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

Color Your World: 28 Almond

Today’s color for Jennifer’s Color Your World challenge is: almond. Here’s a reference…

A lot of these colors look alike to me- almond, apricot, peach, desert sand- mango tango and burnt orange- copper and antique brass. Can you tell them apart? I sure have a hard time! Why do they need crayon colors so close together nobody can tell them apart unless they’re studied under a microscope?

I always thought part of the fun of drawing/painting/being creative was learning to blend the colors you had to make the ones you wanted. I’ve been trying to learn to paint lately. I sure as hell don’t want to go buy every color I might need to make a painting come out. That would cost a fortune! I’m learning the color wheel and how the different colors relate to each other.

It’s a challenge to make just the right color to make your painting ‘pop’. It’s fun too. Here’s an example of what I mean. I painted this a few years ago, when I was working as an AB on the tankships running up the West Coast to Alaska. Of course, I didn’t bring any paint with me. I scrounged around in the paint locker til I found what I needed.

I made that whole colorful undersea scene with only a few colors of deck paint. I know I had black, white, signal red, yellow, international orange, green and blue. That was pretty much it.

I must sound like an old geezer, ‘well sonny, back in myyyyy day, we used to color with only 8 colors in the box!’ I actually got the 64 crayon box later when I was growing up, but did I ever use all of those colors- nope. Does anyone use all of the 120 colors this challenge is based on? I think I would have a hard time using up a whole box of crayons myself. 😉

Anyway, here’s my entry for the challenge color of ‘almond’…

I took this photo in November while I was traveling around Turkey. I had a great time wandering all over Istanbul and Cappadocia where I took this photo of one of the many ancient rock churches at Goreme. It was a lot of fun scrambling around amid all this history, seeing how the people lived and worshipped all those years ago. I only regret that they didn’t allow any photography inside (even without flash). I really would have liked to have got a few shots of the beautiful frescos inside. I’ll just have to be satisfied with the internet. 😦

Maritime Monday for January 23rd 2017

More fascinating maritime history from Monkey Fist by way of gCaptain. This week there’s some interesting stories about the Vikings, some Irish monks, and the true story of how Gambia (the country) came to be. There’s another story about an underwater ‘art museum’, a new one- not the one off Cancun.

There’s a story about yet another #$%^##$% ship owner/operator who treats their crews like shit and than abandons them without pay. These poor guys have spent 7 months onboard without pay. Would you work for that long without a paycheck? Me neither! But these guys (and so many others) really had no choice. They can’t just say to hell with this shit and leave. Where can they go? Jump overboard? And then forfeit all their hard earned wages for the months they’ve already worked? And then, how to get home? India is a long way from the North Sea!

This type of work is not easy. Besides the fact of being away from home for months on end, there is the weather to deal with (the North Sea in winter is no fun!), the job they’re hired to do is dangerous. They earned their pay and they deserve to be paid on time, not sluffed off with lame excuses! Not abandoned and left to fend for themselves with no food, water, money, fuel in some foreign country where they might not even know the language!

This is just one more example of the all too common situation in the shipping industry today. The race to the bottom. ‘Globalization’. Americans are used to being replaced by cheap labor by now. Looks like the Brits are getting used to it too. 😦 This ship is crewed by Indians! I guess it’s their turn now. They are now getting replaced by even cheaper labor!

How does this race to the bottom, becoming standard now- to treat your seamen like so many tools to be used up and then thrown away- how does this really help anyone? Americans losing out to Filipinos, who are losing out to Indians, who are losing out to Ukrainians, who are losing out to Indonesians, who are losing out to Malaysians. Where does it end? With ‘crew less’ ships (they are coming). Shipping rates are so low now it’s cheaper to send something across the ocean and back then to truck it across the state! The added cost to anything you’re going to buy is a very small part of its price.

This particular ship actually has it good. Apparently they still have food, water and power aboard. It’s stuck in Britain and the crew is allowed ashore. The people of the town are able to visit, they help as they can- they bring coffee and biscuits. It’s better than they would get in most places. Here- for instance- where they would most definitely NOT be allowed off the ship. Nor would anyone be allowed to visit (except maybe the port chaplain, ships agent, etc- all on ships business). Thanks TSA, PATRIOT ACT, etc. 😦

This sort of thing is all too common. The MLC (maritime labor convention) has some new rules that just came into force Jan 18. Hopefully it will put some teeth into the rules regarding treatment of seafarers. It’s long past due.

