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.

Advertisements

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. 🙂

Already

Yeah, it’s over. Already! My first real job since I was laid off back in September of 2015 lasted exactly 5 days!

I was hoping it would go for at least a week, every day of work I get now is like a godsend.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go back offshore for a few days, even tho I had to give up the 4 days I was scheduled to work in Houston. Wish I could have done both, but have to take offshore whenever it comes up. There’s just no comparison.

I hope this short job will be a foot in the door for future opportunities there. I know not many people are taking time off for any reason, not if they can help it. But sometimes, like this time, they have to. Maybe I can at least start filling in again when that happens.

World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day is coming up on Monday (June 8). This years theme is ‘healthy oceans, healthy planet’. It really is just common sense. The oceans cover over 70% of the earth. We all ultimately rely on the ocean for our own health and well being. It’s important to take care of it, if only for our own good. Monday will be a day to remember all the reasons we should respect and care for the oceans, it’s a day to celebrate and get involved too.

The oceans are a major source of food for people (and animals): fish, shellfish, seaweed, plankton, krill, etc. They also help to regulate the climate and keep some of the Northern areas warm in the winter and Southern places cooler in the summer (N hemisphere). The oceans are also extremely important for connecting people around the world. In the USA, 90% of our trade is by sea.

A lot of people make their living directly from the sea like I do. I’ve worked on the water from the time I was a kid. Fishing, recreation (cruising), and transporting cargo from one place to another (a ship is much more efficient than any other form of transport). Now, I work in the offshore oil fields, exploring for and extracting resources from the sea bottom.

If you live near the ocean, like I do, you already know how important it is for your ‘soul’, your mental health, your attitude. I can sit by the sea, listen and watch the waves roll in and it immediately calms me. I like to swim, snorkel, sail, SCUBA dive, surf (not very well), fish, and any other activity that gets me out on the water. 😉

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to think about how you benefit from it and what life would be like without a healthy ocean. Check out a few of the links. Get involved in some of the events if you can. If you can’t get out to any of the events on Monday, remember it doesn’t have to stop on Monday!

There are plenty of things you can do every day to help make things better. Even simple things like talking to people about World Oceans Day, disposing of your trash properly, using as little plastic as possible, not letting balloons fly away loose, etc. It all helps. 🙂 PS- none of the pictures in this post are mine, I got them all of the internet.

Offshore Saturday Night

I made it to the rig by Wednesday afternoon (I left home around 1330 on Monday). I managed to stay awake long enough to finish my first watch. Since then I’ve been trying to catch up on sleep. It takes me a week or so until I feel halfway normal again after a long trip like that. 😦

It’s the weekend so we have a little bit of a change of routine. Today we had a nice BBQ out on the bow. The cooks did a great job (as usual with the BBQ). They had ribs, chicken, sausage, roast beef, hamburgers, shrimp, salad, corn and all the fixin’s.

There was even a choice of sodas and (near) beer!

The weather was nice, it was already getting dark and there was a nice cool breeze. The clouds had started clearing up (for some reason it’s always overcast here), we could see some stars. 🙂

The weekly BBQ is something we all look forward to.

Tomorrow should be drill day. We look forward to those too, but not in quite the same way. 😉

 

(the pictures are from another BBQ, not tonights)

Capt Jills Kvetching

OK, fair warning here, I’m going to be bitching (a bit) in this post…

This week I’m in Houston re-taking the Basic Safety Training (BST) course. This is a class that the USCG (Coast Guard) started requiring all mariners to take back when they were trying to get the US in compliance with STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) around the turn of the century (STCW 95 went into full effect in the US Feb 2, 2002).

BST is a very basic course that is supposed to teach you what you should know before you can go offshore. Things you would know if you’d ever spent more than a couple of days (working) out there. Things like ‘what is a station bill? what is a muster station? what are the alarm signals? what do you do if someone falls overboard?, where can you find a lifejacket? how do you use a fire extinguisher? etc.

STCW is an international standard and the USCG is in charge of making sure all US mariners comply.

For once, the USCG actually made a rule that sort of made sense. They decided that if you were still sailing during the 5 years before you had to renew your credentials, (still working offshore where you were required to do safety training and drills every week), then you wouldn’t be required to spend another week of your supposed time off and a few hundred dollars (minimum) to ‘learn’ how to do such things as put on a life jacket or about the different types of fires.

It’s really pretty sad to have to require someone who’s been going to sea for 20 years (or even ONE year) to spend a week of their time off in this kind of class.

At this point, the USCG still does not require us to take the BST class more than once. They have caved in to the IMO and WILL be forcing us all to re-take the BST refresher course starting in 2017 (but they’re not yet). So far as I know, there are no approved ‘refresher’ courses since this is a fairly new ruling. Hopefully, the refresher course will only cover what we don’t do every week on board the ships. Things we CAN’T do (supposedly) out there like jump in the pool and/or put out real fires.

