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.

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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. 😦

Stacked in Spain

I finally got a call for work that didn’t fall through! I left home Feb 27th, flew through Munich to Las Palmas- Canary Islands- and arrived onboard the ship at around 8 PM Feb 28th. I joined the Ensco DS-6 as Chief Mate/Master and even tho the ship is stacked (laid up), I’ve been super busy since then and still haven’t caught up on those 2 days of traveling with no sleep.

My ship is the one on the left


I’ve been hoping for a chance to go to town and look around. I hate to be in a foreign country and never be able to see anything. One of the main reasons I chose to be a seafarer was for the opportunity to travel around the world and get paid for it. Sadly, we don’t get the chance to do that much anymore.


Sure, we may go places on our ships, but with containerization and such short times in port combined with the fact that most ports have moved far from the center of town, it’s rare that we get to spend any time in town. That’s not even considering that many companies now have (illegally) restricted their crews to the ship.

the view from the bridge of my ship


So- Las Palmas. I’ve never been here before. I was nearby. We stopped by Tenerife and La Gomera on the Ariadne when I was in high school with the Oceanics (1977). I was in a group that stayed on the small island of La Gomera. I stayed for a few days in the home of a local family with a girl my age. I remember walking around town with its white washed little houses and cobbled streets up from the ferry dock. I remember hiking to the beach through the bananas and swimming in the cool Atlantic Ocean. My brother was with a group of boys that stayed on a farm on Tenerife.


Before we left the Canaries, our hosts gave us a bus tour of Tenerife. We rode all the way up the volcanic Mt Teide. I remember one of our guys somehow managed to fall down the volcano. Lucky for him, he landed on a ledge only a few feet down. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but still bad enough where he was sent home.


I really wish I had spent more time paying attention instead of playing around. I was only 16, but still. It was a fantastic experience to have and it seems now that I wasted a lot of it by spending so much time partying. Now, I guess I try to make up for that by spending all my time traveling packing so many things into every day. I don’t want to miss anything and then wind up exhausting myself. I always need a vacation from my vacation when I get home.

sunrise over ships at sea

Munich Layover

I’m feeling much better today, even tho I’m pretty darn tired. I FINALLY got called for a job that didn’t get cancelled. I only got the call on Thursday and didn’t know for sure until late Friday and didn’t get my flight information (so I would really know for sure) til yesterday.

I’ve been keeping myself fairly ready to leave since I got back from my trip around the world. I left right at the beginning of November and got home right before Christmas. I was supposed to go to work January 3. I’ve basically been on call since then. I’ve had about a dozen calls to go to work since that first job got cancelled.

I still had a few things to take care of before leaving. Laundry, cleaning out the fridge so I won’t have to come home to a fridge full of rotten food, paying any bills that might come due before I’m due back home, calling my property manager to clear up any issues that might come up while I’m gone, arranging a ride to the airport, get my ‘smart phone’ working again for the trip, and finish up packing.

I left home yesterday around noon. Got to the airport and for some reason they wouldn’t check my baggage all the way through to my destination. My flight was delayed for about an hour, but thank goodness I have a club pass and could spend my time chilling out there. It was about a 10 hour flight to Munich and of course I really couldn’t get any sleep.

So here I am now in the Munich airport, waiting for my flight to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Thank goodness I have a long layover here. I had to get my passport stamped into Germany so I could collect my luggage, then run across the street to another terminal and go through security again. I thought we were ridiculous with our security theater in the US, but Germany takes it to an even more absurd level!

I’m so glad I was able to get the TSA pre-check in the states, but as far as I know they don’t have any kind of international program like that. I really wish they did! I didn’t have to take my shoes off (I’ve still got my flip-flops on), but I had to take out EVERYTHING from my pockets including cash (which I HATE to do since it’s so easy for someone to walk by there and steal it all), credit cards, passport, etc. Remove not only computer, but ALL electronics from my bag. Thats kindle, cameras, phones, iPod, etc. What a bunch of insanity!

Apparently the world is overrun with suckers that are completely willing to trade their freedom for ‘security’. Its as true now as it was when Benjamin Franklin said it over 200 years ago.

You CAN’T make that trade! You give up your freedom for NOTHING but an ILLUSION! It infuriates me that we ALL have to put up with this violation of our rights all because the majority of the people on this planet are so gullible.

While I wait for my flight to Las Palmas, I have a little bit of time to blog. I can’t connect to the wi-fi here. I don’t know why. There’s supposedly free wi-fi here in the airport. I should arrive at 1800 and someone should be waiting to bring me to the ship.

