Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Tropic of Cancer, a Paper Chase, and The Holidays

More exciting than my version.
Growing up less than 300 miles north of the by-God tropics, I spent many of my childhood days on a small boat under a big sun without, as it now seems, adequate protection.

My folks tried. But it was the late '70s, early '80s, and sunscreen technology was not where it is today.

SPF 8 was a big deal back then. And what 15-year-old boy wants to wear a shirt in the middle of summer on a boat on the bay?

My genetic bequest from the Mexican grandfather did not include dark skin and hair, as it did for some of my cousins.
Off-loading oysters in Fulton Harbor on Aransas Bay.

I got the Dutch-German-Irish allotment, and those early days are now coming home to roost. I also got lots of bad sunburns. Really, really bad sunburns.

Not in an awful-scary way, so far. Mostly just little basal-cell carcinomas popping up here and there, and mostly they can be scraped-and-burned or frozen off.

If you're going to get skin cancer, basal-cell carcinoma is the one to get, they say. It doesn't metastasize, and it grows oh-so-slowly. Worst-case, my doc says, is that it may eventually slide down into the muscle to the bone, requiring a more radical excision.

The eldest taking a turn at the tiller of the new-old
knock-around boat courtesy of his grandfather.
This last one had to be excised, that is, cut out, and ... damn. It kinda smarts. Eight stitches and a bit of bruising arouind the site, it sort of looks like I was in a knife fight. Felt like it too, when the doctor chopped a spot the lidocaine had not penetrated.

So, kids, my advice to you is use sunscreen. Lots of it, everywhere. Wear long sleeves. Especially if you are fortunate enough to spend your youth in the low latitudes.

The next round begins tomorrow, and I should be all tuned-up and healed-up in time for the next crew change a few days before Christmas.

Christmas Cheer

Screen capture of some of Ben's calendar pages.
Speaking of Christmas, if you are looking for a nifty nautical gift for the mariner in your life, you really should check out New England Waterman's workboat calendars -- pick a company, or order the generic workboat version.

So far he has a Hornbeck Offshore Services version, one for the boats of Edison Chouest Offshore, one chock-full of tugs in the Northeast, and I'm not sure what-all else.

Ben's photography is pretty damned good and he's uniquely placed to capture moments many people never get to see.

What I look like at the end of a
winter hitch.
Another option is Bowsprite New York Harbor's whimsical nautical art -- on cards, tea towels, playing cards and any other number of textiles and paper products.

I recently had the distinct pleasure of showing Christina and fellow maritime blogger Tugster (Will van Dorp) around our own Port Fourchon. Each is, as we say in the South, "good people."

Finally, if you'd like something wearable, may I humbly suggest my own WorkboatWear for nautical t-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and the like?

All the best designs come from the mad graphic genius of the MonkeyFist Design Bureau up in Maine.

Paper Chase

I call this activity "honoring my ancestors,"
the ones from County Down y los de Sonora.
It was helpful in getting through the paperwork
Part of my must-do list this extended time between hitches was to take the Rating Forming Part of a Navigation Watch (RFPNW) assessments and test for my AB-Unlimited. Not because I plan to sail on either document, though I could and they are handy to have, but because they are required for my raise-in-grade to master less than 500 GRT, Master OSV less than 3000 ITC, and STCW II/2 -- Master 500GT-3000GT.

Now, three years almost to the day after starting that upgrade process: Done.

I believe I've checked all the boxes. We'll see if the Coast Guard agrees. All 59 pages of application materials were transmitted through the ether last night.

Assuming the good folks in West Virginia and I are on the same page, in due course (probably about a month), I'll receive a letter approving me to test for the aforementioned licenses. Sometime in the next 12 months -- I'm shooting for June or July -- I'll plant my hiney in a chair in a brightly-lit room in Houston and spend two days attempting to prove I'm worthy of the wheelhouse of a larger vessel.

In the meantime, I'll be spending nearly all of my "spare" time studying. Some of the things I'll be studying have been covered repeatedly in training and testing I've already completed. Others I use on a daily basis.

Still others haven't been tasks common to sailors in this country anytime in the last 30 or 40 years, but what can you do?

I'll keep you posted.

And, wherever you are this month -- ashore or at sea -- Happy Holidays.


  1. Aaron, strangely enough, some of the daughters of the actual from Germany, great grandfather Walker, were as dark as or darker than anyone in the immediate family including those named Torres. Apparently there are some very dark Germans. Must have been some of those ships that foundered so many centuries ago off the coast of Germany. from Aunt Ruth, otherwise known as my blog name.

  2. Happy holidays. I'm sure you'll pass with flying colors during your testing this summer! I'm also trying to squeak in before the deadline.

    1. Thanks, man! Good luck to you, too! You're going straight to 1600GRT mate, right?