World’s Smallest Political Quiz

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World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Try the quiz and see where you wind up, you might be surprised!

Worlds Smallest Political Quiz

Worlds Smallest Political Quiz

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A to Z: X

 

 

After having such a hard time coming up with something to post about for the A to Z Challenge for the letter X, now I’ve come up with another one!

I can’t believe I didn’t come up with this first. The X-Files was one of my all time favorite TV shows.

I don’t watch much TV. I never really did, but I would make sure to schedule time to watch when the X-Files was on.

I loved all their strange adventures and mysterious aliens. I loved how Mulder and Scully worked together. I thought Mulder was kind of cute too.😉

Is this show what turned me into a conspiracy theorist? I’m sure I thought that way already, a long time before that show ever came out.😉

That’s me in the last picture above (lol). Maybe I am one, all I know is that we are being lied to and manipulated. By who? For what? Why? Where? How? Does it really matter? It IS being done.

I’ve always loved science fiction, horror, and humor and the X-Files has all that stuff and more.

What do you think? Are you into conspiracy theories? Did you ever watch the X-Files? What did you think about it? Did you like it? Why or why not? Did you have a favorite episode?

*none of these images today are mine, I got them all off google

 

 

 

 

A to Z: X

 

Today’s post for the A to Z challenge is: X. Oh boy, this is really a hard one. There just aren’t that many words in English that begin with the letter X. I’m assuming it would be cheating to use words starting with “ex-“, right?

So, I’m going to use x as it’s used in math. Specifically as the ‘unknown’. As in- “solve for x”. Do you remember in algebra class, when the problems you were given would be something like…

2x + 6 = 8

2x = 2

so x =1

Right! We all remember that.😉

A to Z: Water

Today’s post for the A to Z challenge is: water.

It seems an appropriate subject. I’ve spent almost my entire life in, on and around the water.

Of course I understand (in a back of the mind sort of way) how vitally important water is in so many ways. All life on earth (and maybe space too) depends on water. Without it nothing living can survive for long. But I don’t think of it that way most of the time.

I usually think of it as a necessary ingredient for me to work (and sometimes play). As a merchant marine, I spend my life at sea. I started out working on local fishing boats when I was very young, moved up to the party boats, back to commercial fishing. I moved to Texas to go to school and earn my AB and QMED certificates from the USCG since it was so hard for women to find work offshore back then.

Since then, I’ve worked my way up over the years on crew boats, production boats, standby boats, supply boats, tankers, trawlers, ROV support vessels, dive boats, construction boats, pipe layers, semi submersibles and drillships. Whew!

Thats a lot of years at sea! I only count the 39 years since starting as a cadet in 1977. I still love it and can’t wait for a chance to get back out there.:-)

How do you think of water? Do you work on/with it? Play on/with it?

Highway Robbery

The Institute for Justice wins another important case! Do you know who commits the worst crimes in America today? The government!

Yes, that is the truth. The government steals more each year now than ALL the criminals put together. No, I’m not making that up. It’s a fact.

In just this one case, they flat out STOLE over $53,000! Money that was destined for charity. Money they broke the ‘law’ to take (not that following their own rules has ever been a priority).

Read the story below. I hope it pisses you off as much as it does me (I doubt it will, this sort of thing REALLY pisses me off!).

Muskogee, Okla.—This afternoon, Muskogee, Oklahoma, District Attorney Orvil Loge indicated that his office was officially dropping all charges against Eh Wah, a Burmese refugee he had charged with possession of drug proceeds. He also indicated that he would drop the civil forfeiture and immediately return the money Muskogee law enforcement officials took from a group…

Source: Victory: Muskogee DA Drops Forfeiture Case Against Christian Orphanage, Church, and Band – Institute for Justice

A to Z: Voluntarism

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Today’s post for the A to Z challenge is: voluntarism.

vol·un·ta·rism
ˈvälən(t)əˌrizəm/
noun
 
  1. 1
    the principle of relying on voluntary action (used especially with reference to the involvement of voluntary organizations in social welfare).
     
  2. 2
    PHILOSOPHY
    the doctrine that the will is a fundamental or dominant factor in the individual or the universe.

I’ve always been extremely passionate about the ideas of freedom and individual liberty. Since the A to Z challenge is almost over, I’ll take this opportunity to post about it again.😉

I consider myself to be a libertarian. I usually vote for the Libertarian Party (even tho I mostly think voting is useless since the system is so totally corrupt).

I believe in the non-aggression principle (NAP). I believe each person owns their own life. Think about it for a minute, if they/you don’t, then just exactly who does?

I believe each person has the absolute right to decide how they want to live their life. That each individual can do anything they choose as long as they don’t hurt anyone else (and they are responsible for their choices).

