We finally made it to sea!
It only took us about a day extra to meander our way out through the Louisiana bayous. Instead of heading straight out down the Atchafalaya River like we planned, we had to backtrack to find a way out where we wouldn’t keep running aground.
We headed back up the Atchafalaya, passed through Bayou Chene, took the ICW to the Houma Navigation Canal and made it to the sea buoy at Cat Island Pass around 2200 our second day of the voyage.
We scrambled back aboard the Buzcador at the buoy and thanked our trusty tugs Ms Edmay and Mr Nicolas. We finally got underway under our own power for the first time. It was a beautiful night as we made our way through the offshore oilfields, heading almost due South. The stars were bright, the seas were calm and we were making decent time. Nights like that are why I’m always ready to go sailing again. 🙂
The night sky is so awesome far out to sea! There’s really nothing to compare.
I don’t know why I was expecting to see more traffic. Shipping has been dead– at least in the Gulf of Mexico- where so much shipping is related to oil. Since the price of oil dropped like a rock- from over $100 to mid $20’s- a year ago. Hundreds of Gulf boats have been stacked. It happened too quickly for any reaction but huge layoffs. I’ve heard there’ve been more than a half million people laid off in the oil fields already (and still nothing but bad news).
Even passing through the Yucatan Channel and further South, we saw very few ships. With the opening of the new Panama Canal, I expected to see lots of big container ships passing by. I thought we’d see tons of local freighters and fishing boats once we got past Cuba and into the Caribbean Sea. But I never saw much of anything till the approach to Cartagena. Even then, traffic was very light compared to normal.
We spent a full 10 days underway- more than twice as long as expected. We had some problems with the ship. Nothing really unexpected. The Buzcador had been cold stacked for years before we were brought aboard. Mechanics had been working frantically for weeks to get everything done so we could deliver her to her new owners.
Nothing was done that didn’t ‘need’ to be done. IMHO we were cutting it close, but after 9+ months without a real job, I was ready to take a few chances in order to earn a decent paycheck. Sure, I was happy as hell to get an AB job! A captains license doesn’t mean shit when you can’t find a boat!
Our engines worked fine for the first day or so. After that, we had to baby them a bit. The port shaft bearing was overheating and the starboard generator had problems with the oil pressure. We cut our RPMs down and made about 6 knots (close to half speed). The weather didn’t help much either.
It started kicking up before we reached Cuba and never let up. The mainmast shook so bad when we hit a heavy sea, we wondered when it was going to come crashing through the wheelhouse on us. Part of it had already fallen off when the other AB went up to change the masthead light before we left.
We sprung a couple of leaks around the ship and occasionally more pieces would fall off. Most of the outside lights around the house were falling off and full of water. Good thing we didn’t need to turn them on. 😉
The AC system for the house leaked. It got so bad that I would scoop up the water with a dust pan every time I went by. A couple of days like that and it got worse all the sudden. The whole room was awash. We were dumping 4-5 5 gallon buckets every couple of hours! Marvin the OS (ordinary seaman) finally got a chance to take a look at it and sent the water somewhere other than inside the AC room.
The pictures don’t look so bad, but we had over 8′ seas for most of the trip, over 10′ for a day or 2. We were bouncing around like a cork (which didn’t help our speed either). The weather was squally most of the way and pretty much overcast after the first couple of days. I never really got to see the stars again once the moon grew full.
It was getting to the point where we were starting to worry about our food, fuel, water supplies. This entire trip was only supposed to take about 6 days (I wound up spending 21 days aboard). We were also worried about catching our flights home.
‘Starvin’ Marvin’ and Noel the mate, had a fishing line out. Marvin cooked us up a couple of nice fish dinners. We had a dorado (dolphin/mahi-mahi) one night, a tuna the next, and a barracuda one day that no one would eat but him.
We actually did just fine. We didn’t run out of much of anything (just laundry soap and jelly -for the PBJ’s). We had plenty of beans and rice every day thanks to Marvin. I helped cook a couple of times and so did the Chief Engineer ‘Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Turtle’. (Captain Todd gave us all nicknames within a couple of days- I was ‘Jilligan’- like from Gilligans Island). 🙂
We were able to increase our speed after a couple of days. The engine crew was sure busy that trip! Chief Engineer (Ninja Turtle), client rep (Colombia) and oiler (Sing-Sing) spent most of their time down in the super hot and noisy engine room, trying to keep us going.
Kudos to them for working so hard! It seems there was always something going on down there. I’d make my rounds at night, go down there to check up on them and they were always in the engine room, checking the bilges, checking the bearings, checking the temperatures and pressures. Always having to fix something.
I spent most of my time up at night, as lookout. I was night AB (able body seaman). I worked from 1800-0600 every night once we got underway. Sid the Sloth was the day AB, he relieved me in the mornings (below right).
It was actually a nice change. Capt Todd (above left) was on from 1000-2200 and Noel the mate was on from 2200-1000 (tho it seemed he never slept and was always on the bridge). Between rounds I would talk to them about previous ships, ports and people we’d worked with. Telling sea stories is another favorite activity of mine. 😉
Since this was just a delivery job, we weren’t really concerned with all the usual things we’d be doing to take care of the ship. For instance, as AB, normally I’d be spending all day chipping and painting, cleaning and greasing, etc. This time, I spent almost all of my time as lookout on the bridge. I tried to help in the galley when I got a chance, cooked a couple of times, and cleaned up the house when it got too bad.
Still, we were glad to reach Colombia. I went to bed before we got the pilot, when I woke up, we were all fast in Cartagena.