Working

I did get a job last week! I’m so glad it worked out! Even a few days offshore makes up for a lot. I’m hoping this job will last a while, but I really have no idea. They just said ‘2 weeks, maybe’.  I left early Friday afternoon. I flew to New Orleans, got picked up by the crew van and was delivered straight to the ship at around midnight thirty.

I didn’t even really meet the other 10 guys in the van with me, since everyone was exhausted and trying to catch a few winks on the ride to Fourchon (tho it was too bumpy for me).

On arrival, I got a quick familiarization with the captain, then assigned my bunk and tried to catch a few hours of sleep. I’ve been on the 0600-1800 watch since then.

That’s a good watch for me. I haven’t ever really worked an anchor boat, so it’s not something I can do by myself. I try to watch the captain as much as possible. He’s been doing it for ages and he’s really good.

The divers all seem to be pretty decent. I don’t really see much of them since I spend most of my time on the bridge and they’re always out on deck. We have about 45 people on here, total. It gets pretty cramped when more than a couple of people are in the same area at the same time. Like the galley at meal times, for instance.

The cooks on here have been doing a great job so far. There are 3 of them (plus an OS who’s helping out as a galley hand). They’re working around the clock to keep us all fat and happy.

We’re working on a project out here with a couple of other boats. One is a tug boat we use to help us pick up and place our anchors. We’re a ‘4-point anchor boat’. I’ve done a lot of diving work, but always either ‘live boat’ or DP (dynamic positioning). This is totally different.

I’m learning a lot here. That’s always a good thing. 🙂

Work?

I went to Houston yesterday. I had a work day scheduled up there. Yep. One whole day of work scheduled for all of July. Wow.

It went well.

I caught up with my friends there. We’re all in the same position. Everyone is doing whatever they can to get by. Spending all our time looking for work and scrambling for whatever part time gigs we can scrounge up.

This morning I got a call. Actually two calls. For real work! Yes, work in my field. On a boat. The pay is less than a third of what I was earning at my last job. It’s only for 2 weeks but could possibly turn into something longer term. I don’t know for sure yet if I’ll get it. But I told them I was definitely interested.

The second call was about a container ship. I’m interested, but a little concerned about that one since I’ve never worked on a container ship before. It shouldn’t be that different, but as captain, I will be held responsible for every single thing that happens on board, and there is a hell of a lot that could happen. I just don’t want to get thrown under the bus.

I’m waiting to hear back from both of them, but making plans to leave early Friday morning just in case. If I do get the job (either of them), I probably won’t have internet access to keep up with the blog so expect that I probably won’t be able to post every day.

Not that I have been posting every day anyway, but at least while I’m home I do try to. 😉

Another Sunday

Amazing, isn’t it? How an entire week can go by, when you’re busy, busy, busy every day. Yet nothing really gets accomplished.

Yep, this week was one of those.

I spent most of every day this week still trying to find work. Filling out online applications (again), for all the same places that I’ve already filled them out for. Calling everyone I could find to call. Still getting the same results…

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

So, I broke down and went to Houston on Wednesday to see about joining the SIU. The unlicensed seamans union. I’ve been an applicant with the AMO (licensed officers union) since at least December and have had 1 (yes only1) possible job. That job was gone before I could even return the phone call! Since then, they don’t answer the phone, they don’t return calls, I’ve pretty much lost hope that they actually have any work.

Of course I would rather use the license I’ve spent 30+ years and $50,000+++ to earn! But if I have to sail as a deckhand, I’m perfectly willing to do that too. Anything out at sea is better than working at McDonalds or Domino’s, which seem to be the only jobs open to me on the beach. 😦

Shit! 2 college degrees and 30 years of experience to earn the highest license there is out there, and what does it get me? NOTHING! Not a damn thing!

Yeah, I’ve had it pretty good up until the last couple of years. I was able to save a few bucks. I was able to travel and enjoy life. I did really love a few of my jobs. Never really hated any of them. But after almost 2 years of unemployment and unable to find ANY work that will even come close to paying the bills, I have to say I am getting more than a little bit pissed off.

