Early or Late?

I’m sure it’s one or the other. I got another short term gig on the Rowan Relentless. This trip was my third time onboard as DPO. When they called to ask if I was available, it was for 3 weeks. When they sent me the ticket to fly to New Orleans, the date I was to return home was only one week later. I called to find out why and they told me that the guy I was relieving would be back in only a week.

Seven days is better than nothing, so I happily went to work. When I got there, the other DPOs told me not to worry, I would be there for 3 weeks. Huh?

As the end of the first week arrived, I waited to hear if my relief would be coming for crew change. Nope. I was good for at least another week.

Next week, same story. I was wondering would I be going home on crew change or staying for another week?

I found out the night before crew change I would be going home. Hey, I made two whole weeks! Crew change one week later or one week earlier depending on how you look at it. I’m happy to have the work and happy to have plenty of time at home to get all the things done I need to do before I leave for my next adventure. 🙂

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Michael Missed Us

I was a little concerned about joining the ship last week. Hurricane Michael had just gone ashore while I was on the way to the heliport to fly out to work. I had been checking in with Marine Traffic on the internet to see where the ship was and how close it would be to the hurricane.

From what I saw when I checked Monday night after I got a call to go back to work, it looked like the hurricane would pass right over the top of the ship. I checked again Tuesday and it looked the same.

I find it hard to believe any ship would choose to sit still and let a hurricane pass right over the top of them but that was what it was telling me on the internet (and I knew they were supposed to be drilling a well).

So, I was wondering what I would be dealing with when I was flying out to work. It wasn’t until the pilots mentioned right before landing that the ship was underway, that I knew for sure that the ship had moved out of the way of the storm and was on the way back to her work location.

Turns out they ran about 100 miles to the West and only had about 50-60 mph winds and 20-25 foot seas. No worse than a bad Norther we usually get a few times every winter.

We’ve been back on location for a couple of days now and have just this morning moved back over the well head. We should be back on track in a couple of days. I’m hoping to be out here for another 2 weeks. I should know something for sure by tomorrow morning. 🙂

In the Wake of Michael

I’m interested to see what will happen in the morning. I (finally) got a call to go back to work on Monday. I flew out this afternoon after rushing around yesterday and this morning to get everything done I needed to do before leaving town. I’ve pretty much been on call for the last couple of years, so stay as ready as I can. Half way packed all the time, but  I can never seem to get the groceries right and always wind up having to throw out a bunch of good food. I hate that!

Right now I’m at the hotel in New Orleans, waiting for the crew change van which will pick us up at 0400. The alarm is set for 0300. We’re supposed to be at the heliport at 0500 to fly out to the rig at 0600.

I can never sleep the night before crew change. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. I try to get some sleep and just toss and turn until about 1/2 hour before I have to get up.  It doesn’t help that my usual bedtime when I’m home is midnight or later. It’s the same when I’m coming home from the ship. Can’t sleep until I get home and then I don’t want to do anything but sleep for 2-3 days!

I checked the location of the rig out of curiosity on Monday. While I was doing that, I checked the weather, just to see. Looks like the rig was pretty much directly in the path of hurricane Michael.

I’ve been checking up on both since then. Position of rig. Position of hurricane. Looks to me like the eye passed pretty damn close to the rig. I bet the DPOs had some pretty stressful watches for the last couple of days.

I’m really curious to hear how the ship rode it out. What kind of winds and seas were there on their location? What kind of footprint did they have? I’m assuming they were latched up since last time I was on there, they were going to start a new contract the first part of September. Normally, we don’t like to move more than a couple of meters. I’m wondering how much they moved around in the storm.

I was a little surprised they didn’t move out of the way of the storm’s predicted track. Then again, I think Michael came up fairly quickly. Might not have been enough time for them to shut everything down, unlatch from the well and move far enough away to make a difference. It looked to me like the worst of the storm passed a little to the East of them, good thing the storm followed along the expected track.

