Work

Finally! I’m going to work tomorrow! 🙂

It’s only a temp job. Maybe not even a week. But it’s the first real job I’ve had since I went as AB on that delivery job down to Colombia last August.

I’ll be going out as 3rd mate/JDPO (junior dynamic positioning officer) just to relieve someone who had to leave unexpectedly.

I hope, really really hope this is the start of something good!

Busy Week

Wow! I’m sorry I haven’t been around here for so long. I’ve been occupied with other things all week and just haven’t had time to do much blogging. I’ve been lucky and had a couple days work this week. Tomorrow too. I’ll catch up this weekend.

I promise!

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!

3 Days to Spare!

finally finished my 2015 taxes! Since tomorrow is the 15th and the deadline for the extension, I thought I had to get them signed and sent before my accountants office closed today. She told me we actually have until Monday to send them in since the 15th is on a weekend this year.

I spent about 2 hours on the phone with her this afternoon, answering last minute questions. I waited at her office for last minute review by the boss before signing the forms.

Whew! Am I glad that’s over with!

Now I can finally relax and move on to other projects. Stuff I know I’ll enjoy a lot more. 🙂

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?

Good News!

thought I had some really great news today. I got a call about a DPO job! Only for a month, but hey- I’ll do just about anything right now. A month as DPO would help a LOT!

I was actually in Houston for an interview for a different job when I got the call about the DPO. I think the interview went pretty well, but will have to wait and see what happens next week. I’m still not sure exactly what that job is all about.

When I got out of the interview (I had my phone turned off), I had another call about a job. This one was leaving immediately. Only for AB, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers! I still remember how to chip and paint. 🙂

The DPO job is not a sure thing, they don’t even know for sure when they’d need me, or IF they’d need me at all. I figure a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush (learned that lesson). I’m leaving early in the morning.

I’ll drive to Louisiana, get on the boat, deliver the boat to Columbia, fly back home. Should take less than 10 days if everything goes as planned (it never does).

I’m looking forward to the adventure. 🙂

I’ll be SO glad to be back at sea again. Only problem is- I’ll be incommunicado. They have no internet or phone. I swore I’d never take a job again where I couldn’t stay in touch, but it’s been so long since I’ve had ANY work. I’m just going to have to suck it up and keep hoping things get better offshore soon.

It’s hard to believe how people treat you when they know you’re desperate for work. Hard to believe anyone thinks it’s OK to send people to work totally cut off from the world for weeks at a time. Yes, we were all used to that, back in the day. Back when no one had internet or cel phones, it was bearable. We waited to get snail mail when we reached port. That was decades ago! Hard to believe employers still get away with treating their people like that. We’re not talking 3rd world employers either, these are Americans. 😦

Anybody out there from Columbia? I would love to learn more about it. I was there for a short time during high school, not nearly enough time.

Another Airport

I made it to London. I have another flight to Frankfurt and then one more to Luanda. It’s been a rough couple of days.

Even when I think I’m almost caught up with things, shit happens and I wind up frantically trying to get to the airport on time to make my flight.

This trip was no different. I had planned on leaving by 1600, that should have me to the airport by 1730. But I got delayed by a few phone calls (why doesn’t anybody ever call me except when I’m in a rush to get out the door?).

My accountant called me a couple of times about my estimated tax payment which is due by June 15, so I had to write a check before I left. To do that, I had to go online and transfer money.

Just a bunch of little things like that, but they added up and I didn’t get out of the house til about 1645. I was pretty lucky and didn’t hit the heavy traffic til I was almost downtown and it was only for about a half hour. I got to the airport about 1830. My flight wasn’t departing til 2045, so I still had plenty of time.

I had to meet the courier outside the airport to pick up my visa, that took another few minutes and then when I went to check in, there was some kind of problem. Somehow they had 2 reservations for me. I had gone online the night before and bought an upgrade for the flight to London. It wouldn’t let me do anything with the rest of the flight, but at least I got a few hours in relative comfort.

Anyway, I did check last night, and the computer showed my upgrade had gone through with my new seat. It wouldn’t let me check in, since you have to show your passport to somebody in person when you fly overseas now. So, when I got to the airport, they were checking me in but just to economy class. It took quite a while to get that straightened out.

