Hey all! I'm happy to say we've been having a 'flat out' summer, and it's been wonderful! Friends, family and adventure! It's nearly the middle of August and the activities just keep on keepin' on.
One of the highlights of this summer was the past weekend in Avondale NL with my darling Hellcat (and wife!) and my good friend from way back, Larry (check out his website regeneratorrecords.com). We spent the better part of 3 days at his family's cabin laying down 'bed' tracks for a collection of new songs I've been writing. No samples yet, but they're coming! In the meantime, here's a shot of the two of us, taken by the Hellcat!
I hope everyone has a safe and happy conclusion to their summer activities and that the Fall is full with new adventures! Stay well!
Here we are, 102 years past the slaughter of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel, France, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It still stands out as one of the most horrific days in our history. Regardless one's views on war and conflict it cannot be argued that this was a senseless waste of life.
Once again, I'm posting my 'Blue Puttee' song in remembrance and respect of those who were impacted by this day, may the likes of which never be seen again.
So here's the thing...I've been working on new songs and here's one I was fiddling with today. I'm breaking in a new audio interface and getting reacquainted with my recording software. This is pretty much a first mix of a first take, with myself providing musical accompaniment ...to myself!
I remember as a child in elementary school being subjected to black and white film reels instructing us on the appropriate action to take should the catastrophic event of a nuclear warhead strike occur. The movie was complete with a shot of a huge mushroom cloud, military personnel with binoculars, and animations of what the shock wave and radiant heat would do to an ordinary looking house. I may have some of the memories mixed up but I’m not too far off the mark. It seems the makers of this macabre cinema felt that children should leap underneath their desks and cover up their heads in a cowering embryonic crouch. The intent of this film was to reduce the anxiety we might be feeling living under threat of annihilation. Well, speaking only for myself (although I suspect my classmates were of a similar mind) this sort of ‘schooling’ did nothing to ease my anxiety. In fact, I was pretty innocent as most 7 or 8 year olds are, but even at that tender age I knew without a doubt that should something like that happen the only thing to be accomplished by jumping under my desk is that I would be vapourized in a crouching position. Looking back now it’s incredible that this kind of fearmongering was not only tolerated, but encouraged and supported by the educational institution of the day. I am not being critical of the system though, that was the general mood of the times…and the threat of a nuclear apocalypse was seemingly real…as it still is.
I did not notice on any of the news feeds from Hawaii recently if anyone was crouching on the ground in terror…apparently that defense is not prescribed anymore!
Looks like it’s time to post again, but I’m wondering exactly what to say. I’ve been taking some time away from the internet and social media, and media in general. Reason? I believe they have been responsible for helping to plant seeds of anxiety and unease in the general populace. It seems that world politics and events have become the meat and potatoes of all things worthy of journalistic scrutiny. A truly frightening thought if one considers the possibility of a series of loudmouth and ignorant entertainment washouts following one another in succession. The conspiracy theorist in the dark dim corner of my mind wonders in horror what is actually going on out of the view of the cameras. Thankfully (mercifully?) the optimist in me wastes no time pushing that thought away and replacing it with some other more uplifting musings. But now, once again I am struggling with the one topic that never seems to let me rest without outrage.
Climate Change? Cryptocurrency? World War 3? Armageddon? Nay I say! The thorn in my paw that never rests is the state of Shipbuilding in this country!
Many many moons ago as only my closest readers will remember I wrote a short article discussing the state of Canadian Shipbuilding, which was published in The Downhomer Magazine. I bemoaned much of what I saw as a taxpaying citizen trying to make a living as a homegrown Shipbuilder, in hopes that things might change, or at the very least I might purchase some peace of mind having vented my feelings. Alas, I’m sorry to say that my relief did not materialize. For a while things were looking up, as Canada raced along at a snail’s pace in the development of a Shipbuilding Strategy but it has become obvious that we’ve still a long ways to go.
I’ve been giving this topic more thought as of late and have started jotting down more of my thoughts. This posting is a comment on the practice of buying designs ‘off the shelf’ rather than using our own skills and resources. A future extension to this posting will discuss the sorry state of the ferry services in my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador (which I am at the moment, too infuriated to think about very clearly).
Please read and comment if you feel like becoming a part of the discussion!
Canadian Shipbuilding – An Investment in the Future.