I’m going out as Chief Mate this time. I did sign on this time as Chief Mate, not like the time I signed on to the Sevan Louisiana as Second Mate and they made me Chief Mate anyway and then refused to pay me for it! I’m a little nervous since I haven’t sailed Chief Mate for quite a while snd never really on anything so complicated. I’m hoping everything will go well and I’m looking forward to a great learning experience. It would really build my confidence to get through this trip without any major issues.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to get online once I get to the ship. As Chief Mate I expect to be a lot more busy than I usually am as DPO. Will be spending more time on deck instead of stuck on the bridge for 12 hours a day. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wish me luck! 🙂

PS- I finally got the wi-fi to connect! 🙂

Sunday Stills: Fire at MC 252

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HP-1 from the air

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

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

a few of the vessels responding to the blow out

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

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

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

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

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

More Crashing Helicopters!

I’m in Houston tonight. Prepping to take the HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) once more. So I can put a T (tropical) in front of it. 😦

These courses are supposed to be good for 4 years. I’ve taken this course at least a half dozen times since returning to the Gulf of Mexico in mid 2007. So, averaging about once every 2 years (price has gone down some, it’s ‘only’ costing me $500 this time). Once again, this is another course I need to take in order to work. Once again, nothing has changed since the first time I took this course in 2007.

Please ignore the music of the video if ‘strong language’ offends you. I got it off youtube, last time I tried to take photos, they wouldn’t let me so I have none of my own to show you what it’s like.

We do the same things: float/swim in the pool, jump from a height wearing a life jacket, put on the life jacket, swim with the life jacket, float/swim as a group wearing life jackets/survival(gumby) suits, get in a life raft, flip the helicopter upside down in the pool and get out of it a few times. I really don’t know why these companies keep insisting we do these things over and over and over again. It’s not like you forget any of it!

And, again, nothing has changed. I just took HUET last summer. At this point, I will not be allowed to work again until I re-take it (adding the T). What is the difference between T-HUET and HUET? I tried to find something sensible. NOPE, not happening. Here’s the difference…

T-BOSIET/T-FOET/T-HUET certifications are only valid for use in tropical region (T stands for TROPICAL) while BOSIET/FOET/HUET certifications are valid for BOTH cold water and tropical water regions.

You get that? T-HUET is ONLY valid for use in tropical regions, HUET is good for BOTH cold water AND tropical waters, so pretty much worldwide. So, my question is: WHY do the companies no longer accept HUET and insist on forcing us to go take another course teaching EXACTLY the same thing, but is not good for use in nearly as many places?

It’s incredibly frustrating to me (and most other mariners I’ve talked to since all this BS started). We have ALL been trained in how to put on life jackets, survival suits, how to operate life rafts and even life boats. Most of us have had many years of weekly drills on all this sort of thing (also fire-fighting, first aid and a whole bunch of other training on things that could go wrong). We continue to do these drills (by law) every week.

Then, to add insult to injury, the companies we work for insist on everyone repeatedly being trained on things like ‘rigging’, ‘swing rope’, ‘rig pass’, even if you will probably never have to deal with any of those things in your job! The last time I had to use a swing rope was about 30 years ago (it’s really not a very safe thing to play Tarzan out there!). As an AB, I was trained VERY WELL in rigging and as a deck officer, even better. But those years of training and experience don’t mean diddly squat to these people. It really is ridiculous that a licensed officer is told they’re not qualified to work offshore because they don’t have a ‘current rigging certificate’. 😦

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if the companies we work for would all get together and agree on some standard. Instead, we have to go and re-take the same courses over and over because one company will only accept BOSIET, one will only accept THUET, another will still accept HUET. BOSIET is pretty much the same as BST (basic safety training) that we ALL have to take every 5 years now, required and approved by the US Coast Guard (but not by OPITO which is the oil company standard setting organization- like the US Coast Guard is not up to snuff!) plus HUET.

You can’t take BST and HUET and get a BOSIET. You can’t even take BST and HUET and then take FOET (further offshore emergency training) which is basically just a renewal of BOSIET. You MUST take BOSIET first. It’s about $800 more expensive. 😦

Next year they’ll add another letter, or change the name. Training will still be the same, or maybe they’ll say something different for an hour (that surely could’ve been done at work), and force us to go back to take the class all over again. And no, they don’t offer any bridging courses, you have to do the whole thing over. 😦

I wonder, do these companies EXPECT that their helicopters are going to crash. Crash so often that every single person must be ready every single time to escape from the water? Why do only these offshore oil companies feel that way?

After all, airplanes crash just as often (probably more) than helicopters do. Do the pilots and air crew have to practice flipping their planes over in the water and escaping from a flooded plane? I asked. No, they NEVER have to do that! Much less do it a minimum of every 4 years! Do airplane companies force their passengers to practice ditching from their planes, EVER? NO, they don’t!

I want to know WHY do we have to do this same thing over and over and over. Somebody please give me a real reason. I’m not talking about insurance company BS either. I mean a REAL reason!

Some company PLEASE start up and act in a reasonable manner! Hire good, competent people and LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS! We do not need to be coddled, protected and micromanaged out the ying-yang!

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. 🙂

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.