Since I believe all of that, I am also a proponent of voluntarism. I do not think it’s a good idea to force people into doing things they don’t want to do. I believe if you can’t make a good enough argument, if you can’t convince someone to do something with the use of reason, then whatever it is you’re trying to do probably is not a good idea in the first place.

You ought to be able to convince people to follow your suggestions voluntarily- through their own free choice. Otherwise, just exactly why should they do what you want? Simply because “might makes right”? Is that really the way things ought to be?

I say no! Hell no! That is not how things should be and I don’t like it that it mostly still is that way. I think it’s sad that in this day and age we’re still acting like brute force is the best ‘idea’ we can come up with as a way to manage human interactions.

People always come up with all kinds of arguments and excuses as to why these ideas won’t work. The exceptions to the rules. I answer, don’t we have exceptions to the rules we follow now? Don’t people break the ‘laws’ we have now?

I think we would all be much better off with more freedom and less force, with more liberty and less ‘law’. People need freedom to grow and to truly flourish. It’s a human right and a human need.

Look around the world and see where are the people most prosperous and well off (physically, emotionally, spiritually)? Places with the most freedom: Hong Kong, Singapore, parts of Western Europe, the USA (tho we are still benefitting from the freedoms we used to have here, most of which are being stripped away daily).

 

Maritime McMondayface or, a Tempest in a Teapot

More really cool stuff from Monkey Fist….

Shakespeare’s Ships Keep Plots Afloat Were it not for the intervention of pirates, Hamlet would have ended up in England with his neck on a chopping block, and Claudius would have reigned unchallenged as King of Denmark. Ships are important turning points, or plot catalysts, in many of Shakespeare plays. Rather than mere vessels of […]

Source: Maritime McMondayface or, a Tempest in a Teapot – gCaptain

 

A to Z: USCG

Today’s post for the A to Z challenge is: USCG (United States Coast Guard).

As an American merchant mariner, I have to say I have a love-hate relationship with the USCG. They are the government agency I have to deal with the most in my life at sea.

They do a lot of good things. They protect our waterways, conduct vessel inspections, enforce the safety regulations. They license the people who work on the water. Their search and rescue operations are absolutely heroic. I am relieved to know they’re out there and ready to help if I ever need them.

I do have a lot of issues with them in some other areas, mostly to do with licensing of mariners. I know they’re ‘only doing their job’ and following the rules. But those rules are pretty damned complicated and a lot of them are up for differing interpretations.

As a mariner, I can not work without getting some sort of license from the USCG. In other words, beg permission from the federal government in order to earn a living. Yes, I really do have problems with that.

Besides the philosophical objections, I don’t really think it’s at all necessary to make it as difficult and complicated as it is. Not just that earning the license is difficult (it is), but that the rule making process is so long, drawn out and what comes out at the end is something that almost always makes life more difficult (and expensive) for the mariner just trying to earn a living. We have no clout in Washington DC where the rules are made.😦

That’s not all due to the Coast Guard, in fact most of it is simply due to how the political system works (or not) in the US today. Rules are proposed, dozens of different stakeholders make changes and what comes out is a twisted mess of spaghetti that almost never helps the mariners who are the ones who have to deal with it.😦

A to Z: TEFL

Todays post for the A to Z Challenge is: TEFL-teaching English as a foreign language. This is something I’ve been considering since we first went to Thailand to find the cause of the tsunami when I was still working for Oceaneering.

I really loved Thailand and wanted to figure out a way to move there. I started looking into what it would take to move there permanently. I found out that I would not be allowed to work as anything other than an English teacher.

Of course, if I wasn’t working- if I wanted to open a business and hire locals, or I was rich enough to ‘retire’ with a steady income- then I would be welcome. I just wouldn’t be allowed to take any job from a local.

Turns out, it was pretty much the same story in every other country I looked into.😦

For years, taking the TEFL course was in the back of my mind. I was interested in doing it, but as long as I was working offshore, I just couldn’t justify giving up that lifestyle.

Well, things have changed drastically around here lately. I got laid off last September. I did manage to find a job after that, but it didn’t last long. I work a couple of days a month up in Houston. I’m still hoping to get a call to go back offshore any day, but it’s getting harder to keep that hope going as the days keep passing with no calls, no response to emails or online applications, nothing.😦

I finally went to take the course and get certified in TEFL. I had a great time while taking the course in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico a couple of months ago. I got to teach and I actually kind of enjoyed it. I think once I get used to it, I might like it.

I came back home because I was supposed to ship out for a short job. Short, but long enough to stock up the savings again. I had planned to go right back down to Mexico to start teaching. I had to put that on hold. I’m still waiting to ship out.😦

A to Z: Sailing

Today’s post for the A to Z Challenge is on sailing.

I’ve been a sailor since I was a kid. How about you?

