Recap

I thought I might catch up with what’s been happening and why I was gone for so long.

I got off the Epic Explorer in late January and recently realized I hadn’t posted since then. Sorry! I got busy and caught up in other things and just got distracted.

I started teaching again only a few days after I got home. First Lamar State College in Orange, then San Jacinto sent me up to teach a class for Hornbeck Offshore (where I’ve been applying to work for a couple years now). I drove all the way to Port Fourchon and stayed aboard their vessel for a week to teach the crews of 2 of their vessels a Tankerman PIC course. After that I was back teaching at San Jacinto a course in Leadership & Management. I went to a pre-hire class in Houston for Spencer-Ogden and then taught a Search & Rescue course for San Jacinto again.

That all kept me super busy through the whole month of February and into March. Luckily, I got a call to go to work the next week. Spencer-Ogden finally came through with a ship for me! I say finally because they told me they had a job for me back in February of 2016. I came back from Mexico in order to take a UKOG physical expecting to recoup the money with a job, but it fell through. They didn’t have another opening until this one- almost 2 years later.

So, I got lucky and had a job for a month. It actually worked out to be a little longer. I went out as DPO on the drillship Discoverer India. the first week of March and didn’t get home til  mid- April. We were all busy as hell. The ship had been stacked for quite a while. It was a real job getting her ready to go back to work again. There were all kinds of checks and tests that had to be done and signed off on for the clients approval.

We finally got most of what we had to do finished and were able to depart. Figuring we could finish up what we had to on the way. We left the anchorage just South of the LOOP on April 3, and arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad on the 14th.

It was a pretty uneventful voyage. We had decent weather all the way. The Loop Current slowed us down a little, but we made good time otherwise. I was a little disappointed in how little sea life I saw this trip.

We saw a few birds- gulls and gannets, a couple of egrets and pelicans. But for the entire voyage, I did not see even one fish, dolphin, whale, turtle, jellyfish, ray, or anything else that lived in the ocean. Usually, we’d see schools of fish every day, pods of dolphins riding our bow wake, maybe even a whale over the course of a week. I saw nothing for over a week, I really felt the loss. It made me wonder why, did something happen? It made me sad.

I cheered up once we got closer to Trinidad. It was cool passing by the Caribbean Islands. One evening passing by the Caymans, I had an entertaining radio conversation with one of the watch keepers from Cayman Traffic. I would have loved to take up his invitation to come closer so the islanders could wave at us, but that kind of thing is not really a good idea. Remember Captain Schettino and the Costa ConcordiaContinue reading

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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?

Travel Day

I made it home. Finally!

I was surprised Tuesday morning when my relief showed up. I was waiting in the cargo control room to get my work assignment from the Bosun at 0800 when he popped in. I was so happy to see him.

I really wasn’t ready to go yet. I didn’t expect a relief to show up til late afternoon. I still had to finish packing and cleaning my room. That didn’t take too long. By the time the captain was ready to sign me off, I was ready to go.

I left the ship at about 1030, my flight was due to leave Norfolk at 1214, so I was a little nervous about getting to the airport on time. No need to have worried. I checked my luggage outside (and had to pay a $25 fee- thanks Delta!) and then went inside to check in.

I had to go to a live person, the machines wouldn’t check me in. Turns out my flight was delayed for over 2 hours and so I would miss my connection in Atlanta too. I was scheduled to arrive in Houston by 1800. Turns out, I didn’t get there til almost 2400!

Six hours late, due to Delta’s screw ups and they would do absolutely nothing about it. No offers of food, drinks, vouchers, lounge use,…, no NOTHING to help defray the stress and aggravation of a more than 6 hour delay.

I did finally manage to get a $15 food voucher out of them. Barely enough to cover one meal, while missing 2- 3 due to their delays. At least it was something, tho they told me they don’t normally do that. Some customer service, wow! 😦

No wonder I don’t fly Delta anymore!

I got home about 0300 the next morning. So tired I could hardly keep my eyes open on the road. People worry about drunks on the highways, but I guarantee you- tired people cause much more damage! And yet, drunks get all the punishment, wether or not they’re actually any trouble.

No, I’m NOT saying that tired people need to go to jail and have their lives destroyed the same as they treat the drinkers! Most of them who have not hurt anything or anybody! So they’ve all been punished for some future possibility!

What they need to do is to change the rules so that they’re actually keeping people safe on the roads and not just collecting fines and ruining peoples lives over the ‘chance’ that they ‘might’ at some point in the future harm something or somebody.

Stop harassing and arresting people for some possibility of something they ‘might’ or might not do and start checking to see if they are actually competent! Same goes for the stupid drug tests at work and the idiotic TSA ‘terrorist’ searches at the airports!

I’m so sick and tired of everybody telling me all this crap is for our ‘safety’ and ‘security’. NO, it is NOT! It has NOTHING to do with either one of those things! It has nothing to do with anything other than CONTROL and the destruction of our most basic human rights!

