Photos of the Week 7-18-16

I’m going to try and stick to a weekly schedule for uploading photos from now on, at least as closely as I can. It will make my post titles a lot easier, and that helps because I’m really shit at coming up with post titles. Anyway if these photos don’t quite entertain you the republican national convention is on tonight, and its sure to be a freak show.


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On the Seven Day Forecast

A favorite saying of my deckhand and night watch sidekick as we come into the home stretch of the hitch is that we are “On the Seven Day Forecast”. Short on time and getting shorter everyday. Sleep has been fitful at best this hitch and I am ready for a break as the weekend rolls around.

While not wintertime busy, we have been steadily doing bunker work with a couple of dock to dock transfers mixed in. Things are slow for certain sectors of the tug and barge market, and one or two companies are outright hurting at the moment. The continued combination of drastically declined crude output and the lifting of the export ban have put a dent in the work load of units that have been trading in primarily black oil on the Hudson and in the Gulf of Mexico. Even refined product movement has been slower due to the lower than forecasted demand, which has caused a parking lot of tankers to form in the Ambrose Anchorage. Just a drop in the bucket compared to whats off some ports overseas, or even off of Houston/Galveston, though its touched on in this recent Gcaptain article.

Though on a bright note New York recently received its first Post Panamax visitor via the expanded canal. The MOL Benefactor arrived into Global Bayonne yesterday after paying a nearly $1 Million dollar toll to use the neopanamax locks. Thats a lot of X-Box’s and nikes, and really puts into perspective the sheer volume of cargo these 10,000 TEU and larger ships carry. Articles from Gcaptain here and here on the canal transit and arrival of this big box ship.

In the even more immediate vicinity of what I can see out of my wheelhouse, the harbor has definitely experienced a dramatic burst of ship and barge activity during the middle of my hitch. Several mornings of ship traffic jams, complete with bad tempers and clueless non local operators, have spiced things up a bit.

We’ve gotten to do some good tug boating too, still none of the out of the harbor wire work I would like to see, but plenty of shifting and shuffling. Some tugboat side landings, and plenty of fun and games in the dark. I threw together another short iPhone time-lapse video with the go pro splice app on my phone, the best reward I can give you for suffering through my back watch ramblings.

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Tugboat Photos, from the Salt Dock to Gowanus

I’ve just finished working through a little backlog of photos from the extra week I worked last hitch, as well as the last few days since I finally took my camera out of the bag. Some nice sunrises, and some photos of boats I have been wanting to get for a while.

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The people you’ll meet, the things you’ll do

They'll get out of the way, I learned that driving the Houma

They’ll get out of the way, I learned that driving the Houma

Day 17 of my hitch has started with us standing by at the home dock. It’s been a good hitch thus far with trainee’s galore and plenty of painting accomplished. Aside from about a week of good wind, including a day of WNW gale that shut down bunkering in the anchorage, the weather has even really turned to summer.

Earlier in the hitch I got to finally meet another blogger I’ve followed for a long time. Hawsepiper is a funny as hell writer and a really cool guy. He’s one of the great tankermen to deal with here too, a real professional. Definitely check out his blog for an insight into the lives of the guys who handle the product I move around, and for general commentary on the industry in general. He also another box checked off on the “fellow bloggers I’ve met in the industry after creeping on them for ages online” list. Who said you can’t make meaningful connections in the digital age? Of course you could say the most meaningful part of our connection is the strap, headline and stern line between my boat and his barge.

This morning I spent about an hour catching my personal logbook up. I use a large moleskin notebook through out the day to keep a personal deck log running. It makes it easy to do the vessel logs later as I can keep in my pocket whether I am in the upper or lower wheelhouse, and it allows me to keep track of my sea time and recency easily. Keeping a personal log is something I have always done on and off, and I am trying to put the hammer down with self-discipline to keep it up. I’ve got a step further and started adding notes at the end of the day and even diagrams about something new we might have done, or just an interesting situation. This hitch my discipline has waned and I had to catch up about a week and a half worth of entries earlier.