Shipbuilding in Canada is trying to come back, having been badly weakened by decades of neglect and ignorance. At one time this country led the world in terms of our merchant marine, but that was a long time ago. It was at the end of the second world war and Canada’s sailors roamed the seven seas bringing trade and commerce to all parts of the globe. With one of the world’s longest coastlines stretching across the North Atlantic, the Eastern Pacific and the frozen vastness of the Arctic ocean, Canada could once boast of a proud self-sufficient seafaring tradition. We still have the coastline but the abundance of Canadian designed and built vessels has been decimated and a generation of tradespeople have missed out on years of valuable experience. Our sailors ply the waters under foreign registries. I believe it is time to rethink a lot of the philosophy of the last several decades and to work on strategies that get Canadian Design Houses, secondary suppliers, tradespeople, educational institutions and businesses in general back to a philosophy of ‘doing it ourselves’.
There are any number of reasons that might account for the decline in our performance as a nation of shipbuilders, amongst them the volatility of global economics, fuel costs, labour issues, political wills, and competition from other nations. The list continues but that is not the focus of this article. I am only touching on the surface of the many issues and challenges that affect this industry. However it is worth noting that the general premise of this article could without much trouble, be applied to any industry.
I speak as one who has been working in the Shipbuilding Industry in Canada and can give a firsthand account of what I’ve witnessed over nearly four decades. When I came into the business Canada was building the Frigate ‘City Class’ ships. These were, until recently our last Federal investment in the navy. Thankfully, following a long period of woefully under supported actions on the part of many, our government has finally seen fit to rebuild our country’s capacity to patrol our waters. The result of this new found government attention is the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and it has certainly been a long time coming. Time will tell just how many ships will actually be delivered through this program (I’m guessing it will be less than originally stated). Although the NSPS indicates vessels for the Coast Guard are imminent as well as the navy the actual plans are less forthcoming.
Let’s consider the case of commercial transport vessels (and to a lesser degree the navy and coast guard). The ferries that carry the passengers and goods throughout the country. It has been the wisdom of the day since the latter part of the last century that it is better to buy an ‘off the shelf’ design from an established shipyard in another part of the world than it is to design and build our own here in Canada. While the cost saving might appear to be a little more visible initially, and the logic may seem to be sound, history is showing us that this is not the case in many instances. It is true that it’s possible to get a good product in this manner but in order to ensure this, some important conditions must be met.
I have spent a significant portion of my career working on various vessels and vessel designs that have been purchased from ‘overseas’, ex-soviet block countries, Europe, asia, and so on. While it’s kept my colleagues and I quite busy fixing and redesigning poor and inadequate workmanship this is less than desirable, it’s not the way to build ships. Speaking personally I would much rather be working on ships that we design and build here in Canada. It’s not too late for this.
Admittedly many of our shipyards have fallen into ruin, or gone out of business, or struggle along surviving on repair work and small jobs. Our workforce of experienced tradespeople has diminished considerably, but regardless we do have the means to take this challenge on in Canada. There are several institutions in the country that teach Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, there are many small independent design houses that employ highly skilled professionals that at present find most of their work outside of Canada and there are many designers that work freelance both in North America and globally. The obvious question that arises is “How is it that the skilled designers and tradespeople cannot find work at home and yet are finding work abroad”? The answer is simple. The skills are present in Canada in spite of the state that our shipbuilding has fallen to.
We can do it here, so the next time a smiling politician comes to your door, or a surveyor calls your number let them know that designing and building (and outfitting with local and national resources) Canadian Federal and Provincial ships is a better option than the ‘cheaper’ option of buying garbage elsewhere. Personally I’m fed up with my tax money being wasted to support other nation’s industries. If we’re going to waste money, let’s do it here. Who knows, in time we just might see a return on our investment in the future.
Yup...you read right. There's not a lot happening in St. John's work wise for me at present, and as you may know, I don't stay on the market long. I'm off to Halifax NS next week for the next gig. I hope to do a bit of site upgrading here and to pick up where I left off...before the wonderful summer came along and all thoughts of work were flushed from my head!
Here's a shot from the deck of our newly stained cabin (which hopefully will help to make my excuses for not spending lots of time online developing websites)!
Keep watching for new updates, music and art! Thanks so much!!
Hey there, I haven't posted in a bit, not due to any negative input, but because I finished the shipbuilding gig in Quebec and returned home to NL. I've been enjoying some time in the country and around the Bay. It's been busy...and glorious! This is a quick post because I am headed out the highway, this time to sow potatoes and get a start on a coat of stain for the Studio on Random Island.
We've been doing a little hiking as well so I've uploaded a few pics to show you all part of the reasons we love living where we do! I'll do a post later on with a bit more depth to it lol! (once I'm relaxed completely).
