Working

I did get a job last week! I’m so glad it worked out! Even a few days offshore makes up for a lot. I’m hoping this job will last a while, but I really have no idea. They just said ‘2 weeks, maybe’.  I left early Friday afternoon. I flew to New Orleans, got picked up by the crew van and was delivered straight to the ship at around midnight thirty.

I didn’t even really meet the other 10 guys in the van with me, since everyone was exhausted and trying to catch a few winks on the ride to Fourchon (tho it was too bumpy for me).

On arrival, I got a quick familiarization with the captain, then assigned my bunk and tried to catch a few hours of sleep. I’ve been on the 0600-1800 watch since then.

That’s a good watch for me. I haven’t ever really worked an anchor boat, so it’s not something I can do by myself. I try to watch the captain as much as possible. He’s been doing it for ages and he’s really good.

The divers all seem to be pretty decent. I don’t really see much of them since I spend most of my time on the bridge and they’re always out on deck. We have about 45 people on here, total. It gets pretty cramped when more than a couple of people are in the same area at the same time. Like the galley at meal times, for instance.

The cooks on here have been doing a great job so far. There are 3 of them (plus an OS who’s helping out as a galley hand). They’re working around the clock to keep us all fat and happy.

We’re working on a project out here with a couple of other boats. One is a tug boat we use to help us pick up and place our anchors. We’re a ‘4-point anchor boat’. I’ve done a lot of diving work, but always either ‘live boat’ or DP (dynamic positioning). This is totally different.

I’m learning a lot here. That’s always a good thing. 🙂

Work?

I went to Houston yesterday. I had a work day scheduled up there. Yep. One whole day of work scheduled for all of July. Wow.

It went well.

I caught up with my friends there. We’re all in the same position. Everyone is doing whatever they can to get by. Spending all our time looking for work and scrambling for whatever part time gigs we can scrounge up.

This morning I got a call. Actually two calls. For real work! Yes, work in my field. On a boat. The pay is less than a third of what I was earning at my last job. It’s only for 2 weeks but could possibly turn into something longer term. I don’t know for sure yet if I’ll get it. But I told them I was definitely interested.

The second call was about a container ship. I’m interested, but a little concerned about that one since I’ve never worked on a container ship before. It shouldn’t be that different, but as captain, I will be held responsible for every single thing that happens on board, and there is a hell of a lot that could happen. I just don’t want to get thrown under the bus.

I’m waiting to hear back from both of them, but making plans to leave early Friday morning just in case. If I do get the job (either of them), I probably won’t have internet access to keep up with the blog so expect that I probably won’t be able to post every day.

Not that I have been posting every day anyway, but at least while I’m home I do try to. 😉

Another Sunday

Amazing, isn’t it? How an entire week can go by, when you’re busy, busy, busy every day. Yet nothing really gets accomplished.

Yep, this week was one of those.

I spent most of every day this week still trying to find work. Filling out online applications (again), for all the same places that I’ve already filled them out for. Calling everyone I could find to call. Still getting the same results…

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So, I broke down and went to Houston on Wednesday to see about joining the SIU. The unlicensed seamans union. I’ve been an applicant with the AMO (licensed officers union) since at least December and have had 1 (yes only1) possible job. That job was gone before I could even return the phone call! Since then, they don’t answer the phone, they don’t return calls, I’ve pretty much lost hope that they actually have any work.

Of course I would rather use the license I’ve spent 30+ years and $50,000+++ to earn! But if I have to sail as a deckhand, I’m perfectly willing to do that too. Anything out at sea is better than working at McDonalds or Domino’s, which seem to be the only jobs open to me on the beach. 😦

Shit! 2 college degrees and 30 years of experience to earn the highest license there is out there, and what does it get me? NOTHING! Not a damn thing!

Yeah, I’ve had it pretty good up until the last couple of years. I was able to save a few bucks. I was able to travel and enjoy life. I did really love a few of my jobs. Never really hated any of them. But after almost 2 years of unemployment and unable to find ANY work that will even come close to paying the bills, I have to say I am getting more than a little bit pissed off.

Yes. Pissed off! Frustrated. Angry. Depressed. Un-motivated. I could go on…

I try to find other things to do, to earn a few bucks. Writing/painting/photography, etc. I still haven’t sold even one item. Yeah, it’s getting very depressing. I can hardly motivate myself to work on any of that stuff. First of all, I feel like I need to concentrate on finding a ‘real’ job. So spend hours/day looking for work. By the time I’m done with that, I really don’t feel like doing anything creative. I don’t even want to look at the computer anymore, much less spend hours blogging. 😦

I keep meaning to blog more. This was meant to be a much more interactive blog. Where I could talk to people all over the world about different places and how things were there. I thought I would always have interesting sea stories and adventures from my travels to write about. But I haven’t been working in so long and so can’t afford to travel anymore, so I wonder what can I write about now?