Yes. Pissed off! Frustrated. Angry. Depressed. Un-motivated. I could go on…

I try to find other things to do, to earn a few bucks. Writing/painting/photography, etc. I still haven’t sold even one item. Yeah, it’s getting very depressing. I can hardly motivate myself to work on any of that stuff. First of all, I feel like I need to concentrate on finding a ‘real’ job. So spend hours/day looking for work. By the time I’m done with that, I really don’t feel like doing anything creative. I don’t even want to look at the computer anymore, much less spend hours blogging. 😦

I keep meaning to blog more. This was meant to be a much more interactive blog. Where I could talk to people all over the world about different places and how things were there. I thought I would always have interesting sea stories and adventures from my travels to write about. But I haven’t been working in so long and so can’t afford to travel anymore, so I wonder what can I write about now?

What is interesting about my life at home? Nothing, really. I’m just another ordinary, broke and struggling American. I do have more political interest than most. I could write about that. But every time I do that, people seem to drop me like a hot potato (most not even commenting as to why).

So I’ve tried to keep the politics toned down, even tho it’s one of my main passions. I am 100% in support of freedom, for everybody, on all issues, all the time. Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody else. That’s my motto and that’s what America was founded to promote. Too bad ‘we’ve’ decided to throw that whole ‘freedom’ thing out in the garbage pile. 😦

Oh no, I have not forgotten. We still do have our ‘freedom’ of speech. Sort of. Remember ‘political correctness’? How often are you seeing censored posts on Twitter and Facebook? I see them plenty! Yeah, we may still have a little bit of ‘freedom’ of speech, but as for the rest of the Bill of Rights, all but the 3rd Amendment have been constantly and continuously violated.

Am I the only one who’s noticed? Who cares?

Then why is no one even willing to discuss it? Even on a blog? Yeah, I’m sure plenty of people are actually self-censoring. Afraid they’ll be hauled off sooner or later for violating some trumped up anti-constitutional ‘law’ on ‘hate’ speech, or defamation or some other crap. I think I will keep on saying what I will say until the day they decide to haul me off. I’ve already self-censored myself enough (in fact, I think I’ve even lost work over what I’ve said and not said). Screw it, I’m done playing games!

I’ve worked my ass off my entire life, NOT to wind up an old bag lady, wandering the streets eating cat food. If after everything I’ve done to avoid that, working hard, saving everything I could, investing every extra dollar, starting businesses, rental properties, etc, and I’m STILL going to wind up like that? Why do I even try anymore???

My birthday is coming up again soon. I’m getting to the age where I feel like I don’t have too many more years ahead of me where I’ll be able to work or to travel. I want to LIVE those few years I have left. I don’t want to spend them in fear. Broke, afraid, trapped.

I think and think and wonder every day- HOW can I manage to do that- without having to win the lottery???

Tanked!

mobile barge available for training purposes

Whew! I’m glad that’s over! I’m tanked! I’ve spent the last week teaching tankerman up at San Jacinto Maritime in La Porte. And a few days studying hard myself so that I could teach it (I haven’t worked on a tankship since 2002).

San Jacinto is about an hour and a half drive for me. I’ve been getting up at 0430 in the morning. Trying to get out of the house by 0530, so I can be sure to arrive by the time class starts at 0730.

I am NOT a morning person!

Getting by on less than 4 hours of sleep per night is not good for me (or anybody else).

So. I’m glad it’s over. I know there are lots of people who drive like that or even more every day for years. I don’t know how they manage and I’m SO thankful that I’ve never had to do it myself (until now).

The class went well and all my students passed with flying colors. I actually think I studied more than they did. 😉 They all got their course certificates they can turn in to the Coast Guard with their sea time letters. Hopefully, they will be able to get the promotions they were after.

SanJac doesn’t have me scheduled for any more classes (at the moment- that could change at any time). Maersk didn’t have anything last month at all. We’re waiting to see the schedule for July and hoping for at least 1-2 courses there. I still have no word of any real work coming up. It looks like I’ll have a chance to catch up on my sleep next week.

I should be able to post more often too. 🙂

Teaching Tankerman Tomorrow

It’s late Sunday night. As usual, I’ve been busy and so put off getting ready for class til this evening. I’ve got to get up around 0430 so I can leave the house by 0530, in order to be sure to make it to class on time at 0730.

