Five Day Turnaround

I got off the Ocean Evolution last week. I had to drive home (8+hr drive) so I spent a little time job hunting on the way. I stopped in the office when I picked up my truck, hoping to talk to someone there and got lucky. I was able to talk to the HR people and they helped me get my application filled in (I’ve been trying to do it on their website, but it wouldn’t let me past the 2nd page).

I don’t really have any idea if anything will come of it, they couldn’t give me a time frame for when or if I might be needed, but I still felt pretty good when I left. It might’ve helped that I worked there for 5 years directly a few years back. I probably should’ve just stayed there, but got one of those “too good to be true” offers and took it.

Next door was another boat company, so I stopped there too. I was able to speak to a man there who actually seemed interested. We talked for a while about the good old days in the Gulf. Back when things were booming and we could still go to work in shorts and flip-flops. God I miss those days!

It was already getting late, so I was only able to make one more stop that day. Was told there, they would probably be laying people off again next week (now). With the Coronavirus panic wreaking havoc all over the world, I expect that’s already happened. Looks like we’re in for at least another year of horrible job prospects in the maritime industry.

I made it home late Thursday and spent the weekend running errands and getting caught up with the foot-high pile of mail blocking my front door. I was also able to spend some time online, looking at things I wasn’t able to at work (not stupid stuff- but internet was super sluggish onboard and lots of sites were blocked).

I saw a post on Linkedin Sunday where they were looking for a DPO and I made a comment. I was super surprised that they actually called me back. That never happens! Turns out I was accepted for the position and had to get ready to travel again immediately.

This one, the Seven Pacific, will be my home for the next 2 weeks. 🙂

I left yesterday afternoon and am waiting to join the ship here in Mobile now. 🙂

Six Long Months

It’s been almost 6 months since my last job. I’ve been getting desperate (never a good frame of mind- people can sense it). I thought I’d be able to pick up some work when I got back from my last trip. The Christmas holiday is usually the best time of the year to get temp jobs. People always want to spend time with their friends and families, so they’ll ask for time off.

Well, not this year. Not for the last 4 years before that. I thought before I left for that trip that things were finally improving, but everyone is still too afraid for their jobs to take any chances. Maybe their job won’t be there when they come back, so they stay onboard and temp employees like me are out of luck.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time online looking for work (again). I’ve already applied everywhere I can think of (except MSC– my absolute last resort). I’ve done this at least a half dozen times, just going down the list of any companies with ships. I’ve called each of them a few times, eventually giving up when I can’t get past their computerized answering machine/secretary to talk to someone who knows something. I’ve even gone in person a few times.

I’ve filled out the same applications over and over (wondering exactly why do they need to know when/where I went to high school and what my grades were from 40 years ago?).

Every time I actually manage to talk to someone, all I get is- “we’re not actually hiring, we’re just collecting resumes”. I don’t know why they post ads. Some even put up billboards that say they’re “hiring all positions”. I wonder why they’re bothering to collect more resumes, they must have thousands on file from the last 5 years of this latest downturn in the oilfield. Why collect them if they’re not going to ever look at them?

It’s been so bad. I’ve been so frustrated that I’ve been seriously thinking about quitting. Just throwing away 40+ years of professional maritime experience (not even counting another few years working on the water before I got my first z-card). Just to sit and twiddle my thumbs at home. I’ve been trying to make a few bucks doing things I enjoy- like selling my photography, paintings, writing- but no one seems interested in buying. I haven’t been able to figure out how to get noticed online. I’m competing with millions of others so no one even sees my stuff.

I absolutely refuse to waste my skills and experience. The idea of spending the rest of my life working at someplace like Walmart or McDonalds gives me the willies, but it seems those are the only kinds of jobs I’m “qualified for” on land. I mean, who needs a ship captain on the beach?

So, in order to save money I put an ad in the paper for a room mate. I need someone in my house to help pay the bills so I can afford to do something with myself (other than sit at home vegetating). I’d like to go ahead and make the move to Mexico I’ve been trying to do for years. At least there I can afford to live a decent life. I won’t wind up a grumpy old lady dining on cat food with my measly social security check (since I’ll have spent my retirement funds in the 12 more years to go before I’m eligible).

I only had one call for a potential room mate so far, so nothing to hang around for. I saw a post online for a job fair in Lafayette, LA. They had one company (Pacific Drilling), with one job that I wanted. I had already applied for that job 4 times before, but figured it would be better to talk to someone. I really don’t think anyone ever looks at those online application they all sluff you off with. So I decided to give it one more try and drove up to Lafayette.

