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!

Blogging

I haven’t been paying as much attention to my blogging as I would like lately. Since I went on that delivery trip to Colombia and was totally cut off from the world (no internet), it seems like I’ve just been trying to catch up.

I haven’t been doing much that would explain my absence. I’ve only had a total of 5 days work (whoo-hoo!). I went to a Nautical Institute seminar and then left for a travel writing workshop in New Orleans for a week. That was fun but kept me super busy.

When I got back I had a room mate move in, so trying to get used to having someone new in the house. I finished my taxes (finally) or at least enough to get them to my accountant before the deadline this coming week. And I finished with everything I needed to do to give my license renewal application to the Coast Guard.

Along with all that crap I pretty much had to do, I also managed to do a few fun things I wanted to do. I got to go out for the last of the Rum Races with Captain Vic on the Laz. I made it to a couple of Campaign for Liberty (political) meet ups. I started painting class again. Went to the inaugural Sail La Vie Dive Bar tour (looking forward to the next one).

Went to see Snowdon last week and the Deepwater Horizon movie Friday (both were good, the DWH was intense!).

I’ve been off the Buzcador for about 6 weeks now. I still haven’t caught up with everything I was cut off from when I went out there for 3 weeks with no internet! I’ve been spending a minimum of 2 hours/day online (usually much more) and still can’t make any progress.

I feel like I should apologize, that I haven’t been spending much time blogging, but I just don’t feel like spending anymore time online. It’s getting to be a real drag.

I’d much prefer to spend my online time blogging and writing, but I’ve been spending it catching up on ‘important’ emails, looking for work and filling out ridiculously long and repetitive online applications (that have nothing to do with the job I’m applying for).

I’m getting to the point where I’m trying to decide should I just say ‘the hell with it all’ and ‘retire’?

Even tho I have no where near enough money saved up to support myself for the (hopefully) 30+ years I’ll have left. Do that, move to somewhere cheap like Mexico and work on my writing, photography, and painting? In hope that somehow I’ll be able to survive?

Maybe one of these days I’ll figure out how to ‘monetize’ my blog. Or someone will like one of my photographs or paintings enough to buy one (for more than a quarter!). Or maybe my book will become a best seller?

Or give up on doing anything with my life, suck it up and take some soul-sucking minimum wage job at McDonalds or Walmart?

I think I don’t really have much of a choice at this point. There’s nothing I can do about the price of oil, so not a thing I can do to go back to a decent job, a job that I care anything about. I’ve already applied to every maritime company in the USA, most of them more than once. Plenty of overseas companies too.

I think, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to have to ‘retire’.

But I don’t want to. 😦

Buzcador Breaks Free!

We finally made it to sea!

It only took us about a day extra to meander our way out through the Louisiana bayous. Instead of heading straight out down the Atchafalaya River like we planned, we had to backtrack to find a way out where we wouldn’t keep running aground.

#AHTS #Buzcador underway in #Atchafalaya River

We headed back up the Atchafalaya, passed through Bayou Chene, took the ICW to the Houma Navigation Canal and made it to the sea buoy at Cat Island Pass around 2200 our second day of the voyage.

We scrambled back aboard the Buzcador at the buoy and thanked our trusty tugs Ms Edmay and Mr Nicolas. We finally got underway under our own power for the first time. It was a beautiful night as we made our way through the offshore oilfields, heading almost due South. The stars were bright, the seas were calm and we were making decent time. Nights like that are why I’m always ready to go sailing again. 🙂

The night sky is so awesome far out to sea! There’s really nothing to compare.

I don’t know why I was expecting to see more traffic. Shipping has been dead– at least in the Gulf of Mexico- where so much shipping is related to oil. Since the price of oil dropped like a rock- from over $100 to mid $20’s- a year ago. Hundreds of Gulf boats have been stacked. It happened too quickly for any reaction but huge layoffs. I’ve heard there’ve been more than a half million people laid off in the oil fields already (and still nothing but bad news).

Even passing through the Yucatan Channel and further South, we saw very few ships. With the opening of the new Panama Canal, I expected to see lots of big container ships passing by. I thought we’d see tons of local freighters and fishing boats once we got past Cuba and into the Caribbean Sea. But I never saw much of anything till the approach to Cartagena. Even then, traffic was very light compared to normal.

#chart showing progress of the #AHTS #Buzcador

We spent a full 10 days underway- more than twice as long as expected. We had some problems with the ship. Nothing really unexpected. The Buzcador had been cold stacked for years before we were brought aboard. Mechanics had been working frantically for weeks to get everything done so we could deliver her to her new owners.

Nothing was done that didn’t ‘need’ to be done. IMHO we were cutting it close, but after 9+ months without a real job, I was ready to take a few chances in order to earn a decent paycheck. Sure, I was happy as hell to get an AB job! A captains license doesn’t mean shit when you can’t find a boat!

Our engines worked fine for the first day or so. After that, we had to baby them a bit. The port shaft bearing was overheating and the starboard generator had problems with the oil pressure. We cut our RPMs down and made about 6 knots (close to half speed). The weather didn’t help much either.

