What Are You Thankful For This Pandemic Year Thanksgiving?

I am so thankful to be at work. I am thankful that this year I have had more work than I’ve had since I was laid off in 2015. Maybe this long downturn is finally ending?

I’m thankful I still have some savings left. I’m not totally broke yet. I still have my house and most of my assets, though I’ve had to sell off a few things in order to survive the last few years with practically no work. I’m thankful I’ve had the years of experience of working in the offshore oilfield which prepared me for this time. I did all I could to be ready for the layoffs.

I’m thankful to be fairly healthy. I’m not deaf, dumb, blind or seriously injured. I do have some health issues (I’m getting old) and I’m still fat (nothing new there, I still have no success dieting). I’ve pretty much given up on that and just accept that I enjoy my food and drink and always will. I’d rather enjoy it all rather than deprive myself in hopes of a few extra years of life.

You never really know what’s going to happen anyway. You could die in a car wreck tomorrow. I could find out I have some kind of cancer next month. I have such a hard time right now with this ‘pandemic’, it has a 99%+ survival rate but everyone in the world seems to think it’s worth throwing away everything that makes life worth living in order to be ‘safe’. Like anyone ever could be.

There is no such thing as 100% safety in this world. Life entails risk! There is no living without it! Giving up so much, reaching for that 1% just seems totally insane to me.

I’m thankful for my friends. They accept me as I am. I don’t have to dress up or play any games. They don’t run me off (very often) if I start going on about one of my ‘conspiracy theories’. I’m glad I have so many I can talk about such interesting subjects with. I get super tired of having nothing to talk about but sports and babies!

I’m thankful that I’ll be able to eat and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner out here on the boat where we’re all living pretty much normally (we just check our temperatures daily). I do not have to worry about any idiotic mask mandates or restrictions on how many friends I can invite over to eat!

I’m really, really thankful that more and more people are starting to wake up. To stand up and fight for their (and our) freedom. That they are no longer willing to submit to the idiotic, arbitrary and ultimately useless rules and restrictions being forced upon the world using the excuse of a deadly pandemic (covid).

I’m thankful that I can still get around (tho who knows how much longer that will last with all the covid restrictions ongoing). I’ve been able to keep my ’97 F-150 going and do my best to take care of it. I don’t ever want to have to buy another car in my life!

I’d love to find somewhere to live where I don’t need a car at all. Somewhere like where I grew up in Florida, where everything I needed was within easy walking distance. Not like Texas, where everything you need is miles away and we have no real options for public transportation.

I’m thankful that I still have access to so many great books to read! I have my kindle with me and it’s full of a few dozen good ones. Everything from travel to horror, to biographies and science fiction. I also brought a stock of magazines with me. I’m still working through the Seaways from the Nautical Institute and just started on the National Geographic. I still have a couple of Smithsonian’s and Reason magazines to get through.

I’m thankful I have my house and garden to go home to when I get off this boat. A place of my own where I can spread out. I can relax and lay down on the couch if I feel like it. I can fill the fridge with food, cook and eat anything I feel like. I can adjust the temperature to where I’m comfortable (this boat is always freezing!). I can work on projects like painting while listening to my favorite music. I can look forward to getting outside to clean up my yard while the weather is nice and cool. I can enjoy watching my plants do their thing and pet the visiting cats that come by to meow at me pretty much every day.

I’m thankful for my cameras and computers. They allow me to take photos to help me remember all the fantastic places I’ve been and all the beautiful people I’ve met. I can look back and remember all the good times I’ve had and fantasize about having more in the future. I can wind up practically drooling over some of the emails I get describing bucket list destinations.

They also allow me to share and meet people all over the world who I’d never be able to in any other way. I’m thankful for that too. 🙂

What are some things you’re thankful for?

Are Things Getting Better in the Gulf of Mexico?

I’ve been back at work since late October. I joined this vessel in Amelia, LA on October 27. It’s an ex- Tidewater supply boat, the Ken C Tamblyn, renamed Ocean Guardian. It had been stacked for a few years until this company bought it, They had a couple of guys onboard for a few months, getting it ready to go to work. Then they lined up a job and crewed it up at the last minute.

A company new to the Gulf, has to have a super hard time finding work for their vessel. It’s been hell even for companies that have been around for decades. There are hundreds of boats stacked up all over the bayous of S Louisiana. They must have a hell of a salesman, they’ve managed to find work for it with a dive company for at least this one job. In November no less!

If I could find work like that, I would be seriously looking for a boat of my own.

Too bad I couldn’t sell steak to a starving man. Also, I’m still basically broke. Still trying to catch up to where I was a few years ago financially and don’t have any spare cash to invest in a boat or anything else.

