Locked Out

“Your account is temporarily locked, please try again in a few minutes”. I hate when it does that!

I always check my email first thing in the morning. Just to see if I have anything important in there. Usually not lately. I keep hoping for somebody to contact me about work. I’ve been looking for work since September of 2015 and not finding anything.

Usually, I’ll have at least 4-5 emails for work every week. It’s horrible how this downturn has been. None of the others have even come close. At least for the marine side of things. The onshore drillers have already been going back to work for a few months now. Ever since oil hit $40/bbl.

I don’t think offshore will see a break until oil hits at least $60/bbl and it looks like we’re still a long way from there. 😦

In the meantime, I check my email ever day, sometimes 4-5 times a day. Hoping to see something. I have seen a few jobs. Unfortunately they’re not anything useful for me. Either they’re so far away (and not rotational) and I would have to move. Or the pay is so low that it doesn’t make sense for me to consider (no way I could come close to paying my bills). Or they really have nothing to do with maritime (‘job captain’, ‘team mate’, etc).

I suppose I should be using this time to ‘pound the pavement’ trying to sell my ‘art. My writing, photography, painting, etc. But I’m not a salesman and never have been. You would think the internet would make it easier. I suppose it has given me the ability to show my work to people all over the world.

The only problem with that is that it has given that same opportunity to millions of other people who are also trying to sell their work (and a lot of them have some really, really great stuff)! I am now competing with millions of others instead of just the few here locally. It’s very discouraging.

I’ll keep plugging along. Maybe I’ll get a break somehow. Hopefully before my savings runs out completely.

SoCS: March

For Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, the theme today is: March. Click the link for the rules and join in. 🙂

“March”. It brings to mind music, like the kind you hear in a marching band. John Phillip Sousa, etc. Also, the marchers, marching.

It reminded me of the parade I always try to see in New Orleans. The Krewe of Kringle puts on a great parade every year for Christmas. I’m usually in New Orleans around that time to attend the Workboat Show if I’m not offshore.

New Orleans is always fun. I love going up there to visit. I always see old friends and meet new ones. I always find something new and interesting to do. Last time, I finally got to ride the Steamboat Natchez and go to the WWII Museum.

I’d love to go up there again. This weekend is the New Orleans Bourbon Festival. I would really love to go to that! It sounds like a blast. Not as crazy as Mardi Gras, but I bet it’s still a lot of fun.

I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere for a while tho. I’m still not working. 😦

TAMUG

I went to a job fair this morning up at TAMUG (Texas A&M University at Galveston). They’ve been making a lot of changes since I was there last time. First thing I noticed is that they’ve started charging for parking. It cost me $6 for a couple of hours. 😦

Next was the construction. They’re building a huge new “Academic Complex” right in front as you drive onto campus. There was already a big 3-4 story building that looked pretty complete, but they were still drilling holes behind it. The machine they used looked like a giant vertical corkscrew running up and down through the mud.

The job fair was held in the gym, so I had to walk across most of the campus. I never do see many students. TAMUG always seems deserted to me, especially compared to UT Austin or UST where I went to school. They were always bustling with crowds of students filling the walkways going to classes.

The gym was fairly busy. It was filled with tables of the various employers. There must have been about 25-30 different ‘companies’ represented. Sad to say, not many of them were offering anything for someone like me (older, with a license, who still wants to work at sea).

The Ports were well represented: Ports America, Diversified Port Holdings, Metro Ports all had tables. The shore side support companies were there too: Lone Star Maritime, Dan-Bunkering and Watco Companies are a couple of examples, as well as Kiewit (shipyard, construction, etc). I’ve considered taking a shore side job, but I would have to move and I just can’t justify moving (unless it’s overseas to somewhere cheaper).

The Houston Police Department, the Marines, the Customs & Border Patrol, the Army Corps of Engineers all had tables. I didn’t even bother talking to any of them, I already know I would not be a good fit. 😉

NOAA and MSC both had booths, but neither was actually hiring. For the first time in ages MSC is actually trying to get rid of people (tho they still have 4 month long minimum tours).

Artist Boat, Schlitterbahn, and Moody Gardens looked more interesting. But they were all in Galveston (hour and half drive each way) and really more for summer fill in type jobs. The Peace Corps may actually have something interesting to do, but it’s normally a 2 year commitment and I don’t think I’m up to that at this point. They did mention they have some shorter term programs, I’ll have to look into those. Maybe there’s something there I can do?

A few towing companies were represented (but I don’t have a towing endorsement). I would have to start over as a deckhand. I really don’t want to do that at this point in my life and career. Especially on an inland tow boat! That is some hard, back-breaking work! I am actually getting close to the age at which I’d like to be able to retire and I don’t want to take the chance of a serious injury (old bones don’t heal so fast). 😦

Shell was actually hiring, but they only wanted cadets (so not really hiring). Trident Seafoods was looking for people. But again, they only wanted deckhands. I talked to them for a while and figured it just wasn’t worth even bothering to apply there. I have fishing experience, and on the same type of vessels. But where I worked, we had fish masters. I was never responsible for finding and catching the fish. Trident doesn’t work that way. They want deckhands that they can train (taking years to do so). I don’t figure I have 5-10 years to spend back on deck at this point in my life. 😦

A couple of the maritime officers unions had tables, but none of them were actually hiring either. I talked to the MMP, AMO and MEBA representatives. They were happy to talk about the benefits of their unions, but admitted that things were tight and they really didn’t know how long it might take for an ‘applicant’ to find a job. All except the AMO still only hire out of the union hall too, so you can’t even work part time while you’re waiting to ship out.

