Change of Plans

Things are always up in the air with me lately. I was supposed to come out here for 6 weeks as DPO. I came out as DPO and after a few days, I was informed that I was really supposed to be MSL (marine section leader). Basically MSL is the same thing as a chief mate.

Whoo-hooo! I got promoted. But I didn’t want to be. I probably would have refused to take the job in the first place if they had told me the truth about what they wanted.

The company who hired me and the client who hired them both refuse to pay me as MSL tho I have been doing the job now for a couple of weeks (since last crew change). So. I am leaving.

How many people do you think are happy to do the work of one job and get paid a much lower rate for another job? I think only very young people trying to break in, to prove themselves. Or really super desperate people who have given up their pride and principles and have nothing at all to live on. We all do a lot of things we may not like to when it comes down to survival. Thank goodness I have not got to that point yet this time around.

I’ve worked too damn hard, for too damned long in order to earn my license. I don’t like the fact that they seem to think it’s worthless here.

I will go home after only 4 weeks of work. Very disappointed with the whole operation.

Oh well, it’ll be nice to be home for a while. I just hope it’s not such a long while! I need to find another job asap!

I’m hoping hurricane Harvey didn’t do much damage to my property. It would be nice to be able to stash some of this paycheck (just in case).

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SoCS: Vol

Linda’s challenge today for Stream of Conciousness Saturday is…

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “vol.” Find a word with “vol” in it, and use it in your post. Have fun!

My first thought was ‘volvo’, I don’t know anything about them. I’m not really into cars, especially not newer models. Then I thought of ‘volunteer’. I volunteer sometimes at our local Seamans Center (in Freeport, TX). I haven’t been able to lately. I’ve just been too busy. I don’t really understand that, since I have hardly been working.

Usually I work offshore. I’m gone for weeks at a time and then home for a while. When I’m home, I have to catch up with all the things I didn’t get to do while I was gone.

Since I haven’t been working, I figured I’d be able to get a lot done. It hasn’t worked out that way at all. I spend so much time looking for work! I also found a couple of part time jobs so that takes up even more of my time.

Oh well. I will continue to volunteer when I can. As a seafarer for most of my life, I appreciate how much any Seamans Center is worth to a sailor. Maybe not quite so much as in the old days, when we had to wait to go ashore and then go find a telephone office. We’d have to wait in line for hours to call home.

Now we have phones on board and some people even have cel phones so they can call home once the ship gets near enough to land. The Seamans centers still offer phones to call home. Now they also have internet access (a BIG plus).

It’s a friendly place in a strange port where you can go hang out and be comfortable.

Anyway, volunteer was only my first good thought. My next thought, and the one I really wanted to write about was voluntarism.

That is at least as important to me as volunteering. In a way they’re connected. I strongly believe that we should all follow the principle of voluntarism. I think it’s the best way to live together as a society. Everyone free to live the way they want, with no one else forcing them into a mold they don’t fit into. All doing the things they really want to do. The way I understand voluntarism is- living life through voluntary actions.

That means I am against the use of force. I agree with the Libertarian NAP (non-agression principle- which does allow for defense of self and others). I do not think any (responsible) human being has the right to control another as long as a person is not harming anyone. There are all kinds of arguments that can be thrown out there, like ‘what does it mean to be responsible?’, ‘what does it mean to harm someone?’. etc, etc, etc.

Serious libertarians spend hours debating such questions. I am just a libertarian ‘lite’. I want to live a peaceful, prosperous life. I want to live as a free human being. I want everyone else in the world to have the same ability.

So many people think it would never work. But it has worked in the past. If you look at the most prosperous, the most advanced societies on the planet you’ll find out that they also had the most liberty. Just compare North and South Korea for a good idea of what I’m talking about. People who are free to live as they chose can get very creative and they do mostly find ways to get along.

I was reading something just the other day about an ancient city. I think it was in Turkey somewhere. The article mentioned that it was, in fact, an anarchy. If this wasn’t a SoCS post, I would go and look it up (I will do that later and post on it). 😉

In the meantime, check out my sticky post at the top of my blog. Take the quiz and see where you stand on the idea.

