Early or Late?

I’m sure it’s one or the other. I got another short term gig on the Rowan Relentless. This trip was my third time onboard as DPO. When they called to ask if I was available, it was for 3 weeks. When they sent me the ticket to fly to New Orleans, the date I was to return home was only one week later. I called to find out why and they told me that the guy I was relieving would be back in only a week.

Seven days is better than nothing, so I happily went to work. When I got there, the other DPOs told me not to worry, I would be there for 3 weeks. Huh?

As the end of the first week arrived, I waited to hear if my relief would be coming for crew change. Nope. I was good for at least another week.

Next week, same story. I was wondering would I be going home on crew change or staying for another week?

I found out the night before crew change I would be going home. Hey, I made two whole weeks! Crew change one week later or one week earlier depending on how you look at it. I’m happy to have the work and happy to have plenty of time at home to get all the things done I need to do before I leave for my next adventure. 🙂

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In the Wake of Michael

I’m interested to see what will happen in the morning. I (finally) got a call to go back to work on Monday. I flew out this afternoon after rushing around yesterday and this morning to get everything done I needed to do before leaving town. I’ve pretty much been on call for the last couple of years, so stay as ready as I can. Half way packed all the time, but  I can never seem to get the groceries right and always wind up having to throw out a bunch of good food. I hate that!

Right now I’m at the hotel in New Orleans, waiting for the crew change van which will pick us up at 0400. The alarm is set for 0300. We’re supposed to be at the heliport at 0500 to fly out to the rig at 0600.

I can never sleep the night before crew change. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. I try to get some sleep and just toss and turn until about 1/2 hour before I have to get up.  It doesn’t help that my usual bedtime when I’m home is midnight or later. It’s the same when I’m coming home from the ship. Can’t sleep until I get home and then I don’t want to do anything but sleep for 2-3 days!

I checked the location of the rig out of curiosity on Monday. While I was doing that, I checked the weather, just to see. Looks like the rig was pretty much directly in the path of hurricane Michael.

I’ve been checking up on both since then. Position of rig. Position of hurricane. Looks to me like the eye passed pretty damn close to the rig. I bet the DPOs had some pretty stressful watches for the last couple of days.

I’m really curious to hear how the ship rode it out. What kind of winds and seas were there on their location? What kind of footprint did they have? I’m assuming they were latched up since last time I was on there, they were going to start a new contract the first part of September. Normally, we don’t like to move more than a couple of meters. I’m wondering how much they moved around in the storm.

I was a little surprised they didn’t move out of the way of the storm’s predicted track. Then again, I think Michael came up fairly quickly. Might not have been enough time for them to shut everything down, unlatch from the well and move far enough away to make a difference. It looked to me like the worst of the storm passed a little to the East of them, good thing the storm followed along the expected track.

Michael has moved inland now, so weather offshore should be calming down. I drove up the beach to Galveston today (for a job fair at Texas A&M). Tide was very high and the waves were decent sized. All the surfers were out having a blast. That’s about the only time we get ‘decent’ surf- when there’s a hurricane in the Gulf.

I’ll be out for at least a week. Maybe longer (I hope so). I may or may not have enough internet access to blog, so if you don’t hear from me for a while that’s why.

Writers Block

Or just plain old laziness?

I have to say, it’s a little of both.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. That’s never been a problem for me. It’s if I have anything I think will be interesting to say (to you- my readers).

Since my last post, I went back out to sea on the same ship. It was still quite chaotic on there and I didn’t have much time or internet access. I was wiped out at the end of the day and just not up to trying to get online.

I was out for 2 weeks (working nights), home for a week and then out for another 2 weeks (on a different ship- back to working nights). While I was home, I was busy with trying to catch up on the usual: mail, bills, car, paperwork, housework, yard work, etc. I also had to take a physical for the job I was up for. I wasn’t positive I would get that job, so I signed up to work at Maersk again as a role player.

Turns out I did get the job, so I had to leave Maersk after only 2 days. I went straight to the airport from work the second day. Flew over to New Orleans and joined the ship the next day.

I was supposed to spend 3 weeks onboard. We finished the job early. The client was in a huge rush to sign off on completion. We wound up back at the anchorage (otherwise known as the “drillship graveyard”) off SW Pass a week earlier than expected.

