More Crashing Helicopters!

I’m in Houston tonight. Prepping to take the HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) once more. So I can put a T (tropical) in front of it. 😦

These courses are supposed to be good for 4 years. I’ve taken this course at least a half dozen times since returning to the Gulf of Mexico in mid 2007. So, averaging about once every 2 years (price has gone down some, it’s ‘only’ costing me $500 this time). Once again, this is another course I need to take in order to work. Once again, nothing has changed since the first time I took this course in 2007.

Please ignore the music of the video if ‘strong language’ offends you. I got it off youtube, last time I tried to take photos, they wouldn’t let me so I have none of my own to show you what it’s like.

We do the same things: float/swim in the pool, jump from a height wearing a life jacket, put on the life jacket, swim with the life jacket, float/swim as a group wearing life jackets/survival(gumby) suits, get in a life raft, flip the helicopter upside down in the pool and get out of it a few times. I really don’t know why these companies keep insisting we do these things over and over and over again. It’s not like you forget any of it!

And, again, nothing has changed. I just took HUET last summer. At this point, I will not be allowed to work again until I re-take it (adding the T). What is the difference between T-HUET and HUET? I tried to find something sensible. NOPE, not happening. Here’s the difference…

T-BOSIET/T-FOET/T-HUET certifications are only valid for use in tropical region (T stands for TROPICAL) while BOSIET/FOET/HUET certifications are valid for BOTH cold water and tropical water regions.

You get that? T-HUET is ONLY valid for use in tropical regions, HUET is good for BOTH cold water AND tropical waters, so pretty much worldwide. So, my question is: WHY do the companies no longer accept HUET and insist on forcing us to go take another course teaching EXACTLY the same thing, but is not good for use in nearly as many places?

It’s incredibly frustrating to me (and most other mariners I’ve talked to since all this BS started). We have ALL been trained in how to put on life jackets, survival suits, how to operate life rafts and even life boats. Most of us have had many years of weekly drills on all this sort of thing (also fire-fighting, first aid and a whole bunch of other training on things that could go wrong). We continue to do these drills (by law) every week.

Then, to add insult to injury, the companies we work for insist on everyone repeatedly being trained on things like ‘rigging’, ‘swing rope’, ‘rig pass’, even if you will probably never have to deal with any of those things in your job! The last time I had to use a swing rope was about 30 years ago (it’s really not a very safe thing to play Tarzan out there!). As an AB, I was trained VERY WELL in rigging and as a deck officer, even better. But those years of training and experience don’t mean diddly squat to these people. It really is ridiculous that a licensed officer is told they’re not qualified to work offshore because they don’t have a ‘current rigging certificate’. 😦

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if the companies we work for would all get together and agree on some standard. Instead, we have to go and re-take the same courses over and over because one company will only accept BOSIET, one will only accept THUET, another will still accept HUET. BOSIET is pretty much the same as BST (basic safety training) that we ALL have to take every 5 years now, required and approved by the US Coast Guard (but not by OPITO which is the oil company standard setting organization- like the US Coast Guard is not up to snuff!) plus HUET.

You can’t take BST and HUET and get a BOSIET. You can’t even take BST and HUET and then take FOET (further offshore emergency training) which is basically just a renewal of BOSIET. You MUST take BOSIET first. It’s about $800 more expensive. 😦

Next year they’ll add another letter, or change the name. Training will still be the same, or maybe they’ll say something different for an hour (that surely could’ve been done at work), and force us to go back to take the class all over again. And no, they don’t offer any bridging courses, you have to do the whole thing over. 😦

I wonder, do these companies EXPECT that their helicopters are going to crash. Crash so often that every single person must be ready every single time to escape from the water? Why do only these offshore oil companies feel that way?