Thorny

Here’s my response to the Daily Posts’ prompt: thorny..

😉

Actually, I have been dealing with a thorny situation, as in these 2 meanings of the word…

4. painful; vexatious:a thorny predicament.

5. full of difficulties, complexities, or controversial points:

a thorny question.
As all my long term peeps know by now, I’ve been stuggling to find work since I was laid off by Ocean Rig in September 2015. Due to the low price of oil, their contracts had been cancelled and so they just laid off their crews en mass. I’m not even elgible for unemployment since they are not a US company. Jeez, after more than 30 years of paying into it, I can’t get any help when I need it!
Since Ocean Rig laid me off, I’ve spent enourmous amounts of time and energy looking for work. Preferrably on a boat of some sort. Any kind of boat. Any kind of work. I’ve worked my way up from deckhand to unlimited master and was applying for anything from galley hand (dishwasher and potato peeler) to captain.
Since September of 2015, I have had a total of 1 month as DPO in November 2015. One month as AB in August 2016. One month as DPO in May this year, another month as mate, and then this hitch that I’m on right now.
So yeah, I’ve been pretty desperate to find work. I was happy to get this job for 6 weeks. Yesterday was hump day- halfway. I signed on as DPO (dynamic positioning operator) 3 weeks ago. The vessel is a drilling rig. We have been anchored just South of the MIssissippi Delta (along with a fleet of other laid up rigs), since I got here.
There was some talk of a contract when I came out, but that hope seems to have faded (tho you never know- we could get called to go to work tomorrow).
The problem is this: I was hired to be a DPO. I am being paid as a DPO. Onboard the ship, I have been performing the duties of a chief mate (MSL- marine section leader). There is a big step up in duties and responsibilities (tho the DPOs have plenty as it is).
The company will not pay me as a MSL, they say they only want a DPO. That is not really the way it works on board any vessel. You have a Captain(Master), and then you have a chief mate who is second in command. There are legal ramifications. You really can’t just say you won’t do the job. I guess the people in the office don’t understand how things work in the maritime world (tho they damn sure should!).
I am a licensed mariner. I worked hard as hell for a lot of years to earn that license. I don’t think it’s right for a company to take advantage of someones desire for a job to use them for one thing (their license) and pay them for something less. Even worse is to hire them as one thing with no mention of the other until it’s too late. You can’t just walk out the door! We’re 20+ miles offshore, it’s a long way to swim. 😦
So, the thorny problem: I really need the work. I’m almost 2 years behind on my bills/plans for my life. I also don’t want to allow someone to use the license I worked so hard for. The deal is, they want a licensed officer on their vessel, they have to pay for one. That’s just the way it works. Or, it should be.
There are way too many companies out there today taking advantage of financially desperate mariners. It’s sad.
I want to work. I need to work. But, I also need to be able to hold my head up high and stick to my principles.
What would you do?
PS- Any clues on how to fix the formatting, so I can make real paragraphs again?

Third Week on the SLou

I’m still here. I haven’t been able to keep up with the blogging since last weeks crew change. Priorities have changed. I’ve been much more busy. Pretty much the entire crew changed out. The only ones left were me, the medic, the crane operator and most of the galley crew (3 guys). There are only 20 of us total on here now. Usually there are about 200.

We have a new captain. I was made MSL (marine section leader), which is basically the oilfield way of saying Chief Mate. The problem with that is that I was sent out here to be a DPO, with a contract and pay as a DPO. There is a whole ‘nother level of responsibilty that I have now, that I didn’t plan on and don’t really want. Especially if I’m not going to be paid for it.

It’s hard trying to keep any vessel in shape with a minimal crew. This is not just any vessel. I would say it is fairly unique. I have been here for about 3 weeks now and I’m still getting lost when I go below decks! It’s a lot more complicated than a ‘regular ship’.

They have 4 engine rooms (2 engines each), with switchboard rooms for each engine room. They have separate pump rooms for the drillers, ballast, drains, etc. We have 4 separate thruster rooms (2 thrusters each). They are all the way down, practically at the bottom of the ship. There is another level below with just ballast tanks and pumps.