What is interesting about my life at home? Nothing, really. I’m just another ordinary, broke and struggling American. I do have more political interest than most. I could write about that. But every time I do that, people seem to drop me like a hot potato (most not even commenting as to why).

So I’ve tried to keep the politics toned down, even tho it’s one of my main passions. I am 100% in support of freedom, for everybody, on all issues, all the time. Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody else. That’s my motto and that’s what America was founded to promote. Too bad ‘we’ve’ decided to throw that whole ‘freedom’ thing out in the garbage pile. 😦

Oh no, I have not forgotten. We still do have our ‘freedom’ of speech. Sort of. Remember ‘political correctness’? How often are you seeing censored posts on Twitter and Facebook? I see them plenty! Yeah, we may still have a little bit of ‘freedom’ of speech, but as for the rest of the Bill of Rights, all but the 3rd Amendment have been constantly and continuously violated.

Am I the only one who’s noticed? Who cares?

Then why is no one even willing to discuss it? Even on a blog? Yeah, I’m sure plenty of people are actually self-censoring. Afraid they’ll be hauled off sooner or later for violating some trumped up anti-constitutional ‘law’ on ‘hate’ speech, or defamation or some other crap. I think I will keep on saying what I will say until the day they decide to haul me off. I’ve already self-censored myself enough (in fact, I think I’ve even lost work over what I’ve said and not said). Screw it, I’m done playing games!

I’ve worked my ass off my entire life, NOT to wind up an old bag lady, wandering the streets eating cat food. If after everything I’ve done to avoid that, working hard, saving everything I could, investing every extra dollar, starting businesses, rental properties, etc, and I’m STILL going to wind up like that? Why do I even try anymore???

My birthday is coming up again soon. I’m getting to the age where I feel like I don’t have too many more years ahead of me where I’ll be able to work or to travel. I want to LIVE those few years I have left. I don’t want to spend them in fear. Broke, afraid, trapped.

I think and think and wonder every day- HOW can I manage to do that- without having to win the lottery???

Tanked!

mobile barge available for training purposes

Whew! I’m glad that’s over! I’m tanked! I’ve spent the last week teaching tankerman up at San Jacinto Maritime in La Porte. And a few days studying hard myself so that I could teach it (I haven’t worked on a tankship since 2002).

San Jacinto is about an hour and a half drive for me. I’ve been getting up at 0430 in the morning. Trying to get out of the house by 0530, so I can be sure to arrive by the time class starts at 0730.

I am NOT a morning person!

Getting by on less than 4 hours of sleep per night is not good for me (or anybody else).

So. I’m glad it’s over. I know there are lots of people who drive like that or even more every day for years. I don’t know how they manage and I’m SO thankful that I’ve never had to do it myself (until now).

The class went well and all my students passed with flying colors. I actually think I studied more than they did. 😉 They all got their course certificates they can turn in to the Coast Guard with their sea time letters. Hopefully, they will be able to get the promotions they were after.

SanJac doesn’t have me scheduled for any more classes (at the moment- that could change at any time). Maersk didn’t have anything last month at all. We’re waiting to see the schedule for July and hoping for at least 1-2 courses there. I still have no word of any real work coming up. It looks like I’ll have a chance to catch up on my sleep next week.

I should be able to post more often too. 🙂

Teaching Tankerman Tomorrow

It’s late Sunday night. As usual, I’ve been busy and so put off getting ready for class til this evening. I’ve got to get up around 0430 so I can leave the house by 0530, in order to be sure to make it to class on time at 0730.

I have to drive all the way up to La Porte. I’m teaching at San Jacinto Maritime college. I never know what the traffic will be like in Houston, so I always try to leave early. Hopefully, I’ll arrive in time to have a cup of coffee, go over my notes and chill out for a few minutes.

I’ve been going over the materials tonight and there is a lot to go over. I used to be a tanker man. I worked on tankers for about 13 years. I haven’t been doing much of that sort of thing lately tho, so it’s taking a little effort to remember a lot of that stuff. Most of what we’ll go over in class is stuff we’ll probably never use on the job anyway. It’s mostly rules and regulations and how to find the information you need if/when you need it.

