Frustrated

I am just steaming right now!

I FINALLY got a call for a real job! First one in ages, and after talking to them for a few minutes, they eliminate me because I don’t have one, (just one), of the multitude of newly required certificates of “training’.

You want to know which one? It’s a fairly new one, called “T-HUET”. T-HUET is supposed to be a less involved iteration of the HUET. HUET is a less involved iteration of the BOSIET.

I have the HUET, in fact I just renewed it. I also have BST (which has also been repeatedly renewed). They have not taught anything new in either course in the last 20 years.

ALL of these courses cover almost exactly the same stuff! But the companies now are insisting that you need to spend the thousands of dollars and weeks of time to take ALL 3 of them! Of course, THEY will no longer help pay for any of this. YOU need to spend all YOUR time and money on this stuff!

This is the email I just now sent off to the recruiter:

Just for your information:
T-HUET 
Course Outline
Procedures at Heliport
Helicopter Safety Equipment
Types of Helicopters used in the Offshore Industry
Dangers associated with Helicopters
Helicopter Safety Procedures
Preparation prior to Emergency landing
Emergency landing on Land
Surface Evacuation into an Aviation Liferaft
Escape from a Partially and Capsized Helicopter
In – water Survival Procedures
Helicopter Winching
HUET
Course Outline
Procedures at Heliport
Helicopter Safety Equipment
Types of Helicopters used in the Offshore Industry
Dangers associated with Helicopters
Helicopter Safety Procedures
Preparation prior to Emergency landing
Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET)
Emergency Breathing System Exercises
In -water Survival Procedures
Helicopter Winching

I don’t know why they don’t add the following to their description of their HUET course since they DID cover that same material. The only thing they did NOT cover that they say they do in the T-HUET is:

  • Surface Evacuation into an Aviation Liferaft- (we DID do this in the HUET course)
  • Escape from a Partially and Capsized Helicopter- (this is the exact same thing as what the HUET course describes as Helicopter Underwater Escape Training)
  • Emergency landing on Land

Do these companies SERIOUSLY want to eliminate pretty much ALL experienced mariners from consideration because they don’t have 10 minutes of ‘training’ differing in a course (that is only for the insurance company that has no clue about what ANY of these courses cover anyway)?

Do they really expect someone who has been out of work for months or years to pay hundreds of dollars for another course when the ONLY difference is at most a half hour talk about emergency landing ON LAND??? We get that same lecture every single time we fly, wether to go to work in the helicopter or flying to vacation. I would think it is 100% memorized by everyone in the country by now!

So now it is not years of experience and who can do the job, but who has the largest stack of certificates (most of them completely irrelevant to the job at hand). That is really sad.

I am perfectly willing to wait and ride the crew boat in if they are not willing to put aside that 10 minutes! I think it’s NUTS to throw someone out of a month of work because of some ridiculous ‘rule’ like this!

And you can feel free to pass this email on to Oceaneering (and any other company with the same stupid rule!). Just in case they REALLY believe there is some inherent advantage to their insistence on T-HUET, please do send them the facts, the ONLY difference is 10 minutes about emergency landings ON LAND!

Hope I’m not burning my bridges here too, but some things just have to be said!

Jill Friedman

MASTER MARINER (35+ YEARS OFFSHORE EXPERIENCE).

Do you think that was a little excessive? I don’t, I really don’t. I am getting SO fed up with the amount of complete and total pure BULLSHIT these companies are putting us through. Just in order to go to work for them.

Does anyone really think that after almost 50 YEARS spent working at sea, that 10 minutes, or even if I really push it, 2-3 hours of instruction, will make ANY difference to ANYTHING out there? If anyone does, there is no other word for those people than “INSANE” or “STUPID”. And yes, I am specifically talking to everyone involved in insisting on requiring these so called “training’ certificates!

They’re expensive and they’re USELESS! I know it and you damn sure OUGHT to know it!

How many mariners have you heard gushing about how much they learned in one of those courses? How many have you heard thanking the heavens that they’ve been forced to waste their vacation time in one of those classes instead of spending their time enjoying it the way they EARNED the RIGHT TO?

I can count the number of mariners who’ve felt that way on one hand, and after working out there for so many years, I know a LOT of mariners!

This whole certification rigamarole is just one more unnecessary burden. It’s not as if it’s all that great offshore anymore. They’ve cut and they’ve cut and they’ve cut some more. Yeah, things were finally getting pretty nice out there. Back a couple of years ago when the price of oil was sky high and they needed us badly and so were finally willing to offer us decent pay and conditions. Up until the price of oil dropped like a rock.

Now, we’ve dropped right back to where we were decades ago. Lost pay, lost benefits, lost time at home. Increased workload, increased forced ‘training’ and costs associated with all that, loss of freedom, loss of opportunity.

I used to think this was the best job in the world. It really was, way back when I started. Now, nah, not so much. Yeah, I still do personally consider it the best for me. I really can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than out on the ocean somewhere. Sailing to some obscure foreign port with adventures awaiting.

Sadly, there’s not too much of that on offer anymore. It looks to me more and more that my days of sailing the seven seas are about over with. After so many years of fighting to get my license, it’s become all but worthless these days.

Who in their right mind would want to sail as master these days? When every meaningful decision is made by some bean counter on the beach? Yet YOU and ONLY YOU are the one held responsible for the results of those decisions. When you have NOTHING to say about them?

That license you worked so hard to get will be taken from you. Without it, you can’t work ANYWHERE! On top of that, they will probably fine you a lot of money (millions), and then throw you in prison just to make sure that bus runs you over reeeaally good.

The companies need you for your license (by law) but refuse to pay you for them now (see my last job). They treat you like shit and expect you to lap it up like you were slurping down an ice cream Sunday (with a cherry on top)!

The longer it takes me to find a job, the more frustrated, cynical, depressed and angry I get. I think it’s just sick that a company in need of good workers would turn someone with my qualifications and years of experience away simply because they lack one simple certification. Especially when that particular piece of paper is so completely worthless! I worked for that company for 5 years, they KNOW I am perfectly capable and will do them a good job!

