Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year everybody! Here’s to hoping 2017 turns out better than 2016. I’m sure glad to be looking at that one in the rear view mirror. Whew, what a hell of a year!

Will start out tomorrow with the traditional black-eyed peas, cabbage, corn bread and sausage with friends. No, I’m not going out to celebrate anywhere tonight. Did better than I did last year and at least managing to stay up til midnight tonight. Only a few minutes away.

What are you all doing to celebrate? Parties? Fireworks? New Years resolutions?

Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a great time tonight and a great year coming up! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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More Questions From the Alien

I know most people find it absolutely inconceivable that we can exist without a government to run things. Personally, I just can’t understand that mind frame. I just don’t get it.

Why do so many people think they can’t figure out how to run their own lives without some far off ‘leader’ making all the important decisions for them? I mean it’s ridiculous right?

Here in the USA, ‘the most free country in the world’, our government saddles us with hundreds of thousands of ‘laws’. The Code of Federal Regulations had over 34,000 pages (and weighed 340 lbs) in 2011!!!

Our leaders force us to follow their directions in everything from deciding what we can do with our own bodies (can’t decide what to eat, drink, smoke, etc), to what we can do with ‘our’ property, to what we can do for a living (and how). Their interference is never-ending!

We have laws to: fine or imprison us for drinking raw milk, force us to drink fluoridated water, regulate the amount of water you can use to flush your toilet, force you to tie yourself up every time you get in your car (seatbelt), force you to use expensive and shorter lasting lightbulbs, fine or imprison you for collecting the rain water that falls on your property, throw you in prison for using a harmless plant (marijuana), force you to pay them (government) in order to start a business (extortion), force you to pay them in order to get a job (extortion), force you to support a corrupt and exceedingly expensive medical system (obamacare), allow ‘our leaders’ to get away with NOT following the ‘laws’ they FORCE the rest of us to follow!

And there are hundreds of thousands of others. 😦

Yet, some people still believe that all this is somehow necessary. I will continue to ask WHY? Since it really is NOT necessary, no not at all! People existed in peaceful societies long before there was any such thing as ‘government’.

No, we do NOT need the government to ‘build roads’, ‘educate the children’, ‘catch the thieves/bad guys’, etc. People were perfectly capable of doing all those things (and everything else they needed to do) without any government.

I’ve been a libertarian ever since I understood what the word meant (nonaggression principle), and really since I was born. I never understood the need for ‘authority’ and have fought it all my life.

I KNOW I can run my life better than anyone else can. Yes, even tho I’ve made mistakes and will surely make more. I STILL know that no one else could’ve done better. Period! I understand that works the same for everybody on this planet (and everywhere else!).

It is simply impossible for anyone else to have all the knowledge that I do about my life (same for everybody else). Without perfect knowledge, there can be no perfect decisions. Since I have the MOST perfect knowledge, then my decision is the BEST one possible. Period.

Until there is some all knowing, all powerful, perfect being (some say there is- God- but that’s another issue I don’t want to get into now), then there is NO justification for letting ANYONE else control YOUR decisions about YOUR life. PERIOD!

The US Constitution tried to create a ‘proper’ government. One where the PEOPLE were sovereign, as they should be. The principles behind the Declaration of Independence and written in the Bill of Rights were a great start for a great country.

The first ever formed specifically and only to guarantee and protect the rights of the individual. Our founding fathers understood that those rights were inherent to every human being and did NOT come from any government.

Too bad we’ve decided to disregard all that stuff. We’ve decided to throw our heritage of freedom and individual liberty in the garbage and become like every other socialist country in the world (most of them failures in many ways). It’s just a matter of degree.

We used to understand the difference between individualism and statism. Not any more. We’re all statists now, everywhere around the world. We’re lucky we’re still living on what we were able to create when we were still fairly free and able to be creative. Those days are fading fast.

