Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Far Side of the Indian Ocean

I got the grandest compliment I've had in a long time: "This is almost like a normal ship, now."

I wish I could say the Coral had been this bad, but it wasn't... it took me about 4 months (out of my 6 total) on that girl to set her to rights... I feel like I'm far ahead of schedule, comparatively, here on the Mokey Pokey.  Good captain, the new mate has been good, my sailors have been good... and we're always underway, never in port doing cargo...

I felt it too soon to leave Singapore when we did, but we'd done all we could work-wise so clearly it was a personal feeling.

Back into the routine of being underway: Start at 0530, knock off at 2000.  I take soundings before breakfast; I watch the sun come up while I send a glorified tape measure down each specialized hole that lets me know how much water is in the "rose boxes" (bilges) and ballast tanks.

I have my 4x8 and my 12x4 man to work from 0800 to 1200; at 1300 my 8x12 man (in this case, woman) is on deck until 1700.  I do meal relief for the helmsman at 1645 - 1715.  Nobody bothers me one iota between 1800 and 2000, as if they know my personality... I get more done in those two hours than I do all day.

We took on 4 security crew off the coast of Sri Lanka.  They are Greek.  Dark eyed, quick-to-smile killers who speak little English.  They hang out on deck with their shirts off.  The two women on board don't mind, as far as I can tell.

They brought on AK-47s, 1000 rounds of ammo, and stand 3 hour watches.

Bringing them on, however, was a challenge.  I had the pilot ladder set up to send the 4 temp crew off and take on the killers; I had the stores crane rigged with all the luggage in a net on the stern.  Switching the crews out was challenging because the boat operator sucked- it took almost a half hour, thanks to his incompetence.

Then the Sinhalese refused to let us use the crane to offload and take on gear because there was a raw-water exhaust on the stern (nowhere near the area of work, btw), so I got to hump all the luggage up the 2 narrow ladders on the stern of the tug and back down the front of the house to the tug's bow.

Have I mentioned there are only three other sailors (all watchstanders) and myself on this boat?

Needless to say, by the time I'd moved all that shit I was angry at that boat operator.

I moved all that gear, then instructed the 3rd Mate and the crew NOT to discharge or take on luggage over the water without a line.  That I was getting the line.  That they were to stand by until the Deck Boss (me, you sullen, shifty-eyed dogs) OK'ed the exchange of gear with the secured methods that I was setting up.

I got back with a suitable luggage line and the Sinhalese, in their impatience, had brow-beat the 3rd Mate and the waiting security guys into passing the gear over the rail, contrary to my instructions.

I called the Sri Lankans' names, berated anyone within hearing for disobeying my instructions, and out-angered the hostile crew of the launch.  I called their mothers names, I called the mate names, and I shouted them down... down to a one.  My way or highway.  It got so heated they sent a man on deck with a machine gun to glare at me.  The new Greek commandos, however, liked my style, and they all started yelling at the Sri Lankans "Do your fucking job!" and it struck me, at that moment, as the highest available comedy that life has to offer.

Once the gear was transferred, properly, while we awaited the ship stamp and payment, I exchanged "goddamn that was funny" looks with the Launch deckhand and their shooter; they agreed with a look and a smirk, and at that point I could have gone home with them, met their families, and tossed their infants into the air for all the animosity they carried after business was completed.

This is the first ship for this third mate and I'm certain that way of doing business was traumatizing.  I didn't realize it, but the same struggle always presents itself for every accommodating vessel and they'd all trained me how to interact appropriately.  I was completely correct to lay down the law, but in the real world (on shore) it would have been... a little bit over the top.  But seriously- who was gonna get blamed if they dropped a machine gun into the drink?  Yeah.  Me.  I was not going to be remembered as "that dumb-ass."

Unbeknownst to me, the old man and mate watched from the bridge wing.  The helmsman came down to help me haul gear aboard per their instruction.  They were all weirdly silent about the way I handled things, afterward, but it has felt like my deck, fair and square, ever since; and nobody has disputed that.  The old man has acted mildly amused and hasn't seen fit to venture out where I work... which I take as the highest praise I'll ever get from the monkey deck.

We transited the pirate waters of the Arabian Sea and we're now sitting at anchor (in an anchorage where ships have actually been taken by pirates), in Salalah, Oman.  At any second we could get the call to go to dock... so we've pretty much got port prep done.  We're prepping for cargo.  We're ready to tie up and hit the Arabian markets.

1 comment:

  1. ... speaking of Karma! Heh!
    "Good job, you," sez she who was known on The River as The Terminator. (The dinghy is much like the Mother Ship.)