I do think this is probably the best time to buy a boat I’ve seen in a long time. We got to work offshore for a while and then had to bring the boat in to Port Fourchon for the last hurricane (Eta). We spent a couple of days shifting between various docks (doing the old Fourchon Shuffle). It seemed busier than the last few times I’ve been in here.

We went offshore to get a little more work done before the weather kicked up again and we had to come back in. Again, we have no dock space so shifting around over and over. It seems to be a sign of an improving situation for boats working in the Gulf. Everything comes through Fourchon now a days (personally, I still think that’s a terrible idea- we should not put all our eggs in one basket/port).

There aren’t nearly as many boats in port as there were previously, but the ones that are here seem to have work. I see a lot of subsea boats running in and out with equipment on deck. I’ve noticed a few supply boats loaded with pipe and casing and various tools. Maybe things are finally picking up offshore?

The latest lease sale was a bit of good news, with a larger than expected $120 million bid. I really hope that translates into improved work situations for all us offshore workers. It’s been a LONG 5+ years since the layoffs started in 2014.

I’d really like to get at least one more full year of work in. I know so many people who have been struggling to survive the last few years and just trying to hold on. It would be great to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and come out strong again. I’ll just have to keep on hoping.

What Do You DO Out There?

I sometimes mention in my posts that I’ve been busy. I was thinking, maybe people might be interested to know what we’re so busy doing out here in the middle of nowhere. Well, at the moment I’m back to working as DPO. Dynamic Positioning Operator. On here they call my job ADPO (assistant). They have a DPO and ADPO. Other places the same jobs are labeled SDPO (senior DPO) and DPO. What we do is drive the ship. 

Or not. 

Seems like most of the time our job is to keep the ship in exactly the same spot. Especially on a drilling rig, which is where I’m at now. We’re working about 100 miles E of Guyana, a smallish country in the Northeast coast of South America. 

I’ve never been to Guyana before and don’t really consider that I’ve been there yet. All I’ve seen of the country is the airport and what I could spot through the rain on an hour long van ride from there to the heliport. I doubt I will be able to see anything else on the way home either. 

Here’s what a day on board here looks like for me…

My alarm rings at 0420. I wake up, stumble to the bathroom, brush my teeth and hair. Get dressed and then head to the bridge to collect the data I must report at the morning pre-tour meeting (work technically starts at 0600). 

After I get the information I need, I head down to breakfast. I’m usually there from 0510-0525 and then have to hurry to get to the meeting at 0530. I can’t be late. I’m not the first person to report, but I am second. I report on the weather during the night, at the moment, and expected during the day ahead. I report on the vessel heading, the wind and current, the ‘drift off times’ for the drillers so they have an idea how quickly they’d have to disconnect if we had some kind of issue. 

When the meeting breaks up, I catch the elevator to the bridge (around 0555) with a few others who work on the Nav deck (this is where most of the offices are on this ship). I meet my relief and go over what’s been happening overnight and then he’s free to leave and I take over the DP desk. 

 

I go through the checklists, making sure all the reference systems are giving good data, the engines and thrusters aren’t working too hard, the ship is staying well within her heading and position limits. I’ll call the engine room and the drill floor to check our DP status alert lights (green, blue, yellow and red). If anything happens, we can flip a switch on the bridge and everyone will immediately be aware of an issue and take steps accordingly. 

Once I’ve completed the checklists, I continue to monitor everything. I have cameras to see a lot of places on the ship. I usually watch the drill floor, the helideck if there are choppers expected, the boats working alongside, and the cranes to help me see if I need to ballast.

Sometimes, it’s really slow. Other times, the weather is changing or there’s a lot going on and it gets stressful. I’m always busy with answering the phone, making pages, standing lookout, communicating with other vessels, keeping up the log books, etc.  We usually work an hour on the desk and then an hour off for our 12 hour long days. 

The hour off the desk we take care of people with work permits, answer emails, keep our charts and publications up to date, work on any projects the captain gives us, etc. We get relieved for meals, a half hour. The food is pretty good. I wish I had more than a half hour to eat it. I can only really enjoy it at dinner time after I get off watch at 1800. 

This is our routine every day for 28 days. Only Sunday is a little different because we almost always have drills. It’s a US Coast Guard requirement that we have fire and abandon ship drills at least every week. There are a bunch of others we have to have too: man overboard, rescue at heights, confined space rescue, oil spill response, ballast control, helicopter crash, dynamic positioning, H2S, security, search and rescue, etc. 