The TSA agents in the airports actually have the nerve to tell us ‘have a nice day’ after they  intentionally (even if ignorantly) strip us of our rights and our dignity. How can anyone have a nice day after being treated like that?

Yes, I know, most people sincerely believe all this crap is necessary and is really for their safety. All I can say to them is: WAKE UP! You’re being LIED TO and your complacency is making it ever easier for the goons to move all of us even further down the road to tyranny.

Happy New Year!

Shipping Out

Well, I’m off! I’m leaving soon to join a ship. I’ll meet her at Barbours Cut on the Houston Ship Channel. It’s a container ship, so probably won’t be in port for very long

I don’t know much yet about what I’ll be doing or for how long. All I know is, we’ll be going to Northern Europe and I should be gone anywhere from 35 days to around 70 days since they don’t crew change overseas. I’ll probably get off in the same place I got on after we make a couple of round trips.

Here’s a picture of the ship I found on google.

I hope I can get some better photos while I’m out there. 🙂

I’m not exactly looking forward to crossing the North Atlantic in the middle of winter, but I’ve been hunting up all my old winter clothes from when I used to work in Alaska. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad.

If you want to keep track of where we’re going, here’s a link that’ll show you where the ship is located.

I’m told the ship doesn’t have internet access (for the unlicensed crew- I’m pretty sure they have it for the ship itself). I’m told it does have email. Because of that, I finally broke down and bought a smart phone. I’m hoping I can get my computer to work through its hotspot so I can keep in touch here.

It may work. It may not. I won’t know til I get onboard and have enough free time to mess around with it. I’ll probably try to go ashore every chance I get anyway, just no idea of how that will go yet either. I’m going out as AB Maintenance. That means I’m not a watch stander and will be working days.

Of course, I wish I could’ve found work as an officer, but after more than 2 years of trying I really can’t wait for one of those jobs to open up. I have to take anything that I can get and thank goodness the SIU at least has some AB work for me. None of the officers unions did. It will be a real different hitch for me.

Hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. 😉

 

Five Days in New Orleans

I decided to make one last big effort to find a decent job. I flew up to New Orleans to attend the Workboat Show and search for work. I picked up my rental car and made my way down the bayou. First stop was at GOL in Raceland.

I was able to talk to the hiring manager there (he was an old friend), but they had no work since most of their boats were still laid up, so I said my goodbyes and continued on down Bayou Lafourche.

I stopped in at every boat company I could find: Alliance, Cheramie, C&G, GIS, L&M Botruc, Odyssea, Jambon, Chouest, Candies, and more. They all told me pretty much the same thing (except for one old boy who still insisted they ‘don’t have facilities for women’). They had so many of their boats stacked up and good people laid off. They had long lists of people they were hoping to get back when things picked up.

I picked up more applications and moved on.

By the time I got back to New Orleans and turned in my car, it was already dark and I was ready to check into my apartment. Yes, I rented an apartment (through hotels.com). It was really nice. It had a separate bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen/living room. It even had a washer/dryer in a closet!

I had a full kitchen with a full sized stove, oven and refrigerator, all the glasses, dishes, etc. Coffee maker and coffee, a blender, spices, etc. All I needed to cook a nice meal. Too bad I couldn’t find a decent grocery near by.

I spent the rest of the evening working on applications, emails and enjoying the view from the rooftop over the skyline. It was cool to watch the fog roll over the lights from the skyscrapers.

In the morning, I headed over to the Convention Center for the Workboat Show. I picked up my badge and a list of the vendors and sorted out my priorities. I tend to concentrate on electronics (DP systems, radios, ECDIS, charts, etc), crewing/employment agencies, and training/education providers.

I always make a point to go by and visit people I know who are there with booths too. This year, a lot of them were missing. The show seemed smaller to me this year. I suppose because of the long lasting downturn in the industry. It’s already been more than 3 years now. 😦

I did get to meet Captain Edgar Hansen from the TV show the Deadliest Catch, and I attended an interesting “Dock Talk” about women in the maritime industry: why aren’t there more women out here, what can we do about it, and why should we? Wish it was better attended, but at least someone is thinking about it.

I met up with an old friend for a couple of hours and we caught up on things as we wandered around the isles. We had a quick lunch at the food court (I do not recommend the BBQ! $3.50 for a bottle of water was a huge rip-off IMHO). I continued on visiting the vendors after my friend had to get on the road and head back home.

During the day, I was invited to a couple of parties. That’s where the best networking goes on. I’m not into partying nearly as much as I used to be, but I still hate to pass one up. I went to the LOC party at the World of Beer. It was pretty nice. Not too crowded. They had drinks and snacks we could order. Their tacos were pretty good. Plenty of beer. 🙂

I ran into a few friends there and met some new ones. It was nice to hear what everyone has been up to. The party ended fairly early, so I wound up going with a friend to the Texas A&M party at the Fulton Alley. That’s a cool place. It’s a bowling alley, with a bar. Drinks, snacks, music, etc.

