Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Globetrotting Brother

My brother is a recent graduate of Mass Maritime Academy, and is at sea right now on a ship out of Corpus Christi, TX, that up until recently hauled asphalt up and down the east coast. It's a neat gig, and so different from what I do that I'm frequently in awe. This isn't some little barge - it's a real live freighter, like the one on which you'd hitch a ride as you went off to join the Legion in an old adventure novel. I say, "up until recently," because the company that runs the ship just sold it. While it was at sea. To an Indian firm. For scrap. Yeah.

So now my kid brother is steaming through the Indian Ocean, having crossed the Atlantic, and rounded the Cape of Good Hope. They're heading north-east, toward the Bay of Bengal, where they will anchor in the harbor at Chittagong, Bangladesh. They'll sit at anchor for a few days, waiting for papers to pass and the tide to cooperate, at which point, they'll run the ship up on the beach. No, that's not a euphemism. They're going to beach her. Literally. Then they'll fly home. The flight should take, oh, 128 hours, give or take. But what a hell of trip.

He's been sending regular e-mails to us back home via the ship's satellite link (something they didn't have in those old adventure novels). Below is his most recent, in which he explains one of the ways in which the crew is combating the boredom of not seeing land for weeks. Remember, these guys are used to a few days between ports, all of which are in the United States.

What can I say? My kid brother's a heck of a guy.

Hey everybody,

It's Thursday, April X, 1045 Z, 0645 EDT.

We're out here in the Bay of Bengal, proceeding for Chittagong, Bangladesh.

We should be arriving the morning of the XXth, around XX00, and going to

Haven't had any more word on beaching and going home since the crew meeting
we had yesterday.

Latest is beaching on the XXth and getting on a plane that afternoon or the
next, so home by the XXst.

I know, you've heard all this already.

With the lack of action onboard the Asphalt Commander, the crew has taken to
speed walking and jogging the deck.

The Captain started it just after leaving Curacao, speed walking a zig-zag
obstacle course across / around the deck.

A weight vest adds to the challenge. Before long most of the crew was doing
it, some speed walking, others just jogging laps around the deck.

I myself went for the laps around the deck. By my measurements, its about 5
laps to a mile. I had been doing it pretty regularly, but have fallen off it the past week with the heat, rain, and wind we've been going through.

Today was the Official First Annual Asphalt Commander Speed walking
Championship, with all entrants being timed on the course.

The course began on the bridge, down the stbd. side ladders to the main
deck, up the deck, zig-zagging rail to rail, following a spray-painted course, up onto and around the foc'sle deck, down into the foc'sle, where the punching bag must be struck 10 time, back up out of the foc'sle onto the foredeck, back down to the main deck, and again zig-zagging down the deck, following the spray-painted arrows to the house, up the port side ladders, back to the bridge.

Judges were placed along the course and in the foc'sle to ensure that no
competitors jogged or ran, and that all rail markers were tagged as the competitor passed.

The official ruling has been made that one foot must remain on the deck at
all times to define a walk, where as a jog is constituted by both the competitor's feet coming clear of the deck during the stride.

You can't make this up.

Sounds pretty easy, but doing it for competition, the speed walking really
does wear you down. Its actually a grueling 7 to 9 mins on deck. And the speed walking seems to be tougher that just jogging it at an easy pace.

Anyway, got an ok time, had fun.

Can't wait to be back on soil.

Especially of the US variety.

How the heck am I supposed to compete with that?

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