The Lyford House being saved from demolition, 1957 Built in 1876, the house is listed …

Source: Maritime Monday for January 23rd, 2017 – gCaptain

Song of the Sea: Dream of the Drowned Submariner

I found this video when I  was looking around last time. It’s another one by Mark Knopfler. I’m definitely going to have to buy some of his albums. 🙂 I really like this song. The music is quiet and peaceful, the lyrics are slow and wistful. I never really think of submariners too much. I guess it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I’ve always worked on top of the water, and it’s our main objective to stay up there. 😉

I have to give them their due. Their time at sea and under the water must be even harder than for those of us who sail above the water. The darkness, the pressure, the cramped quarters must really be rough.

I’m reading a book right now. “Dead Wake” about the last voyage of the Lusitania. Basically, a submarine sunk the ship and brought the USA into World War I. I’m not even halfway through it yet, but so far it’s pretty good. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for the submariners.

I hope you like the video as much as I do.

“Dream Of The Drowned Submariner”

We run along easy at periscope depth
Sun dappling through clear water
So went the dream of the drowned submariner
Far away from the slaughterYour hair is a strawflower that sings in the sun
My darling, my beautiful daughter
So went the dream of the drowned submariner
Cast away on the water

From down in the vault, down in the grave
Reaching up to the light on the waves

So she did run to him over the grass
She fell in his arms and he caught her
So went the dream of the drowned submariner
Far away on the water
Far away on the water

Decisions

I might not be on here for a few days. I’ve got a hard decision to make. I got laid off of work last September (2014). I’m not eligible for any help (unemployment) since my last job was overseas. The offshore oilfield still shows no signs of improvement and probably won’t til the price of oil stabilizes above $60/barrel.

Everything I’ve tried to do to earn money since I’ve been laid off has not worked. No one has been interested enough in buying my beach house to even take a look at it. I haven’t sold one piece of art except a small 4×6 photo for $10. My writing mostly hasn’t been interesting enough to an editor to be worth a reply. None of the jobs I’ve applied to have been interested enough to call me back, except Dominos Pizza for $6 and change/hour.

Beach House- For Sale- Fishermans Delight!

I still work doing the emergency management training if they have a class and if they put me on the schedule. That hasn’t happened since the end of October. Nothing coming up til the last week of January.

I’m really starting to worry about my situation. I’ve managed to save some money, normally enough to last being laid off, but I never thought it would ever take this long to find a job!  My friends tell me to ‘sell some of my stuff’. They don’t realize I’ve been trying to. No one wants to give me a fair price and I’m not willing to just give it away.

The decision I’ve been wrestling with is to take a job as a ‘safety attendant’, working in the plants around here. It’s ‘local’- I’d only have to drive 2-3 hours back and forth every day. My truck is getting to the point where I don’t want to put it through that (1997 F-150). It’s a 12 hour/day job, every day. Until the job ends. Then you’re supposed to be able to collect unemployment til they call you back again at some point. It pays $14/hour.

That would (barely) cover my bills (if I don’t have any time off- no down time for weather, etc). It would mean I’d have zero time for anything at all but eat, sleep, shower, work. For weeks, maybe months on end.

I have to spend all day Wednesday-Thursday in ‘training’ in order to get certified to do this job. Same thing I’ve done for the last 30+ years, but never needed a certificate to do it offshore (yes, it’s amazing that they don’t require it too, but actually let us do a simple job without spending hours in a ‘training facility’ on the beach!). They give us the same training, they just call it something else at every company. This place doesn’t even pay for the training.

I’m thinking I should at least go to the training. Maybe I can find out more about the actual conditions of this particular job from others there?

The other choice is: to just give up. To quit ‘working’ altogether. Forget about trying to keep my documents current. Forget about looking for work. Stop spending hours filling out online applications for jobs that don’t exist and just chill. Relax and work on my art. 🙂

an example of my art- star fish in pastels

Spend that time figuring out how to get the hell out of this ratrace and find somewhere that I can afford to live with no job. From previous travel and research, I know already that almost everywhere is cheaper than the US. My only real concern is how long can I make it without any income from work at all? I’m (only) 55. A very, very long way from being able to collect on social security (if it’s even still there).

If things were like they were when I started this career, it wouldn’t be an issue. I could take off for a couple of years and when I was ready, just  jump right back in to work. That’s not possible any more.

When I was taking my walk tonight, I figured the absolute minimum I would need to just keep my license current would be $10,000 and 5 weeks of time! We have to re-take a hell of a lot of ‘training’ now and it seems they require more of it every year. That’s really a very, very low estimate.

