WISTA Sista’s Help Santa with Seafarers

Tonight was the annual get together of the Houston-Galveston area WISTA Sista’s to ready the Christmas care packages for our local seafarers. The Houston Pilots let us use their facility to organize the assembly of the boxes.

One side of the room had tables filled up with supplies for the shoe boxes: pens, mini-flashlights, pads of paper, snacks, candies, razors, hats, gloves, toothpaste, cards/envelopes, calendars, tissues, etc.

The other sides tables were filled with supplies for the assemblers (us)! 😉

Trays of cheese and crackers, sliced turkey and salami, pickles, olives, fruits and dip, sandwiches, tiny little cheesecakes, sodas, coffee and wine. 🙂

A few of us filled up the boxes, while others wrapped them up and tied ribbons. I’m not sure how many we made up, but we filled up 2 trucks by the end of the night. Half will go to Houston, and half to Galveston.

I’m not that much into Christmas. I usually work over the holidays. In fact, up until the last 2 years of this horrible downturn, I’ve worked every Christmas but 2 over the last 40 years! It’s great to be home with friends and family. To enjoy all the holiday spirit, traditions, good cheer and company.

Out on the ship, it’s hard to deal with the holidays sometimes. You miss all that’s going on at home. You may or may not have communications with your family (some ships still have no internet access for the crew and cell phones usually don’t work unless you’re in port). Most ships try to do something special for Christmas. They’ll set up a tree, put up some decorations and cook a special meal. Santa may even show up at the ship! 😉

You have no idea how much difference these little shoe boxes can make to a ships crew at Christmas. I’ve seen guys break down and cry. It does make you feel good to know that someone out there is thinking about you. Someone who you don’t even know, that wanted to make sure you had something special for Christmas.

I’m hoping I’ll be back at sea by Christmas! I don’t know if I’ll see Santa this year, but I know that there are people around the world who care for the seafarers (not just Houston, I know Freeport’s seaman’s center does and other seaman’s centers do too).

PS- WISTA is an organization of women in shipping and transportation- there are men members too, we call them WISTA Mr’s 🙂 We had a couple of students from Texas A&M tonight (male and female). We had women who work in insurance, logistics, trading, piloting, training, and sailing. The maritime industry covers a lot of ground, there are all sorts of jobs on shore and on the sea.

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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. 🙂

Back In New Orleans

Whew! It’s been a hectic couple of days. I actually got to work Monday-Tuesday this week. Was supposed to have Wednesday too, but the students finished up early and so no role players were needed. Sucks!! I really could’ve used that extra day of pay.

But, I put the extra time to good use. I’ve been trying hard to get my taxes to the accountant before leaving for this weeklong trip. I managed to get a few things sorted out and dropped off a package for her on the way to Houston this morning.

I made it just in time for the seminar the Nautical Institute was putting on at the WGMA facility (near the ship channel). They had a pretty good turnout. I was happy to see a few old friends there and had a chance to catch up a little bit. Might even turn into a bit more work for me.

They had 5 different presentations. Everything from how the new DP scheme worked to how the new regulations for low sulfur fuel affected ship handling, to a historical perspective re: shipping and refugees, a very interesting slideshow on the newly opened Panama Canal expansion, to testing life saving equipment in the Arctic (I certainly would NOT want to have to try using any of it up there)! It was really very interesting. Especially the part about polar bears and walrus. 😉

I left the seminar at 5:00 and of course got stuck in traffic. It wasn’t too bad yet and I made it to Hobby in plenty of time for my flight. Actually, I tried to get an earlier flight. I had plenty of time for it, but they would have charged me 3 times what I already paid to get the earlier flight. WOW!

I did not take the earlier flight. What the hell!? Why in the world do they do that sort of thing? It doesn’t cost them a single damn cent to put somebody on a different flight, but they all want to make like it’s some huge big deal and just gouge the hell out of you! All it does is ruin their customer satisfaction. Anybody out there work for the airlines have another reason for this other than that they do it because they can get away with it?

I just checked into my hotel. It was a pretty quick ride from the airport. It only took about a half hour. I took the shuttle ($36 round trip). Usually it takes much longer, it seems I’m always the last one they drop off.

I’m too tired to do much tonight. I arrived here after midnight so all I did was check out the room and go out for a cigarette (no smoking hotel). I was hoping for a room with a view, but no such luck. I’m right next to the elevators, convenient but noisy, and I’m looking at a wall about 20 ft away and down into a garage ($42 for parking- wow- gouging again). 😦

Looks like I got real lucky to get a room at all. Even in the short time I was down in the lobby, I heard 2 people that had reservations but the hotel had no more rooms. They were pissed (and I don’t blame them one bit)!

