Sunday Stills: How Do You Commute?

Thanks to Terri and her Second Winds Leisure blog for continuing to run the Sunday Stills challenge. Here’s what she says about this weeks challenge

Transportation is the theme for this week’s Sunday Stills challenge. “Commute” can also work, pun intended, which means to travel some distance regularly between one’s home and one’s place of work, school or vocation. Or, by definition, to travel as a commuter.

OK. So here goes.

My ‘normal’ job, my profession, is: merchant mariner. I am a US Coast Guard licensed Master Mariner and also a certified Dynamic Positioning Operator (DPO). So I spend most of my time working on ships. Since the last downturn in the price of oil (2014) has decimated the amount of work out there, I’ve had to try my hand at anything else I could find. I’ve been working as a role-player during maritime emergency training, teaching maritime courses, writing, and painting. Since then, my commute has been ordinary- just driving. It’s much more interesting when I’m sailing.




Since I live in a smallish town on the coast of Texas, my commute almost always involves first driving to an airport (or port) in Houston. Almost all of the offshore work in the Gulf of Mexico is concentrated out of Port Fourchon, LA now a days. So, I fly into New Orleans, meet up with other crew members for a ride down to Fourchon. From there we will either ride a crew boat or helicopter out to the vessel we’ll be working on for the next 3-4 weeks.

If I’m sailing “deep sea”, I’ll drive up to the dock where I’ll meet my ship (usually) in Houston. I’ll stay onboard for 2-3 months. They’ll fly me back to the airport in Houston. I’ll take a cab back to wherever I left my car when I joined the ship.

USNS Mendonca in Corpus Christi

If you want to join the challenge and see what everyone else has done, click here.

Oilpro Halloween Photo Challenge

I just entered the Oilpro Halloween Photo Contest. It’s supposed to be for work, but since I’ve been laid off for a year now, I couldn’t post any photos of scary co-workers or office decorations.

I did the next best thing. I posted a couple of photos I took at the National Museum of Funeral History last week. They had a pretty cool Haunted House.

Check it out.

Any of my offshore peeps, feel free to join in here.

Too Busy

I’ve been pretty busy out here the last few days. Too busy to spend much time online, so haven’t been able to post.

I was busy with work.The big project was to move the rig. We finished up one well and moved the rig over to start another one. You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork we have to complete in order to move this ship a couple of miles!

Checklists, checklists and more checklists! It really gets crazy.

Once we get the paperwork done so we can depart, we immediately start on the paperwork so we can arrive. We didn’t actually finish the arrival paperwork until halfway through the next day.

I still haven’t caught up with everything and probably won’t any time soon. We’re only drilling a ‘tophole’ at this location. A tophole is where the drillers just start the process of drilling a well, they won’t try to drill all the way down to the oil, they only drill down a short distance. They ‘spud in’.

I still don’t know much about what they do on the drilling side here, but here’s a simple explanation of what I think is going on. They basically just stab a big pipe (casing) down into the mud, jet it down to a certain depth, run some more pipe down inside that and then cement it up. They’ll set a well head on it that sticks up from the sea floor a few meters when they’re finished. Then somebody can come back later, stick a BOP (blow out preventer) on the well head, drill through all the cement, and actually drill down through the rocks to the target reservoir (and hopefully find some oil).

We’ll be going through the whole process again in just a couple more days when we’re due to move on to the next one. Oh joy. 😦

Weekly Photo Challenge: Afloat

Here’s my entry for the Daily Posts Weekly Photo Challenge: Afloat. I have LOTs of good pictures for this one. Here are some pictures of the kinds of ships I see daily while I’m at work.

Yeah, they’re all afloat, tho I sure don’t know how a couple of them manage it. 😉



Offshore- Rainbows

Here’s another entry for the Word a Week Challenge: Rainbow.

I took these at various times while working offshore over the last couple of years. The first one is a double rainbow in the background, with a supply boat in the foreground. The last one has part of the helideck that I wish I could have kept out of the shot, but I couldn’t get to a good spot to take the picture without it in there somewhere.


End of Well

We should be finishing up this well sometime tonight and probably getting underway tomorrow. That means I’ll be even more busy (with less time to blog) than usual.

I’m not used to these drilling rigs yet. I’ve only been doing it off and on for the last couple of years. I’m a mariner, not a driller. 😉

I do find it amazing how fast they get the job done on these rigs over here in Africa. In the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), I seem to remember it taking many months to drill a well.

Here it seems to take them only a few weeks. I’m sure part of the reason is that these ships are the latest and greatest (so far)- 6th generation dual derrick drill ships. They can use both derricks at once, that saves them a LOT of time.

Ocean Rig Olympia

Ocean Rig Olympia

I hear this next job will only take a week or so. That one is only putting down the ‘top-hole’, it’s not the same thing as drilling a well.