So, if I do decide to quit. I won’t be able to come back. Ever.

hate the thought of that. I LOVE what I do! I’ve spent almost my entire life at sea and I don’t want to leave it. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars to get my license. I hate the thought of just throwing all that away.

It gives me chills even to think of giving it up forever. I really don’t know what to do. I’ve been in this limbo for months now. I can’t concentrate on trying to make a living with my art (writing/photography/painting) since I’m distracted all the time trying to look for ‘a real job’. I think I might quit for a while, but then I remember theres no coming back if I do.

This really sucks!

I keep hoping that someone will come through with a real job for me! A job where I can do what I’ve been trained to do already! A job that I’m good at. A job that I actually LIKE!

I’ll call them all again tomorrow, see if there’s any hope at all. Keeping my fingers crossed.

one of my favorite paintings- I did this on the ship using deck paint!

Color Your World: Vivid Tangerine

I found another blog challenge from Jennifer Nicole Wells, she runs the Color Your World Challenge on her blog. I did a few posts last year. It goes on for 4 months, so I didn’t manage to finish the whole thing, or even to post every day.

Jennifer is running the Color Your World challenge again for 2017. I’ll post when I can. Todays color is ‘vivid tangerine‘. Here’s my take.

I took this photo of the traditional ‘shop houses’ in Singapore a few years ago. Back when I was still working and able to travel. We used to spend a lot of time there. I miss the days we’d spend at the Jurong shipyards. The Seaman’s Center took good care of us. Their people haven’t forgotten the importance of the merchant marine. 🙂

Singapore is a fantastic place to hang out. I loved to take the metro downtown and see Chinatown, Clark Quay, and the Durians. The beer was always cold, the food was hot, cheap and plentiful. The people were friendly. I’d go back anytime. 🙂

Songs of the Sea: So Far From the Clyde

I have to say thanks to the Old Salt Blog for sending me news of this song in my email this morning. 🙂

I’ve never heard of it before. I’m not really familiar with Mark Knopfler, even tho I know a few songs by Dire Straits. After listening to this song, I’ll be sure to track down more of his stuff.

As a seafarer, I know exactly what he’s singing about. It’s a sad song about riding his ship to the breakers. So many great ships were built in Scotland, on the Clyde. I’ve even been on one- the famous tea clipper, Cutty Sark. She’s kept near London now, as a museum.

Most ships are brought round to the breakers in the Indian Ocean. They’re driven ashore in Pakistan or India. It’s just so much easier and cheaper to get rid of them there. That’s a story in itself. National Geographic even did a photo essay on it recently.

I’ve never done it yet myself. I would like to once, before I have to give up sailing. Closest I came was to deliver the tanker “Coastal New York” to a shipyard in China for scrapping.

Listen to the lyrics…

“So Far From The Clyde”

They had a last supper the day of the beaching
She’s a dead ship sailing skeleton crew
The galley is empty, the stove pots are cooling
What’s left of the stew
The time is approaching, the captain moves over
The hangman steps in to do what he’s paid for
With the wind down the tide she goes proud ahead steaming
And he drives her hard into the shore

So far from the Clyde
Together we ride, we did ride

A drift to a wave from her bows to her rudder
Bravely she rises to meet with the land
Under their feet you can feel the Kings shudder
The shallow sea washes their hands
Later the captain shakes hands with the hangman
Climbs slowly down to the oily wet ground
Goes back to the car that has come here to take him
Through the graveyard back to the town

So far from the Clyde
Together we ride, we did ride

They pull out her cables and hack off her hatches
Too poor to be wasteful with pity or time
They swarm on her carcass with torches and axes
Like a whale on a bloody shoreline
Stripped of her pillars her stays and her stanchions
When it’s only her bones on the wet poison land
Steel robbers will drag her with winches and engines
Till it’s only a stain on the sea

So far from the Clyde
Together we ride, we did ride
So far from the Clyde
Together we ride, we did ride

Good News

I finally got some good news today. The mail came with my new, corrected, USCG license! I sent it in to the Coast Guard on September 29. So, it only (major sarcasm) took them a little less than 3 months to process a simple renewal.

My license expired December 16, so I figured I had plenty of time. Even with the end of the year rush due to new STCW ‘gap-closing’ requirements.