I grew up on the beach in Florida. At my dads house, the backyard ended at the bay. He kept his big old schooner at the dock right there. I had my own little Sea Snark sailing dingy.

I had so much fun with that boat growing up! I would go out by myself, just puttering around. I might take a friend or two. It was always a great way to spend a couple of hours.

I went to school on a couple of large, traditional sailing ships. I went to a high school that also included a sail training program along with cultural studies, languages and international travel.

I decided while I was there that I wanted to be a ship captain! I wanted to sail around the world and get paid for it! I’m still trying to do that.

Over the years, I’ve managed to find work at sea until being laid off recently when the price of oil hit the skids. It hasn’t been on sailboats very often.

I still go out on those for fun tho.😉

A to Z: Reading

Today’s post for the A to Z Challenge is: reading.

I’ve always loved to read. When I was a kid, I used to read everything I could get my hands on. I read the entire children’s section of the local library (and plenty of the adults). I read the encyclopedia of animals I got for a present. I read my fathers magazines. I would even read the labels at the table if I had nothing else.😉

My brother is the complete opposite. I don’t think he’s picked up a book in years. Last I heard he checked out a couple of comic books, but that’s about it. I can hardly believe how little he reads and how different we are in that respect. Our parents were both voracious readers. I don’t know how my brother feels, but I’m sure glad I followed in their footsteps. At least in that respect.

It constantly amazes me how few people like to actually read these days (not to mention real books). People love their electronic gadgets. They’re on the phone, iPod, computer, electronic games, etc, I see it all the time. I rarely see someone peacefully sitting and enjoying a good book anymore.

I always bring something to read with me anywhere I go. It helps a lot when standing in line, or put on hold, or waiting in the Drs office. Thank god for e-readers! I can bring more with me when I ship out to work now- maybe even enough to last the whole hitch without overloading my luggage allowance!

I’m so glad I can relax with a good book once I get off watch. I can go to my tiny little cabin and escape to some insanely wonderful adventure. I can travel back in time to the world of the dinosaurs. Or forward to live on Mars. I can become a spacefarer, or a zombie hunter, a vampire or an elf, a beautiful heiress, a swashbuckling pirate, an arctic explorer, or anything I can imagine.

I can escape reality for a while and let my mind play.

I wish more people were able to enjoy reading as much as I do. I almost feel sorry for people who don’t read, they’re missing out on so much. The books are out there, just waiting for readers. You can even get them for free!:-)

Have you read any good books lately?

Do you prefer real books, or e-readers?

I’ve been rather distracted the last couple of weeks with all the time I’ve spent trying to deal with my computer issues (it’s still not fixed), but here’s what I’ve been reading in April…

Magazines: National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Lonely Planet, AFAR, Professional Mariner, Workboat, Seaways, Sea History, First, Woman’s Day, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Money, International Living, Fund Your Life Overseas and Reason.

Books: Adrift, Know Your Boat, Born Evil, Oil Painting Techniques, Sand In My Bra, Paint It, Promise of Paradise, Bluewater Handbook, NOS4A2, and still working on Years Best Science Fiction, Horror (the best of the year 2006) and Off the Tourist Trail.:-)

I really do have a never-ending list!

Remember the Deepwater Horizon

Today is the anniversary (April 20, 2010) of the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon and the loss of 11 crew members.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 096

The Gulf of Mexico and its offshore drilling industry is still being affected by what happened that day. I’m sure it will be for a long time to come.

I’ve seen a few posts lately about the new rules enacted since then being finalized and put into effect. Some think they will put a complete stop to offshore drilling (greatly cheering the environmentalists). Others think business will go on as usual and there’s nothing really new coming, that it’s all just standard industry policy already. I don’t know who to believe or what to expect.

I just want to go back to work, like all the other hundreds of thousands of people laid off since the price of oil hit the skids.

We were talking about it at work this morning. They have a new movie about it coming out in September. Some of the people in class were involved in the aftermath at Macondo, so was I.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 147

I was a SDPO on the Helix Producer 1 (HP-1), a floating production unit (FPU). They brought her in to connect to the ‘capping stack’ and transfer the oil flowing out of the seafloor to tankships. Those ships would then bring the oil to facilities ashore.

I’ll never forget that operation. Flying out to join the ship, it looked like we were approaching a city at sea. There were so many boats around, it looked quite chaotic. Once I got settled in and started my hitch on the desk, I learned the procedures for conducting smooth operations with so many other vessels so close together.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 174

SIMOPS coordinated everything. That helped.

We were actually attached directly to the capping stack and so collecting at least some of the oil flowing from the well. We took it aboard, ran it through our production facilities to separate the oil and gas from the water. Then we would flare off the gas and transfer the oil to a waiting tanker.

flare

Since the tanker was a DP-1 vessel, they would choose the best heading for the operation. We would position ourself (along with all the other vessels to either side) to ease position keeping for the tanker. A small tug would bring the transfer hose to us and once everything was connected, we would start the transfer. Once completed, they would deliver it to shore for processing, etc.

