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). 

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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.

Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

Versailles

The weather cleared up so I took a ride out to Versailles. It was about 40 minutes on the train/metro from my hotel (Les Halles/Chatelet). Exiting the station, the palace was only about a 5 minute walk. Once you got there, the line took about an hour to get inside (there’s no advantage to the museum pass since the line is for security- they have security everywhere).

I picked up a free audio guide which was very helpful since there were very few labels in English and I didn’t hire a guide or take a tour. It was very crowded, I hate to imagine what it would be like during the season, or even on a really nice day. Even so, the palace was very much worth it. It was humongous! Full of huge rooms full of enormous paintings, long halls full of statues, and outside were beautiful formal gardens and acres on acres of lakes, ponds and forests.

I’m sure I didn’t see everything there, I don’t like crowds and they were getting to me so I hurried through some of the rooms and skipped listening to the audio guide in those. After a while it got to be pretty repetitive anyway. I mean how many big rooms full of old paintings can you look at before you get bored with it all? No matter how gorgeous and impressive they are at first?

Of course, I did see the famous “Hall of Mirrors”.

I escaped to the gardens. It was nice and cool. The sun was out for a while but it turned overcast again later in the afternoon. The terrace was still pretty crowded with tourists from all over the world taking selfies. I took a walk down the steps towards the lake and a snack.

The map showed a snack bar in each of the small forests near the terrace, but the first one I tried was closed. I headed back out to the one on the other side. They had nothing left but hot dogs and baguettes with cheese and tomato (I hate tomatoes). I had the baguette and picked off the tomatoes. There was hardly any cheese on it but the bread was good. Maybe I should’ve got the hot dog, they seem to be really popular here. I’m just trying to try more French food in France and hot dogs are American to me. Maybe they’re different here?

Wandering around the gardens was a nice change from the Paris cityscape, especially once I got further away from the main palace and the crowds there. I walked over to the smaller Trianon area. It was a pretty walk through the forests with the trees all changing to their fall colors.

The smaller house/palace had a few rooms full of furniture to look at. One of which was “Napoleon’s favorite study”. There was a restaurant next to the old guardhouse and you could go through to more gardens. I’m sure they must be more showy in the Spring when the flowers are blooming, but they were still beautiful and serene with the leaves changing on the trees and the streams and lakes with ducks and swans to watch.

And here, finally, I saw the rats. My god, they were huge!

This shot was taken from about 1000 ft away, they must be at least a foot long (not counting tails), maybe even 2 ft? I didn’t want to get any closer, but one guy was over there trying to sneak up on them to get photos. I love taking photos of pretty much anything and everything, but I’ll skip these guys. No thanks!

 

Paris: 3 Great Museums

I spent Wednesday museum hopping. I bought a 4 day museum pass on arrival and wanted to get good use out of it, so I decided to go to 3 of the most popular museums my first full day in Paris.

I took the metro to the Concord station and walked through the Tuileries gardens to the  Orangeries. This museum is really all about Monet, although there are other artists represented there (Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and more). The main focus is on 2 large oval rooms where Monet’s huge water lily paintings are displayed. Even with the crowds, you could still enjoy being surrounded by those beautiful paintings.

From there, I walked across the bridge to the Musee d’Orsay. It used to be a train station and you can tell if you think about it. It’s huge, filled with paintings, sculpture, and other art objects dating from mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. It has the largest collection of impressionist and post impressionist art in the world. It’s right on the river and easy to find. I spent almost 4 hours there and could probably have stayed longer but they were closing (at 1800).

I really loved the art deco. They had entire rooms full of art deco style furniture. One even had its wall paneling done in that style. The huge open space was really nice for showing off the dozens of large sculptures, even including Rodin’s famous Gates of Hell.

The space itself was impressive. It has 6 floors, but there’s nothing on the 6th floor but toilets. The 5th floor has a restaurant where you can eat lunch while looking out through the clock facing the river (there’s another restaurant on the 2nd floor). Most of the art is on the first and second floor.