Every time I checked, for over 2 months, my license status was listed as PQEB. Waiting for an evaluator. Strange, cause they sent my medical certificate back within a week. I had no idea why it was taking so long until I got some help from the Coast Guard’s National Mariner Center booth at the Workboat Show in early December. They got things moving immediately and helped a lot.

I did actually apply for one extra endorsement. Maybe that was the reason for the holdup? I asked for the OIM (offshore installation manager). Reading the rules, I figured I was eligible. I had already taken stability for my Chief Mates license. I already had a few rig moves, under supervision and while in charge.

Since I am already a Master Mariner, that should have covered me for the OIM endorsement. The rules are different if you’re not already holding that license.

But, the USCG has decided that the much more intense stability course I took is not applicable for this endorsement. I need to take a much simpler course which is only specific to certain vessels (mostly MODU’s– mobile offshore drilling units). I learned all this after finally being assigned to an evaluator after the Workboat Show.

The rules also say that at least one of the rig moves must be within the last year.

So, since I was laid off by Ocean Rig in September of 2015, I have not worked since then, I’m shit out of luck until I can go back to work again. I can’t afford to take the necessary course until I find work again anyway, so the whole thing is moot.

The whole point of asking for the endorsement was in hopes it would help me find a job so I could go back to work again.

After a couple of emails back and forth about all this (the GC rep was very helpful and fast to respond), I decided to just drop the request for the endorsement and just renew everything I already had.

I got an email the next day that my MMD (merchant mariner document) was in the mail! The process moved along pretty quick once assigned an evaluator.  I was feeling pretty good until I got my document a few days later and looked it over.

For some reason they restricted me to only vessels without ECDIS. I had taken that course as well for my Chief Mate license. I couldn’t have qualified to sit for the test without it. The CG rep told me that the class I took couldn’t have been approved back then.

Well, why would I have taken it then? The USCG gives us a listing of all the approved courses and all the approved schools where we can take them. Of course I checked the list and would never have gone anywhere to take any class that wasn’t on the list. It would have been a total waste of time and money since the certificate earned would not be valid!

After a few days of arguing and sending documents to the USCG, all the while freaking out about having to re-take another expensive week long course and not being allowed to work after December 31, 2016, the CG allowed that the course I took was actually OK.

Whew!

So, today I finally got my MMD, one that has everything I need to show in order to go back to work. Now I just need a job!

Another Roadblock

I haven’t been posting much about work on here lately. Mostly because I haven’t had any for the last year now. 😦

It’s been so frustrating and depressing. I’ve never been out of work for anywhere near this long in my entire life! I’ve always been able to find something to do. Not this time. This time there’s nothing. Nothing at all. 😦

It doesn’t help that the people in charge of jobs in this industry- the US Coast Guard- keep changing the rules to make it harder and harder to get and/or keep a job! It used to be that you could take a job in a different sector of the maritime industry when things got slow. For example, when things got bad in the 80’s, I went to work on tankers. I could even take a job ashore. I worked as bartender lots of times between offshore jobs back then.

Now, due to new USCG rules, if you change sectors you’re very likely to be pigeonholed into just being able to work in that sector. You’ll have no other options! Not without making major efforts to make the move. For example- my license used to say “freight & towing’. Now it says ‘steam & motor”. That means I can’t work on any tugboats any more unless and until I get a ‘towing endorsement’ on my license. That is not at all easy to do!

Same goes for tankers. I worked on tankers for over 13 years, but since I haven’t worked on a tanker in the last 5 years, I can’t work on tankers ever again until I go spend a bunch of time and money to get back that endorsement.

There goes 2 large sectors of maritime employment totally out of my reach now!

And if I have to take a job on land? Forget it! If I don’t keep up my sea time (and training), I will have to start all over from the bottom if I ever want to go back to sea! We need to have at least 360 days sea time in the last 5 years, plus a bunch of newly required ‘training’ (plus the training that was already required) in order to renew our documents. Documents we absolutely can not work without. No, not anywhere in the world!

So. In order to have 360 days sea time in the last 5 years, that basically means you need to have at least 2 years of STEADY employment offshore. If you take a land job, you need to quit as soon as you find something you think (hope) will last a while at sea. Then, you need to hope like hell your company will help pay for all the necessary training. Cause sure as hell, no land job will give you either the pay rate or the time off in order for you to keep up with it!

Seafaring used to be a really good way to earn a living. After all this, I’m not sure I can say that anymore, but I still prefer it over anything else I can imagine.

had high hopes for finding some sort of relief job over the holidays. That’s always the best time of year to find work offshore. People understandably want to take time off to spend it with their families and all sorts of deals get made.

