Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Where am I now?

This latest journey started with a taxi ride to the edge of the world- somewhere outside Tampa, Florida. My first impression was a grimy one: the ship, at the time, was unloading coal, with a portion of it coating the ship's deck and the surroundings in general. but the next several cargoes were cleaner, and the unloading operators more precise in their work. The short trips this vessel makes have all been in the Gulf Coast. At first, I thought that she, at 32 years of age, was past her deep-ocean days, (most US foreign-running ships are under 25 years of age, on account of subsidy program rules) , but she plans to go back to the deep blue- next year at the age of 33. in these past two weeks, we have taken her from Tampa to north of New Orleans, to Port Arthur,TX, and back to Florida. We were north of New Orleans, by some 40 miles. It was empty land, asides from a Catholic Church, and the bustle of river barge docks along the Mississippi. Other ports of call have been at vast industrial sites, located out of sight and out of mind from the towns. So this latest port, in Jacksonville, proved to be the greatest surprise. Within walking distance was a Kangaroo gas station and convenience store, as well as two bait shops and Chowder Ted's, a local restaurant. Being familiar with taking a 20 minute taxi ride from port to civilization (in the US or overseas, it's usually 20 minutes), the proximity of land-based trading posts was almost as good as the time I spent last year docked in Baltimore's Inner Harbor ( the Canton neighborhood, which still retains some of the blue-collar feel, despite ongoing gentrification) Having sailed for both the private and public sector, my impression is that MSC- Military Sealift Command- "the haze gray shipping company", chooses the best ports for morale and recreation.Think Saipan or Honolulu. Out there,it was usually a short ride to an Internet cafe, where I could watch youtube videos and blog extensively (as well as watch every development in the 2012 Presidential race- sent in my Ballot from Saipan.) Longer blog posts are more appropriate for writing on a laptop.

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