Monochrome Monday: Vulture

I was bored and looking at my WordPress browser and came upon this new challenge. It’s Monochrome Monday XIX from Hadd Hai Yaar. You can click on the link to see what everybody has come up with and join in. 🙂

I took this photo of a vulture in Tanzania last November, on a photo safari with GEP. There was a whole bunch of them feeding on a kill some other predator had recently finished with. There were 3 different kinds of vultures, I’m not sure what type this one is (anybody know?). It was fascinating watching how they interacted with each other. Watching and waiting for their chance to move in and get their share. Fighting over scraps and challenging newcomers to the scene.

I’m still new to photography, so I don’t know how I managed to get this shot to come out so nice. Most of the rest I took of these birds did not. I took it with a Panasonic Lumix ZS70 which I had just bought for the trip. F 6.4, ISO 1/320. I almost always leave my cameras on automatic, so pretty sure it was for this shot too. One of these days I’ll have to read the manual. 😉

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CFFC: Pairs

Cee always has great photography challenges going on. This one is for her Fun Foto Challenge- Pairs. Pairs of anything at all. Like or unlike. Click on the link and see what everyone else is posting. Join in. 🙂

Here’s my entry…

pair of ornaments
pair of tulips
pair of turtles

I really love to take photos. I always have my camera with me and take pictures everywhere, of anything. I ran out of room on my walls a loooong time ago. Now what can I do with them all?

Post them on to Cee’s challenges! 😉

FOTD: Waterlily

I haven’t been online much lately. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the real world instead of spending time in the virtual world. I’ve been loving it! Now that I’m back home again I’ve been able to catch up a little bit and take a look around the blogosphere. Cee always has great photography challenges going on. This one is for yesterday’s flower of the day- waterlily challenge. Click on the link and see what everyone else is posting. Join in. 🙂

I’ve always loved waterlilies. I’ve been trying for years to photograph them. We don’t have many of them around SE Texas where I live. I can never get a good shot, they’re always so far away so my photos turn out blurry. I got this nice shot in Hoi An, Vietnam. I was there for a writing workshop. We went out a few times for ‘research’ during the week. This waterlily was in a pot outside of a bookstore we were looking at and ducking into during the rain. So far, it’s the best I’ve ever got of a waterlily. 🙂

Thanks to another blogger’s post (with some great poinsettia photos) on Cee’s FOTD page, I was reminded of these photos I took of Monet’s famous waterlily paintings at the Orangerie in Paris. It was just wonderful, to be completely surrounded by these huge, wall to wall paintings of his.

Happy New Year 2019


Well, it’s over- 2018 is done! Hard to believe isn’t it? To start 2019, I’d like to say thank you for sticking with me- I know I haven’t been very consistent on here lately. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything. Writers block or just plain laziness? Both, I think. Last year seemed to drag on forever, but now it seems to have gone by so fast.

I have to say, I’m very thankful that 2018 was better than 2017. My computer wasn’t giving me near as much trouble (until just recently- I wonder if the bats have returned). I was able to get a little bit more work. Not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy me and get me to the point of being comfortable, but enough to survive on. I was even able to dig myself slightly out of the hole the last couple of years of basically no work had put me in.

I actually had work every month last year (except Nov-Dec when I decided to take my long planned trip instead of hope for work). It wasn’t all offshore, well paid work. Some months, the only job I had was my role player gig at Maersk Training. But even that little bit kept me from having to use up the last of my savings.

I also sold a couple of articles (with photos) and paintings. That was a real boost to my confidence (tho not so much to my bank account).

I was able to take that 2 month long trip and still come out a couple thousand dollars ahead of where I was on New Years Day 2018. 🙂

So, I’m thankful, very much, that 2018 was better than 2016 and 2017. I was able to get enough work and even to take a couple of trips (not including work). In March I went to Roy Stephenson’s travel writing/marketing class in Seattle. In September I attended GEP’s Travel Writing & Photography Workshop in Austin. I spent November and December traveling around the world, stopping in Paris, Tanzania, Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I may be ‘greedy’, but I’m really really really hoping that 2019 turns out to be even better than 2018. I sure as hell don’t want a repeat of 2016-2017 which just sucked! I hate being broke and watching everything I’ve worked so hard for just slowly disappear.

I hope things will pick up offshore so there is more work this year and the agencies actually have more than a single job to fight over! It feels great to get 3 calls in a day from 3 different recruiters, but it really sucks once you talk to them and realize they’re all pitching the exact same job.