It started kicking up before we reached Cuba and never let up. The mainmast shook so bad when we hit a heavy sea, we wondered when it was going to come crashing through the wheelhouse on us. Part of it had already fallen off when the other AB went up to change the masthead light before we left.

#mainmast of the #AHTS #Buzcador

mainmast with #backscratcher hanging off

We sprung a couple of leaks around the ship and occasionally more pieces would fall off. Most of the outside lights around the house were falling off and full of water. Good thing we didn’t need to turn them on. 😉

The AC system for the house leaked. It got so bad that I would scoop up the water with a dust pan every time I went by. A couple of days like that and it got worse all the sudden. The whole room was awash. We were dumping 4-5 5 gallon buckets every couple of hours! Marvin the OS (ordinary seaman) finally got a chance to take a look at it and sent the water somewhere other than inside the AC room.

The pictures don’t look so bad, but we had over 8′ seas for most of the trip, over 10′ for a day or 2. We were bouncing around like a cork (which didn’t help our speed either). The weather was squally most of the way and pretty much overcast after the first couple of days. I never really got to see the stars again once the moon grew full.

sun breaking out behind the clouds on a rough day at sea

It was getting to the point where we were starting to worry about our food, fuel, water supplies. This entire trip was only supposed to take about 6 days (I wound up spending 21 days aboard). We were also worried about catching our flights home.

‘Starvin’ Marvin’ and Noel the mate, had a fishing line out. Marvin cooked us up a couple of nice fish dinners. We had a dorado (dolphin/mahi-mahi) one night, a tuna the next, and a barracuda one day that no one would eat but him.

We actually did just fine. We didn’t run out of much of anything (just laundry soap and jelly -for the PBJ’s). We had plenty of beans and rice every day thanks to Marvin. I helped cook a couple of times and so did the Chief Engineer ‘Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Turtle’. (Captain Todd gave us all nicknames within a couple of days- I was ‘Jilligan’- like from Gilligans Island). 🙂

#ships crew, #engineers

Sing-Sing, Chief Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Turtle & Starvin’ Marvin

We were able to increase our speed after a couple of days. The engine crew was sure busy that trip! Chief Engineer (Ninja Turtle), client rep (Colombia) and oiler (Sing-Sing) spent most of their time down in the super hot and noisy engine room, trying to keep us going.

Kudos to them for working so hard! It seems there was always something going on down there. I’d make my rounds at night, go down there to check up on them and they were always in the engine room, checking the bilges, checking the bearings, checking the temperatures and pressures. Always having to fix something.

#night sky at #sea, #full moon

I spent most of my time up at night, as lookout. I was night AB (able body seaman). I worked from 1800-0600 every night once we got underway. Sid the Sloth was the day AB, he relieved me in the mornings (below right).

It was actually a nice change. Capt Todd (above left) was on from 1000-2200 and Noel the mate was on from 2200-1000 (tho it seemed he never slept and was always on the bridge). Between rounds I would talk to them about previous ships, ports and people we’d worked with. Telling sea stories is another favorite activity of mine. 😉

Since this was just a delivery job, we weren’t really concerned with all the usual things we’d be doing to take care of the ship. For instance, as AB, normally I’d be spending all day chipping and painting, cleaning and greasing, etc. This time, I spent almost all of my time as lookout on the bridge. I tried to help in the galley when I got a chance, cooked a couple of times, and cleaned up the house when it got too bad.

Still, we were glad to reach Colombia. I went to bed before we got the pilot, when I woke up, we were all fast in Cartagena.

More later.

Buzcador Barges Through the Bayous

 

It took longer than expected, but we were finally ready to go. The plan was to be towed out from Berwick, down the Atchafalaya River and out through the bay. The Buzcador would depart Berwick as an “unmanned barge”.

Wondering why we had to get towed out? Why we couldn’t stay onboard? Because even though we were light ship, we had no cargo, little ballast and just enough fuel and water to make it- we were still really pushing our luck with our draft. We didn’t want to take any chances with our engines.

The Atchafalaya is not a very deep river. It has a lot of shallow spots. It’s also unique in that it’s actually replenishing the land in it’s delta. Most of the rest of Louisiana is loosing ground to the sea.

 

Our draft was over 12 ft and we knew we would be touching the bottom in at least a couple of places. Also, the intake for our engine cooling water was going to be sucking mud the entire time- not good!

So, we got underway about noon. The mighty Miss Edmay would be pulling and the Basin Endeavor would be pushing. The Buzcador would be ‘dead ship’ until we hit the sea buoy.  No engines, no power, no lights, etc. We all scrambled over to ride the Endeavor out.

We did alright until we got to ‘Crewboat Cut’. We ran hard aground! I didn’t expect to have any trouble until much further down the river. The Atchafalaya River is always changing tho. We used to avoid this area by taking a bend in the river called the “Horseshoe”, but that stretch has been discontinued for navigation and the navigation aids removed. No telling what it was like.

