Songs of the Sea: Smooth Sailing

Since it looks like I won’t be going to work any time soon, I’ve been looking at the travel posts in my email more closely. I get dozens of them every day. I usually just delete them because I’ve been on call for work for so long. I can’t make any kind of plans for more than a week or two in advance. 

Since I got back from my last (only one week long) job, I’ve been calling everyone for the last 3 weeks. No one has anything in the works. So, I thought I shouldn’t waste my time here at home, doing nothing, with no prospects of work. I could go to Mexico and get my paperwork started. I’ve been trying to move out of the US for years and finally got a temporary residency visa for Mexico. 🙂

I’ve been considering moving to Mazatlan, but it seems no one has direct flights anymore. That means I will have to change my plans. Mazatlan will have to wait. As long as I am still even trying to work, I will need to be close to an airport with direct flights to Houston.

I am still trying to move to Mexico, now I just need to figure out where. Puerto Vallarta? Cabo San Lucas? Guadalajara? or San Miguel de Allende? Anybody have any other suggestions?

In the meantime, those travel ads are making me even more anxious to get out of here! This song by Dennis “Menace” Roberts reminds me of the good times down in the islands. I love the music and the video is fun. Nice that they’re using real people in it instead of models too. 🙂 

I wish I could get back down there. Now, or some time soon I hope! 🙂 

Advertisements

Share Your World- May 2019

I haven’t been keeping up with blogging as much as I’d like lately. Part of the reason is I got some work last week and had very little internet access. The other reason is that it takes so much time to do a post justice (especially since they came out with the new WordPress style) and I just haven’t been able to get motivated.

I’ve been home for a few days now. My last job was cut from 3 weeks down to just one week. I’ve been able to rest up and now have the time to check into the blogging world again. First up in my reader was this post from Melanie and her sparksfromacombustiblemind blog.

Is it better to suspect something (bad or hurtful) and not know or to have your worst fears confirmed by sure knowledge? I would rather know for sure. I figure that way I can at least try to do something about the situation. Then again, there are so many things I just can’t do anything about. All the things going on in this country (and the world) make me sick! If I think about it, it makes me miserable. Sad, frustrated, angry, depressed, mean and just miserable. Sometimes I think it would be better to live in ignorance. I’m sure I would be much happier to not know all the things I do know. 😦

What makes you laugh aloud? Crack up? Laugh until your sides split? When was the last time you had a great big belly laugh? Watching a funny movie, like something from the 3 Stooges or the Marx Brothers or Mel Brooks.

Here’s a screen shot of what gave me the last big belly laugh…

“Boat hack #117 – Form two Little Debbie brownies into a shit shape. Wipe toilet paper across it so the crime scene looks legit. Strategically place in head and sit back and watch your crew blame each other and argue over who cleans it up. Film and post if possible”

I saw that yesterday in a Facebook page I follow- Offshore Supply Boats & Crew Boats. Maybe you have to have some experience working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico to get it, but I cracked up laughing. 🙂

Maybe I’m just weird, and still have a juvenile sense of humor, but I really enjoy a good shit-fart-sex joke. The more stupid and disgusting, the better. 😉

Do you suppose Noah had woodpeckers in the ark? If he did, where did he keep them? Apologies to the Darwinians in the crowd…this is merely for fun, okay? Great question! I am a “Darwinist”, but have thought about stuff like this many times. One of the reasons I’m a “Darwinist” and not a follower of the Bible. If that story is true, he must’ve had some woodpeckers in there- all kinds of woodpeckers. Some of those guys can really do a lot of damage. I imagine they would’ve put a real hurtin’ on that old ark by the time the floods settled down. Maybe Noah fashioned a special metal lined cabin for them all?

Why is “Charlie” short for “Charles when they are the same number of letters? Another good question! Why is Billie short for Bill (or William)?

What happened in your world this past week that made you feel thankful, joyful or grateful? I am so thankful I got even that short week’s worth of work! It gives me at least a couple of weeks breathing time before I start really worrying about paying the bills again!

Flights- Finally!

I’ve been expecting to join this ship since I agreed to take the job in late March. I was originally supposed to start on April 4th for 3 weeks. A week later it got cut to 10 days and a week later to nothing.

A week after that, they called again and asked me to come out for 3 weeks again. I agreed since nobody else had anything at that point. A few days later it was cut to only one week. In the meantime I turned down 4-5 good jobs (all of them for a month or more) only because I had already obligated myself to take this particular job.

Well, I finally got my plane ticket so I am hoping they won’t cancel me at this point. I’m at the airport and should be on the plane already, but it’s been delayed. Only an hour and a half late at this point (I hope). The screen above my head is giving conflicting information. One minute it saying the plane will be departing at 8:00, the next it is saying it will arrive at 9:10 PM.

I wouldn’t really care so much if I didn’t have to be on the bus at 3:00 in the morning! And then a helicopter at some time after daylight (6:11 AM). I really hate going to work and starting my first day already up for more than 24 hours. And then more usual than not, having to go straight to work for at least 12 more hours. 😦

At this point, I’m so thankful to have the work. Even with all the BS involved.

I keep hearing in the news how our unemployment levels are so low. How we have the best numbers we’ve seen in 50 years. How companies can’t find workers. Is the maritime sector the only one that’s still hurting?

How can those numbers reflect any sort of reality when there are still hundreds of boats stacked all over the bayous, dozens of drillships stacked all over the world? And all over the world, the crews of all those vessels have been out of work for 4-5 years now and are fighting each other for the chance to earn the lowest wages ever!