I liked how the little alien from my post the other day asked such great questions. Here it is again with some more to make you think…

Maritime Monday for December 26th 2016

Here’s another Maritime Monday thanks to Monkey Fist and gCaptain. Enjoy the weekly shot of maritime news and history…

Berenice Abbott (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991) was an American photographer best known for …

Source: Maritime Monday for December 26th, 2016 – gCaptain

Merry Christmas

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Just wanted to be sure and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. 🙂

No, I’m not a Christian, but even atheists like to get together with friends, family, and have a good time. 😉

Pirates Christmas

Getting into the Christmas spirit around here. It’s Christmas Eve already- wow! Here’s a fun little video by Tom Mason & the Blue Buccaneers. It’s another Song of the Sea too. 😉

Yo Ho Ho (Pirates Christmas)

‘Twas the night before Christmas

And out on the sea…
Continue reading

A Few Frosty’s

I’m trying to get into the spirt of things around here. With the temperatures still up there where I’m turning on the air-conditioner most days, it’s hard to do. I do remember back when I was a little kid, staying at my grandmothers house in New York.

There would be so much snow and we’d be snowed in. Couldn’t go out for days. I loved all that as a kid. Sledding, snowball fights, making snowmen, etc. I still love to see the fresh snow and the cool temperatures, even tho I hardly ever get to see it here in Texas.

I was thinking about some of that stuff tonight. I just happened to come upon these…

 

Good News

I finally got some good news today. The mail came with my new, corrected, USCG license! I sent it in to the Coast Guard on September 29. So, it only (major sarcasm) took them a little less than 3 months to process a simple renewal.

My license expired December 16, so I figured I had plenty of time. Even with the end of the year rush due to new STCW ‘gap-closing’ requirements.

Every time I checked, for over 2 months, my license status was listed as PQEB. Waiting for an evaluator. Strange, cause they sent my medical certificate back within a week. I had no idea why it was taking so long until I got some help from the Coast Guard’s National Mariner Center booth at the Workboat Show in early December. They got things moving immediately and helped a lot.

I did actually apply for one extra endorsement. Maybe that was the reason for the holdup? I asked for the OIM (offshore installation manager). Reading the rules, I figured I was eligible. I had already taken stability for my Chief Mates license. I already had a few rig moves, under supervision and while in charge.

Since I am already a Master Mariner, that should have covered me for the OIM endorsement. The rules are different if you’re not already holding that license.

But, the USCG has decided that the much more intense stability course I took is not applicable for this endorsement. I need to take a much simpler course which is only specific to certain vessels (mostly MODU’s– mobile offshore drilling units). I learned all this after finally being assigned to an evaluator after the Workboat Show.

The rules also say that at least one of the rig moves must be within the last year.

So, since I was laid off by Ocean Rig in September of 2015, I have not worked since then, I’m shit out of luck until I can go back to work again. I can’t afford to take the necessary course until I find work again anyway, so the whole thing is moot.

The whole point of asking for the endorsement was in hopes it would help me find a job so I could go back to work again.

After a couple of emails back and forth about all this (the GC rep was very helpful and fast to respond), I decided to just drop the request for the endorsement and just renew everything I already had.

I got an email the next day that my MMD (merchant mariner document) was in the mail! The process moved along pretty quick once assigned an evaluator.  I was feeling pretty good until I got my document a few days later and looked it over.

For some reason they restricted me to only vessels without ECDIS. I had taken that course as well for my Chief Mate license. I couldn’t have qualified to sit for the test without it. The CG rep told me that the class I took couldn’t have been approved back then.

Well, why would I have taken it then? The USCG gives us a listing of all the approved courses and all the approved schools where we can take them. Of course I checked the list and would never have gone anywhere to take any class that wasn’t on the list. It would have been a total waste of time and money since the certificate earned would not be valid!

After a few days of arguing and sending documents to the USCG, all the while freaking out about having to re-take another expensive week long course and not being allowed to work after December 31, 2016, the CG allowed that the course I took was actually OK.

Whew!

So, today I finally got my MMD, one that has everything I need to show in order to go back to work. Now I just need a job!

Government Explained

I was at our weekly Tuesday Meetup of the Campaign for Liberty. Last week was one of the better ones we’ve had in a while. We watched a couple of pretty good videos. Here’s one…

We all got a good laugh out of it. I would love to see this thing played in every school in the country. We really need to do something to get people to think about this kind of stuff!