Not last year.

No one took any (earned) vacation time. I didn’t get a single call all winter. Neither did anyone else I know who’d been laid off. Everyone still lucky enough to be employed was just scared to death that they might not be able to come back to work. The oilfield was still in shock and everyone was living in fear.

Things seem to be improving. Slightly.

The price of oil has gone up from around $26/barrel to around $50/barrel. Almost doubled. That’s great! Only problem is, that for the offshore oil fields to go back to work the price of oil needs to be somewhere above $75/barrel (IMHO).

I was dearly hoping to get a call to sub in for someone over the holidays. I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for months.

But…

The USCG now requires us to renew our documents every 5 years. If we don’t beg permission from the government and jump through all kinds of ridiculous hoops, we’re locked out of a job. 😦

I sent in my paperwork back in the first part of September. My license expires December 16 this year, so I figured I had plenty of time. Even considering there are all kinds of new hoops to jump through coming into effect at the end of the year and so a mad scramble by all mariners to renew their documents before that.

My license was still sitting in limbo when I got back from overseas. Luckily, I was able to speak to a USCG rep at the Workboat Show and they made a phone call and got my papers moved over to the fast track. I thank them for helping, they were great!

I was happy to see my status changed the next day and only a few days later I received my new MMD in the mail.

Only one problem. They restricted me to only vessels without ECDIS. That means pretty much only small or inland vessels. That means I’m pretty much shit outta luck for finding any work until I get that restriction removed!

That totally knocked me for a loop! No way was I expecting them to come back with that! They’ve renewed my license at least twice since I originally turned in that course certificate and not once did they mention that it might not be acceptable.

What really gets my goat (besides the fact that I should have to beg permission from the government to go to work in the first place), is that I DID already take the required training in order NOT to have that restriction on my license.

I took that class back in 2008 since it was required for me to sit for my chief mates license. Of course, the USCG removed the requirement to take most of the courses that I was forced to take (at a cost of almost $50,000), but I did take that class and it is still required.

The problem is that the USCG is now saying that the course I took (so long ago) could not have been ‘approved’. Well hell! WTF would I have taken ANY course if it was NOT USCG approved?

Simple. I wouldn’t have!

The USCG maintains a listing of ALL approved courses and ALL approved course providers right there on their website. Of COURSE I checked to make sure the course I was considering was USCG approved.

At this point I have to assume that the course I took was approved at the time and somewhere between then and now, they changed the rules again to where it’s no longer acceptable. It would’ve been nice to get some notification.

None of these required classes is cheap. They’re completely worthless if they’re NOT USCG approved. Mostly worthless even so. Why would I (or anybody) spend thousands of dollars and a week (or more), plus transportation costs, plus room and board expenses, to waste all that time sitting in a classroom somewhere when they could be doing something (anything) else?

Again, simple! They wouldn’t!

So. I am in limbo again. Waiting for the person I’m dealing with at the Coast Guard to hear back from their superiors in the course approval department. Meantime, I’m investigating who has a class open asap.

The cheapest I can find is San Jacinto Maritime ($1000), but that’s only because I live close enough to where I can (barely) manage to drive back and forth daily. They don’t have an opening until mid- January. Same with most of the others. Remember, I can’t even think about going back to work until I get signed off on this class!

Delgado and Falck offer the course for $900, but they’re both located in Louisiana. I would have to spend hundreds more for transportation, room and board. Falck has a class I might be able to get in to -starting 12/27.

MPT in Ft Lauderdale costs $1299 (plus transport/room & board), but they actually have a class starting next week. If the USCG tells me this week I have to re-take the class, that will be my only option if I really still hope to get any work this year. 😦

If it looks like I’m screwed for work, then my best option will be the Sea School in Bayou La Batre AL. They cost $1100, but I can drive there (10 hours) and they include room and board in that price.

A few other schools have classes starting in January, but they’re all more expensive. MITAGS ($1390 + $850 room/board), Bluewater ($1295), Quality ($1095), Marine Training Institute ($1095), STAR ($$). Those are just the ones in the Southeastern US. I only checked those since I’m trying to keep transport costs down.

If you’re stuck in the same boat I am, you can find all the USCG approved courses and facilities here. DON’T go anywhere that isn’t on this list!

Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I don’t want to. 😦

To Work- or Not to Work?