I’m so excited to finally be here! Looking forward to starting the travel writing workshop in the morning. It’s going to be a very full weekend. We’ll be in the workshop from 8-5 every day and then (of course) going out to explore at night.

I’ve already missed tonights bourbon tasting set up by a few people on the group Facebook page. That’s probably not something I really needed to do anyway. I’ve got plenty of plans for later, once I get a little sleep. 🙂

Zydeco Festival

Last Saturday I went up to Houston for the Zydeco Fest. I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to do much of anything around here. Just too much stress to enjoy the time at home. Weird, isn’t it? When I’m offshore working, I can’t wait to get off and spend time at home. Now that I’ve been home for so long without work, I can hardly stand it.

If I wasn’t so worried about finances, I would be off traveling somewhere. Since I have to be here to jump on any job offer that comes by (no matter how bad), I can’t leave or do anything really.

I had finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel last week (or thought I did), so I decided to go have a little celebration. I’ve always loved zydeco music, all kinds of music really- except rap and opera. I used to go up to Houston every couple of weeks. I’d go catch a live band, spend the night, and do a museum or something on the way home.

I got a late start last week and didn’t get to the show until about 5. They had it right downtown at Jones Plaza. I found a nice hotel only a couple of blocks away and not super expensive. The worst part was the parking fees! At least by the time I got to the show, it had cooled down a little. It was still hot! I didn’t bring anything to sit on and what few seats there were were already occupied.

I just walked around, looked over the little shops people set up- selling food, drinks, t-shirts, etc. They had a couple of food trucks parked by the entrance and more cooks scattered around the park. People were picnicking and enjoying the sunshine with their families. Old folks and babies, the whole range of ages loved the music. Everybody was dancing and having a good time.

I got there in time for the last part of Lil Nate and the Zydeco Big Timers. I saw Marcus Ardoin and the Zydeco Legend, and finished the night off with Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws (all the pictures are of Step and his band).

  

I didn’t find out til I was leaving the Zydeco Fest, but they also had a Gay Pride parade that evening. All the crowds from that were thronging the downtown streets right around the time they were shutting down the Zydeco Fest. It looked like it must have been a lot of fun. Everybody was in a good mood and from what I could see of the costumes, they all had a great time.

Houston needs to get a better way to let people know what’s going on around town!

Here’s a little music to tide us over til next year’s zydeco festival. 🙂

Happy Hour OTC

Part of the reason I haven’t been getting much done since I’ve been home this trip is the fact that I went to the OTC last week and the Happy Hour afterwards.

The one I went to on Tuesday is just one of many similar parties put on by various companies to make it ‘easy to do business’. Hey, I’m all for that!

This one was sponsored by Wilhelmsen (ships service) for the USMAAA (Kings Point grads). No, I didn’t graduate from Kings Point. I did apply after I graduated from high school on the sailing ships and decided I wanted to become a professional mariner. Too bad they turned me down because I was “too fat”.

Too fat for WHAT?

They couldn’t give me a good answer for that, neither could the Navy when I tried them afterwards. Oh well, I found ways to sail without either Kings Point OR the Navy. It just took me about 10 times longer to reach my goal of Unlimited Master. Too bad things have deteriorated so much in that time that it’s no longer worth being a ships master. 😦

It’s really great that the USMMAAA doesn’t actually require you to have gone to KP. They’re actually open to any member of the maritime community. I joined them a couple of years ago. I like to go to their events when I can.

This particular event was a happy hour held at Pappasito’s right around the corner from the OTC. They had a nice buffet with Mexican favorites like tortillas, burritos, quesadillas and plenty of beer and margaritas to wash it all down.

I met some interesting new people there and caught up with some old friends. That’s always my favorite part of these things. I love to learn more about all kinds of maritime subjects, but I really like to meet all the interesting people there and hear their stories. Some of them have been sailing even longer than I have!

I was having such a great time, I stayed a little longer than I should have. I didn’t get home til late and I’ve been making up for that late night ever since.

Can’t wait for the next one! 😉

OTC 2015

I haven’t really done much since I got home. I just can’t seem to get over the feeling of being so tired. I’ve been super lazy, but I did get out to go to the OTC in Houston on Tuesday.

I wanted to see all the neat new stuff they always have there. It’s a really great place to learn about what’s happening in the oilfield and get a feel for what the work situation will be like over the next year or so. I wasn’t able to go last year when it broke all records, but considering the price of oil and the feelings of most oilfield workers I’ve heard from, it did pretty good this year.