This is a view looking north at the end of our road. I took this pic while down on the beach checking out a dead whale that had washed up on the shore, possibly having drowned weeks earlier under pack ice. This is Outer Cove looking towards 'The Beamer' with scattered 'Bergy Bits' still floating about. I'm happy to say this was a couple of weeks ago and the ice is no longer around here...although there are still many to be seen up the coast!
It's time I did a post about the latter days of winter. At the most miserable time of a long dragged out winter, Me and d'missus joined the flock and flew south for a week of bliss and summer fun in the sun. As luck would have it we ran into a good week of weather and it was lovely.
Having done Mexico some years ago, and Puerto Rico last fall we decided to go to the Island of Cuba! This place has always been kind of mysterious to me, conjouring visions of Grandfather's tales of the voyages he and shipmates had taken years before, when they loaded up their schooners with dried salt cod pickled the way the 'West Indie Fish' was made. Ah, the melodic strains of music filling the cobblestoned streets of Old Havana, the drinking grounds of Papa Hemmingway, the sounds of the surf as the North Atlantic, so cruel and cold further north, pounds the shoreline in a neverending roar.
Yes, Cuba, the land of Castro, land of Che and the Revolution that thumbed its ass at the American War Machine and the Chambers of Greed. The land of poverty and joy, of happy people getting on with their lives in a beautiful part of the earth. Well to make a long story just a bit shorter, I will resist the temptation to go on and on about the history and the things to see and do. Instead I'll post a few pics taken while there.
You may have read or heard of Hemmingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea". Well, this is a photo of the very man that inspired the tale. It hangs on the wall with many interesting shots of Papa and Company. This is in the lobby of the Hotel where Hemmingway lived for several years...and not far from the Floridita Club, the Cradle of the Daiquiri.
The 'Fast Delivery' truck is the one the revolutionaries used to storm the Government. If you look closely you will notice the many bullet holes in the panel walls. The odd looking items to the right are two homemade tanks that Castro had built. Both were made by welding steel protection onto farm equipment. Luckily for them the tanks were not needed and so were never used in defense.
We took loads more pics while on the island but I can show all them to you at some other time...maybe...if you want. Let me know!
Chapter Five – …and Ticking
Summer became the autumn., as summers always do. The winds would rise and the temperatures dropped. The mornings were a series of puddles frozen over with an ever-increasing regularity, each day their ice a little thicker. Little Cocoa was now hauling himself up to his feet using the coffee table as leverage, and becoming more mobile with each day. Myra loved to watch as he wobbled back and forth on his round little feet, then would fall on his round little arse. “Whoopsie!” Myra would laugh, then help him back up to his feet to begin the process all over again.
Today is an exciting day in the Pelley house. Little Aurora Borealis Pelley is turning one year old today! The last orbit around the sun saw many developments in Cocoa’s physical and mental facilities…and, he’s learned a trick.
“Ches, Ches! Ask him how old he is!” Myra squealed, “Watch what he does when you ask him”. Ches would then lean in and say “Cocoa, how old are YOU today?!”
“Wun!” Cocoa would squeak holding his index finger up in the air like a miniature flagpole. “Wun! Wun! Wun!!” Then child and parents would fall over one another in peals of laughter! “Who’s birthday is it today Cocoa?! Is it Cocoa’s birthday today?!” Again the family collapsed in a pile of silly giggles, snarks and laughter. The moment hung on in the glory of the present. Then didn’t.
“Oh Chesley darling, there’s the door…would you get it for me honey… It’s probably Mom and Dad”. Ches went to the front hallway and opened up the inside and then the outside storm door. A blustery gust of frigid air squirted in around his feet and along the floor. Triple Eff’s nose curled up all crinkly as he flashed his butt to the porch, then disappeared into the house, the chill air an apparent insult to his catness. The doorway light illuminated the faces of Myra’s mother and father, both stamping their feet and slapping their arms under their armpits, grumbling about the state of the current weather.
Stan and Susan Avery stepped into the porch quickly. “Man, it’s cooling down fast out there today. You can feel Old Man Winter in the wind” Stan said as he made his way to the kitchen, kicking his boots off on the stairway as he stepped up into the warmth. “It’s cold enough to cut ya for sure!”. Susan added, “Ohhhh…I’m not ready for winter yet…I hates it!”
