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.

Advertisements

Heads Up

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

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

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

I’m sure I can handle it. 😉

JusJoJan: Contemplation

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

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

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

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

Today’s prompt for JusJoJan is “contemplation“.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple answer: it can’t!

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

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

It’s not, you say?

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

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

Contemplate that!

Can Do!

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 – 6:30 PM

Running Time: 2 hours

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

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

Members $12, Tickets $18

It’s Been a Long Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 7 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Blog 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking For a Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Day

I made it home. Finally!

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

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder I don’t fly Delta anymore!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

Christmas on the St Louis Express

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

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

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

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

Santa brought presents to the ship!

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

Christmas goodies from thanks to the seaman’s center

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

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

Cooks are happy they made it through the holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

First Few Days on the St Louis Express

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

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

view from my cabin, starboard side looking forward

view aft from crane #4

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

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

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

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

walking up the main deck port side

lots of ship traffic S Florida

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

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

coming up the river to Savannah

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

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

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

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

passing downtown Savannah, tug coming alongside

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

Shipping Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. 😉

 

Going to Houston Again

I was up in Houston yesterday. I don’t go up there any more than I have to. I usually plan to do everything I need to in one trip. It’s ‘only’ an hour and a half drive, but with traffic it seems longer.

Yesterday I did a little shopping, stopped by the SIU to see if they had any work coming up, and finished up at the WISTA event.

Turns out, the SIU did have something for me. They called me this morning with good news. They had a ship for me!

Now I have to go back up there and do some paperwork. Hopefully I will ship out about this time next week. 🙂

I don’t really know anything about the job yet (except that I’ll be going as AB maintenance- not watch standing). I’ll find out more this afternoon.

Of course I wish I could go to work as an officer and use the license I’ve worked so hard for, but unlicensed work is all I’ve been able to find in over 2 years now. At this point, I’ll take what I can get and be happy about it.

Knocking on Doors

I flew into New Orleans Tuesday morning and picked up my car. I got on the road around 1030 and headed for Bayou Lafourche. It took about an hour to get there.

I spent all day knocking on doors at every boat company I could find (about 20 of them). First stop was Gulf Offshore Logistics right as you turn off the highway to head down the bayou. I filled out an application and waited to speak to someone about the job situation.

Turns out, it was a friend of mine who I needed to speak to. I forgot that he had changed jobs and went to work at GOL. We talked for quite a while and tho they weren’t hiring right now, he did at least offer me a little bit of hope.

I went on down through Raceland, Cut Off, Galliano, Golden Meadows, and back up to Houma. I got the same story everywhere I went. They had 20 boats total and 15 were stacked (just making up the numbers of boats but the ratio is what matters). No one was hiring at this time.

One company even showed me their (long) list of previous employees they would be calling first when things did start to improve. A couple of places said they thought they might start doing a little bit of hiring after the first of the year.

I didn’t get to see every company I wanted to. I missed Harvey Gulf and Hornbeck. Those were two of the most important ones I wanted to see. I have heard they are actually hiring. I just ran out of time. It was 1630 by the time I got through and too late to get back to New Orleans and over to Covington.

I met a couple of people yesterday who gave me some encouragement about that. One recently got hired at Hornbeck. He basically told me I had to go in person. If I did that, he was pretty sure I would get in. So… I am thinking I should blow off the last day of the Workboat Show and go over there Friday morning.

I spend all day yesterday at the Show. I met up with my old friend Captain Bill who was also looking for work. We met up with some old friends and former shipmates who were working the Show. We had a quick lunch at the food court (BBQ which was awful!). Bill had to leave early so we said goodbye and I continued wandering around the amazing amounts of boat stuff on display. 🙂

During the day, I talked to quite a few people about the situation offshore. Everyone agreed 2017 was done for. Most were hopeful that 2018 would be better. Some were more pessimistic and thought it would be 2019 or later (or even never).

I’m not sure I can manage to hold out for another year. I think most mariners are in the same boat. It has just become too hard to keep our credentials current. The IMO, USCG and the companies have decided it is imperative to continually load us down with super expensive, shore based “training”.

Renewal started out fairly easy to comply with. We just needed to do a couple of things like take a physical and renew RADAR every 5 years. Now, we still have to take a physical (but every 2 years-minimum), we still have to renew RADAR every 5 years, but we also have a slew of other requirements to renew our mariners credentials. Without those we can not work anywhere on the water!

That’s not even to mention all the ‘training’ the companies require. They all want different versions of the same course and refuse to accept the same training from anyone other than their approved providers! All of those courses are required to be renewed every 3-4 years too!

I can state for a fact that unless you are working on the water, there are very few jobs (I can’t think of a single one) that would both pay you enough and give you the time off you need to take all those courses. So…. how is anyone going to be able to go back to work in 2018, 2019, 2020 if they are not already working now?

Job Call

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

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

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

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

End of a Long Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Flies

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

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

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

USNS Mendonca

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

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

rainbow over the Corpus Christi bridge

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

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

USS Lexington

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

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

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

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

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

Mendonca

Well, I was right. No internet or email on the ship. I’ve only been there since Monday morning and I’m already jonesing for a fix. I had to run over to the seaman’s center after work this evening to check my email and see if I got any important messages.

Things like notice about a ‘real’ job. Not that this isn’t a real job. I’m working on here as an AB. It’s my first ship with the union (SIU) and I think I was lucky to get it. It’s much better than sitting at home looking for work and earning nothing. They’ve kept me busy since I got here.

We’ve been busy doing drills, securing the deck, loading stores, familiarizing ourselves with the ship, etc.  It’s a big ship. I’m not used to doing so much walking and climbing stairs!