By the time I got my boarding passes and through security, I only had about a half hour before the flight started boarding. I got to the lounge to hang out, but it was packed. At least I got a little snack (they’ve improved their offerings- they had soup and salads- usually they only have cheese and crackers).

I was so wiped out when I got on the plane, I was SO glad I had that opportunity to have at least a little comfort for the flight. (United has ice cream sundaes for dessert where you can choose your own toppings and I really enjoyed that. 🙂

There was a lot of turbulence, but even so I managed to get a couple of hours of good sleep. I feel much better today and hoping the rest of the trip goes OK.

Is there anybody out there now who actually still enjoys flying? I remember when I did. I actually used to look forward to it. Seems like it was such a long time ago, but it was really only after 9-11 when it got soooooo bad!

I really wish people would not have let them punish ALL of us forever over that. Yeah, it was terrible, it should never have happened, but WE have done more to destroy our freedoms than the terrorists ever could have dreamed of. 😦

Landing in Luanda

I had a hell of a trip this time. We left Houston about an hour late after sitting (all ready to go) on the runway for 30-40 minutes. I was thinking maybe I would still be able to make my connection in London. Until they announced that they were turning our plane around. 😦

We got off the (full) plane and shuffled across the terminal to the new gate where they had another plane waiting for us. It was supposed to be ready for us to go right aboard. Something changed tho. Those of us with connections in London had to stand in line at the desk while the gate agents tried to find us new connections.

When I finally made it to the desk to talk to an agent, they told me that since my company had bought the tickets for my trip separately, they couldn’t do anything to help me. I would have to talk to the connecting airline once I got to London.

Has anyone else ever heard of this? You buy a ticket to go from one place to another. You make sure all connecting flights are on partner airlines, you get one ticket with one confirmation number so everything seems OK. Lesson learned, it’s NOT.

I didn’t buy these tickets personally. My company sets up my travel arrangements to and from work. I’ve never had any problems like this before. Usually, when a problem with the original flight causes you to miss your connection, that carrier is responsible to get you on the next available flight. Apparently, it doesn’t always work this way. 😦

I tried to call my company to let them know what was going on. I had an emergency number and the number for the rig I was going to and a couple of others. I called all of them and no one answered. I was able to leave a message on at least one of them.

I wasn’t really sure if anyone had received my message or if they were doing anything to arrange for my passage on from London, so when I got to London I turned my phone on hoping for a call from my company and proceeded to try to get the airlines to get me to my final destination somehow.

I went to TAP first, since United told me in Houston that they could/would not do anything for me (because of the separate ticket issue). TAP told me that they could/would not do anything for me since it was United that screwed up and ruined my connections so they were responsible for me. They did have flights available that they could get me on, but it would cost me 860 GBP to replace my tickets! They suggested I go back to United and try again.

I did that. I was lucky to get a very good agent this time (thanks again Usama). He did his best to help me and really came through. He was able to route me through Johannesburg to arrive in Luanda by noon the next day. Even got my luggage straightened out to make sure my bag would be on the flight with South African Airlines.
 
Lucky me, I thought I was all set and would have a couple of hours to rest and relax in the airport lounge. I figured I would try to call my company again and if there was no answer I would send emails.
 
I checked my phone and there were a couple of voice mails, but for some reason when I tried to listen to them they disappeared. I have a very new phone and I’m not really used to it yet so maybe I did something wrong. 😦
 
I tried to check for records of calls in and calls out but it looks like this phone doesn’t save that information like my last phone did. Since I didn’t have the phone number for the person I was going to try to reach on my phone, I tried to get online with my computer to check my email.
 
I FINALLY found an unused electrical outlet in the lounge where I could use my computer without running out of juice (it’s old and sucks down the battery pretty quickly). As soon as I opened up my email, I found a couple of messages from my company.
 
First thing that popped out at me was that they had already arranged another flight for me. I guess they DID get my messages from Houston after all. Next message from them was to call them asap. So, I called.
 
The result of the conversation was that I needed to cancel the flight through Johannesburg that I had FINALLY managed to get United to arrange for me and take an Air France flight through Paris! I don’t know how much money that ticket cost but I know it wasn’t cheap!
 
The reason for spending all that money for another ticket rather than allow me to take the free flight through Johannesburg that was already arranged (and paid for)? That I would arrive in Luanda at 1200 noon and the Air France flight would have me arriving at 0500 am!
 
