Heading Home

Things will probably be a little slow around the blog for the next day or 2. I got off the rig yesterday (NICE birthday present) on the helicopter and have been traveling since last night.

The company was nice enough to arrange hotel rooms for us (at the same place I stayed when I came out to work). The problem was, we got there at around noon and they didn’t have any rooms available til earliest 1400. :-(

I was already tired, since I’d been up since 2200 the night before. I have been working the midnight to noon watch the past week or so. I went to eat lunch while waiting for the room to get ready.

At least the food was decent.

I went back to the front desk a little after 2, hoping they were going to have rooms ready. To my surprise, they did. :-)

They had a porter help me bring my bags to the room. First thing we noticed was the smell. Disgusting! Like old socks, dirty laundry, moldy old basement. Yuk! His shoes squished through the carpet when he walked into the room and flipped on the lights to show me the bathroom.

OK, so he called the desk and they set up another room for me. We went back down there to trade keys, went back up to the room and… the new key didn’t work. :-(

The porter found a maid cleaning rooms down the hall and got her to open the room with her passkey. At least I could check out the room and get settled a little bit. The porter showed up in just a few minutes with a new (working) key. :-)

By this time it was after 3, and the driver was coming to pick us up for our flight at 2000. I figured I had better get up by 1800 so I could have a shower and a cup of tea.

I had already tried to check my email and it was impossible to connect to the internet in the room (again). I was really too tired to get dressed again and go down to the lobby to check email (or work on the blog).

I did get to sleep a couple of hours. I think I probably got 1-2 hours total on the flight to London this morning too. Im hoping I can get at least a little bit more on the way to Houston. It’s another long flight and I’ll be in the window seat this time. Last one I was in the middle (which I hate- doesn’t everyone?).

I should be home by dinnertime tonight (Houston time). I doubt I’ll manage to do anything tonight but pass out as soon as I get in the door.

I HOPE my luggage makes it this time. I’ll only have about 2 weeks at home before I have to be back onboard the ship again. I’ll have only 12 days at home to get everything done and rested up to go back over to Angola and start this trip all over again (in reverse).

Aberdeen: the End

Are you all sick of hearing about Aberdeen yet? I figured I’d give you a break with some other stuff, so I posted a few photography challenge entries. But I did want to finish up my series on Aberdeen and end the story. This will be my last post about it (at least for a while).

I finished up my lifeboat training a little earlier than expected and turned in my ‘security’ badge at the harbor entrance. I still had some time left to explore Aberdeen. :-)

I was lucky to have the opportunity to take a tour with “Aberdeen Day Tours”. I found their brochure at the tourist information center, it listed all kinds of things that sounded interesting, like the Loch Ness Tour, the Royal Deeside Tour, or the Mystery Tour.

I signed up for the Speyside Tour. It was the one they offered on Friday, when I thought I might have the chance to go. It sounded good enough to me. I’m always up for a visit to a distillery. ;-)

We started off from outside the tourist information center on Union Street, right downtown next to the tourist center. There were 7 of us, plus the driver. It was a pretty diverse group. A couple of ladies from Brazil, a couple from Sweden and the US, a couple from France, and me (another American). Our driver from Aberdeen, of course.

We had a comfortable van with plenty of room and the driver had a headset that allowed him to easily explain the local lore to us as he drove. We first went to the Glenfiddich Whisky distillery in Dufftown (yeah, like Homer Simpsons’ beer- Duff), where we got a tour of the place and of course a taste of their different flavors. I think the whiskey is a little strong for me to drink straight like that (or even with a little bit of water), but it did make an impression.

After we saw how they made the whisky, we got to see how they made the barrels it was aged in. It’s actually pretty important to the flavor of the finished product to let the whisky sit for a few years in the proper barrel. I liked the taste of the one I tried that was aged in the barrels that previously held Spanish sherry. It tastes a little sweet, I thought I tasted honey and berries. :-)

We had a tour of the Speyside Cooperage and got to watch the coopers as they broke down the old casks to repair them and make new ones. I was impressed by how fast those guys worked. I almost got tired just watching them. Our guide told us that the coopers were some of the highest paid workers in Scotland. I had no idea it took so much training and skill to make a barrel.