Sundays at sea used to be a day of leisure. We only had to do the absolutely necessary work for the ship. It was also the day we could take it easy, do our laundry, relax and take it easy. Now, it’s the busiest day on board. We all have so many ‘safety’ items to take care of: lifeboats & FRC (fast rescue craft) for the mates, on the bridge we are doing our housekeeping checklist, cleaning the bridge, exercising the ballast valves, a more detailed GMDSS (radio) check, weekly chart/publication updates, check the beacon batteries, update reports, etc.

People see the DPOs on a rig sitting in a nice chair on the bridge and think we’ve got it easy. That that is all we do.

Not quite.

Catching Up

So, to catch up a little bit since I took that long break from writing anything on here, I’ll tell a little bit about what’s been going on in my world. 

My last post before the break, I was just leaving for the Seven Pacific. I flew out to Moble, AL to join the ship, everything was still pretty normal. As the days passed by, the panic grew around the coronavirus spreading worldwide. 

Seven Pacific

The TV in the mess hall was continually reporting every death and the resulting fear-induced over reactions. Lockdowns and government tyranny spreading almost everywhere. I remember hearing of Chinese government agents welding shut the doors of their people (tho who knows how much to believe of any news out of China). 

I have always been skeptical of anything coming out of the TV and almost never take the news at face value. The constant terrorism set off alarm bells for me almost from day one. Nothing made sense. If this virus has been floating around the world since October (when it was first reported in China), then it should have already spread around the world by April. 

I had been traveling a lot since October. I was in Chile, traveling by bus, taxi and plane, before and after my cruise to Antarctica (with quite a few Chinese tourists onboard). I had spent a few days wandering around Santiago, mingling with the huge crowds of protestors (notice how all those protests- Chile- Hong Kong- Paris- etc- ALL just suddenly stopped without even a whimper out of all those millions of rightly angry protesters). I had spent a couple of days at the casinos in Lake Charles. I had spent over a month on board two different vessels, each with over 100 crew from all over the world. Yet, neither I, nor anyone on board had any kind of symptoms. 

Many of the crew were listening to the constant listing of deaths around the world and were becoming very concerned about their friends and families at home. Then came the lockdowns and travel restrictions. I was lucky to be able to get off the ship and go home. That was only because I was onboard as an extra hand and didn’t require a relief. I actually had a relief try to meet me on the ship. He flew to the states from Cyprus (which still allowed travel). He spent days flying half way across the world, only to be turned away at the heliport in Houma, LA and had to fly all the way back home! Then, to top it off, he had to go into quarantine when he got back over there!

None of the Filipinos were allowed to travel. Most of them on ships around the world still aren’t allowed to go home or return to work if they’re at home. Most of them have already been working 6 months and now are over by 6 months or more. How in the world can anyone justify keeping seafarers locked up onboard for so long? 

Whatever, right? We all just need to get over it. Amazing, but that’s what so many people keep on telling us. Like it’s no big deal to be kept from seeing your friends and family for many months more than you had agreed to. Or that you must sacrifice everything you’ve worked for your entire life to help other people deal with their fears.

Anyway, I was very lucky to be able to get home, only a little over a week late. I can always use the money and all the things I wanted to do had already been shut down/canceled anyway. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those poor Filipinos in the crew were still stuck onboard. The company didn’t seem very concerned about making crew change. Why would they be? It had to be saving them a fortune in air fares.

I had a good hitch on that ship. It was a beautiful vessel, with a good crew and an interesting job. We did a lot of underwater installation work that hitch. Laying down pipelines and jumpers. That sort of thing. I was home by the end of March. It was so weird, flying home with only 5 people on the plane- 3 of them from my ship. The airports at both ends were totally deserted. I felt like I was somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

I still feel like that. Or really, more like George Orwell’s 1984.

 

Five Day Turnaround

I got off the Ocean Evolution last week. I had to drive home (8+hr drive) so I spent a little time job hunting on the way. I stopped in the office when I picked up my truck, hoping to talk to someone there and got lucky. I was able to talk to the HR people and they helped me get my application filled in (I’ve been trying to do it on their website, but it wouldn’t let me past the 2nd page).

I don’t really have any idea if anything will come of it, they couldn’t give me a time frame for when or if I might be needed, but I still felt pretty good when I left. It might’ve helped that I worked there for 5 years directly a few years back. I probably should’ve just stayed there, but got one of those “too good to be true” offers and took it.

Next door was another boat company, so I stopped there too. I was able to speak to a man there who actually seemed interested. We talked for a while about the good old days in the Gulf. Back when things were booming and we could still go to work in shorts and flip-flops. God I miss those days!

It was already getting late, so I was only able to make one more stop that day. Was told there, they would probably be laying people off again next week (now). With the Coronavirus panic wreaking havoc all over the world, I expect that’s already happened. Looks like we’re in for at least another year of horrible job prospects in the maritime industry.