I signed up as an applicant at AMO a couple of months ago. So far I’ve had 1 email re: possible job. By the time I responded a couple of hours later, the job was gone. 😦

All in all, the only companies that were actually looking for marine crew to ship out was SeaRiver (who I had worked for in the past and already applied for), HOS (who had a table with some swag, but didn’t even send a rep to talk to), Intermarine (who only hires through Crowley- which only does online applications), and HMS Global Maritime.

So, out of 25-30 companies represented at this particular career fair, there were really only 4 who had anything even remotely resembling the kind of work I’m looking for. Out of those 4, only 2 had representatives at the fair who could talk about the employment prospects at their company. Only 1 had much to say other than “go online and fill out an application”. 😦

That shows how really sad a state our maritime sector is right now. No longer much opportunity at all. I can only hope it comes back to ‘normal’ soon.

This Is Where I Work

When I work.

This is the kind of ship I’ve been working on most recently. This video was taken on the DS-4. I used to work on the DS-3 and DS-5 and a couple of other sister ships. Sisters, meaning they’re all built to the same basic plan.

These drill ships are technological wonders. They’re very capable and fairly comfortable ships to work on. I would go back in a NY second! I keep hoping the price of oil will go back up. There will be no work for me or anybody else out there until it does. According to reports, there are around a half million people out of work due to the low price of oil.

I read the news every day to see the price of a barrel and how many rigs are working. So far, the price has recovered from around $26/bbl to around $50/bbl (just dropped back down to $47 last few days). The ON SHORE drillers have been taking advantage of the situation and are drilling like crazy!

They have already returned a couple hundred rigs to work. Every time they do, they put downward pressure on the price of a barrel of oil. That only delays offshore drilling from starting up again.

At this point, I’m wondering if we’ll EVER be able to go back to work. it is not cheap to drill for oil offshore. They’re not going to do it at a price of only $50/bbl. The companies that work offshore can’t work without making a profit. That means oil must be over $60/bbl and it has to stabilize there before any of us see steady work again. (IMHO).

I know, most people are happy to get cheap gas, I would be too if I was actually getting it as cheap as it should be with price/bbl so low. And if so many people weren’t out of work because of it.

If I could find some other type of work that was in any way comparable, I would be doing it. There’s nothing like offshore. There’s nothing I’d rather do than be a mariner. I’ll just keep hoping things get better before I’m forced out for good.

Already

Yeah, it’s over. Already! My first real job since I was laid off back in September of 2015 lasted exactly 5 days!

I was hoping it would go for at least a week, every day of work I get now is like a godsend.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go back offshore for a few days, even tho I had to give up the 4 days I was scheduled to work in Houston. Wish I could have done both, but have to take offshore whenever it comes up. There’s just no comparison.

I hope this short job will be a foot in the door for future opportunities there. I know not many people are taking time off for any reason, not if they can help it. But sometimes, like this time, they have to. Maybe I can at least start filling in again when that happens.

Work

Finally! I’m going to work tomorrow! 🙂

It’s only a temp job. Maybe not even a week. But it’s the first real job I’ve had since I went as AB on that delivery job down to Colombia last August.

I’ll be going out as 3rd mate/JDPO (junior dynamic positioning officer) just to relieve someone who had to leave unexpectedly.

I hope, really really hope this is the start of something good!

Another Busy Week

And not accomplishing much of anything. 😦

I’ve been working on all the usual stuff around here. Still looking for work. Spending hours filling out online applications for any offshore job I happen to see posted. I’ve been talking to one company for a couple of weeks now, but they don’t seem to have any idea of when they might (or might not) need me. It’s very frustrating, but at least they’re still talking to me. That’s more than I’ve had in over 18 months now!

We finished up working on one apartment and got it ready to rent. I thought we had it rented before we even finished working on it, but that fell through. I think it will go pretty quick (I hope so). I’m still waiting for the roofers to fix a leak and the levelers to honor their warranty (good luck!!).

I have one more apartment over there that needs work, but I need to wait til the rents start coming in before I can afford to start on it. It doesn’t look like it needs as much work as the last one, but I never know what I’ll find once I get started. 😦

I had some good friends come down and visit. We pigged out at the Chinese buffet and had a good time catching up on everything.

Other than that, I finished 2 paintings in class on Tuesday. I took them both to Hobby Lobby to get them framed. One of them was finished in time for me to enter it in the People’s Choice show (I’m always amazed at how many really talented people we have around here in this area). The other won’t be ready for at least another week. I think they both turned out OK, but especially with the lighthouse, not really what I was trying to do with them.

I wasn’t quite finished with the lighthouse when I took this photo. I’ll get another when I get it back with the frame.

I went to my usual political meeting Tuesday night. We’ve decided to re-start our project to get the BWA to remove the fluoride from our drinking water. It really doesn’t do anything for your teeth by drinking it. It only helps if you apply it topically (like with toothpaste). It’s really not at all good for you. Yeah, I know, most people will read that and think I’m just another tin foil conspiracy theorist. I think there’s more than enough evidence to show it’s not really necessary for good teeth (or any other reason).