I was down there this afternoon, wandering around, checking some items for the PM’s (preventive maintenance) that still needs to get done. The ship is round, so you go around in circles to check each thruster room. I did fine with that. The problem was when I wanted to go back up to the main deck. The thrusters are on the 3.5m level. The engine rooms are on the 28.5, 32.5 level (up from 0). The cargo elevator that usually runs to access those spaces is broken.

I found out that you can’t easily get out of the thruster rooms without climbing up a 20′ vertical ladder with a hatch to open on top. I thought about trying it, but my arms and upper body strength is not something I feel too confident about.

We did PM’s on the HiPAP (high precision acoustic positioning) transducer poles this morning. My bosun (on here as roustabout) had a heck of a hard time climbing out of that space. It is a loooooong way down! Vertical ladders are tough enough even you are in good physical shape.

My DPO and roustabout were both worn out after 3 times up and down those ladders. Both of them are young and look to be in pretty good shape. I figure the valves are on the 0 elevation level, so it’s about 75 ft straight up. My arms would be jelly!

I tried 2 different ways to get out of different thruster rooms before I finally wound up back where I came down. I wasn’t going to try opening a hatch while standing at the top of a vertical ladder and nobody around to help. I went back up that way. I was pretty pooped by that time.

I’ll update this later with pictures. I’ve been having a hard time with my computer getting anything done online, so it might take a little while. Hang in there. 😉

Small World

It always surprises me when I come out to work how really connected this community is. The seafaring community that is. The people who spend their lives working far from home, out on the waters of the world.

I almost always know at least one person on every ship I join. If I don’t know someone personally, I know people they know. 🙂

I am working on a rig right now on the semi submersible drilling rig “Sevan Louisiana”,  where the Captain/OIM is a good friend of a good friend of mine. He used to work on the same boat I used to work on at Oceaneering, just a little while before I started there. We know a lot of the same people there.

One of the other DPOs used to work on a rig I did some temp work on a few years ago. He remembers me from when I was there. The crane operator was also on that rig.

The galley crew used to work with me on the HP-1 a while back. I remember how they spoiled me with little towel animals on my bunk every day. They’re great bunch of guys (and good cooks). 🙂

I’ve been here almost 2 weeks and it looks like just about everybody but me is fixin’ to go home soon. The rig is almost deserted anyway, we’re staffed with the bare minimum manning (warm stacked). We won’t get more crew til we hear if we’re going to get some work.

Thursday is crew change day and I’ll have a whole new crew to work with. I hope they turn out to be as easy to work with as this one.  I’ve still got another 4 weeks to go!

PS- Sorry I haven’t been posting very often, this is the first time I’ve been able to stay online long enough. Internet is not allowing me to do nearly as much as I’d like.

SoCS: When I Get Off Of Here…

socsbadge2016-17

…I’m going to have a nice long rest. Not that things have been too awful here so far, but the hitch has just started and I know for sure that crew change is always exhausting. You’re up for work for 12+ hours and then you’re up to watch the pre-departure video about the helicopter (you’ve already seen thousands of times). Then you wait hours for the chopper (if you’re lucky). Or the boat if you’re not.

Then you transit from the rig to shore. Minimum of an hour on the chopper. Maybe 8-12 hours on the boat if you’re not. Then you transit to the airport. That takes another couple of hours. Then you wait some more for your flight. You finally get home after another couple of hours of nodding off.

I usually do absolutely nothing for 2-3 days after I get home but eat, sleep and take a look at the huge pile of mail I’ve collected after being gone for 2+ weeks.

I’m due to be here for 6 weeks this hitch. I know it will get to me before it’s all over.

When I get off of here… I will rest. 🙂

Hoping Not to Meet Harvey

I’m heading out to work early in the morning. I have a 2 AM wakeup call so I can meet the bus that will get us to the dock by 5 AM. That’s where we’ll hop on the crew boat to take us out to the rig I’ll be working on for the next 6 weeks.

