View From the Harbor

I’ve been here in Las Palmas (Canary Islands) since July 10. I’ve been working nights, from 7 pm to 7 am every day. I’ll be doing that until I go home. I’m scheduled to leave August 8th (early). 

It’s interesting watching what’s going on around the harbor. Yes, it’s really sad to see so many drill ships stacked up over here, but at least I can see they’re working on 3 of them. That’s a good sign. They must have work coming up or they wouldn’t be spending any money. It would be great to see them all leave soon.

My old ship the Discoverer India was docked right in front of us for a couple of weeks. I watched their dive boat working on their stern and the bunker operations over the last couple of days. They just left last night. 

Discoverer India

I never realized how busy this port was. Other than all the drill ships, I see quite a few LNG ships coming and going. There are a few ferries every day- they go to Tenerife and around the islands. You can even take a ferry all the way to Spain (in about 40 hours).

There’s a container terminal right across from me. I see the container ships working there almost every night. There’s a yacht harbor a little further across. There are hundreds of boats over there. The sailboats are fun to watch, especially when they want to get so close to the big ships passing by.

LNG ship in the harbor, Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Yes, sailboats do have the right of way over power driven vessels- but- common sense should prevail, best get out of the way of someone 100 times bigger than you are that takes a half mile to stop.

The weather has been overcast since I’ve been here. I’ve been told this is normal for this time of year. Not to expect much sunshine. It doesn’t rain. We’ve only had one night with just a drizzle, not even enough to really wet the decks, but it looks like it’s going to rain every day.

I can see the lights of the city climbing up the hills across the water. It makes me want to take a ride over and explore. I did get to go over one day last week. My cab driver told me that one guy actually did try to swim over once…

A “Scottish guy, off one of the drill ships” took a swim for the city, they had police boats and helicopters tracking him down. The company sent him home, no doubt the Spanish officials were in complete agreement on that. I bet whichever company that was does not allow shore leave any more. Sadly, most don’t no matter what. 😦

Harbor scene at night
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Songs of the Sea: On board a Man o War

Here’s something a little different. It’s a song about the British Navy’s battle of Trafalgar with France and Spain off the coast of Spain. I’ve been reading some of my Sea History magazines and they sometimes write about stuff like this.

I wonder how many Brits will know this song? Spaniards? Any readers out there heard this one before? I’m not that much into military history, but even I remember hearing about that battle, cool that they wrote a song about it. 😉

Farewell Shanty
On the twenty-first of October, before the rising sun
We formed a line for action, boys, at twelve o’clock begun.
Brave Nelson to his men did say “The Lord will prosper us this day.
Give them the broadside; fire away, on board a man-of-war.”

Chorus:
Let him die in Peace, God bless you all, On board a man-of-war.
Let him die in Peace, God bless you all, On board a man-of-war.

From broadside to broadside our cannonballs did fly.
Like hailstones, the small shot, around the deck did lie.
Our masts and rigging were shot away, besides some thousands on that day
Were killed and wounded in the fray, on board a man-of-war.
Chorus

May heaven reward Lord Nelson, likewise protect his men.
Nineteen sails of the combined fleet were sunk and taken in.
The Achille blew up amongst them all, which made the French for mercy call.
Nelson was slain by a musket ball, on board a man-of-war.
Chorus

There’s many a brave commander, with grief he shook his head
But yet their grief had no relief, for Nelson he lay dead.
It was a fatal musket ball that caused our hero for to fall.
He cried `Fight on. God bless you all’, on board a man of war.
Chorus

Let’s hope this glorious battle will surely bring a peace,
And that our trade in England may flourish and increase.
Our ships from port to port go free and turn the hearts of our enemy.
To Nelson’s death and victory, on board a man-of-war.
Chorus
Let him die in Peace.

Moving the Graveyard?

My ship is the one on the right

Since I made it to the ship last week, I’ve been watching the ship in front of us. They’ve had divers in the water and lots of activity going on. It happens to be the Discoverer India- the same ship I was on last Spring

She was getting ready for a job in Africa- Ivory Coast. I got to ride as far as Trinidad. It was a good hitch. She did that job and now is getting some upgrades before heading out to another job.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the rigs I see here. I can see at least 8 at the dock here. I know of at least 5 more that will be arriving here soon. That’s not counting another couple (at least) over at Tenerife.