So, I spent some time researching that. I also got a writing assignment for Great Escape Publishing. Whoo-whoo! Another byline!! I really need to find the time to query more publications. But that takes a HUGE amount of time! I was very hopeful when I applied to Big Grey Horse when they said they were looking for Texas writers. I think they would’ve contacted me by now if they were interested. 😦

I’ve been working on my yard the last few days. In between the rain. I’ve got the front yard about 25% finished now. It makes a big difference when I pull all the clematis vines off and put a little mulch out. All my citrus trees are starting to bloom. The grape vines are starting to leaf out. The strawberries are coming back!

Today I took a break and went to the movies. I go to the matinee when it’s cheaper. I wasn’t sure what to watch, either Logan or Get Out. I decided to watch Logan. It was pretty good. One of the X-Men movies. A pretty good action movie featuring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine fighting the forces of evil in the shape of another mutant (Boyd Holbrook as Pierce).

I don’t want to spoil it, since it really was pretty good, but it’s not all blood and guts. There was actually a pretty good story. I’m sure there will be more sequels down the road. 🙂

Tomorrow is the biggest day of the year around here. St Patrick’s Day Parade at Surfside Beach! I have to get up early so I can get down to the beach in time to check everything out before the judging. Take a look here. Once the parade starts, I’m done with that! Time to wander off to the various parties. 😉

I hope the weather cooperates. It’s calling for 90% chance of rain tomorrow. 😦

Another Week Flies By

And here I am still here, still looking for work, still not finding anything. 😦

I did get 3 days of work in Houston last week and I’ll have one more day up there this week. Every little bit helps. It’s just a hard let down, I’m working for 1/10th the day rate I used to get and only working about 1/10th the amount of time too. 😦

Thank goodness I have my real estate investments to fall back on! I’ve gone through almost all of my savings now. The rent I get from those properties is pretty much the only income I’ve had for the past 17 months. I haven’t been able to use much of that money myself either, most of it goes to pay expenses. I’m just thankful they’re not still costing me money.

I did go to a real estate investment seminar last Friday. I had hopes it would be a way I could work my way out of this mess. A way I could earn a living without having to wait for the price of oil to go back up high enough to where they’ll start drilling offshore again.

Sad to say, the program was not at all like what they sold us on at the seminar! Not even close! I was tempted to buy the ‘tax lien investor’ program. I was already buying properties and could have ‘flipped’ them if I wanted to, but I prefer keeping them for rentals. So I wasn’t really interested in their property flipping program.

I thought the tax lien program might work for me. I was already familiar with how they work. Basically, you pay the taxes owed to the county in return for a lien on the property. The property owner has a certain amount of time to pay up. When the time runs out and they don’t, you can claim the property. In the meantime, you collect a high interest rate from the time you pay the county for the lien. Whatever happens, you make money- IF you’ve done your due diligence and bid on a good property!

I’ve gone to a couple of auctions locally. A friend has invested in a few of them and he explained it all to me a few years ago. The thing that convinced me to buy their program was that they said they would do all the research. They would take care of the ‘due diligence’.

Nope. Turns out that’s not at all what they do.

Turns out, they only deal with properties in Florida (even after I- and others- asked them specifically where the properties were located and was told “all over the US, Canada, the Caribbean and the US Pacific Islands including Guam). I suppose only investing in Florida is fine, IF you only want to invest for the interest. Even so, I would still be concerned about the necessary research. That all takes quite a bit of time, especially if it’s not local.

Yes, you can make a lot of money just investing for the interest (never for the property itself), IF you have a lot to invest already. I mean, how much is it really going to help to make 20% interest if you only have $100 to invest? You CAN make a lot of money if you actually get that property behind the lien. That is what I was interested in doing, but turns out they had nothing at all to offer for help on that.

So, I called and asked for a refund. They said they would cancel the credit card charges and I would have to return their books. I haven’t made it to the post office yet but figure i’ll be out at least $20 on postage. Lesson learned- no matter what you do it’s going to cost you money!

Catching Up

I’ve been busy for the last week or so. I was lucky and got to work for 3 whole days last week. I’m scheduled for 3 more days this week and one more day the week after that! That’s the most work I’ve had since I went on that delivery job as AB down to Colombia (in August)! I hope it keeps picking up, but right now it looks like this little spurt will be it for a while.

Offshore things still look pretty grim. I did hear of one company hiring, which is great news, but even tho I’ve sent them my resume, I don’t think they’ll even look at it this time around. Looks like they’ve hired a crewing agency to fill their positions and since I’ve already ‘contacted’ them, I won’t be one of the people considered.  Continue reading

I Only Thought I Was Too Tired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decisions

I might not be on here for a few days. I’ve got a hard decision to make. I got laid off of work last September (2014). I’m not eligible for any help (unemployment) since my last job was overseas. The offshore oilfield still shows no signs of improvement and probably won’t til the price of oil stabilizes above $60/barrel.

Everything I’ve tried to do to earn money since I’ve been laid off has not worked. No one has been interested enough in buying my beach house to even take a look at it. I haven’t sold one piece of art except a small 4×6 photo for $10. My writing mostly hasn’t been interesting enough to an editor to be worth a reply. None of the jobs I’ve applied to have been interested enough to call me back, except Dominos Pizza for $6 and change/hour.