I’ve probably just burned my bridges with them and a bunch of other companies office people with this rant. Well, so be it. They need to hear it. For damn sure I’m not the only mariner who feels this way. I guarantee I’m saying what most would say about the situation. These companies need to wake up and get their heads out of their asses and THINK for themselves for a change! STOP sucking up to the god damned insurance companies and their suck-ass lawyers and do the RIGHT thing for once! Stand up for their companies and their people instead of cowering behind the threats of the paper pushers.

God DAMN I wish people in the USA would grow some balls and start acting like the free people we brag to the world about!

I really wish I could afford to start my own boat company. It would be so nice to work for a company that was run by people who really understood the business and was willing to stand up for their employees. I don’t see any like that around anymore. It’s a real shame.

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I Only Thought I Was Too Tired

really feel like spewing out a huge rant right now. I’m so tired I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere, but we’ll see. Fair warning!

I only fell asleep last night about 0130. Had the alarm set for 0330 so I could get up and be sure to have enough time to find my way to safety ‘training’ this morning. They said to be there by 0645, locked out if not there by 0700. I didn’t want to drive all the way up there, just to be locked out. So I made sure I’d get there plenty early.

Anyway. I spent the entire day from 0700-1600 with only a couple of 10 min breaks and a half hour for lunch going over some really basic safety stuff. Things I’ve been in control of for decades. I’ve been the one writing the JSAs, controlling the permits, writing the work procedures, testing the tanks, running the drills, writing the safety manuals, giving the safety training. Things I’ve been in charge of teaching others for decades.

WTF is all that experience completely worthless? I’ve got training certificates out the ring-yang, but not a one of them acceptable. Grrrrr…

These companies take no interest in the fact that their students know more about the subject than their teachers, if you don’t have the specific piece of paper for the specific company, it just doesn’t matter. You’re going to waste more time in ‘training’! (how do you make an ANGRY smiley face?)

Why the hell can’t they standardize their certificates so that you don’t need to get 2 dozen different ones to do the same damn thing! It’s the same offshore. No benefit to anybody except the training centers making a mint off these scams.

It pisses me off to no end to have to repeat this stuff over and over and over and over and over and over and over and especially when I’m not getting paid for it! Even more when I have to waste my money as well as my time. At least they didn’t charge me for it today. 

Or maybe it would’ve been better if they had. I would have immediately refused instead of spending all day today up there and tomorrow too. I wouldn’t be furiously steaming all afternoon about their company policies.

This all ties right in with my post from yesterday. The absolutely insane ideas people in the US have come to believe in the last couple of decades. The huge loss of freedom, individual liberty and human rights. The absolute and complete disrespect for us as individual human beings and our innate dignity.

They did spend about a half hour telling us about their company and allowing us to ask questions. That was useful. I learned a few things. Continue reading

Just Jot It Jan: 10 Danger

First thing I thought of when I saw todays prompt (danger) for Linda’s Just Jot It January challenge was the robot on the old TV series “Lost In Space“. I used to watch that show after school in the afternoons and always got a kick when the old robot would freak out. It kept repeating “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!” while madly waving it’s ‘arms’ around and spinning it’s little ‘head’. 🙂

But I really wanted to make a few comments on the perception of ‘danger’, of what’s dangerous, and how much it’s changed since I was a kid watching that show.

For example: just being kids. We used to stay out all day long. No cell phones. Nobody thought twice about not being able to contact us every minute of the day. We rode our bikes or skateboards everywhere (without helmets). No one thought that was OMG sooooooo dangerous! We were allowed to run around by ourselves, without an adult, even outside of our own yards and nobody ever considered calling the cops. We were ALL ‘free range kids’ back then and nobody had a problem with it.

We drank plain old tap water, sometimes even out of the hose in the backyard. Nobody worried about ‘germs’. Cooties, maybe (but you didn’t get those from the water). Nobody died from the lack of expensive bottled water.

I’m only going to list these few examples. I could go on for hours! I just don’t understand WHY the perception of ‘danger’ has changed to the HUGE amount that it has. I think the attitude of so many people today is just absolutely ridiculous! The risks today are NOT that different! None of us was really harmed by ANY of that stuff we did as kids. All of which could get parents hauled off to jail today (or at least dragged into court). It’s happened!

WTF is wrong with people these days? Why does everyone consider all those things suddenly so dangerous? We all survived our childhoods just fine. What exactly is the problem?

Why are we, here in America (especially), changing from a country where people once came and put up with real hardships, real dangers (wolves, bears, indian attacks, blizzards, tornados, etc), into a country where we insist that we must be 100% perfectly safe at all times, in all circumstances? And if we find the slightest little risk, we must strive to eliminate it from all possibilities of it ever happening?

And if, by some ‘miracle’ after all we’ve done to prevent it, something actually does happen, then we have to sue the shit out of everyone remotely involved?

What does this kind of atmosphere do to people? How, exactly is it helping us? By turning us all into whiny little babies, screaming for big brother to come and take care of us- to protect us from all conceivable harm?

How is that helping us live our lives as responsible human beings?

Why in the world would anyone choose to live that way? Personally, I don’t consider that kind of existence to be ‘living’. What a drab, dull, desolate and dreary existence. 😦

As a libertarian, I have to say, let people who want to waste their lives trying to avoid all ‘danger’ do what they think they can with their own lives. But, I wish to hell they would stop trying to force the rest of us into their narrow little mindsets!

Ben Franklin said it best…

Just Jot It Jan: 3 Warning

When I saw the prompt for today’s Just Jot It January challenge (warning), I immediately thought of this photo. I took it once on vacation in Thailand. I was going on a tour of Phang Nga Bay. We’d be riding one of the local ‘long-tail boats’. I was really looking forward to seeing the limestone caves, the village of the ‘water gypsies’, and ‘James Bond Island’.

I did a double take when I saw this sign as we were loading the boats.