While I was on the Ocean Evolution last hitch, steaming through the ‘graveyard’ just offshore Port Fourchon, I could only see 3 ships left. The year before there were at least 10, I think probably closer to 15. All of them fairly new, just sitting there, waiting and hoping for work. It was really sad to see. 

We’ve all been hoping that this would be the year when we could finally go back to work. From what I see here, that doesn’t look very likely. The price of oil is still not even up to $60/bbl. Today it was only $57 and change. There won’t be much work until it gets up over $60 and stays there for a while. 

I guess everyone but those of us working in the maritime industry are happy about those low prices, but I’m getting more and more stressed out. I don’t have many more years left to build up my retirement funds and my savings has already been demolished over the last 4+ years of not nearly enough work.

How much longer can this go on? 

Home and Gone

Sorry I haven’t been able to post for a while. I was actually at work (SO thankful to have gotten that last minute gig). The boat was pretty sweet. It was “brand new”. Christening was only a couple of weeks before I joined. This was her first job. 

A friend took this photo with his drone. This is Oceaneering’s new MSV Ocean Evolution

So we had a few things to learn (one of which was extremely limited internet access while offshore, out of telephone range).

We were offshore for about 2 weeks. Did a quick job for one of the oil majors. The actual thing we were there to do (pumping some chemicals down the well) only took a few hours. The preparations took a few days. We had to put all kinds of equipment onboard, secure it properly (welded down), test it, etc. The voyage to the work site took 48 hours (with a test for the ROVs on the way) and 36 hours to get back to Port Fourchon.

We were supposed to crew change July 3, I was looking forward to seeing the fireworks and party with friends on the 4th. But we didn’t get in til early morning on the 5th. I got home late that afternoon and so tired I was falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from the airport.

I woke up Saturday, had my morning cup of tea, sorted through the huge pile of mail and took a look for anything important in my email, turned on my phone (it doesn’t work offshore, so I just turn it off). I got some bad, sad news from a friend.

My best and oldest friend had passed away while I was gone. She had basically adopted me when I first moved to Texas, barely 17 and all alone. We had a hell of a lot of good times over all those years. I spent the day Sunday with her/my family. I’m glad I was able to be home for that.

Now I’m on the way back to work. I left yesterday. I’m glad it’ll keep me from dwelling on all that. I’ll be busy and distracted for at least a month. 

Celebrate


I’m so happy! I finally got a call to go to work! Yeah!

I was thinking a lot about my situation. I hate being broke. I really don’t like being constantly on call either. I feel like I can’t really do anything. I certainly can’t plan anything more than a day or two in advance.

I have only had 5 weeks of work since the end of October. I had planned to go to the Rigzone job fair in Houston today and meet a friend for lunch afterwards. I had to blow off that and everything else and just get ready to go to work. Pack, clean out the fridge, get rid of garbage, drop off library books, get all the bills in the mail, make important phone calls, etc. This job is only for 2 weeks, but thank goodness, it should pay my bills next month.

I heard from a friend late last week that they needed a relief on his boat, so I called about it yesterday. They called me this afternoon and asked if I was available. Hell yes! I’ve been available for months!

I can’t get this song out of my head now. 🙂

Lone Star Pirate Festival

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Oh Boy, I wish I was going to be home for this! Amazingly, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it. The Lone Star Pirate Festival. Wow. Right here in Houston, how lucky we are. 😉

It looks like so much fun. You get to dress up like pirates, drink lots of pirate beverages, listen to maritime/pirate music (the Bilge Pumps, Blaggards, etc), and go around saying ‘arrrrgghh’. And everybody around actually ‘gets it’. 😉

They’ll also have food trucks and vendors and according to their Facebook page, a real life mermaid. 😉 It’s also inside so you don’t have to worry about the weather. I’d love to go!

I can’t wish too hard though, since I am supposed to be working during that time period. It’s scheduled for July 20th and I should be shipboard by then (it’s not a pirate ship 😉 ).