After watching the coopers so energetically rushing around their workshop, we were ready to have lunch. We could have had a nice picnic at the cooperage, they had a nice setup on the grounds there, but the weather was kind of grey and gloomy. We found our way to the little old town of Aberlour instead.

We were dropped off by ‘The Mash Tun’ for lunch hour. It looked good, but also busy and I thought it might take a while to get served. I would rather look for somewhere else to eat and at least get a little bit of sightseeing in. I found a cute little place right next to the town square. It’s always a good sign when the locals crowd the place. I was lucky to find a spot. The food was simple but good. I tried a scone. Very nice. ;-)

After lunch, I had a few minutes before I had to meet the group back at the van. I spotted a store selling Scottish shortbread and scarfed up a couple of packages (different flavors) to savor later. I found out later they make the Walkers brand in Aberlour. :-)

We all made it back to the van on time and we were off to our next location. We made our way to Ballindalloch Castle as the weather grew even more grey and dreary. I thought it was nice that the family still lived there and yet allowed the public to tour their beautiful property and even their house. I was hoping to spend time looking around inside if it started raining. ;-)

The house was old and very beautifully furnished. The library was great (I love books). The nursery was small and located all the way at the top of the house. I thought it was strange that they didn’t worry about the kids getting loose and tumbling down the stairs. Maybe they just wanted some peace and quiet?

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. It didn’t really take very long to see everything in the house itself. :-( Outside the gardens were large and well tended. There was a walled rose garden with a circular pond in the middle and a trellis covered with roses. Too bad it started pouring rain just as we were finding our way there. Thank goodness they had spare umbrellas to lend.

After we had a (fairly quick) look around the gardens, we met up back at the van. I would have liked to spend more time looking around the grounds. The gardens were fantastic! They had a small herd of llamas (?) and a trout stream I would have liked to take some pictures of. I didn’t really want to get any more wet then I was already (and it was hard to take pictures and balance the umbrella at the same time). :-(

I think everyone felt about the same. It was a more subdued group in the ride home. We made it back to Aberdeen in time for dinner and I headed back to the hotel for an early night. I had to get up fairly early in order to travel to Angola to join my ship in Luanda.

 

Photo Challenge: Red (hot car)

Here’s another photo for the Word a Week Photography Challenge: Red. I took this one last year when I was up messing around in Houston. I stopped somewhere to get lunch and they were having a car show out in the parking lot. They had some FINE old cars!

Photo Challenge: Red (flowers and man in background)

Here’s another entry for the word a week challenge: red.

I took it at Jayu Park when I was in Korea recently. I love how it turned out with the tulips in sharp focus in the foreground and the man blurred in the background. Those flowers almost look like they’re glowing, the way the sun hits them just right. :-)

Photo Challenge: Red (shoes on pink tailed puppy)

Here’s another entry for the challenge (red). I just couldn’t stop watching this guy in his bright red coat with his cute little dog and it’s matching red shoes. :-)I

I took this photo while I was in Korea for the travel writing/photography workshop a couple of months ago. I started out in Incheon and this was my first day out exploring. I wound up at Jayu Park where I could look out over the city.

There were beautiful views over the harbor and the city surrounding the hill. There were lots of local people out enjoying the gorgeous sunny weather. A couple of school girls even asked me for a photo and interview. ;-)

It was a nice place to start my explorations of Incheon.

Photo Challenge: Red

Here’s my entry for the Word a Week Challenge: Red from A Word In Your Ear. 

It’s a photo of a lighthouse in Gijang, South Korea. I went there to see the Gijang Anchovy Festival a couple of months ago when I was in Korea for a travel writing/photography workshop. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers (of Buddha)

Here is another entry for the Photo Challenge: Containers.

I took this one when I was on vacation a couple of years ago. I went to Bali, Indonesia. I really love it there. I decided to take a quick trip over to the neighboring island of Java. I had heard about a few things over there that sounded really interesting.