I made it home late Thursday and spent the weekend running errands and getting caught up with the foot-high pile of mail blocking my front door. I was also able to spend some time online, looking at things I wasn’t able to at work (not stupid stuff- but internet was super sluggish onboard and lots of sites were blocked).

I saw a post on Linkedin Sunday where they were looking for a DPO and I made a comment. I was super surprised that they actually called me back. That never happens! Turns out I was accepted for the position and had to get ready to travel again immediately.

This one, the Seven Pacific, will be my home for the next 2 weeks. 🙂

I left yesterday afternoon and am waiting to join the ship here in Mobile now. 🙂

Safety Sunday

I’m still here onboard the Ocean Evolution. It’s a slow Sunday at the dock. Usually Sundays are what we call “Safety Sunday”. We try to take it easy and do a lot of safety related stuff (more than usual).

We thought we were going offshore today to do some testing, so we did all our drills yesterday after the usual Saturday steak BBQ. Today I haven’t done much but a little bit of ballasting for some crane ops, a little bit of paperwork and standing gangway watch.

That whole gangway watch thing is new since 9-11. We’re supposed to be on the lookout for terrorists who instead of just shooting us with an RPG from the dock, want to try their luck to sneak aboard and somehow attack a ship full of some fairly tough men (these guys don’t sit behind a desk all day). We also have a lot of things that could be quite dangerous if we want them to be. A match for any bunch of losers with box cutters!

Personally, I think the whole ‘be afraid, be very very afraid” of the terrorist thing is WAY overblown. I have zero fear of any terrorist. What I do fear is the fact that our government has used that fear to destroy our way of life. They’ve done it a hell of a lot more effectively than any terrorist could imagine in their wildest dreams!

As an example, I was reading an article today on how many people in the US don’t yet have “REAL ID” (internal passports, just like the old USSR and NAZI Germany used to have- great examples we’ve decided to follow). I have no idea how the “added security” these new IDs will help us in the USA. After all, this country’s government has one purpose and one purpose ONLY.

That SOLE purpose is: to protect the rights and freedoms we already have as human beings!

Will someone, anyone, please tell me exactly how forcing us to “show your papers please” anytime we want to travel (which we’re constitutionally guaranteed to be able to do without any kind of government interference) is going to help anything?

The ONLY thing it will do, is to continue to turn us into a bunch of zombies, dependent on our government masters to protect us from everything in the world (including ourselves). We’ve already gone way too far down that road to serfdom.

I’ll post this quote from Ben Franklin again here. It’s just as true now as when he (supposedly) said it back when we were fighting for our freedom from the British.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

We need to wake the hell up and start fighting for it again NOW, before it’s too late. We will never have a safe society and I- for one- don’t want one. I want a FREE society. I want to be able to live my live, make my own choices and have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. I am sick and tired of the nanny state being forced upon us all. We’re NOT all babies here. We’re entitled to live as fully functioning adults until and unless we prove we’re (individually) incapable of that.

I don’t know how many of you may support the nanny state we’re living in now, but if you do I’d like to hear your reasons. Why would anyone think we should choose to live in a “safe” society (which is unattainable) to living in a free society (which is also probably not 100% possible, but I’m sure it’s a lot easier to achieve and a lot better for a lot more people).

Let’s have a real discussion here. 🙂

PS- we used to be able to discuss interesting subjects like this in the local bars until the MAD mothers put a stop to that! Most of the bars have closed and no one talks anymore about anything but sports (men) and babies (women).

PSS- Just to be 100% clear- this blog is mine. Everything I post here is something I think is useful, relevant, interesting (to me and hopefully to others). It is never, in any way, related to any company or person I work for. My comments are based on my interpretations of my research and I don’t mean for them to reflect on anyone else. I don’t think what a person does on their own time should be anybody’s business at work, but apparently way too many businesses think they own you 24/7 and they do think it’s their business. I refuse to shut up, but again, just to make it clear. None of what I say here has anything to do with anybody but me. No company or boss has ever agreed with me on anything! 😉

Offshore Again

I’m out on the Ocean Evolution again. I haven’t had a chance to post much since I got here. Internet is not co-operating tonight either. I’ll try again when I get a chance.

Six Long Months

It’s been almost 6 months since my last job. I’ve been getting desperate (never a good frame of mind- people can sense it). I thought I’d be able to pick up some work when I got back from my last trip. The Christmas holiday is usually the best time of the year to get temp jobs. People always want to spend time with their friends and families, so they’ll ask for time off.