A lot of it’s really good information if you’re new to the industry. Not so much if you’ve been doing it for a while. I have no idea what kind of experience my students have, or even how many of them there will be in class tomorrow. I haven’t been able to figure out how to log on to my email there yet. I’m hoping I can get some help with that tomorrow. 🙂

This class lasts for a week. I don’t have anything else lined up after that. I’m hoping either SanJac or Maersk will come up with something by the end of the week. Even better, C-Mar will send me offshore again!

Court

Hey! I’m really glad so many of you responded to my post yesterday about going to court in support of raw milk and ‘food freedom’ in general. It’s great to know that people really do care about some of these issues and I’m not just beating my head against the wall. I’ll have to update this again later. Today’s court session was not exactly clear to me as to what was going on. 😦

It looked to me like the entire courtroom was packed with raw milk supporters. We all had little white stickers on our shirts to show our support.

A few minutes after the appointed time, they called out names. People were coming a going up to the front of the room where the ‘official people’ sat around behind desks and computers (the judge was not in the courtroom yet).

I didn’t know the name of the person charged or exactly what the charges were. Sorry to say, I still don’t. I did see the lady and the gist of what I heard of the charges against her was: ‘unsanitary conditions’ and something to do with not being ‘licensed’ as a food business.

OK. Here’s the story. Her friends asked her to go to a licensed dairy farm and pick up some milk for them. They gave her money to pay for it. As far as I could tell, they did not pay her anything for going to get it. So I’m still very confused as to what she did that was actually illegal or what possible reason could there be for making anything she did illegal?

It is legal to buy raw milk in Texas.

At this point, all I can say is that the lawyers seemed to think they got a good result today. There was a LOT of local support for the whole raw milk thing. People whole heartedly support the idea of “food freedom” and their rights to choose what they want to be able to eat, drink, grow, smoke, buy, sell, etc.

I’ll report more on this later. I’ve been promised more information from people who are more involved in this than I am. In the meantime, check out the links towards the end of yesterdays post.

I’ve got to get up early tomorrow to repeat my HUET course (again- for about the 5th time). It doesn’t actually expire, but almost all companies insist on repeating it every 3-4 years anyway. Are they really expecting their helicopters to crash that often? What is it that they think we forget in the class that we must repeat it so often? Is it really that hard to remember to open the window and climb out of the thing?????

I really, really wish the people who insist on forcing all this ‘training’ on us would get their shit together and figure out one acceptable class for all this crap! Instead, each company insists you take their class (which is pretty much exactly like the other guys class).

Companies that work in Europe don’t accept USA typical courses, nor do they have a ‘gap closing’ course, so if you want to be eligible to work anywhere outside of the USA, you are forced to pay again, for the exact same ‘training’ you’ve already paid for except for a grand total of 1 hour of something different.

I’m too tired tonight to get into it. I had a long day of running around Houston. I’ll write it up tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll still be ticked off enough to explain. 😉

I’m Back

It feels like much longer than it was, the 27 days I was out there without internet. I was so grateful to have even a few days of real work again! I was hoping for more, but things are still very, very slow offshore. Every one of us on board was so thankful to have a job after a long dry spell.

Too bad, but the company finished up all the work they had lined up and so laid me off on Saturday. There was some talk about more projects coming up in the near future, but nothing definite.

I can survive another couple of months off of that job. I have a class lined up to teach the week of June 25th. Maybe by the end of the month something else will come up?

The price of oil is still under $50/bbl. Until that changes, I don’t see much hope of a decent job. But even a few days every now and then will be enough to get by on. I know most people are thrilled at the low price of gas at the pump (tho it should be about $1 less going by price/bbl- all that extra is taxes!).

I would probably be thrilled too if it didn’t wipe out my entire profession. Every sector of the maritime world is tied to the offshore sector and the price of oil. When it’s low and the offshore sector shuts down, people migrate to deep sea, towing, fishing, etc. Shutting off any options to do anything else on the water.

Shoreside jobs are a total waste of any mariners skills and training and don’t come anywhere near offering even the worst pay/benefits we earn on the water (and it’s not all about the money either).

I’ll spend the next couple of weeks catching up on things I’ve been putting off: exterminator, dentist, house cleaning, oil change, car wash, doctor, painting projects, taxes, etc. All kinds of fun stuff like that. 😉

Hopefully, I can keep things interesting with some stories from the recent past. 😉

Still Out Here

Tomorrow will mark 3 weeks offshore and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will get to stay out here even longer.