Michael has moved inland now, so weather offshore should be calming down. I drove up the beach to Galveston today (for a job fair at Texas A&M). Tide was very high and the waves were decent sized. All the surfers were out having a blast. That’s about the only time we get ‘decent’ surf- when there’s a hurricane in the Gulf.

I’ll be out for at least a week. Maybe longer (I hope so). I may or may not have enough internet access to blog, so if you don’t hear from me for a while that’s why.

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.

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.

I Haven’t Disappeared

It just looks that way.

I got a job for 3 weeks on a ship with very limited internet access. It was really a pretty interesting trip, but I’ll have to tell you about it later cause I’m heading back there tonight. I’ll be gone for another 2 weeks. Hope to be able to get online during this hitch, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear from me for another 2-3 weeks.

I did post a couple of photos on Instagram and Facebook.

I’m SO glad to finally have some real work again! Not to be greedy, but now it would be really nice to have some sort of schedule. Three years of being on call and ready to jump on any offer is getting old.

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

What Happened?

It’s a long story. I’m going to start this out by joining in on Linda G Hill’s SoCS. Her theme for this week is “reservation”.

It’s hard to acknowledge that I haven’t posted on here since early February, when I got off work on the Epic Explorer. I hadn’t realized its been that long. I really thought I had been posting more often than that. I’ve been so busy, it just got too easy to let the blogging slip out of mind.

I’ve even had reservations about starting back up again. It’s been so long, I’ve gotten out of the habit of trying to write something fairly frequently (at least weekly) and keep up with what my favorite bloggers were up to. It’s so easy to let it go when I have so many other things going on, and even when I don’t- I just don’t feel like doing anything.

I don’t like to be so negative all the time, but it’s been really hard to try to come up with something positive to say. I’ve always been one of those to see the ‘glass as half empty”. At this point I’m probably ‘clinically depressed’. Here I go again, running off into the so easy to fall into trap of thinking of all the negatives. I’m still out of work, still broke, still trapped here with no money to do anything. There’s still really not much hope of finding work, so no hope of escaping the trap. What am I going to be able to do with myself?

I really don’t think there’s any point to life, other than to live it the way YOU want to. Why bother if all you’re going to do all day every day is what someone else forces on you? I’ve tried my whole life to find ways to live my life according to my values. I work hard, and save what I can so that I can enjoy my time off. Since I’ve been laid off (without any help from unemployment after paying into it for 40+ years), I’ve tried to find other ways to make some kind of income still doing something that I didn’t consider pure torture. I’ve always liked the arts, so I’ve been trying to transition into working in some way with that sort of thing.

I’ve been writing, painting, photographing. I’ve tried to find ways to earn an income from all of those things. So far, I have had a few successes. I’ve won prizes for my photos and for my paintings. I’ve sold a few articles. Few and far between and not nearly enough to pay the bills. It’s hard to concentrate enough to work on this sort of thing when I’m spending so much time and energy looking for a ‘real job’. One that will pay the bills.

won “Honorable Mention”

I tried last night to think of what I have to be thankful for. Mostly in the past. I came up with a few things I can still be thankful for right now. I still have a roof over my head and enough money to keep it for at least another couple of months. I still have my health (in general, tho not good enough to be able to keep working for much longer). I have a few good friends I can always count on. I have rental properties that will bring in enough income to survive on for at least another month. I have internet access again (tho it is still screwed up, just not as bad as it has been). My truck still runs, even at 21+ years old. Without it I wouldn’t be able to get to the few and far between jobs I have been able to get over the last 3 years.

I spent so much time and effort, my whole life, to be able to just live and enjoy life. I did all the things we’re told we have to do. I studied hard, got good grades, went to college, got a good job, a great career. I even went back to college to get a BA degree (in math- which has proved totally useless). I saved as much as I could. I invested what I could spare. I worked hard at every job.