I planned to make the rounds of the bayou boat companies again afterwards, so I brought my sea bag with me- just in case.

I got lucky! I was planning to leave after my painting class, early Tuesday afternoon. I got a call from one of my agencies about a possible job. Of course I told them I would take it, but was going to continue with my plans to go to the job fair anyway, in case their job offer fell through.

Turned out, the job did come through. Yeah! I confirmed it when I was at the job fair. I was amazed at the crowds of people that showed up. There must’ve been at least 1000 people in the room, just in the hour I was there. Just shows how bad we’re still hurting in the oilfield.

The line for Pacific Drilling was tripled up across the room and then continued snaking out the door and all the way down the hall. By the time I got to the table to sign in, the stack of resumes was already at least 2 feet high. It was still 3 hours before they shut down the place!

The recruiter I spoke to sounded positive. I was hopeful I would hear back from her, but I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to keep on talking to people until you actually get on the boat. I continued on with the job hunt all that afternoon in the Lafayette area and then headed towards Morgan City.

I found out that afternoon, I would have to take another drug test (I just had one in October) before I would be allowed to join the vessel, so decided the best thing to do would be to spend the night in Morgan City, take the drug test 1st thing in the morning, then continue with the job hunt until I had to be at the dock at 1800 for a ride to the ship.

I joined the vessel about 2000 Thursday. The Ocean Evolution, (I was on it last year). So far, we’ve been sitting at the dock. I was hoping to go straight to work since I really need DP time! The officials have changed that system too, to where your certs expire if you’re not working so many days per year. I’m just thrilled to be getting a paycheck at this point, and at least I’m getting sea time. Every day is precious at this point. I can’t afford to lose my license, or I really will have to retire and no choice about it.

Thanks to this job, I’ll be OK for at least another 2 months without having to take anymore out of my retirement savings. Only 5 more months and I’ll be 69. It sucks when you start praying to be old, just so you can think you’re one more year closer to (hopefully) not outliving your savings.

Counting My Blessings

I guess you’ve all probably figured this out by now, but I’m generally not an optimistic type. It seems I just always automatically see the downside of everything. The “what if”. That serves me well in my job, but I think not the best for my sanity when I’m home.

Since I got back from my last trip to Chile/Antarctica, I’ve been in a pretty lousy mood. I had expected to be able to pick up some work over the holidays. That’s almost always the best time of year for me to pick up a temp job.

Usually, everyone wants to spend Christmas at home with their families. Since I don’t have any family left, I’ve always been happy to fill in. Problem is, for the last 5 years, no one has taken any time off. Everyone’s afraid their job won’t be there when they come back.

I spend time every day looking for work. I call all my agencies at least once a week. Not even a hint of any work on the horizon (when all the news is about how this is -finally- the year the industry will come back. I’ve been having a real hard time getting motivated to do anything else. I hate being broke and without options!

But yesterday, while I was taking my daily walk around the neighborhood, I ran into an old friend. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years and it was good to catch up. Sadly, her news was not good.

She was visiting a friend of hers who lives on my street, but was staying at the Salvation Army. Her boyfriend broke up with her and threw her out the day after Christmas. Her car broke down. She lost her job.

Like me and quite a few other friends, she’s been applying everywhere with no luck. It doesn’t help that we’re all over 55 now (and age discrimination is definitely a thing).

Without a car, she’s going to have a hell of a time finding a job. At least we have a bus now, so maybe that will help. It’s not at all convenient, but it goes to the main commercial/government areas. Before I got my truck (’97 F-150), I spent more money paying off the local cops for ‘hitchhiking’ arrests trying to get to work than I made working!

I’ve been thinking about how lucky I really am. I have a lot more options than my friend does (or those billions of people around the world living on $1/day). I have a house, a car, food in the fridge, can still pay the electric bill to keep me warm/cold, I’m still fairly healthy, and even manage to travel every so often. I should stop worrying about “what if” (I never get back to work, I can’t pay the bills, I get hurt, etc). I should be grateful more often than I am.

But I still hate being broke!

Happy New Year 2020

fireworks

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a good time last night celebrating New Years Eve. I just stayed in with a couple of cups of hot chocolate and listened to the neighborhood firecrackers. I tried going outside to watch for a while, but it was overcast and all I could see was a couple of reflections.

What did you do?