OK, I get it. They would like me to arrive at work as early as possible. The issue for me is that I had already been awake since I got up to get ready to leave home. So, since 0600 Tuesday morning August 12th. It was already around noon on August 13th, so I had already been up for 36 hours (adding 6 hours for GMT).
 
The original flight they had booked me would have allowed me to get at least a few hours of sleep at the hotel. The Air France flight would have me awake for a total of 54 hours by the time I arrived in Luanda and then I would have to spend another few hours in the airport and helicopter trying to keep my eyes open while getting from the airport in Luanda to the rig on the helicopter.
 
I don’t know about you, but I am not one of those people who can sleep anywhere. I really envy those people sometimes. I can only sleep if I can lie down comfortably (or, if I am just SO damn tired it’s impossible to stay awake anymore).
 
So, I was NOT looking forward to canceling the South African flight. I did do it tho. I went back to the South African Air desk to try and have them find my luggage before they put it on their plane (and would have to delay their flight taking my luggage off when they found out I was not actually on the plane- ‘security issue’ so they say).
 
Of course, they could not actually FIND my luggage and told me I would have to go back to the United desk to save my luggage. At that point, I didn’t have the time to even try to get to the United desk, much less try to get my luggage issue resolved. I would have to hurry to get from terminal 1 over to terminal 4 where the Air France flight was departing from.
 
Other than the usual time wasted going through ‘security’ once again (I had been no place other than inside secure areas of airports since 1200 on the 12th), things went pretty smoothly. If they didn’t, I would have missed that flight too.
 
I did make it. Stuck in the middle seat (probably due to last minute purchase of tickets) all the way to Paris. At least it was only a short (1.5 hours) flight.
 
I arrived in Paris and tried to use my United lounge pass and no such luck! United is a ‘Star Alliance’ member and Air France is not, so I couldn’t even find a comfortable place to chill out for the layover in Paris.
 
The next flight from Paris to Luanda was also stuffed full but I was lucky to at least have an aisle seat for the 8 hour flight. Thank goodness for small favors.
 
I was SO tired by this point, I think I actually fell asleep for a few minutes at a time during this flight. I know because every time I did, my seatmate had to wake me up to go to the bathroom, or else the flight attendants would knock me in the elbow passing by with the drink cart.
 
We arrived in Angola before dawn. There was a mad scramble to get in line for immigration. There must have been over 300 people in line and only about 5 immigration agents to process us all. I was lucky again and pulled aside by one of the officials to start another line, so I got to show my papers fairly quickly.
 
Since I didn’t have a visa and had to get one on arrival, the immigration agent just looked at my yellow fever certificate and sent my passport and official paperwork off with another agent while I was to wait off to the side.
 
It didn’t really take them very long to come back with it. Only about 30 minutes. After they gave me my passport back with the visa stuck in there, I was free to pick up my luggage and go.
 
I was one of the last people from my flight to arrive at the baggage claim and the carousel had already stopped turning. Just as I suspected, my luggage did NOT make it to Luanda.
 
Once again, my luggage was lost in transit. At least it was not a surprise this time. I also knew it had arrived safely in London, both United and Air France confirmed that before I left London.
 
I went to the lost and found office and proceeded to fill out the paperwork for my bag. Thank goodness, I TRIED to pack lightly this time. Last time I found out they have very low weight limits on baggage for the helicopters out to the rig.
 
I really didn’t have much to worry about in there except for my prescription safety glasses and comfortable steel toed boots (if those things could EVER really be considered at all comfortable). I just had a few other things like work shirts, underwear, socks, flip-flops, tooth-paste, etc.
 
Thank goodness I was able to send a box of stuff over to this ship from my last one! At least I have a few pair of underwear and a couple of days worth of toothpaste. I HOPE they will deliver my bag on the next Air France flight to arrive in Luanda. They should, they know to be on the look out for it. I just hope it gets here on the next chopper after that (which might not be til Tuesday).
 
Yes, I did go straight out from the international airport to the domestic airport to catch the helicopter to the rig. I was put on the 1800-0600 (night) watch so was able to get about 3 hours of sleep before going on watch. Yeah, right, 3 hours after all that.
 