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 172

We would load a tanker every couple of days. The same operation was proceeding with other vessels on the other side of the Discoverer Enterprise which was positioned directly above the well.

This all went on for months. It was a major operation. Pretty much the entire Gulf of Mexico was roped in to help and everything else was shut down. The president declared a ‘moratorium’. No new drilling would even be considered for  months afterwards. Thousands of rigs, ships, people were thrown out of work. It also affected the fishermen badly and the states surrounding the Gulf were up in arms about the damages to their coastlines and their tourist industries. The marine environment was very seriously damaged in some areas and is still recovering.

I hope nothing like this ever happens again. Many people have been working to ensure it never does. Below is a summary of those ongoing efforts.

Marking the fifth anniversary of the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico, a summary of inquiries into the tragedy flags up key ways to prevent a repeat

Source: Oil and gas takes lessons from Macondo – DNV GL

offshore helix mc 252 and intrepid 154

I always wondered how that guy could walk the helideck every evening with that flare going off so close. Whew, hot baby

*If anyone is interested, these are all my own photos. I have a lot more.

A to Z: Quiz (Worlds Smallest Political)

Today’s letter for the A to Z Challenge is: Q. I was having a pretty hard time coming up with something to write about today. It was either going to be QMEDQ4000, question, or quiz.

Quiz it is.

I love this little quiz. It’s the same one I keep as a sticky as the first post on my home page. It’s put out by the Advocates for Self Government as the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz”.

As you can tell from my tagline (she sails the seven seas in search of freedom) and my posts the last couple of days, I’m into politics.😉

I tried to copy and paste it onto the page so you can take it right here. It didn’t quite work. It came out a little wonky. It didn’t come out where you can take it here, but click on ‘get your results’ (big green button) and it will take you to the actual quiz where you can get your score.

I’m really curious as to how many are interested in this sort of stuff, and especially where people score. If you take the quiz, please comment and let me know your thoughts and if you want to share, let me know where you score on it.:-)

Personal Issues
Agree
Maybe
Disagree
Government should not censor speech, press, media, or internet.
Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft.
There should be no laws regarding sex for consenting adults.
Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs.
There should be no National ID card.
Economic Issues
Agree
Maybe
Disagree
End “corporate welfare.” No government handouts to business.
End government barriers to international free trade.
Let people control their own retirement; privatize Social Security.
Replace government welfare with private charity.
Cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more.
Score ButtonReset Button
“The Quiz has gained respect as a valid measure of a person’s political leanings.”
– The Washington Post“The World’s Smallest Political Quiz stands ready to help you determine your political identity. Quick and relatively painless.”
– USA Today
“The World’s Smallest Political Quiz is savvy and willing to tell you the truth.”
– YAHOO! Magazine“Give this quiz a try. It’s fun, and who knows, you may be surprised at what you find.”
– Politics on the Net by Bill Mann
 Contents copyrighted © The Advocates for Self-Government, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization.

A Tuna Eats a Seagull (Then Spits It Out)

Funny that they just happened to catch this…

Source: A Tuna Eats a Seagull (Then Spits It Out): VIDEO | The Maritime Network

A to Z: Politics

Today’s A to Z challenge post is: Politics. Yes, I can hear the groans already, but I hope at least a few of you will bear with me for a while.

I’m sure you know by now how passionate I am about freedom and individual liberty (check my tagline!). This leads me to also being passionate about politics.

Not because I like politicians or want to become one, or even because I’m interested in the behind the scenes action. No, not at all. The only reason I’m interested in politics is because it has insinuated itself into every little detail of our lives.

We have completely lost sight of the principles of individual liberty this country was founded on. We have forgotten what it means to be free!

Just for example, there are now hundreds of thousands of ‘laws’ on the books, most of them totally un-necessary (and unconstitutional). We started out with a fairly short and simple document. The US Constitution. That document (along with it’s amendments and the Declaration of Independence) is the basis of all law in this country. It was purposely written so that every one could understand it. It was NOT supposed to need a lawyer to interpret it!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.- Declaration of Independence

*my emphasis with the bolding!

Somehow, those simple documents have grown into a system of ‘laws’ so overwhelmingly complex that not even the brightest lawyers can figure it out. There are so many ‘laws’  that it’s pretty much impossible for anyone to get through a day without breaking at least one!