Nor am I used to getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning either. I’ve never been a morning person. It doesn’t matter if I’m home, working, or on vacation- I always prefer to sleep til at least 10.

So, I just wanted to get on here and let you all know I won’t be back online til I get off the ship. So don’t get upset if I don’t answer any comments for a while. I can’t even log on to my main blog (www.captainjillsjourneys.com- please follow me there).

I’m on the computer at the seaman’s center and it won’t accept my attempts to enter my password. I’m lucky it didn’t lock me out here after numerous tries to remember my password for this blog.

I should have some interesting stories when I get off. Hang around, maybe I can even get some pictures uploaded when I get home. 🙂

Sea Trials

Whoo-whoo! I’m heading out early tomorrow morning for a job. I’ll be joining the ship in Corpus Christi and heading offshore for sea trials. It’s only temporary, and it’s only as an AB, but it’s a job. At sea!

It should be interesting. I googled the ship I’m going to. It’s a ro-ro (roll on- roll off). I’ve never worked on one of them before. It’s a MSC (Military Sealift Command) ship. Here’s a picture I found on google.

USNS Mendonca

I’ve tried to avoid working for MSC since they seem to never let you off (at least as an officer). I don’t really want to do a 4 month long hitch and then stay for another couple months since they can’t find a relief. Then they want you back after only a month off!

Still, I’ve been considering even going to work for them. I’d rather be at sea as a galley hand than an executive on the beach. I know it’s hard to explain, but I just love being out there.

I am starting to feel like I’ve pretty much wasted the last 30+ years of my life (and tens of thousands of dollars). I’ve worked so hard to pull myself up the hawsepipe to earn my license. For what?

I’m going to work as a deckhand. Same as I was doing when I first started out over 40 years ago. It’s depressing. I’m getting really discouraged. I thought earning the license would help me get a decent job. A good career. Just to get thrown out like last weeks garbage. It’s sad.

But at least I can still get out there and earn some sea time. Every little bit helps. I just hope I can hang on until things pick up again offshore.

Paperwork

It’s been a slow day today. I’ve been catching up on all kinds of things I’ve been putting off. One big one was filling out the forms for a ‘qualified assessor’ for the US Coast Guard. My boss at San Jacinto Maritime sent the request out a couple of days ago. I was too tired after work at Maersk to get into it. So, completed and sent now. At least I hope it’s finished to their satisfaction.

This qualified assessor thing is just one more example of how the USCG is making it harder every day for people to work in the maritime industry. I swear, if I had any idea that this industry would wind up so strangled with rules and regulations I would’ve listened to my grandmother and been a doctor!

When I first started working on the water, it was so nice. It was perfect for me. I could go to work, anywhere in the world, with decent pay and benefits (including health care as long as I was working at sea). I could dress comfortably, not have to dress in any kind of uniform. I could look like anything I wanted (dress in shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts). I could talk like I wanted (no such thing as PC back then). I could just do my job and everyone was OK with that.

No more. Those days are long gone.

When I started, you went to the Coast Guard and got a Z-Card. It was good for life. As an ordinary seaman (deck, engine or steward), you didn’t have to do anything to get one. Just fill out the application, pay a few bucks and that was it.

Oh god, I long for those good old days! Now, you can’t even consider going to work on a boat unless you’re willing and able to spend a shitload of money and weeks/months of time! Just take a look at those checklists on the National Maritime Centers website! Not that there’s any real reason for any of this so- called ‘training’. It’s only all about the money!

Yes, that’s it! The USCG, the schools (of course) and the politicians will all insist it’s about ‘safety’, but I’ve yet to see some real proof that any of these extra expenses (all on the backs of the seafarers) has done anything to improve safety. Instead, I believe it has actually caused a decrease in safety, due to driving out more experienced sailors from the industry.

Another reason: since everyone now has to attend “basic safety training’, the employers feel like their new hires have been ‘trained’ in basic safety. They send them out to the ships imagining that they’re prepared to do their jobs with no incidents. They imagine those new hires have learned enough in a week long class to keep them from ever having any accidents at sea. Yeah, riiiiight.

They’ve cut crew sizes down to ridiculously low levels so the old timers don’t have the time to teach the newbies what they really need to know. The basic safety class is a joke! We were all much safer before that class was forced upon us and people became so complacent because of it!

Who in their right minds wants to spend thousands of dollars and weeks of their vacation time taking classes that don’t even teach you anything new? I can’t imagine anyone who would. Yet, that is what we are all saddled with in this industry these days.

Yeah, the schools love it. it’s wonderful for them. They have plenty of money to lobby the politicians to force us all to attend ever increasing training requirements. Meanwhile, us poor sailors have no representation. And how can we argue against ‘safety’?

Do you think I’m the only mariner who feels this way? I can guarantee you that there are a hell of a lot of us out there who are thinking the same way. Just not a lot who are willing to say it online where the companies will see your ‘bad attitude’.

Too bad. I’m going to keep on saying what I think, here on my blog. Online, and whenever the subject comes up. I am not politically correct, I think the whole PC thing is a big reason the country is going to hell and I’m not going to shut up. I’d love to see a real, honest discussion on some of this stuff.

Who in the maritime industry is going to come out and admit that this whole STCW required ‘training’ scheme is nothing but a devious plan to force ‘highly paid’ American sailors out of the work force?

I’ve said so from the very first time I heard of it decades ago. Intended or not, that is the result. McCain and his flunkies calling for the end of the Jones Act will simply put the last nail in the coffin. I’d like to see Trump say to hell with the IMO and the STCW along with all the other things he says he’s getting rid of.