I don’t know what to think now. I had a job lined up before Christmas. It was supposed to start on the 3rd. Friday I asked about details and was told the job was cancelled. 😦

I got another call yesterday. It sounded like a good job, but I felt I had to turn it down. I just don’t feel confident that I could handle the particular position on offer. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring some business. There have been some hopeful signs in the news lately.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year. I never seem able to follow through on them. They’re always the same: lose weight, clear out the house, write more. I never make any lasting progress.

Instead, I think about the things I would like to do. Top of the list this year: get residency visa for Mexico and make that first move, find a decent room-mate (which will make that move to Mexico SO much easier), take my bicycle in to get it repaired and adjusted so no more excuses not to ride, have at least one garage sale and get rid of unused stuff cluttering up my living room!

If I manage to cross those things off my list, and if I manage to find enough work to strengthen my finances a little more, I’d love to do some more traveling. Next big trip I’d like to take is a cruise to Antarctica. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any New Years resolutions? Any trips planned? Where would you most like to go and why?

FOTD: Tulips

I’ve been busy traveling so haven’t been spending much time online. Last night I took a look at my WordPress Reader and saw this post from Cee. She always has these great challenges for all of us to get involved with and she has some fantastic photos on her blog.  

Today’s (Dec 8- yesterday) flower of the day is “tulips”. I haven’t seen any of them lately, but I was in La Conner, Washington in April for their annual Tulip Festival (actually I just missed it but the flowers were still blooming and I got some wonderful photos). 

CFFC: Things People Drive (or pilot- or captain- or sail)

I might be a little late for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, but I’m jumping in anyway. I just got in from work (offshore) where I have minimal internet access and I’m ready to catch up. Here are a few photos of ‘things people drive” on the water…

drill ship

PS- the last one is of me ‘driving’ one of the drill ships. I think it was the Ocean Rig Poseidon. I don’t get to do as much actual ‘driving’ as I used to since I’ve been working more as a DPO than anything else. Dynamic positioning takes all the fun out of ‘driving’ a boat. 😉

CFFC: Things We Grow

The theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is: things people grow. Here’s my entry…

Fresh fruits…

Vegetables…

And fields of flowers…

Which Way Challenge: Ferry

Here’s a challenge from sonofabeach96. He’s taken over the Which Way Challenge and has been doing great so far. It’s always cool to see what everyone comes up with on these challenges. So here’s my entry…

I took these photos of the ferry boat on a trip up to Washington State (they have a great statewide system of ferries that really helps you get around). I had gone up there for a writing workshop with Roy Stevenson. After the workshop, I decided to do a little traveling around Washington.

I drove up from Seattle to La Conner for the tulips, stopped to take a quick look at my old stomping grounds in Anacortes, drove over Deception Pass and then took this ferry over to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.

 

It was a gorgeous ride on the ferry and then driving on through the forests and around the mountains on the  Olympic Peninsula. I was only a little disappointed that the snow was still so deep up at Hurricane Ridge and I couldn’t go hiking up there.

The beaches along the Pacific Coast were stunning. I wish I had more time to spend exploring. I love hiking around the forests, mountains, and beaches- especially when the weather is as temperate as it is up there. I really enjoyed finding so many beautiful places to walk around and then cool little towns with mom and pop shops. I found some fantastic restaurants with food I normally wouldn’t eat (absolutely delicious fried Brussel sprouts at Seeds). I loved seeing all the interesting art. I even bought some to bring home.

 

 

RDP: Truck

I found a new challenge through my WordPress Reader (and Cee). It’s called the Ragtag Daily Prompt (RDP). I’ll give it a try. Here’s mine for today on truck

I’ve always liked trucks. I’ve had one of my own for years. I drove a 1973 El Camino until I overheated the engine and froze up the block. I loved that old car! Sometimes I felt like Fred Flintstone since the floor was rusted out so bad. The bed was just about useless for hauling anything because of the huge holes rusted through the metal. It leaked so bad when it rained, even hitchhikers didn’t want to ride with me. 😉

When I couldn’t justify buying a new engine, I got a 1983 El Camino. I kept it for a few years until I got tired of having to fix one thing or another every time I got in from the ship and bought my first ever brand new car (truck). A 1997 Ford F-150.

I’m still driving that one. It’s already a ‘classic’ at 21 years old. I’ve been trying to baby it as much as possible but she’s definitely starting to show her age. After buying this one new and seeing just how much of a rip-off a new car is, I will never buy another new car again in my life! I need to make this one last until I don’t need a car anymore. Practically speaking, that means until I can get my ass out of Texas!

I need to move somewhere I don’t need a car! Right now, Mexico is looking pretty good to me. 🙂

Sunday Stills: How Do You Commute?