I was thinking about it this afternoon and until this job I will have only worked 5 weeks out of 36! I can’t hope for anything else other than that I actually get to go do that job! So many have been cancelled this year at the last minute.

Maybe they’ll have another one of these festivals that I can go to. I hope so. I hope they come back to Houston. I don’t like driving all the way up there, but it’s not too far for something like this. If anybody get’s to go, I hope you’ll let us know how it went.

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SNL: Air Traffic Control

I don’t watch TV much anymore (and get increasingly upset about paying over $140/month for cable), but one of the very few things I’ll turn the TV on for is Saturday Night Live. 

I used to watch it every Saturday night when I was growing up and loved the old cast: Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray and all the rest. I don’t think the show is anywhere near as good as it used to be, but they still come up with some great stuff.

Enough worth watching, there’s usually at least one great sketch every show. I saw this one a week or so ago and it just cracked me up. I still laugh every time I see it. James McAvoy is fantastic with his Scottish accent and the situation is so goofy.

Actually, it resonates with me since ships also sometimes need to deal with traffic control. Sometimes we have to pass through “traffic separation schemes“, especially where there is a lot of ship traffic. They help keep some order and make it easier for us to follow the ‘Rules of the Road” (COLREGS). 

English is the international language of the sea (as well as the air), and like in the SNL skit sometimes it’s almost impossible to understand what people are trying to say over the radio. I’m sure at least some accidents are caused by mis-communication. It’s hard enough to understand people when you do speak the same language. 

Songs of the Sea: Smooth Sailing

Since it looks like I won’t be going to work any time soon, I’ve been looking at the travel posts in my email more closely. I get dozens of them every day. I usually just delete them because I’ve been on call for work for so long. I can’t make any kind of plans for more than a week or two in advance. 

Since I got back from my last (only one week long) job, I’ve been calling everyone for the last 3 weeks. No one has anything in the works. So, I thought I shouldn’t waste my time here at home, doing nothing, with no prospects of work. I could go to Mexico and get my paperwork started. I’ve been trying to move out of the US for years and finally got a temporary residency visa for Mexico. 🙂

I’ve been considering moving to Mazatlan, but it seems no one has direct flights anymore. That means I will have to change my plans. Mazatlan will have to wait. As long as I am still even trying to work, I will need to be close to an airport with direct flights to Houston.

I am still trying to move to Mexico, now I just need to figure out where. Puerto Vallarta? Cabo San Lucas? Guadalajara? or San Miguel de Allende? Anybody have any other suggestions?

In the meantime, those travel ads are making me even more anxious to get out of here! This song by Dennis “Menace” Roberts reminds me of the good times down in the islands. I love the music and the video is fun. Nice that they’re using real people in it instead of models too. 🙂 

I wish I could get back down there. Now, or some time soon I hope! 🙂 

Share Your World- May 2019

I haven’t been keeping up with blogging as much as I’d like lately. Part of the reason is I got some work last week and had very little internet access. The other reason is that it takes so much time to do a post justice (especially since they came out with the new WordPress style) and I just haven’t been able to get motivated.

I’ve been home for a few days now. My last job was cut from 3 weeks down to just one week. I’ve been able to rest up and now have the time to check into the blogging world again. First up in my reader was this post from Melanie and her sparksfromacombustiblemind blog.

Is it better to suspect something (bad or hurtful) and not know or to have your worst fears confirmed by sure knowledge? I would rather know for sure. I figure that way I can at least try to do something about the situation. Then again, there are so many things I just can’t do anything about. All the things going on in this country (and the world) make me sick! If I think about it, it makes me miserable. Sad, frustrated, angry, depressed, mean and just miserable. Sometimes I think it would be better to live in ignorance. I’m sure I would be much happier to not know all the things I do know. 😦

What makes you laugh aloud? Crack up? Laugh until your sides split? When was the last time you had a great big belly laugh? Watching a funny movie, like something from the 3 Stooges or the Marx Brothers or Mel Brooks.