One thing they changed this year and I definitely did NOT like, was that they banned all photography. I really have no idea why they would do that and for someone that likes taking pictures as much as I do, it really SUCKS. Here’s a picture of the outside of the NRG center which is where the OTC is held in Houston every year.

I went to a lunch presentation about DP (Marine Technology for Dynamic Positioning). It seemed to be mostly promoting the German companies involved in the marine industries (MAN, Schottel, L-3) and wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I did meet some interesting tablemates: a couple of guys from Malaysia, a couple more from Turkey and an engineer from Paragon Drilling (which recently split off from Noble).

I wandered around for a few hours checking out all the displays. I was especially interested in the ones with new vessels coming out. I liked the ones from Ceona, McDermott, Boa and Subsea 7. I talked to a few people at the booths about future hiring possibilities. Sad to say (tho not unexpected in this market), most were not looking for any new crew.

I did meet a recruiter from Swift. They had a booth outside and were the only ones I met who were very actively looking for people to sign on. I was happy to talk over job prospects in their air conditioned tent over a beer. My feet were starting to ache after 4-5 hours of walking around!

All in all an interesting day, but if I’m home again next year I’ll go on Thursday when it’s FREE!

Photo 101: Edge & Alignment

Here’s my entry for the Day 18: Edge assignment. I think it’s ‘edgy’ in more ways than one. 😉

I took it at the Houston Museum of Art. It’s in the tunnel between the 2 parts of the museum. It changes colors (slowly) and it’s really neat to watch when people are going through it.

I haven’t seen anyone fall off the edge yet, but I checked it out and you wouldn’t fall very far. 😉

Photography 101 Challenge: Edge

Here’s my post for Day 18: Edge of the Photography 101 challenge. I think it’s pretty edgy in a couple of ways. 😉

Since I just saw the email from the Daily Post re:Converge, I’m going to use this post and photo for that challenge too. 🙂

I took this picture (and about 1000 more) at the Houston art museum. Problem is somehow I lost a huge amount of them. I have no idea what happened. I was glad I still had some left.

I like that museum. Actually, there are 2 of them. There’s the Museum of Fine Arts (FREE Thursdays) and the Contemporary Arts Museum (FREE always!) right across the street.

This picture is from the tunnel between them. They always have some good stuff to see and they have new exhibits pretty much every month. It’s worth checking out if you’re in Houston.

How to Host an Oktoberfest Party

How to Host an Oktoberfest Party – Betty Crocker.

Since I’ll be going back to work soon, I’ll be missing Octoberfest this year. It actually started in Munich yesterday.

It’s already over here in Houston. I might have gone if I knew about it earlier. Really, I just had too much to do at home to check out fun things to do. 😦

It’s always like that when I first come home from being offshore for a month or more. With this new job I recently started it looks like I’ll be missing ALL of the things I’d like to do for the next few months at least. 😦

Here are some fun suggestions for those of you who DO get a chance to enjoy some interesting events on your time off. 🙂

Those pretzels look especially interesting. And beer is always good, I even have some Saint Arnold Octoberfest brew in my fridge right now, I’ll just have to settle for a few of those before I leave for work. 🙂

Frantic Flying to Frankfurt

I’ve got a couple of hours layover here in Frankfurt so will write a quick post. 😉

I’ve already been up for over 24 hours (I can never sleep on a plane, I have to be lying down to get any sleep at all), and I don’t know how much longer it will be before I can get to sleep once I get to Aberdeen (Scotland). I might not have another chance to post for a while. 😦

I had a hell of a time getting to the airport in Houston. I was late leaving the house (as usual), but I got to the airport in just over an hours time (really good time, actually).

When I dropped off the rental car, they had me go to the front desk to get the paperwork taken care of instead of with the little handheld machine they usually have. It took a few minutes longer.

My ticket said “LUFTHANSA”, the signs at the airport said Lufthansa is in terminal D. So, I got off the bus at terminal D. No such thing as Lufthansa there. I asked some airport workers and they said Lufthansa is at terminal E.

So, I rushed over to terminal E. There was no such thing as Lufthansa at terminal E. Only United! I asked at terminal E and they said Lufthansa was at terminal D. So, I rushed back over to terminal D.

I was pretty damn frustrated at that point and freaking out about missing my flight. I hadn’t even checked in yet and it was about an hour before scheduled departure time. I asked for some help at the Qatar Airlines desk and a lady was kind enough to check for me. Yes, it was a CODESHARE flight with United!

