So it turns out that the Cleveland route we did last time was some sort of abbreviated route due to technical difficulties. Usually what we do is what we did this time, called the shuttle route. We dump half our cargo off at a small dock near the lake so that our draft is high enough not to scrape the bottom of the river, then we go down the river and unload the other half, then we go back up the river (about a 1.5 hour trip each way, now that we have all our thrusters working), grab another half load and return to unload. The whole process takes twelve hours or so, and today the crew ran hard in long shifts for 24 hours, and it is not uncommon for this ship to do three or four shuttles.
But the work on deck isn't that hard, or at least the things I am allowed to do are not that hard, since I am not allowed to play with the heavy mooring cables once they go out on the dock. I probably spend more time sitting around on the deck being told to stay out of the way and wait for someone to tell me what to do that I do actually working. And I get paid commensurately, something like $3.25 an hour.
But I am being allowed to do more and more things. Two days ago I got trained on the hatch crane, and machine which straddles transversely across the deck with two hooks that come down and lift the cargo hatches (which probably weigh at least half a ton each, if not much more). The controls are pretty simple; forward, back, up, down, and off, but the forty year old machine is starting to get a bit squirrely (if it wasn't to begin with), and it takes a good bit of care to do anything precise.
Also, I got to go down into the cargo hold for the first time today, in what was the most fun job I have had so far. The cargo hold is slanted like a steep roof with chains coming down the side. When we switch cargo (in this case from iron to coal), we have to make sure not a single iron pellet remains in the hold, so we go down and wipe off the baffles and ladders and surfaces and bang on the long chains like monkeys while climbing across the sloped hold inside a giant cavern. My roommate has a very low opinion of the safety and enjoyability of the task, but we deal with much more dangerous things all day without him getting so excited about it.
Anyway, off to Sandusky now to fill up with coal, which should be exciting.