And after all that, what happened? Like hundreds of thousands of others, I was thrown in the trash heap when my company felt it had to satisfy their stockholders.When the price of oil dropped like a rock, the oilfield dried up. When that happened all the shipping jobs were immediately taken. Seafarers around the world are hanging on to any job they can find.

People around the world are clamoring to take captains jobs for $150/day! The STCW has given owner/operators the ability to go for the lowest common denominator- they’re all hiring the cheapest crews they can find. Apparently you can live like a king on $150/day in the Philippines, or India, or Ukraine. Who in America can survive on that? You spend decades and tens of thousands of dollars for your license (and the enormous amounts of responsibility you get with it) and then throw it away for that kind of wage?  It’s been almost 3 years now with no hope of getting a ‘real’ job again.

I hate to think that I have wasted my entire life, working my way up the hawsepipe, doing everything ‘right’ and still to end up in the exact same place as I would have if I had never made any effort at all to improve my life. It sucks! But it seems to be reality.

Yes, I’ve had reservations on posting like this and depressing you all. I’ll hope that even this kind of post is (somewhat) welcome after being out of touch for so long.

Here’s to getting back into blogging. 😉

Home and Gone

Hey everybody! I made it home! Here’s a picture of the sweet little supply boat that brought me in to the dock.

Sorry I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog. I worked over for a week on the Epic Explorer. The same little dive boat I worked on last summer. This hitch I was there for 2 weeks as mate and then another week as galley hand. Once I started working in the galley, I really didn’t have the internet access to be able to blog.

I got home late Tuesday night, too tired to do anything but go right to bed. Wednesday I was still super tired. I was completely out of it from being up all night to being up in the daytime like a normal person. All I got done on Wednesday was sorting through the mail and paying the bills. I was pretty much a zombie all day. Thursday I went up to Houston for a meeting of the Nautical Institute.

I like to keep up with what’s going on in the industry and I go to those sort of meetings if I can. The NI has a couple of interesting projects coming up. One is a course to train navigation assessors which I would really be interested in (except that I’m still broke and can’t afford the fees).

I saw a bunch of people I knew there. One of them was the director of the maritime program I am teaching for this week at Lamar State College in Orange, TX. He scared me for a while, not sure if the class would be held, but they came through Friday morning.

So Friday afternoon I drove up to Orange to meet everyone and go over some things, pick up the course materials so I can get ready to teach the class. I’m a little surprised at how different it is from the same class I’ve been teaching at San Jacinto. All these courses are US Coast Guard approved and so have to cover the same basic material. I’m having to study just as much or more as my students will!

That kept me busy most of the day yesterday. I also got a hair cut, did laundry and had to run to the store for a few groceries since I ran out of milk. I’m still trying to get used to my change of schedule. I’m still tired and falling asleep by dinner time, but still too much to do!

Now I’m back in Orange. I’ll be staying here until class is over on Friday. Tomorrow morning I’ll be up at 6 am, they have breakfast here at the hotel (for free), so I’ll have a chance to have some coffee and eat before I run over to the school. I want to try to be there by 0730 and start class by 0800.

I’m not sure how many students I have yet. I think it’ll only be 1-2. That makes it harder to stick to the schedule since they plan for lots of students with lots of questions. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes with this new program.

Heads Up

I’ve been trying to keep up with the Just Jot It January challenge, but since I left to head offshore it’s been getting harder and harder. The internet was out most of the day yesterday and due to my upcoming change in position, I don’t think I’ll have access to blog again until I get home. It might not be until next Wednesday. 😦

I was supposed to be getting off and heading home tonight. Last night the office called and asked if anyone was willing to work over. No one was. So I stepped up.

After crew change tonight, I will go from being mate on here to being galley hand. So, I will change watch from working noon-midnight, to working 1800-0600. Instead of standing watch on the bridge, I will be washing dishes, laundry and sanitation.

