Songs of the Sea: Off to Sea Once More

Yep, I must be ‘blind’…

The Black Irish Band perform the traditional maritime ballad, “Off to Sea Once More” . Band member Patrick Michael Karnahan performs on lead vocal and Melodeon. The video was shot at the historic Jack Douglass Saloon in December 2012. The Jack Douglass Saloon dates back to the California Gold Rush Era. Off to Sea once more is featured on the Black Irish Band 23rd CD album, “Dark Ocean”. Go to http://www.blackirish.com if interested in getting a copy of the new CD.

Off to Sea Once More

When first I came to Liverpool
I went upon a spree
Me money alas I spent too fast
Got drunk as drunk could be
And when my money was all gone
‘Twas then I wanted more
But a man must be blind to make up his mind
To go to sea once more

I spent the night with Angeline
Too drunk to roll in bed
My watch was new and my money too
In the mornin’ with ’em she fled
And as I roamed the streets about
The whores they all would roar
Here comes Jack Rack, the young sailin’ lad
He must go to sea once more

As I was walkin’ down the street
I met with Rapper Brown
I asked for him to take me in
And he looked at me with a frown
He said “Last time you was paid off
With me you jobbed no score
But I’ll take your advance and I’ll give ya’s a chance
And I’ll send you to sea once more

I hired me aboard of a whaling ship (note 1)
Bound for the Artic seas
Where the cold winds blow through the frost and the snow
And Jamaican rum would freeze
And worst and bear I’d no hard weather gear
For I’d lost all my money ashore
‘Twas then that I wished that I was dead
So I’d gone to sea no more

Some days we’re catching whales me lads
And some days we’re catching none
With a twenty foot oar cocked in our hands
From four o’clock in the morn
And when the shades of night come in
We rest on our weary oar
‘Twas then I wished that I was dead
Or safe with the girls ashore

Come all you bold seafarin’ men
And listen to my song
If you come off of them long trips
I’d have ya’s not go wrong
Take my advice, drink no strong drink
Don’t go sleeping with no whores
Get married lads and have all night in
So you’ll go to sea no more

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It’s So Boring

I’m home. I’ve been back in town since the 19th. It’s been almost 2 weeks already. It doesn’t seem like it. I’ve spent most of that time just catching up on sleep (jet lag) and doing all the things I can’t do from work: mail, bills, doctors appointment, dentists appointment, phone calls, meetings, etc.

I have made some progress. I’ve been able to go to my painting class and I’m working on 2 new paintings and 1 old one. I took my latest finished painting to the From the Heart gallery in Galveston. Too bad I got a parking ticket while I was inside hanging it. 😦

I thought you were supposed to be allowed to park in front long enough to load/unload stuff. The people who run the place assured me you are. I’m still debating wether or not to fight the ticket. I have no reason to go all the way up to Galveston other than that. I have another few days to decide.

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog much lately. At work I just don’t have the time or access to the internet and at home it’s been hard to find the motivation. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about. It’s more that I don’t want to bore people and I just haven’t been doing anything very interesting lately.

I did go to a WISTA meeting at the Houston Maritime Museum last Tuesday. That was pretty cool. They’ve moved to their new (temporary) location. It’s much larger than their old place (with plenty of parking). We had a tour by one of the docents who was a real wealth of information. I would’ve liked to talk to him some more, but the presentation was starting (and a full house to see it). Captain Michael A. Morris of the Houston Pilots put on an interesting presentation about the port of Houston and the pilots- past, present and future.

I could write about work, or travel- those things are usually interesting- but I haven’t done much of either lately. I did finally get a job that didn’t get cancelled. I spent a month on the DS-6 in Las Palmas. I even got to get off the ship a couple of times while I was there. It was a nice change. I’m hoping they’ll call me back.

my ship is the one on the left in this photo

In the meantime, I got a call to go to work on April 4. Then it was moved back to April 11. Now it is supposed to start April 16 and I’m only hoping it doesn’t get completely cancelled at this point. Since it’s only for 10 days, it’ll help me get by but it’s not enough for me to actually be able to do anything with my time off (other than keep on looking for more work).

I am SO ready for this downturn to pick up! It’s been 5 years already! I can’t wait for things to turn around so we can all get back to work again. Real work, where there’s some kind of schedule and we’ve got some kind of benefits. Or else the day rates go back up again to where they should be to make up for the lack of those things.

I’m SO tired of spending so much time looking for work. Filling out applications that never get seen. Putting off doing much of anything in case I get called for a job. I should just shut up and quit whining. I’m one of the lucky ones. I still have my license and my ability to go to work. I could just quit and I would probably be able to survive…

But no. I will keep on trying. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hanging around the house bored shitless. Keeping myself occupied is not a problem. I can do all sorts of things: pull weeds, work on my houses, clean my house, write, paint, work on my book(s), promote my writing (that’s the hard part- trying to find someone who will publish it). I would just much rather be traveling. I’m just bored here. I never, ever thought I’d still be here almost 40 years later.