Please, let me have just one more year of steady work! Let me pay off my bills so I can leave off all this constant stress and BS involved with the merchant marine these days. It used to be such a great life. How did we let it come to this?

Nothing to Say

In accordance with the idea of ‘if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it’, I haven’t been saying anything here. I’ve been sharing a few interesting posts on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s about it.

I’ve been at home since I got back from the DS-6 March 19. I’ve been home almost 6 weeks already. I accepted a job right after I got home that was supposed to start Apr 4 ending Apr 25. The start date got changed to Apr 11, then to Apr 16, then cancelled altogether. It looks like the promised upturn in the industry is still a long ways off. 😦

Because I had accepted that job (and was on call to go offshore from the time I said OK), I turned down 2 other ones that would’ve conflicted with it.

I’m supposed to go out now starting May 8 and just hope to hell they don’t do the same thing again! I’ve already turned down 2 very good (better) jobs because of it.

With all the uncertainty (and major stress) I haven’t been doing much of interest: cleaning house, laundry, pulling weeds, working on taxes, doctor appointment, dentist appointment, look for work (including 2 job fairs), traffic court (fighting parking ticket I got while unloading my paintings at the art gallery- I lost), etc. So, nothing worth blogging about. 😦

It’s So Boring

I’m home. I’ve been back in town since the 19th. It’s been almost 2 weeks already. It doesn’t seem like it. I’ve spent most of that time just catching up on sleep (jet lag) and doing all the things I can’t do from work: mail, bills, doctors appointment, dentists appointment, phone calls, meetings, etc.

I have made some progress. I’ve been able to go to my painting class and I’m working on 2 new paintings and 1 old one. I took my latest finished painting to the From the Heart gallery in Galveston. Too bad I got a parking ticket while I was inside hanging it. 😦

I thought you were supposed to be allowed to park in front long enough to load/unload stuff. The people who run the place assured me you are. I’m still debating wether or not to fight the ticket. I have no reason to go all the way up to Galveston other than that. I have another few days to decide.

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog much lately. At work I just don’t have the time or access to the internet and at home it’s been hard to find the motivation. I’ve been putting it off for a while now. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about. It’s more that I don’t want to bore people and I just haven’t been doing anything very interesting lately.

I did go to a WISTA meeting at the Houston Maritime Museum last Tuesday. That was pretty cool. They’ve moved to their new (temporary) location. It’s much larger than their old place (with plenty of parking). We had a tour by one of the docents who was a real wealth of information. I would’ve liked to talk to him some more, but the presentation was starting (and a full house to see it). Captain Michael A. Morris of the Houston Pilots put on an interesting presentation about the port of Houston and the pilots- past, present and future.

I could write about work, or travel- those things are usually interesting- but I haven’t done much of either lately. I did finally get a job that didn’t get cancelled. I spent a month on the DS-6 in Las Palmas. I even got to get off the ship a couple of times while I was there. It was a nice change. I’m hoping they’ll call me back.

my ship is the one on the left in this photo

In the meantime, I got a call to go to work on April 4. Then it was moved back to April 11. Now it is supposed to start April 16 and I’m only hoping it doesn’t get completely cancelled at this point. Since it’s only for 10 days, it’ll help me get by but it’s not enough for me to actually be able to do anything with my time off (other than keep on looking for more work).

I am SO ready for this downturn to pick up! It’s been 5 years already! I can’t wait for things to turn around so we can all get back to work again. Real work, where there’s some kind of schedule and we’ve got some kind of benefits. Or else the day rates go back up again to where they should be to make up for the lack of those things.

I’m SO tired of spending so much time looking for work. Filling out applications that never get seen. Putting off doing much of anything in case I get called for a job. I should just shut up and quit whining. I’m one of the lucky ones. I still have my license and my ability to go to work. I could just quit and I would probably be able to survive…

But no. I will keep on trying. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hanging around the house bored shitless. Keeping myself occupied is not a problem. I can do all sorts of things: pull weeds, work on my houses, clean my house, write, paint, work on my book(s), promote my writing (that’s the hard part- trying to find someone who will publish it). I would just much rather be traveling. I’m just bored here. I never, ever thought I’d still be here almost 40 years later.

Still Sticking Around

My ship is the one on the left

It looks like I’ll be able to stay here a little longer. Yeah! I need all the work I can get after the last 3 years of having so little of it. It’s been rough, tho I managed to survive. Many of my friends have not. People who’ve been working in the maritime industry for decades and who’ve worked their way up to the highest levels have lost their licenses and so their livelihoods. It’s such a waste!


Same as the ships they’ve been scrapping lately (and for the last few decades). There’s really nothing at all wrong with them. In the case of the tankers, the IMO ruled that they must be double hulled. Perfecly good ships, thrown out like yesterdays’ garbage. Driven up on the beach in Alang to be torn apart by miserably low paid peons who have no better options and are happy to have the work.


Lately, they’ve started scrapping the semisubmersibles and drillships. Yes, some of them are (a little bit) outdated- but still perfectly capable of doing the job they were designed for. Even some of the latest 6th generation drillships, barely out of the yard are being scrapped. We’re talking multiple hundreds of millions of dollars for each vessel- wasted!


I’m docked here in Las Palmas looking over at least 11 of them right now. I’m pretty sure there are at least that many parked over on Tenerife. I know there are more in Trinidad, and sitting in the Graveyard off Southwest Pass.