I’m sure I can handle it. 😉

JusJoJan: Contemplation

I’ve been participating in Linda’s Just Jot It January challenge. I know I’ve been offline for a few days. It couldn’t be helped. I haven’t had enough internet access to get to my blog to post anything. I finally managed to get my computer hooked up (had to pay $32 for 750 mb) and have a little time to use it. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to get on ’til I get back home.

I have still been ‘jotting’ various things every day, even if not online. Things like log book entries, positions, JSEAs, safety observation cards, etc. Does that count? 😉

I joined the vessel in Cameron, LA at about 2300 Thursday. We headed offshore the next morning and we’ve been busy working since then. Early this morning a cold front came through and the weather offshore kicked up pretty quickly. The divers can’t work in rough seas and so the decision was made to return to the dock and wait on better weather.

We arrived back in Cameron this afternoon. We had to shift ship a couple of times due to other boats at the dock. Now we are hunkered down for the night. It’s been freezing cold (literally) and we’ve even had snow! Right now I’m looking at a snow covered white parking lot (instead of the usual grey mud).

Today’s prompt for JusJoJan is “contemplation“.

One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed working at sea was the time we get for contemplation. It’s just natural when you’re standing watch at night, looking out at nothing but the black waters and amazing star filled sky.

You wind up thinking about all kinds of things. Deep thoughts. Having really involved discussions with your watch mates. Thinking over all the things you want to do with your life. Thinking about all kinds of ways to solve the worlds problems. 😉

You might be surprised at how many famous people are former seamen, other than Mark Twain : Peter Falk (Colombo), Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-O), Woody Guthrie, Oliver Stone (and many more). A seaman’s life gives you lots of time to think. Unlike so many other jobs today, most of which run you ragged without a minute to yourself.

I love working out here. I miss it when I’m home. I only wish it was still the way it was when I first started out. They’ve taken all the fun out of it. So many BS rules and regulations. I don’t think I’m going to be allowed to continue to work out here much longer. It’s just getting too hard to put up with the BS.

It’s been a balancing act for a while now. Ever since I had to come back to work in the Gulf of Mexico from overseas, I’ve been chafing at the bits. I just want to be able to do my job. Now, it costs me a fortune to keep all the various ‘training’ certificates up to date.

Another thing, I don’t do (illegal) drugs, but it violates every principle I believe in to submit to a piss test in order to go to work and yet even that is now becoming obsolete. Companies now are starting to require a hair follicle test! That is just completely unacceptable!

Here’s something to ‘contemplate’… How can such a minute amount of any substance (9 nanograms) possibly have any effect on your job performance? How can the test results with such a low level of any substance have any possible effect on your job performance a month after you’ve used that substance? How about 3 months later (piss test can detect)? How about 12 months (which a hair follicle test can detect)?

Simple answer: it can’t!

I want to know why any company should be allowed to tell you what you can and can’t do 3+ months before the day you’re working for them. Why can they dictate what you do on your time off? On weekends, your vacation? I want to know why so many people seem to believe these piss tests/hair follicle tests have anything to do with safety. I want to know why people are insisting since they have to take a drug test, everybody else ought to have to take one too. Just because you’re getting screwed, lets make sure everybody else is getting screwed too? Wow! Why isn’t everyone insisting that all drug tests have nothing to do with job performance, safety or anything else except CONTROL?

I want to know why Americans, who supposedly appreciate freedom are so accepting of this ‘slavery’.

It’s not, you say?

What else would you call it when a company refuses to honor your RIGHT to do what you want on YOUR time? Are they paying you 24/7? No, they’re not! Are they going to backdate your paycheck for the last 12 months before they hired you when you pass their tests since you have given up your RIGHT to live your life the way YOU choose and instead are following their rules? No, they are not.

I tell it like it IS. They want to OWN you, body and soul!

Contemplate that!

Can Do!

I just wanted to let everyone know about this upcoming event. It’s at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It sounds really interesting and if I was going to be in town I would definitely go. I’m leaving tonight to head offshore for a couple of weeks. Yeah!