Personally, I’ve never understood why so many people think they need someone else to tell them how to live their lives. Or why so many people think that someone else actually has some sort of right to do it.

As a libertarian, I believe every person has the absolute right to live their own lives in the best way they can. The way they choose. They have the right to do anything they want, as long as they don’t hurt anybody else.

So far, no one has ever been able to give me a good reason for not having things that way. A lot of excuses, a lot of fears, a lot of “what-ifs”, but no reasons.

I’d really like to see someplace, even just one place in the world, try to form a society where people could live that way. The US tried. They came very close when they came up with the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But they never truly followed it. If they had actually treated ALL people the way they said they should, we might actually have a free country today. Too bad they weren’t ready to go that far. 😦

I do see a few people around the world trying. The Seasteaders, the Libertarian Party, the guy over in Europe who’s trying hard to create a really free country, even the Freedom Ship was originally intended to be a place where people could have real freedom (tho it seems to have mutated).

I’d love to be able to find somewhere like that to move to, so far they are all out of my reach financially at least. In the meantime, I keep on trying to find ways to make things better here, but it sure does get frustrating.

Videos like that help cheer me up, for a little while. 😉

Tuesdays of Texture

I just found a new blog ‘challenge’. It’s from Narami over at her De Monte Y Mar blog. It’s called “Tuesdays of Texture” and it looks interesting so I think I’ll join in (even if I’m a day late). 😉

I’m more of a photographer than a writer, tho I’m trying hard to get better at writing. That was one of the reasons I started my blog. To give me a place to practice and (hopefully) to get some feedback.

Here are a few photos of interesting textures…

  

Those were just a few plants. Orchid, ornamental cabbage of some sort, I don’t know what the 3rd flower is called, and a daylily. They’re all pretty common and fairly easy to spot around town. All of them have very different textures of both the flower and the rest of the plant.

So much variety, even in just one small subject and location. I thought that was interesting. 😉

Fishing: Istanbul

I saw this post come up in my Reader from the Daily Post, re: Fishing. I thought I should be able to come up with something. 😉

Here are a couple of photos from my recent trip to Turkey. The people around Istanbul love to go fishing all around the Bosphorus. I went one day to walk across the Galata Bridge, just to see what they were catching.

It was a beautiful day. I walked from my hotel near the Blue Mosque around Topkapi Palace and down to the waterfront. I watched the ferries come and go and the fishermen all along the quay. They were using bread as bait, and seemed to be doing pretty good.

I walked up to the bridge and crossed over on the lower level. It’s full of restaurants, famous for fish and seafood. I try to avoid seafood as much as possible, just because I’ve had to eat it day after day for months on end and never know when I might have to do that again. 😉

The waiters had no idea of my aversion, so they continued to call out. Trying to convince me to step up and try their specialty (looked like pretty much the same at all of them). I probably should have stopped to see what all the fuss was about. I’m sure a few must have wondered why I was hanging around if I didn’t like fish. I don’t like to eat them anymore, but I still do love to catch them (and I like to watch other people catch them too). 😉

On the way back, I crossed on the upper level. Between a gauntlet of fishermen casting their lines and masses of traffic- cars, trucks, busses, and pedestrians- crossing the bridge, it was an interesting experience. I was glad to get back down to land and away from the traffic.

I descended to a plaza, right next to the bridge. It was full of more fishermen lined up along the water and in between dozens of small barges, gaudily decorated in red and gold. All selling ‘belik-ekmek’ (fish sandwiches) and doing a brisk business.  Waiters dressed in ‘traditional’ Turkish costume, hustling with trays full of tiny cups full of coffee, tea and shalgam– the weird spicy sour drink thats specially for the fish.

I’m not sure what kind of fish they were catching (or selling), I didn’t actually eat any. Here’s a picture, does anybody know what kind they are?

Fishing: Zanzibar

I saw this post come up in my Reader from the Daily Post, re: Fishing. I thought I should be able to come up with something. 😉

Here are a couple of photos from my recent trip to Zanzibar. The fishing was fantastic there, even if they were using very old fashioned methods (hand lines and setting nets by hand).