How many billions of dollars are going to be wasted before this downturn is over and we can go back to work? How many thousands of highly skilled people will be kicked to the curb with no other job prospects but a possible managers’ job at McDonalds?


I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’ve been through these downturns before, so I knew what was coming. I survived the early ‘80’s, the early 2000’s. I even managed to work through the Macondo moratorium. I saved everything I could. I constantly put as much as I could into my savings account. I bought rental property and spent any spare time and money fixing them up so I could get them rented out and paying for themselves ASAP.


Thank goodness I did that. Those rental properties have been my saving grace. The rents have been practically my only income for the last 3 ½ years. I’ve managed to find a boat job every few months which allowed me to stock up my savings a little bit and take the edge off, but not nearly enough work to keep from sucking up my savings and stressing me out.


I put my best (and most expensive) property up for sale when it became clear I wasn’t going to get any kind of regular work for a while. It still hasn’t sold. I still can’t afford it.


Still, I’m one of the lucky ones. I had enough DP time to renew my DP certificate. I had enough sea time to renew my US Coast Guard license. I had enough money in the bank to (re) take the required classes we have to take in order to go to work. I know so many people who were not able to do those things. They’re not going to be able to go back to work even when things do eventually pick up.


It’s hard to go from a lifestyle of earning over $100,000/year for only 6 months of work. I went from close to double that as a SDPO (senior dynamic positioning operator) to only earning $3000/month MAX from my rentals. I usually had expenses to pay out of the rents, so my take was less than $1000/month. Sometimes I didn’t have anything left and had to live off my savings. It was hard, really hard, to adjust…

Stacked in Spain

I finally got a call for work that didn’t fall through! I left home Feb 27th, flew through Munich to Las Palmas- Canary Islands- and arrived onboard the ship at around 8 PM Feb 28th. I joined the Ensco DS-6 as Chief Mate/Master and even tho the ship is stacked (laid up), I’ve been super busy since then and still haven’t caught up on those 2 days of traveling with no sleep.

My ship is the one on the left


I’ve been hoping for a chance to go to town and look around. I hate to be in a foreign country and never be able to see anything. One of the main reasons I chose to be a seafarer was for the opportunity to travel around the world and get paid for it. Sadly, we don’t get the chance to do that much anymore.


Sure, we may go places on our ships, but with containerization and such short times in port combined with the fact that most ports have moved far from the center of town, it’s rare that we get to spend any time in town. That’s not even considering that many companies now have (illegally) restricted their crews to the ship.

the view from the bridge of my ship


So- Las Palmas. I’ve never been here before. I was nearby. We stopped by Tenerife and La Gomera on the Ariadne when I was in high school with the Oceanics (1977). I was in a group that stayed on the small island of La Gomera. I stayed for a few days in the home of a local family with a girl my age. I remember walking around town with its white washed little houses and cobbled streets up from the ferry dock. I remember hiking to the beach through the bananas and swimming in the cool Atlantic Ocean. My brother was with a group of boys that stayed on a farm on Tenerife.


Before we left the Canaries, our hosts gave us a bus tour of Tenerife. We rode all the way up the volcanic Mt Teide. I remember one of our guys somehow managed to fall down the volcano. Lucky for him, he landed on a ledge only a few feet down. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but still bad enough where he was sent home.


I really wish I had spent more time paying attention instead of playing around. I was only 16, but still. It was a fantastic experience to have and it seems now that I wasted a lot of it by spending so much time partying. Now, I guess I try to make up for that by spending all my time traveling packing so many things into every day. I don’t want to miss anything and then wind up exhausting myself. I always need a vacation from my vacation when I get home.

sunrise over ships at sea

Munich Layover

I’m feeling much better today, even tho I’m pretty darn tired. I FINALLY got called for a job that didn’t get cancelled. I only got the call on Thursday and didn’t know for sure until late Friday and didn’t get my flight information (so I would really know for sure) til yesterday.

I’ve been keeping myself fairly ready to leave since I got back from my trip around the world. I left right at the beginning of November and got home right before Christmas. I was supposed to go to work January 3. I’ve basically been on call since then. I’ve had about a dozen calls to go to work since that first job got cancelled.

I still had a few things to take care of before leaving. Laundry, cleaning out the fridge so I won’t have to come home to a fridge full of rotten food, paying any bills that might come due before I’m due back home, calling my property manager to clear up any issues that might come up while I’m gone, arranging a ride to the airport, get my ‘smart phone’ working again for the trip, and finish up packing.

I left home yesterday around noon. Got to the airport and for some reason they wouldn’t check my baggage all the way through to my destination. My flight was delayed for about an hour, but thank goodness I have a club pass and could spend my time chilling out there. It was about a 10 hour flight to Munich and of course I really couldn’t get any sleep.

So here I am now in the Munich airport, waiting for my flight to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Thank goodness I have a long layover here. I had to get my passport stamped into Germany so I could collect my luggage, then run across the street to another terminal and go through security again. I thought we were ridiculous with our security theater in the US, but Germany takes it to an even more absurd level!

I’m so glad I was able to get the TSA pre-check in the states, but as far as I know they don’t have any kind of international program like that. I really wish they did! I didn’t have to take my shoes off (I’ve still got my flip-flops on), but I had to take out EVERYTHING from my pockets including cash (which I HATE to do since it’s so easy for someone to walk by there and steal it all), credit cards, passport, etc. Remove not only computer, but ALL electronics from my bag. Thats kindle, cameras, phones, iPod, etc. What a bunch of insanity!