Try reading the book 3 Felonies a Day by Harvey Silverglate (some other great books in that link too). It tells the story of how this situation came to be. How special interest groups manipulated the politicians to get benefits for themselves and the hell with everybody else. How when big benefits accrue to few, they’re justified in their hard work to pass these beneficial ‘laws’. The rest of us don’t bother to fight since it’s not really that big of a deal and it’s just so much work (if we’re even lucky enough to learn what’s going on before it’s already over). It hardly makes a difference to us, so why make the effort? This is how we wind up with millions of rules and regulations!

(Not to mention the Law of Unintended Consequences!)

I get so tired of people telling me ‘there ought to be a law’! Most likely, there already is! But even if there wasn’t, please tell me why we always need to use FORCE to solve every conceivable problem?

Do we really need a law to force kids to apply for government permission to sell lemonade in the front yard now? Do we really need a law to prevent people from collecting rainwater on their own property? Do we really need a law to prevent people from choosing their preferred method of relaxation? Do we really need a law to prevent people from gardening? Do we really need a law to prevent people from feeding the homeless?

OMG how the hell did we ever survive up til now?

All of those are (or recently were) against the law, right here in the ‘free’ country of the USA. Public interest law firm the Institute for Justice has been fighting to correct the injustice of enforcing these ridiculous ‘laws’. They’ve even managed to win a few cases. But it never ends, they just keep piling on more and more and more and more…

Do we really need all of these ‘laws’? Do we really need ANY of these ‘laws’?

Then WHY do we have them? What is preventing us from eliminating them?

It might be well hidden, but there are costs to each and every one of them! According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the cost of the regulatory burden was a staggering $1.88 TRILLION! And growing! In 2014!

That is just the cost of complying with the regulations- “in lost productivity and higher prices”. That does not take into account the other costs involved like the loss of choices, the loss of freedom, the loss of human spirit. I can’t even imagine what that would amount to in dollars. trillions? Quadrillions? Googles?Sexagintillions? Mega-multi-quadruple-googleplexes?

According to an article I read, the Federal Register was ‘only’ 2,620 pages long. By 2012 it was 78,961 pages, and since 1993 has been growing by an average of 286 pages per day! Read the article for more interesting statistics.

HOW did we get from a country where we declared “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to one with a (mostly useless) pile of rules and regulations standing taller than the Washington Monument? WHY are so very few people concerned about the insanely large government we have now and the almost total control they’re asserting over our lives? WHEN are people going to start thinking about the loss of freedom and individual liberty that’s happened just in our own lifetimes? WHAT is it going to take for people to stand up and take back their freedoms?

WHERE can lovers of liberty go if we can’t reverse this trend in America?

This Morning’s Floods

I drove up to Houston this morning to go to work. It was nice enough when I left the house about 0530. It started raining just past beltway 8 on the way in. I made it to the intersection of 288 and 610 and they were turning people around. I tried to go ahead and get on to 59, but the water was too deep and I had to turn around.

I had to backtrack to beltway 8, took that to 59N and then tried again. It was close in a couple of places, but I made it all the way up to work only to find out the power was out there and so they had cancelled classes for the day.

Yes, they had sent out emails, but I have to leave the house at 0530 to get to work by 0700 considering traffic, weather, etc. I don’t have any way to check email once I leave the house.😦

I’m fixin’ to turn on the weather to see if it’s still predicted to be dangerous to drive in to Houston. I’ll still plan on heading in, but will try to call a friend who lives near there to see how things are. I hope they’re working tomorrow, I can sure use the money.

Here’s what it looked like…

 

I’m sure glad he was able to rescue that armadillo!😉

 

A to Z: Oceanics

I should have saved this post for today’s A to Z challenge, but instead I’ll tell you about my high school- the Oceanics. That was such a fantastic experience! I’m so thankful I had that opportunity at such a young age. It really did change my life.

The Oceanics was a really special school. It was run by Chick and Stephanie Gallagher out of their apartment in New York City. They somehow managed to round up small groups of students and a few teachers and send them off on round the world adventures aboard various chartered square-rigged sailing ships.

I see a few organizations today trying to do something similar. Not the same tho, not gone long enough, not the right kind of ships, not the same atmosphere. I’m sure they’re still great experiences for anyone who is able to attend. I don’t think there’s any better way to create a confident, competent, creative, cooperative human being than the way they did it at the Oceanics.

Spending months at sea working together to sail the ship from point A to point B. Learning every aspect of how to do the job properly, we earned a sense of a job well done and self esteem. It takes a lot of teamwork and trust in each other to sail a square-rigged ship. Running up the ratlines to furl the sails in a squall with the wind howling and the ship rolling needs to be an immediate response with all hands on deck. Ask the worlds navies why they still use sailing ships as training vessels, they understand.