One of those things was the ancient Buddhist temple of Borobudur. I’ve always loved to explore. I love history, old buildings, ancient civilizations, different religions. Borobudur was a combination of all of those things. It is also a world heritage site (along with the nearby Hindu site of Prambanam).

I entered this photo in the challenge because the stupas (those big grey things next to the guy with the umbrella) ;-) are all containers for statues of Buddha. When you peek inside, between the stones, you can see them in there, sitting peacefully in their lotus poses, and imagine them waiting for you down through the ages. :-)

PS- If you read the article in the link, you might also take it that the whole monument of Borobudur is a container. A container of knowledge! :-)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers ll – Scotch Whisky

Here’s another good example of containers for this weeks challenge. 

I got to take a tour of the Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland recently. ;-)

I had no idea, but I learned that Scotland earns more money from whisky than it does from the oil industry.  That’s a LOT of whisky! :-)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Here’s my entry to the Weekly Photo Challenge.

 

I have no idea what these are meant for. I took this photo at the Houston International Fest. I always try to make it if I happen to be home. They have different themes each year. They had a pretty good representation of African vendors last year.

 

Love What you Do!

Capt Jill:

So true!
I tried hard to find work I really loved. I used to REALLY love sailing (working at sea).
Now, the lawyers and accountants have taken all the fun out of it. It’s much harder to see the value of this lifestyle now a days.
I still love being out here on the ocean and still can’t think of anything I’d rather do. I hope I can find a place to work again where I can enjoy it like I used to.

Originally posted on The Journal:

bzmotivation

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Whale show returns to bay: Moss Landing site of latest feeding event

Capt Jill:

I wish I could have seen that show those whales put on! I am working off of Africa at the moment. I have seen a lot of whales (also dolphins) around, but never this close to the ship. I would love it if they came closer. We are not able to move out of our position to see them better.

Originally posted on 2012 The Awakening:

By Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   07/18/2014 08:34:37 AM PDT0 Comments
Updated:   07/18/2014 08:36:12 AM PDT
Three humpback whales lunge-feed near Moss Landing State Beach on July 16. Humpbacks have been congregating near the mouth of Moss Landing Harbor to feast
Three humpback whales lunge-feed near Moss Landing State Beach on July 16. Humpbacks have been congregating near the mouth of Moss Landing Harbor to feast on anchovies, a replay of spectacular feeding events that occurred in Santa Cruz in 2012 and in Capitola last year. (Mike Sack — Sanctuary Cruises)

MOSS LANDING – It’s one thing to see humpback whales feeding and frolicking just offshore. It’s quite another when they’re so close you can smell their breath.

That’s what’s happening in Moss Landing this week, as a pod of about 15 of the once-endangered creatures have settled in for an anchovy feast within a quarter-mile of shore. One of the majestic whales was even photographed venturing into the mouth of the Moss Landing Harbor.

“We were with a whale that’s…

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Food poisoning scandal: How chicken spreads campylobacter. The dirty secret of the UK’s poultry industry

Capt Jill:

can’t eat fish cause of overcrowded diseased farmed fish, can’t eat beef cause of mad cow disease, can’t eat chicken cause of this, are they doing this purposely to force us all into being vegetarians?

Originally posted on 2012 The Awakening:

• Two-thirds of fresh retail chicken in UK contaminated with campylobacter
• Guardian findings prompt investigations at three major supermarkets
• Government shelves plans to name and shame suppliers

Felicity Lawrence, Andrew Wasley and Radu Ciorniciuc

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Sick chicken: what you need to know and what the government won’t tell you – video

Three of the UK’s leading supermarkets have launched emergency investigations into their chicken supplies after a Guardian investigation uncovered a catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry.

Undercover footage, photographic evidence and information from whistleblowers has revealed how strict industry hygiene standards to prevent the contamination of chicken with the potentially deadly campylobacter bug can be flouted on the factory floor and on farms.

Specific incidents identified in the last month include a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots…

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The Daily Post: Can’t Watch This

When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?