Then, in a flash of Matriarchal remembrance, “Where’s my little man?! Where is he?!” She scurried over to Cocoa squealing like a banshee and swept him off of his feet and jet setting him into the sky as she skipped about the living room. Stan came into the room next, carrying a cold home brew in his hand. Obviously Myra’s old man wasn’t about to wait until after the ice cream to have a beer! “Susan! Put that little feller down for Gawd’s sake will ya? He’s never gonna learn to walk if you keeps picking him up like that. More likely he’ll be three or four years old before he figures out he can’t fly!” Putting him down in a final swoop that sent his socks flying Susan grinned good naturedly and said “Blow it out your arse Poppy, Gramma’s baby boy is growing up!” then added “and Gramma can’t pick him up and swing for long! Whew!”
Cocoa’s grandfather came over to him and said “Who’s birthday is it today Bud?!” Cocoa screeched “KoKoes Bird day ‘day!” All hands roaring! Then at last the inevitable, the long anticipated moment…the moment that had been rehearsed for weeks now…” How old are YOU today?!” his grandparents said in unison.
“WUN!!! KoKoes wun day!!!” little Aurora beamed.
Watching from the remote safety of the underside of the chesterfield, Triple Eff said “This is frigging ridiculous. These people are whack! Think I’ll lick my butt for a few minutes then stretch…and then maybe I’ll have a nap until the crackpots have left the building again”. Of course, what the Pellys and the Averys heard was nothing actually. Had they been listening, a haughty “Meow Purr” would have made them all believe that the cat was entirely contented…which, for the most part he was, at least as long as the crazy people fed him his three squares a day, plus treats, especially in his mind now that he was licking his butt again.
Outside the house a large black crow settled high in a tree. He watched the proceedings with interest, shifting from foot to foot on his perch. The winter wind pushed against his feathers, ruffling them awkwardly against the gale. One would not be entirely wrong to say he looked less than impressed. Still, his attention was unwavering. The wind howled in union with the wolves.
Chapter Six – Big, Black Birds
It has been said of crows that they are the smartest bird. If this is so, then this big bird surely was in the ranks of the smartest of crows. On most days anyway. Well, on days when he hadn’t lost anything. It is also been said of crows that there is seven drops of Devil’s blood in every one. They are full of mischief. They love shiny things, are favourably partial to eating dead things, especially dead things that rather conveniently arrange for themselves to be dead, squished onto paved or smooth rock surfaces. Undoubtedly a crow’s absolute favourite thing to gorge itself on are dead things that have shiny things attached to them!
“Yummy” is what a crow says to itself when it sees shiny road kill. If a crow were to have been an actor in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that crow would certainly convince the Cowardly Lion to grow some balls, kill Dorothy and Toto, tear the stuffing out of the Scarecrow (perhaps constructing a nest in the process) and leave the Tin Man tits up in the middle of the road shining up to the high heavens. That’s what a crow would do. It’s no wonder then that a flock of the black buggers is known as a ‘Murder’ of crows. It’s also said that a crow mates for life. If you were to ask a crow the validity of this statement the answer might surprise you. Like people, most crows mate for sex. Life or no life.
But this crow, the crow outside the Pelley house is no ordinary crow. This crow is bigger and stronger than your common variety and this crow has a mission, other than eating dead things with shiny things. And now the crow is settling in to the treetop to observe the strangeness going on inside. “What is going on?!” he thinks, bewildered “ They look like they’re at a nut convention in there”. Then, remembering the importance of his purpose in that spot on that day, the big bird sighed and accepted his lot “I gotta keep a close watch on that kid, or there’s gonna be some real trouble!” His spirt passed over his eyes as momentarily he thought of troubles in the past…”That can’t be allowed to happen again”.
So, the crow sat and watched as Cocoa smeared cake on the whole world, watched as Cocoa dropped ice cream into the laps of the laughing adults, watched as Cocoa giggled and squealed his way through the birthday presents, the birthday hugs and kisses.
The crow perched and watched as Cocoa had four more delightful birthdays in that house as he sat shivering in the branches of the spruce tree. Four more years of preparing for the coming storm, observing the child’s skills as they flourished in the Pelly’s house of love, and reflecting on just how much they would all need that love.
There was so much crow shit accumulating on the branches that the crow had to watch where he was perched even while he watched his young ward grow. If you’ve ever watched a crow in a tree hopping around, that’s what they’re doing…avoiding stepping in shit.
“Soon my little buddy, you and I are going to have a little chat” the crow thought to himself “and then your whole fucking world is going to turn upside down…again.”
From various points inside the house as he made his rounds Triple Eff watched the big, black bird in the treetop. For his part, Triple Eff wanted only to catch and kill the bird. “ Soon Birdie Boy, I’m going to be picking my teeth with your waxy old tail feathers ‘cause soon, I’m going to be eating crow”. The cat turned and proceeded to lick between his claws feeling the needle points with his tongue, and feeling very good about himself indeed.