Here’s to the wonderful world of travel to Africa! 😉
 
 

Merry Christmas from the DS-5

Merry Christmas from the DS-5 (Drillship 5, formerly Deep Ocean Mendocino).

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

DS-5 (formerly Deep Ocean Mendocino)

 

 

She’s Off Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Well, I’m out of here in the morning. Into the wild blue yonder. Or at least the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). I’ve had a longer vacation than I expected, schedule changed at the last minute.

I’m still not really ready to go back to work, but at this point I think I would need to be off for a few months straight to actually be READY to go back. 😉

I’m in New Orleans for the night, or at least a few hours. Usually, I have to get up at 2 AM, so they can come and get me at 3 AM, so we can be at the heliport in Fourchon by 5 AM, so I can sit around drinking coffee and trying to stay upright and keep my eyes open til around 9-10 AM when they get around to putting me on a chopper so I can finally get out to the vessel I’ll be working on.

Lots of people seem to think flying to work in a helicopter is really cool. I guess it might be, the first few times you do it. It is really nice to fly at a lower altitude and see things better then you can in an airplane but I never really liked it a whole lot. It’s noisy, it vibrates a lot, it’s cramped (more then a plane and you can’t get up to go to the restroom!).

I’m used to it now, it’s just part of working offshore to me. I’m just glad when I can finally get out to the vessel and start my real job. It’s like driving to work in traffic, do you enjoy that part? Or you’re just glad to finally get there? Same thing. 😉

crew change by chopper

crew change by chopper

I’m going back to the same rig this time as I was on a couple of weeks ago. I like that. It’s nice to go back where you know people and you’re familiar with how things are done on board. I think my job freelancing is perfect for me since I do get to go back a lot of times to the same familiar vessels, but before I get bored I might get to go to a new one. I also do a few different jobs, so it keeps me on my toes. 😉

A lot of ways they’re all the same, but they all have little differences. It takes a few days to get it all straight. I have the hardest time learning everybodys names. It’s not so bad on a ship, when there are only 18-25 crew, but on a rig there might be 250 people on board! Sometimes you might be working 4 weeks straight with someone and never see them til you go home on the same chopper!

Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with this blog once I get out there. I’m sure it will be at least a couple of days before I can catch up on things, so don’t worry if you don’t see me for a while. 😉

I’ll be back! 🙂

Catching Up With Capt Jill

Well, it’s been a little while now since I finished up the November Post-A-Day Challenge (National Blog Posting Month). I needed the break. I actually got home from work the day after Thanksgiving (and missed the big feast). 😦

As usual it took me a few days to catch up on everything.

First couple of days wasted just trying to catch up on SLEEP. I hate switching over from 6-6 nights! It’s SO hard this time of year, both mentally and physically. Never see the sun, no one is awake at home, never get your body in tune with your meals and sleep schedule, etc.

Since I’m home and finally have a chance to get caught up, I thought it might be a good time to write a little about who I am, what I do and what I’m hoping to do with this blog.

OK, so, here goes… I work as a merchant mariner (Merchant Navy for the Brits). For those of you who don’t really know what that means, it’s simply someone who works on a commercial vessel. Anything from small ferries, fishing vessels, to the largest VLCC or drillships. Usually work is in one of 3 departments: deck, engine, or stewards.

I grew up on the water and started working for my father when I was very young. He had an old sailboat that he used as a commercial fishing vessel for a while and he used to make me go out with him. I HATED it!!!

As soon as I could, I got a job down the street on one of the party boats (head boats). I would go out with them on the weekends. I had a great time on those boats. I worked mainly in the galley (kitchen). I sold the passengers sandwiches and drinks.

Sometimes I helped the deckhands with the passengers. I would help them bait hooks, untangle lines, get the fish off their lines, string them up and put them on ice. When we got to the dock at the end of the day, I would help clean up the boat and get everything ready for the next trip. Maybe clean and fillet some fish for tips. I was doing pretty good for a kid and plenty to live on but I wanted to do more.

Way back then (sarcasm), the commercial fishing fleet was where it was at! The fishermen could go out for a week and come back fully loaded. Flush with cash, they were living the good life.It was wild! I wanted some of that too! But, of course, I was a girl. Not possible, or so they said. 😦

I tried to get a job on some of the better boats. The ones who consistently brought in a good catch and treated their crews well. I got nowhere with that. I tried and tried and couldn’t find much of anything.