Usually by this time, I’ve about had enough and I’m itching to get off the boat and go home. Take a nice, long vacation somewhere. This trip has been the first real work I’ve had in a loooong time, so I am not in quite the same frame of mind.

The only thing I could wish for out here is a little better situation with the internet, but oh well, we all just have to deal with it…

I will stay out here for as long as I possibly can. Especially since there is no telling how many more months I might have to wait until I can find another ship.

I know most people are happy that the price of oil has been so low for so long. I would be too, if my career didn’t depend so much on it. Sadly, the US Merchant Marine is almost totally dependent on the offshore (oil) industry. We have less than 100 deep sea ships left and probably half of those are shipping oil.

When the Gulf of Mexico slows down and lays off crews, it affects the entire US Merchant Marine. Sadly, US mariners are not wanted in most of the rest of the world. Everyone is afraid we are going to sue them I guess. 😦

Internet Today?

Amazing! My computer is actually working for the first time in weeks!

After working on the tuna boat in the South Pacific with extremely limited internet (I would have to wait til we got to port to go ashore and check email), I swore I would never again work on a boat without it.

Well, sad to say, things have been so bad offshore that I am very, very thankful to be out here with or without internet! I just feel frustrated with not being able to keep up with the daily blog posts (or at least weekly). 😉

I don’t know how long the internet will stay on, or how long I will be able to keep working. I’m hoping both will continue for a long time. 😉

I’d like to write more about what we’ve been doing out here, but want to at least let you all know I haven’t stopped posting just because I don’t want to keep communicating with you. 🙂

I hope you’ll stick around for more posts (whenever I can get to post them). 🙂

Finally!

I wonder if things are finally beginning to turn around? I heard a tip from a friend while I was at the TBEX in Huntsville about a job. I immediately tried to call the people who were looking (it was the weekend) and eventually got in touch.

Thank goodness! We were able to work things out and I left for the ship on Monday. I’ll be working as a DPO for at least a couple of weeks! A real job!! 🙂

I was glad I got to go to the TBEX in Huntsville. I learned a lot, ran into some old friends and met some new ones. I hope I will be able to turn my experiences there into some good stories and will follow up on connections asap.

Sadly, that may not be all that soon. It looks like I will be pretty much out of touch while here on the ship since internet is not up to snuff and phone is out of range. 😦

After working for over a year on a tuna boat, 3+ months incommunicado at a time, I swore I would never again work for anyone who didn’t have enough respect for their people to provide them with a minimum ability to keep in touch with friends, family and business at home.

Well, after almost 20 months of unemployment (without being able to collect even a dime of the thousands of dollars I’e paid into the system over the last 40+ years), I’ve had to change my attitude, suck it up and take anything that anybody offered. 😦

Thank goodness, I’m finally working! It could last as long as 6 weeks!!

I just hope this is a sign of better times ahead.

I’ll try to post as often as I’m able. Sorry but I don’t think I’ll be able to very often til I get off. 😦

R is for Re-Do- #AtoZChallenge

R” is for Re-Do. I don’t know how many of you all work at a job in which you’re constantly having to re-do everything you do.

In my profession, (merchant marine) it started fairly recently (1970’s). It started with only a bare minimum of requirements (RADAR and physical every 5 years).

I have heard that the medical profession requires some sort of recency requirements (tho I really have no idea what sorts of things doctors or nurses have to do to keep their licenses current)(any ideas)?

I’ve also heard the airline pilots have an even more stringent set of requirements they must satisfy to keep working.

But in the maritime profession, I am constantly amazed at how much they keep coming up with for us, how little of it is really useful or necessary, and how few people seem to have a problem with it.

Of course, all of those people who have an issue with it are people like me. People who actually have to DO the job. People who have been doing the job perfectly fine for decades WITHOUT any of the things that are required now. All of which are pretty much second nature after you’ve worked at sea for any amount of time. Our job is not exactly rocket science. 😉

For example, now we not only have to do (before we can start work) a few classes- about dozen for a mate working at sea), we have to re-do: RADAR/ARPA, physical yearly (if you have any one of dozens of common conditions), basic safety training, advanced fire fighting, CPR. Those are just the ones required by the US Coast Guard to keep your license.

AND, if you have not managed to work in one sector of the industry for the last 5 years, you will also have to re-do ‘training’ so that you can do that very same job again. For instance, if you have not worked on tankers in the last 5 years, you will have to re-do the class or find a ship so you can do a couple of transfers. Same goes for towing vessels. If you don’t have the sea time on them, you lose your ability to work on them until you re-do the ‘training’.