After all, airplanes crash just as often (probably more) than helicopters do. Do the pilots and air crew have to practice flipping their planes over in the water and escaping from a flooded plane? I asked. No, they NEVER have to do that! Much less do it a minimum of every 4 years! Do airplane companies force their passengers to practice ditching from their planes, EVER? NO, they don’t!

I want to know WHY do we have to do this same thing over and over and over. Somebody please give me a real reason. I’m not talking about insurance company BS either. I mean a REAL reason!

Some company PLEASE start up and act in a reasonable manner! Hire good, competent people and LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS! We do not need to be coddled, protected and micromanaged out the ying-yang!

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Surfside Food and Art Festival

Today I went to the 2nd annual Food and Art Festival at Surfside Beach. I showed up around 1400. There were cars parked all along the highway, filling up both parking lots and even the old convenience store down the road. I found a place to park and headed for the music.

Stahlman Park was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. The beach was full of people with surfboards and kites. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was out and the sky was blue. By the time I got to the beach, it had clouded up and was grey and clouds covered the sky. It was windy enough for the kites. There were a lot of people having fun with them. I saw a lot of different kinds. My favorite was the dragon. 🙂

The Surfside Volunteer Fire Department was out with their fire truck (and mascot). They were cooking up a storm. Art car by Bonnie Blue was parked out front. Downstairs there was a live band playing, people were dancing, and the chili was cooking. Upstairs the artists were set up. The whole place was crowded, a few of the booths were completely sold out. They even sold out of hot dogs. Good news for the SOBA and St Patricks Day folks. 🙂

I was glad to see such a large crowd. The vendors I talked to said they were selling a few things. I had a booth myself last year. There weren’t many people then and I didn’t sell a single thing all day so I didn’t bother to get one this time (I also thought I would be back to work by now, but still stuck trying to find a job).

They had a lot of interesting stuff for sale. Everything from cupcakes and honey to home made soaps and cremes, jewelry, pottery, paintings, wood carvings, and more. They even had a ‘community art project’ where everyone was welcome to join the fun and add their own personal touch to a large canvas near the front entrance. I liked to see that the whole thing was very dog friendly too. I saw quite a few people brought their dogs along and they were welcome everywhere. Nice.

There was a man by the front door who built model ships. He had a couple of really large models, one finished and the other still needed a few details added. It looked very time consuming! Tiny little pieces everywhere. I would never have the patience for that, but it looked like a good hobby for some.

The Fort Velasco people had a table there too. I drove by later and saw they’ve got signs up prohibiting metal detectors and a round wooden palisade. Looks like they’re making some progress but I didn’t stop to talk to them this year.

There were quite a few teams entered in the chili cook-off too. Everyone looked like they were having a blast. I’m not a big chili fan so I didn’t try any myself, but it must’ve been popular since a few of the teams were already sold out.

There was also a craft beer tasting that looked interesting, but I can’t take any chances on that so had to skip it. I think the chili and beer definitely helped the attendance this year. I hope they’ll keep on adding more things like that to the festival. It definitely increased the crowds by a lot this year!


Monochrome Monday: Vulture

I was bored and looking at my WordPress browser and came upon this new challenge. It’s Monochrome Monday XIX from Hadd Hai Yaar. You can click on the link to see what everybody has come up with and join in. 🙂

I took this photo of a vulture in Tanzania last November, on a photo safari with GEP. There was a whole bunch of them feeding on a kill some other predator had recently finished with. There were 3 different kinds of vultures, I’m not sure what type this one is (anybody know?). It was fascinating watching how they interacted with each other. Watching and waiting for their chance to move in and get their share. Fighting over scraps and challenging newcomers to the scene.

I’m still new to photography, so I don’t know how I managed to get this shot to come out so nice. Most of the rest I took of these birds did not. I took it with a Panasonic Lumix ZS70 which I had just bought for the trip. F 6.4, ISO 1/320. I almost always leave my cameras on automatic, so pretty sure it was for this shot too. One of these days I’ll have to read the manual. 😉

Songs of the Sea: Only the Ocean

I’m not really a surfer like the girl in this video, but I do love the ocean. I grew up on the west coast of Florida where there was never much surf to play in. I’ve tried a few times, and had a good time, but was never able to stay upright for more than a few seconds.

