It’s So Boring

I’m home. I’ve been back in town since the 19th. It’s been almost 2 weeks already. It doesn’t seem like it. I’ve spent most of that time just catching up on sleep (jet lag) and doing all the things I can’t do from work: mail, bills, doctors appointment, dentists appointment, phone calls, meetings, etc.

I have made some progress. I’ve been able to go to my painting class and I’m working on 2 new paintings and 1 old one. I took my latest finished painting to the From the Heart gallery in Galveston. Too bad I got a parking ticket while I was inside hanging it. 😦

I thought you were supposed to be allowed to park in front long enough to load/unload stuff. The people who run the place assured me you are. I’m still debating wether or not to fight the ticket. I have no reason to go all the way up to Galveston other than that. I have another few days to decide.

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog much lately. At work I just don’t have the time or access to the internet and at home it’s been hard to find the motivation. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about. It’s more that I don’t want to bore people and I just haven’t been doing anything very interesting lately.

I did go to a WISTA meeting at the Houston Maritime Museum last Tuesday. That was pretty cool. They’ve moved to their new (temporary) location. It’s much larger than their old place (with plenty of parking). We had a tour by one of the docents who was a real wealth of information. I would’ve liked to talk to him some more, but the presentation was starting (and a full house to see it). Captain Michael A. Morris of the Houston Pilots put on an interesting presentation about the port of Houston and the pilots- past, present and future.

I could write about work, or travel- those things are usually interesting- but I haven’t done much of either lately. I did finally get a job that didn’t get cancelled. I spent a month on the DS-6 in Las Palmas. I even got to get off the ship a couple of times while I was there. It was a nice change. I’m hoping they’ll call me back.

my ship is the one on the left in this photo

In the meantime, I got a call to go to work on April 4. Then it was moved back to April 11. Now it is supposed to start April 16 and I’m only hoping it doesn’t get completely cancelled at this point. Since it’s only for 10 days, it’ll help me get by but it’s not enough for me to actually be able to do anything with my time off (other than keep on looking for more work).

I am SO ready for this downturn to pick up! It’s been 5 years already! I can’t wait for things to turn around so we can all get back to work again. Real work, where there’s some kind of schedule and we’ve got some kind of benefits. Or else the day rates go back up again to where they should be to make up for the lack of those things.

I’m SO tired of spending so much time looking for work. Filling out applications that never get seen. Putting off doing much of anything in case I get called for a job. I should just shut up and quit whining. I’m one of the lucky ones. I still have my license and my ability to go to work. I could just quit and I would probably be able to survive…

But no. I will keep on trying. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hanging around the house bored shitless. Keeping myself occupied is not a problem. I can do all sorts of things: pull weeds, work on my houses, clean my house, write, paint, work on my book(s), promote my writing (that’s the hard part- trying to find someone who will publish it). I would just much rather be traveling. I’m just bored here. I never, ever thought I’d still be here almost 40 years later.

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TPC: Crawling Creatures of the Sea

I found a new photo challenge in my reader the other day. It’s hosted by Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo. This week the topic is ‘crawl‘.

I already posted once with a couple of photos of insects. I found a couple more of some sea life. Here goes…

I took all of these at the aquarium. This first one is a close up of a sea urchin (from underneath it). It was crawling slowly up the side of the tank when I got this shot.

This is a beautiful blue starfish, I wish my photo could show the true blue color, it’s really much brighter.

This little hermit crab was crawling around its tank for a while, he finally stopped and stared at me through the glass. I remember growing up on the beach in Florida when we used to see these guys all the time. I don’t see them here in Texas. I wonder why not?

FOTD: Anthurium

Here’s another one of Cee’s photo challenges: Flower of the Day. This one is for “Anthurium“. I don’t see these around very often, but I did get a couple of shots a while back up in Houston.

If you want to see what everyone else is doing, or join in yourself, just click the link here.

TPC: Crawl

I found a new photo challenge in my reader tonight. It’s hosted by Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo. This week the topic is ‘crawl‘.

I have a few that will fit the challenge…

I took this photo a while ago at Moody Gardens in Galveston. I used to have a membership and so went fairly often. I gave that up a couple of years ago when I got laid off….

I took this one at the Houston Zoo. They have a ‘bug house’ with a couple of dozen terrariums with different kinds of insects. I believe this one is called a ‘blue death feigning beetle’ which is native to Texas (though I haven’t seen any wild ones around here).