Once the ship was anchored, they didn’t need 2 officers on the bridge anymore. They sent me home a week early. I think things may finally be improving a little bit offshore. I’ve had more work since April than I’ve had (total) for the last 3 years. It’s nowhere near normal tho.

They’ve cut costs everywhere possible. Small crew sizes are unsustainable, but the clients (oil companies) are pushing everything to the limits. I hate to think about the problems they are bringing on themselves by being so short sighted. As usual, I’m sure it will take a major accident before they consider doing what they should’ve been doing all along.

I’ve been home a few days now. I’m still trying to recover from switching my schedule back and forth from nights to days again. I need to just spend a couple of days sleeping in, not doing anything else!

I haven’t been able to do that yet. I still have too many things on my “to do” list. 😉

PS- check my Instagram feed for a few photos. I’ll try to get a few more up here in the next few days.

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.

Shallow Wells

We’ve been very busy out here on the rig since I got here. We’ve already done 2 wells and should be finished up and ready to move off this one by tomorrow night. Whew!

The next one should take at least a week, maybe 2. So maybe we won’t have to move again before I’m due off. 🙂

I REALLY don’t like this shallow water drilling!

We are working here on a ‘deepwater drillship’. It’s optimized for working in DEEP water (more than the 500m we’ve been working in lately)! Here’s one of ours, I was working on it a couple of hitches ago.

They’re nice ships, but much better to work the kinds of jobs they’re intended for.

Capt Jills Year In Review

I got that cool ‘Year in Review’ email from WordPress about my blog. I see in my reader that a lot of other people are posting about how their blogs did through the year. I’ll probably make a post like that too. I thought it might be a good idea to post a review about some of the things I did this last year and what I’m hoping to do next year.

I got off the DS-5 Jan 9 and had a couple of weeks at home. As usual, I spent most of my time at home catching up with paperwork and projects around the house. I also had to take care of some medical things.

I had recently signed up as an ‘energy consultant’ with Ambit Energy (I’m always trying to find SOME way to earn a living without having to spend time at work), so I went for some training in Houston with my friend and sponsor. I still haven’t managed to actually sign anybody up myself yet (I don’t know many people who live in Texas that I can talk to about it and I usually forget to bring it up til it’s too late). Contact me if you’re in Texas and want to save on your electric bill! 😉

Ensco DS-5 (ex: Deep Ocean Mendocino)

Ensco DS-5 (ex: Deep Ocean Mendocino)

I got to relax a little bit and visit with some friends but then it was time to get ready to go back to work. I left for the DS-3 on Jan 29. I got off there earlier than planned (more on that in another post later) and got to go home for 1 night. Left the next day to join the Ocean Alliance.

Ocean Alliance

Ocean Alliance

That was nice. I got to see a lot of old friends from when I used to work direct for Oceaneering on the Performer. I wrote a little bit about that hitch earlier. I really loved that job and the people there. I wish they would have kept us all overseas. We really were like one big happy family.

When I got off, I had almost 3 weeks at home. I made good use of it. Besides the usual catching up on paperwork and household issues (restock groceries, pay bills, fix sink, fix toilet, etc.), I got to go to a few interesting events. Other than my usual Tuesday night Campaign for Liberty meetings,  I went to a Sail La Vie meeting and then went out sailing with them the next weekend. I made it to the Houston Rodeo. I found the Houston Maritime Museum the next morning. It’s small, but definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

We dealt with the rain at Surfsides St Patricks’ Day Parade. Everybody got soaked but we all had a good time anyway. Plenty of green beer and Irish whiskey helped out with that! Texas A & M in Galveston had a WISTA meeting where they had a nice presentation and the cadets were full of questions about working with DP. I stayed in Galveston overnight and went to Moody Gardens before heading home the next day.

I was aboard the Deepwater Pathfinder March 26th- April 7th. Then home a few days to get ready for my trip to Korea for another travel writing and photography workshop (with GEP).

That was a fantastic trip! I met so many wonderful, interesting people. In the workshop and before, when I was wandering around on my own from Incheon to Busan to Geoji to Seoul. The only thing that could have improved the trip was if the Sewol disaster had never happened. It was a very sad time for everyone in Korea.