Thanks to Terri and her Second Winds Leisure blog for continuing to run the Sunday Stills challenge. Here’s what she says about this weeks challenge

Transportation is the theme for this week’s Sunday Stills challenge. “Commute” can also work, pun intended, which means to travel some distance regularly between one’s home and one’s place of work, school or vocation. Or, by definition, to travel as a commuter.

OK. So here goes.

My ‘normal’ job, my profession, is: merchant mariner. I am a US Coast Guard licensed Master Mariner and also a certified Dynamic Positioning Operator (DPO). So I spend most of my time working on ships. Since the last downturn in the price of oil (2014) has decimated the amount of work out there, I’ve had to try my hand at anything else I could find. I’ve been working as a role-player during maritime emergency training, teaching maritime courses, writing, and painting. Since then, my commute has been ordinary- just driving. It’s much more interesting when I’m sailing.

 

 

 

Since I live in a smallish town on the coast of Texas, my commute almost always involves first driving to an airport (or port) in Houston. Almost all of the offshore work in the Gulf of Mexico is concentrated out of Port Fourchon, LA now a days. So, I fly into New Orleans, meet up with other crew members for a ride down to Fourchon. From there we will either ride a crew boat or helicopter out to the vessel we’ll be working on for the next 3-4 weeks.

If I’m sailing “deep sea”, I’ll drive up to the dock where I’ll meet my ship (usually) in Houston. I’ll stay onboard for 2-3 months. They’ll fly me back to the airport in Houston. I’ll take a cab back to wherever I left my car when I joined the ship.

USNS Mendonca in Corpus Christi

If you want to join the challenge and see what everyone else has done, click here.

Which Way Challenge

Thanks to Son of a Beach for continuing to run the Which Way Photo Challenge when Cee  let it go. These things are always interesting to see what everyone comes up with and fun to join in.

So here’s my entry to this week’s challenge…

Night shot of a bridge crossing the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey. I was on a dinner cruise, was hoping to go under that bridge but we turned around to go back to the dock a couple of miles from it.

This one is of the Galeta Bridge in Istanbul. I walked across it one day. Went to Asia on the bottom level, where all the restaurants are. Walked back over to Europe on the top level with all the fishermen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CFFC: Pastel Colors

Join in on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. This week’s theme is: pastel colors. Here’s my entry…

I took this photo while out sailing with friends off Puerto Vallarta a couple of years ago. It has some beautiful pastel colors. I was taking the TEFL course and this was one of the perks. I still haven’t gone to teach English, but I have done some teaching of maritime subjects and getting more comfortable in front of a classroom. 🙂

Flower of the Day- Pink Geranium

Here’s my entry to another challenge from Cee. It’s for the Flower of the Day series. I took this at Moody Gardens a while ago. I couldn’t get the lighting right, but I like how it turned out anyway. 🙂

Check out what all the other flowery posts over at Cee’s blog.

Lime & Light Green

I haven’t been able to get online much lately, so I haven’t been keeping up with any of the bloggers I usually do. Cee always has some really great challenges going on. This week she’s asking us to come up with photos (or whatever) to fit “lime or light green“.

Here are mine…

 

 

Check out some of the other entries over at Cee’s Photography Blog.

Writers Block

Or just plain old laziness?

I have to say, it’s a little of both.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. That’s never been a problem for me. It’s if I have anything I think will be interesting to say (to you- my readers).

Since my last post, I went back out to sea on the same ship. It was still quite chaotic on there and I didn’t have much time or internet access. I was wiped out at the end of the day and just not up to trying to get online.

I was out for 2 weeks (working nights), home for a week and then out for another 2 weeks (on a different ship- back to working nights). While I was home, I was busy with trying to catch up on the usual: mail, bills, car, paperwork, housework, yard work, etc. I also had to take a physical for the job I was up for. I wasn’t positive I would get that job, so I signed up to work at Maersk again as a role player.

Turns out I did get the job, so I had to leave Maersk after only 2 days. I went straight to the airport from work the second day. Flew over to New Orleans and joined the ship the next day.

I was supposed to spend 3 weeks onboard. We finished the job early. The client was in a huge rush to sign off on completion. We wound up back at the anchorage (otherwise known as the “drillship graveyard”) off SW Pass a week earlier than expected.

Once the ship was anchored, they didn’t need 2 officers on the bridge anymore. They sent me home a week early. I think things may finally be improving a little bit offshore. I’ve had more work since April than I’ve had (total) for the last 3 years. It’s nowhere near normal tho.

