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

Munich Layover

I’m feeling much better today, even tho I’m pretty darn tired. I FINALLY got called for a job that didn’t get cancelled. I only got the call on Thursday and didn’t know for sure until late Friday and didn’t get my flight information (so I would really know for sure) til yesterday.

I’ve been keeping myself fairly ready to leave since I got back from my trip around the world. I left right at the beginning of November and got home right before Christmas. I was supposed to go to work January 3. I’ve basically been on call since then. I’ve had about a dozen calls to go to work since that first job got cancelled.

I still had a few things to take care of before leaving. Laundry, cleaning out the fridge so I won’t have to come home to a fridge full of rotten food, paying any bills that might come due before I’m due back home, calling my property manager to clear up any issues that might come up while I’m gone, arranging a ride to the airport, get my ‘smart phone’ working again for the trip, and finish up packing.

I left home yesterday around noon. Got to the airport and for some reason they wouldn’t check my baggage all the way through to my destination. My flight was delayed for about an hour, but thank goodness I have a club pass and could spend my time chilling out there. It was about a 10 hour flight to Munich and of course I really couldn’t get any sleep.

So here I am now in the Munich airport, waiting for my flight to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Thank goodness I have a long layover here. I had to get my passport stamped into Germany so I could collect my luggage, then run across the street to another terminal and go through security again. I thought we were ridiculous with our security theater in the US, but Germany takes it to an even more absurd level!

I’m so glad I was able to get the TSA pre-check in the states, but as far as I know they don’t have any kind of international program like that. I really wish they did! I didn’t have to take my shoes off (I’ve still got my flip-flops on), but I had to take out EVERYTHING from my pockets including cash (which I HATE to do since it’s so easy for someone to walk by there and steal it all), credit cards, passport, etc. Remove not only computer, but ALL electronics from my bag. Thats kindle, cameras, phones, iPod, etc. What a bunch of insanity!

Apparently the world is overrun with suckers that are completely willing to trade their freedom for ‘security’. Its as true now as it was when Benjamin Franklin said it over 200 years ago.

You CAN’T make that trade! You give up your freedom for NOTHING but an ILLUSION! It infuriates me that we ALL have to put up with this violation of our rights all because the majority of the people on this planet are so gullible.

While I wait for my flight to Las Palmas, I have a little bit of time to blog. I can’t connect to the wi-fi here. I don’t know why. There’s supposedly free wi-fi here in the airport. I should arrive at 1800 and someone should be waiting to bring me to the ship.

I’m going out as Chief Mate this time. I did sign on this time as Chief Mate, not like the time I signed on to the Sevan Louisiana as Second Mate and they made me Chief Mate anyway and then refused to pay me for it! I’m a little nervous since I haven’t sailed Chief Mate for quite a while snd never really on anything so complicated. I’m hoping everything will go well and I’m looking forward to a great learning experience. It would really build my confidence to get through this trip without any major issues.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to get online once I get to the ship. As Chief Mate I expect to be a lot more busy than I usually am as DPO. Will be spending more time on deck instead of stuck on the bridge for 12 hours a day. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wish me luck! 🙂

PS- I finally got the wi-fi to connect! 🙂

TPC: Crawl

I found a new photo challenge in my reader tonight. It’s hosted by Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo. This week the topic is ‘crawl‘.

I have a few that will fit the challenge…

I took this photo a while ago at Moody Gardens in Galveston. I used to have a membership and so went fairly often. I gave that up a couple of years ago when I got laid off….

I took this one at the Houston Zoo. They have a ‘bug house’ with a couple of dozen terrariums with different kinds of insects. I believe this one is called a ‘blue death feigning beetle’ which is native to Texas (though I haven’t seen any wild ones around here).

I took this one at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It’s a tarantula. Bigger than my hand (I’m estimating, I didn’t pick it up). I go there and to the zoo a lot when I get up to Houston. I have memberships to both so it doesn’t cost me anything. Both the museum and the zoo always have something new and interesting to see.

I went again last Friday night, hoping to spend a little while looking around the museum before the event I was going to (Biophilia). Sadly, they had the entire place blocked off so I just had to wait around, bored, for 45 minutes until they let us in to the exhibit. It was worth the wait.

The amazing creativity of the artist was incredible. The museum did a great job. They had a few tables set up where we could make our own art magnets, check out some of the insects they keep around downstairs, and talk to some of the docents. I got to pet the tarantula, it was silky soft. 🙂

They also had free food (pulled pork sliders, chips, pecan breaded chicken skewers and cookies). Drinks were available too.

There was a pretty decent crowd, the tables were full of people eating before or after looking through all the beautiful artwork. I loved the bright colors and fantastic designs. I never would’ve thought to make something so beautiful out of a bunch of bugs. Even tho when you look at almost anything in nature close enough you can find beauty.

They’re having another event at the museum tomorrow, but even if you can’t make it the exhibit will be on display for a while. Don’t think you have to go only if you can go with someone from the museum. It’s definitely worth going if you like anything to do with art, nature, design.