So, I did stay up past midnight and I did sleep late this morning, but I woke up without a hangover. 😉

As usual this time of year, I’ve been thinking about the last year and my hopes for the next. This year even more since it’s also the end/start of another decade. I’ve been starting to notice the time creeping up on me more and more and trying to figure out “now what“?

All I can say is I really, really hope this year turns out better than last year (and the previous 3 before that)! I’m still basically unemployed. I’m still trying to find work, but I’ve decided I’m just not willing to work just to “survive”. I have skills. Skills that’ve taken me a lifetime to earn. Valuableskills for the right employer. I’m not going to throw all that away to work bagging groceries.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve decided that after spending 50 years working on the water and spending a fortune in time and money to earn my license it just does not make sense to throw all that away to do something totally unrelated.

People tell me online (Facebook) that “everyone’s hiring” or “there’s plenty of work”. Yes, I agree, they’re right. I see ads all the time for unlimited captain/DPO jobs paying somewhere around $120/day. Wonderful for some of the Ukrainians or Filipinos, but no US captain would take that job. Or yeah, plenty of jobs for deckhands. I can’t afford to work like that!

They can’t understand how I can sit at home, not earning anything, rather than out making $120/day out on a boat working 12+ hours/day (andputting my life and license at risk to boot). Then spending at least a day or two on both ends of the hitch catching up on business at home. Well, here’s the explanation. While I’m home, I can be online looking for a job that actually pays the bills and uses the license I’ve earned. I can be working on my writing or my art that hopefully I can sell somewhere to earn a few bucks.

The only issue is, after 6 months of not having even a whisper of a decent job, I start to get anxious, depressed and completely unmotivated to do anything. So, not getting anything done at home either. I don’t want to go out trying to get a local job. It’s really not my lifelong ambition to work at Walmart. It’s hard trying to put on the act that I really want the job and will stick around (knowing that I’m going to quit as soon as anything offshore comes up).

The few companies hiring offshore already know simply by looking at my resume that I’m not going to stick around. They know anyone with the license I have would jump at the first opportunity to use it. So they don’t bother replying to me either.

I’ve decided to keep on looking for work in my field, but try harder not to stress about it (that is not going to be easy). I still have other things I plan to do this year. I have an art show coming up in our local gallery in July and I haveto be there for the reception July 10. I’ve also signed up for another cruise (foodies tour of France), it’s supposed to be in May but I need to move it back to November. And… I’m still trying to make the move to Mexico, so I need to get back down there!

Now, if I can just get a couple of hitches in before July, I’ll be OK. I actually got 3 last year and all 3 were as mate/DPO, so better than the year before when 1 of the 2 was as AB. They keep saying ‘it’ll be better next year’. I really, really hope they’re right this time!

I actually think I’m being forced into retirement (since I want to continue in my field). I had plannedto work until now and if I had been able to, I would’ve been able to retire the way I wanted to by now. All my bills would’ve been paid off and I could live nicely off my rentals.

But… now that I haven’t been working, my savings are greatly depleted, and if I don’t keep getting at least that little bit of work every year I won’t be ABLE to keep working after 2021 since I can’t afford to keep paying for the required “training” and my licenses won’t be renewable (lack of sea time), so no matter what, I won’t be working after that unless things improve.

SO, I’m trying to figure out: how in the hell can I make the rest of my savings last me for another 20+ years (hopefully)?

1- move out of the USA! I’m trying hard to get to Mexico.

2- start house sitting. That will allow me to keep traveling (which is just about my favorite thing to do). I’ve been trying to do that already, but seems about impossible when I don’t have any sort of schedule. That is such an issue on so many things. I suppose if/when I just give up on ever trying to get work that problem will go away. 😉

3-? any suggestions?

What are you all doing? Still working? Retired? What are your goals for 2020?

Now What?

Well, I’m back home again. I’m so grateful that I got to go on that fantastic trip. Cruising to Antarctica has been a dream of mine for decades, and I’ve wanted to see Chile for a while too. 

I had hopes that I’d be able to get some work when I got back, but I’ve already been home a week and there is still NOTHING at all going on out there. This time of year is usually the best time for getting work. People want to be home for the holidays. But for 5 years now, everyone has been scared to death to take a vacation. It’s still THAT BAD out there. 😦

My friends ask me if I’m retired yet? Well, I probably would be if I hadn’t been laid off 4 years ago and not able to find any real work since. Yes, I’ve managed to get 1-2 real jobs every year and lucky to get that. No more than that- when I used to work 8 hitches or more. I’ve beat the bushes and scrambled to make a few bucks doing other things like teaching, selling some art, garage sales, etc.