I got home from Korea May 15th and immediately started getting ready to go to work for Ocean Rig. I really preferred working for the agencies as I had been for the last few years, but with Obamacare fixin’ to screw me royally if I didn’t bow down and buy into that humongous scam, I had to suck it up and take a regular job. I’m still not sure I did the right thing. I just hope I can find a way to move out of the US SOON, so I can escape that trap!

Anyway, I got put on the payroll May 26th and then started running around with more errands for work. I had to do some things before they’d allow me to actually go to work for them. Shots, paperwork, photos, more paperwork, etc.

They sent me to the Basic Safety Training course (again!!- I’ve been certified to teach that course) and wouldn’t listen at all when I told them it was NOT required and they were wasting their money and my time. Since I hadn’t even stepped aboard one of their ships yet, I figured I had better just suck it up and go to the class AGAIN. USELESS! AS ALWAYS!!

A total waste of their money and my time, just as expected. But, I figured I should at least give them a TRY before I quit. So, I had to suffer through one MORE class that I’ve had (more than once) that was totally un-necessary. They sent me all the way to Aberdeen Scotland to take the lifeboat course. I’ve been a lifeboatman since 1979! NO need to re-take that course, but they insist. In fact, I’ve found out that they insist that we all re-take these courses every 2 YEARS!

I’m wondering just when, exactly, are we EVER going to get the time off we are all working offshore to earn?

So I left for Aberdeen on June 28 and went straight to my first Ocean Rig vessel as soon as the course was over. After a couple of days on the plane, I made it to Luanda and then flew right offshore to my ship. They sent me home on my birthday, so that was a nice present. 🙂

I got home July 31 and left again for another ship Aug 12! Not much time to even catch up on sleep, but that’s pretty much all I tried to do that time. I did make Shark Night at Moody Gardens and my Tuesday night political meetings. 🙂

Skyros from Aug 12-Sept 12. Not a bad hitch. Nice ship, nice crew. I was still glad to get off tho. 😉

I got home from the Skros Aug 12 and since I was due to have approx 28 days off, I scheduled a couple of things. I finally got to work on one of my rental houses. We’ve been trying to get the rotten wood and siding changed out for about 2 years now. Termite damage. I’ll have to tell you about the major project that’s become! I spent a week with my maintenance gal and another helper cutting out the damaged wood and replacing it with new. Now there’s only 1 more side of the house to do and it will be finished. At least that part of it. 😉

When that job was done, I left for the Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas conference in Las Vegas. I left a little early so I could have an actual vacation for a couple of days before the conference started. I love to learn all they have to teach us about how to move and live overseas, but it does get a little overwhelming sometimes. I like to have a little time to just chill out, hang out at the pool, play the slots, etc.

I got home Oct 6th and due to dept for the Olympia Oct 7th. I was ready to go (barely) but for once the gods smiled on me and my visa was delayed for days. Yes, I was ‘on call’ and checking my email constantly, but I got to spend a whole extra week at home! 🙂

I left for the Olympia Oct 14 and spent the next month aboard. I got home Nov 7th and spent the next few days arranging appointments I needed to renew my USCG documents. Then I had to go to the fast rescue course required by my company, so I spent a couple of days in Galveston. Hit the eye doctor, dentist and hairdresser before the weekend so I could leave again Sunday for another course.

I spent the week of Nov 16-21 in Baltimore at MITAGS for the Leadership course. It’s newly required by the USCG to keep my license due to STCW 2010 amendments. It wasn’t a bad week, it just gets old spending so much of what is SUPPOSED to be my vacation time taking redundant (VERY expensive) courses that never actually teach anything useful.

I got home again about 0300 Saturday morning but too tired to do anything that entire weekend but hang around the house and catch up on mail and email. I was hoping to be able to go sailing, but just couldn’t motivate myself enough to get out of the house that day. 😦

I heard from work that I was requested again on the Poseidon, so I got a little extra time off. I used it to go to New Orleans for the Workboat Show. I was in New Orleans from Dec 2-7. I got home after midnight Sunday and so had to catch up on sleep again on Monday. I had that whole week to just hang out around the house and rest before leaving on the 15th for the Poseidon. I’ve been here ever since. 🙂

So, now you’ve got a pretty good idea of how I spend my time. At least, the kinds of things I do when I’m not at home. Which is most of the time, as you can see from this post. 😉

Santa DID Show Up!