Beach House- For Sale- Fishermans Delight!

I still work doing the emergency management training if they have a class and if they put me on the schedule. That hasn’t happened since the end of October. Nothing coming up til the last week of January.

I’m really starting to worry about my situation. I’ve managed to save some money, normally enough to last being laid off, but I never thought it would ever take this long to find a job!  My friends tell me to ‘sell some of my stuff’. They don’t realize I’ve been trying to. No one wants to give me a fair price and I’m not willing to just give it away.

The decision I’ve been wrestling with is to take a job as a ‘safety attendant’, working in the plants around here. It’s ‘local’- I’d only have to drive 2-3 hours back and forth every day. My truck is getting to the point where I don’t want to put it through that (1997 F-150). It’s a 12 hour/day job, every day. Until the job ends. Then you’re supposed to be able to collect unemployment til they call you back again at some point. It pays $14/hour.

That would (barely) cover my bills (if I don’t have any time off- no down time for weather, etc). It would mean I’d have zero time for anything at all but eat, sleep, shower, work. For weeks, maybe months on end.

I have to spend all day Wednesday-Thursday in ‘training’ in order to get certified to do this job. Same thing I’ve done for the last 30+ years, but never needed a certificate to do it offshore (yes, it’s amazing that they don’t require it too, but actually let us do a simple job without spending hours in a ‘training facility’ on the beach!). They give us the same training, they just call it something else at every company. This place doesn’t even pay for the training.

I’m thinking I should at least go to the training. Maybe I can find out more about the actual conditions of this particular job from others there?

The other choice is: to just give up. To quit ‘working’ altogether. Forget about trying to keep my documents current. Forget about looking for work. Stop spending hours filling out online applications for jobs that don’t exist and just chill. Relax and work on my art. 🙂

an example of my art- star fish in pastels

Spend that time figuring out how to get the hell out of this ratrace and find somewhere that I can afford to live with no job. From previous travel and research, I know already that almost everywhere is cheaper than the US. My only real concern is how long can I make it without any income from work at all? I’m (only) 55. A very, very long way from being able to collect on social security (if it’s even still there).

If things were like they were when I started this career, it wouldn’t be an issue. I could take off for a couple of years and when I was ready, just  jump right back in to work. That’s not possible any more.

When I was taking my walk tonight, I figured the absolute minimum I would need to just keep my license current would be $10,000 and 5 weeks of time! We have to re-take a hell of a lot of ‘training’ now and it seems they require more of it every year. That’s really a very, very low estimate.

So, if I do decide to quit. I won’t be able to come back. Ever.

hate the thought of that. I LOVE what I do! I’ve spent almost my entire life at sea and I don’t want to leave it. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars to get my license. I hate the thought of just throwing all that away.

It gives me chills even to think of giving it up forever. I really don’t know what to do. I’ve been in this limbo for months now. I can’t concentrate on trying to make a living with my art (writing/photography/painting) since I’m distracted all the time trying to look for ‘a real job’. I think I might quit for a while, but then I remember theres no coming back if I do.

This really sucks!

I keep hoping that someone will come through with a real job for me! A job where I can do what I’ve been trained to do already! A job that I’m good at. A job that I actually LIKE!

I’ll call them all again tomorrow, see if there’s any hope at all. Keeping my fingers crossed.

one of my favorite paintings- I did this on the ship using deck paint!

Another Roadblock

I haven’t been posting much about work on here lately. Mostly because I haven’t had any for the last year now. 😦

It’s been so frustrating and depressing. I’ve never been out of work for anywhere near this long in my entire life! I’ve always been able to find something to do. Not this time. This time there’s nothing. Nothing at all. 😦

It doesn’t help that the people in charge of jobs in this industry- the US Coast Guard- keep changing the rules to make it harder and harder to get and/or keep a job! It used to be that you could take a job in a different sector of the maritime industry when things got slow. For example, when things got bad in the 80’s, I went to work on tankers. I could even take a job ashore. I worked as bartender lots of times between offshore jobs back then.

Now, due to new USCG rules, if you change sectors you’re very likely to be pigeonholed into just being able to work in that sector. You’ll have no other options! Not without making major efforts to make the move. For example- my license used to say “freight & towing’. Now it says ‘steam & motor”. That means I can’t work on any tugboats any more unless and until I get a ‘towing endorsement’ on my license. That is not at all easy to do!

Same goes for tankers. I worked on tankers for over 13 years, but since I haven’t worked on a tanker in the last 5 years, I can’t work on tankers ever again until I go spend a bunch of time and money to get back that endorsement.

There goes 2 large sectors of maritime employment totally out of my reach now!

And if I have to take a job on land? Forget it! If I don’t keep up my sea time (and training), I will have to start all over from the bottom if I ever want to go back to sea! We need to have at least 360 days sea time in the last 5 years, plus a bunch of newly required ‘training’ (plus the training that was already required) in order to renew our documents. Documents we absolutely can not work without. No, not anywhere in the world!

So. In order to have 360 days sea time in the last 5 years, that basically means you need to have at least 2 years of STEADY employment offshore. If you take a land job, you need to quit as soon as you find something you think (hope) will last a while at sea. Then, you need to hope like hell your company will help pay for all the necessary training. Cause sure as hell, no land job will give you either the pay rate or the time off in order for you to keep up with it!