I was so excited to finally be going back offshore for a halfway decent hitch. Six weeks sailing as DPO will do wonders for my mindset (and my bank account). All was going well (with just a few minor annoyances) until I happened to hear about Harvey.

At the moment, it’s just a tropical depression. Hanging out just to the North of the Yucatan Peninsula. Predictions are for it to strengthen over the next couple of days. Even becoming a hurricane by landfall (Friday).

Of course, no one can ever predict what a tropical storm or hurricane will do with 100% certainty, but it has me worried about my property. I’m even a little skittish about my own self going out to join this vessel that I really have no idea about.

I’ve never sailed on anything like it before. For one thing, it’s round. Here’s a picture I got off the internet.

But it is a semisubmersible dynamically positioned drilling rig and I’ve worked on plenty of those. I hope the ballast system isn’t as convoluted as the last one I worked on. 😦

I assume it’s much bigger than it looks in that photo. According to the specs, she’s 100 m  diameter. Built in 2013, so shouldn’t be in too bad of shape (unless she’s been stacked for a while). I haven’t found anything yet about her contract status. Hopefully they found a decent contract and she’ll be working for a while.

It’s been way too long of a dry spell for so many of us out here. Let’s hope things are finally starting to turn around. 🙂

If you don’t hear from me in a while, it’s just because I might not have much internet access or time at work to get online. I’ll be back when I can. Hope you’ll stick around. 🙂

Crew Change

I wasn’t expecting to get off so early, but it looks like I will be home by midnight tonight. We left the field yesterday around 4 PM, just got to the dock here in Fourchon around 6 AM this morning.

I was expecting to get off at crew change since the other mate that’s on here now had been wanting to work over and it was time for the other mate to come back for his hitch. Since I am just a ‘rental’, I figured they would send me home. I’m used to working this way, basically never knowing when I’ll go to work or when I’ll get off. I’ve been temping off and on since 2007.

It’s great when work is plentiful, but it pretty much sucks when it’s slow like it has been for the last couple of years.

I got packed last night after watch and got up for my watch this morning just in time to watch them tie up the boat. Now pretty much all I have to do is wait for the crew change vans to show up.

I have a flight set up for 6 PM from New Orleans to Houston. I have a rental car reserved to  drive home to Lake Jackson. I will have to keep it til Monday since our local Enterprise agencies are closed on Sundays. I hope I can get home early enough on Monday to return it without having to pay for another extra day.

I am set up to teach at San Jacinto again all next week. I will be teaching Tankerman PIC again, in case anyone is interested. 😉

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. 😉

I’m Back

It feels like much longer than it was, the 27 days I was out there without internet. I was so grateful to have even a few days of real work again! I was hoping for more, but things are still very, very slow offshore. Every one of us on board was so thankful to have a job after a long dry spell.

Too bad, but the company finished up all the work they had lined up and so laid me off on Saturday. There was some talk about more projects coming up in the near future, but nothing definite.

I can survive another couple of months off of that job. I have a class lined up to teach the week of June 25th. Maybe by the end of the month something else will come up?

The price of oil is still under $50/bbl. Until that changes, I don’t see much hope of a decent job. But even a few days every now and then will be enough to get by on. I know most people are thrilled at the low price of gas at the pump (tho it should be about $1 less going by price/bbl- all that extra is taxes!).

I would probably be thrilled too if it didn’t wipe out my entire profession. Every sector of the maritime world is tied to the offshore sector and the price of oil. When it’s low and the offshore sector shuts down, people migrate to deep sea, towing, fishing, etc. Shutting off any options to do anything else on the water.

Shoreside jobs are a total waste of any mariners skills and training and don’t come anywhere near offering even the worst pay/benefits we earn on the water (and it’s not all about the money either).

I’ll spend the next couple of weeks catching up on things I’ve been putting off: exterminator, dentist, house cleaning, oil change, car wash, doctor, painting projects, taxes, etc. All kinds of fun stuff like that. 😉

Hopefully, I can keep things interesting with some stories from the recent past. 😉

R is for Re-Do- #AtoZChallenge

R” is for Re-Do. I don’t know how many of you all work at a job in which you’re constantly having to re-do everything you do.