Today’s prompt for Just Jot It January is: humiliate. I’m not sure I’ll get a chance for another post today or not, so enjoy this one. Maybe it’ll interest you enough to check out some history. The story of the Glomar Challenger (photo below) is really pretty cool, but even more interesting is the saga of the companies other ships, the Glomar Explorer. 😉

Lecture – Can Do! A History of Texas Leading the Way in Energy by Paul Mattingly

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 – 6:30 PM

Running Time: 2 hours

An innovative cast of characters have lead the way in the energy industry–Harry Wiess, Herman Brown, Howard Hughes, Herbert Hunt–and established Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast as the epicenter of the international energy industry. Author and historian Paul Mattingly will tell the fascinating, little-known stories behind the biggest projects of their time and explain the numerous interconnections including the Glomar Challenger, Apollo program robots, Texas Instruments and the proving of theory of plate tectonics.

Mattingly will conclude with how Texas continues to lead the way in new sources of energy for the future. A book signing of “From Orange To Singapore: A Shipyard Builds a Legacy” will follow the presentation.

Members $12, Tickets $18

It’s Been a Long Day

And I’m too tired to do much blogging now. 😦

The prompt for today is: pants, but I’m too out of it to come up with anything to say about that.

I got up at 0400 so I could do everything I needed to and get on the road by 0530. I had only gone to bed at 0030 and didn’t fall asleep for at least another half hour after that. I’m just not right after only 3-4 hours of sleep.

I’ve been dragging along all day. I got to work in Houston on time. The traffic was lighter than expected this morning, even after last nights thunderstorms. We got out of work by 1500 and I had to run some errands on the way home.

I got home at around 1800 and had a couple of interesting phone calls (more on that later).  I took my walk about 2030, then cooked dinner. Just finished that up. It’s already 2230!

Where did the time go? Oh yeah, I filled out another ridiculous online application (where they ask you to upload your resume and then you still need to fill in all the exact same information again on their computer form and if you skip something or don’t answer ‘properly’, you need to do it again). That took up an hour or so. 😦

I need to get to sleep. Another 0400 wake up coming soon enough!

We were supposed to work tomorrow and Wednesday too, but it looks like Wednesday has already been cancelled. I really need the money, but I really need the zzzzzz’s too. I can’t be too pissed they’ve cancelled the class.

January 7 2018

Your prompt for January 7th, 2018, brought to you by the lovely Ruth, is “Indelible.” Use it any way you’d like in your post. And make sure you visit Ruth at her blog, “Image and Word” to read her post and say hi! Here’s her link:  https://imageandword.wordpress.com/

Another day of the Just Jot It January challenge, where the challenge is to write something every day. Today, I think I’m going to skip the prompt (indelible) and just write free form. Like yesterdays SoCS post where you just write whatever comes out.

I need to start writing shorter posts! That one yesterday took me a couple of hours to write and post. Even tho it was a SoCS and I didn’t do any research or linking or photos like I usually do. Today, I’ve spent quite a while catching up on comments (keep ’em coming!).

I’ve had a lot more than usual free time lately. I got home from my last ship on December 27th and really only had 3 days where I was away from home all day. I’ve spent some time looking for work, but more just catching up around here. I’ve had time to post and visit and comment on other blogs, but that’s about to end.

I’ve got work in Houston for the next 3 weeks, another day teaching at SanJac (that I’ll have to study up for) and then I’ve got a week teaching Tankerman-PIC at Lamar up in Orange.

So, if I’m going to post every day while I’m busy working and driving back and forth 2-3 hours/day, I need to cut down on the time I spend writing a post. I’ll still write something, just try to keep it short. 😉

Best of the Blog 2017

Here it is, the end of another year. I can hardly believe it’s another one gone by so fast. Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened last year and how to make things better next year. Here’s a quick rehash of CaptainJillsJourneys from 2017.