Seafaring used to be a really good way to earn a living. After all this, I’m not sure I can say that anymore, but I still prefer it over anything else I can imagine.

had high hopes for finding some sort of relief job over the holidays. That’s always the best time of year to find work offshore. People understandably want to take time off to spend it with their families and all sorts of deals get made.

Not last year.

No one took any (earned) vacation time. I didn’t get a single call all winter. Neither did anyone else I know who’d been laid off. Everyone still lucky enough to be employed was just scared to death that they might not be able to come back to work. The oilfield was still in shock and everyone was living in fear.

Things seem to be improving. Slightly.

The price of oil has gone up from around $26/barrel to around $50/barrel. Almost doubled. That’s great! Only problem is, that for the offshore oil fields to go back to work the price of oil needs to be somewhere above $75/barrel (IMHO).

I was dearly hoping to get a call to sub in for someone over the holidays. I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for months.

But…

The USCG now requires us to renew our documents every 5 years. If we don’t beg permission from the government and jump through all kinds of ridiculous hoops, we’re locked out of a job. 😦

I sent in my paperwork back in the first part of September. My license expires December 16 this year, so I figured I had plenty of time. Even considering there are all kinds of new hoops to jump through coming into effect at the end of the year and so a mad scramble by all mariners to renew their documents before that.

My license was still sitting in limbo when I got back from overseas. Luckily, I was able to speak to a USCG rep at the Workboat Show and they made a phone call and got my papers moved over to the fast track. I thank them for helping, they were great!

I was happy to see my status changed the next day and only a few days later I received my new MMD in the mail.

Only one problem. They restricted me to only vessels without ECDIS. That means pretty much only small or inland vessels. That means I’m pretty much shit outta luck for finding any work until I get that restriction removed!

That totally knocked me for a loop! No way was I expecting them to come back with that! They’ve renewed my license at least twice since I originally turned in that course certificate and not once did they mention that it might not be acceptable.

What really gets my goat (besides the fact that I should have to beg permission from the government to go to work in the first place), is that I DID already take the required training in order NOT to have that restriction on my license.

I took that class back in 2008 since it was required for me to sit for my chief mates license. Of course, the USCG removed the requirement to take most of the courses that I was forced to take (at a cost of almost $50,000), but I did take that class and it is still required.

The problem is that the USCG is now saying that the course I took (so long ago) could not have been ‘approved’. Well hell! WTF would I have taken ANY course if it was NOT USCG approved?

Simple. I wouldn’t have!

The USCG maintains a listing of ALL approved courses and ALL approved course providers right there on their website. Of COURSE I checked to make sure the course I was considering was USCG approved.

At this point I have to assume that the course I took was approved at the time and somewhere between then and now, they changed the rules again to where it’s no longer acceptable. It would’ve been nice to get some notification.

None of these required classes is cheap. They’re completely worthless if they’re NOT USCG approved. Mostly worthless even so. Why would I (or anybody) spend thousands of dollars and a week (or more), plus transportation costs, plus room and board expenses, to waste all that time sitting in a classroom somewhere when they could be doing something (anything) else?

Again, simple! They wouldn’t!

So. I am in limbo again. Waiting for the person I’m dealing with at the Coast Guard to hear back from their superiors in the course approval department. Meantime, I’m investigating who has a class open asap.

The cheapest I can find is San Jacinto Maritime ($1000), but that’s only because I live close enough to where I can (barely) manage to drive back and forth daily. They don’t have an opening until mid- January. Same with most of the others. Remember, I can’t even think about going back to work until I get signed off on this class!

Delgado and Falck offer the course for $900, but they’re both located in Louisiana. I would have to spend hundreds more for transportation, room and board. Falck has a class I might be able to get in to -starting 12/27.

MPT in Ft Lauderdale costs $1299 (plus transport/room & board), but they actually have a class starting next week. If the USCG tells me this week I have to re-take the class, that will be my only option if I really still hope to get any work this year. 😦

If it looks like I’m screwed for work, then my best option will be the Sea School in Bayou La Batre AL. They cost $1100, but I can drive there (10 hours) and they include room and board in that price.

A few other schools have classes starting in January, but they’re all more expensive. MITAGS ($1390 + $850 room/board), Bluewater ($1295), Quality ($1095), Marine Training Institute ($1095), STAR ($$). Those are just the ones in the Southeastern US. I only checked those since I’m trying to keep transport costs down.

If you’re stuck in the same boat I am, you can find all the USCG approved courses and facilities here. DON’T go anywhere that isn’t on this list!

One Day

I worked yesterday. One day. That’s it for the month. I got a total of 4 days for July. I’m thankful, but somehow that’s just not enough.

I was reading the latest Workboat Magazine. I saw an ad for cooks and galley hands and it actually got my hopes up. Until I called this afternoon and they told me they weren’t really looking for anyone. They got a special deal on ads, so they were running them every month regardless of not needing anyone. 😦

I never imagined that I would ever again be so thrilled at the prospect of a job as a galley hand! I thought those days were long gone. After all the time, effort and money I’ve invested in myself to earn a master mariners license and I’m back to the position of jumping at any chance to be a galley hand, and thrilled for the opportunity. How sad.