Maybe they’ll be sensible and just let us do a one day course on only those couple of things (I can hope, can’t I). 😉

In the meantime, certain companies don’t really care what the rules say. They insist that no one could possibly be ‘safe’ unless and until  they finish going to training for THEM.

I see it more and more often in the Gulf of Mexico. The drilling companies (clients) are especially bad about it. Instead of accepting Safegulf or Rigpass, (both of which cover the same very basic materials and are pretty much the same as the BST but more for the rigs vs the boats), each company wants you to go to THEIR training before you go offshore (even tho it’s all pretty much the same material).

Some of the trainers won’t even give you any proof that you attended the class! They don’t want you to be able to go to another company and avoid having to take it again (so they will get paid again for teaching you the same stuff they just taught you 2 months ago)!!

I have no idea why. Well, yes I do, but nobody likes to admit it. All the STCW courses cover the same material. They HAVE to. The USCG requires certain things to be taught. They require that we spend so much time on each subject. There is very little leeway in how these courses are taught.

The purpose of the STCW was to ensure that everybody in the entire world has the EXACT SAME TRAINING. Every country that is approved (on the white list) has basically the same courses teaching the same things. That is so that we can all be certain that every seafarer from every country will have at least the same basic minimum knowledge base.

Now, it seems the intent of the STCW is being subverted. I am hearing that some countries will not accept training from other countries. The sailors have to go and spend all that time and money taking the classes again for the country they want to work in! In fact, the US is one of those countries! (I am simplifying it a little here).

The USCG will not accept a course if I go to another country to take it. For example, if I went to take Basic Safety Training in Greece, they would not accept it. If someone from the UK were to come here and try to get a mariners document, they would have to re-take the BST course here. The USCG is supposedly in the process of changing the rules (again) but in the meantime, its a real pain in the ass for a lot of sailors around the world!

I’m actually lucky this time. I am starting a new job and the company is sending me to the ‘training’ this time. I have pretty much always had to spend the time and money out of my own pocket for all the other times I’ve had to do this.

I spent over $50,000 (!!!!!) re-taking classes I already took in order to get my chief mates license between 2002-2008!

Basically, I am just sick and tired of having to take the same classes over and over again. There’s very rarely even anything new covered in them. The very few things that have changed are things we could have got out of a safety alert or an email. But nooooooo, we have to go spend a week and a few hundred bucks (minimum) to sit through all the rest of the stuff that has NOT changed.

I think if I have to do it again at this point, that will be the last straw. I would just have to say the hell with it and give up sailing altogether. 😦

And they wonder why it’s so hard to recruit mariners?

It’s very sad that this is what it’s coming to. People say to me, “how can you be against “safety””? OK, let’s get this straight! I am NOT against safety!! I AM against these people (companies and governments) making up rules and checklists and “training” to COVER THEIR ASSES instead of doing the RIGHT thing!

IMHO, the real purpose of all these things is so they can send us to a class for a few days and then send us offshore and if we ever get hurt they can say “it’s not OUR fault, we sent them to TRAINING, they should have known better”. In other words, it’s all about CYA.

Of course, no one will actually ADMIT that.

Instead of actually giving a new person the time to learn the job PROPERLY on the job, with the people they will be working with who know the specifics, they send a new person off for a few days in a classroom.

OK, that’s better than nothing, I admit it, but it’s  NOT better than the way they used to learn things BEFORE these rules were put into effect!

We used to take a new person offshore and train them on the job. We would make sure to watch over them and ‘mentor’ them until we were all sure that they knew how to handle themselves. There were enough people out there for that system to work very well. Now that the companies have cut the crew size down to the bare minimum (or less, in many cases), no one really has the time or energy to watch over a new person like that.

So, now we have to trust that they know everything they need to know when they show up on board. After all, they’ve been “trained” and there is no way anybody can just ‘watch and learn’ anymore. Everybody out there now is going to be expected to pull their weight.

Personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that there were MORE accidents and injuries since the start of all this STCW and company “training”. (Don’t even get me started on the paperwork component of all this: JSAs, tool box talks, etc, etc, etc). So far, I have not seen any kind of apples to apples comparison. I’m not sure anybody wants to see that done. It might show the companies that all their talk about safety is just that- TALK!

They might just have to come up with something a little more effective at making things safer out there, like maybe putting a few more people back on board the vessels? Or maybe cutting down on all the extra workload each person has had to shoulder since they cut out over half the crew years ago? Or maybe actually letting a person get some rest before they go to work on crew change day instead of putting them straight to work after they’ve just been up for 24+ hours traveling! OMG, they would have to spend a few bucks on a hotel room!!!

Nawwww, that would never happen, they might just have to spend a few more dollars on those crew members then they do on all their ‘safety’ programs. Not ever gonna happen. 😦