Here’s a month by month of my most popular posts (not counting the moonshine recipes which are by far the most hit on!)…

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/01/17/one-word-photo-challenge-drink/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/02/19/travel-theme-turquoise/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/03/08/my-wish/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/04/13/k-is-for-kestrel-atozchallenge/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/05/28/still-out-here/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/06/13/going-to-court-tomorrow/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/07/21/working/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/08/07/back-to-school/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/09/18/change-of-plans/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/10/01/the-jones-act-vs-puerto-rico/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/11/12/sea-trials/

http://captainjillsjourneys.com/2017/12/15/shipping-out/

Seems funny that I’ve had so many popular posts about work this year, when I’ve really hardly worked at all. 😦

I wish I had more interesting travel stories to tell, but hard to come up with those when I haven’t been able to go anywhere (due to lack of funds/work). It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by and I’ve done so little with my life.

Yeah, I keep myself plenty busy every day. I have to-do lists every day that I never even manage to finish. But they’re full of all the normal little everyday things you need to do around the house. Plus, spending lots of time online, looking for work and still filling out those damn online applications!

I’ve made forays into writing, painting and photography. Unbelievable how much time those things can take up! So far, nothing has come out of any of them, but I’m still hopeful. I have made a few contacts at least.

I just feel like a chicken with it’s head cut off. Running around like crazy and never going anywhere. My goals in life have all been tied to work and without any work for so long I’m just stuck in a rut and don’t know what to do with myself.

Today I feel like just saying ‘to hell with it all!’, ‘I quit!’. But then I come to my senses and wonder HOW??? Should I just give up and throw away everything I’ve worked for my whole life? My license (my ability to work), my property, my house, all my stuff? Everything but what I can easily carry with me?

So far, I can not make myself give up everything, but I also know if I don’t get work soon I am going to lose it all anyway. It takes money- lots of money!- to keep all of those things! Those few short jobs I’ve managed to find over the last couple of years have allowed me to still have a few thousand dollars left (out of $75,000 when I lost my job).

Most of that will get spent this month on fixing one of my properties. It needs to be leveled again and previous contractors refuse to honor their guarantee. So, I’m stuck having to pay another $15,000 to fix it. Otherwise, I will continue to lose $800/month on that property.

I also screwed up and mailed the check for property taxes 1 day late and now I owe another $5500 by the end of January!

If anyone wonders why I took that last job, this is why. It’s very hard to make good decisions on finances when you’re under so much financial stress.

Some people have told me I should just give up and go take a job at McDonalds or Walmart. Why? Jobs like that won’t come close to paying the bills. If I’m working like that I won’t even be able to keep looking for a real job (or on my other projects that might someday earn me a few bucks).

All I can think to do at this point is to keep on hoping that things will get better in 2018. A lot of the ‘experts’ are saying so, but they’ve been saying that for the last 2 years. I’ve got enough to be OK through February and then???

I hate to think of what’ll happen then. 😦

All I want for 2018 is WORK! PLEASE!!!

Looking For a Ship

Not just the title of a pretty good book! I’m back home, rested up and back on the job of looking for a job.

I’ve already called all my usual agencies (C-Mar, Oceanwide, CLS, Northstar, Spencer-Ogden) and no one has any work now or for the foreseeable future.

Some linkedin contacts have mentioned a couple of places overseas. I’ve been trying to contact them, but so far no response. Looks like the situation is still the same. Thousands of us out of work, resumes stacked til filing cabinets overflowing and still no hope of work any time soon.

The price of oil has been flirting with $60/bbl over the last week, but it’s still not enough to get anyone moving. We keep hearing ‘next year it will be better”. It’s 3 days away from ‘next year” and I’m hoping like hell it really will be better!

I don’t know how others are managing to survive. Well, yes I do, most of them have families to help them out. They’re lucky. The younger ones have mostly left the industry and found something else to do. They’ve let their documents lapse and won’t be able to come back. Of course, they didn’t have all that much invested in this industry yet anyway. There’s a huge difference between an AB and an unlimited master as far as costs (and everything else).

