Friday, March 1, 2013

A little over 20 years ago

 when I started in the oil moving business I worked on a bunker barge which is little more than a floating gas station.

Ships don't pull up to the Sunoco and tell the attendent to fill 'er up. They generally anchor somewhere and a barge takes fuel out to them.

There were a few regulars that we would service and the ship with the Australian Chief Engineer was a slice of heaven. He was a character and we enjoyed him.

We used to do funny things to him and in return he'd send us baked goods and other suff. Once my shipmate and I found a couple of old fashioned service station uniforms at Goodwill and showed up wearing them. While my shipmate was pumping the load off to them I scaled the ladder and started washing windows on the ship.

The First mate came charging out and asked me what the hell I was doing and I told him it came free with a fillup and handed him a Coca Cola glass. He was flabbergasted and asked the Chief Engineer what was going on.

ChEng dryly told him that the reason they got fuel there was for the free glass and window wash and the mate wandered off shaking his head.

Another time we went to the same ship wearing ice cream suits, snow white Naval type uniforms and I clambered up with the paperwork before we started the fueling. The skipper saw me and thought I was a Coast Guard officer and came running down and folled me into the Chief Engineer's office and politely asked who I was.

I stuck my hand out and told him I was the commodore of the Texaco Yacht Club and he and the Chief were quite amused.

"We like you guys," they said. "We never know what's going to happen next."

That, coupled with compentency is good for customer relations. We later found out that that particular ship requested us.

Still the thing I remember most of that period of my career is the Korean ship we would get every couple of months. The deckhands were lazy and thought they were smarter than everyone else.

My shipmate and I are good seamen and would tie to the ship with the proper number of deck lines to insure we would stay affixed to the ship and I suppose a little of it was overkill.

Better to have and not need than need and not have.

The Koreans on the ship griped and tried to make it hard on us. When I would throw up a heaving line tied to a deck line they would haul up the deckline, remove the heaver and throw the entire thing back on to our deck instead of making it easy and holding one end of it.

I would simply become obstinate and send up a few extra lines figuring they might get the message but they didn't.

One day my shipmate and I decided that enough was enough and we started scrounging up as much 3/8ths line as we could find and splicing it together. God only knows where we got all of the line.

For over a month we begged, borrowed and stole pieces of 3/8s inch line and my my estimates we had a piece easily over a mile long. It was a hash of manilla, plastic, nylon and whatever we could dig up. I spliced a monkey's fist on the end.

We came alongside the Korean ship and got the first line up and as usual they threw the heaving line back down on our deck.

I had the mile long line in a big tub which was covered. I then pulled about fifty feet out and sent it aloft to the ship and then tied the tail that was sticking out of the tub to the next deck line.

It took them forever to haul the deck line up and they were pretty angry about it but decided that maybe throwing the entire thing back on our deck wasn't a very good idea as I had made it cleat that if they did they could expect to repeat the process.

Oddly enough, the Chief Engineer seemed amused as likely he didn't care very much for the sour-pussed and lazy crew.

They threw the end of the line down and we tied the deckline to it and repeated the process until we were secure.

We hooked up the hose and the transfer went smoothly.

Then the Koreans on deck figured out that they were goig to have their pound of flash after the last line was thrown oaa and we were leaving.

They threw the monkey's fist down onto our deck and stood back to watch me haul the entire mile of heaving line back in.

The dumbfounded look on their faces was a sight to behold after I pulled down about 65 feet. I pulled out a knife and cut it off, leaving them with a big tangled mess to deal with.

The Chief Engineer of the ship laughed with delight when he saw that.

The next time we showed up the deck crew kept the end of the heaving line and made it a little easier for us.

Over the years the business has changed and there's a lot of stuff that we can't do anymore but it's nice to look back at some of the fun we've had over they years during my career.

Someone once said that we have grown more professional over the past 25 years and I would have to say I disagree with him. We were professional back then because we got the job done with a whole lot less bullshit and fanfare that we have to deal with now.

The person that said that to me is mistaken. He has confused professionalism with stuffiness.

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