Funny, but I ran into another old friend. Another captain I used to work with was there with his wife. They were in New Orleans for business and happened to be at the party. They live in the next town from me here in Texas. 🙂

I didn’t stay late, but I did meet a couple of guys who were telling me about a ‘sure thing’ job. I had already applied there, but considering what everyone was telling me; ‘go in person and you’ll get hired’, I started re-thinking my plans for the next couple of days.

Thursday I slept in a little bit later and then had breakfast across the street at the Ruby Slipper. It was really good and I was stuffed by the time I finished. I walked down to the Convention Center and then spent the rest of the day wandering around and talking to all kinds of people there. I ran into some more old friends, met some guys from Oceaneering (where I used to work) who hollered at me about my shirt, spent some time talking to the crew at Oceanwide (where I still work when they have any).

By 1700 my feet were getting sore and I was getting tired. There were more parties to go to, but I really wasn’t feeling up to it. I took a detour through the Riverwalk next door and wound up eating Chinese food from the food court while watching all the traffic on the river pass by.

I walked down the river to the Hilton and then cut across to Harrah’s casino. I figured I’d play a few games of video poker and head home. I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose much and was home by 2200 and to bed not long after.

Friday morning, I picked up another rental car and headed over to Covington to see if they were right about going in person. I was lucky to get to talk to someone in person and we had a nice talk. Of course, they had a lot of their boats tied up too, but they do have at least some work and I’m still hoping they’ll be able to find something for me there.

It was a gorgeous day and I decided to stop for a picnic before heading back over the bridge into New Orleans. I picked up supplies and headed over to Fontainebleau State Park. It was such a nice day, sunny and cool, light breeze. I had the whole place practically to myself. The lake was calm and sparkling in the sun. The beach was inviting, but I wasn’t dressed for playing in the water. 😦

I walked around the pond, looking for alligators (didn’t see any), and then drove over to check out the old sugar mill. Interesting history to read about. It got me interested to visit the nearby town of Mandeville, but it was getting late and I decided that would have to wait for another time.

I made it back to New Orleans in time to meet another friend for dinner. We had a nice time catching up over dinner by the river and then hit the casino for a couple of games. He had to get back home and I was ready to quit, so I headed home for the night.

I wanted to hit the Ruby Slipper again for breakfast Saturday, but the lines were halfway down the block on both sides! Instead, I went for beignets at the Cafe du Monde at the Riverwalk (much closer and much less crowded than the main one at Jackson Square). After my beignets and cafe au lait, I walked over to the Roosevelt Hotel to check out their famous Christmas decorations.

I had thought about having a drink at the bar, but the place was packed so I didn’t stick around. I took a walk over to Bourbon Street since I hadn’t even seen it yet this whole trip.

Glad I hadn’t tried! They’re doing construction all the way down Bourbon Street. The entire street is blocked off and you have to stay on the fenced in sidewalks. I can only imagine how that would be, packed full of rowdy loud drunks with nowhere to puke! Yuk! I’ll skip Bourbon Street til they finish up the construction!

I did finally get to try out my membership in the Bourbon of the Month Club. I sat at the bar at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House and watched the oyster shuckers at work. I don’t like oysters, but it was pretty entertaining to watch anyway.

 

After I finished my taste, I got to see the fresh shrimp being delivered, straight from the boats to the cooks. Nice, big, fresh shrimp. I really ought to try getting into seafood again. Seeing all that in New Orleans makes me think I’m really missing out.

By now, it was just about time for the Christmas Parade. I always try to see that when I’m in town. The Krewe of Jingle really puts on a great parade. They have some really cute costumes and dance troupes. The marching bands and miscellaneous characters all add up to make a fantastic show.

I always enjoy my time in New Orleans. There’s always something going on that’s fun and interesting. But I always wind up coming home to chill out for a while too. That’s what I’ve been doing since I got home Saturday night. 🙂

 

CB&W: Fences

I have a few good shots for Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. I’m a little late cause I’ve been traveling (to New Orleans) and haven’t gotten around to working on my photos (or blogging) yet.

The challenge this week is to come up with a post about ‘fences and gates’ (in black and white). I just did one on gates, so this one’s on fences. 🙂

I was in New Orleans for the Workboat Show. I skipped out on Friday due to a ‘hot tip’ on a possible job at HOS. I took a chance, rented a car and drove over to Covington. I got lucky and was able to talk to someone. After the interview was over, I decided to have a picnic lunch on the lake. Fontainebleau State Park has a nice beach and this pier right on Lake Pontchartrain. It was a gorgeous day and perfect for a picnic!

Does this count as a fence? Or is it a railing? I’m gonna say it’ll count as both. 😉

After lunch, I wandered around a little and checked out some of the other sites of interest. They had some nature trails, a boardwalk, a playground for the kids, camp sites, and a pond with alligators (I didn’t see any). Here are a couple of shots of the old sugar mill. The whole place used to be a sugar plantation- 2800 acres!

It was getting late, so I headed back to New Orleans in order to miss the traffic. I’m sorry not to have made the short detour into Mandeville (founded by the same guy who built the sugar mill). I really would’ve liked to see their Maritime Museum. Next time!