What are ‘jacket lifts’? 😉

Are they warning you not to forget your Bacardi rum to go along with your ‘jacket lift? Or maybe you’ll need your rum after you finish your ‘jacket lift’? 🙂

I can’t read Thai, but hopefully it’s more clear in that language than it is in English. 😉

I’m sure they meant ‘life jackets’. I just couldn’t help but wonder how all the people who’s first language wasn’t English (or Thai) would interpret that warning sign. 😉

Chaotic: African Fire Drill

I checked into my new hotel this afternoon. When I walked outside to take a look at the beach, I noticed a column of smoke not too far away. Actually, it was pretty close.

I went to see what was going on. As I got closer, I could see the flames shooting up.  Spreading quickly up the thatched roof of a nearby resort.

#fire at a beach resort in #Zanzibar

I went over to see if I could help (as a mariner I’ve been training in firefighting for the last 30+ years).

The scene was complete chaos.

#fire and #emergency at a beach resort in #Zanzibar

Like a ‘Chinese fire drill’, but no Chinese around. It was an African fire drill, but not a drill. A real fire, and a big one!

#fire at #beach resort on #Zanzibar

There was a huge crowd milling around, taking photos and selfies. European tourists in bikinis and locals from the nearby village. 😦

#crowd watching the #firefighters

Someone decided to be ‘official’ and ran a bunch of yellow plastic crime scene tape around the area. Best I could tell, the waiters were trying to fight the fire. There were a couple of groups of guys trying to get the fire hoses straightened out.

Dozens of people- locals, Maasai men, workers from the resorts, and a few tourists (including me)- joined in to help fight the fire and keep the flames from spreading.

One hose ran all the way from my resort- at least a half mile- there was no water pressure. The same situation on the other side of the building.

It was a large, mostly open air, building with a palm thatched roof. From the gear scattered around outside, I assumed it was the kitchen/dining room. There were tables and chairs, serving bars, small refrigerators, serving platters and condiment trays.

On my side of the flaming building, there was a small market and massage business. People were moving all the paintings, carvings and tables further away from the fire. On the other side, there were about 2 dozen little thatched palapas between the fire and the next building.

Luckily, the wind was blowing pretty much directly towards the ocean and not to either side. If it had been, it would have been a complete disaster. As it was, they were very, very lucky it wasn’t a lot worse.

By the time I walked from my resort past the one next door to the one where the fire was, the fire had spread from one end of the building to the other. It was not just the thatched roof now, but a raging inferno as the fire consumed all the interior furniture, framework, etc.

#fire at beach resort in #Zanzibar

Outside was still complete chaos. There was still no water pressure. I kept wondering why didn’t they have a pump set up? They could keep one set up in the little shack there on the beach, keep a couple of hoses nearby and they’d have all the fire-fighting capability they’d ever need with the ocean right there.

I noticed the manager (or the man who seemed most to be in charge) and offered to help. Put some of those decades of experience to use, but he was too agitated to bother with me. I feel sorry for him. He told me they had just had a drill 3 days ago.

I’m not sure what the problem was with the water pressure, they did eventually get the hose to work. In the meantime, I was helping the women in the bucket brigade. We were filling any containers we could find in the swimming pool, passing them through the kitchen, through the palapas, to the men who would throw them onto the fire.

#bucket brigade to fight the #fire

Other men were working on trying to take down the palapas, to keep the sparks from igniting them and spreading the fire to the rest of the resort. A couple of guys got hold of a water hose and were doing what they could with it.

tearing down the #palapas for a #firebreak

I noticed a fire extinguisher and wondered why no one had thought to put it to use?

All I could think about was what a waste. The lack of training was so obvious, it was sad. These people were doing their best, many were plainly very upset. I noticed tears on the faces of a few of the women. The men were yelling and pointing and extremely agitated. I wish I could speak their language, but I’m limited with just English.

I tried to catch someone who spoke English, to give them a few pointers (since they were not fighting the fire very effectively). I hoped no one would get hurt when they went inside the building (with barely enough water pressure for a garden hose) and no protective equipment. Most of them were in shorts and flip-flops.

There is always the danger of re-flash and yes, the fire did flare up again a few times. A few  men kept up throwing buckets of water and sand on the thatch when the women were told to get back to serving lunch (WTF???).

I would offer to do some drills with them while I’m here, but somehow I think they might not appreciate that. I’m sure it would help to just get everyone confident with a fire extinguisher. I’m not sure what started the fire, but since it was in the kitchen/dining room, I assume it started in the kitchen.

Grease fire? Burned the bacon? I’d like to know what really happened. I sure do hope they review this incident and get some ‘lessons learned’. I’m glad no one got hurt, but from watching the whole episode, that had to be pure luck.

PS- I heard today that it did start in the kitchen. They cook over open flames mostly here. The story I got was that the cooking fire somehow caught the gas bottles (in a small room) and then there was an explosion.

USCG

I’ll be busy today. I’m heading up to Houston this morning to renew my RADAR certification, then to turn in my application at the US Coast Guard (USCG). I heard about a job lead from a friend yesterday, so I plan to stop by their office and try again (I’ve already sent them an email about the job).

I’m getting more than a little frustrated about the work situation. Having to deal with the USCG so often is getting extremely aggravating. I do not believe that anyone should be forced to beg permission from their government in order to earn a living. No, no one, ever, for ANY job, for ANY reason. Period!

Especially in America which is supposed to be a free country. Which was specifically formed in order to limit the government. Which was not supposed to have any power to do anything like that!

It was never so insane as it has become lately. The USCG has bowed down to the ‘international community’ and has forced US mariners to submit to the regulations of the STCW (standards of training, certification and watch keeping) put out by the IMO (international maritime organization).

Most of the STCW regulations are just plain stupid (IMHO). They are there for absolutely no purpose but to make the regulators feel like they have done something useful, and of course to make money for the ‘training’ operations at the expense of the mariners who basically have no opportunity to say anything about it.

They sell this all by insisting it has something to do with ‘safety’. I don’t believe it does, but even if it did, it certainly does not make up for all the extra BS they put us through for it. SO much time, money and aggravation to each and every mariner!

How can anyone look at our licensing scheme in the past and what we have to deal with now and say it makes any sense? It does not. In any way.