Same now goes for dynamic positioning (DP)! Either you manage to keep working through this horrible downturn, OR, you must somehow cough up $5000 grand so you can re-do that training!

You will ALSO need: HUET, safe-gulf, rig pass, SEMS, marine debris, blood born pathogens, and many other COMPANY required re-training every couple of years if you want to work in the Gulf of Mexico (or for any oil company).

It’s not like anything has changed really. I’ve been taking fire fighting since 1978. The ONLY thing new in that class is that they’re now calling a grease fire a ‘class k’ fire. It’s still the exact same fire, you fight it the exact same way. Everything is exactly the same except the name. Things don’t change much (or at all) in most of the classes we’re now forced to take.

Today, I’ve been waiting to get a chance to re-do my tankerman person-in-charge (PIC). I worked on tankers for almost 13 years. Since I have been doing other things for the last 5, I am required to re-do the training before I can get my license back (thank goodness I put it into continuity status or there would be many more hoops to jump through)!

I could either spend about $5000 to re-do the week long course, or get on board a vessel to do 2 transfers. So, tomorrow I am getting some help to do that. I will join a vessel in Houston to participate in the cargo operations. Catch up on anything new since I’ve last done this job. Hopefully I will get a letter for the Coast Guard that will allow me to get back my PIC so I can find some work! 🙂

I’m thankful that some people are willing to help, especially since I can’t afford to re-do the class!

K is for Kestrel- #AtoZChallenge

b18f2-k

“K” is for Kestrel. No, not the bird, but the dive boat I used to work on for CalDive.

My captain took that picture (for some reason, I can’t figure out how to get all my photos onto this computer). Check out his website, he has more cool ship pictures. 🙂

I only worked on the Kestrel for a short time. I was hired on for a job as Chief Mate, but when I actually got there, the company informed me that I would instead be sailing as Second Mate. Who knew for how long?

Of course I was not happy with that situation and made plans to take another job. I only needed 6 more weeks of sea time as Chief Mate before I could apply for my Master Mariners license.

Luckily, I was able to get those 6 weeks on board the Kestrel after all. 🙂

It was an ‘interesting’ job. And old ship, but a good crew kept her going. Too bad the last I heard she was sold for scrap. 😦

E is for ENSCO- #AtoZChallenge

E” is for ENSCO. I used to work there off and on. I worked for the marine crewing agency C-Mar (among others). Back when there was still work to be had in the offshore sector.

ENSCO is a drilling company. They bought out Pride and built up a pretty good fleet of offshore drilling assets. I worked on many of their vessels over the last few years: the Deep Ocean Mendocino (renamed DS-5), the DS-3, and most of their semi-submersibles.

I spent time on the ENSCO 8500, 8501, 8503 and 8506. The 8506 was one of my favorites. Maybe just because I spent the most time on her. Maybe because I was officially the “Hurricane Master” on board.

That was one of the best jobs I ever had. If it had been located anywhere other than the Gulf of Mexico, I would have said one of the top 2. 🙂

My job basically was to watch the weather, stay on alert for any hurricanes approaching the Gulf and to get the rig ready to move if we had to run from one. I joined the 8506 in the shipyard in Corpus Christi and brought her out to a test location and then on to her first well. I had a great crew to work with and the rig was pretty much brand new.

Eventually, Ensco hired their own crews and stopped using temps like me. 😦

Sadly, even the vessel itself has been out of work for a while.

Able Bodied Seaman

I only just found out about the #AtoZChallenge yesterday, so I’m going to try to catch up. Today is already the day for “F”!

I’ll make mine today for “A” and “B” with Able Bodied Seaman.

I’m a sailor, a professional mariner. I’ve pretty much spent my entire life at sea, since I was a little kid growing up on my dad’s 1910 staysail schooner. I decided after high school (on a sailing ship) that I no longer wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to be a ship captain!

The first step on that long, hard road was to become an Able Bodied Seaman (AB).

Back when I started, you could just find your way down to the docks and schmooze your way into a job. People were willing and able to give you a chance, let you learn the ropes on the job. Of course, being a female back then (and even now) made things much more difficult. “You’re a girl, girls can’t work on boats!”, “Girls can’t be captains!”. For me, it was easier to go to school and get my AB ‘ticket’ (merchant mariners document) that way.