CB&W: Gates

I have a few good shots for Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week. I’m a little late cause I’ve been traveling (to New Orleans) and haven’t gotten around to working on my photos (or blogging) yet.

The challenge this week is to come up with a post about ‘fences and gates’ (in black and white). I’m going to do this post on gates and another on fences. 🙂

Here goes…

Gate of Salutation, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Gate of Felicity, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

I took these photos last November. My last major trip, when I traveled around Turkey and then went on safari in Tanzania. I really loved both countries. So much to see and do in both places, but totally different. 🙂

Topkapi Palace was beautiful. It was a large compound and the interesting exhibits were spread out. The black and white photos don’t really do it justice. The amazing tile work was so colorful and full of intricate designs. The view over the Bosphorus was incredible. I could’ve sat there all day watching the ships pass by below. 🙂

Gate at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar was another incredibly colorful and unforgettable place to experience. A person could easily get lost in the acres of passageways full of shops. You’re assaulted with all kinds of exotic sights, smells and sounds. The shopkeepers are friendly and helpful and will happily tell you all about their wares. It’s too easy to spend all your time (and money) wandering around in there!

 

DP-Sparkle

Here’s one for the Daily Prompt- Sparkle.

I went for a picnic at Louisianas’ Fontainebleau State Park yesterday. I had to stop and take a few pictures of the sun making sparkles over Lake Pontchartrain. 🙂

 

Ruby Slipper

I had a delicious filling breakfast at the Ruby Slipper yesterday. Not because it was voted “Best Breakfast/Brunch Spot” 3 years in a row, but because it’s located right across the street from where I’m staying. 😉

I had the ‘Eggs Blackstone’, consisting of “applewood-smoked bacon, grilled tomato served over a buttermilk biscuit, topped with 2 poached eggs, finished with hollandaise”. I asked them to skip the tomato (which they did- lots of places still leave it and the juices ruin my meal- I love catsup but can’t stand tomatoes!).

It was hard to make up my mind. Their menu offered lots of choices that all sounded delicious. I was headed to the Workboat Show so skipped the ‘award winning bloody mary’s’ too (tho I don’t like tomato juice either, the mimosas looked just as good).

 I sat at the bar, since even tho it was pouring rain, the outside tables were all taken. The place was packed. I still got served quickly tho. My breakfast was nice and hot, coffee too. They skimped a little on the hollandaise sauce, but the biscuits were very large (and fresh home made).

I’m running late this morning, I’ve got to pick up a car and head over to HOS. I’m hoping to get a job interview. So will probably skip breakfast today, but I think I will stop in again tomorrow for another specialty and try a mimosa. 🙂

PS- these photos are all from my iPod, it’s so bad compared to my regular cameras. 😦

Job Call

I hate to be so gloomy all the time. I do have to admit I’m one of those people who sees the glass as half empty. Lately it’s been harder than normal to keep my spirits up. I’m not used to being unemployed and broke. I don’t like it. I really, really don’t like it.

This morning I got a call from one of the temp agencies I work with. When I got the message I thought “oh great, I finally got some real work”. When I called them back I found out they needed me to be there tomorrow! I could’ve cancelled out the last part of my trip without losing too much. I could’ve been there late Friday, but they had to have someone tomorrow.

Of course! I am leaving tomorrow for the Workboat Show in New Orleans. I’m heading over a day early so I can head down the bayou and visit a few boat companies in person (since the online applications don’t seem to be doing any good). The job wouldn’t pay enough to cover the expenses I’ve already paid for (and can’t get back). I’ve worked there before and already know the drill. Sadly, I had to turn it down.

So few jobs around, and I’m so broke I’m hardly ever doing much. What are the odds that an actual job comes around at the exact same time I can’t take it due to previous engagements?

End of a Long Weekend

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving holiday. I did OK. It’s not like I’ve been working so hard all this time and needed a break. Still, it was nice to have some time off where I knew no one would be calling me for work, nothing to do with work would be open (so useless to call), and I could take the time to catch up on other things.

I spent Thanksgiving with friends. They cooked a big turkey (in a greaseless fryer- it turned out nice and moist). They had ham too, and roast vegetables, mashed potatoes, mani-mahi, broccoli rice casserole, hot rolls, and a half dozen desserts. I’m still eating leftovers.

After pigging out and needing a nap Thursday, I’ve spent the last couple of days just piddling around the house. I went through a big pile of t-shirts to sort. I finally packed some away and put others in the yard sale pile. I put a bunch of stuff away that got messed up while I was gone last week (I still can’t find half of it). I’ve caught up with the mail, bills and phone calls.

Now I’m getting ready for a trip to New Orleans for this years Workboat Show. I’m so frustrated and depressed about the situation with work. I think this is going to be my last hope. I filled out a few online applications (again) for nearby boat companies. They say they are hiring.

I’ve rented a car and will drive down the bayou and try to find someone to talk to. It’s become almost impossible to talk to a real person when you’re looking for work these days. Everyone gives you a computer to talk to: “leave a message” and someone will get back to you. Except they never do.