That was the question…

I’m scheduled to work tomorrow and Tuesday this week. If I’m lucky I will get to work both days. Nothing else on the schedule for me for the entire month. 😦

The training center where I’ve been working has also been struggling to survive since the downturn in the oil markets. They have very few students, so very few classes, so not much work for me. 😦

I have a long planned trip coming up the 1st of November. It’s super expensive and something I’ve wanted to do since the 1st time I watched Tarzan on TV when I was a kid. A real bucket list trip. A photography safari!

Friday, I got a call for a possible job. The first real job since last September. I had to give it a pass.

Why does it always seem to work like that?

USCG

I’ll be busy today. I’m heading up to Houston this morning to renew my RADAR certification, then to turn in my application at the US Coast Guard (USCG). I heard about a job lead from a friend yesterday, so I plan to stop by their office and try again (I’ve already sent them an email about the job).

I’m getting more than a little frustrated about the work situation. Having to deal with the USCG so often is getting extremely aggravating. I do not believe that anyone should be forced to beg permission from their government in order to earn a living. No, no one, ever, for ANY job, for ANY reason. Period!

Especially in America which is supposed to be a free country. Which was specifically formed in order to limit the government. Which was not supposed to have any power to do anything like that!

It was never so insane as it has become lately. The USCG has bowed down to the ‘international community’ and has forced US mariners to submit to the regulations of the STCW (standards of training, certification and watch keeping) put out by the IMO (international maritime organization).

Most of the STCW regulations are just plain stupid (IMHO). They are there for absolutely no purpose but to make the regulators feel like they have done something useful, and of course to make money for the ‘training’ operations at the expense of the mariners who basically have no opportunity to say anything about it.

They sell this all by insisting it has something to do with ‘safety’. I don’t believe it does, but even if it did, it certainly does not make up for all the extra BS they put us through for it. SO much time, money and aggravation to each and every mariner!

How can anyone look at our licensing scheme in the past and what we have to deal with now and say it makes any sense? It does not. In any way.

When I started going to sea (seriously) in 1978, I got a mariners document that was good for life. Yes, the officers had to renew every 5 years, but they only had to apply and renew RADAR. That’s it!

Now, all documents must be renewed every 5 years and there is an absolutely ridiculous amount of ‘training’ that needs to be renewed every 5 years as well. That all needs to be done at USCG approved ‘training’ centers. That is all very time consuming and expensive.

Are we any better sailors for it? I can guarantee you the answer to that is NO! Try to compare an AB from 100 years ago, the ones on the windjammers, to an AB today. There is just no comparison. The same goes for the officers.

Those guys had NO formal training and NO licensing either (until they, themselves insisted on it- as usual, in order to keep out the competition).

The improvements in safety since then had to do with improvements in the technology, NOT in the training or licensing of the crew. Any loss of safety has more to do with economics than anything else. Meaning companies cutting down on crew size, maintenance and tight scheduling.

Of course, as usual, the companies will blame anything and everything on the crew. It is always ‘human error’ that is at fault. Never their fault for pushing the ships and crews beyond what would be prudent (or safe).

They talk safety til it’s coming out your ears, but when it starts costing them a few bucks, that all goes right out the window! I’ve seen very few companies (in over 40 years at sea) that actually follow through. I can’t count the times I’ve been told “if you won’t do it we’ll just find someone who will”. It’s certainly not just happening to me!

How many mariners are able to walk off the job when that situation comes up? Not many.

Until that changes, all the ‘training’ in the world is not going to help anything much.

Just put more and more of us out of work, unable to pay for the ‘training’ we need in order to even try to find a job.

More and more companies are insisting on more and more ‘training’, more certificates- before they’ll even consider talking to you. For instance, I’ve been trying to work worldwide. The European companies want you to have something called BOSIET, which is exactly the same thing as what employers here insist on called BST + HUET.

The only difference is about an hours worth of ‘training’ on something called a ‘re-breather’. There is no ‘gap-closing’ course. So, I can not apply for any of those jobs unless I waste another entire week and spend a few thousand dollars to take the BOSIET course!

I’ve been out of work since last September. I can’t afford to take any more classes. Luckily, I’ve already taken the latest newly required classes (Leadership and Management and ECDIS). I only have to renew my RADAR certification, which I plan to do today.

Why do we have to renew this stuff (or even take a course ashore in the first place)? There really is no reason other than to ensure a fine flow of mariners to the training centers. These classes are all about things we either do every day (RADAR, BST), or won’t make any difference to anything anyway (leadership).