This kind of work keeps me MUCH more busy than I usually am offshore. I’m learning a lot, which is always good. I just hope it doesn’t get too stressful (it’s ALWAYS stressful when we’re moving).

It should only take us a couple of hours to get there once we finally get underway. The new well is only about 12 miles from where we’re at right now. What takes time is getting underway and then getting set up again once we reach our new location.

Our drillers and subsea guys have to pick up all the riser and the BOP. We (DPOs and ROV guys) have to pick up all our transponders and then secure our transducer poles for our acoustic reference system. All that can take quite a while.

When we get to our new location, we have to do all that in reverse. We will also spend a lot of time and effort to calibrate all our equipment so that it all works as well as possible.

I’m looking forward to the move, but a little nervous too. :-/

PS- I was on the Olympia last hitch, but these are not my photos, (I got them from googling “drillships”)


The big discussion I’ve been having with everyone is over the price of oil and how it will affect us (we all work in oil related industries).
I’m sure for most people, it must be just such a nice bonus, especially this time of year. To have the price of a barrel of oil cut in half over the last few months is probably giving most people a little bit extra to spend on Christmas presents.
I think it’s got to be a boon for the world economy. Oil plays such a HUGE part in our everyday lives. Most people don’t even realize.
It’s not only used to fuel almost the entire transportation industry worldwide (there are a few electrically powered cars now), but it’s used in so many OTHER things we never really think about.
Things like plastic, which is itself used in almost everything. Like pharmaceuticals, fabrics, lubricants, fertilizers, chemicals, CDs, artificial limbs, and here’s a link to a list of some other uses.

Of course, I do have a life outside of my job. 😉 I love it when the price of gas goes down and I can think about going exploring around my neighborhood again. I appreciate when the price of a plane ticket goes down. I love it when the prices of all the things I have to buy drop because the price to deliver them to the market drops. (Why does it always seem that it doesn’t drop as much as it SHOULD?)

But, since I’m working in the oilfield (again), on a drillship, looking for MORE oil, when the price of oil drops it’s not usually a good thing. The oil companies we work for definitely take note, and things start slowing down out here.

New projects are delayed or canceled. Boats and rigs are put into storage. Crews are laid off. Like most people, we’re also living paycheck to paycheck.

So the rumors are flying. We’ve all heard about companies already paying millions of dollars to back out of contracts. Projects being cancelled. Rigs with no contracts. People in super-high demand a couple of months ago unable to find work and others being laid off. Companies starting to change their policies so that working for them is not as good as it was last year (they realize we are not as willing to just jump ship if we don’t know we have another job or 2 waiting in the wings).

We’re all wondering if our companies are going to keep their contracts (and so we will be able to keep our jobs). We’re wondering how low will the price of oil go this time and how deep the cuts.

Yeah, I think it’s a help to the worldwide economy when the price of oil drops. I also know that the price of oil affects the entire oilfield and everyone related to it. It’s a HUGE influence all over the Southern US. So many people all over Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida work offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, they support entire counties in those states with their paychecks!

The shale boom from Texas up through Oklahoma and the Dakotas (and all the way up into the Northeast) has helped bring the US out of the “great recession” (finally). Shale drilling is already screaming to a halt. The boom in those states will go with it.

So we’re all just wondering, how low can the price of oil go and for how long?

New Orleans

I’m off to New Orleans this afternoon. I’ll be there for a few days. I’m going to the WorkBoat Show. I try to go every year if I’m not offshore at work.

This year they’re having a job fair. I mentioned it to some people last year. I’m really glad to see they listened (I’m sure I’m not the only one). I think it’s a perfect place to have one. So many of these offshore companies say they can’t find the people they need to go to work. So many good people out of work. I hope it’s a success. 🙂

It’s being marketed towards military people, but I think it would be open to others too. Might take some talking? I’m not sure. This is the first one I’m going to where they’ve done it this way. The actual show is open to all and is FREE if you register online before it opens tomorrow. You can do it from the link (above).

Around Aberdeen: Day 3

Another day spent out playing in the lifeboats off Aberdeen. The weather was still gorgeous and we had a good time practicing man overboard maneuvers, towing and ‘pacing’ (running alongside other boats in order to transfer personnel).

I got out in time to make it to the Aberdeen Maritime Museum before it closed. I had about an hour and a half to check out the exhibits.

I was pretty impressed. It had a lot of really nice stuff. They had a really great concentration on the offshore oilfields around Scotland. They had a scale model of the Murchison oil platform of the North Sea. I was surprised to see they had an example of a DP desk (an older model like one I started on).

They had some great stuff on fishing and whaling and shipbuilding. They had a few nice ship models and lots of paintings and photographs.