It seems to have become standard practice for companies these days to advertise constantly when they don’t want to hire anybody. Then most of them refuse to respond in any way. I was lucky today to reach a company that actually answered the phone with a human being! It’s much better to be told the truth, rather than hanging on hope when there’s really nothing there to hope for.

I keep wondering what society will be like when such large numbers of people are put out of work. So many people are now being replaced by robots. What are we all going to do? It’s bad enough already when people who used to make good money have lost those jobs to overseas workers and have to work for minimum wage instead. They can’t afford to buy anything American made anymore, so even more jobs are shipped overseas.

People say it’s like back in the days when cars replaced the horse and buggy. What happened to the people that made horse whips? Or swept up the horse shit? I understand why they bring up that comparison, but I don’t think it’s really the same situation.

First of all, we had a much smaller population (in the US and worldwide). Second of all, we were not so ‘globalized’ back then. Americans were not all competing against foreigners who could do the work so much cheaper- transportation and communication systems were not up to the job. Third, the pace of change is so much faster. A person used to be able to learn a trade and spend decades, if not a lifetime, doing one thing. Not any more.

How many skills can one learn in a lifetime? How good can you get at a skill if you’re forced to learn another every couple of years? How can you afford to constantly re-educate yourself, especially when everything now requires specialized, expensive ‘training’ and a piece of paper?

Can this country survive when the vast majority of us are either unemployed or barely surviving on minimum wage jobs?

Maybe, but I’m not sure I want to see it.

Another Week at Home

It’s getting harder and harder to motivate myself. If you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, why I haven’t been posting much. I really just haven’t felt like doing anything. It’s getting really hard to make myself do anything that I don’t feel like I ‘have’ to. 😦

It’s not like I’ve just been lying on the couch watching the boob tube. I have been out and about. I went to visit a good friend on Monday, spent the afternoon and evening over there. I brought over a Cottage pie (with hamburger) and we had dinner together.

She’s also been having some computer issues, but we actually managed to fix hers (it was only the printer). Mine are still not working right which makes it even harder to try and do anything online. 😦

I also got around to applying to Dominos as a delivery driver. They called me Tuesday morning while I was at work up in Houston to come in for an interview.

So, Tuesday was pretty busy. I had to get up at 0430 to get to work on time. Afterwards I met another friend for lunch (great big plate of Chinese food). Got home just in time to go to the weekly political meeting at the Italian place (we moved from the Greek place cause it went out of business).

Yeah, I overdid it on the meal plan Tuesday. 😉

Wednesday I had an interview at Domino’s to be a pizza delivery driver. I’ve been a good customer of theirs for years, but never thought I might wind up on the other side. I don’t know yet if they’re going to hire me, but it sounded like they might.

I got home in time to sign on to the teach English webinar. I try to listen in every week. I’m still hoping to do some teaching as soon as I can take care of all my Coast Guard license stuff this fall. I’m really getting frustrated with the situation here.

I’d like to go use that TEFL certificate I earned back in February, but since I have to be back here by September, I don’t think it’s practical for me to even try. So, I hang out here at the house and wait. I spend a lot of time doing online applications. Many of them for companies that are just trying to ‘prove’ there are no Americans to do the work so they can get a waiver and hire cheap foreigners. Those places never respond in any way, they’re just scams.

I spent most of the day yesterday on that kind of thing. Filling out online applications (they all take so long!)- and then went up to Houston for another ‘networking event’. For some reason, I was not getting a good vibe there and left early. It was pretty much a waste of time going all the way up to Houston for that, but there really isn’t anything down here in any way related to my previous experience, so I go to those things any time I think there might be even the slightest possibility of meeting someone that could help me find some sort of work.

Today is the first day all week that things have sorted out, I have some time and I’m not falling asleep sitting here on the couch. 🙂

I went out this evening to the reception at the Art League gallery. They’ve opened a new show: Art Through the Ages. Some of that stuff was REALLY good! I especially loved the Klimt, but then I’ve always loved his work. Check this out…

 

I liked it so much, I even made a bid on it. The group projects are all for sale by silent auction. 🙂

PS- those photos are not mine, I took them from the internet

Iffy Internet- Crappy Computer

Trying to blog with shitty internet and crappy computers really sucks!

I’m still struggling to grow my audience. It’s been so hard the last few months with all the issues I’ve had (still having) with the internet and my computers. I’ve tried everything I can think of to fix the problems, but nothing’s really worked. The only thing left to do is to move!

And yes, I would LOVE to be able to do that! Trying hard to find ways to support myself somewhere other than the USA. Being unemployed gives me plenty of time to spend working online, trying to do that. I’ve been trying to sell my writing and photography. Not having working computer or internet kills that whole deal!

Of course, I would very much prefer to be able to go back to work at sea! Working out there gives me the time off to travel, and the money to go.

In the meantime, while I wait for the price of oil to go back up-so the ships will go back to work, so they’ll start hiring people again, I spend my time working on writing, photography, blogging, and looking for jobs around town. None of that is easy without working computer and internet! 😦

8:00 Friday Night

…And I’ve been nodding off for the last half hour.

What the hell is happening to me?

