The piece of personal protection equipment I favor most is the one that preserves your hearing. I was doing my barge inspection earlier today, which involves checking mooring lines, fire extinguishers, towing gear and emergency gear, navigation lights and so on, while clambering under and in between the semi trailers that fill the three decks on this barge, and the San Juan teamsters continued to load cargo as I climbed around . The sound of them locking each trailer into place is like the sound of a cannon going off, and it echoes off the decks and bulkheads until it finally fades; but it isn’t long before another and another goes off.
The first time I did a barge inspection here last month, per the established second mate duties on this particular cargo run, I wasn’t wearing earplugs and I nearly had a heart attack each time I heard that noise, and it felt like my ears were bleeding before half an hour was over. Now of course I don’t go up there without hearing protection.
Towing is a noisy job, and since I started three years ago I have sustained noticeable hearing loss. Most of the engineers out here who have been doing this for 20+ years are half-deaf. Imagine – they used to work in the engine room without anything covering their ears! The culture 40 and 50 years ago was that if you worked without hearing protection you were a tough guy and if you wore earplugs or earmuffs you were a big wuss. We all know of course that there is nothing tough about leaning in and barking WHAT’D YA SAY?? whenever anyone says anything. I want to preserve my hearing as long as I can and I use hearing protection at every possible opportunity – even when I’m just on deck. Between the stacks, the winch, and the surge gear, a lot of very loud noises are happening when you’re working the deck. So I’m telling you sailors: wear earplugs!!
I flew in to San Juan last night from SFO via NYC and I’m back to work after less than a week off; my first hitch here at Crowley was about 5 weeks long, and I’m looking at another 5 weeks now. I was complaining to my father the other day and, though he loves his silly little girl very much, he had no sympathy. When he was getting the time he needed to become a captain, he spent months and months at sea – and all they had back then were letters from home and maybe a few minutes in a phone booth now and then. I know he’s right, but I pointed out that tugs are a bit less comfortable than ships and he at least conceded that point.
If I’m not mistaken, I’ll have the time I need to upgrade my license by Christmas, a realistic goal that will get me through the next 8 months of a lot of work and very little play. But the few days I spent with Jake in Seattle and with mom and bro in Napa had a surprisingly rejuvenating effect, and I’m ready to work again. Although, who am I kidding – it feels like I never left.