When they chased me out of there, I headed down the river to the Louvre. It’s open til 2200 on Wednesday’s so I still had a few hours left to check it out. It’s huge! It’s the largest art museum in the world. I figure there’s no way I could see everything there even if I spent days, so I’d just hit the highlights and call it good. It’s filled with all kinds of art dating back from the earliest times to the 21st century (tho I didn’t see any modern art).

I wandered around, enjoying the fantastic collection of art, taking a closer look at anything that caught my eye. It was pretty crowded in the more popular sections, around the ‘must see” pieces of art: the Mona Lisa, the Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory), the Apollo Gallery where the ceiling is covered with paintings and carvings.

Of course I did not have time to see everything. I only saw a few of the galleries in the Denon Wing: Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities and paintings from France, Spain and Italy. The Sully Wing: Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities and European decorative arts.

They also had an exhibit on how the museum came to be. It was created out of the former  Louvre Palace, originally built under Phillip II as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th-13th century. You could go downstairs and walk around the original tower of the castle and see some of the foundation walls still standing.

I would like to go back someday and explore some more, but I think 3 museums in one day is enough for me!

 

Paris!

I made it to Paris! I’ve never been here before. It’s been on my bucket list for a while and I’m so excited that I finally got a chance to come and explore. 🙂

I left home Monday morning at 0800 and after a 4 hour layover in Toronto, arrived in Paris around 1000 on Tuesday (local time).

It took me a little bit of time to do a couple of things at the airport. I found the tourist information booth and bought a museum pass (4 days) and I bought a “Navigo” Pass from the transport desk downstairs (its good for unlimited travel within Paris for a week Sun-Sun). After that I was ready to take the train into town and find my hotel.

It was super easy. It only took about 40 minutes, I didn’t even have to change trains. The train was pretty empty, it was clean and there was even a guy playing dixieland jazz on his clarinet for most of the way. There wasn’t much to see going this way tho.

My hotel was right around the corner from the train/metro station. I found it after only a few minutes of going the wrong way around the block. They weren’t ready to check me in yet, told me to come back in an hour, so I left my luggage there and went for a walk.

My hotel is in Les Halles and it’s only a few minutes walk from Notre Dame. I was still pretty tired from the long flight and wasn’t ready to deal with the crowds there so I left it for another day and kept walking. The area on the Left Bank around Blvd Saint Michael is called the Latin Quarter. It’s full of winding, stone paved, medieval looking lanes with interesting little shops and delicious smelling restaurants and bakeries.

 

I found another interesting old church just over the bridge, just around the corner from the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Saint Severin Catholic Church is one of the oldest churches still standing in Paris and amazing inside. It has gorgeous stained glass windows all around, tall gothic arches hold up the roof over the central isle. The outside aisles are filled with alcoves that each have stained glass windows. Some have statues, carvings, religious paintings, etc.

 

There’s a nice little garden/park behind it, with great views of Notre Dame across the Seine. There are signs on the gates, something about rats (wish I could read French). I didn’t see any, but it was about noon when I was wandering through. Maybe they only come out at night?

I crossed back over the bridge onto Rue Sebastopol and took a look at the Tour St Jacques. Interesting history there. It used to have a church, but they tore it down and only left the bell tower. There were more signs about rats on the gates (I didn’t see any).

On the way back to my hotel (the Hotel Agora), I stopped in and looked at a couple more beautiful old churches. There are so many around and they’re all just gorgeous!