When I started going to sea (seriously) in 1978, I got a mariners document that was good for life. Yes, the officers had to renew every 5 years, but they only had to apply and renew RADAR. That’s it!

Now, all documents must be renewed every 5 years and there is an absolutely ridiculous amount of ‘training’ that needs to be renewed every 5 years as well. That all needs to be done at USCG approved ‘training’ centers. That is all very time consuming and expensive.

Are we any better sailors for it? I can guarantee you the answer to that is NO! Try to compare an AB from 100 years ago, the ones on the windjammers, to an AB today. There is just no comparison. The same goes for the officers.

Those guys had NO formal training and NO licensing either (until they, themselves insisted on it- as usual, in order to keep out the competition).

The improvements in safety since then had to do with improvements in the technology, NOT in the training or licensing of the crew. Any loss of safety has more to do with economics than anything else. Meaning companies cutting down on crew size, maintenance and tight scheduling.

Of course, as usual, the companies will blame anything and everything on the crew. It is always ‘human error’ that is at fault. Never their fault for pushing the ships and crews beyond what would be prudent (or safe).

They talk safety til it’s coming out your ears, but when it starts costing them a few bucks, that all goes right out the window! I’ve seen very few companies (in over 40 years at sea) that actually follow through. I can’t count the times I’ve been told “if you won’t do it we’ll just find someone who will”. It’s certainly not just happening to me!

How many mariners are able to walk off the job when that situation comes up? Not many.

Until that changes, all the ‘training’ in the world is not going to help anything much.

Just put more and more of us out of work, unable to pay for the ‘training’ we need in order to even try to find a job.

More and more companies are insisting on more and more ‘training’, more certificates- before they’ll even consider talking to you. For instance, I’ve been trying to work worldwide. The European companies want you to have something called BOSIET, which is exactly the same thing as what employers here insist on called BST + HUET.

The only difference is about an hours worth of ‘training’ on something called a ‘re-breather’. There is no ‘gap-closing’ course. So, I can not apply for any of those jobs unless I waste another entire week and spend a few thousand dollars to take the BOSIET course!

I’ve been out of work since last September. I can’t afford to take any more classes. Luckily, I’ve already taken the latest newly required classes (Leadership and Management and ECDIS). I only have to renew my RADAR certification, which I plan to do today.

Why do we have to renew this stuff (or even take a course ashore in the first place)? There really is no reason other than to ensure a fine flow of mariners to the training centers. These classes are all about things we either do every day (RADAR, BST), or won’t make any difference to anything anyway (leadership).

No one ever seems to take into account the mariners. The people who are the actual experts on the subject at hand. The people who’ve actually been forced into complying with these new requirements. It’s all done in our name, but we’re never asked our opinions, we never have anything to say about any of it!

We have all taken these jobs for certain reasons. One of the biggest reasons is for the time off. We spend weeks, months, more (some spend years), at sea. Working 24/7 without a break. We hardly even get shore leave any more. We are supposed to be able to come home and take a well deserved break!

Not any more. That time off has been whittled away, more and more, by so called ‘training’. Training that is supposed to be so all-fired important that it’s worth taking up weeks or months of our well earned and deserved time off (without any compensation for the loss). But that training is the exact same thing we do onboard!

If it’s so damned important, why can’t the companies spend the money to ensure their people are trained? Especially when so many of them absolutely refuse to accept anyone else’s ‘training’ even when it’s exactly the same (except for the name)! Most of it is stuff anyone who’s spent even a week working offshore will know by heart!

I keep wondering what’s going to happen when shipping picks up again? There are so many of us out of work. Hundred of thousands around the world, and that’s just for the oilfield, not even counting deep sea shipping! How many can afford to take the necessary training to be ABLE to go back to work when the jobs start opening up again?

We need to have 150 days on a vessel in the last 5 years. We ALSO now need to re-take quite a few courses in a certain time frame before our papers need to be renewed (mostly a year). How many jobs ashore will give you the time off or pay you enough so that you can renew those classes? I can tell you right now the answer to that question- NONE!

IMHO, the STCW is about nothing more than helping the shipowners replace “expensive” American/European/Australian mariners with cheaper sailors from places like the Philippines. They’re now able to say, “they all have the exact same training” (according to the STCW), so why not hire an entire crew of Philippinos for the price of 1 American? That is exactly what they have been doing since the STCW came into force. 😦

I hate to think I’m going to be forced to retire. I still love working at sea. But I can see the end coming and it’s not pretty for American mariners. 😦

A to Z: License

Today’s post for the A to Z Challenge is: license.

I don’t know how many of you around the world are forced to beg permission from your governments in order to get a job, but here in the USA (supposedly a free country), there are a LOT of us! More and more every year.

People here have to get a license to be a tour guide (to tell stories), to be an interior designer (to pick out color schemes for your living room), to be a hair braider, to work on a boat (like I do), and for hundreds of other occupations.

The Institute for Justice put out a report (License to Work) documenting the licensing requirements for over 100 low and moderate income occupations. We’re talking florists, manicurists, painters, makeup artists, bartenders, landscape workers,…

In fact, about 1 in 3 occupations now require a license! Back in the 50’s only about 5% of jobs required a license (mine was still one of those-deck officers started getting licensed in 1873).

I know things were simpler back then, but did all the jobs people used to be able to do without any governmental approval become SO much more complicated that they just can’t be done safely without the government’s approval?

I wouldn’t get quite so upset if it wasn’t the government involved in all this. After all, this is supposed to be a free country. Personally, I think any job ought to be between the person doing the job and the person doing the hiring. But even with that aside, why does it have to be the government issuing these licenses? Why can’t it be a private organization? Something like the consumers union? Or even the one I have to deal with all the time- the Nautical Institute?

That way, at least we would have some options, even if not many.

I’m pretty sure there were barbers, hairdressers and manicurists back in the 50s, or even before. According to Wikipedia, the 1st barbers school in the USA opened in 1893. It was the first in the world. I’m sure it must have taken at least a few years for the barbers to convince the governments to restrict their competition and require a license to become a barber. Do you wonder how we all managed to survive for thousands of years without them?