I finally did go out with a friend. It was a horrible trip for a lot of reasons. We did manage to catch fish but that was the only good part of it. I might go into all that at some later point, but for now, just say that was the turning point for me. I was fed up with everything going on around that place and sick of my life. Everything I wanted to do, I was told was impossible, cause “girls can’t do that”. 😦

To cut this short, I was getting into a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have. What finally happened was that I was very lucky (tho I didn’t know that at the time) and was offered the chance to completely change my life.

I went off to school with the Oceanics and never really looked back. I may not have known at the time, but I was hooked from the minute I got off the plane in Athens and was smuggled from the airport to the hostel we stayed at in the back of a bread truck.

We spent a few months sailing around the world on traditional sailing ships. Studying things like seamanship, navigation, celestial navigation, oceanography, cultural studies, Greek, Russian, Spanish, etc. Part of our day was always spent working on the ship while we were aboard.

I learned to LOVE it! I decided before I came home that I wanted to be a ship captain and sail around the world (and get paid for it). 🙂

My grandmother was really upset! Before I went away to school, I had planned to be a doctor. She never forgave me for changing my plans. I’m sure I made the right choice, even if she never thought so. 😉

The woman who ran the school was such a great help to me (and many others). She set me up in a school in Texas where I could get started toward my goal. A small Jr College in a small town, you would never expect to find such a great deal here.

I moved to Texas to join the Ocean Marine Technology program at Brazosport College in 1978. I managed to complete the 2 year program in only 5 years! I switched from fishing to working in the oil field and now work in all kinds of different areas offshore. Lately as a DPO (dynamic positioning operator).

In school, I learned to work in both the deck and engine departments (and could work stewards dept if I wanted). In the Gulf of Mexico it gets really HOT in the summer! I was working on small boats: crew boats, production boats, standby boats. Their engine rooms were small, smelled strongly of diesel fuel, and HOT all the time! I regret it now, but I never stuck with the engine department. I never even tested for my QMED. 😦

I still had my sights set on becoming a ship captain one day. I fought hard for a long time to get the sea time I needed to work my way up. I’ll get into that some other time. I finally managed, just a couple of years ago, to get my unlimited masters license (whoo hoo!!).

Now, I work freelance. I work mostly for a couple of temp agencies. I like it since it gives me a chance to ‘try before I buy’. It’s also nice to see how different companies run things, to see the different vessels and meet different people.

One of the best things about working freelance is that I can pretty much make my own schedule. One of the bad things is, if there is no work, I’m stuck at home with no money. Too bad I never know beforehand. 😦

When I went back to freelancing a couple of years ago, I took the opportunity to catch up and do a lot of things I’d been wanting to do but never could (since I was always offshore when they happened). I went to a few classes and conferences, I took a couple of nice long vacations. It was great! Til the work slowed down and I wasn’t able to get right back to work when I was ready to. 😦

Now, I’m having a big debate in my mind. Should I stick with freelance? Or, should I go back and get a regular, permanent job again? It’s SO nice to be able to take the time off when I need it, but things are changing a lot with new rules and regulations and the temp agencies are not really keeping up with all that.

I have so many things I’d like to be doing when I’m NOT working. I’ve been trying for a long time to work less and spend more time doing what I like. I’d retire now if I could afford it and I’m working hard towards being able to do that. I have a couple of side businesses.

One is vending machines. I thought that was a great idea. A way for me to slowly work up to having enough income to be able to stop sailing all the time. That didn’t work out for me. I still think it’s a good plan IF I had the time to go find good placements for my machines.

One is real estate. I’m a slumlord like my father was. 😉 No, just kidding. I buy old, run down properties (cheap) and fix them up to rent them out. I started out just buying a place on the water to put a boat (that’s another story). I bought a nice beach house but then wound up renting it out. I’m actually in the process at the moment of fixing it all up again. Hoping to find some new tenants soon. 🙂

I met a really great Realtor while in the process of getting that house and she’s been helping me ever since. I’ve got a few properties now and they do keep me busy while I’m home.

I love to read, I’ve always got a book in my hand! I’ve just finished ‘Half the Sky’, a very good book but kind-of depressing. It’ll stir you up, but then has suggestions for what YOU can do to work off that anger you felt while reading. Right now I’m reading something different,  ‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher (who has a blog I also follow).