Well, not this year. Not for the last 4 years before that. I thought before I left for that trip that things were finally improving, but everyone is still too afraid for their jobs to take any chances. Maybe their job won’t be there when they come back, so they stay onboard and temp employees like me are out of luck.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time online looking for work (again). I’ve already applied everywhere I can think of (except MSC– my absolute last resort). I’ve done this at least a half dozen times, just going down the list of any companies with ships. I’ve called each of them a few times, eventually giving up when I can’t get past their computerized answering machine/secretary to talk to someone who knows something. I’ve even gone in person a few times.

I’ve filled out the same applications over and over (wondering exactly why do they need to know when/where I went to high school and what my grades were from 40 years ago?).

Every time I actually manage to talk to someone, all I get is- “we’re not actually hiring, we’re just collecting resumes”. I don’t know why they post ads. Some even put up billboards that say they’re “hiring all positions”. I wonder why they’re bothering to collect more resumes, they must have thousands on file from the last 5 years of this latest downturn in the oilfield. Why collect them if they’re not going to ever look at them?

It’s been so bad. I’ve been so frustrated that I’ve been seriously thinking about quitting. Just throwing away 40+ years of professional maritime experience (not even counting another few years working on the water before I got my first z-card). Just to sit and twiddle my thumbs at home. I’ve been trying to make a few bucks doing things I enjoy- like selling my photography, paintings, writing- but no one seems interested in buying. I haven’t been able to figure out how to get noticed online. I’m competing with millions of others so no one even sees my stuff.

I absolutely refuse to waste my skills and experience. The idea of spending the rest of my life working at someplace like Walmart or McDonalds gives me the willies, but it seems those are the only kinds of jobs I’m “qualified for” on land. I mean, who needs a ship captain on the beach?

So, in order to save money I put an ad in the paper for a room mate. I need someone in my house to help pay the bills so I can afford to do something with myself (other than sit at home vegetating). I’d like to go ahead and make the move to Mexico I’ve been trying to do for years. At least there I can afford to live a decent life. I won’t wind up a grumpy old lady dining on cat food with my measly social security check (since I’ll have spent my retirement funds in the 12 more years to go before I’m eligible).

I only had one call for a potential room mate so far, so nothing to hang around for. I saw a post online for a job fair in Lafayette, LA. They had one company (Pacific Drilling), with one job that I wanted. I had already applied for that job 4 times before, but figured it would be better to talk to someone. I really don’t think anyone ever looks at those online application they all sluff you off with. So I decided to give it one more try and drove up to Lafayette.

I planned to make the rounds of the bayou boat companies again afterwards, so I brought my sea bag with me- just in case.

I got lucky! I was planning to leave after my painting class, early Tuesday afternoon. I got a call from one of my agencies about a possible job. Of course I told them I would take it, but was going to continue with my plans to go to the job fair anyway, in case their job offer fell through.

Turned out, the job did come through. Yeah! I confirmed it when I was at the job fair. I was amazed at the crowds of people that showed up. There must’ve been at least 1000 people in the room, just in the hour I was there. Just shows how bad we’re still hurting in the oilfield.

The line for Pacific Drilling was tripled up across the room and then continued snaking out the door and all the way down the hall. By the time I got to the table to sign in, the stack of resumes was already at least 2 feet high. It was still 3 hours before they shut down the place!

The recruiter I spoke to sounded positive. I was hopeful I would hear back from her, but I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to keep on talking to people until you actually get on the boat. I continued on with the job hunt all that afternoon in the Lafayette area and then headed towards Morgan City.

I found out that afternoon, I would have to take another drug test (I just had one in October) before I would be allowed to join the vessel, so decided the best thing to do would be to spend the night in Morgan City, take the drug test 1st thing in the morning, then continue with the job hunt until I had to be at the dock at 1800 for a ride to the ship.

I joined the vessel about 2000 Thursday. The Ocean Evolution, (I was on it last year). So far, we’ve been sitting at the dock. I was hoping to go straight to work since I really need DP time! The officials have changed that system too, to where your certs expire if you’re not working so many days per year. I’m just thrilled to be getting a paycheck at this point, and at least I’m getting sea time. Every day is precious at this point. I can’t afford to lose my license, or I really will have to retire and no choice about it.

Thanks to this job, I’ll be OK for at least another 2 months without having to take anymore out of my retirement savings. Only 5 more months and I’ll be 69. It sucks when you start praying to be old, just so you can think you’re one more year closer to (hopefully) not outliving your savings.

Happy New Year 2020

fireworks

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a good time last night celebrating New Years Eve. I just stayed in with a couple of cups of hot chocolate and listened to the neighborhood firecrackers. I tried going outside to watch for a while, but it was overcast and all I could see was a couple of reflections.

What did you do?

So, I did stay up past midnight and I did sleep late this morning, but I woke up without a hangover. 😉

As usual this time of year, I’ve been thinking about the last year and my hopes for the next. This year even more since it’s also the end/start of another decade. I’ve been starting to notice the time creeping up on me more and more and trying to figure out “now what“?