 

The question from the Daily Post got me thinking…

I LOVE scary movies! I used to stay up late at night every weekend to watch “Creature Feature”. I still love to read good horror stories and watch scary movies. I like to read disaster stories, I like to hear about how people managed to avoid the worst and survive against all odds.

The thing that scares me more than anything now is what I see happening in real life, every day. The loss of our freedom here in America, more and more every day.

I try not to watch the regular news any more. It’s not really news. It’s just an on going litany of all the horrible SHIT going on in the world every day. Nothing good about it. Nothing helpful about it. Nothing any of us can do about any of it. It’s so depressing.

I can’t STAND to watch that show “COPS”. It almost makes me physically sick. I can’t believe that show is so popular and people actually believe those thugs in uniforms are doing anybody any good. It’s disgusting to watch them strut around. Yes, it’s ‘cringe-worthy’ for sure. :-(

Five Hundred Dollars?

Ever spent the night in a $500/night hotel room?

I recently did. I flew from Aberdeen to Angola to join a ship. I was lucky the company I’m working for got me a room for the night in Luanda. Here’s a picture of it.

What do you think? Worth it? Maybe it’s the view that makes it all worthwhile… 

Maybe it’s the food? I have to admit, the food was pretty good. :-) 

It was extra. :-( The food and drinks were very expensive, just like the hotel room itself was. I could hardly believe it when I took a look at the menu!

The food was good, but not THAT good! I mean, really, $28 for a club sandwich? How can they justify $10 for a cup of (white) coffee? No, NOT in some fancy, hyped- up Starbucks clone, just the hotel restaurant. Maybe it was the milk? No, a cup of tea cost the same $10.

I guess I could save money and drink beer, it was only $7.50. ;-)

 

Working in a ship

Capt Jill:

I saw this posted as a link in my linkedin email earlier. I saved it so I could go back and read it later. I think he really did a great job of explaining a lot of what it’s like being a sailor.
I signed up to follow his blog. Hoping he’ll do more posts in English since my Spanish is not that good.

Originally posted on TRANSPORTE MARÍTIMO:

Working Take1Again, writing in English.
Why, you may ask.
A tribute, I say. To 250 people.

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One Word Photo Challenge: Rainbow

My entry to the photo challenge (rainbow). Here’s the link. :-)

The first photo was taken while I was working as captain of a tuna purse seiner out of Tarawa, Kiribati. We usually got to port to unload our catch every couple of weeks and I took advantage of the chance to go ashore every time I could.

Tarawa is a small island and it reminds me of what I imagine life would have been like in the 50’s. I had some great times there with some beautiful people.

If you want a better idea of what it’s really like, try reading the book “Sex Lives of Cannibals” by J. Maarten Troost. It made me feel like I was back on the island. It’s hilarious! ;-)

DSCN3460

The second one is from a trip I took down to Argentina with a friend in 2010. We went to Iguazu Falls (very impressive) and this picture was from the path around the top of the falls. I do have some much better pictures of the main falls, but they didn’t have any rainbows. :-(

The last one is one I took while I was at work last summer on the semisubmersible Ensco 8506. The supply boat “Chartres” was standing by and in the perfect spot to get these pictures. Too bad my camera was so fogged up from the AC inside, I could have got some even better shots. I had to wait til my lens cleared up but was still able to get a couple of decent shots. :-)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic

This is my entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic. Here’s the story behind the photos I chose for my entry.

I took a trip to Indonesia a couple of years ago to look into having a sailboat built for me. I have been trying to find a way to move out of the USA for years.

The main hold up has been that no other country will give me a work visa (unless I can do something no one else in their country can do). I thought about teaching English (TEFL) and I still think about doing that sometimes (maybe I will one of these days, but I hate to  put myself in a situation where that is my only option. I started writing and blogging as another option to hopefully help me make a living without being stuck in the USA.

I am looking for more freedom. I don’t want to jump from the frying pan of the USA (which is rapidly becoming a police state) into a situation where I don’t really know the rules and have restricted myself by not having the finances (because I had to take a low paying job) to get out of any trouble I don’t know enough to stay out of.