In my profession, (merchant marine) it started fairly recently (1970’s). It started with only a bare minimum of requirements (RADAR and physical every 5 years).

I have heard that the medical profession requires some sort of recency requirements (tho I really have no idea what sorts of things doctors or nurses have to do to keep their licenses current)(any ideas)?

I’ve also heard the airline pilots have an even more stringent set of requirements they must satisfy to keep working.

But in the maritime profession, I am constantly amazed at how much they keep coming up with for us, how little of it is really useful or necessary, and how few people seem to have a problem with it.

Of course, all of those people who have an issue with it are people like me. People who actually have to DO the job. People who have been doing the job perfectly fine for decades WITHOUT any of the things that are required now. All of which are pretty much second nature after you’ve worked at sea for any amount of time. Our job is not exactly rocket science. 😉

For example, now we not only have to do (before we can start work) a few classes- about dozen for a mate working at sea), we have to re-do: RADAR/ARPA, physical yearly (if you have any one of dozens of common conditions), basic safety training, advanced fire fighting, CPR. Those are just the ones required by the US Coast Guard to keep your license.

AND, if you have not managed to work in one sector of the industry for the last 5 years, you will also have to re-do ‘training’ so that you can do that very same job again. For instance, if you have not worked on tankers in the last 5 years, you will have to re-do the class or find a ship so you can do a couple of transfers. Same goes for towing vessels. If you don’t have the sea time on them, you lose your ability to work on them until you re-do the ‘training’.

Same now goes for dynamic positioning (DP)! Either you manage to keep working through this horrible downturn, OR, you must somehow cough up $5000 grand so you can re-do that training!

You will ALSO need: HUET, safe-gulf, rig pass, SEMS, marine debris, blood born pathogens, and many other COMPANY required re-training every couple of years if you want to work in the Gulf of Mexico (or for any oil company).

It’s not like anything has changed really. I’ve been taking fire fighting since 1978. The ONLY thing new in that class is that they’re now calling a grease fire a ‘class k’ fire. It’s still the exact same fire, you fight it the exact same way. Everything is exactly the same except the name. Things don’t change much (or at all) in most of the classes we’re now forced to take.

Today, I’ve been waiting to get a chance to re-do my tankerman person-in-charge (PIC). I worked on tankers for almost 13 years. Since I have been doing other things for the last 5, I am required to re-do the training before I can get my license back (thank goodness I put it into continuity status or there would be many more hoops to jump through)!

I could either spend about $5000 to re-do the week long course, or get on board a vessel to do 2 transfers. So, tomorrow I am getting some help to do that. I will join a vessel in Houston to participate in the cargo operations. Catch up on anything new since I’ve last done this job. Hopefully I will get a letter for the Coast Guard that will allow me to get back my PIC so I can find some work! 🙂

I’m thankful that some people are willing to help, especially since I can’t afford to re-do the class!

K is for Kestrel- #AtoZChallenge

b18f2-k

“K” is for Kestrel. No, not the bird, but the dive boat I used to work on for CalDive.

My captain took that picture (for some reason, I can’t figure out how to get all my photos onto this computer). Check out his website, he has more cool ship pictures. 🙂

I only worked on the Kestrel for a short time. I was hired on for a job as Chief Mate, but when I actually got there, the company informed me that I would instead be sailing as Second Mate. Who knew for how long?

Of course I was not happy with that situation and made plans to take another job. I only needed 6 more weeks of sea time as Chief Mate before I could apply for my Master Mariners license.

Luckily, I was able to get those 6 weeks on board the Kestrel after all. 🙂

It was an ‘interesting’ job. And old ship, but a good crew kept her going. Too bad the last I heard she was sold for scrap. 😦

E is for ENSCO- #AtoZChallenge

E” is for ENSCO. I used to work there off and on. I worked for the marine crewing agency C-Mar (among others). Back when there was still work to be had in the offshore sector.