All I can say is I really, really hope this year turns out better than last year (and the previous 3 before that)! I’m still basically unemployed. I’m still trying to find work, but I’ve decided I’m just not willing to work just to “survive”. I have skills. Skills that’ve taken me a lifetime to earn. Valuableskills for the right employer. I’m not going to throw all that away to work bagging groceries.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve decided that after spending 50 years working on the water and spending a fortune in time and money to earn my license it just does not make sense to throw all that away to do something totally unrelated.

People tell me online (Facebook) that “everyone’s hiring” or “there’s plenty of work”. Yes, I agree, they’re right. I see ads all the time for unlimited captain/DPO jobs paying somewhere around $120/day. Wonderful for some of the Ukrainians or Filipinos, but no US captain would take that job. Or yeah, plenty of jobs for deckhands. I can’t afford to work like that!

They can’t understand how I can sit at home, not earning anything, rather than out making $120/day out on a boat working 12+ hours/day (andputting my life and license at risk to boot). Then spending at least a day or two on both ends of the hitch catching up on business at home. Well, here’s the explanation. While I’m home, I can be online looking for a job that actually pays the bills and uses the license I’ve earned. I can be working on my writing or my art that hopefully I can sell somewhere to earn a few bucks.

The only issue is, after 6 months of not having even a whisper of a decent job, I start to get anxious, depressed and completely unmotivated to do anything. So, not getting anything done at home either. I don’t want to go out trying to get a local job. It’s really not my lifelong ambition to work at Walmart. It’s hard trying to put on the act that I really want the job and will stick around (knowing that I’m going to quit as soon as anything offshore comes up).

The few companies hiring offshore already know simply by looking at my resume that I’m not going to stick around. They know anyone with the license I have would jump at the first opportunity to use it. So they don’t bother replying to me either.

I’ve decided to keep on looking for work in my field, but try harder not to stress about it (that is not going to be easy). I still have other things I plan to do this year. I have an art show coming up in our local gallery in July and I haveto be there for the reception July 10. I’ve also signed up for another cruise (foodies tour of France), it’s supposed to be in May but I need to move it back to November. And… I’m still trying to make the move to Mexico, so I need to get back down there!

Now, if I can just get a couple of hitches in before July, I’ll be OK. I actually got 3 last year and all 3 were as mate/DPO, so better than the year before when 1 of the 2 was as AB. They keep saying ‘it’ll be better next year’. I really, really hope they’re right this time!

I actually think I’m being forced into retirement (since I want to continue in my field). I had plannedto work until now and if I had been able to, I would’ve been able to retire the way I wanted to by now. All my bills would’ve been paid off and I could live nicely off my rentals.

But… now that I haven’t been working, my savings are greatly depleted, and if I don’t keep getting at least that little bit of work every year I won’t be ABLE to keep working after 2021 since I can’t afford to keep paying for the required “training” and my licenses won’t be renewable (lack of sea time), so no matter what, I won’t be working after that unless things improve.

SO, I’m trying to figure out: how in the hell can I make the rest of my savings last me for another 20+ years (hopefully)?

1- move out of the USA! I’m trying hard to get to Mexico.

2- start house sitting. That will allow me to keep traveling (which is just about my favorite thing to do). I’ve been trying to do that already, but seems about impossible when I don’t have any sort of schedule. That is such an issue on so many things. I suppose if/when I just give up on ever trying to get work that problem will go away. 😉

3-? any suggestions?

What are you all doing? Still working? Retired? What are your goals for 2020?

View From the Harbor

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

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

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

Discoverer India

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

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

LNG ship in the harbor, Las Palmas, Canary Islands

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

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

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

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

Harbor scene at night

Moving the Graveyard?

My ship is the one on the right

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much longer can this go on? 

Weather Delays

I was supposed to fly out of Houston yesterday afternoon. A friend drove me up to the airport so I didn’t have to leave my car at the parking lot for 30+ days. I was waiting at the gate for my flight to depart when I noticed they had posted it was delayed.

It was now due to depart about 3 hours late. I was told weather in Miami had delayed all the flights. If I had waited around for that flight, I would’ve missed my connection in Miami by about 2 hours!

The company travel lady set me up with a hotel for the night near the airport and new flights for today. I made it out of Houston this morning. I’m in New York now, waiting for my connection to Madrid.

It’s ‘only’ a 7 1/4 hour flight. The one I was supposed to take was almost 10 hours! I’ll get to Madrid about 9:30 in the morning and then on to Las Palmas. I should get there around 3 pm. I just hope my luggage also makes it (they refused to send it all the way through- I’ll have to pick it up in Madrid and go through the whole rigamarole with check in, security, etc all over again).