I know my own profession started agitating to be licensed right around the same time. I’ve been told it was actually the AB’s who started the whole thing. 😦

I can verify in my own profession that the licensing has become much more stringent and much, much harder to comply with since the 70s. When I decided to become a professional mariner in 1977, the rules were so much better for us (as mariners).

I could work my way up the hawsepipe (without spending a dime for school). If I could prove my sea time and pass the tests I was issued a license for “freight and towing’. I could work on ANY vessel, anywhere in the world. Yes, I still had to get my license renewed every 5 years (requiring a physical and a couple of simple things like RADAR recert).

I could get hired on, work on deck for a couple years and when I passed my AB test and got my AB ticket, that document was good for LIFE!

Now, things are completely different. We can’t just work our way up anymore, we have no way to avoid paying thousands of dollars for ‘training’ courses ashore. Personally, I have spent at least $50,000 (to upgrade from 2nd to chief mate). There is no way to just take a couple of simple courses to renew now either. They keep increasing the number of required classes to be re-taken and it’s adding up to some serious money. Even as an AB, I have to spend weeks ashore and thousands of dollars to renew my documents!

Even that’s not enough for them, they have also restricted our ability to work! Instead of the ‘freight and towing’ license, which allowed us to work on ANY vessel, now we have a license for ‘steam and motor’ which does NOT allow us to work on any ‘towing’ vessel (without additional time and money).

I have been a mariner since 1970, professionally since 1977. In all these years, I can say it has been harder and harder to find work, to keep working, to find a job anything like the way it was back then. When I actually loved my job so much!

In fact, I got laid off back in September and haven’t been able to find even a single job since October! There are some (towing) companies hiring (I don’t have that license so out of luck). There are some foreign companies hiring (they usually don’t hire Americans so out of luck there too). 😦

As many others have noted, the insiders restrict entry to their profession through licensing to increase their pay, benefits and influence. In the name of ‘public safety’ they convince the government to go along with the idea. In the end, it doesn’t really work.

It’s time to re-think the issue.

A Ship in Harbour

The Daily Post came up with a prompt today, one I thought I could contribute something to the discussion with.

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

Actually, I have a few favorite quotes. It’s hard to choose just one. They all revolve around the same theme. FREEDOM to live life to the fullest. Here’s one…

I’m a sailor. I’ve spent my life on the water, so this one really does speak to me. It’s true too. Yep, that’s right. A ship is meant to be at sea. To sail away from all the tedious day to day bullshit on shore. To explore the unknown oceans. To do the job to the best of it’s ability. To see the world.

The crew works together as a team, with a common goal to focus on (the ship). They work hard and they play hard. Adventures at sea and in ports around the world. It’s about living life, taking each day at a time and being present in the moment. Aware of the ship, the sea and the sky, the weather and any changes. Alert to the birds, fish, whales, dolphins and all the other creatures of the sea. Doing your work every day that you know is only to help reach the goal.

Finish the voyage, prepare for the next. And off on another adventure. 🙂

And this is also an post for the Just Jot It January challenge.

Sacrifice

Today’s prompt for Just Jot It January is: sacrifice.

3. the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

For the sake of today’s post, I’ll use this definition, and this quote (some versions add “and lose both”).

I feel extremely isolated in that I agree completely with that quote. I seem to be 1 out of many millions. 😦 Most people today seem totally willing to sacrifice ALL their freedoms (and mine too), in return for a (false) ‘promise’ of safety.

I can barely stand it; waiting in line for the TSA to grant me permission to travel. It’s all I can do to keep my mouth shut so I don’t lose that RIGHT forever. And the worse thing about it is, listening to the people around me in line making comments like “If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about”, or “I don’t care what they do as long as they keep me safe”, or “they’re only doing their jobs’.

Yeah, so were the NAZI’s!

We have given up SO many of our freedoms already, I can’t even begin to count! Just for a start, we have all the violations of the TSA, PATRIOT ACT, NSA spy programs, NDAA, etc. Restrictions of our rights to travel, to earn a living, to defend ourselves, what we can eat and drink and smoke, to choose how to take care of our own health, insane threats of fines and/or imprisonment dictating every single thing we do down to what kind of light bulbs and toilets we can have!

And yes, along with every other right listed in the Bill of Rights, even our right to speak freely has been violated (to all those who inform me how I would be imprisoned for what I say in North Korea or Iraq!).

I am NOT a North Korean or Iraqi! I was NOT brought up idolizing their dictators or ayatollahs as having the god-given right to run my life! I was raised as an American, one who believes whole-hearted in the ideals written down in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Those ideals that millions of Americans before me sacrificed everything up to and including their lives for. Things like individual liberty and freedom.

I can’t believe so many here are just forgetting all that, just throwing it all away, just giving it all up without any fight, without even a feeble protest. What the hell has happened to the American people that they put up with this? All I hear is how ‘times have changed’, ‘we have to go with the flow’, ‘the constitution was written 200 years ago’ and best answer yet- ‘you’re a real nut-job’!

All I have to say to that is: our founding fathers were RIGHT and  principles NEVER change, FREEDOM and individual liberty deserve all those sacrifices made in their name, ‘safety’ and ‘security’ do NOT, even if they were possible to achieve (which they’re not).

Carl Miller – Right to travel without a license plate

I agree with this guy in principle. We should NOT be forced to get a license plate. I have argued against being forced to get a drivers license in order to use the roads I have PAID for, the car I BOUGHT, the gas I PAID for. There is NO justification under constitutional law for the state (or any other government agent) to FORCE me to submit, to BEG their permission to travel freely!
I was BORN with the INALIENABLE RIGHT to TRAVEL. FREELY! That means I can move along a public road or any other public space without interference as long as I am not bothering anyone else. That goes for the airways too! The TSA and all its bullshit security theater is a HUGE violation of my rights and IS totally unconstitutional in every way! Where’s the warrant? Where’s the probable cause? What right do those government thugs in uniforms have to restrict you in ANY way in YOUR RIGHT to travel? The answer is NONE! They have STOLEN your rights from you!