They’ve cut costs everywhere possible. Small crew sizes are unsustainable, but the clients (oil companies) are pushing everything to the limits. I hate to think about the problems they are bringing on themselves by being so short sighted. As usual, I’m sure it will take a major accident before they consider doing what they should’ve been doing all along.

I’ve been home a few days now. I’m still trying to recover from switching my schedule back and forth from nights to days again. I need to just spend a couple of days sleeping in, not doing anything else!

I haven’t been able to do that yet. I still have too many things on my “to do” list. 😉

PS- check my Instagram feed for a few photos. I’ll try to get a few more up here in the next few days.

I Haven’t Disappeared

It just looks that way.

I got a job for 3 weeks on a ship with very limited internet access. It was really a pretty interesting trip, but I’ll have to tell you about it later cause I’m heading back there tonight. I’ll be gone for another 2 weeks. Hope to be able to get online during this hitch, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear from me for another 2-3 weeks.

I did post a couple of photos on Instagram and Facebook.

I’m SO glad to finally have some real work again! Not to be greedy, but now it would be really nice to have some sort of schedule. Three years of being on call and ready to jump on any offer is getting old.

Recap

I thought I might catch up with what’s been happening and why I was gone for so long.

I got off the Epic Explorer in late January and recently realized I hadn’t posted since then. Sorry! I got busy and caught up in other things and just got distracted.

I started teaching again only a few days after I got home. First Lamar State College in Orange, then San Jacinto sent me up to teach a class for Hornbeck Offshore (where I’ve been applying to work for a couple years now). I drove all the way to Port Fourchon and stayed aboard their vessel for a week to teach the crews of 2 of their vessels a Tankerman PIC course. After that I was back teaching at San Jacinto a course in Leadership & Management. I went to a pre-hire class in Houston for Spencer-Ogden and then taught a Search & Rescue course for San Jacinto again.

That all kept me super busy through the whole month of February and into March. Luckily, I got a call to go to work the next week. Spencer-Ogden finally came through with a ship for me! I say finally because they told me they had a job for me back in February of 2016. I came back from Mexico in order to take a UKOG physical expecting to recoup the money with a job, but it fell through. They didn’t have another opening until this one- almost 2 years later.

So, I got lucky and had a job for a month. It actually worked out to be a little longer. I went out as DPO on the drillship Discoverer India. the first week of March and didn’t get home til  mid- April. We were all busy as hell. The ship had been stacked for quite a while. It was a real job getting her ready to go back to work again. There were all kinds of checks and tests that had to be done and signed off on for the clients approval.

We finally got most of what we had to do finished and were able to depart. Figuring we could finish up what we had to on the way. We left the anchorage just South of the LOOP on April 3, and arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad on the 14th.

It was a pretty uneventful voyage. We had decent weather all the way. The Loop Current slowed us down a little, but we made good time otherwise. I was a little disappointed in how little sea life I saw this trip.

We saw a few birds- gulls and gannets, a couple of egrets and pelicans. But for the entire voyage, I did not see even one fish, dolphin, whale, turtle, jellyfish, ray, or anything else that lived in the ocean. Usually, we’d see schools of fish every day, pods of dolphins riding our bow wake, maybe even a whale over the course of a week. I saw nothing for over a week, I really felt the loss. It made me wonder why, did something happen? It made me sad.

I cheered up once we got closer to Trinidad. It was cool passing by the Caribbean Islands. One evening passing by the Caymans, I had an entertaining radio conversation with one of the watch keepers from Cayman Traffic. I would have loved to take up his invitation to come closer so the islanders could wave at us, but that kind of thing is not really a good idea. Remember Captain Schettino and the Costa ConcordiaContinue reading

Research

I spent the afternoon in Houston yesterday- researching. We don’t have a bookstore anymore since Hastings went out of business (after they caused every other store to shut down). Sad, but the closest bookstore to me is all the way in Houston. Over an hours drive away.

I went to Barnes and Noble for their magazine rack. I don’t recommend it for anything else. It was not very comfortable. I tried the one on Westheimer since I was nearby. It had very few chairs, the few they had were hard wooden ones like in school. They didn’t have a coffee shop or anywhere to get a drink, tho they did have a section with little tables, like maybe they used to have one. They did have a large selection of games and toys tho.

After attending Roy Stevenson’s Travel Writing and Marketing Workshop in Washington last month, I’ve been meaning to follow up and make a list of publications to pitch my stories to.

I spent a few hours in the store, going through all kinds of magazines. Woman’s magazines, mens magazines, fishing magazines, sailing magazines, health magazines, and of course the travel magazines.