Our 2 tugs tried hard to get us off the bottom. They struggled for at least 2-3 hours. Pushing and pulling, twisting and turning. The decision was made to call for another tug. We broke free just as the new tug “Mr Nicolas” arrived on scene.

They made fast and we proceeded on down the Atchafalaya. We made it as far as the ‘Lighthouse” before we were hard aground again. Another couple of hours spent to break us free, while questioning our chances of making it all the way out the river. The Lighthouse was only the 1st of the shallow spots I knew about. We still had at least 3 more to pass for sure.

The decision was made to turn back and try a different route. We cut the Endeavor loose as we turned into Bayou Chene and made our way through the ICW to the Houma Navigation Canal. I had some doubts about whether we would have the same problems there. I’d been through that way before and run aground there too.

Turns out, it was a good decision. We made it all the way out with no problems at all. I slept through most of it since I was going to be up all night on lookout. Nice scenery. I was  up to see Cocodrie, and the last lowland parts of Louisiana as we made our way through Terrebonne Bay and out Cat Island Pass.

We turned the tugs loose at the sea buoy, stumbled around in the dark until the engineers cranked up the engines, and we were off!

More to come! 😉

Met the Buzcador in Berwick

Sorry to have been out of touch for so long. I got a last minute job offer, and tho it was not what I was hoping for I was happy to get it.

I didn’t have much time to get ready, so I left the house with a lot of stuff unfinished. I meant to leave the house about 6 am, but with all the last minute stuff, and then phone calls all morning, I didn’t get on the road til around 10.

It was probably for the best. That allowed me to miss all the traffic in Houston and all along the way. It took me about 6 hours to drive from my house in Lake Jackson to where the boat was, in Berwick LA.

I had to meet a lady when I got close, to get passport photos taken for my Panama seaman’s book application. That took about an hour. I got to the boat about 5, already pretty tired.

The Buzcador was tied up next to a deck barge at Basin Fleeting, along the Atchafalaya River in Berwick. She was an old ex-Tidewater AHTS (anchor handling tug supply) and looked in pretty rough shape.

I drug my gear up the gangway and one of the crew showed me my room. I was pretty happy with it. It had just one bunk, a couch, 2 portholes where I could check the weather, a desk, plenty of storage space and my own head (bathroom). It also had a TV and DVD player, but I never bothered to turn them on so I don’t know if they worked or not.

I met the Captain, who I had worked with before on another boat. He was the one who pretty much got me this position. He had worked with this company before (I had never heard of them), and had made the winning bid to deliver the Buzcador to Colombia.

I hired on as AB. Of course I was hoping to get a mates position, but since I’ve been out of work for so long I was so happy just to get the AB job! At least it would get me out of the house and onto a boat. We were going on a voyage. Out of the Gulf of Mexico! I’m always excited about the chance to go somewhere new and interesting!

I met the other deckhands and QMED that night. I met the rest of the crew the next day. All together, there would be 8 of us making the trip. Captain Todd, Mate Noel, AB Sid, OS Marvin, QMED Wilson, Chief Engineer Carlos, and client rep Yesid.

We spent the next couple of days at the dock, working furiously to get the boat ready for the voyage. She had been cold stacked (tied to the dock with no crew) for years. Any boat will deteriorate if she’s not run regularly. The rust on deck is the last thing to worry about, it’s the machinery that is always the most concern. We had plenty to deal with in all departments.

While we were still at the dock, we had drills. Good thing, since it took a good, long while to get the fire pumps to work correctly. Electricians were still working on the alarm systems. We had outside mechanics to help too. Deck department was busy with cleaning, securing the ship for sea, preparing paperwork and voyage planning. Engineers definitely had the short end of the stick on this trip!

I’ll post more later, hopefully with more pictures. Like I said yesterday, I’m STILL having problems with my computers/internet!

I’m Back. Sorta

Hey! I made it!! The trip only took about 3 times longer than expected. I didn’t think I’d be out of touch for nearly so long. I’m so glad to see so many of you stuck around and didn’t jump ship on me.

We brought the ship into Cartagena (Columbia) this morning. It took us a couple of hours to get cleared by customs & immigration and to turn the ship over to it’s new owners.

Then it was off to find a hotel for the night (thanks to the personal generosity of the captain). Since we had no internet onboard, we had no way to look for anything beforehand. We had a recommendation for one from our Columbian client and we went there.

We wound up going to another place. It’s actually an apartment and close to the beach. We were all just happy to be off the ship. First order of duty was dinner and drinks! Cervezas! Margaritias!! The captain treated us to a nice dinner at the place across the street. Everybody came back to the apt and crashed afterward. I went for a walk.

I’ll tell you more of the story over the next few days. It’s after midnight and I’ll be up at 0630 in the morning. We leave here at 0730 for the airport. My flight leaves around 1030 (I still don’t know the exact details).

I heard my flight(s) will arrive into New Orleans around 2300. Then I still have to get back to the dock where I left my truck. It’s about a 6 hour drive from there to get home. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make that drive after being up all day. I’m not so good at staying up past 24 hours anymore.

So I won’t actually be home for another day or two. Look for me to catch up after that. 🙂