Now, the Coast Guard has changed the rules (in order to comply with the IMO’s STCW regulations), it is no longer possible to just work your way up. You MUST go to school! You MUST spend at least one week and a few hundred dollars to get ‘trained’. And there are usually more requirements, that is just the bare minimum.

To become an AB, you’ll need to accrue a certain amount of ‘sea time’, time working aboard a vessel. You’ll need to get certified as a Rating Forming Part of a Navigational Watch (RFPNW). You’ll need to be ‘assessed’ by an ‘approved assessor’. Then you’ll be allowed to sit for a test (after paying a couple hundred bucks in fees for background checks, TWIC, etc).

You’re tested on all sorts of things: rules of the road (not at all the same as the ones you learn to drive a car!), seamanship, knots and splices, how to launch and recover a lifeboat, safety, fire fighting, cargo operations, steering a ship, helm commands, etc. All this applies to the “able” part of being a seaman. Before you are an “able” seaman, you are just an ‘ordinary’ seaman (OS).

You’ll also need to pass a USCG specific physical by an approved doctor and also a drug test. This is where the “body” part comes in. There are a few specific things they will fail you for- color blindness being a big one. There are quite a few more they will make you jump through hoops over.

The main issue I’ve had with them over the years is my weight. The physical specifies that if you are over a BMI of 40, then the doctor can ask you to show that you are ‘fit for duty’. They will make you climb the stairs, or lift weights or do certain things that are listed on the physical form they are filling out.

I have been fat since I was 13 years old. I’ve always been able to do anything I need to do physically (tho I admit, I have not needed to run any marathons!). I’ve tried pretty much everything to lose it, even having my jaws wired shut. Nothing has ever worked. I’ve pretty much accepted that I will be fat for the rest of my life. BUT, I have not and never will accept that my weight precludes me doing my job as AB (or mate, DPO or captain)!

I once saved my mates a** by spotting a discrepancy while loading tanks. Saved us from having a major oil spill. He later thanked me by telling me I “would make a great AB someday”. I asked him what he meant since I was actually sailing as AB for him at that time. He said that “AB means ‘able body’ and you are way too fat to be considered able bodied”.

WOW!

Locked Out

“Your account is temporarily locked, please try again in a few minutes”. I hate when it does that!

I always check my email first thing in the morning. Just to see if I have anything important in there. Usually not lately. I keep hoping for somebody to contact me about work. I’ve been looking for work since September of 2015 and not finding anything.

Usually, I’ll have at least 4-5 emails for work every week. It’s horrible how this downturn has been. None of the others have even come close. At least for the marine side of things. The onshore drillers have already been going back to work for a few months now. Ever since oil hit $40/bbl.

I don’t think offshore will see a break until oil hits at least $60/bbl and it looks like we’re still a long way from there. 😦

In the meantime, I check my email ever day, sometimes 4-5 times a day. Hoping to see something. I have seen a few jobs. Unfortunately they’re not anything useful for me. Either they’re so far away (and not rotational) and I would have to move. Or the pay is so low that it doesn’t make sense for me to consider (no way I could come close to paying my bills). Or they really have nothing to do with maritime (‘job captain’, ‘team mate’, etc).

I suppose I should be using this time to ‘pound the pavement’ trying to sell my ‘art. My writing, photography, painting, etc. But I’m not a salesman and never have been. You would think the internet would make it easier. I suppose it has given me the ability to show my work to people all over the world.

The only problem with that is that it has given that same opportunity to millions of other people who are also trying to sell their work (and a lot of them have some really, really great stuff)! I am now competing with millions of others instead of just the few here locally. It’s very discouraging.

I’ll keep plugging along. Maybe I’ll get a break somehow. Hopefully before my savings runs out completely.

TAMUG

I went to a job fair this morning up at TAMUG (Texas A&M University at Galveston). They’ve been making a lot of changes since I was there last time. First thing I noticed is that they’ve started charging for parking. It cost me $6 for a couple of hours. 😦

Next was the construction. They’re building a huge new “Academic Complex” right in front as you drive onto campus. There was already a big 3-4 story building that looked pretty complete, but they were still drilling holes behind it. The machine they used looked like a giant vertical corkscrew running up and down through the mud.

The job fair was held in the gym, so I had to walk across most of the campus. I never do see many students. TAMUG always seems deserted to me, especially compared to UT Austin or UST where I went to school. They were always bustling with crowds of students filling the walkways going to classes.