I especially liked the old sailing ships. The Thermopylae was built by Walter Hood & Co. for the Aberdeen Line. She was one of the fastest and most famous ships of her time and a really beautiful example of a clipper (IMHO the most beautiful ships of all time).

The museum even had a Newt Suit (rigid diving suit) and an ROV from Oceaneering.

I used to work for Oceaneering and spent a lot of time with the divers and ROV pilots. That was one of my favorite jobs. I never would have quit if they had continued to work my boat overseas. I LOVED that job! We had some great adventures and the crew was like one big family. Those were some good times. 🙂

I really liked the museum, but I didn’t have enough time to spend there. They closed at 5:00 pm. At least I didn’t feel like I wasted any money (the museum is FREE). 🙂

After the museum closed, I figured I would need to go shopping. I had called the airlines about my luggage after class got out and they told me they still had no idea where it might be. I had already been without any clean clothes since Saturday and so I really needed to break down and buy at least a few things.

I know most women are supposed to be really into shopping, but it’s not really my thing (unless it’s in a bookstore). 😉

I do love beautiful clothes, but they don’t really make the kinds of things I like in large sizes. It depresses me to go clothes shopping. Nothing I really like fits me right. 😦

One of the guys at the training center had told me about a place to get cheap clothes, so I headed up the street to look for it. On the way, I found the tourist center and stopped in for some information and to ask about a tour on the chance I might have the time.

I found the store and shopped until they ran me out at closing time. I really didn’t buy much, just a pair of pants, a pair of shorts and a couple of shirts. It still cost me about 50 GBP! I wouldn’t really call that cheap. Not for the kind of (really cheap) quality I got. At least now I had SOMETHING clean to wear and I could have my jeans washed while I was in class the next day.

Surprise! When I got back to the hotel, I had good news! My luggage had finally arrived! I was so happy to see it, I didn’t even mind that I had just spent 50 pounds for nothing.

Oh well, I guess I can always use more clothes (not). 😉

From Big Foot To Bluto, Gulf Of Mexico Set For Record Oil Supply Surge

From Big Foot To Bluto, Gulf Of Mexico Set For Record Oil Supply Surge | gCaptain

Good news for the Gulf of Mexico. At least that looks like the consensus at the moment. Somehow it seems the predictions never pan out. We go through booms and busts for reasons we never seem to figure out until after the fact.

From my perspective, the GOM does seem to be gearing up for a boom. I see more rigs heading this way, more boats being built, etc. (Check out the photos of the Olympus rig under tow in the link.) I also see more roadblocks for people who want to get into the industry which can’t help since nothing can get done without the trained workers to do the job.

I don’t see the hiring process matching any definition of the reality out here. There are lots of people looking for ways to get into the industry but the companies seem to be intent on isolating themselves behind online applications and never answered phone calls.

One other thing, the price of oil has been dropping lately. I’ve noticed the price for light crude has dropped from around $110/bbl to around $96/bbl in the last couple of months. It’s up slightly now but if it starts dropping off, so will the drilling and so once more the boom will bust.

I’m trying my best to work as much as possible now. 🙂

RIGZONE – Career Spotlight: Petroleum Engineers

RIGZONE – Career Spotlight: Petroleum Engineers.

If I had really thought about it, I would have gone into something like this instead of Chemical Engineering when I went back to school. I only did Chemical cause I live in Lake Jackson, Texas, near Houston. The whole area is a huge center of chemical plants, Dow, BASF, Shintech, etc. I figured I would always be able to get a good job. I only went back to school to make my grandmother happy. I already had a good career (and an AAS degree) and figured if I went back to school it better be for something that would pay the bills better than what I was doing already (working offshore as captain of supply boats, etc). I didn’t really understand what exactly Chemical Engineers did 😦

I wound up getting a degree in Math, just so I could get out of school and back to work doing something I still really loved (offshore running boats). Petroleum Engineers work offshore a lot and it seems I probably could have found work as a reservoir engineer if I had really tried hard using the math degree. I wasn’t really all that interested in it tho. I was much more interested in getting back out on a boat 😉 I did manage to do that pretty quickly after I got my degree. I’d been working throughout school, summers, holidays,etc so it wasn’t really an issue.

Now that the oilfield is booming again, they need these Petroleum Engineers, along with geologists, etc. I had 2 lady geologists out on my rig last hitch and at least one ‘mud engineer’. The real demand is for subsea engineers. Maybe Rigzone will post an article about that soon. That seems to be pretty interesting. Actually, all of it is interesting, its just a little bit different angles of attacking the problem. Finding out whats down there, how to get at it, how to put it to use…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

stormclouds and rainbows from the 8506

stormclouds and rainbows from the 8506