The ship was just one aspect of the Oceanics. Captain Jespersen was our sail training master. We spent time with him every day learning the names and functions of all the rigging and sails aboard. We sailed the ship from Pireaus, Greece across the Atlantic to Martinique. We spent our time aboard in school, taking regular classes in math, science (oceanology), world history, cultural studies, local languages (Greek, Spanish, Russian), literature, etc. We also learned seamanship, navigation, and how to take care of the ship.

We all stood watch when we weren’t in class. The traditional 4 hours on, 8 hours off. Standing lookout and tending the helm. In between, we kept busy sanding, varnishing, washing the decks, painting, tending to the rigging, splicing line, even helping the cook peel potatoes.

My favorite time aboard was standing lookout on the bow. Watching the dolphins play in the bow waves on a bright sunny day. Seeing flying fish popping out of a wave, to spread their ‘wings’ to fly across the waves before dropping back into the water. Picking out the constellations in a starry, starry night sky.:-)

I can’t express how truly awesome it was.

And then, when we got to port we could go ashore once we were off watch. Or we might all go ashore together for an adventure. We spent a few days on the Greek island of Agistri hunting octopus for dinner and playing soccer on the beach. I spent a few days with a family in La Gomera (Canary Islands) improving my Spanish and learning more about the locals.

We sailed the schooner Ariadne across the Atlantic to Martinique. On arrival we had a well deserved break on the beach. A few of us hitched our way up the island to hike up Mt Pele. I still remember the deliciously sweet pineapples we had to snack on.

Ariadne

Ariadne

We left the Ariadne in Martinique to fly into Caracas and our South American adventure began. We had been studying Spanish since we left Italy. Now was the time to put it to use. Our plan was to travel from Venezuela to Bolivia, we would figure out the details along the way. We got into some really cool, out of the way places.:-)

Plenty of the places we wound up had never seen anyone like us before. My red hair stood out like a torch, the locals would surround me and ask to feel it. Young Joe with his bright blond hair was extremely popular with the ladies. People didn’t know what to make of us.

We might show up in a group of 6-10 students (ages 14-21) and 1-2 teachers trying to keep us focused on our studies but also allowing us to get out on our own. We had lots of independent projects. I did one on comparing fairy tales in different cultures and another one identifying plankton I caught in a net on the way over to the Caribbean while we were still on the ship.

We made our way from Caracas through Venezuela to Cucuta, Columbia. From Bogata we headed to Ecuador. Quito, Otavalos, and Guyaquil. We took a boat out to the Galapagos to check out the wildlife and swim with the sea lions and iguanas. We made our way to the jungle and the rivers feeding the Amazon. We traveled down the Rio Napo to visit the indigenous shamans and learn about the plants and animals, (I had to try the ayuhuasca).

In Peru we made our way from Lima to Cuzco (fantastic) and took the train to Macchu Picchu. That was back before it was overrun by tourists. We stayed at the Banos (hot springs) alongside the river and soaked in the hot springs at night after hiking back down the mountain. Another experience I’ll never forget. That place was magical, I could feel it.

We made our way across Lake Titicaca to La Paz, Bolivia to finish up the semester. We were all sad to leave. I didn’t want to go home.

I returned to meet the Ariadne in Martinique a month later. I had another semester to finish high school. Our graduation ceremony was on the pier side in Copenhagen.  Another semester of overseas adventures at sea and ashore. It got in my blood and I’m sure I’ll never get over it.

I sure wish I had a better camera back then. Take a look here for some photos collected by Brian who was along for the trip with me and T. (who met me in Nicaragua). You can see me in a couple of the photos (in the yellow foul weather jacket by the cannon).😉

Songs of the Sea: The Ocean

Here’s another for my Songs of the Sea series. Dar Williams is another of my favorite singer/songwriters. I love her stories, she can really sing too. I’ve got a couple of her CDs. I listen to them while I’m driving.😉

The Ocean- Dar Williams

When I went to your town
On the wide open shore
Oh, I must confess, I was drawn
I was drawn to the ocean

I thought it spoke to me, It said, “Look at us
We’re not churches, not schools
Not skating ponds, swimming pools
And we have lost people, haven’t we though?”
Oh, that’s what the ocean can know of a body

And that’s when I came back to town
This town is a song about you
You don’t know how lucky you are
You don’t know how much I adore you
You are the welcoming, back from the ocean

I went back to the ocean today
With my books and my papers
I went to the rocks by the ocean
But the weather changed quickly

Oh, the ocean said, “What are you trying to find
I don’t care, I’m not kind
I’ve bludgeoned your sailors
I’ve spat out their keepsakes
Oh, it’s ashes to ashes, but always the ocean”

But the ocean can’t come to this town
This town is a song about you
You don’t know how lucky you are
You don’t know how much I adore you
You are the welcoming back from the ocean

And the ones that can know you so well
Are the ones, that can swallow you whole
I have a good and I have an evil
I thought the ocean, the ocean thought nothing
You are the welcoming back from the ocean