Paris-3

I was starting to fall asleep on my feet, so headed back to the hotel to get checked in and get some rest. I fell asleep by around 2000. In the morning I felt so much better and ready for a long day of museum hopping. 🙂

Paris-7

CFFC: Things People Drive (or pilot- or captain- or sail)

I might be a little late for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, but I’m jumping in anyway. I just got in from work (offshore) where I have minimal internet access and I’m ready to catch up. Here are a few photos of ‘things people drive” on the water…

drill ship

PS- the last one is of me ‘driving’ one of the drill ships. I think it was the Ocean Rig Poseidon. I don’t get to do as much actual ‘driving’ as I used to since I’ve been working more as a DPO than anything else. Dynamic positioning takes all the fun out of ‘driving’ a boat. 😉

CFFC: Things We Grow

The theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is: things people grow. Here’s my entry…

Fresh fruits…

Vegetables…

And fields of flowers…

Which Way Challenge: Ferry

Here’s a challenge from sonofabeach96. He’s taken over the Which Way Challenge and has been doing great so far. It’s always cool to see what everyone comes up with on these challenges. So here’s my entry…

I took these photos of the ferry boat on a trip up to Washington State (they have a great statewide system of ferries that really helps you get around). I had gone up there for a writing workshop with Roy Stevenson. After the workshop, I decided to do a little traveling around Washington.

I drove up from Seattle to La Conner for the tulips, stopped to take a quick look at my old stomping grounds in Anacortes, drove over Deception Pass and then took this ferry over to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.

 

It was a gorgeous ride on the ferry and then driving on through the forests and around the mountains on the  Olympic Peninsula. I was only a little disappointed that the snow was still so deep up at Hurricane Ridge and I couldn’t go hiking up there.

The beaches along the Pacific Coast were stunning. I wish I had more time to spend exploring. I love hiking around the forests, mountains, and beaches- especially when the weather is as temperate as it is up there. I really enjoyed finding so many beautiful places to walk around and then cool little towns with mom and pop shops. I found some fantastic restaurants with food I normally wouldn’t eat (absolutely delicious fried Brussel sprouts at Seeds). I loved seeing all the interesting art. I even bought some to bring home.

 

 

RDP: Truck

I found a new challenge through my WordPress Reader (and Cee). It’s called the Ragtag Daily Prompt (RDP). I’ll give it a try. Here’s mine for today on truck

I’ve always liked trucks. I’ve had one of my own for years. I drove a 1973 El Camino until I overheated the engine and froze up the block. I loved that old car! Sometimes I felt like Fred Flintstone since the floor was rusted out so bad. The bed was just about useless for hauling anything because of the huge holes rusted through the metal. It leaked so bad when it rained, even hitchhikers didn’t want to ride with me. 😉

When I couldn’t justify buying a new engine, I got a 1983 El Camino. I kept it for a few years until I got tired of having to fix one thing or another every time I got in from the ship and bought my first ever brand new car (truck). A 1997 Ford F-150.

I’m still driving that one. It’s already a ‘classic’ at 21 years old. I’ve been trying to baby it as much as possible but she’s definitely starting to show her age. After buying this one new and seeing just how much of a rip-off a new car is, I will never buy another new car again in my life! I need to make this one last until I don’t need a car anymore. Practically speaking, that means until I can get my ass out of Texas!

I need to move somewhere I don’t need a car! Right now, Mexico is looking pretty good to me. 🙂

Sunday Stills: How Do You Commute?

Thanks to Terri and her Second Winds Leisure blog for continuing to run the Sunday Stills challenge. Here’s what she says about this weeks challenge

Transportation is the theme for this week’s Sunday Stills challenge. “Commute” can also work, pun intended, which means to travel some distance regularly between one’s home and one’s place of work, school or vocation. Or, by definition, to travel as a commuter.

OK. So here goes.

My ‘normal’ job, my profession, is: merchant mariner. I am a US Coast Guard licensed Master Mariner and also a certified Dynamic Positioning Operator (DPO). So I spend most of my time working on ships. Since the last downturn in the price of oil (2014) has decimated the amount of work out there, I’ve had to try my hand at anything else I could find. I’ve been working as a role-player during maritime emergency training, teaching maritime courses, writing, and painting. Since then, my commute has been ordinary- just driving. It’s much more interesting when I’m sailing.

 

 

 

Since I live in a smallish town on the coast of Texas, my commute almost always involves first driving to an airport (or port) in Houston. Almost all of the offshore work in the Gulf of Mexico is concentrated out of Port Fourchon, LA now a days. So, I fly into New Orleans, meet up with other crew members for a ride down to Fourchon. From there we will either ride a crew boat or helicopter out to the vessel we’ll be working on for the next 3-4 weeks.

