Monday, August 1, 2011

Slip Sliding Away

July 30, 2011

Slip sliding away

When in playing a seemingly endless game of Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall the countdown miraculously reaches single digits and the aroma of Staten Island tickles nose hairs midway ‘cross the Atlantic—you might begin to wonder, “What have I yet to do on this ship?” No, no; that’s not some grand metaphor for Life and Death—unless you think it’s brilliant, in which case it is. What I mean is: I don’t get out much - I’m a regular boatbody.

But two things I’ve meant to do. First, strike a Leonardo-DiCaprio-on-the-flying-bridge-in-Titanic pose. This however, is not plausible as there’s some serious shakin’ in the barn. Second, ever since I visited the medieval Arab Bath in Palma, I’ve been dying—quite literally dying—to don my towel and flip flops and see TS Empire State VI’s equivalent; of course, I’m talking about the sauna— aka, engine room.

Now, admittedly, I have something of a Harpo Marx-like knack for mayhem and the last thing I want to do is mistakenly hit the “eject” button or fall into a cauldron of boiling hot waste water. Therefore, I enlisted the stewardship of my dear friend 1/C Patrick “Georgia On My Mind” Collins, who, amongst other things, advised that I wear earplugs and not touch anything.

Upon reaching engineering, I found a tour guide in a man named - ironically enough— “Melody,” who was kind enough to take time away from the old heave-ho to lead me about. Unfortunately, here is where my words fail me, for despite the detailed explanation he gave of the various turbo generators and so forth—TG they’re called; not TB, as I misheard amidst that ear-splitting chug-a-lug cacophony—all I retained was: fire, oil, water, steam!

One of the more intriguing things I learned is about waste water. We got to do something with it! In fact, federal law demands it. Again, I should be one of those hardball investigative gumshoe sleuths who always has a pen and a notebook handy—a moleskin, as Hemingway favored—instead of just standing there plugging my nose, because there’s a process by which toxicity is boiled out and we can safely discharge the remaining water into the ocean blue, a process which, not having notes on which to rely, I can tell you but little. Now, I do recall that the Coast Guard and the Feds monitor this closely and if toxins exceed a certain percentage—wham! Hefty fine!

Indeed, according to the Chief Engineer, some—I want to say—20 or 30 percent our budget alone goes to satisfying environmental regulations, many of which don’t exist in other countries. Here’s looking at you, China! Which is why, he went on, we keep getting our butts kicked! The Jones Act might have something to do with that, too, Chief. Another interesting fact: right next to the waste water there’s this nifty device that turns seawater into drinking water; here’s to hoping they never mistake one vat for the other.

Another thing: since I’ve been wearing this delightful white muumuu—I mean boiler suit—it’s like I’m some kind of god. A stairwell clogged with cadets? Avast! Watch as I part them like Moses did the sea! A cadet who doesn’t see me coming up the rear fails to hold a door open for me? Watch as upon realizing the error of his ways he prostrates himself, begging forgiveness and calling me “sir”! In other words, it’s really no different than the treatment I receive wherever I go on land.

Dedications: my good friend Kevin Roche—cardsharp, guitarist extraordinaire—says to his father, James Roche, SUNY Maritime alum: “Thanks for being there for me all these years.” Me: I’d like to say to my little niece, Sif, who’s nuts about boats, that I’m looking forward to seeing you on the pier when we return. You’ll get a kick out of this boat. It’s really big; hardly your run-of-the-mill “baby boat.” And to my parents, my brother and my aunt: where in the world are y’all now?

Yars! truly,