Crew Change- Not Today

Have you ever been so happy and excited one minute, only to be plunged into the depths of despair the next?

That’s what I saw happening here a couple of days ago. It was supposed to be crew change day. The 18 happy people who were due to get off after spending 4 weeks at work here were wandering all over the bridge in excited anticipation.

When the chopper finally arrived (at it’s usual time), they rushed to get their life jackets on and finish their turnover with their reliefs. As the minutes passed by, I saw more and more anxiety on the faces of those who were supposed to be leaving.

I had the forward camera zoomed in and aimed at the chopper. There was a problem. It was swarming with orange coveralls. Our crew, trying to track down the cause of the trouble. The pilot had noticed an oil leak on landing.

We do have some VERY skilled men on board here. They’re experts in what they do. Plenty of good engineers, hydraulic techs, electricians, electronic techs, etc.

Within 5 minutes of the arriving crews disembarking the chopper, our ships crew was up there with the helicopter pilot, looking everywhere for the source of the leak. I’m not sure what they found (I’m just a DPO here and not ín the loop’), but the decision was made to fly the chopper back to Luanda with only the pilots on board.

What disappointment I saw then. So many happy faces were now completely turned around and sad now. 😦

We had hopes they would send another helicopter that afternoon to pick up our departing crew, so people were still hanging around with their fingers crossed, but 2 hours later the word came that the replacement helicopter was cancelled. (They have a rule that if they can’t be back at base by 1700, they will not leave).


Now we would have to find someplace to put all those extra people for the night. Not such an easy thing. We’re already almost always running fairly close to capacity for bunk space (just like every other rig). We just managed to find room for everyone without having to sleep together. 😉

Everyone at least got some rest before going home. The leave-takers were in a better mood after a few hours of sleep. In the morning we got the good news that there would be an early flight. The chopper (NOT the same one) would come out just to get those people they had to abandon here the day before.

YES!! The smiles were back!! Everyone managed to get off and new flights were arranged to get them home from Luanda. Hopefully everyone got home OK and their plans were not too badly disrupted.

It’s bad enough to spend 3-4 days of your owed time off traveling, which is the way things normally work. It’s really bad to have to spend any extra time at work. Most of us work offshore for the scheduled time off, not for enjoyment of the job itself. It’s hard for us to accept losing even 1 day.

I guess most people would think we’re so lucky (and we are, really). They see we work 28 days on, then 28 days off. They don’t really see that we are stuck here and working 12 hour (minimum) days, 7 days a week until we’re due to go home. Most people are pretty run down by the time they’re due off. Because of that, most companies have limits on how long you’re allowed to stay offshore before they force you to go home.

I’ve tried to figure out which schedule is better, working out here with a month on/month off schedule. Or the typical American schedule of an 8-5 workday (not including a couple of hours-unpaid- driving time), with weekends and holidays off. Lucky to get a weeks vacation once a year.

It seems to me we still have the better deal out here, but it’s not nearly by as much as you would think.

7 thoughts on “Crew Change- Not Today

  1. Pingback: Due Off? | Capt Jills Journeys

    • Hi Douglas,
      I didn’t mean to make it sound like it was a once in a lifetime event. 🙂
      I just never really had the chance to observe like that before. Usually I was one of the people either coming or going.


  2. Pingback: 8 Weeks! | Capt Jills Journeys

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