I hear through the grapevine (and also their own ads) that Hornbeck (HOS) and Harvey Gulf are hiring. I plan to hit up both of them. I’ve got plenty of resumes printed out and will be trying to talk to anyone I can who might have some work going on.

If this doesn’t work out, the only thing left for me to do is go back to the SIU as an AB. Wasting the 40 years I’ve spent working my way up and earning my license. What a shame!

I feel like one of the old horse and buggy drivers when Henry Ford came out with the model T. I can see the complete destruction of my livelihood on the horizon. Like them, I am not at all happy about it!

I have been trying my best ever since I got laid off (Sept 2015) to find work. I’ve been trying all kinds of things to bring in extra income. I’ve been teaching at San Jacinto Maritime. I’ve been working as a role player at Maersk Training. I’ve been trying to sell my art (writing/photography/painting) anywhere I can.

I’ve been applying to jobs in every sector of the maritime industry. I’ve tried to find work as a math tutor. I’ve tried to find work in the safety industry since that is a huge part of what I do every day anyway (but learned I would have to sell myself- body and soul- for a $14/hour job). Sorry, no way! I might be down, but I will NEVER be that self destructive as to submit to that level of control.

Hair follicle tests?! What kind of idiots do they think we are? These tests can have NO possible connection to anything going on at the job. I’ve asked over and over- PLEASE tell me how something I might’ve done last YEAR could possibly have anything to do with the job I’m doing TODAY? Of course, they have no answer. They’re wrong and they know it. Those people have NO right to strip our constitutional rights from us. In the name of safety or any other reason.

I am getting pretty desperate. I was one of the lucky ones. I was halfway prepared for this downturn. I’ve been through 3 big ones before. I’d saved as much as I could and paid down my debts as much as possible. I had a pretty good stash in my savings account. Of course, after 2 years with no real work, that savings account has been seriously depleted.

It sucks not even being able to get unemployment. Especially after being forced to pay into it for over 40 years! It would be nice to be able to get some help when I need it. But noooooo, ONE job out of all those years was with a foreign company, so I get zero return on all that money I’ve paid in.

Even so. I did my best while I was working to save and invest. I bought rental property and paid off as much as I could. I’m lucky. That has been my only income for the last 2 years. It’s not much, since the expenses on the property is actually still more than the income I get from it, but it still helps a lot.

I’m thankful I have even that little bit of income. With the little bit of work I get from Maersk and San Jacinto, and a week offshore every now and then, I’ve been able to survive. Barely. I can understand how people get so desperate they will sell their soul to get a miserable paycheck, but I thank god I don’t have to do that. I swear I will die before I EVER submit to their insanely stupid, unconstitutional, illegal, useless hair follicle tests!

I wish more people were able to stand up for themselves. Maybe we could stop this abuse if they were. But, then again, the powers that be are ALL about control. That is ALL they care about and they will do whatever we allow them to get away with.

I hope by going to New Orleans I’ll be able to find something. It’s getting really, really hard to keep trying when it’s been so long and nothing’s happening.

CB&W- Things Found in a Kitchen

Thanksgiving is a good day to post about ‘things found in a kitchen’. Good thing Cee came up with this perfect challenge for today. Here are some photos I took in New Orleans at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

I love New Orleans! It’s full of interesting things to do and see. This museum is just one example (here’s a post about another).

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. SoFAB also hosts special exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and tastings that showcase the food and drink of the South.

You can learn about all the different foods each state is famous for. You can learn about the history of the cocktail and how to make them. You can take a cooking class. You can try the specialty cocktails at the bar, or enjoy a hearty meal. It’s easy to get to on the streetcar, and the nearby bars and restaurants look worth a try too. 🙂

Natchez

I was in New Orleans last September for a travel writing workshop with GEP. I’ve been to a few workshops with them, both for writing and for photography. Boston, Chicago, Miami, Korea, Costa Rico, the photography safari last November (wow, a year’s gone by already), and the one in New Orleans. I always have a great time, learn a lot and look forward to the next one. 🙂

During this workshop we were assigned to come up with story ideas, then actually write a story. We had help on making them more interesting and salable. One of the great things about travel writing and photography is that doing it gives you a focus and incentive to get out there and do all kinds of things.

You may not know it, but I’m actually pretty shy. Focusing on a story gives me the courage to talk to people. Without the story, I’d be way too nervous to do more than say ‘hi, how’re you doing’. With a story in mind, I’ll ask them all kinds of questions since now I have an ‘excuse’. 😉

Before I left for the trip to New Orleans, I asked around for some help and the nice people at the CVB sent me on a riverboat cruise. Specifically- a jazz dinner cruise on the historic Steamboat Natchez. I wrote a story about it, and was supposed to have it published on the website of the company that set up the whole deal with the CVB. Sadly, they shut down before my story ever got published and I haven’t been able to find another spot for it yet (tho I am still trying, in between job hunting and all the other things on my plate).