If I’m sailing “deep sea”, I’ll drive up to the dock where I’ll meet my ship (usually) in Houston. I’ll stay onboard for 2-3 months. They’ll fly me back to the airport in Houston. I’ll take a cab back to wherever I left my car when I joined the ship.

USNS Mendonca in Corpus Christi

If you want to join the challenge and see what everyone else has done, click here.

Which Way Challenge

Thanks to Son of a Beach for continuing to run the Which Way Photo Challenge when Cee  let it go. These things are always interesting to see what everyone comes up with and fun to join in.

So here’s my entry to this week’s challenge…

Night shot of a bridge crossing the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey. I was on a dinner cruise, was hoping to go under that bridge but we turned around to go back to the dock a couple of miles from it.

This one is of the Galeta Bridge in Istanbul. I walked across it one day. Went to Asia on the bottom level, where all the restaurants are. Walked back over to Europe on the top level with all the fishermen.

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CFFC: Pastel Colors

Join in on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. This week’s theme is: pastel colors. Here’s my entry…

I took this photo while out sailing with friends off Puerto Vallarta a couple of years ago. It has some beautiful pastel colors. I was taking the TEFL course and this was one of the perks. I still haven’t gone to teach English, but I have done some teaching of maritime subjects and getting more comfortable in front of a classroom. 🙂

Flower of the Day- Pink Geranium

Here’s my entry to another challenge from Cee. It’s for the Flower of the Day series. I took this at Moody Gardens a while ago. I couldn’t get the lighting right, but I like how it turned out anyway. 🙂

Check out what all the other flowery posts over at Cee’s blog.

Lime & Light Green

I haven’t been able to get online much lately, so I haven’t been keeping up with any of the bloggers I usually do. Cee always has some really great challenges going on. This week she’s asking us to come up with photos (or whatever) to fit “lime or light green“.

Here are mine…

 

 

Check out some of the other entries over at Cee’s Photography Blog.

Writers Block

Or just plain old laziness?

I have to say, it’s a little of both.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. That’s never been a problem for me. It’s if I have anything I think will be interesting to say (to you- my readers).

Since my last post, I went back out to sea on the same ship. It was still quite chaotic on there and I didn’t have much time or internet access. I was wiped out at the end of the day and just not up to trying to get online.

I was out for 2 weeks (working nights), home for a week and then out for another 2 weeks (on a different ship- back to working nights). While I was home, I was busy with trying to catch up on the usual: mail, bills, car, paperwork, housework, yard work, etc. I also had to take a physical for the job I was up for. I wasn’t positive I would get that job, so I signed up to work at Maersk again as a role player.

Turns out I did get the job, so I had to leave Maersk after only 2 days. I went straight to the airport from work the second day. Flew over to New Orleans and joined the ship the next day.

I was supposed to spend 3 weeks onboard. We finished the job early. The client was in a huge rush to sign off on completion. We wound up back at the anchorage (otherwise known as the “drillship graveyard”) off SW Pass a week earlier than expected.

Once the ship was anchored, they didn’t need 2 officers on the bridge anymore. They sent me home a week early. I think things may finally be improving a little bit offshore. I’ve had more work since April than I’ve had (total) for the last 3 years. It’s nowhere near normal tho.

They’ve cut costs everywhere possible. Small crew sizes are unsustainable, but the clients (oil companies) are pushing everything to the limits. I hate to think about the problems they are bringing on themselves by being so short sighted. As usual, I’m sure it will take a major accident before they consider doing what they should’ve been doing all along.

I’ve been home a few days now. I’m still trying to recover from switching my schedule back and forth from nights to days again. I need to just spend a couple of days sleeping in, not doing anything else!

I haven’t been able to do that yet. I still have too many things on my “to do” list. 😉

PS- check my Instagram feed for a few photos. I’ll try to get a few more up here in the next few days.