I love the water. I spend so much of my time out on the ocean. I work out there (as much as possible), I sail for fun, I love to snorkel and SCUBA dive. I would love to move somewhere close to the beach again.

Closer than I live now. Somewhere like where I grew up. Where I didn’t need a car to go anywhere I needed or wanted to go. One day I’d love to find a funky little beach town full of fishermen and sailors. Someplace they don’t care how long your grass grows, or what color you paint your house. I’d love to have a little beach bar/restaurant where people can just be themselves.

Someplace people could hang out and have a good time. A place to listen to good music, have a drink, eat something cheap and tasty, meet old friends and make new ones.

“Only The Ocean” by Jack Johnson

After all this time
After all of these season
After your own decision to go to the water for a reason
It’s only the ocean and you
And all of this lines
Will all be erased soon
They go out with the tide
And come back with the waves
It’s only the ocean and you

You don’t want
You don’t wait
You don’t love but you don’t hate
You just roll over me
And you pull me in

And this work is done
And this cold is dry
When this world’s too much
It will be only the ocean and me
When these sails go up
Mountanis fade away
Stars come back
I’m finally free
It’s only the ocean and me

You don’t want
You don’t wait
You don’t love but you don’t hate
You just roll over me
And you pull me in
And you pull me in

You don’t want
You don’t wait
You don’t love but you don’t hate
You just roll right over me
And you pull me in

And you pull me in…

Paragraph
You just roll over me
And you pull me in

CFFC: Pairs

Cee always has great photography challenges going on. This one is for her Fun Foto Challenge- Pairs. Pairs of anything at all. Like or unlike. Click on the link and see what everyone else is posting. Join in. 🙂

Here’s my entry…

pair of ornaments
pair of tulips
pair of turtles

I really love to take photos. I always have my camera with me and take pictures everywhere, of anything. I ran out of room on my walls a loooong time ago. Now what can I do with them all?

Post them on to Cee’s challenges! 😉

FOTD: Waterlily

I haven’t been online much lately. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the real world instead of spending time in the virtual world. I’ve been loving it! Now that I’m back home again I’ve been able to catch up a little bit and take a look around the blogosphere. Cee always has great photography challenges going on. This one is for yesterday’s flower of the day- waterlily challenge. Click on the link and see what everyone else is posting. Join in. 🙂

I’ve always loved waterlilies. I’ve been trying for years to photograph them. We don’t have many of them around SE Texas where I live. I can never get a good shot, they’re always so far away so my photos turn out blurry. I got this nice shot in Hoi An, Vietnam. I was there for a writing workshop. We went out a few times for ‘research’ during the week. This waterlily was in a pot outside of a bookstore we were looking at and ducking into during the rain. So far, it’s the best I’ve ever got of a waterlily. 🙂

Thanks to another blogger’s post (with some great poinsettia photos) on Cee’s FOTD page, I was reminded of these photos I took of Monet’s famous waterlily paintings at the Orangerie in Paris. It was just wonderful, to be completely surrounded by these huge, wall to wall paintings of his.

Safari!

Ever since I went on my first photography safari with GEP in November 2016, I’ve been saving up and hoping to go on another. I just returned from a fantastic long vacation and my second GEP safari was the catalyst for the entire trip.

If I hadn’t made the decision to go on the safari, I wouldn’t have stopped in Paris on the way over. Or Bangkok on the way home. Or gone to the travel writing workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I tried again to make sure that I was ready for the safari. Awake and alert from the beginning. Last time I did a layover in Istanbul, so I could avoid flying direct to Arusha and getting no sleep for 2 days. This time, I did the layover in Paris. I even flew into Arusha a day early so I could rest up. It helped a lot. I was only up for 24 hours beforehand instead of 48+. I felt much better for the first couple of days of the safari, before the early mornings started to get to me.

