Things will be quiet for a while.

Well I know I said I would be trying to post more, this and that, etc. It’s just not going to be happening folks. A combination of a lot of factors has made it more stress than stress relief. I’m trying to make better financial moves at home to eliminate some debt, and the cost of both websites, and data hosting just isn’t in the budget for the moment. Coupled with that my camera is on its last legs and replacing it certainly isn’t in the budget. So no data to post photos with, and before long no camera to take them with. I renewed the domain name as the cost to that is minimal so the site isn’t going anywhere, there likely won’t be any new content for the time being. I’ll be back, hopefully when I’ve got some nice photos, and positive things to write about.

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I’ve been trying folks

 

Well I’ve been really trying to write more lately, it just isn’t happening though folks. It’s probably a combination of a lot of things, call it blogger’s fatigue, a lack of real excitement for work some days, and just too much going on with life. Frankly there hasn’t been a lot of happy news to write about in the industry lately. We’re all feeling the squeeze of low rates and equipment oversupply. As a consolation prize for reading that bit of pouting here are a few photos from Sail Boston 2017. During my last time off I did a quick two day trip to Boston and back from the Vineyard towing the Black Dog Tall Ship Shenandoah onboard my vacation home the tug Jaguar. We brought her up for the parade, towed her in the parade and then headed home. A few days later, with out me, Capt. Charlie and Jaguar made the return trip.

I’ll try and cheer things up a bit the next few weeks, and finish one or two pieces I’ve been writing. I’ve got some thoughts on more than a few of the recent big news events in the Industry. The U.S.S. Fitzgerald collision, the Hyannis Ferry Vs. The Hyannis Port Breakwall, the potential demise of paper charts, and hopefully a closer look at some new build equipment. I’m also considering getting back to writing more gear reviews, so let me know if thats something you the readers are interested in.

 

 

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The City Dock of Brotherly Love

Well after a bit of a shake up here at the office, I’ve been re-assigned for the time being to the Philadelphia fleet. I’m on a sister ship to my previous vessel, with a pretty gravy contract shuffling one of our coastal size barges up and down the Delaware River to and from various refineries and terminals. Its been a bit of an adjustment not doing three or four moves a watch, and I keep catching myself making sure the volume hasn’t been turned down on the radios. You get used to the constant noise in the background working in an area like New York harbor, and when 13 isn’t constantly going the wheelhouse seems awful quiet.
I spent several months down here with McAllister, doing mostly ship and assist work, in 2015 during a “slow period” in New York. So its been good to start getting refreshed on the berth names and numbers at the numerous terminals, as well as getting more acquainted with my current company’s operations here on the Delaware River. Aside from the difference in pace, the way bunker operations work here in the greater Philadelphia area is completely different from New York. While we are on contract doing non bunker work, I still get to watch the other boats run up and down the river to various terminals and anchorages to bunker the variety of tankers, bulkers, and container ships that call on the Delaware River.
So in between relearning berths, locations of security calls, and what channel dispatch stands by on, I’ll try and keep taking a photo or two. After all my writing certainly isn’t the reason most of you are here.

P.S. I hope some of you see what I did there with the title.

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Photo of the week, 05-11-17

“Sassafras westbound at sunken meadow for the gate, light one alongside, Sassafras”

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The Mark

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The mark of experience, a certain kind of experience, that’s what the rust on the rails of a tug tween the quarter bitts and texas bar represents. I tend to agree with, as a mentor once told me, “A tugboat doesn’t have to look like shit to make money”. He was of course referring to rust, and dents, and torn up fenders. Though it might have also been a subtle dig at the various boats that appeared to be designed with framing squares, either through back yard engineering or professional CAD program.
However when working with the tow wire, there is a bit of rust that is inevitable, that only goes away for a brief fleeting moment during the height of painting season. The bright orange of fresh oxidation that is left behind from the wear and tear of the wire going over the rail of a tug while transitioning to and from alongside the barge. As operator commands his well choreographed ballet between the boat and barge, the wire slides fore and aft,is hauled in and out dragging the shackle, socket and pennant over the bulwarks. It only takes a couple repetitions of this evolution to color the rails a bright orange in that most working region of the back deck.
It is by this wear and tear, much like the occasional jagged broken antler of a buck, that you can tell a tugboat and its operators are exercising the full chest of tools they are equipped with. After all the ability to tow astern, and transition to and from alongside are what the winch and after controls are there for. It’s a shame when they, like the skill set necessary to make them work, doesn’t get exercised enough to cause a little rust. It’s the mark of a wire boat, which of all of the kinds of work boats, are my favorite.

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Photo of the week 03-04-17

Yet another one of my offices, in black and white.

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Offshore, Nearshore.

Another busy hitch spent mostly offshore. We crew changed on in Jacksonville a day early and ended up waiting a couples days at our Jacksonville yard for weather. Not so much local weather, but the weather for the Cape Hatteras area for about the time we got there. It was a good chance to get some paperwork done right at the beginning of the hitch and get what would prove to be the only extra sleep of the hitch.

We left Jacksonville at 1800 and put the barge on the wire in the anchorage just below the Matthews Bridge. We had two pilots aboard and the deputy pilot happened to be the brother of a captain I had worked for on an internship in 2010. As usual the maritime industry is a small world. Our pilots a week and a half later would again confirm that.

Even with our weather delay we weren’t in for a pleasure cruise on our way to Philadelphia.  The forecasts followed the old axiom of “add the sustained winds and gusts together to get the true wind speed.” From a 40 knot gale on our ass coming around the Cape, to several hours of 70 and 80 knots sustained on Chesapeake Bay, it was a long trip up the coast. The highpoint was certainly reeling in two layers of wire below the Chesapeake Bay bridge in order to make it through the buoys while transiting the span. With the breeze on our beam my deckhand was able to touch up the paint on the green buoys while the barge’s tanker-men changed the lightbulbs on the reds. In other words, it was another trip offshore in February.

We loaded at Girard Point in the Schuylkill River, got fuel for the tug, water, some more grub, and had a couple of maintenance items attended too. We then spent the next two days again waiting for weather in the expected offshore section of our trip to Charleston South Carolina.  The winter sky’s and weather really combined for some more fantastic sunsets on my afternoon watch.

 

It was then a windy, but nice trip down the Delaware, through the C&D, and down the Chesapeake. We put the barge on the wire around watch change after passing below the Bay Bridge. Once again we had some less favorable weather going around the Cape, but we arrived in Charleston on a perfect blue bird day. We started reeling in the barge just passed the sea buoy as we ran outside the channel on the green side. This worked out perfectly timing wise as the pilots boarded just before we pulled the pin, and then ran around to get in push gear.

As I talked with the deputy pilot, who is around my age, the coincidences started to mount up. We had some close friends in common, and had even worked in the same division at Edison Chouest, around the same time. It really is a remarkably small industry, and during our trip up the channel and river we all had a good laugh about it. Another highlight of the trip down was the regular escort provided by groups of spotted atlantic dolphins. Between the five person crew onboard, we’ve got nearly a hundred years working in the industry. All that sea time on tugs boats, fishing boats, charter boats, research vessels, all that experience melts away when you have a group of dolphins on the bow. The smiles and laughs always seem like the first time.

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