercenaries who will stand security watch against pirates of the Indian Ocean as we transit to Africa.

Onward.  Ever onward we go.

1 comment:

  1. You do know that where you were cheerfully walking along in the dark is in a country full of VERY poisonous snakes, right? There appear to be many typhones out your way at the moment, too. But at least your chief mate was "out going, going, gone?" Stay safe.