We started out from the Lake Duluti Serena lodge, about an hour outside Arusha. It was a beautiful place, with flowers and gardens everywhere. My flight from Paris arrived at 0600 on November 15th. I had been up for over 24 hours, so I spent most of my time there sleeping. If I had more time, I would’ve taken them up on some of their suggestions for things to do like hike around the lake, or have a spa treatment. Instead, I just spent the day chillin’.

I met up with the GEP group over breakfast on the 16th when the safari trip actually started. We even met our first wild little visitors who wanted to join us for coffee and biscuits. 🙂

We had our first official meeting from 0800-1000, for introductions and orientation, then loaded up the jeeps and took off for Tarangire National Park. We sped along the highways, passing small towns and farms. Beautiful Mt Meru (continued on page 2)…

Happy New Year 2019


Well, it’s over- 2018 is done! Hard to believe isn’t it? To start 2019, I’d like to say thank you for sticking with me- I know I haven’t been very consistent on here lately. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything. Writers block or just plain laziness? Both, I think. Last year seemed to drag on forever, but now it seems to have gone by so fast.

I have to say, I’m very thankful that 2018 was better than 2017. My computer wasn’t giving me near as much trouble (until just recently- I wonder if the bats have returned). I was able to get a little bit more work. Not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy me and get me to the point of being comfortable, but enough to survive on. I was even able to dig myself slightly out of the hole the last couple of years of basically no work had put me in.

I actually had work every month last year (except Nov-Dec when I decided to take my long planned trip instead of hope for work). It wasn’t all offshore, well paid work. Some months, the only job I had was my role player gig at Maersk Training. But even that little bit kept me from having to use up the last of my savings.

I also sold a couple of articles (with photos) and paintings. That was a real boost to my confidence (tho not so much to my bank account).

I was able to take that 2 month long trip and still come out a couple thousand dollars ahead of where I was on New Years Day 2018. 🙂

So, I’m thankful, very much, that 2018 was better than 2016 and 2017. I was able to get enough work and even to take a couple of trips (not including work). In March I went to Roy Stephenson’s travel writing/marketing class in Seattle. In September I attended GEP’s Travel Writing & Photography Workshop in Austin. I spent November and December traveling around the world, stopping in Paris, Tanzania, Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I may be ‘greedy’, but I’m really really really hoping that 2019 turns out to be even better than 2018. I sure as hell don’t want a repeat of 2016-2017 which just sucked! I hate being broke and watching everything I’ve worked so hard for just slowly disappear.

I hope things will pick up offshore so there is more work this year and the agencies actually have more than a single job to fight over! It feels great to get 3 calls in a day from 3 different recruiters, but it really sucks once you talk to them and realize they’re all pitching the exact same job.

I don’t know what to think now. I had a job lined up before Christmas. It was supposed to start on the 3rd. Friday I asked about details and was told the job was cancelled. 😦

I got another call yesterday. It sounded like a good job, but I felt I had to turn it down. I just don’t feel confident that I could handle the particular position on offer. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring some business. There have been some hopeful signs in the news lately.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year. I never seem able to follow through on them. They’re always the same: lose weight, clear out the house, write more. I never make any lasting progress.

Instead, I think about the things I would like to do. Top of the list this year: get residency visa for Mexico and make that first move, find a decent room-mate (which will make that move to Mexico SO much easier), take my bicycle in to get it repaired and adjusted so no more excuses not to ride, have at least one garage sale and get rid of unused stuff cluttering up my living room!

If I manage to cross those things off my list, and if I manage to find enough work to strengthen my finances a little more, I’d love to do some more traveling. Next big trip I’d like to take is a cruise to Antarctica. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any New Years resolutions? Any trips planned? Where would you most like to go and why?