I’m heading up to Galveston today to move my art. The gallery where it’s been showing is moving (they’re having their own problems) and all artists are being asked to help move. Looks like it won’t be on display again til late January, maybe February. Just another way to try to survive!

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!

Christmas on the St Louis Express

We made arrival in Norfolk early in the morning on the 24th. We were all fast by 0315. I slept in til 0630. Got up for breakfast and watch at 0800. We spent the day securing the port accommodation ladder, sending crates down to the engine room with the crane, putting the port lifeboat in the water and putting primer on the catwalks where we’ve been chipping.

Since it’s a weekend, we get overtime even for working on watch. It’s nice to get OT again. I’ve gotten so used to working in the oilfield where there is no such thing as overtime. We work 12 hours every day (or more). No such thing as a break for weekends or holidays. It’s very nice to go back to a traditional schedule of 4 hours on/8 hours off (except that I am here working as a “day man” so I work 8-5).

Today is Christmas, so I took the afternoon off. I think most of the crew did the same. Some of the crew went ashore last night and today. They say there are a few shops right outside the gate (we still have to call for a ride to the gate).

Santa made it to the ship! Actually, it was the local seaman’s center that brought presents for the crew. You have no idea how much it means to all of us working out here to get something like this. So many sailors are working for months, even years at sea without ever seeing their friends or family. It means a lot to know that someone cares enough about us to make the effort to bring these presents to the ship.

Santa brought presents to the ship!

I opened mine this morning. It had a nice Christmas card on top with a thoughtful comment. It’s full of candy, shampoo, shaving cream and razors, lotion, soap, q-tips, etc. All things you need and might’ve forgotten or run out of on a long voyage.

Christmas goodies from thanks to the seaman’s center

The stewards department was really the only one that really had to work today. I have to hand it to them, they put on quite a nice spread for both lunch and dinner.

We had ham, turkey, deviled eggs, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green peas, fresh bread, cranberry sauce, and then apple and pecan pie. 🙂

Cooks are happy they made it through the holiday

Not counting the salad bar and freezer full of ice cream. 🙂

For dinner, they had super tender filet mignon, home made crab cakes, shrimp and again all the rest. I was so stuffed, I couldn’t even finish my steak.

It’s cold (37) and really windy here, but no snow yet. Tomorrow we’ll be back to work as usual. The ship is due to sail at 1900. Sadly, I won’t be going with her.

I hate to admit it, but I guess I’m just not as young as I used to be. I took this job as a day man, not knowing what I was getting myself into. Big mistake! Since a large part of my job is running the cranes (4 of them), and the controls are very high up there, I had to face the facts and ask for a replacement.

I’m sure if I’d have shipped out as a regular AB. A watch standing AB, I would’ve done fine. I’m frustrated with myself that I took this job without finding out more about it, but it’s like pulling teeth sometimes trying to get information out of them at the union hall. I was really looking forward to making this trip. Crossing the Atlantic and seeing Europe again. From what I can see, the regular AB’s have it made on here. I’d have no problem doing that job.

I hated to ask the captain for a relief. I don’t like to give up. I don’t like to be a quitter. But, I also have to take into account that I am getting older, I still have not lost any weight, and climbing up and down straight ladders more than a couple of times a day is killing my legs.

I’m bruised all over my body, I keep smashing my knees into the ladder rungs going up the cranes and I’m afraid one of these days I’m going to fall off while I’m cussing out my kneecaps. I have to remind myself that there is no way I can afford to get hurt and if I keep on climbing those cranes, there’s a pretty good chance I would hurt myself before the ship returns to Houston and I’d be due off.

So. I’ll be getting off tomorrow and flying home to Houston. I don’t have any idea when yet. I may be working all day tomorrow and just have a few minutes to throw my gear together. Or maybe they’ll let me know earlier so I have some time to clean my room and get ready.