2012 The Awakening

ATTENTION everyone that watches this video and engages in the discussion!
Just so everyone knows this channel does not give legal advice. This is a constitutional discusion, of which please note that the Constitution happens to be the HIGHEST LAW OF THE LAND. The founders wrote a simple yet concise document that needs no legal interpolation. So If your rights are being violated by a faciest tyranical government, please read and understand Thomas Jefferson, when he said that this does and will happen unless the Tree of Liberty is guarded vigalently by each and every generation.

People have an inherent nature to argue, and to believe in lies. There is a huge difference between knowlege and wisdom. To know something/anything doesn’t make a person smart. In fact if that person then declairs their knowlege, then at that momemnt they show their pride. Pride goes before a fall, always. I desire…

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Symbol: Plimsoll Line

I decided to join in on the Daily Posts challenge: Symbol. I thought about the waterline one immediately. I think if you haven’t spent a lot of time around ships, you might not know what this one means, even if you see it around you all the time.

This symbol for the ships waterline is called the Plimsoll line, after Samuel Plimsoll. It’s also called the international load line since its function is to inform as to the maximum level a ship can be loaded safely. To put it simply, if it’s underwater, the ship is overloaded and therefore unsafe to sail!

If you look at a ship, you should see this symbol midships (about halfway between the bow and stern). All commercial ships should have this prominently marked on their hull. The ‘deck line’ marks where the main deck level is located. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ on either side of the circle refers to the ‘class society’. In this case the American Bureau of Shipping. It could say LR (Lloyds Register) or BV (Bureau Veritas) or otherwise classed. These are the people who actually figure out exactly where the marks should be placed.

The markings to the right of the circle refer to the type (fresh, brackish or salt) and temperature of the water the ship is floating in. The density of the water changes according to these variables and so the ship will float higher or lower in the water when she sails in different conditions. And so the ship can be loaded with more or less cargo.

The Plimsoll line has saved thousands of lives since Mr Plimsoll first started working to stop overloaded vessels from heading to sea (with subsequent losses of ships and sailors). Plimsoll fought hard to stop the ‘coffin ships’ from sailing and spent years trying to enact legislation to protect the people who worked at sea. Here’s a bit from A Cheer For Plimsoll written and sung by Fred Albert in 1876

So a cheer for Samuel Plimsoll and let your voices blend
In praise of one who surely has proved the sailors’ friend
Our tars upon the ocean he struggles to defend
Success to Samuel Plimsoll for he’s the sailors’ friend.

 

There was a time when greed and crime did cruelly prevail
and rotten ships were sent on trips to founder in the gale
When worthless cargoes well-insured would to the bottom go.
And sailors’ lives were sacrificed that men might wealthy grow.

 

For many a boat that scarce could float was sent to dar the wave
’til Plimsoll wrote his book of notes our seamen’s lives to save
His enemies then tried to prove that pictures false he drew
but with English pluck to his task he stuck, a task he deemed so true.

It wasn’t until the loss of the SS London in 1866, with the loss of over 200 lives, that Parliament started paying attention to Plimsolls’ simple solution. In 1876, the UK made the load line marking mandatory, but it took until 1930 for any international agreement to come about.

The Plimsoll line has made shipping much safer, at least for the ships that follow its direction. It’s a simple enough thing that anyone can take a look and see if the ship is overloaded or safe to sail. But it looks to me like greed (on the part of shippers) and fear for their jobs (on the part of the mariners) keeps overloaded and unsafe ships sailing the worlds oceans. I think from plenty of news items, (like this, this, and this, etc), that people around the world are still not taking advantage of this hard earned knowledge.

LOVE IT

I get so discouraged working out here sometimes. I used to love coming to work offshore. I actually looked forward to it and was eager and excited to come back to work. I wanted to go places, to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.

I loved working outside on deck, where I could enjoy the weather. I loved the feeling of the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin (even tho I sunburn easily). I loved looking out and seeing nothing but the blue, blue water all the way to the horizon.

I loved to see the beautiful constantly changing seascape. I loved to watch the waves and clouds. I looked for signs of life around me. Birds: pelicans, sea gulls, terns, herons. Fish: mahi-mahi, ling cod, tuna, sharks, and dolphins (mammals, not fish). Even things like seaweed and jellyfish were of interest. I loved to watch the intense colors of the sky when the sun rose or set.

I loved the fact that my job depended only how well I did my job. It didn’t matter what I looked like, how I talked, my level of formal education, how much money I had in the bank, what kind of car I drove, how I dressed. I loved being able to work dressed in an old pair of shorts, t-shirt and a pair of flip-flops.

I loved slow days offshore when we would throw a line over and catch a few fish. We always caught something. Mahi-mahi, ling cod, rainbow runners, sharks, kingfish, snapper, grouper, catfish, etc. Sometimes we kept them to eat, sometimes we threw them back.

I loved standing lookout at night and seeing the stars so blazingly bright at sea when there was nothing around for hundreds of miles to blot out their light. I loved watching the dolphins play in the bow wake when we were underway and seeing them pass by at the rig. Continue reading

Remembering the Importance of Seafarers

 

Remembering the Importance of Seafarers.

June 25th has been declared by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) as the International Day of the Seafarer. Yes, I’m a little late with this post, but I hope you’ll read it and think about it anyway. I’m at sea at the moment. All of the people who work as seafarers spend most of their lives at sea and aren’t always able to keep up with the rest of the world.

I’m very fortunate that I’ve worked my way up to a position where I have some options. I refuse to work on any vessel any more that doesn’t allow me internet access (it works here at least sometimes). You’d be surprised how many companies don’t think that’s important!

I’m one of the few lucky ones. I work in a very competitive area and my wages are much higher than most. I remember my deck crew on the tuna boat asking my why they didn’t earn American wages since they were working on an American boat. The only (true) answer I could give them was Continue reading

Back to Africa

I’m at the airport again (lot of time spent here lately). I got my visa at the last minute for me to be able to make my flight today, so spent the morning rushing around trying to finish up last minute things around the house.