So, maybe I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too, but I really think we all deserve to live a wonderful life. The life WE choose. Free to do the things we enjoy, in the physical location we want to be.

I don’t agree with borders in principle. I don’t agree with the idea of any political authority. “Leaders” are just regular people and governments are just groups of people. None of them are any more special than you or me. I believe we are ALL equal under the law (natural law) and we should ALL have the same opportunity to live our own lives without interference.

I think we ALL have the inherent right to do anything we want as long as we don’t hurt anyone else (who has the same rights as we do). The founding fathers of the USA enshrined that principle in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (Bill of Rights), but the government we have now has corrupted that ideal beyond belief.

We are already FAR beyond the point where the original colonists revolted. I keep wondering WTF has happened to the American people that they submit without question to things like the TSA groping their children in the airports.

We have gone from a country where we had a revolution over a 4% tax on TEA, to a country where the government routinely locks up people for LIFE for mere possession of a harmless plant!?!

OK, enough with the politics (for now). ;-)

I went to Indonesia look into buying a boat. I thought I could build a business with it that would allow me to live in a foreign country. I thought if I had a means to support myself, I could make the move. Too bad the price of the boats had gone up so much since I first heard about them. There was really no way I could afford one.

Unless it was one like the ones in these pictures. :-(

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/relic/

Around Aberdeen: Day 4

Another fine day out practicing in the life boats. :-)

After we got in to the dock, I spent the afternoon wandering around Aberdeen again.

First thing I did was stop in at C-Mar. I had worked for C-Mar (US) off and on since 2007 when Oceaneering brought my boat back to the Gulf of Mexico and the culture shock was just too much.

I had asked C-Mar too many times to count to find me some work outside the Gulf of Mexico but for some strange reason, they never could come up with anything. :-(

While wandering around Aberdeen the past couple of days, I had walked right by C-Mars local office. I figured the least I could do was stop by and introduce myself, and so I did. ;-)

Everyone was very nice to me and offered me tea and coffee, but I could see they were all pretty busy and working hard. I didn’t stay long. They weren’t in the market for any DPOs or deck officers (if I had been a subsea engineer, they would have jumped).

After a quick cup of tea with the subsea dept head, I found my way to the Tolbooth Museum, another one of Aberdeens FREE museums. It’s right on the main (Union) street downtown.

It was in a very old building (built between 1616- 1629) and had a lot of history. It’s also supposed to be one of the most haunted places in town (I didn’t see any ghosts). It used to be the old jail for Aberdeen. It was a little hairy climbing up the worn old, dark, narrow, spiral stairs to the exhibits in the former cells on the upper levels.

They had some models of Aberdeen, past and present. They had some items from the city archives (a very good collection). They had some old manacles, locks and chains they used to use on the prisoners. There were some interesting stories posted up about former prisoners and the way they lived back in the old days.

I thought the museum was interesting, but not really somewhere I wanted to spend a lot of time. Not because it was haunted or creepy feeling, but because I don’t really want to spend any more time in a jail than I have to. ;-)

I found the bus stop and made my way up to Old Aberdeen. I was talking to a lady who sat next to me and she told me where to get off, but I could see the buildings of Kings College (Aberdeen University) as we drove along the street. The bus dropped me off practically right across the street from the main chapel.

It was another gorgeous day and as I was trying to line up my camera to try to take in the whole scene, I started talking to a guy I saw pulling weeds in the yard of a house across the way.

We actually talked for quite a while. He even let me into his garden to take some good shots of the Kings College buildings in his reflecting pool. :-)

Here’s how it looked from the street.

After I spent some time looking around the college (and peeking in the open rooms- too bad the chapel was closed, the stained glass looked very nice), I walked up the street to the Cruickshank Botanic Gardens.

The gardens and zoological building were only a few blocks from where I got off the bus and were part of the university. The gardens were really nice and part of it near the entrance was full of a large group of people having a reception of some sort.

I walked through all the beautiful, differently landscaped gardens and found the Zoological Building. It has a small museum but I got there just a few minutes too late. They were already closed.