Still Sticking Around

My ship is the one on the left

It looks like I’ll be able to stay here a little longer. Yeah! I need all the work I can get after the last 3 years of having so little of it. It’s been rough, tho I managed to survive. Many of my friends have not. People who’ve been working in the maritime industry for decades and who’ve worked their way up to the highest levels have lost their licenses and so their livelihoods. It’s such a waste!


Same as the ships they’ve been scrapping lately (and for the last few decades). There’s really nothing at all wrong with them. In the case of the tankers, the IMO ruled that they must be double hulled. Perfecly good ships, thrown out like yesterdays’ garbage. Driven up on the beach in Alang to be torn apart by miserably low paid peons who have no better options and are happy to have the work.


Lately, they’ve started scrapping the semisubmersibles and drillships. Yes, some of them are (a little bit) outdated- but still perfectly capable of doing the job they were designed for. Even some of the latest 6th generation drillships, barely out of the yard are being scrapped. We’re talking multiple hundreds of millions of dollars for each vessel- wasted!


I’m docked here in Las Palmas looking over at least 11 of them right now. I’m pretty sure there are at least that many parked over on Tenerife. I know there are more in Trinidad, and sitting in the Graveyard off Southwest Pass.


How many billions of dollars are going to be wasted before this downturn is over and we can go back to work? How many thousands of highly skilled people will be kicked to the curb with no other job prospects but a possible managers’ job at McDonalds?


I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’ve been through these downturns before, so I knew what was coming. I survived the early ‘80’s, the early 2000’s. I even managed to work through the Macondo moratorium. I saved everything I could. I constantly put as much as I could into my savings account. I bought rental property and spent any spare time and money fixing them up so I could get them rented out and paying for themselves ASAP.


Thank goodness I did that. Those rental properties have been my saving grace. The rents have been practically my only income for the last 3 ½ years. I’ve managed to find a boat job every few months which allowed me to stock up my savings a little bit and take the edge off, but not nearly enough work to keep from sucking up my savings and stressing me out.


I put my best (and most expensive) property up for sale when it became clear I wasn’t going to get any kind of regular work for a while. It still hasn’t sold. I still can’t afford it.


Still, I’m one of the lucky ones. I had enough DP time to renew my DP certificate. I had enough sea time to renew my US Coast Guard license. I had enough money in the bank to (re) take the required classes we have to take in order to go to work. I know so many people who were not able to do those things. They’re not going to be able to go back to work even when things do eventually pick up.


It’s hard to go from a lifestyle of earning over $100,000/year for only 6 months of work. I went from close to double that as a SDPO (senior dynamic positioning operator) to only earning $3000/month MAX from my rentals. I usually had expenses to pay out of the rents, so my take was less than $1000/month. Sometimes I didn’t have anything left and had to live off my savings. It was hard, really hard, to adjust…

Songs of the Sea: In the Sky

This is such a beautiful song. I love it! I’ve been listening to a lot of Mark Knopfler’s music lately. I’ve bought a couple of his CDs to listen to in my truck. I can’t say there’s been even one song that I’d say I really didn’t like. That’s rare.

Check out the video. I’m not sure about those dancers that keep showing up, but I love the ending! That sky! I recognize Bali, I’ve been to those places and go back every chance I get. The scenery is so gorgeous and the people there are so sweet.

“In The Sky”

Are you home from the sea, my soul balladeer
You’ve been away roaming far away from here
Weathered a storm, your heart unafraid
Crossed every ocean in the boat that you made

Been blowing your horn, scaring the spooks
No crotchets or quavers in your books
Gone sailing all night, straight in the vein
Like a bird on his own flight in his domain in the sky

Running in on the tide with the first of the stars
The moon on the water and the sound of guitars
Glide into the homing as the night falls
To tie up in the haven by the old harbour wall

And the hard-bitten stranger as deaf as a post
Who stands at the fire where a poet’s dreams roast
He can’t know the story, he can’t feel the pain
And all of the glory falls around him like rain in the sky

You’re a light in the dark, a beacon of hope
And strong as a sea boat, strong as a rope
And the vagabond wind, whispers over the bay
And the songs and the laughter, are carried away in the sky

US vs the Rest of the World

I’ve been asking around a little bit about what is there to do here in Las Palmas. My mate told me about the Carnival and the area around the boardwalk. I told our camp boss that I was interested in doing some shopping, so he recommended I go to Las Arenas. I didn’t realize until I got there it was just a mall.


That wasn’t really what I was looking for, but I did need to pick up a few things. I was supposed to get off March 9, so I had plenty of medicine to last. It turns out that the guy who was supposed to relive me then can’t come until the 17th. I’m happy that they’ve decided to let me stay here until he can come.