Here’s a screen shot of what gave me the last big belly laugh…

“Boat hack #117 – Form two Little Debbie brownies into a shit shape. Wipe toilet paper across it so the crime scene looks legit. Strategically place in head and sit back and watch your crew blame each other and argue over who cleans it up. Film and post if possible”

I saw that yesterday in a Facebook page I follow- Offshore Supply Boats & Crew Boats. Maybe you have to have some experience working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico to get it, but I cracked up laughing. 🙂

Maybe I’m just weird, and still have a juvenile sense of humor, but I really enjoy a good shit-fart-sex joke. The more stupid and disgusting, the better. 😉

Do you suppose Noah had woodpeckers in the ark? If he did, where did he keep them? Apologies to the Darwinians in the crowd…this is merely for fun, okay? Great question! I am a “Darwinist”, but have thought about stuff like this many times. One of the reasons I’m a “Darwinist” and not a follower of the Bible. If that story is true, he must’ve had some woodpeckers in there- all kinds of woodpeckers. Some of those guys can really do a lot of damage. I imagine they would’ve put a real hurtin’ on that old ark by the time the floods settled down. Maybe Noah fashioned a special metal lined cabin for them all?

Why is “Charlie” short for “Charles when they are the same number of letters? Another good question! Why is Billie short for Bill (or William)?

What happened in your world this past week that made you feel thankful, joyful or grateful? I am so thankful I got even that short week’s worth of work! It gives me at least a couple of weeks breathing time before I start really worrying about paying the bills again!

Flights- Finally!

I’ve been expecting to join this ship since I agreed to take the job in late March. I was originally supposed to start on April 4th for 3 weeks. A week later it got cut to 10 days and a week later to nothing.

A week after that, they called again and asked me to come out for 3 weeks again. I agreed since nobody else had anything at that point. A few days later it was cut to only one week. In the meantime I turned down 4-5 good jobs (all of them for a month or more) only because I had already obligated myself to take this particular job.

Well, I finally got my plane ticket so I am hoping they won’t cancel me at this point. I’m at the airport and should be on the plane already, but it’s been delayed. Only an hour and a half late at this point (I hope). The screen above my head is giving conflicting information. One minute it saying the plane will be departing at 8:00, the next it is saying it will arrive at 9:10 PM.

I wouldn’t really care so much if I didn’t have to be on the bus at 3:00 in the morning! And then a helicopter at some time after daylight (6:11 AM). I really hate going to work and starting my first day already up for more than 24 hours. And then more usual than not, having to go straight to work for at least 12 more hours. 😦

At this point, I’m so thankful to have the work. Even with all the BS involved.

I keep hearing in the news how our unemployment levels are so low. How we have the best numbers we’ve seen in 50 years. How companies can’t find workers. Is the maritime sector the only one that’s still hurting?

How can those numbers reflect any sort of reality when there are still hundreds of boats stacked all over the bayous, dozens of drillships stacked all over the world? And all over the world, the crews of all those vessels have been out of work for 4-5 years now and are fighting each other for the chance to earn the lowest wages ever!

Please, let me have just one more year of steady work! Let me pay off my bills so I can leave off all this constant stress and BS involved with the merchant marine these days. It used to be such a great life. How did we let it come to this?

Nothing to Say

In accordance with the idea of ‘if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it’, I haven’t been saying anything here. I’ve been sharing a few interesting posts on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s about it.

I’ve been at home since I got back from the DS-6 March 19. I’ve been home almost 6 weeks already. I accepted a job right after I got home that was supposed to start Apr 4 ending Apr 25. The start date got changed to Apr 11, then to Apr 16, then cancelled altogether. It looks like the promised upturn in the industry is still a long ways off. 😦

Because I had accepted that job (and was on call to go offshore from the time I said OK), I turned down 2 other ones that would’ve conflicted with it.

I’m supposed to go out now starting May 8 and just hope to hell they don’t do the same thing again! I’ve already turned down 2 very good (better) jobs because of it.

With all the uncertainty (and major stress) I haven’t been doing much of interest: cleaning house, laundry, pulling weeds, working on taxes, doctor appointment, dentist appointment, look for work (including 2 job fairs), traffic court (fighting parking ticket I got while unloading my paintings at the art gallery- I lost), etc. So, nothing worth blogging about. 😦

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

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

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: Crawling Creatures of the Sea

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

I already posted once with a couple of photos of insects. I found a couple more of some sea life. Here goes…

I took all of these at the aquarium. This first one is a close up of a sea urchin (from underneath it). It was crawling slowly up the side of the tank when I got this shot.

