About Me

A slightly over-educated sailor sharing the wet and dry sides of his life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Graffiti-Style Street Art in Singapore

Here's some pictures of some Singapore urban art.  The first one is taxi dashboard art.  I really dig the strange, featureless smiley doll sitting above the Jesus cross word.  For some reason it makes me think of Karl Marx saying that religion is the opium for the masses.

The following pics are of the only instance of street art I've seen in Singapore.  I think I saw these before at either Boingboing.net or the Wooster Collective website.  I highly recommend both.

This last one made me laugh.  Like it makes the joke:  What does Count Dracula and a vacuum cleaner have in common?  They both suck."  Of course, you are not laughing.  I'm not disappointed by that, you know. 

Well I hope you enjoyed the pics.  I hope to figure out more to post by the time I reach Jebel Ali and Singapore.  Certainly some of the new guys in the Deck Gang, eh? 


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Minor Update: Heading Westbound Across the Atlantic

September 20, 2003

The ship is clear of the Mediterranean and heading across the Atlantic, back
to New York's Staten Island. We've received notice of the new guys for the
Deck Department. I've sailed with two of the guys before, so I'm happy to
see them again. Both Big Mike Orosz and Dave Shands are good people. The
Bosun is new to me, but Norm vouches for him. That is a good thing.
Captain Carubia will be back for next trip, but we will be getting a new
Chief Mate. The Mate who normally is scheduled for this interval sailed as
relief captain for this trip. Bill Westrum also got promoted to the captain
slot on the APL Japan, so that explains the opening here. Additionally,
Captain Diederiks would normally be here for the interval of next trip,
except that he decided to retire. As his replacement, Captain Reynolds,
from the APL Thailand, will be promoted to this ship. This is a promotion,
because the C-10's pay at a higher rate for captains and mates than the

These changes will be interesting, as it will significantly change the scene
for the Truman. I hope to keep in touch with the guys who will remain
behind here after I leave in November. I hope to return here, when I ship
again in March. If the word gets out too much that the Truman is a good
ship--which it is--then I can expect some A-books to start getting in my
way. All three of the sailors coming to this ship are A-books, so the
change just might be at hand. My fingers are crossed that this is only an
accidental blip on the radar screen of the future. It's hard enough finding
a good ship these days. APL added two re-flagged ships for the S.U.P. to
this route. Unfortunately, they pay at a lower rate than the existing ships
we have. Worse than that, the days you have to work on those ships for
medical benefits is bad. There, you have to return to work two months after
get off, least you lose your benefits. Considering that you have to work 5
½ months (three trips) to get your unemployment and transportation home, you
are getting a very raw deal. After three trips, you really have no desire
to return until close to four months have passed. Since I view the
President Polk as a pariah of the fleet (two fucked-up captains), I have
only the Jackson and the Truman as viable ships to work on. If I find that
I have enough time with the Union to get my A-book, I'll be looking to fly
to Hawaii, San Francisco, or Los Angeles to get a job before I have to ship
on the Polk, Agate, or Japan. At least I'll have fun (though not in Los
Angeles) while waiting for a ship.

Well, it looks like water spout weather is upon us. I saw one this morning
while on watch. I was telling 3rd Mate Kyle that I was wanting to see a
water spout, when I decided to take a stroll out on the starboard bridge
wing. I thought to look behind the ship, and, lo and behold, I noticed a
bit of a cloud forming a point from underneath the larger mass. Sure
enough, as a few minutes went by, it grew larger and more pointed.
Eventually, it formed into a funnel, though not reaching fully to the water.
Still, from what I've seen in the past, the funnel doesn't have to clearly
touch water to actually start drawing water upward. What you can see, if
you're close enough, is a swirling on the ocean's surface where water is
getting lifted up. The distance from the water can be several hundred feet
from the tip of the funnel for this to happen. Nonetheless, I'm still
waiting for a full touch-down. When that happens, I hope to have my camera
on the ready. I figure next trip should provide some camera opportunities.

Well, that's about it for now. There's less than a week from New York and
less than two months before I return home after that. I can't wait to be
home again! Though it will be late November and the beginning of winter
weather, I'll be happy nonetheless. It'll be the life of cooking dinner for
Margaret, hanging out with the cats and chickens, and going out fly fishing

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sri Lanka Again, Death by Slow Connection Speed, and International Phone Calls

Once again, I'm defeated by slow Internet connection speed. I was hoping to post pictures of some cool street art I saw in Singapore. I guess that will have to wait until I get to the Seafarers Center in Charleston. When I was wandering down that street, the graphics I saw looked strangely familiar. I think I might have seen them posted at either the Wooster Collective website or at Boingboing.net. If you haven't checked out these website, I have to strongly recommend them. Some good eye and brain candy to be found.