I didn’t go back today, I wanted to show you
That I was more land than water
I went to pick flowers, I brought them to you
Look at me, look at them, with their salt up the stem
But you frowned when I smiled and I tried to arrange them

You said, “Let me tell you the song of this town”
You said, “Everything closes at five
After that, well you just got the bars”

You don’t know how precious you are
Walking around with your little shoes dangling
I am the one who lives with the ocean
It’s where we came from, you know
And sometimes I just want to go back
After a day, we drink ’til we’re drowning

Walk to the ocean, wade in with our workboots
Wade in our workboots, try to finish the job
You don’t know how precious you are
I am the one who lives with the ocean
You don’t know how, I am the one
You don’t know how, I am the one

A to Z: Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a beautiful and interesting country. There is so much to see and do there. Volcanos to hike or surf, jungles to explore, rivers to raft, oceans (2) to swim or surf, historic cites, small farming or crafting towns to visit, local markets to shop, you’ll never get bored.

I spent a few weeks vacation in Nicaragua last summer (they laid me off while I was there). I was actually going to attend another blogging workshop in Costa Rica. It was much cheaper to fly into Managua (and cheaper for everything else too), so I decided to spend more time exploring Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica.

I started off by taking a Spanish immersion class for a week in Granada at Nicaragua Mia. They picked me up at the airport in Managua and delivered me to my home for the week with Sra Maria Elena. She took very good care of me while I was there and even gave me a nice birthday cake.:-)

I spent the week exploring the beautiful historic city of Granada after my classes at Nicaragua Mia. It’s a small city and very easy to walk everywhere, or if you’re tired you can hop on one of the cute little horse drawn carriages. They’re all over the place and very affordable. I took a tour on one with a local guy and got to see a lot of the city and learn more about it’s history.

I liked to walk the few blocks down to Lake Nicaragua to check out the Malecon. They always had people selling snacks and drinks, sometimes playing music for tips. There were kids playing and couples strolling by holding hands.

From there, I could walk back up a few blocks towards town and pass through the lively pedestrian street La Calzada, full of bars and restaurants with outdoor tables and wandering mariachi bands. I usually stopped for a 2 for 1 drink special or ice cream, maybe even stick around for dinner.

From there Central Park, surrounded by churches, hotels and government buildings was the next stop. I liked to go up the church tower to look out over the city skyline and the lake. Then come down to sit in the park (free wi-fi) to watch the ‘action’ for a while- the line of horse carts drumming up business, the food and drink vendors, the families watching their children play, the school kids heading home. It was all nice to see and calming in a way.

I was a little sad to leave Granada and my hostess Maria Elena, but excited to get to Costa Rica for my blogging workshop. I was really hoping to learn how to improve my blog and finally figure out how to monetize it.

After a long day on the bus, crossing the border into Costa Rica, I arrived at the hotel where we would be staying the next week. It was beautiful! Way out of my usual style of travel. Very nice, but unaffordable for the kind of long term stays I like.

I spent the week there with a dozen other bloggers, all of us excited to be learning how to better our blogs. It wasn’t all work and no play. We took day trips to hike a volcano, horseback ride, and to Tamarindo for a day out sailing, snorkeling and fishing.

When the class was over, I headed back to Nicaragua. San Juan del Sur was my destination for the next few days. I found a nice apartment right on the beach. Nothing special, but it was on the beach, close to everything and all I needed (full kitchen, AC, wi-fi). I spent my days walking the beach, wandering around town enjoying the laid back atmosphere, taking lots of photos and an excursion to see the sea turtles come in to lay their eggs.

I could have stayed longer, but I wanted to get back to Granada for the Tope de Toros and Hipica. I was really looking forward to the celebrations. I wanted to watch the ‘running of the bulls’, see all the decorated horse carts and the competitions. I heard it would be a week long, city wide party. I was ready for some of that!

When I arrived, I was disappointed to learn that they had changed the dates at the last minute. Nobody really knew when they would have the parades, etc. But turns out not during my stay. So, I cut it short and headed to Matagalpa. I was ready for some cooler temperatures.

I met an old friend T., from high school there (he was looking to escape his kids), and we had a good time exploring the area. We found a small town of weavers, we checked out a waterfall on the way, we looked through the local markets. It was cooler than Granada and definitely worth the trip.

From there, since T. had a rental car, we headed to Leon, another colonial city. We spent the day hanging out in the city center, looking at old churches, listening to music, checking out a special food and drink show for the trainee bartenders and having lunch.

It was about time to go home, so we headed back to Managua for the last couple of days. I wasn’t really ready to go back home, but I still have too much to do here to just say ‘the hell with it all’ and stay down there. I really need to find a way to get rid of this stuff here!