This is a beautiful blue starfish, I wish my photo could show the true blue color, it’s really much brighter.

This little hermit crab was crawling around its tank for a while, he finally stopped and stared at me through the glass. I remember growing up on the beach in Florida when we used to see these guys all the time. I don’t see them here in Texas. I wonder why not?

Sunday Stills: Fire at MC 252

This post is for Terri’s Sunday Stills. This week the topic is “fire”. I don’t have many photos of fire. It’s not something I see very often (and not hoping to see more of). I’ve tried to take photos of campfires and they turned out as just one giant glob of white against a pitch black background.

I have been trained in fire-fighting. So I have fought quite a few fires during that training. I’ve taken the basic fire-fighting course at least a dozen times since my first in 1978. I’ve taken the advanced class a couple of times too. The US Coast Guard recently decided we have to take both of these courses a minimum of every 5 years (another painful expense due to STCW). Now, I teach it sometimes. It’s very rare that I can get a photo during the classes.

that’s me- 2nd from the left, back row

I was still working full time during and after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Luckily I was working as second mate/SDPO onboard the Helix Producer 1 (HP-1). I say luckily because President Obama declared a ‘moratorium’ which forced hundreds of boats into lay up and thousands of people to lose their jobs.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster was the worst oil spill in the US Gulf of Mexico (but not even in the top ten worldwide). 😦

for some it’s just another day in the oilfield- check out the guy getting his exercise walking the helideck!

I have read some of the investigations results, watched the movie, read a couple of good books, and I have my own ideas about what caused it. President Obama and his moratorium tried to come up with some ideas to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. Although they did come up with some ideas and some changes have been made, I don’t think they’ve actually done much to get to the root of the problem (and Trump’s revisions won’t make much difference either).

I was Senior DPO on the HP-1 throughout the major response to the Macondo incident. That means I was in charge of the bridge and my job was to keep the ship stable and on position. The HP-1 was brought out to try and capture the oil that was spewing out of the blown out piping at the bottom of the ocean, about 5000 ft down.

HP-1 from the air

The HP-1 is a specialized type of ship. She’s a Floating Production Unit (FPU). Ordinarily she sits on top of the designated location, stabilized by the use of a dynamic positioning (DP) system. She’ll be attached to a series of marine risers (floating hoses). Those risers are flowing raw product (crude oil) from various production platforms in the area. The risers come aboard the HP-1 through a specialized buoy. As the product comes onboard, it is diverted through the ships systems to separate the oil from the water and other contaminants and then sent back through the buoy to facilities ashore to further refine the product.

We succeeded in connecting up to the well. We were only a small part of a massive response to the disaster. There were entire fleets of boats out there working to contain and clean up the mess. It looked like a major city all lit up at night. It was pretty hairy sometimes trying to maintain position so close to all those other vessels, especially when the weather kicked up. The SIMOPS and the people involved were incredible!

a few of the vessels responding to the blow out

We sat there for weeks, bringing what we could of the flowing oil up to our onboard facility. There was another similar vessel stationed on the far side of the drillship Discoverer Enterprise (which was stationed directly over the well). On the HP-1, we took what we could, we separated the gas from the fluid and flared (burned) the gas.

#flaring the gas off the stern of the #HP-1

We did not have a whole lot of storage capacity on our ship (a FPSU- floating production and storage unit) would have much more. Instead of storing it ourselves, we passed it on to a tanker. The shuttle tanker Loch Rannoch sent their hose over to us with the help of a couple of smaller boats. We would connect it up and pump over the oil and they would bring it in to shore for processing. They would go back and forth every couple of days as long as we were there.

Loch Rannoch getting ready to send over her transfer hose with the Seacor Rigorous

After they finally got the well capped and the oil stopped flowing, we were released, along with most of the other vessels that were still out there. We had to go to a shipyard (in Tampa) where we could get hauled out of the water for cleaning. We had been coated with oil all over our hull from the spill. Once we were all cleaned up, we went back to our buoy. As far as I know, the HP-1 has not had to leave it again since. I wish now I hadn’t quit that job!

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!