A Photo A Week Challenge: Crowd

I found a new photography challenge tonight (thanks to Cee for leading me to it). Nancy Merrill’s Photography blog is running the Photo a Week challenge. This week the challenge is to come up with a post using ‘crowd‘.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each week, I’ll come up with a theme and post a photo that I think fits. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Thursday, when the next photo theme will be announced.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “A Photo a Week Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.
  3. Come back here and post a link to your image in the comments for this challenge.
  4. Follow nancy merrill photography so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements.

OK. So here goes…

A ‘dazzle’ of zebras. I was very lucky to travel to Tanzania on a photography safari last year. The scenery, the amazing animals and the beautiful people we met made the trip unforgettable.

I wish I could go back. I’m doing what I can to save up for another trip to Africa. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go, but hoping by the end of the year.

Have you ever been to Africa? On a safari?

Thursday Treat- Turtles!

I had a real treat yesterday! I got to go to NOAAs research facility in Galveston and learn all about what they’re doing with the sea turtles there.

I only found out about this whole thing last week. I happened to Google ‘things to do in Galveston” and one of the things listed was a sea turtle tour. I had known about the turtles in the back of my mind, since I’ve known about the turtle patrol and the efforts to protect the turtles along our beaches.

When I heard of this tour, I thought it would be interesting, so I called and signed up.

They only have the tours on Thursdays, and you have to make an appointment beforehand. It’s free. 🙂

Apparently I got there a little late (tho not by my watch). The room was full and they were already discussing all sorts of things about the program. Tip: Arrive early!

The tours are put on by volunteers. Thursday’s presentation was led by the team of John and Lynn Wright- “master naturalists”. They did a great job of explaining the situation with sea turtles today and what NOAA is doing with them in Galveston.

They started with a slide show explaining the facts that there are 7 total species of sea turtles and 5 of them can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Those include (from smallest to largest): Kemp’s ridley, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green and Leatherback.

They showed us how to tell what kind of turtle we see (if they have 4 ‘scutes’ they’re either green or hawksbill, if they have 5 they’re either Kemp’s ridley or loggerhead- leatherback doesn’t have any).

They described turtle life cycles and what kind of food they liked to eat. They showed some amazing movies of the arribada from the late 1950’s. Thousands of female sea turtles arriving on the Texas beaches.

Then they showed a slide telling the sad story of their decline since we’ve become more ‘advanced’. Decimating all 7 of the turtle species, by eating their eggs, catching them in nets while fishing for other species, killing them with our pollution (especially plastic), destroying their habitat…

They also mentioned a few things we can do to help protect the turtles. Mainly- reduce your use of resources, especially plastic. Dispose of trash properly. Reuse and recycle. Help clean up the beaches and waterways. Take care with your fishing gear. If you see a sea turtle, its tracks or nest on the beach call 1-866-TURTLE-5 

I learned yesterday that the Kemp’s ridley has been designated the official state sea turtle of Texas. The Wrights informed us that in 1985 there were 400 nests after a large drop in numbers, in 2017 there were 353. They found 3 right here in Surfside (and 1 on Quintana)! They said there’s been some recovery. I hope so.

After the slide show, the Wrights led us over to the turtle barn where we could see all the little turtles. First, we got a chance to see how a TED (turtle excluder device) works. The kids were happy to run through the net and escape- acting as surrogate sea turtles. 😉

NOAA has kind of a conflict of interest here. They are supposed to help the fishermen, and they are supposed to help the sea turtles. They are doing a lot of studies to try and come up with answers to solve many issues surrounding our ocean resources.

One of those studies is to do with testing TEDs. The objective is to find a way to increase the survival rates of any sea turtles (and other by catch) that get caught up in a shrimp boats net. The turtles in the turtle barn are all about 1.5 years old. They’re raised in Galveston til they get to be about 2. Then they are sent over to Florida for the tests.