Here’s the first draft, please give it a read and let me know what you think. I could use the critiques. 😉

Steamboat Natchez (www.steamboatnatchez.com) docks where Toulouse Street dead ends at the Mississippi River, in the French Quarter. You walk up the gangway to take a trip back in time as you slowly steam your way down the Great Mississippi River. You’ll be transported back to the 1800’s, when these boats ruled the river. From only 20 in the 1810s, to over 1200 in 1833. They carried passengers and freight from as far away as Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, Little Rock, and further out the Missouri, Arkansas and Red Rivers down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

Steamboats were built of wood, shallow draft (1-5’ loaded), with the main deck close to the water and used for cargo. Wood burning boilers were placed midships, with the engines aft, shafts turning the paddle wheels. Some added 2-3 decks above that for passengers. Most were simple workboats, but some became quite ornate. For those carrying upper class passengers, they were richly decorated: delicate filagreed railings, large mirrors reflecting gilded highlights, coffered ceilings, velvet upholstery, plush carpets. Fine food, liquor and gambling helped pass the time during the voyage of up to 2 weeks.

Though she was built in 1975- the ninth iteration of the series to carry the name, Steamboat Natchez follows in this tradition and offers daily Mississippi River cruises. She’s a 265’ long 46’ wide stern paddle wheeler, with 3 decks. She’s furnished in the manner of a high class passenger vessel of the mid-1800’s. In only a couple of hours, you can soak in the atmosphere and get a taste of what it was like in the heyday of the Mississippi River steamships. You can go for dinner, Sunday brunch, or just a harbor cruise with no meal served.

I went for a dinner jazz cruise with the Dukes of Dixieland aboard. As I stepped aboard from the gangway, the hostess informed me of the procedure for dinner. Since I had chosen the 1st seating, I was led to my reserved table in the dining room. The setting was impressive, a large room running almost the full length of the vessel. It had large picture windows all the way around, decorative moulded ceiling tiles filling the white coffered overheads, wall to wall carpet, and nicely set tables filling the space.

My table was set for 4 (tho I was by myself). There was a salad already dressed (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, vinaigrette), along with silverware and plates, but no water. The waiter soon came by to take drink orders. It took him a while since he had at least a dozen full tables. As the room filled up, another couple was seated at my table, but we still had one seat open. Good, since the tables were tightly packed and it was crowded. My neighbor had to get up every time I needed to get out of my seat. The dinner was buffet style, so I did have to get up a few times.

There were two long buffet tables, one on either side of the room. The servers dressed in chef’s whites  stood behind the chafing dishes to answer any questions and help if you needed it. They had classic Southern recipes like red beans & rice, blackened fish, gumbo, greens, and more ‘mainstream’ dinner classics like pork loin and roast beef. It was all made onboard, hot and fresh. It was OK, but nothing spectacular. For a city as famous for its food as New Orleans, I really expected better of them.

The lights were too low to read by but bright enough to see your food. We were able to have a conversation even with the music in the background since we were at the very back of the room.  The band was set up in front. There was another playing jazz and dixieland outside on the upper deck, I spent most of my time up there. I enjoyed watching the scenery go by, being able to smoke, drink, and still listen to the music.

The live jazz band adds to the atmosphere onboard. It was casual and relaxing. I enjoyed having drinks on the deck, watching the river rolling by, snapping photos of the New Orleans skyline and passing ships. It was easy to imagine myself drifting back to an earlier time. There’s a real sense of history aboard.

Steamers have all but disappeared from the worlds waterways, due to many factors. They usually had a short lifetime (there were many boiler explosions), competition with railroads back in action after the Civil War, displaced by competition with diesel tugs and barges.  The Natchez is one of only 2 true steam paddle wheelers left on the Mississippi River today.

Her engines were originally built for the sternwheeler “Clairton” in 1925. They were recovered when the Clairton was retired and placed in the Natchez, where they are still going strong. Anyone interested in how things work will enjoy wandering around the Natchez. You’re free to take a look in the engine room. Check out the engines (with posted explanations) and the boilers “Thelma” and “Louise” next door. The engineers are rightly proud of their gleaming domain.

The entire crew seemed to love their job, their ship and it showed. They did their job well and took pride in that fact. From the Mate who welcomed me aboard, the engineers, the hostess who showed me to my table, the servers at dinner, to the deckhands who secured the ship back to the dock. Everyone was friendly, polite and answered my questions with a smile.

A cruise on the Steamboat Natchez is a New Orleans experience you just can’t get anywhere else. From the magnificently maintained historical vessel, to the lively jazz bands, to the delicious Southern style cooking (don’t miss the white chocolate bread pudding), to the mighty Mississippi itself. It all adds up to a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours next time you visit New Orleans.

PS- This post is for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter N. Join in, all it takes is to come up with a post starting with the letter N. 🙂

Time Flies

Whew! I’m back home again. I actually got home late last night. I left Corpus Christi at 1830 and drove home in the dark. It took about 3 hours. The drive to/fro almost seemed like the longest part of the hitch!