I have to drive all the way up to La Porte. I’m teaching at San Jacinto Maritime college. I never know what the traffic will be like in Houston, so I always try to leave early. Hopefully, I’ll arrive in time to have a cup of coffee, go over my notes and chill out for a few minutes.

I’ve been going over the materials tonight and there is a lot to go over. I used to be a tanker man. I worked on tankers for about 13 years. I haven’t been doing much of that sort of thing lately tho, so it’s taking a little effort to remember a lot of that stuff. Most of what we’ll go over in class is stuff we’ll probably never use on the job anyway. It’s mostly rules and regulations and how to find the information you need if/when you need it.

A lot of it’s really good information if you’re new to the industry. Not so much if you’ve been doing it for a while. I have no idea what kind of experience my students have, or even how many of them there will be in class tomorrow. I haven’t been able to figure out how to log on to my email there yet. I’m hoping I can get some help with that tomorrow. 🙂

This class lasts for a week. I don’t have anything else lined up after that. I’m hoping either SanJac or Maersk will come up with something by the end of the week. Even better, C-Mar will send me offshore again!

Slow Day

I took the day off today. Didn’t do much but make a grocery run (for a good deal on steaks). I also got around to spraying my plants with ‘insectisoidal soap’. I’ve been trying to grow a garden since I’ve been home so much.

I stick to plants that don’t really need much care. I have a big lemon tree, lime tree, orange trees, pineapples, grape vines, pomegranate, raspberries, asparagus, and I’m even trying cucumbers and green beans this year. Last year something happened to kill off my pomegranate, raspberries, cucumbers and a couple of grape vines overnight.

I tried calling the county agricultural agent (which was pretty useless, they can’t tell much over the phone but insisted it was something in the soil and so nothing I could do about it). I tried researching online but can’t really find anything that really describes what’s happening to my plants. So, I just went to the store and bought stuff that’s supposed to help.

Yesterday I noticed some sort of infestation on my lemon tree. First time I’ve seen it. I sprayed it down pretty good and keeping my fingers crossed it will help. I also sprayed the pomegranates and cucumbers. I think the cucs are already beyond help, but maybe the pomegranate can be saved. IF this stuff works.

Any gardeners out there?

Girls Gone to Galveston

Hey! We just got back from Galveston. It was a long day.

I’m not a morning person, but got up early to finish getting my photos ready to take up to the gallery in Galveston. I had to sign them, figure out the best mat to use with them and then figure out which frame fit best. It took a while.

I loaded up my truck and headed to the beach to pick up my friends. I didn’t think we could all fit in the cab with my big painting (49″ x 44″) in the back seat, but we managed to fit all the artworks in the back seat and all 3 of us in the front.

Lucky, I found a spot to pull up close to the shop for long enough to unload my stuff. The lady who I’ve been dealing with wasn’t there. I left my big painting there and traded out a few others. I took the rest of the stuff I brought across the street to a new place (Metamorphosis) that I learned about last time I was in Galveston.

My friend was talking to the owner about making a sign for the place while I was busy across the street. I brought in my photos and set them out for the lady to pick which ones she liked and thought would sell. She liked all of them. 🙂

So far, nothing has sold. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. My friend is really hoping to get the sign job too. She’s been a ‘starving artist’ for a long time. Somehow I never thought that’s where I would wind up in life.

I do enjoy it, but like my BFF always tells me, “somebody always has to buy the beans”. For that to work, somebody will actually have to buy some of my art one of these days.

We tried a new place for lunch (recommended by the coffee guy). It was a pretty interesting little deli type place called Old Moon. We sat upstairs where they had a couple of nice comfortable couches to relax on. We ate our lunch surrounded by cool old photographs and paintings of dramatically lit cats (and dogs) dressed to the nines.

I had a Monte Cristo sandwich, it was really good. I’d never had one like the way they made it before. It had a little bit of honey on it, on the outside of the bread. Nice touch, but made it a little sticky to eat. I didn’t try a pie. They looked delicious, but I always eat slowly and I didn’t want to keep my friends waiting any longer. I did try a brownie and it was really nice. I even saved some for dessert tonight. 🙂

Check out the painting. Cool dog, huh?

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.