I photographed the cover, contents and masthead pages of many and bought a few. I have a few story ideas in mind and need to figure out the right magazines to pitch them to.

Since I haven’t been able to find much work offshore lately, I figure I best get busy with writing (and photography). I finished the first draft of my book. It’s about how to sail around the world and get paid for it. I finished a couple of paintings- but the art gallery I’ve been counting on to get them sold has been in the process of moving since before Christmas. I’ve just been too lazy to upload any photos to the stock sites.

I need to get more motivated!

What Happened?

It’s a long story. I’m going to start this out by joining in on Linda G Hill’s SoCS. Her theme for this week is “reservation”.

It’s hard to acknowledge that I haven’t posted on here since early February, when I got off work on the Epic Explorer. I hadn’t realized its been that long. I really thought I had been posting more often than that. I’ve been so busy, it just got too easy to let the blogging slip out of mind.

I’ve even had reservations about starting back up again. It’s been so long, I’ve gotten out of the habit of trying to write something fairly frequently (at least weekly) and keep up with what my favorite bloggers were up to. It’s so easy to let it go when I have so many other things going on, and even when I don’t- I just don’t feel like doing anything.

I don’t like to be so negative all the time, but it’s been really hard to try to come up with something positive to say. I’ve always been one of those to see the ‘glass as half empty”. At this point I’m probably ‘clinically depressed’. Here I go again, running off into the so easy to fall into trap of thinking of all the negatives. I’m still out of work, still broke, still trapped here with no money to do anything. There’s still really not much hope of finding work, so no hope of escaping the trap. What am I going to be able to do with myself?

I really don’t think there’s any point to life, other than to live it the way YOU want to. Why bother if all you’re going to do all day every day is what someone else forces on you? I’ve tried my whole life to find ways to live my life according to my values. I work hard, and save what I can so that I can enjoy my time off. Since I’ve been laid off (without any help from unemployment after paying into it for 40+ years), I’ve tried to find other ways to make some kind of income still doing something that I didn’t consider pure torture. I’ve always liked the arts, so I’ve been trying to transition into working in some way with that sort of thing.

I’ve been writing, painting, photographing. I’ve tried to find ways to earn an income from all of those things. So far, I have had a few successes. I’ve won prizes for my photos and for my paintings. I’ve sold a few articles. Few and far between and not nearly enough to pay the bills. It’s hard to concentrate enough to work on this sort of thing when I’m spending so much time and energy looking for a ‘real job’. One that will pay the bills.

won “Honorable Mention”

I tried last night to think of what I have to be thankful for. Mostly in the past. I came up with a few things I can still be thankful for right now. I still have a roof over my head and enough money to keep it for at least another couple of months. I still have my health (in general, tho not good enough to be able to keep working for much longer). I have a few good friends I can always count on. I have rental properties that will bring in enough income to survive on for at least another month. I have internet access again (tho it is still screwed up, just not as bad as it has been). My truck still runs, even at 21+ years old. Without it I wouldn’t be able to get to the few and far between jobs I have been able to get over the last 3 years.

I spent so much time and effort, my whole life, to be able to just live and enjoy life. I did all the things we’re told we have to do. I studied hard, got good grades, went to college, got a good job, a great career. I even went back to college to get a BA degree (in math- which has proved totally useless). I saved as much as I could. I invested what I could spare. I worked hard at every job.

And after all that, what happened? Like hundreds of thousands of others, I was thrown in the trash heap when my company felt it had to satisfy their stockholders.When the price of oil dropped like a rock, the oilfield dried up. When that happened all the shipping jobs were immediately taken. Seafarers around the world are hanging on to any job they can find.

People around the world are clamoring to take captains jobs for $150/day! The STCW has given owner/operators the ability to go for the lowest common denominator- they’re all hiring the cheapest crews they can find. Apparently you can live like a king on $150/day in the Philippines, or India, or Ukraine. Who in America can survive on that? You spend decades and tens of thousands of dollars for your license (and the enormous amounts of responsibility you get with it) and then throw it away for that kind of wage?  It’s been almost 3 years now with no hope of getting a ‘real’ job again.

I hate to think that I have wasted my entire life, working my way up the hawsepipe, doing everything ‘right’ and still to end up in the exact same place as I would have if I had never made any effort at all to improve my life. It sucks! But it seems to be reality.

Yes, I’ve had reservations on posting like this and depressing you all. I’ll hope that even this kind of post is (somewhat) welcome after being out of touch for so long.

Here’s to getting back into blogging. 😉

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. 😉