Apparently the world is overrun with suckers that are completely willing to trade their freedom for ‘security’. Its as true now as it was when Benjamin Franklin said it over 200 years ago.

You CAN’T make that trade! You give up your freedom for NOTHING but an ILLUSION! It infuriates me that we ALL have to put up with this violation of our rights all because the majority of the people on this planet are so gullible.

While I wait for my flight to Las Palmas, I have a little bit of time to blog. I can’t connect to the wi-fi here. I don’t know why. There’s supposedly free wi-fi here in the airport. I should arrive at 1800 and someone should be waiting to bring me to the ship.

I’m going out as Chief Mate this time. I did sign on this time as Chief Mate, not like the time I signed on to the Sevan Louisiana as Second Mate and they made me Chief Mate anyway and then refused to pay me for it! I’m a little nervous since I haven’t sailed Chief Mate for quite a while snd never really on anything so complicated. I’m hoping everything will go well and I’m looking forward to a great learning experience. It would really build my confidence to get through this trip without any major issues.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to get online once I get to the ship. As Chief Mate I expect to be a lot more busy than I usually am as DPO. Will be spending more time on deck instead of stuck on the bridge for 12 hours a day. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wish me luck! 🙂

PS- I finally got the wi-fi to connect! 🙂

More Crashing Helicopters!

I’m in Houston tonight. Prepping to take the HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) once more. So I can put a T (tropical) in front of it. 😦

These courses are supposed to be good for 4 years. I’ve taken this course at least a half dozen times since returning to the Gulf of Mexico in mid 2007. So, averaging about once every 2 years (price has gone down some, it’s ‘only’ costing me $500 this time). Once again, this is another course I need to take in order to work. Once again, nothing has changed since the first time I took this course in 2007.

Please ignore the music of the video if ‘strong language’ offends you. I got it off youtube, last time I tried to take photos, they wouldn’t let me so I have none of my own to show you what it’s like.

We do the same things: float/swim in the pool, jump from a height wearing a life jacket, put on the life jacket, swim with the life jacket, float/swim as a group wearing life jackets/survival(gumby) suits, get in a life raft, flip the helicopter upside down in the pool and get out of it a few times. I really don’t know why these companies keep insisting we do these things over and over and over again. It’s not like you forget any of it!

And, again, nothing has changed. I just took HUET last summer. At this point, I will not be allowed to work again until I re-take it (adding the T). What is the difference between T-HUET and HUET? I tried to find something sensible. NOPE, not happening. Here’s the difference…

T-BOSIET/T-FOET/T-HUET certifications are only valid for use in tropical region (T stands for TROPICAL) while BOSIET/FOET/HUET certifications are valid for BOTH cold water and tropical water regions.

You get that? T-HUET is ONLY valid for use in tropical regions, HUET is good for BOTH cold water AND tropical waters, so pretty much worldwide. So, my question is: WHY do the companies no longer accept HUET and insist on forcing us to go take another course teaching EXACTLY the same thing, but is not good for use in nearly as many places?

It’s incredibly frustrating to me (and most other mariners I’ve talked to since all this BS started). We have ALL been trained in how to put on life jackets, survival suits, how to operate life rafts and even life boats. Most of us have had many years of weekly drills on all this sort of thing (also fire-fighting, first aid and a whole bunch of other training on things that could go wrong). We continue to do these drills (by law) every week.

Then, to add insult to injury, the companies we work for insist on everyone repeatedly being trained on things like ‘rigging’, ‘swing rope’, ‘rig pass’, even if you will probably never have to deal with any of those things in your job! The last time I had to use a swing rope was about 30 years ago (it’s really not a very safe thing to play Tarzan out there!). As an AB, I was trained VERY WELL in rigging and as a deck officer, even better. But those years of training and experience don’t mean diddly squat to these people. It really is ridiculous that a licensed officer is told they’re not qualified to work offshore because they don’t have a ‘current rigging certificate’. 😦

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if the companies we work for would all get together and agree on some standard. Instead, we have to go and re-take the same courses over and over because one company will only accept BOSIET, one will only accept THUET, another will still accept HUET. BOSIET is pretty much the same as BST (basic safety training) that we ALL have to take every 5 years now, required and approved by the US Coast Guard (but not by OPITO which is the oil company standard setting organization- like the US Coast Guard is not up to snuff!) plus HUET.

You can’t take BST and HUET and get a BOSIET. You can’t even take BST and HUET and then take FOET (further offshore emergency training) which is basically just a renewal of BOSIET. You MUST take BOSIET first. It’s about $800 more expensive. 😦

Next year they’ll add another letter, or change the name. Training will still be the same, or maybe they’ll say something different for an hour (that surely could’ve been done at work), and force us to go back to take the class all over again. And no, they don’t offer any bridging courses, you have to do the whole thing over. 😦

I wonder, do these companies EXPECT that their helicopters are going to crash. Crash so often that every single person must be ready every single time to escape from the water? Why do only these offshore oil companies feel that way?

After all, airplanes crash just as often (probably more) than helicopters do. Do the pilots and air crew have to practice flipping their planes over in the water and escaping from a flooded plane? I asked. No, they NEVER have to do that! Much less do it a minimum of every 4 years! Do airplane companies force their passengers to practice ditching from their planes, EVER? NO, they don’t!

I want to know WHY do we have to do this same thing over and over and over. Somebody please give me a real reason. I’m not talking about insurance company BS either. I mean a REAL reason!

Some company PLEASE start up and act in a reasonable manner! Hire good, competent people and LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS! We do not need to be coddled, protected and micromanaged out the ying-yang!