I’ll be spending the next 30 hours (minimum) in the air (or airport). I expect they will send me straight to work when I get there. I’m really not sure how they expect anyone to do a good job after being awake for 45+ hours.

Anybody have any ideas on that?

Do you work someplace where they don’t allow you to start work unless you’re awake and alert? What happens if they tell you that you could have slept on the plane? Anybody out there that can actually sleep on a plane (in anything but first/business class)?

There is actually a law out there that says we (mariners) are not allowed to go to work unless we have had at least 6 hours of REST beforehand. That was put into place because the investigators realized that the REAL cause of the Exxon Valdez oil spill was FATIGUE. NOTHING to do with the Captain (except that he should have insisted that his crew got some rest before departure- but we’re all just slaves to the companies now). 😦

Fatigue is always at the top of the list, #1, 2 or 3 of causes of ALL accidents!

In the 20+ years since that law was passed, I’ve only ever heard of ONE company abiding by those rules.

ONE. 😦

I’ll try to get online on my layover in Frankfurt. If I can’t, I’ll catch up again here when I get caught up at work.

Another Course: Leadership- Management Level

I’m at the airport again. I’m heading to Baltimore this time. I’m due to arrive there after midnight tonight and then will start the Leadership course at MITAGS first thing in the morning.

This is another one of those classes I am required to take in order to keep my job. This particular course is a new requirement. It came with the STCW 2010 Manilla amendments.

Yep, I thought I was FINALLY finished taking these (stupid, totally un-necessary) courses when I finally got my Masters license. But nooooooooo,

Not even 6 months later, the officials of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) came up with a half dozen MORE courses to saddle us all with. This is all in order to improve SAFETY out there on the ocean.

I’m still waiting to see the proof that all this shore based training has done diddly squat to improve safety offshore. So far, I have not seen anything to say that it has.

For example: Leadership. Who thinks leadership is something that can be TAUGHT? If you think it CAN be taught, do you think it can be taught in a week long class?

I’ve heard the military is good at producing leaders. I know they spend a lot more than a week doing it tho.

I’m not sure leadership CAN be taught. At this point, I think its more innate to a person. A part of their personality. I suppose it can be learned. I would think it would be more easily learned by observation and practice. I think that would be much better effected on the job, on your boat, with your crew than in any week long class.

Well, I’m stuck here all week regardless, so will have to wait and see what they teach us and what we learn.

Home: Get Ready to Work

I’m home. But only for a short stay. I got home from my FRC (fast rescue craft) class last night. I’m leaving for my course in Leadership (management level) on Sunday. FRC was only 3 days. Leadership is 5 days. All these courses are required (by law) for me to keep my license.

So, I really only have today and tomorrow to catch up on a lot of stuff. I’ve got to go for an eye exam this morning (also required for my license- yearly). I’m going to the dentist tomorrow morning. I need to get a haircut. I need to try and get my computers fixed. I need to see about getting my house exterminated (pretty sure I’ve acquired mice since I’ve been gone- and some sort of LARGER creature that is rampaging around my attic at night).

When I get back from the leadership course (in Baltimore at MITAGS), I’ve got to get my USCG physical done (required yearly so I can keep my license). That entails blood tests I’ve got to get done for my Dr to renew my prescriptions. I’m trying to do that through an online service since it’s MUCH cheaper (and I REFUSE to get sucked in to the Obamacare trap!!)

After I get done with all the medical crap (and “training” crap) I need to do in order to keep my license (without it I am not ALLOWED to work), then I need to try to figure out my tax situation.

Since I am not working for an American company now, they don’t take anything out of my paycheck for taxes. This is the first time I’ve been in this situation. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to pay my own taxes quarterly now. All I know is, I’ve got to get my accountant on it so I don’t get screwed (any more than usual) by the IRS next year.

I’m still in the pool at work so I’m figuring I’ll be due back around Dec 4 (leave Houston Dec 2). That means that in my “month off”, I’ll have had 14 days at home. That’s pretty typical now a days, considering all the required courses and not required (except by the company) “training” we have to take in order to keep working.

How the HELL did it come to this? A free country where most of your time is spent trying to complete government mandates (license to work, TAXES)?  A job at sea once was the ultimate in FREEDOM. You just had to do your job and nothing else mattered. Now, it’s almost the complete opposite.

First of all, if you piss in the jar and it somehow ‘fails’ the test, then you’re OUT, completely and totally. You can not work for ANYONE for a LONG time. You might as well forget about ever working at sea again. What that piss test has to do with your job is totally beyond me, it’s just a bunch of pure BULLSHIT that has tied it to your ability to do your job, but it has become all important. 😦

After you manage to pass that hurdle, of the company deciding that they OWN your time OFF the job as well as on it, then you can try and pass the ‘physical’ hurdle. Some (very few now) companies are happy enough with the required USCG physical (which gets harder and harder every time there is some sort of incident that gets some news coverage).

Most companies now have their OWN standards. They have their OWN doctors they send you to for things like MRI’s and even psychological tests! Here’s an example of what one recently thought was important that I could do: balance on one foot on a trampoline for a couple of minutes. Another thought I needed to be able to climb up and down the stairs for 20 minutes while carrying a weight of 50 lbs (for a company where it’s not allowed to carry weights of over 35 lbs)! Remember, you can’t set off the BP/pulse monitor either while you’re doing all that!!

Then, once you pass all that and you’re actually allowed to show up on the job, you have to complete a ream of paperwork before you can actually START even the simplest job (JSEA, risk assessment, PROMT card, etc). Oh yeah, you have to be dressed to the hilt in all sorts of ‘safety’ gear: steel-toed boots, hard hat, hearing protection, safety glasses, coveralls, gloves, lanyard for your hard hat.

But NO knife! They are ‘prohibited’ as DANGEROUS. WOW! What twisted logic we have to live by offshore.

So, here I am, a person who chose to go to sea for the FREEDOM it once offered, now suffering from an overdose of ‘safety’ which has completely destroyed the freedom. The same thing is happening on shore. All over the country.