ENSCO is a drilling company. They bought out Pride and built up a pretty good fleet of offshore drilling assets. I worked on many of their vessels over the last few years: the Deep Ocean Mendocino (renamed DS-5), the DS-3, and most of their semi-submersibles.

I spent time on the ENSCO 8500, 8501, 8503 and 8506. The 8506 was one of my favorites. Maybe just because I spent the most time on her. Maybe because I was officially the “Hurricane Master” on board.

That was one of the best jobs I ever had. If it had been located anywhere other than the Gulf of Mexico, I would have said one of the top 2. 🙂

My job basically was to watch the weather, stay on alert for any hurricanes approaching the Gulf and to get the rig ready to move if we had to run from one. I joined the 8506 in the shipyard in Corpus Christi and brought her out to a test location and then on to her first well. I had a great crew to work with and the rig was pretty much brand new.

Eventually, Ensco hired their own crews and stopped using temps like me. 😦

Sadly, even the vessel itself has been out of work for a while.

Able Bodied Seaman

I only just found out about the #AtoZChallenge yesterday, so I’m going to try to catch up. Today is already the day for “F”!

I’ll make mine today for “A” and “B” with Able Bodied Seaman.

I’m a sailor, a professional mariner. I’ve pretty much spent my entire life at sea, since I was a little kid growing up on my dad’s 1910 staysail schooner. I decided after high school (on a sailing ship) that I no longer wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to be a ship captain!

The first step on that long, hard road was to become an Able Bodied Seaman (AB).

Back when I started, you could just find your way down to the docks and schmooze your way into a job. People were willing and able to give you a chance, let you learn the ropes on the job. Of course, being a female back then (and even now) made things much more difficult. “You’re a girl, girls can’t work on boats!”, “Girls can’t be captains!”. For me, it was easier to go to school and get my AB ‘ticket’ (merchant mariners document) that way.

Now, the Coast Guard has changed the rules (in order to comply with the IMO’s STCW regulations), it is no longer possible to just work your way up. You MUST go to school! You MUST spend at least one week and a few hundred dollars to get ‘trained’. And there are usually more requirements, that is just the bare minimum.

To become an AB, you’ll need to accrue a certain amount of ‘sea time’, time working aboard a vessel. You’ll need to get certified as a Rating Forming Part of a Navigational Watch (RFPNW). You’ll need to be ‘assessed’ by an ‘approved assessor’. Then you’ll be allowed to sit for a test (after paying a couple hundred bucks in fees for background checks, TWIC, etc).

You’re tested on all sorts of things: rules of the road (not at all the same as the ones you learn to drive a car!), seamanship, knots and splices, how to launch and recover a lifeboat, safety, fire fighting, cargo operations, steering a ship, helm commands, etc. All this applies to the “able” part of being a seaman. Before you are an “able” seaman, you are just an ‘ordinary’ seaman (OS).

You’ll also need to pass a USCG specific physical by an approved doctor and also a drug test. This is where the “body” part comes in. There are a few specific things they will fail you for- color blindness being a big one. There are quite a few more they will make you jump through hoops over.

The main issue I’ve had with them over the years is my weight. The physical specifies that if you are over a BMI of 40, then the doctor can ask you to show that you are ‘fit for duty’. They will make you climb the stairs, or lift weights or do certain things that are listed on the physical form they are filling out.

I have been fat since I was 13 years old. I’ve always been able to do anything I need to do physically (tho I admit, I have not needed to run any marathons!). I’ve tried pretty much everything to lose it, even having my jaws wired shut. Nothing has ever worked. I’ve pretty much accepted that I will be fat for the rest of my life. BUT, I have not and never will accept that my weight precludes me doing my job as AB (or mate, DPO or captain)!

I once saved my mates a** by spotting a discrepancy while loading tanks. Saved us from having a major oil spill. He later thanked me by telling me I “would make a great AB someday”. I asked him what he meant since I was actually sailing as AB for him at that time. He said that “AB means ‘able body’ and you are way too fat to be considered able bodied”.

WOW!

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.