I took this one at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It’s a tarantula. Bigger than my hand (I’m estimating, I didn’t pick it up). I go there and to the zoo a lot when I get up to Houston. I have memberships to both so it doesn’t cost me anything. Both the museum and the zoo always have something new and interesting to see.

I went again last Friday night, hoping to spend a little while looking around the museum before the event I was going to (Biophilia). Sadly, they had the entire place blocked off so I just had to wait around, bored, for 45 minutes until they let us in to the exhibit. It was worth the wait.

The amazing creativity of the artist was incredible. The museum did a great job. They had a few tables set up where we could make our own art magnets, check out some of the insects they keep around downstairs, and talk to some of the docents. I got to pet the tarantula, it was silky soft. 🙂

They also had free food (pulled pork sliders, chips, pecan breaded chicken skewers and cookies). Drinks were available too.

There was a pretty decent crowd, the tables were full of people eating before or after looking through all the beautiful artwork. I loved the bright colors and fantastic designs. I never would’ve thought to make something so beautiful out of a bunch of bugs. Even tho when you look at almost anything in nature close enough you can find beauty.

They’re having another event at the museum tomorrow, but even if you can’t make it the exhibit will be on display for a while. Don’t think you have to go only if you can go with someone from the museum. It’s definitely worth going if you like anything to do with art, nature, design.

Sunday Stills: Fire at MC 252

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HP-1 from the air

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

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

a few of the vessels responding to the blow out

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

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

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

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

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

LAPC: Landscapes

I found another cool photography challenge in my WordPress reader. This one is by the Lens-Artists. They have a challenge every Saturday. The topic for this week is Landscapes.

I don’t usually take a whole lot of ‘landscape’ photos. If anything I take ‘seascapes’. I take more photos of ‘things’. Like animals, or plants, or flowers, or boats, or even people (tho I’m not real comfortable taking photos of people yet).

I recently took a long trip overseas. Part of it was a week long photo safari in Tanzania. The animals were amazing, but I have to admit I was equally impressed by the landscape. It was just so wide open. Miles and miles of nothing but the tall grass waving in the wind. Maybe a lone tree on the horizon. Or a herd of buffalo slowly making their way across a river.

I loved how everything seemed so wide open. There were so many miles of space with no sign of mankind (even tho of course we did see towns and villages full of people while passing through). The landscapes sometimes seemed empty, but if you looked harder there was always some sign of life. Maybe an ostrich popped up from under that lone tree. Or a lioness wandering by a herd of wildebeest, or a bird hiding in the grass or basking in a far off lake.

I don’t get to see so many wide open and interesting spaces around here. Even tho Texas probably has more of them than most. My neighborhood is on the wide coastal plains but full of homes and businesses (mostly chemical plants).

I do have some wildlife around my house: raccoons, opossums, owls, squirrels, bats, rats, etc. We even see an occasional coyote around the beach. Somehow it’s not the same. Compared to the African landscape, the one around here is pretty boring. 😉

RDP: Fish

I was skimming through my WordPress Reader and came upon this prompt by curioussteph at Ragtime Daily Prompt. You can click on the link to check out what’s happening and join in the fun. Todays prompt is FISH. Since I grew up on fishing boats and still work on them occasionally, I figured I should have plenty to say about fish and a few good photos, so here are a couple…

I took that one while I was wandering along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. There were thousands of these catfish swimming around near the ferry docks. I suppose people coming and going on the boats must feed them. I saw a few people fishing nearby, I wonder if it would be safe to eat the fish in this river. It didn’t look very clean, I doubt it would be healthy.

I took that one on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul. I wasn’t doing the fishing, but the entire bridge was crowded with locals who were. On the bottom level, there were restaurants serving up the catch. I’m not sure what kind of fish they are, but the silver ones look like some kind of mullet.

I’m not sure what kind of fish this cute little orange guy is. I took this photo at the Houston Zoo a while ago. I’m a member and I like to go up there and spend the day taking photos. It’s really hard to get good ones, since none of the fish ever stays still!

New WordPress- Ugh!

Does anyone else hate this new WordPress (with the blocks) as much as I do?

It makes it SO much harder to write a post. It makes me spend so much more time and energy to write one. It makes it so frustrating. It makes it much less enjoyable to get on here and so I don’t want to blog as much. Maybe even not at all.

In addition to all the trouble I have to write this blog, add photos, make galleries, it constantly crashes and I have to go back to the draft and then post immediately or I lose everything I just did! 😦

Does anybody see any advantage to this new system?

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. 😉

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. 🙂