I’m just hoping they can find me a cheap ticket, since I’m told they will be deducting the price of the flight from my pay. Looks like I may’ve wound up working pretty much for free this trip. 😦

Lesson learned: NEVER take a job as a day man!

 

First Few Days on the St Louis Express

I joined the St Louis Express in Houston at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal. I got there around 1030 at night after driving around looking for the ship for a while. The ship didn’t get in til 1900 and they told me to get there soon after.

I was excited to join my first container ship, so tried to get there soon after 7, but as usual things got in the way. Turns out, I really shouldn’t have showed up ’til morning anyway. I had to find a spare room to spend the night in, then move in the morning when the guy I was relieving got with me.

view from my cabin, starboard side looking forward

view aft from crane #4

So, first thing we did was get me checked out in the crane. I’ve run cranes before and do fine with them. These cranes are way up off the deck. I’ve tried to count the rungs on the (straight) ladders, but keep losing count. We have 4 large cranes onboard. The climbing up and down has been killing me! I hate to admit it, but I may not be able to handle this job for another month if it consists of so much up and down climbing. 😦

I haven’t even been here a week yet and I’m already worn out! I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into by signing on as a dayworker. “AB Maintenance”. On the other ships I’ve worked on, they just did the usual maintenance work. The big difference here is the cranes. I’m really concerned about my ability to do that part of the job. I hate to be a crybaby or a quitter, but I really can’t afford to take any chances. Especially now, when I’ve been out of work for so long. It’s already been over 27 months with just a few little 1-2 week temp jobs every few months to keep me going. I can’t afford to get hurt.

Other than crane ops, I’ve been doing a lot of greasing. I have my little green bucket filled with rags, grease gun, screwdriver, pipe wrench, WD-40, and crescent wrench. I carry it around in the mornings from 08-10 and work on greasing and exercising all the movable parts on board. So far, I have only got the aft mooring winches and roller chocks done since I usually only do that work from 08-10.

After the morning break, the Bosun (the boss of the deck crew) has had me chipping with the AB on the catwalks. We take off the gratings and crawl around underneath and get as much rust off as we can with the needle guns and air chisels. After coffee in the afternoon, we clean up the mess and the OS paints everything with corroseal. Next we prime it, then paint. It’s a big project, but gives everyone a chance to get overtime.

walking up the main deck port side

lots of ship traffic S Florida

We left Houston 2200 Sunday (night). The weather was cool and the seas were calm. We had our first fire and boat drills and got some idea of our schedule from the Captain Monday. We had a nice ride across the Gulf of Mexico. I was hoping to see the Florida Keys when we passed but they were too far away.

We got to Savannah this morning around 0900. It took a few hours to run up the river and dock. We spent the night at anchor due to fog and the weather was still pretty grey and misty. We were all fast by 1130.

coming up the river to Savannah

First thing we had to do was to move all our cranes out of their cradles and hang them over the offshore side. If not, they’ll interfere with the dockside cranes loading the containers onboard. Same with the pilot ladder (it’s attached to an accommodation ladder).

we’re docked just forward of the first containership in the photo

After lunch, it was back up in the crane. This time in crane #4 to load some crates into the engine room. They have a large hatch right behind the accommodations. It opens up right over the engines. It’s pretty cool to see all that machinery. My first day, I was in the crane and we had to change out a part for the engine. Someone mentioned it cost about a half million dollars. I’m glad they told me afterward!

So far, the sailing board is still set for midnight tonight. We’ll be off to Norfolk and then after that, on across the ‘pond’.

passing downtown Savannah, tug coming alongside

I’ll post more later. My new smart phone and it’s ‘mobile hotspot’ seems to be working OK so far, but we still have to be in cel phone range for me to use it. As soon as we left Galveston, we lost signal and only got it back on arrival this morning.

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. 😉