Early or Late?

I’m sure it’s one or the other. I got another short term gig on the Rowan Relentless. This trip was my third time onboard as DPO. When they called to ask if I was available, it was for 3 weeks. When they sent me the ticket to fly to New Orleans, the date I was to return home was only one week later. I called to find out why and they told me that the guy I was relieving would be back in only a week.

Seven days is better than nothing, so I happily went to work. When I got there, the other DPOs told me not to worry, I would be there for 3 weeks. Huh?

As the end of the first week arrived, I waited to hear if my relief would be coming for crew change. Nope. I was good for at least another week.

Next week, same story. I was wondering would I be going home on crew change or staying for another week?

I found out the night before crew change I would be going home. Hey, I made two whole weeks! Crew change one week later or one week earlier depending on how you look at it. I’m happy to have the work and happy to have plenty of time at home to get all the things done I need to do before I leave for my next adventure. 🙂

Michael Missed Us

I was a little concerned about joining the ship last week. Hurricane Michael had just gone ashore while I was on the way to the heliport to fly out to work. I had been checking in with Marine Traffic on the internet to see where the ship was and how close it would be to the hurricane.

From what I saw when I checked Monday night after I got a call to go back to work, it looked like the hurricane would pass right over the top of the ship. I checked again Tuesday and it looked the same.

I find it hard to believe any ship would choose to sit still and let a hurricane pass right over the top of them but that was what it was telling me on the internet (and I knew they were supposed to be drilling a well).

So, I was wondering what I would be dealing with when I was flying out to work. It wasn’t until the pilots mentioned right before landing that the ship was underway, that I knew for sure that the ship had moved out of the way of the storm and was on the way back to her work location.

Turns out they ran about 100 miles to the West and only had about 50-60 mph winds and 20-25 foot seas. No worse than a bad Norther we usually get a few times every winter.

We’ve been back on location for a couple of days now and have just this morning moved back over the well head. We should be back on track in a couple of days. I’m hoping to be out here for another 2 weeks. I should know something for sure by tomorrow morning. 🙂

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.

Writers Block

Or just plain old laziness?

I have to say, it’s a little of both.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. That’s never been a problem for me. It’s if I have anything I think will be interesting to say (to you- my readers).

Since my last post, I went back out to sea on the same ship. It was still quite chaotic on there and I didn’t have much time or internet access. I was wiped out at the end of the day and just not up to trying to get online.

I was out for 2 weeks (working nights), home for a week and then out for another 2 weeks (on a different ship- back to working nights). While I was home, I was busy with trying to catch up on the usual: mail, bills, car, paperwork, housework, yard work, etc. I also had to take a physical for the job I was up for. I wasn’t positive I would get that job, so I signed up to work at Maersk again as a role player.

Turns out I did get the job, so I had to leave Maersk after only 2 days. I went straight to the airport from work the second day. Flew over to New Orleans and joined the ship the next day.

I was supposed to spend 3 weeks onboard. We finished the job early. The client was in a huge rush to sign off on completion. We wound up back at the anchorage (otherwise known as the “drillship graveyard”) off SW Pass a week earlier than expected.

Once the ship was anchored, they didn’t need 2 officers on the bridge anymore. They sent me home a week early. I think things may finally be improving a little bit offshore. I’ve had more work since April than I’ve had (total) for the last 3 years. It’s nowhere near normal tho.

They’ve cut costs everywhere possible. Small crew sizes are unsustainable, but the clients (oil companies) are pushing everything to the limits. I hate to think about the problems they are bringing on themselves by being so short sighted. As usual, I’m sure it will take a major accident before they consider doing what they should’ve been doing all along.

I’ve been home a few days now. I’m still trying to recover from switching my schedule back and forth from nights to days again. I need to just spend a couple of days sleeping in, not doing anything else!

I haven’t been able to do that yet. I still have too many things on my “to do” list. 😉

PS- check my Instagram feed for a few photos. I’ll try to get a few more up here in the next few days.

Recap

I thought I might catch up with what’s been happening and why I was gone for so long.

I got off the Epic Explorer in late January and recently realized I hadn’t posted since then. Sorry! I got busy and caught up in other things and just got distracted.

I started teaching again only a few days after I got home. First Lamar State College in Orange, then San Jacinto sent me up to teach a class for Hornbeck Offshore (where I’ve been applying to work for a couple years now). I drove all the way to Port Fourchon and stayed aboard their vessel for a week to teach the crews of 2 of their vessels a Tankerman PIC course. After that I was back teaching at San Jacinto a course in Leadership & Management. I went to a pre-hire class in Houston for Spencer-Ogden and then taught a Search & Rescue course for San Jacinto again.

That all kept me super busy through the whole month of February and into March. Luckily, I got a call to go to work the next week. Spencer-Ogden finally came through with a ship for me! I say finally because they told me they had a job for me back in February of 2016. I came back from Mexico in order to take a UKOG physical expecting to recoup the money with a job, but it fell through. They didn’t have another opening until this one- almost 2 years later.

So, I got lucky and had a job for a month. It actually worked out to be a little longer. I went out as DPO on the drillship Discoverer India. the first week of March and didn’t get home til  mid- April. We were all busy as hell. The ship had been stacked for quite a while. It was a real job getting her ready to go back to work again. There were all kinds of checks and tests that had to be done and signed off on for the clients approval.

We finally got most of what we had to do finished and were able to depart. Figuring we could finish up what we had to on the way. We left the anchorage just South of the LOOP on April 3, and arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad on the 14th.