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post once I get to the ship, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, that’s why. I hope internet is better than the last ship, but it’s always a toss up these days. 

Home and Gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate


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

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

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

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

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

Share Your World- May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flights- Finally!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing to Say

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

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

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

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

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

It’s So Boring

I’m home. I’ve been back in town since the 19th. It’s been almost 2 weeks already. It doesn’t seem like it. I’ve spent most of that time just catching up on sleep (jet lag) and doing all the things I can’t do from work: mail, bills, doctors appointment, dentists appointment, phone calls, meetings, etc.

I have made some progress. I’ve been able to go to my painting class and I’m working on 2 new paintings and 1 old one. I took my latest finished painting to the From the Heart gallery in Galveston. Too bad I got a parking ticket while I was inside hanging it. 😦

I thought you were supposed to be allowed to park in front long enough to load/unload stuff. The people who run the place assured me you are. I’m still debating wether or not to fight the ticket. I have no reason to go all the way up to Galveston other than that. I have another few days to decide.

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog much lately. At work I just don’t have the time or access to the internet and at home it’s been hard to find the motivation. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about. It’s more that I don’t want to bore people and I just haven’t been doing anything very interesting lately.

I did go to a WISTA meeting at the Houston Maritime Museum last Tuesday. That was pretty cool. They’ve moved to their new (temporary) location. It’s much larger than their old place (with plenty of parking). We had a tour by one of the docents who was a real wealth of information. I would’ve liked to talk to him some more, but the presentation was starting (and a full house to see it). Captain Michael A. Morris of the Houston Pilots put on an interesting presentation about the port of Houston and the pilots- past, present and future.

I could write about work, or travel- those things are usually interesting- but I haven’t done much of either lately. I did finally get a job that didn’t get cancelled. I spent a month on the DS-6 in Las Palmas. I even got to get off the ship a couple of times while I was there. It was a nice change. I’m hoping they’ll call me back.

my ship is the one on the left in this photo

In the meantime, I got a call to go to work on April 4. Then it was moved back to April 11. Now it is supposed to start April 16 and I’m only hoping it doesn’t get completely cancelled at this point. Since it’s only for 10 days, it’ll help me get by but it’s not enough for me to actually be able to do anything with my time off (other than keep on looking for more work).

I am SO ready for this downturn to pick up! It’s been 5 years already! I can’t wait for things to turn around so we can all get back to work again. Real work, where there’s some kind of schedule and we’ve got some kind of benefits. Or else the day rates go back up again to where they should be to make up for the lack of those things.

I’m SO tired of spending so much time looking for work. Filling out applications that never get seen. Putting off doing much of anything in case I get called for a job. I should just shut up and quit whining. I’m one of the lucky ones. I still have my license and my ability to go to work. I could just quit and I would probably be able to survive…

But no. I will keep on trying. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hanging around the house bored shitless. Keeping myself occupied is not a problem. I can do all sorts of things: pull weeds, work on my houses, clean my house, write, paint, work on my book(s), promote my writing (that’s the hard part- trying to find someone who will publish it). I would just much rather be traveling. I’m just bored here. I never, ever thought I’d still be here almost 40 years later.

Still Sticking Around

My ship is the one on the left

It looks like I’ll be able to stay here a little longer. Yeah! I need all the work I can get after the last 3 years of having so little of it. It’s been rough, tho I managed to survive. Many of my friends have not. People who’ve been working in the maritime industry for decades and who’ve worked their way up to the highest levels have lost their licenses and so their livelihoods. It’s such a waste!


Same as the ships they’ve been scrapping lately (and for the last few decades). There’s really nothing at all wrong with them. In the case of the tankers, the IMO ruled that they must be double hulled. Perfecly good ships, thrown out like yesterdays’ garbage. Driven up on the beach in Alang to be torn apart by miserably low paid peons who have no better options and are happy to have the work.


Lately, they’ve started scrapping the semisubmersibles and drillships. Yes, some of them are (a little bit) outdated- but still perfectly capable of doing the job they were designed for. Even some of the latest 6th generation drillships, barely out of the yard are being scrapped. We’re talking multiple hundreds of millions of dollars for each vessel- wasted!


I’m docked here in Las Palmas looking over at least 11 of them right now. I’m pretty sure there are at least that many parked over on Tenerife. I know there are more in Trinidad, and sitting in the Graveyard off Southwest Pass.


How many billions of dollars are going to be wasted before this downturn is over and we can go back to work? How many thousands of highly skilled people will be kicked to the curb with no other job prospects but a possible managers’ job at McDonalds?