Right now, I'm killing time at the Flying Angel Seaman's Club. In about fifteen minutes, I'll be heading out to the hotel next door for something to eat. I've heard that the food is good, so that should be interesting. My experience with Sri Lankan cuisine has been limited to a platter of spicy shrimp I had here at the Seaman's Club. It was very good, so my hopes are up for some good grinds. After that, I'll be heading back to the ship for some quality phone time with Margaret. We killed a couple of hours when I was back in Singapore. It's always nice to chat with her and get connected again.

Speaking of calling home from overseas, it is so important to have an unlocked SIM card phone. When travelling from port to port, one can obtain local SIM cards to insert into a 3G phone to make calls home. If you can get a local international calling card, the price of calling home gets reduced dramatically. A $20 top-off card and a $10 calling card can get you as much as 10 hours of talk time from Singapore. Of course, calls get dropped and connection fees can rob you of minutes. Still, even if you get half the talk time, you're doing very well.

Another option is something I've heard about but haven't yet fully investigated. It's MaxRoam.com. They provide an international SIM card that supposed to be cheaper than ATT and T Mobile when roaming overseas. Additionally, you can get the area code of your choice assigned with your number. That's a nice thing for the people back home calling you.

The one combination that they can't beat is using a local SIM card with a local international calling card. I just visited their website and used their rates calculator, and saw that a local call in Singapore is about $0.24/minute, while a call to the United States is $0.86/minute. This is pretty good; however, the above cited Singtel top-off card and the Sunshine calling card will give you something like a $0.02/minute rate (that's if connection fees reduce your talk time to 7 hours). There's your comparison shopping done for you. Nonetheless, if you can't get an international calling card where you live, the MaxRoam option seems a good one.

Gotta go. It's time to eat.


Friday, September 04, 2009

The Ship's Server is Back Online, Jack Tar in Kafka's "Trial", "Payboys" in Singapore, and A Meditation on Prostitution.

Thursday, September 03, 2009
Well, it has been somewhat like a vacation with the ship's server being down for over a month. I say that because I ended up using my writing time for sleep and reading books given to me by Margaret. I finished two books since I received my new glasses and have started a third--but more on that in a later post (if I remember to).

I must have mentioned this before, but I do work 12 hours a day and seven days a week, when the ship is out at sea. On occasion, I will pass on 4 hours of overtime, but that happens only when fatigue has left my body feeling near ill. Why do I do this? Well, if it wasn't for the overtime, this job wouldn't pay enough. Clear and simple. You might ask why I don't find a job that pays the same without all the additional hours. Well, how many jobs allow you four or five months off a year? People often forget that time is money when operating within a capitalist economy. So, more OT I make, more time I can spend at home. It's as easy as that.

First of all, an update on Jack Tar in Jebel Ali is required. I heard tonight that his story was covered by CNN. The latest word is that he was brought to trial, but a translator wasn't available. Down with the gavel and trial delayed for another two months. I have to say that it's unbelievable how this has gone on for so long. Of course, such would be unheard of in the United States; however, with such shenanigans, it would appear that the local authorities seized this opportunity to harass him. As I said before, his only crime was to get upset because the Immigration officials were acting like unprofessional jerks. True, there might have been new requirements for photo identification, but the way they handled the matter was clearly gauged to frustrate and infuriate. Their motivation was clearly to wield the power of a petty bureaucrat over those with less power than themselves. Sadly, he played into their hands.

Anyway, the ship left Singapore this morning. The two nights spent there was well received by the crew. The one crimp on the fun was that the ship docked on Tuesday sometime around 9:00 pm. That didn't leave the "Payboys" ((not "Playboys," if you know what I mean...) much time to make it ashore tto Peoples Park. Of the ones who made it there before the girls gravitated to Orchard Towers (this generally occurring around 10:30 pm, they arrived in such a harried state, two reported experiencing degrees of erectile dysfunction. The phrase, "Haste makes waste," comes to mind here. Actually, it probably had more to do with a work long day, high heat and high temperature.

The following morning, and through the afternoon, was somewhat of a cluster fuck. Bunker barge, stores, and engine parts all competed for the Deck Department's time. For some reason, none of these arrived at 8:00 am, when the work day started. Worst of all, the food stores and the engine parts showed up late in the morning and just before a cargo crane shifted to hatch #6, effectively blocking off the delivery trucks from our stores crane. Though it is possible for a truck to squeeze in between the crane and the edge of the dock, this is strictly not allowed by the port. The ship's agent did manage to hold off the return of the cargo crane, when it took an hour to work another hatch. Unfortunately, it came back during a momentary lull between crane lifts. This resulted in a several hour delay in the loading of the engine parts.

Now, there is a side to these unfortunate series of delays which ties together both of the previous paragraphs. You see, the postponement of stores was detaining the Deck Gang well into the afternoon. Had the
deliveries appeared first thing in the morning, we would most likely have been done by noon or shortly after that. As it was, I believe the lifts were completed late in the afternoon or not long after dinner (I was cut loose at 3:00 pm, since all hands were not needed for the last of the lifts). The twist to this story is that the Payboys, having been disappointed by their performances the night before, were on a mission for redemption. To them, the whole day sat as torment, leaving them kicking the stall and chomping at the bit. And it didn't help that the powers that be failed to schedule deliveries to the ship in a smart manner.