The gym was fairly busy. It was filled with tables of the various employers. There must have been about 25-30 different ‘companies’ represented. Sad to say, not many of them were offering anything for someone like me (older, with a license, who still wants to work at sea).

The Ports were well represented: Ports America, Diversified Port Holdings, Metro Ports all had tables. The shore side support companies were there too: Lone Star Maritime, Dan-Bunkering and Watco Companies are a couple of examples, as well as Kiewit (shipyard, construction, etc). I’ve considered taking a shore side job, but I would have to move and I just can’t justify moving (unless it’s overseas to somewhere cheaper).

The Houston Police Department, the Marines, the Customs & Border Patrol, the Army Corps of Engineers all had tables. I didn’t even bother talking to any of them, I already know I would not be a good fit. 😉

NOAA and MSC both had booths, but neither was actually hiring. For the first time in ages MSC is actually trying to get rid of people (tho they still have 4 month long minimum tours).

Artist Boat, Schlitterbahn, and Moody Gardens looked more interesting. But they were all in Galveston (hour and half drive each way) and really more for summer fill in type jobs. The Peace Corps may actually have something interesting to do, but it’s normally a 2 year commitment and I don’t think I’m up to that at this point. They did mention they have some shorter term programs, I’ll have to look into those. Maybe there’s something there I can do?

A few towing companies were represented (but I don’t have a towing endorsement). I would have to start over as a deckhand. I really don’t want to do that at this point in my life and career. Especially on an inland tow boat! That is some hard, back-breaking work! I am actually getting close to the age at which I’d like to be able to retire and I don’t want to take the chance of a serious injury (old bones don’t heal so fast). 😦

Shell was actually hiring, but they only wanted cadets (so not really hiring). Trident Seafoods was looking for people. But again, they only wanted deckhands. I talked to them for a while and figured it just wasn’t worth even bothering to apply there. I have fishing experience, and on the same type of vessels. But where I worked, we had fish masters. I was never responsible for finding and catching the fish. Trident doesn’t work that way. They want deckhands that they can train (taking years to do so). I don’t figure I have 5-10 years to spend back on deck at this point in my life. 😦

A couple of the maritime officers unions had tables, but none of them were actually hiring either. I talked to the MMP, AMO and MEBA representatives. They were happy to talk about the benefits of their unions, but admitted that things were tight and they really didn’t know how long it might take for an ‘applicant’ to find a job. All except the AMO still only hire out of the union hall too, so you can’t even work part time while you’re waiting to ship out.

I signed up as an applicant at AMO a couple of months ago. So far I’ve had 1 email re: possible job. By the time I responded a couple of hours later, the job was gone. 😦

All in all, the only companies that were actually looking for marine crew to ship out was SeaRiver (who I had worked for in the past and already applied for), HOS (who had a table with some swag, but didn’t even send a rep to talk to), Intermarine (who only hires through Crowley- which only does online applications), and HMS Global Maritime.

So, out of 25-30 companies represented at this particular career fair, there were really only 4 who had anything even remotely resembling the kind of work I’m looking for. Out of those 4, only 2 had representatives at the fair who could talk about the employment prospects at their company. Only 1 had much to say other than “go online and fill out an application”. 😦

That shows how really sad a state our maritime sector is right now. No longer much opportunity at all. I can only hope it comes back to ‘normal’ soon.

This Is Where I Work

When I work.

This is the kind of ship I’ve been working on most recently. This video was taken on the DS-4. I used to work on the DS-3 and DS-5 and a couple of other sister ships. Sisters, meaning they’re all built to the same basic plan.

These drill ships are technological wonders. They’re very capable and fairly comfortable ships to work on. I would go back in a NY second! I keep hoping the price of oil will go back up. There will be no work for me or anybody else out there until it does. According to reports, there are around a half million people out of work due to the low price of oil.

I read the news every day to see the price of a barrel and how many rigs are working. So far, the price has recovered from around $26/bbl to around $50/bbl (just dropped back down to $47 last few days). The ON SHORE drillers have been taking advantage of the situation and are drilling like crazy!

They have already returned a couple hundred rigs to work. Every time they do, they put downward pressure on the price of a barrel of oil. That only delays offshore drilling from starting up again.

At this point, I’m wondering if we’ll EVER be able to go back to work. it is not cheap to drill for oil offshore. They’re not going to do it at a price of only $50/bbl. The companies that work offshore can’t work without making a profit. That means oil must be over $60/bbl and it has to stabilize there before any of us see steady work again. (IMHO).