HMNS: Biophilia

I’m taking a break tomorrow. It’s not that I’ve been working (I wish that I was), but I’ve been busy catching up on all kinds of things around the house that I’ve been putting off for ages. It hasn’t been much fun, but I have slowly been getting a few things accomplished. Tomorrow I’m going to spend the day in Houston. First at the zoo and later at a members only event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Here’s how the museum describes the event…

Spend an evening with HMNS and artist Christopher Marley for a look into Biophilia: A Dialogue with Art, Nature, and Science. Enjoy themed crafts, lite bites and cash bar and then dive into Marley’s world of nature and art with this multimedia and sensory experience in this exclusive meet and greet only for members. Reservations required, limited space available.

I’m usually interested in science and art and this sounds very interesting to me. I googled Christopher Marley and I have to say, I really liked what I saw! He combines natural items like bugs, shells, rocks, with design to make gorgeous colorful images. I’m amazed at how he shows off the beauty in so many of the common things we see around us every day. Like these bugs, for instance.

Isn’t that just gorgeous? It’s just a bunch of beetles! If I had a bunch of extra cash and some spare room on my walls, I would definitely go on a shopping spree!

Tomorrow night is for members only but next Wednesday (Feb 13) at 1830, the museum will have a lecture and tour where the director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center Erin Mills will introduce you to these inspiring works of art and the amazing animals that comprise and showcase their beautiful, yet functional, features. After the presentation you can check out the special exhibition. There will be ‘special guests’ from the butterfly center and insect zoo too. 🙂

If you get your tickets before Feb 6, they’re $16, after that they’ll be $20 (members get $6 off).

If you’re anywhere around the Houston area and you’re interested in art, it’s probably worth taking a look. The museum is worth spending some time there anyway.


LAPC: Landscapes

I found another cool photography challenge in my WordPress reader. This one is by the Lens-Artists. They have a challenge every Saturday. The topic for this week is Landscapes.

I don’t usually take a whole lot of ‘landscape’ photos. If anything I take ‘seascapes’. I take more photos of ‘things’. Like animals, or plants, or flowers, or boats, or even people (tho I’m not real comfortable taking photos of people yet).

I recently took a long trip overseas. Part of it was a week long photo safari in Tanzania. The animals were amazing, but I have to admit I was equally impressed by the landscape. It was just so wide open. Miles and miles of nothing but the tall grass waving in the wind. Maybe a lone tree on the horizon. Or a herd of buffalo slowly making their way across a river.

I loved how everything seemed so wide open. There were so many miles of space with no sign of mankind (even tho of course we did see towns and villages full of people while passing through). The landscapes sometimes seemed empty, but if you looked harder there was always some sign of life. Maybe an ostrich popped up from under that lone tree. Or a lioness wandering by a herd of wildebeest, or a bird hiding in the grass or basking in a far off lake.

I don’t get to see so many wide open and interesting spaces around here. Even tho Texas probably has more of them than most. My neighborhood is on the wide coastal plains but full of homes and businesses (mostly chemical plants).

I do have some wildlife around my house: raccoons, opossums, owls, squirrels, bats, rats, etc. We even see an occasional coyote around the beach. Somehow it’s not the same. Compared to the African landscape, the one around here is pretty boring. 😉

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?

FOTD: Tulips

I’ve been busy traveling so haven’t been spending much time online. Last night I took a look at my WordPress Reader and saw this post from Cee. She always has these great challenges for all of us to get involved with and she has some fantastic photos on her blog.  

Today’s (Dec 8- yesterday) flower of the day is “tulips”. I haven’t seen any of them lately, but I was in La Conner, Washington in April for their annual Tulip Festival (actually I just missed it but the flowers were still blooming and I got some wonderful photos). 

Bangkok: Market Day

I’m always amazed any time I visit a foreign market. They’re just so interesting compared to shopping at home. You never know what you’ll come across. The variety of products on offer is incredible. Not to mention the whole experience of all the different sights, smells, and sounds. 

Bright red and gold decorations for luck and prosperity hang from overhead. Colorful orange, purple, red and green fruits with weird spikes, scales or bumps overflow into the passageways wafting their exotic sensuous scents into the air. Frangipani incense competes with the smoke of numerous bar-b-que grills cooking up fresh caught prawns or satay on a stick. Occasional motorbikes putter through the lanes, beeping along to clear the way. Blind karaoke singers toting their tape decks tap their way along, hoping for tips of appreciation from the crowds passing through. 

I always go to check out the nearby markets when I’m traveling. Last time I was in Bangkok, I went to Pratunam (mostly clothes) and Chatuchak (humongous ‘flea market’). Since I was staying in Chinatown this trip, I only had to cross the street to find myself wandering through winding lanes packed with stalls selling everything from teacups to electronics, wedding supplies, shoes, toys, hair and makeup supplies, Christmas decorations, jewelry, coffee, tea and snacks. 

Then there was the food. 

I have no idea what most of these edible items actually were. The vendors were happy to offer samples, but I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try many of their wares. It seems strange to me that they always have so many more varieties of things to eat than we do. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of fruits or vegetables in a store in the US. 