No one ever seems to take into account the mariners. The people who are the actual experts on the subject at hand. The people who’ve actually been forced into complying with these new requirements. It’s all done in our name, but we’re never asked our opinions, we never have anything to say about any of it!

We have all taken these jobs for certain reasons. One of the biggest reasons is for the time off. We spend weeks, months, more (some spend years), at sea. Working 24/7 without a break. We hardly even get shore leave any more. We are supposed to be able to come home and take a well deserved break!

Not any more. That time off has been whittled away, more and more, by so called ‘training’. Training that is supposed to be so all-fired important that it’s worth taking up weeks or months of our well earned and deserved time off (without any compensation for the loss). But that training is the exact same thing we do onboard!

If it’s so damned important, why can’t the companies spend the money to ensure their people are trained? Especially when so many of them absolutely refuse to accept anyone else’s ‘training’ even when it’s exactly the same (except for the name)! Most of it is stuff anyone who’s spent even a week working offshore will know by heart!

I keep wondering what’s going to happen when shipping picks up again? There are so many of us out of work. Hundred of thousands around the world, and that’s just for the oilfield, not even counting deep sea shipping! How many can afford to take the necessary training to be ABLE to go back to work when the jobs start opening up again?

We need to have 150 days on a vessel in the last 5 years. We ALSO now need to re-take quite a few courses in a certain time frame before our papers need to be renewed (mostly a year). How many jobs ashore will give you the time off or pay you enough so that you can renew those classes? I can tell you right now the answer to that question- NONE!

IMHO, the STCW is about nothing more than helping the shipowners replace “expensive” American/European/Australian mariners with cheaper sailors from places like the Philippines. They’re now able to say, “they all have the exact same training” (according to the STCW), so why not hire an entire crew of Philippinos for the price of 1 American? That is exactly what they have been doing since the STCW came into force. 😦

I hate to think I’m going to be forced to retire. I still love working at sea. But I can see the end coming and it’s not pretty for American mariners. 😦

Maritime Monday for September 26th 2016: Encore Performance

This weeks Maritime Monday is a good one. I do love art of all kinds, and especially maritime art (of course). This week there’s a very nice showcase of artists who liked to work on maritime subjects down through history. There’s also a mention of a new group, the “Sea Sisters”. I’ll definitely be checking them out. A neat article about the elevators on the Three Gorges Dam (I was excited to be able to cruise through there before the dam was finished), what an impressive project! Thanks to Monkey Fist and gCaptain for sharing all this great stuff!

The World’s Largest Elevator Can Lift 6.7 Million Pounds of Ship sploid.gizmodo …

Source: Maritime Monday for September 26th, 2016: Encore Performance – gCaptain

Buzcador Breaks Free!

We finally made it to sea!

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

#AHTS #Buzcador underway in #Atchafalaya River

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

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

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

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

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

#chart showing progress of the #AHTS #Buzcador

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

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

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

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

#mainmast of the #AHTS #Buzcador

mainmast with #backscratcher hanging off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ships crew, #engineers

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

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

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

#night sky at #sea, #full moon

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

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

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

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

More later.

Buzcador Barges Through the Bayous

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come! 😉

One Day

I worked yesterday. One day. That’s it for the month. I got a total of 4 days for July. I’m thankful, but somehow that’s just not enough.

I was reading the latest Workboat Magazine. I saw an ad for cooks and galley hands and it actually got my hopes up. Until I called this afternoon and they told me they weren’t really looking for anyone. They got a special deal on ads, so they were running them every month regardless of not needing anyone. 😦

I never imagined that I would ever again be so thrilled at the prospect of a job as a galley hand! I thought those days were long gone. After all the time, effort and money I’ve invested in myself to earn a master mariners license and I’m back to the position of jumping at any chance to be a galley hand, and thrilled for the opportunity. How sad.

It seems to have become standard practice for companies these days to advertise constantly when they don’t want to hire anybody. Then most of them refuse to respond in any way. I was lucky today to reach a company that actually answered the phone with a human being! It’s much better to be told the truth, rather than hanging on hope when there’s really nothing there to hope for.

I keep wondering what society will be like when such large numbers of people are put out of work. So many people are now being replaced by robots. What are we all going to do? It’s bad enough already when people who used to make good money have lost those jobs to overseas workers and have to work for minimum wage instead. They can’t afford to buy anything American made anymore, so even more jobs are shipped overseas.

People say it’s like back in the days when cars replaced the horse and buggy. What happened to the people that made horse whips? Or swept up the horse shit? I understand why they bring up that comparison, but I don’t think it’s really the same situation.