I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’ve been through these downturns before, so I knew what was coming. I survived the early ‘80’s, the early 2000’s. I even managed to work through the Macondo moratorium. I saved everything I could. I constantly put as much as I could into my savings account. I bought rental property and spent any spare time and money fixing them up so I could get them rented out and paying for themselves ASAP.


Thank goodness I did that. Those rental properties have been my saving grace. The rents have been practically my only income for the last 3 ½ years. I’ve managed to find a boat job every few months which allowed me to stock up my savings a little bit and take the edge off, but not nearly enough work to keep from sucking up my savings and stressing me out.


I put my best (and most expensive) property up for sale when it became clear I wasn’t going to get any kind of regular work for a while. It still hasn’t sold. I still can’t afford it.


Still, I’m one of the lucky ones. I had enough DP time to renew my DP certificate. I had enough sea time to renew my US Coast Guard license. I had enough money in the bank to (re) take the required classes we have to take in order to go to work. I know so many people who were not able to do those things. They’re not going to be able to go back to work even when things do eventually pick up.


It’s hard to go from a lifestyle of earning over $100,000/year for only 6 months of work. I went from close to double that as a SDPO (senior dynamic positioning operator) to only earning $3000/month MAX from my rentals. I usually had expenses to pay out of the rents, so my take was less than $1000/month. Sometimes I didn’t have anything left and had to live off my savings. It was hard, really hard, to adjust…

US vs the Rest of the World

I’ve been asking around a little bit about what is there to do here in Las Palmas. My mate told me about the Carnival and the area around the boardwalk. I told our camp boss that I was interested in doing some shopping, so he recommended I go to Las Arenas. I didn’t realize until I got there it was just a mall.


That wasn’t really what I was looking for, but I did need to pick up a few things. I was supposed to get off March 9, so I had plenty of medicine to last. It turns out that the guy who was supposed to relive me then can’t come until the 17th. I’m happy that they’ve decided to let me stay here until he can come.


So, now that I am staying that much longer, I needed to go to a pharmacy and get a refill of my prescription. Actually, they don’t make you jump through all those hoops over here (or most other places in the world). I just walked into the pharmacy, asked for my medicine and bought it. No questions asked except for what dose I wanted. Nice!


I wonder why so many Americans believe we would all be in such serious trouble without our government’s protection? Putting themselves between us and our doctors? Plenty of other countries don’t require their people to see their doctors to get a prescription filled. Or even to get a prescription in the 1st place.


My doctor tells me it’s now a ‘rule’ that if she doesn’t see me every 3 months (!!!), she can not refill my prescription! I used to go yearly and thought that was much too often. It really pisses me off that I have to spend that much time and money to get the medicine I need.


I already feel like I can’t trust my doctor in the US. I can’t really trust ANY doctor in the US. The US government has them ALL by the balls (that does include even the females)! They will lose their license to practice medicine if they don’t toe the line with the Feds. That is, whatever the hell the government comes up with, the doctors MUST go along with. A lot of them have already given up their practice over it. Those were the good ones. The ones who would stand up for themselves and their patients. I miss them.


It’s incredibly frustrating to be told you MUST report to your doctor every couple of months. Understanding that they’re being told what they MUST do to/for you. That YOU can’t decide how often you want to go, or what treatment you want, or how much money you want to spend on your health, or how much time you’re going to waste on the government’s edicts.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. A lot of people are going to say I’m just being stupid. I’m not a genius. I’m not an expert. I’m not a doctor. I agree. I’m not any of those things. But I AM an expert on MY OWN BODY. I know it better than anybody else ever could (and you all are in the same state of knowledge).


I don’t see the need to go back to the doctor every 3 months to renew a prescription I’ve been taking for over 10 years now. I have to take blood tests (I hate needles) to check my ‘numbers’. They never change much. She says she needs to monitor them. I am perfectly happy with monitoring them yearly. I am NOT happy with monitoring them every 3 months! Why does my doctor (who is ordered around by the federal government) get to make that decision?


Why do we Americans all think we need to even go to a doctor to get the medicine we need? It’s not like the people of Spain, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia or Korea are all dying in heaps because they aren’t forced to go to a doctor to get a prescription for their medicines! Those are only the few countries I’ve been to where I’ve bought what would be prescription medicine at home over the counter. I’m 100% positive there are plenty of other countries around the world where it’s the same.


I’m pretty damn sure the only reason we have to do it here is because the doctors bribed congress to give them that monopoly. It SUCKs and I hope someone (besides the Libertarian Party) will push a bill through congress to eliminate all this extra expense.

Of course, that will never happen. The medical professionals, insurance companies and Big Pharm have too much invested to ever allow us to open the market in health care. 😦