While I don’t intend to let my log run so far behind on a regular basis, it was a decent moment of reflection on the last few months at work, that is since I changed jobs. To be honest my last few months at my previous employer had become a struggle. Unhappiness was the name of the game for a lot of my co-workers, and I was struggling making progress as a boatman. Why I can’t really put a finger on, general dissatisfaction probably had a lot to do with it, that and the near constant looming threat of lay offs. I wasn’t putting forth 100% of the effort that was needed to continue to advance my skill set, and in hindsight I really regret letting myself backslide like that. It was with all of this in the back of my mind that I came into things at the new job with a renewed vigor and focus.
At the end of the day it has paid off, a couple of months down the road and things have really positively clicked for me. Though a change in attitude isn’t the only thing I can attribute to turning things around. Working for and around two good friends who I respect and admire as mariner’s, and who both told me “you’ve got this, just drive the boat”, definitely had something to do with it. Being able to answer a phone call from the office without a sense of dread can be added to the list.

From an operational standpoint though, the type of work I am doing is exactly what I needed to get my skill set where it needs to be when it comes to barge handling. The majority of barges we work with in the harbor are anywhere from 250-300′, 25k-35k barrels, and with 8-12′ loaded drafts. In short pretty easy to handle with a 3000 HP tug that itself handles like a sports car. To borrow a term from athletics, we also get a lot of “touches” during the day. In lacrosse this would mean you got to handle the ball a lot, and made a lot of catches and passes, for us it is an expression of how often we are making barge moves. On a busy day we will be making three to four moves in a six-hour watch, often with different barges, different berths, and different make ups. This means in a short period time you get a lot of practice in and, if you can keep up, can learn a lot. We also do as much of our work as possible without an assist tug. It saves the customer a lot of money, and often time. Sometimes it’s unavoidable from a safety standpoint, and that decision-making process is something I’ve vastly improved on.

Since we do a lot of dockings and sailings with out an assist I’ve learned to be creative with working with the environment, and it has really made barge handling fun for me. Thinking outside of the box, using fendering, playing the conditions, the control and at times conservation of momentum. With out an assist tug you need to have three plans in your pocket and think everything out well in advance. Having a great deckhand or tanker man on the barge helps too. I’ve found that nothing, truly nothing, sucks as much as nailing an approach to a berth with tricky wind or tide. Only to have the guy on the barge not be able to ace their throw with the first line, forcing you to fight the conditions or even have to do things all over again.

Now if we can get some trips out of town so I can build recency in a few more places, and get more time on the wire, then I would have zero complaints! I hope you’ve enjoyed the short time lapses from the last few weeks. Nothing fancy, just shot with my iPhone 6s, and this last one is edited together with the GoPro splice app.

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Summer I guess?

With the february wind we’ve had here most of the last week, the only things to tell you its summer on the harbor are the idiots in sailboats and the warm sun. In fact the idiots of all kinds in sailboats, center consoles, jet skis, have really come in out in fine fashion this year. Hopefully not a sign of a boating season of suicidal ascot wearing types to come. We’ve been working steadily, though not overly busy. Fairly typical for this time of year, and it definitely helps get the seasons painting done. I’ve also managed some time behind the camera as usual, even catching Moran’s new tractor the Jonathan C Moran, among others. I’m in day 15 of my hitch, picking up a few extra days on the other rotation as my relief is currently out of action. My Therapist Wife and I have a fence to build, some lawn tools to buy, and various other home improvements on the docket. So adding some extra coins to the coffers will help make all of that happen.

I hope you are ready for a couple pictures, this is about a months backlog that I am posting. Don’t hurt yourselves!


To answer both of the coming questions, Yes I love the new Moran tractors, and no the Houma hasn’t been following me the last few months.

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Another Burst

Its been a busy couple days, however I’ve managed the last few evenings to shoot off some frames after dinner.

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More Tugboat Photos

A quick smattering photos from this hitch, various boats, various companies, and a variety of places.

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