So far, I’ve been able to survive. I’ve even been able to do a bit of traveling over the last couple of years. Not nearly as much as if I’d have been working, but enough to keep my sanity. 

Now I’m home and after spending all week looking for work again I’m at the point of being extremely frustrated- also bored and depressed. I have a million things I couldbe doing: cleaning the house, pulling weeds, cutting down the damn mimosa trees that never stop coming back. 

I could be figuring out how to publish the book I’ve been working on. I could be finishing the pastel drawing I started. I could be uploading more of my photos to the stock agencies. I could be pitching stories.

I could be doing all those useful and productive things, but I don’t feel like it. Instead, I spend my time on the computer (not doing anything useful). Why?

I should change my attitude- my outlook on life- but HOW? I’ve never been able to figure that out. How do you change your most basic thought processes? 

Moving the Graveyard?

My ship is the one on the right

Since I made it to the ship last week, I’ve been watching the ship in front of us. They’ve had divers in the water and lots of activity going on. It happens to be the Discoverer India- the same ship I was on last Spring

She was getting ready for a job in Africa- Ivory Coast. I got to ride as far as Trinidad. It was a good hitch. She did that job and now is getting some upgrades before heading out to another job.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of the rigs I see here. I can see at least 8 at the dock here. I know of at least 5 more that will be arriving here soon. That’s not counting another couple (at least) over at Tenerife.

While I was on the Ocean Evolution last hitch, steaming through the ‘graveyard’ just offshore Port Fourchon, I could only see 3 ships left. The year before there were at least 10, I think probably closer to 15. All of them fairly new, just sitting there, waiting and hoping for work. It was really sad to see. 

We’ve all been hoping that this would be the year when we could finally go back to work. From what I see here, that doesn’t look very likely. The price of oil is still not even up to $60/bbl. Today it was only $57 and change. There won’t be much work until it gets up over $60 and stays there for a while. 

I guess everyone but those of us working in the maritime industry are happy about those low prices, but I’m getting more and more stressed out. I don’t have many more years left to build up my retirement funds and my savings has already been demolished over the last 4+ years of not nearly enough work.

How much longer can this go on? 

Celebrate


I’m so happy! I finally got a call to go to work! Yeah!

I was thinking a lot about my situation. I hate being broke. I really don’t like being constantly on call either. I feel like I can’t really do anything. I certainly can’t plan anything more than a day or two in advance.

I have only had 5 weeks of work since the end of October. I had planned to go to the Rigzone job fair in Houston today and meet a friend for lunch afterwards. I had to blow off that and everything else and just get ready to go to work. Pack, clean out the fridge, get rid of garbage, drop off library books, get all the bills in the mail, make important phone calls, etc. This job is only for 2 weeks, but thank goodness, it should pay my bills next month.

I heard from a friend late last week that they needed a relief on his boat, so I called about it yesterday. They called me this afternoon and asked if I was available. Hell yes! I’ve been available for months!

I can’t get this song out of my head now. 🙂

Songs of the Sea: Smooth Sailing

Since it looks like I won’t be going to work any time soon, I’ve been looking at the travel posts in my email more closely. I get dozens of them every day. I usually just delete them because I’ve been on call for work for so long. I can’t make any kind of plans for more than a week or two in advance. 

Since I got back from my last (only one week long) job, I’ve been calling everyone for the last 3 weeks. No one has anything in the works. So, I thought I shouldn’t waste my time here at home, doing nothing, with no prospects of work. I could go to Mexico and get my paperwork started. I’ve been trying to move out of the US for years and finally got a temporary residency visa for Mexico. 🙂

I’ve been considering moving to Mazatlan, but it seems no one has direct flights anymore. That means I will have to change my plans. Mazatlan will have to wait. As long as I am still even trying to work, I will need to be close to an airport with direct flights to Houston.

I am still trying to move to Mexico, now I just need to figure out where. Puerto Vallarta? Cabo San Lucas? Guadalajara? or San Miguel de Allende? Anybody have any other suggestions?