Why the hell didn’t it say that on the ticket or the website when I double checked my reservation? I was frantically running back and forth between terminals and all along it was  a United flight and NOT Lufthansa!

I actually made it through security (what a freakin’ joke!) and got to the gate with 3 minutes to spare before the scheduled departure time. I looked at my boarding pass and they had me in boarding group 5.

I was a little bewildered by that. I mean, is EVERYBODY who flies on United an elite member now? I thought there was supposed to be priority boarding for elite members. When I looked again at my boarding pass, I noticed they didn’t put my frequent flyer number on there and I wanted to make sure I got credit for the flight, so I went up to the desk and asked about it.

Turns out, they didn’t have me in the system at all (good thing I had time to check) and when they put my number in, I was moved to group 2. Much better.

I had time to do all that since the flight was delayed. 😉

It’s a good thing I didn’t have a real tight connection in Frankfurt!

This Video Will Make You Want to Become a Houston Harbor Pilot

gCaptain Maritime & Offshore News | This Video Will Make You Want to Become a Houston Harbor Pilot.

 

I agree! It’s a good video, a good advertisement for the Houston Pilots.

I almost don’t even think about it any more; what a pilot does, what it takes to become one, what it’s like to be one, how much we depend on them.

I’ve sailed on dozens of ships when we’ve used pilots. I’ve been on the helm entering Cape Hinchinbrook going to Valdez, AK. I’ve been on the helm entering San Francisco Bay heading up to Benicia. I’ve been on the helm passing through New York Harbor. I’ve been on the helm transiting the Houston Ship Channel.

I’ve always admired the skill, experience and local knowledge the pilots have. They’re a fantastic aid to any ship passing through an unfamiliar port.

I’ve never really wanted to be a pilot myself, tho it is definitely a challenging job. I still like traveling and HOPE to be able to go somewhere interesting again one of these days. Pilots are experts on their port and they stay in one place.

It seems the pilots job is one most captains hope for one day but not me. 😉

Free Stuff!!

Museum Day Live! 2013 Registration.

This is a link to the Smithsonians’ Museum Day. Saturday 9/28. It’ll give you and a guest FREE admission to a museum you choose. Its not only the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.. There are links to museums all over the country. You can search by subject or by location.

In Houston, you can choose among the Buffalo Soldiers National MuseumDunham Bible MuseumHolocaust Museum HoustonHouston Center for Contemporary CraftLawndale Art Center, and a favorite of mine in Galveston the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum. There is the tall ship Elissa right there too, if you do happen to hit the Ocean Star Museum, you can make it a maritime day and enjoy lunch on the waterfront watching the cruise ships dock.

New Bridge Simulators for Houston Pilots

Houston Pilots, San Jacinto College Provide.

This is great news for the Houston Pilots and San Jacinto College. I’m sure those simulators will benefit not only the pilots but the entire maritime community. I think SanJac has a good program and a good network around the area with the various companies that need to train maritime workers. I went up there (Pasadena) to look into doing some part time teaching on my time off. I actually got to help teach a class 🙂

My class was off a jack-up rig. They had probably never seen a real lifeboat before. For sure they didn’t have them on their rig! But for whatever reason, their company decided they all needed to get certified as lifeboatmen. So, we started from scratch in the classroom. We went over all the things they could find in a lifeboat and life raft, we went out in the parking lot to practice with the signaling mirror. We even took a ride over to Texas A & M in Galveston to practice launching and rowing a REAL lifeboat! Everybody got a chance to be in charge of lowering the boat. Everybody got to be coxswain (in charge of the boat) once it was in the water. Everybody got some time on the oars. It was a fun day 😉

I hope to get another chance to help out up there again. Capt Mitch Schacter is in charge over there and he’s really been working hard to make it a success. This simulator will be a big help!

