Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shipboard Humor

On deck the preferred humor is the running joke. There is a certain state of mind to which this sort of work attracts itself in which one is timelessly vigilant over a few specified tasks and hazards and the mind is largely blank otherwise. A thought which while daydreaming can be conceived, digested, and tired of in ten minutes can on deck last a whole shift, without substantially more cognitive power applied to the idea over the differing durations. A casual comment here may be built on there, where there is three hours later, and the riposte may come five hours hence, and yet the compression of time caused by the job leaves it as fresh and timely as the rousing routine of a stand up comic. Overall, the type of humor is quite a lot like my own personal style of humor
the not very funny style.

Here is an unnecessary picture of the sea at night.
After much confusion (amongst the whole ship, not just me this time), we ended up stopping at the port of Calcite, named for its ample limestone deposits, to take on some giant rocks. And by giant, I mean the average stone is somewhere between fist size and head size and the hard hats we wear on deck are mere affectations in light of the hazards presented.

The port of Calcite. To the left is a big pile of limestone. To the right is another big pile of a different sort of limestone. Not pictured; other big piles of limestone.
As we are on approach, we are having our usual tiny meeting about which side we would be docking on and what kind of loaders were in use, but I was up on the forecastle, with my head right above where the wind hits the bow, so I heard a whole lot of whoosh whoosh whoosh and not a lot of what was actually being said. Bosun said "This will be a whoosh whoosh port", and I shout "What?" and my roommate clarifies, "A shovelling port. That means they have no cranes and we have to fill the cargo holds by hand." I didn't expect that this was true, but whether is was or not there was only one correct response; "Ok, I will go get the shovels". A shovelling port, for those keeping score at home, is just a port with leaky loaders and we have to shovel the excess dust off the deck and into the hold.
I don't know what that building is, but it looked cool.

No one tells me anything (so it is just like being at home with family), so I was unaware that the town is very close by and a general favorite for the crew to get off and shop for necessities and maybe go clubbing or whatever for the six hours it takes to load up. I did not go on shore this time, but I was right by the accomidation ladder watching the two GUDEs get off to do mooring work when right behind them was our chief cook, whose talent I have praised multiple times both here and in his galley. I asked if he was leaving and he said in his sort of hurried fashion that he was. I took this to mean that he was leaving for good, that today was his last day and we were getting a new cook, so I wass bemoaning and eulogizing while everyone just sort of built it up on me, while assigning me to go quite quickly up to the bow where I wouldn't see that about a quarter of the crew was getting off here. Suffice to say I caught the Steward Assistant getting off as well, a man who is very vocal about the twenty three and counting days he has left on ship, so I figured it out eventually.


Speaking of guys who count their time, I was waiting while a hatch was being filled talking to Dave. I try not to identify people by name on this blog, partly as a stylistic choice and partly to add one thin layer of anonymity to the whole affair. Sure, if the bosun reads this blog he is going to know exactly who I am talking about every time, but for some random stranger, hopefully addressing people by title keeps a little bit of creepy away. And on a ship there is a real extent to which you are your job title. Still, calling him the American GUDE, or the GUDE who is not my roommate, is a bit lengthy, so I will stick with Dave in his case. I don't have anything bad to say about him, but now I can't have anything bad to say about him even if I wanted to. I refuse to count my days, preferring to lose track of time completely until it comes time to fill out overtime slips, and Dave agrees that this is a more healthy attitude while still being unable to lose track of time as I can. So he was saying that when he got off the ship, sixty nine days from now, he was going to spend a whole morning not doing anything, then he would get a whole bunch of buffalo wings and watch a movie. And I say to him, didn't you do exactly that today? And he says, slightly startled, "Damn, I guess I did." I probably ate thirty wings between dinner, second dinner, evening snack, and post-bed meal, watched Chronicle on TV (a very good movie from a year or two back) and wasn't called in to work until noon, knocked off at two, then did dock work at seven PM.

I watched the tie up from up on deck next to one of the arabic ABs. Dave and my roommate were down on dock and the AB called out instructions to the two of them. To my roommate he called out "Tie up the midship line a bit forward" and he went off to go do that. To Dave he shouted in Arabic and gesticulated meaninglessly. Without missing a beat, Dave said, "Right, tie off there and a round turn on this one".
Bottom left: Dave. Top right: The AB. They aren't actually talking to each other in this picture, just waiting around, but it sure looks like they are.

Calcite is a multi part dock, and we were taking on different loads of stone, meaning that we tied up to one dock then cast off and moved over to another dock in the same port. The two men on dock, the GUDEs, were told to cast off and then swim over to the other side. "You mean walk around to the other side?" "Did I say that? What did I say?" Asked the bosun in his well practiced manner that suggests he is a little bit disappointed in your work. "But I am a weak swimmer" "That is why you have the floaty thingies, the lifevests" "But," Dave protested weakly, holding up part of his life vest, "It is a bit faded" I suggested. "So?" asked bosun. "Well, he can't be swimming at night if the highly visible jacket isn't highly visible." "Oh, ok. You can walk around then."
Panorama of the dock. That is bosun waving for the camera to the far right.

As Dave unties the last line and we start to pull away, I shout to the AB, loud enough for Dave to hear, that we should just leave them and sail away. Dave shouts back that the chief cook can't make no more buffalo wings for me if he is stuck in Calcite making buffalo wings for him. I conceded the point. Once untied, the AB motioned for me to come a bit closer so that he could tell me what to do. I came up about three inches from his face (the distance necessary to hear over the noises) and he babbles in Arabic at me. I look down and start dragging the freed mooring lines over to port side, looking to him for any indication that I am doing the wrong thing. I say to him that I probably wouldn't have understood what he was saying over all the noise even if he had said something that I could understand, and the AB replied that what he had said didn't make sense in Arabic either, he had just been babbling nonsense.

Jerry Seinfeld does not sail upon the MV Sam Laud.

On another note, bats love ships. All the lights at night attract bugs, and they do us the courtesy of eating as many of the fuckers as they can. Unfortunately, bats do not wear hard hats, and I found my third bat casualty, another torn wing, suffering on the deck. I tried to get it on a shovel to throw it back on land (which is, apparently, the correct solution), but it was just squirmy enough to not stay on the shovel long enough to get it across the ship. I pushed it under a pipe where it wouldn't get stepped on, but when I checked back later it was gone. I like to think that it got suddenly all better, yay!, and flew away to eat more bugs and have a happy bat family, but probably it just fell in the water and drowned slowly. They sure are cute, though.
Here is our friend, the bat. He doesn't look like he is having much fun.
And here is a small bird on the deck. It wasn't crippled, and flew away to its happy bird family.


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