In the meantime, those travel ads are making me even more anxious to get out of here! This song by Dennis “Menace” Roberts reminds me of the good times down in the islands. I love the music and the video is fun. Nice that they’re using real people in it instead of models too. 🙂 

I wish I could get back down there. Now, or some time soon I hope! 🙂 

Stock Photography

I’ve been stuck at home since my last job got cut short (again). I get antsy when I’m not working for months at a time. I start freaking out about money and bills, then start feeling trapped and depressed and don’t feel like doing much of anything at all. Since October, I’ve only had 5 weeks of work and it’s looking pretty slim for the next few weeks as well. 😦

I’ve been trying to keep busy. I go see a movie to cheer up if there’s anything decent playing. I’ve stopped going to my usual (entertaining and interesting) Tuesday night political meetingssince they’re just so frustrating now. I go to art class on Tuesdays (this morning was the last one for a while- the teacher is taking a break). I may start going to ‘open studio’ instead. It’s on Wednesdays, or Monday nights. 

I’m getting around to doing things I’ve been putting off: I was working in the yard til it got too hot, working on my taxes, re-reading books I’ve been saving before deciding if I can now bear to get rid of them, uploading some photos to the stock agencies.

Here are a few examples…

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Herd of buffalo in the Serengeti
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Lilac breasted roller
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Palace of Versailles- rear view
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Pair of pink tulips
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Fresh, organic vegetables at a farmers market

Stock photography- like the blogging, was supposed to be a side gig. A way to earn some income when I wasn’t able to get offshore. I hate to say it, but neither one has worked out that way. Both take a hell of a lot of work to keep up with. So far, I’ve earned a grand total of $7.83 on Bigstock and $6.46 on Dreamstime. A big, fat $0.00 from the blogs. 

My thought was to sidestep the editors. To get my work out in front of the public where I figured at least somepeople would like it enough to buy something. I know it’s possible to earn an income from both blogging and from photography. I know people personally who are doing both. 

I wish I knew their secrets. It seems the main issue is how to attract attention? How to be found among the 81 million on Bigstock alone? Or the 500 million ++ blogs in the world?

Just curious, does anyone you know earn anything from either stock photography or blogging? If so, do you know how? 

Flights- Finally!

I’ve been expecting to join this ship since I agreed to take the job in late March. I was originally supposed to start on April 4th for 3 weeks. A week later it got cut to 10 days and a week later to nothing.

A week after that, they called again and asked me to come out for 3 weeks again. I agreed since nobody else had anything at that point. A few days later it was cut to only one week. In the meantime I turned down 4-5 good jobs (all of them for a month or more) only because I had already obligated myself to take this particular job.

Well, I finally got my plane ticket so I am hoping they won’t cancel me at this point. I’m at the airport and should be on the plane already, but it’s been delayed. Only an hour and a half late at this point (I hope). The screen above my head is giving conflicting information. One minute it saying the plane will be departing at 8:00, the next it is saying it will arrive at 9:10 PM.

I wouldn’t really care so much if I didn’t have to be on the bus at 3:00 in the morning! And then a helicopter at some time after daylight (6:11 AM). I really hate going to work and starting my first day already up for more than 24 hours. And then more usual than not, having to go straight to work for at least 12 more hours. 😦

At this point, I’m so thankful to have the work. Even with all the BS involved.

I keep hearing in the news how our unemployment levels are so low. How we have the best numbers we’ve seen in 50 years. How companies can’t find workers. Is the maritime sector the only one that’s still hurting?

How can those numbers reflect any sort of reality when there are still hundreds of boats stacked all over the bayous, dozens of drillships stacked all over the world? And all over the world, the crews of all those vessels have been out of work for 4-5 years now and are fighting each other for the chance to earn the lowest wages ever!

Please, let me have just one more year of steady work! Let me pay off my bills so I can leave off all this constant stress and BS involved with the merchant marine these days. It used to be such a great life. How did we let it come to this?

Nothing to Say

In accordance with the idea of ‘if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it’, I haven’t been saying anything here. I’ve been sharing a few interesting posts on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s about it.

I’ve been at home since I got back from the DS-6 March 19. I’ve been home almost 6 weeks already. I accepted a job right after I got home that was supposed to start Apr 4 ending Apr 25. The start date got changed to Apr 11, then to Apr 16, then cancelled altogether. It looks like the promised upturn in the industry is still a long ways off. 😦

Because I had accepted that job (and was on call to go offshore from the time I said OK), I turned down 2 other ones that would’ve conflicted with it.

I’m supposed to go out now starting May 8 and just hope to hell they don’t do the same thing again! I’ve already turned down 2 very good (better) jobs because of it.

With all the uncertainty (and major stress) I haven’t been doing much of interest: cleaning house, laundry, pulling weeds, working on taxes, doctor appointment, dentist appointment, look for work (including 2 job fairs), traffic court (fighting parking ticket I got while unloading my paintings at the art gallery- I lost), etc. So, nothing worth blogging about. 😦

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.