It was nice to be back aboard a ‘real ship’. I mean something that treats the crew like actual sailors. Not like the offshore sector where they treat us all like a bunch of retarded imbeciles. Restricted to the ship for the entire hitch (since we’re all a bunch of drunks and dopers). Of course, we’re too stupid to figure out how to dress ourselves and OMG, we can never be trusted with a knife!

The USNS Mendonca was a big ship! Almost 1000 ft long. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that much walking and climbing stairs. Even to tie up, we had to move between 2-3  decks to get to all the lines.

USNS Mendonca

I was only there for 6 days total. Just enough time to get the ship ready to sail, go out for a day of sea trials, and then secure the ship again. The time flew by. We spent the first day learning our way around the ship, training, etc. We did our fire and boat drills, launched the FRC (fast rescue craft), and took in some of the lines. They had the ship secured for hurricanes, so there were a lot of extra lines out.

We left the dock with a 4 tug escort, made it under the bridge with just a couple of feet to spare, and proceeded out through Corpus Christi Bay. We dodged a little rain shower. It gave us a nice rainbow over the bridge to watch on our way out. I couldn’t have asked for better weather: nice and cool- in the 70’s, low humidity, light breezes, calm seas. A really nice ride.

rainbow over the Corpus Christi bridge

We returned to port early the next day. I was on the wheel for arrival (4-8 watch) and got to steer through the jetties and up past Ingleside before I was relieved. We had 3 pilots on board. One was a deputy pilot, in training. The other was training her. I’m not really sure what the 3rd one was there for.

We passed the USS Lexington (the Blue Ghost) and the Texas State Aquarium before passing under the bridge on our way in. The Lexi was still all made up for Veterans Day, flags flying everywhere.

USS Lexington

We proceeded up the channel to a spot where we could turn around so we could tie up starboard side to the dock. Just like when we left. it took us a couple of hours to get everything secured and then we had the rest of the day to finish up testing things for the sea trials.

Saturday morning we cleaned our rooms, packed up and then tidied up the house. Swept, mopped, emptied the trash. All the usual sanitary stuff. We were done by lunch and then just on call in case they needed us. We hit up the captain after coffee to get signed off. Lots of paperwork to sign.

Again, nice to be on a ship where they take care of travel arrangements, give you a discharge, let you choose how you want your pay, and even set you up for your next ship (if you want to go).

It was my first ship with the SIU. All in all I was pleasantly surprised. I have a few things to do before I can leave again, but hopefully I’ll get another one just as good next time. 🙂

PS- the photos are all from my iPod in this post. I really need to break down and get a smart phone! Any suggestions on who’s got the best plan for someone who travels like me (and hopes to get back to work offshore soon)? Recommendations on phones (with good cameras)?

Dancing

Yesterday’s prompt from the Daily Post was “dancing“.

I’ve always loved to watch people dance and wished I could dance as well myself. I’m just not what you’d call ‘light on my feet’. I never got the hang of it and almost never even try any more. I’d rather just enjoy watching.

line dancing ladies from Lebanon

Those first 3 were taken during my last vacation (I can’t believe it’s already been a year- but I’ve really been jonesing lately). I took a dinner cruise down the Bosphorus. That’s the waterway that divides the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

It was a really nice cruise. We had an interesting dinner of local appetizers- olives, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, carrot salad, sliced meat, cheese and then a choice of chicken or fish. The crew put flags around the tables of each person’s nationality. It helped make for many good conversations.

After dinner, we had entertainment. We started with a performance by a whirling dervish. Then the crew dressed in costumes and danced the different traditional styles from all over Turkey. Later the belly dancers came out and got everyone going. By the time they finished, everyone was ready to get out on the floor themselves.

Besides the dinner and dancing, the sights outside the windows were beckoning too. I sat out on the deck watching the shipping traffic pass by and enjoying the fresh cool breeze along the water. I was so excited to see all the minarets poking up from the mosques lit up in the night. Over the low hum of the engines I could hear the faint calls to prayer. It all drove home exotic Istanbul for me.

These next 3 were from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I went down there last February to get certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). I stayed for about a month. I would’ve stayed longer but I had a promising call about a real job (offshore- I had already been out of work for over 6 months), so I flew back home. Sadly, the job fell through.

I loved PV! I lived right next door to the language school and just a couple of blocks from the ocean. There were only 4 other students in my class, so we all got to know each other. Every weekend, our teacher would take us all on a field trip. I had a blast!

I loved to take the bus to the old town. I would walk up and down the Malecon, take pictures and talk to people. There was always something going on. Every weekend there was a farmers market at the square down there. Friday nights were for dancing!

The local dance schools put on a show for everyone that was free for all. They danced the different dances from all over Mexico. Their dancing was fantastic, especially considering how young some of them were. You could tell they were having a good time together. Their costumes were so colorful. I really loved watching them. 🙂

I haven’t been back to start teaching yet, but I’m missing Mexico more and more.