They’re placed in larger tanks and allowed a few weeks/months to acclimatize themselves. Then they’re taken out to sea and working with a team of shrimpers, divers, and scientists the turtles are run through the nets, out the TEDs and collected again afterwards. After the turtle finishes its run through the TED, it’s released to the wild. The scientists will use the data to refine the TEDs and other fishing gear.

The barn was full of turtles (hawksbills), at least a few dozen, all about 1-2 ft long. They swam around in small plastic containers set inside larger tanks of filtered seawater. We were warned not to touch the turtles or put our hands in the water (it’s a ‘federal offense’). If something fell in the water, they would have to drain the whole tank and replace the water due to concerns about contamination. 😦

I felt kind of sad for all those little turtles, swimming around in their tiny little tanks, but they told us that if they were all allowed to swim together they would fight and/or eat each other. They said the turtles didn’t notice or care that they were stuck in such small containers, they would circle around forever and never know the difference. I suppose, but I still felt bad for them. 😦

I also wondered why they weren’t raising more turtles- in a breeding program. Like they did with the whooping cranes down in Port Aransas. I’d hate to see the turtles go extinct. With only 353 nests (of Kemp’s ridleys) on the Texas beaches last year it wouldn’t take much to wipe them out. I asked John about it. He said in Texas the focus was on finding nests and moving them to Padre Island which was safer for them and where they’d be released to return later. There were other programs around the world that raised the turtles for a higher survival rate on release.

I recommend the turtle tour for anyone interested in marine science or sea turtles. The Wrights were very knowledgeable and great with answering any and all questions. Hopefully the research done there at NOAA will help more sea turtles survive (and also help the fishermen with better results and less bycatch). I’d love to see more turtles out at sea and maybe even find a nest on the beach one day. It would be fantastic to see an arribada like the one in the film they showed us. Let’s hope we can make that happen. 🙂

This looks like the video they showed, but there was no sound and they said the video was taken in Texas. This video is from Mexico it might be a different one. I found it on youtube.

PS- This is my Just Jot it January post for today. 😉 Today’s prompt is: memories. Well, they’re only a day or so old, but I think they count. 🙂

Happy New Year 2018

Here’s to hoping 2018 is a better year than the last one!

Where Is My Art?

A friend asked me after yesterday’s post where could he find my art? I figured I might as well write a post about it (just in case anyone else might be interested). All of my art is always for sale. If you like something, let me know and we can work something out (or you can buy from one of the places I’m at- but they charge more!).

I do lots of different things. When I went to Galveston yesterday to pick up my work, the gallery owner told me what he likes best about my work is my ‘diversity’. 🙂

I do a lot of photography. That is really my favorite. I take pictures of everything, all the time, everywhere. 😉 I have tons of photos from all my travels and tons more from decades of working on the water. I also like to go to zoos and museums and take lots of photos of animals, fish, birds, bugs, and all kinds of interesting things at the museums.

I do pastels, colored pencils, charcoal drawings and I’ve been learning to paint in oils, watercolor and acrylic. I haven’t been able to get to class as often as I’d like. It seems whenever there is any work for me, it’s always on a Tuesday. Tuesday is when they have the painting class at the art center so I have to skip it.

So, I mostly get started on a project in class and then it sits around the house until I get tired of looking at it and then I’ll finish it up on my own. I’ve got 2 oil paintings sitting here now that are over a year old already and not even half done. 😦

If you want to know where to see some of my work, I have a lot of photos up around the web. At Youpic, Flickr, Bigstock, Dreamstime, and Society6 and FineArtAmerica where you can have my photos put onto t-shirts, phones, towels, etc (pretty much anything you want). You should be able to get a good idea of my range from those sites (and my blog).

As far as my drawings, paintings, etc- right now they are all at my house (except for a few that are in the satellite galleries around town here). I had to pick them up yesterday to bring them home until the From the Heart Gallery can open their new showroom. I’m hoping that’ll happen sometime next week. In the meantime, you can take a look at this link, it’ll show you a couple of the things I was showing up there.

one of my favorites