Maybe I’m being paranoid, a germaphobic American,  but I always wonder how they can sell their meats and seafood out in the open like they do all day. They don’t get sick, or at least I don’t think they have any more digestive issues than we do with all our sterile, plastic packed, refrigerated grocery meat departments. 

I suppose if I ever get around to moving out of the States like I keep trying to find a way to do, I’ll get used to the idea. I’ll probably even work up the nerve to try some of those more unusual things I’ve wrinkled up my nose at. Here’s to hoping that day comes soon! 🙂

Bangkok: Shanghai Mansion

Bangkok Thailand is an exciting city, I think Chinatown is one of the more interesting parts of town. I was looking for some rest and relaxation but also a place where I could just wander around and soak in the atmosphere. The Shanghai Mansion was perfect.

The taxi from the airport ($15 + $1 tip) dropped me at the hotel and the doorman immediately took my bags inside where they offered me a cold eucalyptus scented towel and welcome drink. They explained a few things about the hotel and showed me to my room. Very nice, even a free mini bar- with sodas, chips and beer!

It was a nice size with plenty of storage, lit by large stained glass windows and  paper lanterns. They even put a birdcage in the bathroom (with a fake bird). It got a little dim at night, some would say ‘atmospheric’ but I like a bright light to read by.

I went down for a late lunch and a beer. The menu offered many Chinese treats. Lots of seafood, including shark fin specialties (very popular in the area). I try to avoid seafood unless I have no other choice. After years of having nothing else to eat, I just don’t want any more of it. I had a BBQ pork sandwich with french fries.

They did a good job with the fries, so many places come out with cold, soggy french fries- yuk! These were thick, but still hot all the way through and nice and crispy. The BBQ sauce was good, not too spicy like so much of Thai food. The bun was hot, fresh and just a little bit sweet. Very nice. The beer went down perfectly with the BBQ. 🙂

After the long trip from Tanzania, I was ready for a nice long nap. It was only about 1600, but I was still so tired from the week of getting no more than 5 hours of sleep during the safari. I headed to bed and slept until 0930 the next morning.

They told me when I checked in that they offered 3 ‘complementaries’ for me during my 4 night stay. Free stuff! A 20 minute massage, high tea, and a Chinatown walking tour. I started with the ‘high tea’.

They offered a choice of jasmine or oolong tea, I chose the oolong. It was OK, but not nearly as strong as I expected. They brought a whole pot and I finished it off while working on the 3 layers of little plates they brought out to sample.

I’m not sure if there was supposed to be any sort of protocol, so I just tried everything in random order. The top plate had 3 types of fruit: pineapple, dragonfruit and cantaloupe. The middle one had 2 sticks of very hot spicy beef satay (I tried to pick off the pepper seeds, that did help some) with a little bowl of soy sauce and some green vegetables that tasted a little like celery flavored spinach.

The bottom plate was the most interesting. It held a small bun that looked just like an ordinary corn muffin. When you bit into it you found it filled with a sweet, golden yellow ‘yolk’. Kind-of messy to eat and a big surprise when you bit into it.

There was also a piece of shrimp spring roll (which I didn’t eat), some delicate rice noodles, and another ‘bun’ made of starchy outside and minced meat and veggie spiced stuffing inside. That one was full of interesting tastes and textures. 🙂

I enjoyed the experience of trying all those different foods. I usually live on satay in Thailand since so much of their food is so hot with different types of pepper. Chinatown was a good choice for me in that too.

After ‘tea’, I went walking again. I found a big Chinese temple and Wat Traimit just a couple of blocks down the street. All around the Shanghai Mansion little back streets led to shops, temples, homes and restaurants. People filled the streets selling everything you could imagine: food, drinks, socks, shirts, jewelry, Christmas decorations, good luck charms, lottery tickets, shoes, birds, flowers, and on and on and on.

I am trying to avoid shopping ’til the end of my trip since I don’t want to lug any more ‘stuff’ all over Asia, but it was interesting to look anyway. You could bargain and get a decent price on pretty much anything you wanted. The people weren’t too pushy either. If you just tell them “no”, you’re not interested a couple of times they leave you alone.

I did go on the hotel’s walking tour one morning. I probably should have done that the 1st morning, since I had already walked by myself to the markets and temples it covered. The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, but it was hard to hear her most of the time and tho she tried hard to explain things I missed a lot of it.

My last night in Bangkok, I took them up on the massage. I probably should have skipped it. I got a Thai massage in Phuket a few years ago. That little girl was rough! This one was only a head and neck massage, but it still left me sore and aching! Those Thai women have some strong hands! I know some people really enjoy a Thai massage, but I think I’ll skip them from now on. 😉

I didn’t even try the highly rated spa or Red Rose Restaurant at the hotel, they both looked beautiful and if I had more time I would be sure to check them out. Just hanging out in the sitting area near my room was really nice, the hotel had some amazing scent going for it- incense with jasmine, ylang-ylang, a tiny bit of cinnamon? I’m not sure what-all they had in it, but it smelled sooooo good!

Yes, I was happy staying at the Shanghai Mansion and almost hated to leave, but my next adventure in Hanoi was calling.