We had our doubts that Santa would find us out here. All the way out in the middle of nowhere. Offshore Angola, actually. It’s a long way from where most of us call home. But, even tho Santa may have encountered a few problems along the way, he DID finally show up. 🙂

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Rambling On: Crew Change, Korea, and the Frontier Discoverer

I made it to the airport! I was only out a short time this trip, but going home still feels as good as ever. I was out on the Deepwater Pathfinder. It was a pretty good hitch, even if it was shorter than usual.

I was a little frustrated over the weekend with not being able to get a flight out of New Orleans til early evening. Hard to believe there wasn’t an available flight til almost 1800!

Turns out there is a big golf tournament going on in Houston and all the flights are booked solid.

I was lucky to get a flight at all!

Really, it worked out that I was on the late flight since the weather was foggy with a cold front between us and the heliport. I didn’t get to the airport til almost 1300. At least I wasn’t panicking about missing my flight. 😉 It all worked out in the end.

So, I should be able to catch up a little bit here over the next few days and get ready for my trip to Korea. It’s only about a week away, YEAH!

I really have no idea what to do there other than the travel writing/photography workshop I’m going to Seoul for. I haven’t had time or internet availability to do any research. Anybody have any suggestions? I have a couple of weeks before the class and a week after.

I was thinking I might go down to Busan to visit the company I used to work with when I was on the tuna boat. The new captain on the ship I just got off mentioned that they have a good maritime university in Busan. That sounds like it might be worth checking into.

I’m hoping to go see an old friend I used to work with at Oceaneering. He’s an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) mechanic. When they brought our boat to the Gulf of Mexico to work, he was able to get a transfer to Korea and has been working there ever since.

I would have LOVED to do that too, but Oceaneering only had one vessel over 1600 tons and so they didn’t have any other jobs to offer me. Being a ships officer/DPO doesn’t make for an easy job transfer when there isn’t any other ship. I felt I had no other option but to leave at the first opportunity.

Too bad, they sent the ship out of the Gulf only a couple of months later. When I found out, I was sad I didn’t stay longer. The job I took instead turned into a disaster and I didn’t even stay for the whole trip. 😦

I hated to quit that job. It sounded so perfect when I decided to take it! I had never really been interested in drilling since it always seemed so BORING. Sit in one spot for months on end, never moving, never really doing much ‘SAILING’.

But this one seemed to be a great option. It was supposed to work in Alaska in the summer and Australia in the winter. I would actually get to do quite a bit of sailing. 🙂

But when I got to the ship, I felt a little queasy. Not because I was seasick!

The ship was in bad shape. It was old. It was rusty. It had issues. LOTS of issues!

It was basically an old ship (built 1966!!) that they had cleared off the topsides, then stuck a new house and a drilling rig on top of it. It had not been taken care of properly. I was not comfortable with it at all.  Bad news. 😦

I’m not any sort of safety nazi, not by a long shot, but I was really concerned about the condition of that ship and the lack of concern for all of the ordinary things we seamen look out for.

I stayed on there as long as I could, hoping that things would improve. I finally had to leave after only 3 weeks. I couldn’t stick around knowing the problems that were bound to come up. No job is worth my license I’ve worked so long and hard to earn, or my life! This one was seriously putting both at risk.

I couldn’t figure out WHY they would want to bring an old piece of sh*t like that up to work in the pristine waters of Alaska, KNOWING Greenpeace would be all over them.

Turns out, they DID have all kinds of problems on the trip to Alaska and since. They’re presently back in Asia in the shipyard (again) and all plans for Alaskan drilling on hold (again).

I wonder if that was the plan all along? If they had a nice, new, fully functioning rig would there have been such an outcry? Would there have been so many problems? Would the oil companies all have put off their plans to follow the success of this adventure in Alaska?

I don’t know, but I think if they had a better ship/rig, they would be drilling by now instead of still spending a fortune in the shipyard. Was all this a case of trying to save a few bucks by using old, worn out equipment? If so, they sure messed up on THAT decision!

Is she, or isn't she aground? I'm sure glad I got off when I did!

Is she, or isn’t she aground? I’m sure glad I got off when I did!