What's this? Do I sense some scorn towards the Payboys for their catering to the ladies of Peoples Park? Nay, I must protest! What many do not know or realize is that these hard-working guys are in their 60's. They are men who, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, "do not go gentle into that good night. They rage, rage against the dying of the light." Some may view them as cads, but none can deny their verve. By the way, their second night did find redemption.

While I do not condone the whole business of prostitution, I certainly will not sit in judgment against it. It is because there is one aspect that I suspect many of those who condemn it fail to consider. It is that of the
human need for intimacy. And, when I say "intimacy," I'm encompassing the aspects of the emotional, the psychological, the physical, and, perhaps, the spiritual.  Sure, one can validly suggest that johns should instead cultivate a normal, healthy relationship with a woman. There is also the matter of many a prostitute having a history of sexual abuse, thus experiencing a destruction of intimacy and the subsequent  rationalization of "might as well sell it." Unfortunately, since I am neither a woman nor one who experienced sexual abuse, I feel I am not in a position to speak to how a woman might uniquely experience damage to her capacity for intimacy. However, in the midst of all this loss, there still remains desire.

But what is the shape of desire in a world where life, let alone intimacy, has been mediated by monetary exchange? Consider this: The average unlicensed sailor spends the majority of his year, and, by retirement, the majority of his life at sea. For that time, he is lives among men. If he is heterosexual, he is lives removed from women or the experience of life with women. While ashore, he might or might not find the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with a woman. Depending on his prior level of emotional maturity around women, he might find himself in a strong relationship. Otherwise, the day he retires, his wife might just greet him
on that day by dumping a pot of boiling water on him. Nonetheless, he will spend the better part of the year away from her. If he is homosexual, more often than not he will find himself among only heterosexuals who are not interested in his desires.

In all cases, the seafarer is at a disadvantage when it comes to fulfilling his need for intimacy when the rest of his emotional life is as a cog in the vast machine of global commerce. In the meantime, he feels his life force, his verve, ebbing away as more than half of every year he lives passes by estranged from human touch. So this begs the question: In the face of an inherently emotionally alienating lifestyle, how might he find a means of experiencing some kind, any kind of intimacy? When those who live in a world where half of all marriages end in divorce feel fit to sit in judgment, who is right and who is wrong when it comes to how a human being seeks out intimacy in what ever form it might take?

In the face of all this, I think it useful to consider the possibility of the union of a particular set of desires. When a man in need of experiencing intimacy contracts with a woman seeking to salvage her sexual
dignity, what might be the interaction? While one can preempt with the suggestion of a mutually enabling relationship, I would counter that this position is potentially nihilistic. This assumes that any contractual
relationship will be bereft of transcendence. I must protest and insist that this is not necessary. At the least, when both parties are aware of their desires, certainly the possibility of redemption exists against the
loss that both have experienced. Even if the relationship is an imagined fantasy, in that realm of the imagination redemption is acted out. Therefore a therapeutic value does exist. Is there not the element of an acting out upon a theater stage when a client talks out his or her anxieties with a psychotherapist? For that reason, I have to hesitate to judge.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fun at the Jebel Ali Seafarer's Club

I really love these people! Their hearts are so pure--and it shows in their performance. 100% corazon! I would introduce the name of the song, but I would rather have it as a reward for those who choose to watch this video. Towards the end of the night, they allowed some of the people in the audience--some fortified with drink and others less so--to come on stage and perform a favorite song. Sorry no videos of full performances, as the file size would exceed the limits set by the Blog Gods. Enjoy!

Scenes from the Suez Canal

This is a Suez Canal line boat. Every ship must hoist to the rail one of these boats prior to entering the canal. Should a ship lose power or steering, this boat will take a ship's lines to shore, where the ship can moor up. If a ship chooses not to take aboard a line boat, the other option is a tug escort--the pricier option.

This is one of the Suez Canal pilots. I took this picture from last voyage. That's Captain Diederiks staring out the window in he background. Unfortunately, I neglected to get this pilot's name. He was one of our northbound pilots. I printed out this picture for him, and he was very pleased.
This picture also came from last voyage. This is Captain El Rafey. I mentioned him in a previous post. He was our southbound pilot and the one who filled me in on Egyptian's national football/soccer team.

This is a typical fishing boat found in Bitter Lake, the anchorage for the southbound ships transiting the Suez Canal. As you can see, the fishermen both sail and row these boats. The sail is interesting, as it is a traditional lateen(?) rig for these parts. Sadly, I've also seen boats that had to stoop to a blue tarp for a sail. Yes, those very same blue tarps that you can buy in any store at home. I would have posted a picture of one of these boats, but it was too sad for even myself.

This mosque is located at Port Suez, the southern end of the Canal. I really love the lines of this structure. I probably should have loaded up the full-sized picture, so people could really take in the details.