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. 😉

January 7 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

JusJoJan: Drama

Starting out the new year without all the usual drama. Why? Mostly because I’ve been staying home, sticking to myself, too paranoid and depressed to go out to celebrate the holidays with everyone else.

I decided to join in on Linda’s Just Jot It January challenge again this year. The idea is just to write something (anything) every day during January. Hopefully it will be enough to start a good habit that will continue.

I’ve been trying to transition from working on the water to a more sedate lifestyle. Not by choice, but only because there has been approximately ZERO work for the last 2+ years! I’ve been trying to make a living with a more creative focus. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, photography, painting, etc.

I’d love to be able to just relax, chill out and stop worrying about all the ‘drama’ going on around me. Crazy issues always coming up with tenants, roommates, family, work (or lack of work/finances) and just the normal everyday shit going on in the world.

I wish I could just focus on one thing. Writing, for example. I’ve started a book, I’m on the last chapter, but haven’t worked on it in a couple of months now. I just can’t get motivated to write when I’m trying to deal with all the rest: how to pay the bills, crazy woman in my house (she’s gone now), finding a job, city sending me threatening letters about my properties/tenants, getting income taxes sent in, brakes gone out on my truck in the middle of Houston traffic!

Oh yeah, I’ve been having a wonderful life these last few months. But you know what? I think I would get so bored if I didn’t have all this shit going on around me. I do bring a lot of it on myself.

I grew up in a crazy house, two of them. I’m sure I would’ve been taken into protective custody if any of that had happened today. Both my parents houses were pretty wild. Constant drama at both places. My brother was lucky, he could pick and choose. He could stay at Dads where he was treated like a king, until he wasn’t. Then he would go home to Mom’s where he could do whatever he wanted.

I was stuck at my Dad’s most of the time. He was really strict on a lot of things, but very open about a lot of others. He ran a pretty strange household for back then. First of all, he didn’t work anymore. He retired in his early 30’s. Bought a bunch of property and a sailboat and got out of the rat race. I’ve always admired him for that.

He worked on his boat and rented apartments to all the ‘poor’ people in town. Our apartments were full of the local fishermen, bartenders and drunks. We had parties on the shuffleboard courts every weekend and big pig roasts in our empty lot every couple of months. Dad would have me play the piano upstairs for his drinking buddies.

Moms house was a whole different adventure. We were allowed to keep pets over there and have friends come over. We had cats, dogs, fish, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, turtles, parakeets, even a kinkajou once (that only lasted til it bit my mom real bad one night). My stepfather would hang out drinking beer and making crude comments all day while we tried our best to ignore him and stay out of his way.

Between the two of them, there was always some drama going on. I think in a way I miss all that. I try to keep my life interesting and not boring. I’m not bored often, but that’s because I always have something I should be doing. Most of those things are only because I say so.

I don’t have to write, work on my photos, paint, blog, etc. But I like to do those things and even tho they’re a lot more work than I ever imagined, they keep my busy and I still enjoy messing around with it all.

I’ve actually cut down a lot. I hardly even go out anymore. That eliminates a lot. I miss out on all of my friends, but I can’t take the chance of going out to see them any more. It’s sad, but this place is not the same anymore.

They’ve taken all the fun out of life here. All in the name of ‘safety’. Screw safety! I’d rather have a LIFE back! Stop shoving us all into tiny little perfectly ‘safe’ boxes and let us enjoy our lives. So what if we screw up occasionally? So what if we have a little accident every once in a while, that’s how we learn! That’s all part of LIFE!

Stop pretending life is about being safe, or secure. It’s NOT! Life is about taking chances, experimenting, seeing the world and everything in it, meeting new people and learning new things. None of that is about being ‘safe’!

I could do without all the drama around the issue of safety! The theatre they put on at the airports with the TSA. Geez, how long are they going to keep that up? How long is it going to take for people to wake up to the fact that none of that is anything BUT a SHOW?

I’m so tired of other people trying to control me! Aren’t you?

Best of the Blog 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking For a Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Few Days on the St Louis Express

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

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

view from my cabin, starboard side looking forward

view aft from crane #4

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

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

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

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

walking up the main deck port side

lots of ship traffic S Florida

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

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

coming up the river to Savannah

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

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

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

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

passing downtown Savannah, tug coming alongside

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

Shipping Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. 😉