I like to go to local events like the beach cleanup I wrote about earlier or the JaGa Fest for the great reggae music. That’s where I took those fireworks photos (https://captjillsjourneys.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/weekly-photo-c…ight-celebrate), or the Biker and Blues Fest I plan on doing a post on (soon).

I love to go sailing. I joined a local club called Sail-La-Vie and go out with them when I can. It’s always a lot of fun. I also started my own meetup group, called Mariners Meetup. It’s a way for us old salts to get out and about, do something other then just hang around the house watching TV.

I try to keep up with politics, I’m into FREEDOM and trying my best to keep from losing any more of it here. If I’m home I go to the Campaign for Liberty meetings every Tuesday night. We have a bunch of projects we’re working on like our community garden (on hold for winter) and movie night. Last week we were talking about alternative energy and how to get off the grid.

I LOVE to travel (yes, eventually I will get around to posting some travel posts- I promise!). I like to write and take pictures, and enjoy going to workshops about that kind of thing. In fact, that’s how I started this blog.

I went to the AWAI travel writing/photography workshop in Boston back in August and they had a little bit about blogging. I started this blog right before I went up there so I could ask lots of questions and hopefully learn how to make a good blog. Actually, I heard that you could earn money from blogging and I wanted to learn how to do THAT!

So far, I haven’t learned how to do that. 😦 I’m still trying to figure that part out. If you noticed, I put a link to Amazon down towards the bottom right. I haven’t figured out how to make that work properly tho. It’s supposed to be an Amazon blog and show the posts, but all it shows is the link to 4-5 different links on Amazon. Maybe some of you know what I’m doing wrong and can help me? 😉

I am trying to improve all the time. On here and in real life. 🙂 Now you know what I do when I’m working and when I’m home. Now you know why sometimes I don’t feel like posting for a little while. I do really enjoy it, but sometimes I just get run down. I don’t want this to wind up feeling like a chore, like something else I HAVE to do.

I hope I can keep this interesting and entertaining for all of us for a long time. Thanks for visiting me. 🙂

Rethinking Work

Rethinking Work.

Good, short article by Utne Reader. I agree we need to rethink our present paradigm. I don’t really think WORK should be the ONLY thing that matters in our lives. Or even to be the most important thing. That seems to be the accepted practice here in the USA.

I’ve traveled around to a lot of different places in the world. In lots of places, I don’t see that dedication to WORK above all else. In fact, that is one of the many reasons I’ve been wanting to leave the US. I think it would be nice to live someplace where people live to enjoy LIFE, not to spend all their lives dedicated to miserable JOBS!

I saw it all over Europe and South America, people will take time to eat, drink, spend time with their friends and family, enjoy life!

We don’t do much of that here in America. We shovel down our food. We hardly go out for a drink with friends (tho that probably has a lot to do with our ridiculously overzealous DWI laws). We rush, rush, rush around to schedule in all the things our kids are involved in (all of which will look good on a resume and so help them get ahead in WORK later on).

I don’t know what the solution is. I would say that one thing that would be very helpful is their idea of the ‘accountablity model’. Working from home instead of wasting hours every day driving would be bound to help in lots of ways.

I think we really should try to come up with some way to tone down our obsession with getting ahead, status symbols, etc. Things like having to have the luxury car or SUV. Buying McMansions when you only have 1-2 kids. Sure, we all want and deserve to have some nice things to spend our time and money on, but money IS time!

Do we REALLY want/need to spend SO much of our lives at WORK, trying to earn enough to pay the bills when those bills are for SO much more than we really need? We’re all caught in the rat race here (myself included). Maybe we should study some of the other cultures around the world more and see how they manage their lives.

I think there ARE more important things in life than work. I’m one of the lucky ones, I DO still enjoy what I do for my work (of course, it COULD be so much better, but that’s another issue). I’m very lucky to work offshore and have a work schedule where I do get more time off to enjoy then most people do.  I like what I do and I like the people I work with.

Of course, I also like the paycheck! That’s the bottom line. I work to get money so I can do all the OTHER things I want to do with my life. I just think I should be able to find a better balance and tip the scales away from work and towards the REST of life. 🙂

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

Arriving at sunrise on the crewboat to the Global 1200

Arriving at sunrise on the crewboat to the Global 1200