What’s Happening

I know I haven’t been posting here as much as I’d like. Nothing’s wrong. Mostly I’ve just been lazy.

I got off the rig really late last Thursday. I knew I was going to miss my flight, so I changed it to the next day and booked a hotel in New Orleans. Goes to show me what good it does to plan anything in advance.

I thought I got a really good deal on my flight home from New Orleans by purchasing it in advance. I only paid $65 ($32 for the fare, the rest was taxes/fees). I wound up paying an extra $45 to change it to Thursday night, which would have been fine for a normal crew change. But then I had to pay an extra $40 to change it to the next day since we didn’t even leave the rig til around 2230 Thursday night! Cost me $85 to change it and only $65 to buy it- WOW have the airlines got some scam going!

on the boat getting ready to head to Fourchon and home!

I spent what was left of the night at the Maison Dupuy in the French Quarter. Since I didn’t get there til 0330 Friday morning, I didn’t really get to spend much time there, but what I saw of it, I liked.

 

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I spent a couple of hours wandering around the French Quarter. Got my fix of coffee and beignets and had to hurry back to the airport for my flight home.

flying in to Houston

I got home late Friday and was too tired for anything but a quick look through the months pile of mail blocking my front door. I spent most of the weekend catching up on both sleep and mail. Tuesday I went to painting class (they were on hiatus for the summer) and the dentist in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what happened there. I went in to fix an old filling (nothing was bothering me). Since that operation, a different tooth has been hurting when I chew on that side of my mouth. Hating the thought of having to make another dentist appointment!

I haven’t really been doing much of anything. Today I’m planning to break out of my torpor and go to the Summertime Bikes & Blues Festival. I’m not a ‘biker chick’ by any means, but I do think some of them look pretty cool. I like a lot of the kinds of people that like bikes, and I like the whole ‘freedom’ thing they promote.

I usually like the music (this year I’m disappointed they canceled a friend of mine’s band). I’ve never heard of any of the bands this year, so just hoping they’ll be up to the usual standard. The food is pretty good, with all kinds of different vendors, from BBQ to shrimp kebobs, popcorn and candy apples. Of course beer and lemonade. 🙂

I hope to have some more pics tomorrow. Next week might be busier. I’m waiting to hear if I can go back to work or not since I left under not quite the best circumstances. In any case, I need to finish up my (2016) taxes. 😦

More C’s for Cee

I posted yesterday on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge (where the post should be about a word starting with C of at least 4 letters). After I finally got it to post (very frustrating internet situation here), I was flipping through some photos and realized just how many I have that fit this particular challenge. So…

Here’s another one, I took these on a recent trip to Africa. I went on a photography safari in Tanzania with GEP. I had a great time tracking down the wildlife with a great group of fellow photographers and our local guides. Some of these photos were with on the safari. Some were afterwards, when I went solo over to Zanzibar.

 

Cooks!

Cats! BIG Cats!

A Cowrie (shell)

A Canoe! Catching Catfish? Or maybe Cobia? On the Coral

#fire at #beach resort on #Zanzibar

A #Catastrophe

Cute Canines

Cattle

I had a good time picking out a few of my photos for this challenge. So much, I might even come back again for more. If you want to join in the fun, just click the link at the top. Be sure to share. 🙂

SoCS: When I Get Off Of Here…

socsbadge2016-17

…I’m going to have a nice long rest. Not that things have been too awful here so far, but the hitch has just started and I know for sure that crew change is always exhausting. You’re up for work for 12+ hours and then you’re up to watch the pre-departure video about the helicopter (you’ve already seen thousands of times). Then you wait hours for the chopper (if you’re lucky). Or the boat if you’re not.

Then you transit from the rig to shore. Minimum of an hour on the chopper. Maybe 8-12 hours on the boat if you’re not. Then you transit to the airport. That takes another couple of hours. Then you wait some more for your flight. You finally get home after another couple of hours of nodding off.

I usually do absolutely nothing for 2-3 days after I get home but eat, sleep and take a look at the huge pile of mail I’ve collected after being gone for 2+ weeks.

I’m due to be here for 6 weeks this hitch. I know it will get to me before it’s all over.

When I get off of here… I will rest. 🙂

One Word Photo Challenge: Giraffe

Here’s my entry for Jennifer’s One Word Photo Challenge: Giraffe.

Last November I went on a photography safari in Tanzania where I took these photos. It was fantastic! I went on safari with Great Escape Publishing, they’re great at running their trips. I always have fun and learn a lot while I’m at it. I can’t wait to go again!

Thursday’s Special: Portrait vs Landscape

I found another photo challenge by Paula over at her Lost In Translation blog (thanks to an old friend blogger Cee for sharing).

All you have to do is compare a vertical (portrait) version to a horizontal (landscape) version . Choose any subject you want.

I took these photos a couple of months ago. I drove up to the Dallas Travel Show and stopped on the way home to see some of the Bluebonnet Trail. I really wish the weather was better. Would have been fantastic if the sun was shining rather than the dreary rainy day it was. But the flowers were still blooming and made up for the weather.