It was a pretty uneventful voyage. We had decent weather all the way. The Loop Current slowed us down a little, but we made good time otherwise. I was a little disappointed in how little sea life I saw this trip.

We saw a few birds- gulls and gannets, a couple of egrets and pelicans. But for the entire voyage, I did not see even one fish, dolphin, whale, turtle, jellyfish, ray, or anything else that lived in the ocean. Usually, we’d see schools of fish every day, pods of dolphins riding our bow wake, maybe even a whale over the course of a week. I saw nothing for over a week, I really felt the loss. It made me wonder why, did something happen? It made me sad.

I cheered up once we got closer to Trinidad. It was cool passing by the Caribbean Islands. One evening passing by the Caymans, I had an entertaining radio conversation with one of the watch keepers from Cayman Traffic. I would have loved to take up his invitation to come closer so the islanders could wave at us, but that kind of thing is not really a good idea. Remember Captain Schettino and the Costa ConcordiaContinue reading

Travel Day

I made it home. Finally!

I was surprised Tuesday morning when my relief showed up. I was waiting in the cargo control room to get my work assignment from the Bosun at 0800 when he popped in. I was so happy to see him.

I really wasn’t ready to go yet. I didn’t expect a relief to show up til late afternoon. I still had to finish packing and cleaning my room. That didn’t take too long. By the time the captain was ready to sign me off, I was ready to go.

I left the ship at about 1030, my flight was due to leave Norfolk at 1214, so I was a little nervous about getting to the airport on time. No need to have worried. I checked my luggage outside (and had to pay a $25 fee- thanks Delta!) and then went inside to check in.

I had to go to a live person, the machines wouldn’t check me in. Turns out my flight was delayed for over 2 hours and so I would miss my connection in Atlanta too. I was scheduled to arrive in Houston by 1800. Turns out, I didn’t get there til almost 2400!

Six hours late, due to Delta’s screw ups and they would do absolutely nothing about it. No offers of food, drinks, vouchers, lounge use,…, no NOTHING to help defray the stress and aggravation of a more than 6 hour delay.

I did finally manage to get a $15 food voucher out of them. Barely enough to cover one meal, while missing 2- 3 due to their delays. At least it was something, tho they told me they don’t normally do that. Some customer service, wow! 😦

No wonder I don’t fly Delta anymore!

I got home about 0300 the next morning. So tired I could hardly keep my eyes open on the road. People worry about drunks on the highways, but I guarantee you- tired people cause much more damage! And yet, drunks get all the punishment, wether or not they’re actually any trouble.

No, I’m NOT saying that tired people need to go to jail and have their lives destroyed the same as they treat the drinkers! Most of them who have not hurt anything or anybody! So they’ve all been punished for some future possibility!

What they need to do is to change the rules so that they’re actually keeping people safe on the roads and not just collecting fines and ruining peoples lives over the ‘chance’ that they ‘might’ at some point in the future harm something or somebody.

Stop harassing and arresting people for some possibility of something they ‘might’ or might not do and start checking to see if they are actually competent! Same goes for the stupid drug tests at work and the idiotic TSA ‘terrorist’ searches at the airports!

I’m so sick and tired of everybody telling me all this crap is for our ‘safety’ and ‘security’. NO, it is NOT! It has NOTHING to do with either one of those things! It has nothing to do with anything other than CONTROL and the destruction of our most basic human rights!

The TSA agents in the airports actually have the nerve to tell us ‘have a nice day’ after they  intentionally (even if ignorantly) strip us of our rights and our dignity. How can anyone have a nice day after being treated like that?

Yes, I know, most people sincerely believe all this crap is necessary and is really for their safety. All I can say to them is: WAKE UP! You’re being LIED TO and your complacency is making it ever easier for the goons to move all of us even further down the road to tyranny.

Happy New Year!

Christmas on the St Louis Express

We made arrival in Norfolk early in the morning on the 24th. We were all fast by 0315. I slept in til 0630. Got up for breakfast and watch at 0800. We spent the day securing the port accommodation ladder, sending crates down to the engine room with the crane, putting the port lifeboat in the water and putting primer on the catwalks where we’ve been chipping.

Since it’s a weekend, we get overtime even for working on watch. It’s nice to get OT again. I’ve gotten so used to working in the oilfield where there is no such thing as overtime. We work 12 hours every day (or more). No such thing as a break for weekends or holidays. It’s very nice to go back to a traditional schedule of 4 hours on/8 hours off (except that I am here working as a “day man” so I work 8-5).

Today is Christmas, so I took the afternoon off. I think most of the crew did the same. Some of the crew went ashore last night and today. They say there are a few shops right outside the gate (we still have to call for a ride to the gate).

Santa made it to the ship! Actually, it was the local seaman’s center that brought presents for the crew. You have no idea how much it means to all of us working out here to get something like this. So many sailors are working for months, even years at sea without ever seeing their friends or family. It means a lot to know that someone cares enough about us to make the effort to bring these presents to the ship.

Santa brought presents to the ship!

I opened mine this morning. It had a nice Christmas card on top with a thoughtful comment. It’s full of candy, shampoo, shaving cream and razors, lotion, soap, q-tips, etc. All things you need and might’ve forgotten or run out of on a long voyage.

Christmas goodies from thanks to the seaman’s center

The stewards department was really the only one that really had to work today. I have to hand it to them, they put on quite a nice spread for both lunch and dinner.