What the HELL has happened to America? A country founded by people from all over the world who once valued their FREEDOM above all else? We’ve turned into a country of whiny-baby scaredy cats, willing and able to sue anybody and anything and blame anybody but ourselves, we need to be ‘protected’ from the big bad world and even ourselves. 😦

I wonder is it some sort of disease? Something that causes people to lose their common sense? Or is it some kind of intentional mind control, something put out by ‘our leaders’ to get us to stop thinking for ourselves and just do whatever they tell us, no matter how stupid (no knives, airport strip searches, etc).

My guess would be the second one. 😉

Brrrrr!

Today is the last day of FRC class.

A cold front came through Galveston yesterday and dropped the temperature at least 20 degrees.

That’s not too bad when you’re sitting in a nice warm room, cuddled up in a blanket. But when you’re out on the water, running around in a tiny little speedboat, it’s a different story.

I had a pretty good time on Monday playing around with the boats. Today we have to go out again and practice search patterns. I’m not looking forward to getting cold and wet today!

I hope it all goes quickly. I’ll try to get some decent pictures to post here later. 🙂

Update: OSV Crew Performs “Africa”

I originally posted this last year, right about this time. At that point I had never been to Africa. I didn’t know I would get to come to work in Africa. I had high hopes for how things would be working here.

I recently (July 2014) started working out of Angola and things here are not at all as easy going as I had hoped after watching the video.

The work is pretty much the same as in the Gulf of Mexico. Even the paper work is the same. It looks like the USA has infected the entire world with its CYA culture. 😦

Lawyers and insurance companies have done a pretty damn good job of ruining the world!

WATCH: OSV Crew in Africa Performs Toto’s “Africa” in Viral Video | gCaptain

Great job by the crew of the Bourbon Peridot!

Working in Africa is one of the most dangerous places in the world for working seafarers. At least these guys still have a sense of humor. 🙂

It’s nice to see there are some places in the world where we can still enjoy doing our jobs. It’s encouraging to think that there is still some hope to find a shipboard job where its not all about the ISM, IMO, SMS, USCG, BSEE, and all the other alphabet soup that organizes our every move.

In the USA, the lawyers and accountants have taken all the fun out of the job. We would NEVER be allowed to do something like this here anymore. I see ‘no horseplay’ posted on almost every vessel now and the companies here do take that very seriously.

Someone would be hounding these guys about their JSA, and where the heck is their PPE? Gloves, safety glasses (with side shields), steel toes, long sleeved fire-resistant clothing, ear plugs, hardhats, etc. No one is allowed out the door here without all that on! 😦

And OMG!!! He had a KNIFE! Not an alternative cutting device! He would be fired immediately! Sailors without knives are like birds without feathers. A necessary part of our garb has been stripped away from us. A safety item has been declared ‘too risky’ for us to use!! What total BS!!

No wonder most sailors who have been anywhere other than the USA are so desperate to get away from this place again and will work pretty much ANYWHERE else. Personally, I am willing to take quite a pay cut in order to enjoy my job again. Too bad that’s what they’ve done to this place. 😦

Hey, anybody over there need a good DPO??? I’m available any time. 😉

LAS

Well, I made it through another security theater without blowing my top.

I waver between frustrated anger at the fact that these people all think they’re doing me some sort of favor by stripping me of my ‘god-given’ (Constitutional- Natural) rights along with my clothing and my dignity, and incredible sadness and depression over the fact that the American people put up with all this TOTAL BULLSHIT with barely a whimper of submission.

I wonder how in the hell did a country full of risk takers, who ALL (other than the Indians) came here from somewhere else, leaving everything behind to make a new life for themselves in the land of the FREE, turn into such a bunch of whiny, irresponsible, scared shitless morons every time ‘our’ government whips up a fear frenzy?

I wonder how many people REALLY believe that “our government” has our best interests at heart, is only doing what it “has to” to ‘protect us’, is only ‘doing its job’? I wonder how in the hell they could POSSIBLY still believe all that CRAP when it’s been proven over and over and over again that ‘our’ government is full of evil bastards who would kill their own grandma if it would get them even an ounce more power!

I wonder how is it possible they’re still willing to give ‘our government’ the benefit of the doubt when it’s been proven over and over and over again how it has stolen our wealth to grow it’s own power. It’s committed numerous unjustifiable attacks against too many countries to name here. It’s committed crimes against humanity (against it’s own citizens, not just against foreigners)- MANY times in its history.

Doesn’t ANYBODY pay attention to history? Doesn’t ANYBODY think about what the hell they’re REALLY planning?

Does anybody think Americans will ever grow some balls like the people in Hong Kong have?

I wish them all the luck in the world over there. I hope they can save themselves and their country. I hope the Chinese rulers turn out to be more sensible than ‘ours’ are here. I hope they’re successful in saving their freedoms in Hong Kong and I HOPE the Americans can learn a lesson and STAND TOGETHER to fight our common enemy!

Drills Today

Wondering if we’ll have fire and boat drills today?
Is it worth trying to go to sleep? Or would it be better to try to stay awake so that you can get some good rest after it’s all over?

Weekly (at minimum) drills are a necessity on most vessels, but boy do they get old fast.

It’s already so hard to get enough sleep out here and then we have to do these drills every week (as well as safety meetings). It’s really amazing but almost every time, we’ll have at least 1 person who doesn’t know where their muster station is, how to get there, or what they’re supposed to do when they do get there.

It’s not like that on ships that have a crew full of professional mariners. They are trained and will almost always do the right thing, even go and check out their gear when they come aboard.

On vessels that have ‘crew’ other than mariners (construction, cruise, fishing, drilling, etc), most of these people are NOT mariners and don’t come from a seafaring background. Even though the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) mandates that every mariner has to take a basic safety course before going offshore, I’ve noticed that all these other people do NOT have to take that course (or others).

THEY are the people who actually NEED that course (at a bare minimum), but of course the IMO and others who make the rules really have NO idea what they are doing when they come up with this stuff.

I’m falling asleep whether I want to or not. Here’s hoping the drills go fast today.