I know, most people are happy to get cheap gas, I would be too if I was actually getting it as cheap as it should be with price/bbl so low. And if so many people weren’t out of work because of it.

If I could find some other type of work that was in any way comparable, I would be doing it. There’s nothing like offshore. There’s nothing I’d rather do than be a mariner. I’ll just keep hoping things get better before I’m forced out for good.

Already

Yeah, it’s over. Already! My first real job since I was laid off back in September of 2015 lasted exactly 5 days!

I was hoping it would go for at least a week, every day of work I get now is like a godsend.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go back offshore for a few days, even tho I had to give up the 4 days I was scheduled to work in Houston. Wish I could have done both, but have to take offshore whenever it comes up. There’s just no comparison.

I hope this short job will be a foot in the door for future opportunities there. I know not many people are taking time off for any reason, not if they can help it. But sometimes, like this time, they have to. Maybe I can at least start filling in again when that happens.

Work

Finally! I’m going to work tomorrow! 🙂

It’s only a temp job. Maybe not even a week. But it’s the first real job I’ve had since I went as AB on that delivery job down to Colombia last August.

I’ll be going out as 3rd mate/JDPO (junior dynamic positioning officer) just to relieve someone who had to leave unexpectedly.

I hope, really really hope this is the start of something good!

Watch: 10 Reasons Why Maritime SUCKS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMYEKwxTyo Here’s a new upload from maritime Youtuber …

He really makes a lot of good points. I have to agree with him on pretty much everything he says. Yes, things are much, much better for sailors than in the days of Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast“, but they’ve sure as hell been going downhill since the 1960’s!

Yes, the ships are built with all the latest technology, but the crews have been cut in half and more! Our workload has been constantly increasing, with less and less personnel to do it all!

Yes, our pay has gone up- but not nearly as much as it would take to keep up with inflation. Considering all the expenses we now have added on in order to be allowed to work offshore, we’re actually earning much less than we were in the past.

Yes, communications have improved- for the ship. Not necessarily for the crew. There are still so many ship owners/operators who think of their crews as nothing more than another tool to use and abuse, not human beings like themselves. People who also have a life off the ship (if they have people who choose to stick around and wait for the sailor who may not be able to contact them for months at a time- which is not very likely now a days when everyone expects instant gratification).

I said I would never again work for someone who treated me like that, but I never in my life thought things would get this bad out there! Even with the advent of the STCW, which I immediately saw for what it was (an easy way for shipowners to rid themselves of ‘expensive’ first world crews), I still never imagined how small the box I’ve been shoved into has become!

I always figured that when it got slow offshore, I could ship out on a tugboat, or a tanker, or some other kind of vessel. Well, due to the US Coast Guard constantly changing the rules (and not always putting out the notifications they are required to by law), it is no longer possible to switch sectors like we could before.

Now, if you work on a tanker, you must stay on a tanker or you will lose your ability to ever go back to that kind of work without paying enormous fees to be ‘trained’, (ex: $1,100 for course, $500+ for lodging, $300+ for transport, $300+ for food). To do the same thing you’ve been doing for 5, 10, 15 years in the past ! Same goes for almost every type of vessel now. Passenger vessels only want people with that specific type of experience and paperwork. Towing vessels can only take people with towing endorsements. DP vessels will only take people with DP certificates. Etc.

I’m lucky I’m not a sailor from the Philippines, or China, or any of the other ‘third world’ (meaning low wage) countries where the overwhelming majority of seafarers come from now a days. For an American, working for MSC (Military Sealift Command) is probably the longest hitch out there. It’s supposedly 4 months long. I hear from friends it’s more like 6. Those poor crews from the Philippines are working for 2 years at a time before they can go home!

Most American ships are in pretty decent shape. They’re in great condition compared to a lot of the crap I’ve seen sailing around the world from other countries. Ships with ‘flags of convenience‘. Owners flag their ships outside of their own countries for financial reasons. They can get cheaper crews, bother with less rules and regulations, pay less taxes and fees, etc. Some of them are decent, but many of them are not. Check out this report by the ITF, they do a pretty good job of keeping track of this stuff. Or this, which makes the ITF report look tame.

Watch the video for a pretty good run down of what to expect shipping out. He doesn’t really get into the good parts. But then again, there aren’t too many good parts left anymore. 😦

Any of you sailors out there, I’d be very interested to get your take on both the video and my comments on it.

Source: Watch: 10 Reasons Why Maritime SUCKS (Things To Consider Before Joining Merchant Marine) – JeffHK – gCaptain