*A post for the A to Z Challenge (N)

A to Z: Mariner

I’ve been a mariner pretty much my entire life. I’ve worked as a professional mariner since I was a cadet during high school in 1977. I love being out on the water, there’s just nothing like it.

I used to love working out there too.:-)

Things have changed. A lot.

I’ve been laid off since last September. This is the worst downturn in the maritime industry I’ve ever seen. I was lucky enough to keep working through the 80s and earlier in 2000’s. This time, I got hit with everybody else and hurting hard.😦

Mariners are simply people who work on the water (on boats). Fishermen, sailors, ferrymen, marine crew on cruise ships, tankers, container ships, drillships, etc. There are a lot of different sectors in the maritime world. Many more when you consider all the shoreside support.

I am a licensed merchant mariner. I have earned a Master Mariners license. I worked my way “up the hawsepipe” after spending a lot of years at sea, studying on my own and taking some USCG required courses before I was allowed to sit for their exam.

I started out commercial fishing. First with my father on his boat, later with some of the other guys around town who knew me. My first ‘real’ job was on the party fishing boats down the street.

I never planned to do this for a living. I was going to be a doctor, or more probably a veterinarian. When I got shipped off to school as a cadet on a couple of traditional sailing vessels in high school, my entire worldview changed and I decided I wanted to be a ship captain. Sail around the world and get paid for it- YEAH!

So I moved to Texas to go to school for my AB and oiler (QMED) endorsements. That way I could work and earn money to go towards my license. I started working in the offshore oilfield. In school, I was able to work on the party boats on the weekends, but in summer for our required projects, we were assigned various supply boats.

I worked for about 4 years on various crew boats, standby boats, production boats, supply boats, etc. I finally got finished with school and found a job I liked and that worked out very well. I started at Kilgore Marine on their vessel the K Marine 1 as an ordinary seaman (even tho I had my AB ticket). I worked my way up to AB, mate and finally master on their supply boats.

supply boats

supply boats

When I earned my 1600 ton masters license at the USCG, they also gave me an unlimited second mates license. Fool that I was, I gave it back. I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t feel ready for it. More than once, I had been stuck in a rating higher than I was hired to do. One time I was hired on as ordinary seaman (not even AB), and wound up taking over as captain! Yes, I did have the same license as the ‘captain’ on there that the company hired.

Before, I had always felt that I could handle it, whatever it was. Now, I wasn’t so sure. I just didn’t want to get stuck again in a position by chance, and because I wasn’t ready for it I could cause some serious damage. I probably should have just accepted the license. I’ve been kicking myself ever since for that mistake. It’s cost me a decades of time and a LOT of money!

Because I gave them back the license, even tho they told me that I could just ask for it “at any time” and they would give it to me, I had to start back over again as a deckhand in order to get my third mates license (not the seconds I had already earned)!

So much for trusting the US government to follow their own rules!

So, I quit sailing as an officer for Kilgore and went to work for SeaRiver (ex-Exxon) as an AB on their tankers. It took me almost 10 years to earn my third mates license and when I asked for a promotion I was told I could never sail in any position of authority with them. Soooo….

I had to quit working there and found a job as third mate for Coastal Tankships. I worked for them for a couple of years til they sold out to El Paso and scrapped all of their ships. I got to take the Coastal New York to China (and spent a couple of weeks in Hong Kong afterwards).

Seeing the writing on the wall at Coastal, I had applied to Oceaneering and luckily their application process finished up just before my unemployment benefits ran out. I went to work as third mate/DPO. I was soon promoted to second mate/SDPO.

I really enjoyed my time there. I had a good ship, a good crew, and we were doing interesting work. We spent all of our time outside the US, so I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock when we brought the ship to the Gulf of Mexico in 2008.

I couldn’t take it. I HAD to get out of there! OMG what had happened?

For as long as ships have been sailing the seas, the captain has always been the one in charge. He is the ultimate authority on any ship. Now it seems he still has the legal responsibility, but he doesn’t have much actual authority. It seems the lawyers and bean counters ashore have taken that from the captain.

I’ve seen it over and over where the office people decide what, when and how something is going to happen on board. Captain’s not even allowed to chose their own crews anymore!

OK, yes, the captain can always stand up and exert his authority. For instance, tell the office that he’s going to delay sailing until his crew is properly rested. How many can continue to do that when their job is on the line? Not many. After all, it costs a lot of money for every hour that ship is not underway…

IMHO, being a mariner has certain meanings. Things like knowing your ship, understanding the weather, being able to work with your crewmates for months on end, able to survive in your own little world out there-on your own. Independence, freedom, a sense of pride and a job well done.

I think a lot of what it means to be a mariner is being slowly stripped away from us. I think we’ve already lost a lot of what it meant to go to sea, I don’t like that at all.😦