However they managed, the results were fantastic!

Maritime Monday for December 19th 2016: Minced Oath

Another week’s gone by already. I’ve hardly noticed. It seems I can keep busy doing absolutely nothing useful. 😉

I did try to keep up with my emails through the week, if I don’t I just have to delete them all, they just get overwhelming. I always enjoy reading the Maritime Monday emails I get from gCaptain.

This week, there’s some interesting stuff about Christmas (of course) and maritime history. I really liked the cool wrapping paper!

Royal Navy pilot Jock Moffat – credited with launching the torpedo which crippled the Bismarck in …

Source: Maritime Monday for December 19th, 2016: Minced Oath – gCaptain

Maritime Monday for December 12th 2016: Farpotshket

More interesting maritime tidbits from Monkey Fist via gCaptain. I never thought about it before, do you know any ‘good’ octopus’s?

Latest Update from the Mary A Whalen at Portside NY: David Levine contributed a useful …Source: Maritime Monday for Decemeber 12th, 2016: Farpotshket – gCaptain

Another Roadblock

I haven’t been posting much about work on here lately. Mostly because I haven’t had any for the last year now. 😦

It’s been so frustrating and depressing. I’ve never been out of work for anywhere near this long in my entire life! I’ve always been able to find something to do. Not this time. This time there’s nothing. Nothing at all. 😦

It doesn’t help that the people in charge of jobs in this industry- the US Coast Guard- keep changing the rules to make it harder and harder to get and/or keep a job! It used to be that you could take a job in a different sector of the maritime industry when things got slow. For example, when things got bad in the 80’s, I went to work on tankers. I could even take a job ashore. I worked as bartender lots of times between offshore jobs back then.

Now, due to new USCG rules, if you change sectors you’re very likely to be pigeonholed into just being able to work in that sector. You’ll have no other options! Not without making major efforts to make the move. For example- my license used to say “freight & towing’. Now it says ‘steam & motor”. That means I can’t work on any tugboats any more unless and until I get a ‘towing endorsement’ on my license. That is not at all easy to do!

Same goes for tankers. I worked on tankers for over 13 years, but since I haven’t worked on a tanker in the last 5 years, I can’t work on tankers ever again until I go spend a bunch of time and money to get back that endorsement.

There goes 2 large sectors of maritime employment totally out of my reach now!

And if I have to take a job on land? Forget it! If I don’t keep up my sea time (and training), I will have to start all over from the bottom if I ever want to go back to sea! We need to have at least 360 days sea time in the last 5 years, plus a bunch of newly required ‘training’ (plus the training that was already required) in order to renew our documents. Documents we absolutely can not work without. No, not anywhere in the world!

So. In order to have 360 days sea time in the last 5 years, that basically means you need to have at least 2 years of STEADY employment offshore. If you take a land job, you need to quit as soon as you find something you think (hope) will last a while at sea. Then, you need to hope like hell your company will help pay for all the necessary training. Cause sure as hell, no land job will give you either the pay rate or the time off in order for you to keep up with it!

Seafaring used to be a really good way to earn a living. After all this, I’m not sure I can say that anymore, but I still prefer it over anything else I can imagine.

had high hopes for finding some sort of relief job over the holidays. That’s always the best time of year to find work offshore. People understandably want to take time off to spend it with their families and all sorts of deals get made.

Not last year.

No one took any (earned) vacation time. I didn’t get a single call all winter. Neither did anyone else I know who’d been laid off. Everyone still lucky enough to be employed was just scared to death that they might not be able to come back to work. The oilfield was still in shock and everyone was living in fear.

Things seem to be improving. Slightly.

The price of oil has gone up from around $26/barrel to around $50/barrel. Almost doubled. That’s great! Only problem is, that for the offshore oil fields to go back to work the price of oil needs to be somewhere above $75/barrel (IMHO).

I was dearly hoping to get a call to sub in for someone over the holidays. I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for months.