We had ham, turkey, deviled eggs, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green peas, fresh bread, cranberry sauce, and then apple and pecan pie. 🙂

Cooks are happy they made it through the holiday

Not counting the salad bar and freezer full of ice cream. 🙂

For dinner, they had super tender filet mignon, home made crab cakes, shrimp and again all the rest. I was so stuffed, I couldn’t even finish my steak.

It’s cold (37) and really windy here, but no snow yet. Tomorrow we’ll be back to work as usual. The ship is due to sail at 1900. Sadly, I won’t be going with her.

I hate to admit it, but I guess I’m just not as young as I used to be. I took this job as a day man, not knowing what I was getting myself into. Big mistake! Since a large part of my job is running the cranes (4 of them), and the controls are very high up there, I had to face the facts and ask for a replacement.

I’m sure if I’d have shipped out as a regular AB. A watch standing AB, I would’ve done fine. I’m frustrated with myself that I took this job without finding out more about it, but it’s like pulling teeth sometimes trying to get information out of them at the union hall. I was really looking forward to making this trip. Crossing the Atlantic and seeing Europe again. From what I can see, the regular AB’s have it made on here. I’d have no problem doing that job.

I hated to ask the captain for a relief. I don’t like to give up. I don’t like to be a quitter. But, I also have to take into account that I am getting older, I still have not lost any weight, and climbing up and down straight ladders more than a couple of times a day is killing my legs.

I’m bruised all over my body, I keep smashing my knees into the ladder rungs going up the cranes and I’m afraid one of these days I’m going to fall off while I’m cussing out my kneecaps. I have to remind myself that there is no way I can afford to get hurt and if I keep on climbing those cranes, there’s a pretty good chance I would hurt myself before the ship returns to Houston and I’d be due off.

So. I’ll be getting off tomorrow and flying home to Houston. I don’t have any idea when yet. I may be working all day tomorrow and just have a few minutes to throw my gear together. Or maybe they’ll let me know earlier so I have some time to clean my room and get ready.

I’m just hoping they can find me a cheap ticket, since I’m told they will be deducting the price of the flight from my pay. Looks like I may’ve wound up working pretty much for free this trip. 😦

Lesson learned: NEVER take a job as a day man!

 

Shipping Out

Well, I’m off! I’m leaving soon to join a ship. I’ll meet her at Barbours Cut on the Houston Ship Channel. It’s a container ship, so probably won’t be in port for very long

I don’t know much yet about what I’ll be doing or for how long. All I know is, we’ll be going to Northern Europe and I should be gone anywhere from 35 days to around 70 days since they don’t crew change overseas. I’ll probably get off in the same place I got on after we make a couple of round trips.

Here’s a picture of the ship I found on google.

I hope I can get some better photos while I’m out there. 🙂

I’m not exactly looking forward to crossing the North Atlantic in the middle of winter, but I’ve been hunting up all my old winter clothes from when I used to work in Alaska. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad.

If you want to keep track of where we’re going, here’s a link that’ll show you where the ship is located.

I’m told the ship doesn’t have internet access (for the unlicensed crew- I’m pretty sure they have it for the ship itself). I’m told it does have email. Because of that, I finally broke down and bought a smart phone. I’m hoping I can get my computer to work through its hotspot so I can keep in touch here.

It may work. It may not. I won’t know til I get onboard and have enough free time to mess around with it. I’ll probably try to go ashore every chance I get anyway, just no idea of how that will go yet either. I’m going out as AB Maintenance. That means I’m not a watch stander and will be working days.

Of course, I wish I could’ve found work as an officer, but after more than 2 years of trying I really can’t wait for one of those jobs to open up. I have to take anything that I can get and thank goodness the SIU at least has some AB work for me. None of the officers unions did. It will be a real different hitch for me.

Hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. 😉

 

Knocking on Doors

I flew into New Orleans Tuesday morning and picked up my car. I got on the road around 1030 and headed for Bayou Lafourche. It took about an hour to get there.

I spent all day knocking on doors at every boat company I could find (about 20 of them). First stop was Gulf Offshore Logistics right as you turn off the highway to head down the bayou. I filled out an application and waited to speak to someone about the job situation.

Turns out, it was a friend of mine who I needed to speak to. I forgot that he had changed jobs and went to work at GOL. We talked for quite a while and tho they weren’t hiring right now, he did at least offer me a little bit of hope.

I went on down through Raceland, Cut Off, Galliano, Golden Meadows, and back up to Houma. I got the same story everywhere I went. They had 20 boats total and 15 were stacked (just making up the numbers of boats but the ratio is what matters). No one was hiring at this time.

One company even showed me their (long) list of previous employees they would be calling first when things did start to improve. A couple of places said they thought they might start doing a little bit of hiring after the first of the year.

I didn’t get to see every company I wanted to. I missed Harvey Gulf and Hornbeck. Those were two of the most important ones I wanted to see. I have heard they are actually hiring. I just ran out of time. It was 1630 by the time I got through and too late to get back to New Orleans and over to Covington.

I met a couple of people yesterday who gave me some encouragement about that. One recently got hired at Hornbeck. He basically told me I had to go in person. If I did that, he was pretty sure I would get in. So… I am thinking I should blow off the last day of the Workboat Show and go over there Friday morning.