I kept walking. I was trying to make my way to Seaton Park and the River Don. I found another interesting looking churchyard. This one was St Machars. It was already closed for the day. I checked this one out online later and was sorry I missed seeing the interior.

I enjoyed wandering around the churchyard and looking at some of the gravestones (am I weird for finding this stuff interesting?) and the views out over the nearby Seaton Park.

I saw some of the formal gardens of the park from the churchyard, so it was easy for me to find my way down there. I walked around the park enjoying the well tended fields, forests and flowers for a while.Then I found the River Don and decided to follow it down to the sea (Aberdeen Bay).

It was a nice walk along the river and through the woods. I passed people walking their dogs and jogging. I followed the path til it came out over one of the oldest bridges in Scotland (Brig ‘o Balgownie) and into a cute neighborhood of traditional cottages covered with beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers. Roses, honeysuckle and other colorful blooms lined the roadway all the way out to the main road back into downtown.

I stopped into a local pub for change and a drink, then caught the bus back into downtown. I had seen a place advertising traditional Irish music (which I LOVE) and I wanted to try to get there in time for a good seat.

I did get there a little late and the place was pretty crowded. It didn’t really matter tho, since the band wasn’t going to be there anyway. I was rather disappointed. :-(

I only had a couple of beers before I managed to find my way back to my hotel for the night. More lifeboat ‘training’ in the morning.

Around Aberdeen: Day 3

Another day spent out playing in the lifeboats off Aberdeen. The weather was still gorgeous and we had a good time practicing man overboard maneuvers, towing and ‘pacing’ (running alongside other boats in order to transfer personnel).

I got out in time to make it to the Aberdeen Maritime Museum before it closed. I had about an hour and a half to check out the exhibits.

I was pretty impressed. It had a lot of really nice stuff. They had a really great concentration on the offshore oilfields around Scotland. They had a scale model of the Murchison oil platform of the North Sea. I was surprised to see they had an example of a DP desk (an older model like one I started on).

They had some great stuff on fishing and whaling and shipbuilding. They had a few nice ship models and lots of paintings and photographs.

I especially liked the old sailing ships. The Thermopylae was built by Walter Hood & Co. for the Aberdeen Line. She was one of the fastest and most famous ships of her time and a really beautiful example of a clipper (IMHO the most beautiful ships of all time).

The museum even had a Newt Suit (rigid diving suit) and an ROV from Oceaneering.

I used to work for Oceaneering and spent a lot of time with the divers and ROV pilots. That was one of my favorite jobs. I never would have quit if they had continued to work my boat overseas. I LOVED that job! We had some great adventures and the crew was like one big family. Those were some good times. :-)

I really liked the museum, but I didn’t have enough time to spend there. They closed at 5:00 pm. At least I didn’t feel like I wasted any money (the museum is FREE). :-)

After the museum closed, I figured I would need to go shopping. I had called the airlines about my luggage after class got out and they told me they still had no idea where it might be. I had already been without any clean clothes since Saturday and so I really needed to break down and buy at least a few things.

I know most women are supposed to be really into shopping, but it’s not really my thing (unless it’s in a bookstore). ;-)

I do love beautiful clothes, but they don’t really make the kinds of things I like in large sizes. It depresses me to go clothes shopping. Nothing I really like fits me right. :-(

One of the guys at the training center had told me about a place to get cheap clothes, so I headed up the street to look for it. On the way, I found the tourist center and stopped in for some information and to ask about a tour on the chance I might have the time.

I found the store and shopped until they ran me out at closing time. I really didn’t buy much, just a pair of pants, a pair of shorts and a couple of shirts. It still cost me about 50 GBP! I wouldn’t really call that cheap. Not for the kind of (really cheap) quality I got. At least now I had SOMETHING clean to wear and I could have my jeans washed while I was in class the next day.

Surprise! When I got back to the hotel, I had good news! My luggage had finally arrived! I was so happy to see it, I didn’t even mind that I had just spent 50 pounds for nothing.

Oh well, I guess I can always use more clothes (not). ;-)