Yeah, I know I’m getting older, but I used to be up til 2-3 in the morning every weekend. I never went to bed before midnight even during the week when I had early classes. I was quite the party girl for a lot of years. You would never know it now. 😦

Now, I’m almost always in bed by 11 pm. I might read for a few minutes. But I used to read for a couple of hours, or even all night if it was a good book. Now, I’m too tired and sleeping within a half hour no matter how good the book is.

I can’t even blame it on getting up early. The only time I wake up early now is when I go to work in Houston (3-5 days/month). That wipes me out for the week. I go up there Monday-Tuesday. So I’m up til 1-2 in the morning Sunday night. Get up at 0430 Monday morning. To sleep around midnight Monday night. Up at 0430 Tuesday. And a good thing they cancelled work Wednesday cause I’ve been so sleepy driving to and from work.

I’ve been home since December, other than my month in Puerto Vallarta getting TEFL certified. In all that time, I haven’t accomplished anything, partly due to nodding off half the time. I think the stress of being in limbo is really getting to me. 😦

A Bird in the Hand

Is worth two in the bush.

I should have thought about that little rhyme a little bit more last week.

I had 2 prospective jobs last week. There’s the catch- “prospective’. Not actual. 😦

I thought I was a shoe-in for both. I turned down one for the other that paid better. Lost out on both of them.

So, now I have nothing again.

I’m so disappointed.

I’m so frustrated

I’m so worried.

I’m so sad.

I’m so confused.

What should I do? What can I do? I want to just say the hell with it all and go away somewhere. I want to stop wasting my life here, hanging around trying to find work when there just isn’t any! I want to go spend some time somewhere where I can be happy, where I can do something useful, where I can have some fun, where I can learn new things, meet new people, try something different.

All I think of when I think of those things, is: how can I afford to leave? And to come back in time to renew everything I need to in order to keep my license? I need that license if I ever want to go back to sea again. If I don’t renew it in December, it’ll be like I’ve never stepped foot on a boat in my life, and I’d have just wasted 50 years of experience on the water! I DON’T want that to happen!

Actually, I’m starting to regret choosing this career. It’s mostly been good, it’s given me plenty of opportunities where I really enjoyed my job, plus plenty of time off and enough money to enjoy it. But, after all the years, after all the effort, after all the sacrifices I’ve made in order to keep working offshore- all it takes is the price of oil to drop and it’s over.

I’ve been out of work over 6 months already and there’s no telling when I’ll get back out there. IF I don’t manage to get enough sea time to renew next time, that’ll be it. It’s over! The way it’s going, the way the pundits are predicting, it might be years before the price of oil goes up, high enough for them to start hiring again.

There’s a lot more to it than just the price of oil. Mostly to do with the US Coast Guard and the IMO. That’s a whole other subject and enough for a book! All the things they’ve done to ruin this profession!

It’s an argument I’m having more and more often with myself. Keep trying, don’t give up til there is no hope of keeping that license? Knowing how much more time, effort, money and lost opportunities to LIVE LIFE? Or, give it up for good? Find some other way to support myself? Even the thought of that almost makes me cry. 😦

And what else could I possibly do? I have no idea. I’ve been trying for over 3 years to earn some income from this blog. So far I haven’t earned even one cent. I’ve been trying to earn income from my art- painting and photography. In over 3 years, I’ve earned a grand total of $5.33. I’ve tried to earn income from writing. That’s been my big earner so far. I’ve earned $250!

So- what else is there?

I’ve invested in property. I have recently started to just about break even. That is only if there are no major repairs to be made. There’s always something that comes up so I lose money every year. Only ONE of my properties is worth selling. The rest of them will lose me a LOT of money if I try to sell them (due to major structural damage that has occurred since I bought them). I put that ONE property up for sale to help tide me over this period of unemployment, but haven’t had ONE offer since it was listed. Sure, I could lower the asking price, but then I would lose out on what I’ve spent on improving that one too! The rent from that house is all that’s keeping me above water, I’ve basically had NO other income this year! My last job was for a foreign company, so I’m not eligible for unemployment pay. So, after 40+ years of paying into the system, I get NO help when I need it myself.

So. What else is there? I’m trained to be a mariner. That’s it. I have no other papers (except a Math degree which has been totally useless so far). It seems pretty much all the decent jobs out there require some kind of certificate (at minimum) now. Do I have the time and money to spend to get one? NO. I will jump ship the 1st time they call me to go offshore!

Same goes for working a shore side job like McDonalds or Walmarts. I have applied there. I figured they must have a pretty high turnover, so I don’t feel bad about quitting if I get a call to go offshore. Problem is, even those jobs are not calling. They’ve all told me they won’t even start hiring til August.

I haven’t felt this bad in a long time.

What to do, what to do…

Nibbles

I’ve had a couple of nibbles in the last couple of days. Nothing positive yet, but I may be able to go to work soon. This is really the first time I’ve heard anything about offshore work since I was laid off. I’m hoping to get something definite out of them tomorrow.

It’s a huge pay cut, but it’s better than nothing. Not even having unemployment money coming in is really killing my finances! My job in Houston is down to 2-3 days/month. I just hope the work actually happens this time!

The price of oil has almost doubled since the first of the year, but it’s still not economic for the offshore drillers to start up again. So, no real work for me til that happens.  I know most people are hoping the gas prices stay low, but I can’t wait for them to get up there to around $80. That should be a nice happy medium. Get us all back to work and not cost too much at the pump.