I spend all day yesterday at the Show. I met up with my old friend Captain Bill who was also looking for work. We met up with some old friends and former shipmates who were working the Show. We had a quick lunch at the food court (BBQ which was awful!). Bill had to leave early so we said goodbye and I continued wandering around the amazing amounts of boat stuff on display. 🙂

During the day, I talked to quite a few people about the situation offshore. Everyone agreed 2017 was done for. Most were hopeful that 2018 would be better. Some were more pessimistic and thought it would be 2019 or later (or even never).

I’m not sure I can manage to hold out for another year. I think most mariners are in the same boat. It has just become too hard to keep our credentials current. The IMO, USCG and the companies have decided it is imperative to continually load us down with super expensive, shore based “training”.

Renewal started out fairly easy to comply with. We just needed to do a couple of things like take a physical and renew RADAR every 5 years. Now, we still have to take a physical (but every 2 years-minimum), we still have to renew RADAR every 5 years, but we also have a slew of other requirements to renew our mariners credentials. Without those we can not work anywhere on the water!

That’s not even to mention all the ‘training’ the companies require. They all want different versions of the same course and refuse to accept the same training from anyone other than their approved providers! All of those courses are required to be renewed every 3-4 years too!

I can state for a fact that unless you are working on the water, there are very few jobs (I can’t think of a single one) that would both pay you enough and give you the time off you need to take all those courses. So…. how is anyone going to be able to go back to work in 2018, 2019, 2020 if they are not already working now?

Time Flies

Whew! I’m back home again. I actually got home late last night. I left Corpus Christi at 1830 and drove home in the dark. It took about 3 hours. The drive to/fro almost seemed like the longest part of the hitch!

It was nice to be back aboard a ‘real ship’. I mean something that treats the crew like actual sailors. Not like the offshore sector where they treat us all like a bunch of retarded imbeciles. Restricted to the ship for the entire hitch (since we’re all a bunch of drunks and dopers). Of course, we’re too stupid to figure out how to dress ourselves and OMG, we can never be trusted with a knife!

The USNS Mendonca was a big ship! Almost 1000 ft long. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that much walking and climbing stairs. Even to tie up, we had to move between 2-3  decks to get to all the lines.

USNS Mendonca

I was only there for 6 days total. Just enough time to get the ship ready to sail, go out for a day of sea trials, and then secure the ship again. The time flew by. We spent the first day learning our way around the ship, training, etc. We did our fire and boat drills, launched the FRC (fast rescue craft), and took in some of the lines. They had the ship secured for hurricanes, so there were a lot of extra lines out.

We left the dock with a 4 tug escort, made it under the bridge with just a couple of feet to spare, and proceeded out through Corpus Christi Bay. We dodged a little rain shower. It gave us a nice rainbow over the bridge to watch on our way out. I couldn’t have asked for better weather: nice and cool- in the 70’s, low humidity, light breezes, calm seas. A really nice ride.

rainbow over the Corpus Christi bridge

We returned to port early the next day. I was on the wheel for arrival (4-8 watch) and got to steer through the jetties and up past Ingleside before I was relieved. We had 3 pilots on board. One was a deputy pilot, in training. The other was training her. I’m not really sure what the 3rd one was there for.

We passed the USS Lexington (the Blue Ghost) and the Texas State Aquarium before passing under the bridge on our way in. The Lexi was still all made up for Veterans Day, flags flying everywhere.

USS Lexington

We proceeded up the channel to a spot where we could turn around so we could tie up starboard side to the dock. Just like when we left. it took us a couple of hours to get everything secured and then we had the rest of the day to finish up testing things for the sea trials.

Saturday morning we cleaned our rooms, packed up and then tidied up the house. Swept, mopped, emptied the trash. All the usual sanitary stuff. We were done by lunch and then just on call in case they needed us. We hit up the captain after coffee to get signed off. Lots of paperwork to sign.

Again, nice to be on a ship where they take care of travel arrangements, give you a discharge, let you choose how you want your pay, and even set you up for your next ship (if you want to go).

It was my first ship with the SIU. All in all I was pleasantly surprised. I have a few things to do before I can leave again, but hopefully I’ll get another one just as good next time. 🙂

PS- the photos are all from my iPod in this post. I really need to break down and get a smart phone! Any suggestions on who’s got the best plan for someone who travels like me (and hopes to get back to work offshore soon)? Recommendations on phones (with good cameras)?

Sea Trials

Whoo-whoo! I’m heading out early tomorrow morning for a job. I’ll be joining the ship in Corpus Christi and heading offshore for sea trials. It’s only temporary, and it’s only as an AB, but it’s a job. At sea!

It should be interesting. I googled the ship I’m going to. It’s a ro-ro (roll on- roll off). I’ve never worked on one of them before. It’s a MSC (Military Sealift Command) ship. Here’s a picture I found on google.

USNS Mendonca

I’ve tried to avoid working for MSC since they seem to never let you off (at least as an officer). I don’t really want to do a 4 month long hitch and then stay for another couple months since they can’t find a relief. Then they want you back after only a month off!

Still, I’ve been considering even going to work for them. I’d rather be at sea as a galley hand than an executive on the beach. I know it’s hard to explain, but I just love being out there.

I am starting to feel like I’ve pretty much wasted the last 30+ years of my life (and tens of thousands of dollars). I’ve worked so hard to pull myself up the hawsepipe to earn my license. For what?

I’m going to work as a deckhand. Same as I was doing when I first started out over 40 years ago. It’s depressing. I’m getting really discouraged. I thought earning the license would help me get a decent job. A good career. Just to get thrown out like last weeks garbage. It’s sad.

But at least I can still get out there and earn some sea time. Every little bit helps. I just hope I can hang on until things pick up again offshore.