“Purrrrrrrrrrrr.” Said Triple Eff as he fell into his forty-fifth nap of the day, dreaming of smells and tastes yet to be enjoyed, not for once considering he might be out of his league on this one.
On the topic of ‘Shipbuilding’
Today I’m writing about a topic that is near and dear to my world, Shipbuilding. I am spurred on by a recent episode of PBS’s ‘Nova’ which I had on PVR (because I like to watch when I feel like watching). The episode I’m referring to was entitled “Ultimate Cruiseship” and dealt with the design, construction and delivery of the vessel ‘The Seven Seas Explorer’. It is probably the best ‘high level’ documentary I’ve seen regarding the process of ship delivery. It also provides a very good answer to a question I’ve heard many times over the years: “What do you do?”
Although this documentary chronicles the birth of a cruise ship, one of the vessels I have not actually worked on (unless of course one takes in account of commercial ferries), the processes and considerations are the same. The show dealt with the casting of the propellers, the problems of vibration, the complexities of sub assembly construction, the questions of Naval Architecture, weight issues, materials selection, and many other aspects of the work. Also discussed are the logistics of having the vessel’s modules built and launched in varied locations, then mated together to create the final hull, the total ship. Nearly every step along the process is covered in this documentary.
As I watched this I couldn’t help but think how well organized and executed the project was handled. It was obvious that the design was being directed and overseen by a team of Naval Architects and other professional shipbuilders that knew the importance of being ‘hands on’ throughout the whole project. Every step of the way the team was engaged and issues were dealt with then resolved.
I got to thinking about jobs I’ve worked on in the past. Some were well organized while others were complete chaos. The most important feature of all these jobs is that at the end of the day, a vessel was delivered. It is relatively rare for a ship, once started to not be completed, in some way (perhaps not to the original design, but completed none the less). So, why is it that some projects are successes while others are costly, problematic and not so much of a success? There is no one single answer but I can weigh in with some of the reasons I’ve experienced in my career.
I’m going to forgo the obvious point that there must be a Mission Statement established for the vessel, a good preliminary design to begin with, and deal instead with the options open to the Project Management and Design Teams. In recent years many vessels are being designed and constructed on contract in geographic areas that provide lower cost labour resources (for instance, India, China, Southeast Asia & Romania, to name only a few). This line of action has in many instances led to delivery of substandard construction with any number of issues regarding materials, design, welding, hardware and so on. That outcome has led to a school of thinking purporting that vessels built in these locations are substandard because of where they are built.
I argue that this is not necessarily the case. I agree that it is true many of the products coming from ‘low cost labour’ locations are not up to standards generally in use throughout most of the more developed world, but this is not a function of the location. It is a direct result of the failure of the project execution plan. These locations generally have access to very talented, energetic and dedicated resources, with loyalty to employers not seen in other places. What they lack is ‘Guidance and Oversight’. I contend that if one is to have a vessel designed and or built in low cost regions the onus is on the owner to ensure that there is from day one, a single person or team that is thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the vessel’s mission and design. This entity must also have authority to direct and halt work and have the full support of the owner. If those parameters are established, and adhered to, I believe a successful project is a likely outcome.
The makeup of this guidance and oversight team, commonly referred to as the ‘Client’s Representatives’ should not be someone that has not been directly involved with the determination of the design of the vessel. As an example, in some cases a local government has established a need for a rejuvenation of its ferry fleet (for instance) the wheels of bureaucracy [SW1] go to work and source a design house and shipyard with a cost that is acceptable. The deal is made, the government’s team agrees to have the work done with the builder, the money is put in place then…the bureaucrats go home. The very real danger here is that the taxpayer’s money is now in the control of a ‘hands off’ group of uninvolved bureaucrats and an eager builder following any number of their own agendas. It should come as no surprise when the vessel is over budget and the project is plagued with problems. It is absolutely necessary to have knowledgeable and experienced oversight at all offices and construction sites. There can be no substitute for technical, and practical expertise.
My discussion here is singling out the selection of low cost resources in specific geopolitical regions but this is not to be taken in isolation. The same dangers exist in the most technologically developed countries in the world. Without a strong leadership with actual knowledge of how to execute the task at hand, the project is less likely to be a success, and this is not a reflection on the quality of work being done by the workforce. It is a reflection, and a direct result of the lack of quality work being done by the Project Management.