Fast-Food Strike Means Time to Buy Gold – Sovereign Investor

Fast-Food Strike Means Time to Buy Gold – Sovereign Investor

Another good article showed up in my email today. I really have a hard time keeping up with all the interesting newsletters I get. Some are free, some I pay for, I enjoy reading all of them (when I have the time). This one today is on the fast food workers strike. Funny, cause I was at a hotel in Galveston this morning after visiting a friend up there last night. I had to get up early for a job interview and get home by 0800 when it was supposed to start. So anyway, I don’t usually watch TV and especially not the news since it either gets me pissed off or depressed. This morning, they were interviewing one of the leaders of the fast food workers strike. He said they were actually ALREADY OFFERED $14/hour! They turned it down???!! This is for flipping burgers! Basically a low skilled, entry level job. The TV interviewer also mentioned that they wanted to interview more people for the show but they could only find 2 (!) that spoke English and so they had a major issue with communication. The strikers reasoning was that “they can afford it”. Well, yeah, they probably can afford it (especially if they are not going to pay their CEO and other bigwigs multi-million dollar salaries), but what else goes into the cost of labor at these places other than just salary? Do they get ANY benefits?? Training? Uniforms? Discounts? I don’t know, I’ve never worked in a fast food place. I did work in a small family owned restaurant as a dishwasher when I was a kid, I worked at a place in the mall that sold hot dogs when I first moved to Texas, I worked occasionally as a bartender when I couldn’t get offshore for whatever reason. That is my entire experience with that kind of work. I also worked as a head housekeeper at a big resort which didn’t pay much either even tho it was a supervisory position. I was able to survive on those low wages. I accepted the fact that my skills were not worth much to my employer and that when I learned to be more useful, I would be able to work my way up and earn more money (which I did). So, can somebody please explain to me why the people who work that kind of job should be able to demand that kind of money? Why don’t they just go find another job that pays better, has more benefits, whatever? Remember, this was HOUSTON where they were doing the TV interview I saw. Houston is in another of its periodic booms at the moment. There are all kinds of places crying for workers, especially offshore, where they DO pay good money, even for relatively unskilled labor. I just don’t get it, what do they think they’re going to accomplish? They get more pay and everybody else will too, and EVERYTHING will go up in price as well, its called inflation! The laws of unintended consequences are bound to strike here and the strikers will be worse off than they are now (along with the rest of us).

Catching up

Wow! I’ve been busy the last couple of days… I did manage to get off the rig on Tuesday morning. Confusion with crew change up to the very last minute. The original plan was to change out at Fourchon and fly from New Orleans to Houston. Plans changed Monday noon time. Now we were going to have to fly out of Lake Charles. So, scrambling to change my reliefs flights so he could get to Lake Charles by 0530 to catch the helicopter. Flying from there added about an hour onto the flights since we had to stop in Fourchon to get more fuel. They made it to the rig and we all got off, had some interesting weather on the way in. Lots of squalls, lightning in some of them. I was glad when we landed.

So, from Lake Charles, they picked me up and we drove straight to the airport in Houston. I had some time there to relax a little bit before my flight to Boston. I got in after midnight and didn’t get to sleep until about 0200.

The blogging workshop was great. I got a lot out of it. We did some critiques of the blogs some of the others had started already. I met a bunch of really fantastic, interesting people. We continued our fun and conversations over drinks and dinner at the hotel. So, another late night for me 🙂

Today we started the actual travel writing workshop. We learned some tips to help us catch the editors attention and some rules for great photos. There was about 100 people there. Again, I met some of the most interesting people. From all over the world, Australia, Italy, France, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, and all over the US. Happy hour tonight (with free drinks and snacks) helped us get to know each other a bit better.

I’ll try to catch up and get a few more things on here tonight but will have to stop soon, another early wakeup tomorrow 😉

I’ll try to get some photos on here in the next couple of days, I’ve got a great view of the river from my window. The moon has been full and I managed to get some decent shots from the window on arrival. Last night I went back downstairs (outside) to get some better ones 🙂

What’s going on with me today

OK, this blog has been fun so far 🙂 I’ve been learning so much. Still have a lot to go. I’ve just been putting some of the interesting stuff I come across during the day on here. Tomorrow morning I’ll be leaving the rig and heading to Boston for a class on writing/photography/blogging (by AWAI). I’m REALLY cutting it close. I didn’t plan on being on the move on the rig for crew change. I just have to hope things don’t get too screwed up in the morning and I can make it to the airport in Houston on time. The way things are supposed to work is: my relief will arrive at the heliport in Lake Charles, LA by 0530. They will leave around daylight as long as the weather looks good (no rain). They will have to stop in Fourchon for fuel so they should get out here by 0800? They will fuel again here. We should leave here by 0900, stop to fuel up in Fourchon and hopefully arrive in Lake Charles by 1100. I have a driver waiting for me there and IF all goes well, we should make it to IAH (Bush Intercontinental) by 1500. Nothing usually works out as scheduled in the oilfield! If I make it to IAH on time, I’ll hang out in the lounge and might be able to get on here to say a few things. My flight leaves at 1900, I arrive in Boston at midnight. So, straight to the hotel and BED! Up at 0600 to get ready for class at 0800! WOW! I am really excited about it. I hope I can absorb everything they’re going to be teaching us 😉