So, now that I am staying that much longer, I needed to go to a pharmacy and get a refill of my prescription. Actually, they don’t make you jump through all those hoops over here (or most other places in the world). I just walked into the pharmacy, asked for my medicine and bought it. No questions asked except for what dose I wanted. Nice!


I wonder why so many Americans believe we would all be in such serious trouble without our government’s protection? Putting themselves between us and our doctors? Plenty of other countries don’t require their people to see their doctors to get a prescription filled. Or even to get a prescription in the 1st place.


My doctor tells me it’s now a ‘rule’ that if she doesn’t see me every 3 months (!!!), she can not refill my prescription! I used to go yearly and thought that was much too often. It really pisses me off that I have to spend that much time and money to get the medicine I need.


I already feel like I can’t trust my doctor in the US. I can’t really trust ANY doctor in the US. The US government has them ALL by the balls (that does include even the females)! They will lose their license to practice medicine if they don’t toe the line with the Feds. That is, whatever the hell the government comes up with, the doctors MUST go along with. A lot of them have already given up their practice over it. Those were the good ones. The ones who would stand up for themselves and their patients. I miss them.


It’s incredibly frustrating to be told you MUST report to your doctor every couple of months. Understanding that they’re being told what they MUST do to/for you. That YOU can’t decide how often you want to go, or what treatment you want, or how much money you want to spend on your health, or how much time you’re going to waste on the government’s edicts.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. A lot of people are going to say I’m just being stupid. I’m not a genius. I’m not an expert. I’m not a doctor. I agree. I’m not any of those things. But I AM an expert on MY OWN BODY. I know it better than anybody else ever could (and you all are in the same state of knowledge).


I don’t see the need to go back to the doctor every 3 months to renew a prescription I’ve been taking for over 10 years now. I have to take blood tests (I hate needles) to check my ‘numbers’. They never change much. She says she needs to monitor them. I am perfectly happy with monitoring them yearly. I am NOT happy with monitoring them every 3 months! Why does my doctor (who is ordered around by the federal government) get to make that decision?


Why do we Americans all think we need to even go to a doctor to get the medicine we need? It’s not like the people of Spain, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia or Korea are all dying in heaps because they aren’t forced to go to a doctor to get a prescription for their medicines! Those are only the few countries I’ve been to where I’ve bought what would be prescription medicine at home over the counter. I’m 100% positive there are plenty of other countries around the world where it’s the same.


I’m pretty damn sure the only reason we have to do it here is because the doctors bribed congress to give them that monopoly. It SUCKs and I hope someone (besides the Libertarian Party) will push a bill through congress to eliminate all this extra expense.

Of course, that will never happen. The medical professionals, insurance companies and Big Pharm have too much invested to ever allow us to open the market in health care. 😦

Stacked in Spain

I finally got a call for work that didn’t fall through! I left home Feb 27th, flew through Munich to Las Palmas- Canary Islands- and arrived onboard the ship at around 8 PM Feb 28th. I joined the Ensco DS-6 as Chief Mate/Master and even tho the ship is stacked (laid up), I’ve been super busy since then and still haven’t caught up on those 2 days of traveling with no sleep.

My ship is the one on the left


I’ve been hoping for a chance to go to town and look around. I hate to be in a foreign country and never be able to see anything. One of the main reasons I chose to be a seafarer was for the opportunity to travel around the world and get paid for it. Sadly, we don’t get the chance to do that much anymore.


Sure, we may go places on our ships, but with containerization and such short times in port combined with the fact that most ports have moved far from the center of town, it’s rare that we get to spend any time in town. That’s not even considering that many companies now have (illegally) restricted their crews to the ship.

the view from the bridge of my ship


So- Las Palmas. I’ve never been here before. I was nearby. We stopped by Tenerife and La Gomera on the Ariadne when I was in high school with the Oceanics (1977). I was in a group that stayed on the small island of La Gomera. I stayed for a few days in the home of a local family with a girl my age. I remember walking around town with its white washed little houses and cobbled streets up from the ferry dock. I remember hiking to the beach through the bananas and swimming in the cool Atlantic Ocean. My brother was with a group of boys that stayed on a farm on Tenerife.


Before we left the Canaries, our hosts gave us a bus tour of Tenerife. We rode all the way up the volcanic Mt Teide. I remember one of our guys somehow managed to fall down the volcano. Lucky for him, he landed on a ledge only a few feet down. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but still bad enough where he was sent home.


I really wish I had spent more time paying attention instead of playing around. I was only 16, but still. It was a fantastic experience to have and it seems now that I wasted a lot of it by spending so much time partying. Now, I guess I try to make up for that by spending all my time traveling packing so many things into every day. I don’t want to miss anything and then wind up exhausting myself. I always need a vacation from my vacation when I get home.

sunrise over ships at sea