First of all, we had a much smaller population (in the US and worldwide). Second of all, we were not so ‘globalized’ back then. Americans were not all competing against foreigners who could do the work so much cheaper- transportation and communication systems were not up to the job. Third, the pace of change is so much faster. A person used to be able to learn a trade and spend decades, if not a lifetime, doing one thing. Not any more.

How many skills can one learn in a lifetime? How good can you get at a skill if you’re forced to learn another every couple of years? How can you afford to constantly re-educate yourself, especially when everything now requires specialized, expensive ‘training’ and a piece of paper?

Can this country survive when the vast majority of us are either unemployed or barely surviving on minimum wage jobs?

Maybe, but I’m not sure I want to see it.

A Bird in the Hand

Is worth two in the bush.

I should have thought about that little rhyme a little bit more last week.

I had 2 prospective jobs last week. There’s the catch- “prospective’. Not actual. 😦

I thought I was a shoe-in for both. I turned down one for the other that paid better. Lost out on both of them.

So, now I have nothing again.

I’m so disappointed.

I’m so frustrated

I’m so worried.

I’m so sad.

I’m so confused.

What should I do? What can I do? I want to just say the hell with it all and go away somewhere. I want to stop wasting my life here, hanging around trying to find work when there just isn’t any! I want to go spend some time somewhere where I can be happy, where I can do something useful, where I can have some fun, where I can learn new things, meet new people, try something different.

All I think of when I think of those things, is: how can I afford to leave? And to come back in time to renew everything I need to in order to keep my license? I need that license if I ever want to go back to sea again. If I don’t renew it in December, it’ll be like I’ve never stepped foot on a boat in my life, and I’d have just wasted 50 years of experience on the water! I DON’T want that to happen!

Actually, I’m starting to regret choosing this career. It’s mostly been good, it’s given me plenty of opportunities where I really enjoyed my job, plus plenty of time off and enough money to enjoy it. But, after all the years, after all the effort, after all the sacrifices I’ve made in order to keep working offshore- all it takes is the price of oil to drop and it’s over.

I’ve been out of work over 6 months already and there’s no telling when I’ll get back out there. IF I don’t manage to get enough sea time to renew next time, that’ll be it. It’s over! The way it’s going, the way the pundits are predicting, it might be years before the price of oil goes up, high enough for them to start hiring again.

There’s a lot more to it than just the price of oil. Mostly to do with the US Coast Guard and the IMO. That’s a whole other subject and enough for a book! All the things they’ve done to ruin this profession!

It’s an argument I’m having more and more often with myself. Keep trying, don’t give up til there is no hope of keeping that license? Knowing how much more time, effort, money and lost opportunities to LIVE LIFE? Or, give it up for good? Find some other way to support myself? Even the thought of that almost makes me cry. 😦

And what else could I possibly do? I have no idea. I’ve been trying for over 3 years to earn some income from this blog. So far I haven’t earned even one cent. I’ve been trying to earn income from my art- painting and photography. In over 3 years, I’ve earned a grand total of $5.33. I’ve tried to earn income from writing. That’s been my big earner so far. I’ve earned $250!

So- what else is there?

I’ve invested in property. I have recently started to just about break even. That is only if there are no major repairs to be made. There’s always something that comes up so I lose money every year. Only ONE of my properties is worth selling. The rest of them will lose me a LOT of money if I try to sell them (due to major structural damage that has occurred since I bought them). I put that ONE property up for sale to help tide me over this period of unemployment, but haven’t had ONE offer since it was listed. Sure, I could lower the asking price, but then I would lose out on what I’ve spent on improving that one too! The rent from that house is all that’s keeping me above water, I’ve basically had NO other income this year! My last job was for a foreign company, so I’m not eligible for unemployment pay. So, after 40+ years of paying into the system, I get NO help when I need it myself.

So. What else is there? I’m trained to be a mariner. That’s it. I have no other papers (except a Math degree which has been totally useless so far). It seems pretty much all the decent jobs out there require some kind of certificate (at minimum) now. Do I have the time and money to spend to get one? NO. I will jump ship the 1st time they call me to go offshore!

Same goes for working a shore side job like McDonalds or Walmarts. I have applied there. I figured they must have a pretty high turnover, so I don’t feel bad about quitting if I get a call to go offshore. Problem is, even those jobs are not calling. They’ve all told me they won’t even start hiring til August.

I haven’t felt this bad in a long time.

What to do, what to do…