But…

The USCG now requires us to renew our documents every 5 years. If we don’t beg permission from the government and jump through all kinds of ridiculous hoops, we’re locked out of a job. 😦

I sent in my paperwork back in the first part of September. My license expires December 16 this year, so I figured I had plenty of time. Even considering there are all kinds of new hoops to jump through coming into effect at the end of the year and so a mad scramble by all mariners to renew their documents before that.

My license was still sitting in limbo when I got back from overseas. Luckily, I was able to speak to a USCG rep at the Workboat Show and they made a phone call and got my papers moved over to the fast track. I thank them for helping, they were great!

I was happy to see my status changed the next day and only a few days later I received my new MMD in the mail.

Only one problem. They restricted me to only vessels without ECDIS. That means pretty much only small or inland vessels. That means I’m pretty much shit outta luck for finding any work until I get that restriction removed!

That totally knocked me for a loop! No way was I expecting them to come back with that! They’ve renewed my license at least twice since I originally turned in that course certificate and not once did they mention that it might not be acceptable.

What really gets my goat (besides the fact that I should have to beg permission from the government to go to work in the first place), is that I DID already take the required training in order NOT to have that restriction on my license.

I took that class back in 2008 since it was required for me to sit for my chief mates license. Of course, the USCG removed the requirement to take most of the courses that I was forced to take (at a cost of almost $50,000), but I did take that class and it is still required.

The problem is that the USCG is now saying that the course I took (so long ago) could not have been ‘approved’. Well hell! WTF would I have taken ANY course if it was NOT USCG approved?

Simple. I wouldn’t have!

The USCG maintains a listing of ALL approved courses and ALL approved course providers right there on their website. Of COURSE I checked to make sure the course I was considering was USCG approved.

At this point I have to assume that the course I took was approved at the time and somewhere between then and now, they changed the rules again to where it’s no longer acceptable. It would’ve been nice to get some notification.

None of these required classes is cheap. They’re completely worthless if they’re NOT USCG approved. Mostly worthless even so. Why would I (or anybody) spend thousands of dollars and a week (or more), plus transportation costs, plus room and board expenses, to waste all that time sitting in a classroom somewhere when they could be doing something (anything) else?

Again, simple! They wouldn’t!

So. I am in limbo again. Waiting for the person I’m dealing with at the Coast Guard to hear back from their superiors in the course approval department. Meantime, I’m investigating who has a class open asap.

The cheapest I can find is San Jacinto Maritime ($1000), but that’s only because I live close enough to where I can (barely) manage to drive back and forth daily. They don’t have an opening until mid- January. Same with most of the others. Remember, I can’t even think about going back to work until I get signed off on this class!

Delgado and Falck offer the course for $900, but they’re both located in Louisiana. I would have to spend hundreds more for transportation, room and board. Falck has a class I might be able to get in to -starting 12/27.

MPT in Ft Lauderdale costs $1299 (plus transport/room & board), but they actually have a class starting next week. If the USCG tells me this week I have to re-take the class, that will be my only option if I really still hope to get any work this year. 😦

If it looks like I’m screwed for work, then my best option will be the Sea School in Bayou La Batre AL. They cost $1100, but I can drive there (10 hours) and they include room and board in that price.

A few other schools have classes starting in January, but they’re all more expensive. MITAGS ($1390 + $850 room/board), Bluewater ($1295), Quality ($1095), Marine Training Institute ($1095), STAR ($$). Those are just the ones in the Southeastern US. I only checked those since I’m trying to keep transport costs down.

If you’re stuck in the same boat I am, you can find all the USCG approved courses and facilities here. DON’T go anywhere that isn’t on this list!

Maritime Monday for December 5th, 2016

Here’s another of Monkey Fists’ always interesting Maritime Monday posts. I’m still in New Orleans, but heading home tonight. Hope to catch up soon (if I don’t get lucky and find a job). Tighter marine fuel sulfur limits will spark changes by both refiners and vessel operators The …

Source: Maritime Monday for December 5th, 2016 – gCaptain

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax

Here’s my choice for the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax.

I took it my last night on Zanzibar, before I began the hectic process of returning to America and back to ‘real life’. Stress of airports and TSA BS pretty much negated the beautiful peaceful month I spent traveling overseas.