Sunday, September 28, 2008

Working the dream

The first weekend of fall in New England has arrived along with a hurricane and torrents of rain. The leaves here have just started to peak in red, orange, and yellow explosions everywhere you look. I adore the change of weather this time of year. My weekend was spent in the water attempting to learn how to surf. As I was getting worked over by head high swells thanks to Hurricane Kyle the smell of wood smoke hung in the foggy air, a reminder that soon my wet suit will have to be a lot thicker to manage in the cooling ocean and hopefully learn to get up on the board.

I received an email from the elder of my three younger brothers this week. He's been sailing as an AB on a heavy lift ship for the last two months and is returning from his second trip to Brazil. I couldn't be more pleased to know that he's employed and as he reports working with a good crew. Unfortunately his samba skills didn't stand up with the local guys and along with the cadet any attempts at dancing with las chicas were shot down. At least he had four to six hours a day in a crane cab to contemplate the previous nights social failures while lifting 300 ton locomotives above a deck teeming with stevedores.

It appears that my younger brother, who my mother used to pry half eaten chocolate easter bunnies out of his hands, has been appointed crane operator for the duration of his hitch. This means that he is involved in every heavy lift made on the ship. This honor gets him time and a half while he's on the controls but also bestows nightmares of accidentally compressing people beneath a train engine. According to him;

"Heavy lift ships are the most bad ass things ever to float on water. Just the operation it takes to load and discharge one of these girls is so terrifying I literally have nightmares about some balloon head stevedore getting in the wrong spot and me squishing him like a palmetto bug, Or screwing up and pulling a train into the crane's cab and squishing me. Or total equipment failure and squishing everybody. Mostly just squishing people is what bothers me. Theres just way too many people running around down there for someone not to get squished one day. Any way I'm gonna take a nap."

You can hear his enthusiasm. Unfortunately work related dreams are a common occurrence for people. I had a professor in college who told me he decided to swallow the anchor/give up sailing after repeatedly dreaming of running his ship aground on his watch. Personally I've had that dream numerous times while at work, it goes something like this; you're on watch, it's night and you are staring at the chart. You know the shoals are close but the radar image is confusing. The ship is going fast, too fast, and you want to slow down, anything to avoid the impending disaster, but instantly it's too late and blammo! The ship runs aground just as you wake up regretting that you didn't order the rudder hard over any sooner. Sound familiar?

Usually these dreams stay at work but just the other night I had a dream that my ship went aground in a channel and ruptured a bunker tank. The funny part was the kayaker in the water yelling up at me as I starred horrified from on deck at all the oil gushing into the water. Oddly I spent the prior week in a kayak.

This reminds me of one other dream episode I encountered working with a brand new third mate. I had been on the ship for a hitch all ready but it was this guys first trip. It was a rickety old chemical tanker with a young crew, very indicative about the operating company, and this guy could not go a night without breaking out in a cold sweat and waking up repeatedly from cargo related nightmares. I felt sorry for him knowing how much good sleep meant to our mutual success. The job was stressful though and I'm honest when I say that lashing rock crushers with chain is far preferable to topping up fifteen or twenty tanks of paraxylene as far as the dreams are concerned.


  1. Good post, got here via Hawsepiper the longest climb -

  2. I had a week left and I was supposed to go back to the Cruise ships and I had the most vivid dream that I was in the engine space and it was flooding. I woke up and told my girlfriend. She said she had the same dream. I called the company that day and said i wasn't coming back. They were not happy with me. I sometimes miss the job in Hawaii but wasn't worth the chance to me. Ship never sank but maybe that is because I wasn't on it. I don't mess with intuition.