Lost Out…

…on work today (again). I was scheduled to work, but since we finished the training early yesterday, they called it off. So, I’ll have a grand total of 2 days of work for June. 😦

I counted it up last night. I’ll have a total of 16 days of paid work since the 1st of January this year. 😦

I’ve put off applying to local jobs since I’ve been spending so much time trying to find something in my field. A ‘real’ job. Job-hunting IS a full time job! Also been trying to find ways to earn money from my writing and photography (and this blog). Check out my photography for sale at Society6- or if you see any you like here on my blog, just send me a message. All my photos are for sale. Here are a few examples…

Yesterday I started filling out applications for local convenience stores (they do pay more than minimum wage).

It’s sucks, that someone with 2 college degrees (AAS in Ocean Marine Technology and BA in Mathematics) and over 20 years of experience can’t find  anything but entry level employment. 😦

Sucks even worse that the only jobs I’ve seen for offshore are offering $60/day for CHIEF MATES! Now that, that is disgusting! Even worse, some are offering ‘jobs‘ for ‘trainee DPOs’ where the prospective DPO has to pay a few thousand dollars per month for the ‘privilege’ of spending time offshore!

This is for people who have college degrees and enough experience to earn a license! This is NOT any kind of entry level position. But these yahoos, these despicable people who run these predatory companies can get away with treating people like shit because of the situation offshore right now- the low price of oil and all the layoffs because of it. They take advantage of our desperation and fear of losing our ability to EVER return to the work we love (because of new licensing regulations) and they laugh all the way to the bank!

I have a pre employment test scheduled for Friday afternoon for a local tutoring job. At this point, I have to hope I get it. I don’t know if I can survive on only 2 days of paid work/month. I have to find something else to do. 😦

Maybe something like that will help pay the bills and if I only get part time I can still work in Houston and have enough time to keep hunting a ‘real’ job.

Oil prices are going up, but still a LONG way from getting back to work offshore again. This is really hurting a lot of people all over the country (and the world). All I can do is hope, I’m doing all I can.

Looking Forward to Monday Morning!

Who’s looking forward to Monday morning?

I am!

Thank god I’m going to work tomorrow morning! I’m scheduled for a grand total of 3 days of work this month and hope to hell I get all 3!

I’m not eligible for any unemployment assistance, even tho I’ve paid into it for over 40 years. Now, when I really need it, I can’t get it, simply because my last job was with a foreign company (for a year and a half). A job I took mostly in order to get ‘insurance’ which is now mandatory according to ‘Obamacare’.

So, now that I’m laid off, I can’t qualify for any of the programs I’ve been supporting for over 40 years. And people wonder why so many Americans are pissed off?!

So, I’m very thankful I can get ANY work at this point. It’s not much, but it’ll pay the gas to get to and fro, it might even take care of the electric bill (tho it’s summertime now and I seriously doubt that- AC running 24/7!).

I know most people are happy to see the gas prices so low (not nearly as low as they should be), but since my job is tied to the price of oil, I’ve been wishing it higher for months now. It’s been creeping up slowly, and I’ve heard that some land rigs have been starting up again.

Offshore drilling needs a stable price and it needs to be higher than where it is now. I’d guess around $80/bbl would start work up again. I’ve been working in the offshore oilfields for the last few years. Simply because that’s where all the work was.

I’ve been trying to find work on ANY kind of vessel since I’ve been laid off, but all the available openings have already been taken by people laid off before I was. It doesn’t help at all that the US Coast Guard keeps restricting our licenses so that we can only work on very specific types of vessels.

Basically, the rules we have to work by now state that if you don’t have so much time on 1 type within the last 5 years, you can’t work on that type of vessel any more, ever. At least not until you go through a time consuming, expensive, ‘training’ rigamarole. They treat you like you’ve never been on a boat a day in your life before! It doesn’t matter at all if you’ve previously spent 20+ years on one type of boat, say a towboat, and then you went fishing for 5 years. Doesn’t matter, you start from scratch to go back on a towboat!

Companies just refuse to hire you if you don’t have the exact, specific, ‘training’ and certificates they insist on. Even tho it would take less than a week of time onboard to re-qualify. Nope, they won’t let you on til you have it already. Catch-22 in action.

My original license said “Freight & Towing”. Since I haven’t worked on a towboat in the last 5 years, my license now says “Steam & Motor” and I’m not qualified to work on a towboat. Not until I get a TOAR. That takes a minimum of 30 days onboard a towing vessel. There is VERY little in that assessment that a licensed mariner isn’t already completely proficient in. The only items are those specific to a tug and tow (about 10 things on the list).

All the towing companies I’ve talked to since I’ve been laid off want me to spend at least 2-3 YEARS on deck before even considering upgrading me to tankerman (I job which I previously worked for over 13 yrs). I need 2 transfers to get back that license (tankerman PIC), but without it, I can’t get onboard a vessel to get those 2 transfers. See what I mean?

Smaller and smaller boxes we’re shoved into. Is it any wonder they’re having a hard time finding qualified mariners? (They say this, yet hundreds of thousands of us looking for work around the world).

What a paradox!

All I know at this point is that I’m very happy to be going to work in the morning for a change.

Anybody else been out of work for a long time? How did you survive it?