As I enter the homestretch of this hitch I can definitely say Ive been knee deep in tugboats the whole time. Due to a shuffling of personal I ended up coming back early for a few extra days with the other crew. So after Sunday Easter dinner with my future Mother in Law (thanks for the great dinner Kathy!) the Therapist Fianc and I relaxed at home for a few more hours in front of the fire. It never gets any easier leaving, especially when you are full of ham with a black lab on one side and a pretty lady on the other!
Once back to work my education by tugboat continued in earnest, and the semi permanent boat certainly knocked me down a few pegs when it got the chance. Its not that shes a bad boat by any means, just a bit peculiar in its handling compared to everything else Ive run. She has inboard turning wheels, therefore doesnt twin-screw very well and is noticeably weaker astern than ahead. However she tows well and has good height of eye from the lower wheelhouse. Addition she will walk a barge quit well. So as with anything, each job is about planning to play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
Sometimes however the weaknesses get ya, and you just have to try and not break anything while muttering damn damn damn. For the record though, on tugboats and boats in general, you are usually muttering something a little more profane. You are also usually yelling; but I digress.
The primary weakness at this point is still has more to do with my level of experience and skill, and less to do with any particular boats handling quirks. So not all of my jobs went great the first couple days. In particular I had a tough time, and continue to, doing ship work with that particular boat. With barges however it is a different story. While it wont twist a barge well, I do feel a lot more comfortable with a barge on the push or alongside and have put barges up to 60k barrels into a few docks as well and moved them point to point all over the harbor. We even took one 60k barrel unit up to Boston and back, giving me my first taste of real wire work. By far the highlight of the run to Boston was both transits of the Cape Cod Canal. For once I got to be on the other end of the lens, and be the guy on the tugboat! What made the moment even better was that on the shore with a camera was not only the Therapist Fiance, but also a large gathering of both our families. I cant thank them all enough, especially my bride to be for coming down. I can only share so much of what I do through this blog and for them to get to actually see me at work was very very cool.
Once back to New York and released from the barge it was time for a maintenance period for that boat and the boat hoping of this hitch began for me. As a crew, minus our engineer who was busy doing engineer things, we moved over to one of the smaller less used boats for a smattering of barge and ship assist jobs. This only lasted two days before we stole a visiting boat from the Portland office to do the current job we are on.
That brings me to the last few days and the value of a good network of friends. See when you get called to move a random barge there is usually a myriad of questions about it that the dispatcher or office isnt going to have the answers to. How are the bridles and the pick up line set up? How does it tow alongside? When and where do you generally tow it alongside during the trip? How does it tow loaded? What is the approach to the dock like? Do you take an assist in or out?
What you really need is to talk to someone who does the trip on a regular basis, and knows the barge. Thats where youre network of maritime friends, former colleagues, and people you might just kind of know from an airport bar come in.
So when our crew got told that another company needed one of their bulk barges brought from New York to Baltimore due to lack of their own boats being available, the above questions started piling up. Thats when the cell phones come out and everyone starts to scour through their contact list to see if so and so still works there, or if that guy you tied up to one time had done that run. Etc, Etc, So on and so fourth.
As luck would have it we did know A guy who had done this exact tow and whose boat normally did it. A couple phone conversations and we had the skinny on the whole trip, the particulars of the barge, and the methods for coming in and out of the slip. So now here we sit waiting on the barge to finish loading for the run back up to New York. All in all its been a good hitch, Ive gotten to see some new places, do some new work, and experience a couple more boats.
Now for all the photos that didnt quite work into the post, that I know are the real reason anyone visits this site anyway.