Maritime Monday for March 27th 2017

Another week’s flown by! Here’s to more interesting maritime news from Monkey Fist. I really liked reading about the Irish this week…

ORP Piorun (G65) was an N-class destroyer used by the Polish Navy during the …

Source: Maritime Monday for March 27th, 2017 – gCaptain

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.

Maritime Monday for March 6th 2017: Oil of Gladness

Another weeks worth of nautical knowledge courtesy of Monkey Fist and gCaptain. There’s an interesting article about Sadie Horton, one of the women mariners of WWII (who have never really been recognized). Beautiful photos of some ugly stuff. Sounds of the seascape to relax to. And pretty little jellyfish to watch…

10 Hours of Ambient Arctic Sounds Will Help You Relax, Meditate, Study & Sleep &nbsp …

Source: Maritime Monday for March 6th, 2017: Oil of Gladness – gCaptain

Watch: 10 Reasons Why Maritime SUCKS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMYEKwxTyo Here’s a new upload from maritime Youtuber …

He really makes a lot of good points. I have to agree with him on pretty much everything he says. Yes, things are much, much better for sailors than in the days of Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast“, but they’ve sure as hell been going downhill since the 1960’s!

Yes, the ships are built with all the latest technology, but the crews have been cut in half and more! Our workload has been constantly increasing, with less and less personnel to do it all!

Yes, our pay has gone up- but not nearly as much as it would take to keep up with inflation. Considering all the expenses we now have added on in order to be allowed to work offshore, we’re actually earning much less than we were in the past.

Yes, communications have improved- for the ship. Not necessarily for the crew. There are still so many ship owners/operators who think of their crews as nothing more than another tool to use and abuse, not human beings like themselves. People who also have a life off the ship (if they have people who choose to stick around and wait for the sailor who may not be able to contact them for months at a time- which is not very likely now a days when everyone expects instant gratification).

I said I would never again work for someone who treated me like that, but I never in my life thought things would get this bad out there! Even with the advent of the STCW, which I immediately saw for what it was (an easy way for shipowners to rid themselves of ‘expensive’ first world crews), I still never imagined how small the box I’ve been shoved into has become!

I always figured that when it got slow offshore, I could ship out on a tugboat, or a tanker, or some other kind of vessel. Well, due to the US Coast Guard constantly changing the rules (and not always putting out the notifications they are required to by law), it is no longer possible to switch sectors like we could before.

Now, if you work on a tanker, you must stay on a tanker or you will lose your ability to ever go back to that kind of work without paying enormous fees to be ‘trained’, (ex: $1,100 for course, $500+ for lodging, $300+ for transport, $300+ for food). To do the same thing you’ve been doing for 5, 10, 15 years in the past ! Same goes for almost every type of vessel now. Passenger vessels only want people with that specific type of experience and paperwork. Towing vessels can only take people with towing endorsements. DP vessels will only take people with DP certificates. Etc.

I’m lucky I’m not a sailor from the Philippines, or China, or any of the other ‘third world’ (meaning low wage) countries where the overwhelming majority of seafarers come from now a days. For an American, working for MSC (Military Sealift Command) is probably the longest hitch out there. It’s supposedly 4 months long. I hear from friends it’s more like 6. Those poor crews from the Philippines are working for 2 years at a time before they can go home!

Most American ships are in pretty decent shape. They’re in great condition compared to a lot of the crap I’ve seen sailing around the world from other countries. Ships with ‘flags of convenience‘. Owners flag their ships outside of their own countries for financial reasons. They can get cheaper crews, bother with less rules and regulations, pay less taxes and fees, etc. Some of them are decent, but many of them are not. Check out this report by the ITF, they do a pretty good job of keeping track of this stuff. Or this, which makes the ITF report look tame.

Watch the video for a pretty good run down of what to expect shipping out. He doesn’t really get into the good parts. But then again, there aren’t too many good parts left anymore. 😦

Any of you sailors out there, I’d be very interested to get your take on both the video and my comments on it.

Source: Watch: 10 Reasons Why Maritime SUCKS (Things To Consider Before Joining Merchant Marine) – JeffHK – gCaptain