Catching Up

So, to catch up a little bit since I took that long break from writing anything on here, I’ll tell a little bit about what’s been going on in my world. 

My last post before the break, I was just leaving for the Seven Pacific. I flew out to Moble, AL to join the ship, everything was still pretty normal. As the days passed by, the panic grew around the coronavirus spreading worldwide. 

Seven Pacific

The TV in the mess hall was continually reporting every death and the resulting fear-induced over reactions. Lockdowns and government tyranny spreading almost everywhere. I remember hearing of Chinese government agents welding shut the doors of their people (tho who knows how much to believe of any news out of China). 

I have always been skeptical of anything coming out of the TV and almost never take the news at face value. The constant terrorism set off alarm bells for me almost from day one. Nothing made sense. If this virus has been floating around the world since October (when it was first reported in China), then it should have already spread around the world by April. 

I had been traveling a lot since October. I was in Chile, traveling by bus, taxi and plane, before and after my cruise to Antarctica (with quite a few Chinese tourists onboard). I had spent a few days wandering around Santiago, mingling with the huge crowds of protestors (notice how all those protests- Chile- Hong Kong- Paris- etc- ALL just suddenly stopped without even a whimper out of all those millions of rightly angry protesters). I had spent a couple of days at the casinos in Lake Charles. I had spent over a month on board two different vessels, each with over 100 crew from all over the world. Yet, neither I, nor anyone on board had any kind of symptoms. 

Many of the crew were listening to the constant listing of deaths around the world and were becoming very concerned about their friends and families at home. Then came the lockdowns and travel restrictions. I was lucky to be able to get off the ship and go home. That was only because I was onboard as an extra hand and didn’t require a relief. I actually had a relief try to meet me on the ship. He flew to the states from Cyprus (which still allowed travel). He spent days flying half way across the world, only to be turned away at the heliport in Houma, LA and had to fly all the way back home! Then, to top it off, he had to go into quarantine when he got back over there!

None of the Filipinos were allowed to travel. Most of them on ships around the world still aren’t allowed to go home or return to work if they’re at home. Most of them have already been working 6 months and now are over by 6 months or more. How in the world can anyone justify keeping seafarers locked up onboard for so long? 

Whatever, right? We all just need to get over it. Amazing, but that’s what so many people keep on telling us. Like it’s no big deal to be kept from seeing your friends and family for many months more than you had agreed to. Or that you must sacrifice everything you’ve worked for your entire life to help other people deal with their fears.

Anyway, I was very lucky to be able to get home, only a little over a week late. I can always use the money and all the things I wanted to do had already been shut down/canceled anyway. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those poor Filipinos in the crew were still stuck onboard. The company didn’t seem very concerned about making crew change. Why would they be? It had to be saving them a fortune in air fares.

I had a good hitch on that ship. It was a beautiful vessel, with a good crew and an interesting job. We did a lot of underwater installation work that hitch. Laying down pipelines and jumpers. That sort of thing. I was home by the end of March. It was so weird, flying home with only 5 people on the plane- 3 of them from my ship. The airports at both ends were totally deserted. I felt like I was somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

I still feel like that. Or really, more like George Orwell’s 1984.

 

Happy New Year 2020

fireworks

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a good time last night celebrating New Years Eve. I just stayed in with a couple of cups of hot chocolate and listened to the neighborhood firecrackers. I tried going outside to watch for a while, but it was overcast and all I could see was a couple of reflections.

What did you do?

So, I did stay up past midnight and I did sleep late this morning, but I woke up without a hangover. 😉

As usual this time of year, I’ve been thinking about the last year and my hopes for the next. This year even more since it’s also the end/start of another decade. I’ve been starting to notice the time creeping up on me more and more and trying to figure out “now what“?

All I can say is I really, really hope this year turns out better than last year (and the previous 3 before that)! I’m still basically unemployed. I’m still trying to find work, but I’ve decided I’m just not willing to work just to “survive”. I have skills. Skills that’ve taken me a lifetime to earn. Valuableskills for the right employer. I’m not going to throw all that away to work bagging groceries.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve decided that after spending 50 years working on the water and spending a fortune in time and money to earn my license it just does not make sense to throw all that away to do something totally unrelated.

People tell me online (Facebook) that “everyone’s hiring” or “there’s plenty of work”. Yes, I agree, they’re right. I see ads all the time for unlimited captain/DPO jobs paying somewhere around $120/day. Wonderful for some of the Ukrainians or Filipinos, but no US captain would take that job. Or yeah, plenty of jobs for deckhands. I can’t afford to work like that!

They can’t understand how I can sit at home, not earning anything, rather than out making $120/day out on a boat working 12+ hours/day (andputting my life and license at risk to boot). Then spending at least a day or two on both ends of the hitch catching up on business at home. Well, here’s the explanation. While I’m home, I can be online looking for a job that actually pays the bills and uses the license I’ve earned. I can be working on my writing or my art that hopefully I can sell somewhere to earn a few bucks.

The only issue is, after 6 months of not having even a whisper of a decent job, I start to get anxious, depressed and completely unmotivated to do anything. So, not getting anything done at home either. I don’t want to go out trying to get a local job. It’s really not my lifelong ambition to work at Walmart. It’s hard trying to put on the act that I really want the job and will stick around (knowing that I’m going to quit as soon as anything offshore comes up).

The few companies hiring offshore already know simply by looking at my resume that I’m not going to stick around. They know anyone with the license I have would jump at the first opportunity to use it. So they don’t bother replying to me either.

I’ve decided to keep on looking for work in my field, but try harder not to stress about it (that is not going to be easy). I still have other things I plan to do this year. I have an art show coming up in our local gallery in July and I haveto be there for the reception July 10. I’ve also signed up for another cruise (foodies tour of France), it’s supposed to be in May but I need to move it back to November. And… I’m still trying to make the move to Mexico, so I need to get back down there!

Now, if I can just get a couple of hitches in before July, I’ll be OK. I actually got 3 last year and all 3 were as mate/DPO, so better than the year before when 1 of the 2 was as AB. They keep saying ‘it’ll be better next year’. I really, really hope they’re right this time!

I actually think I’m being forced into retirement (since I want to continue in my field). I had plannedto work until now and if I had been able to, I would’ve been able to retire the way I wanted to by now. All my bills would’ve been paid off and I could live nicely off my rentals.

But… now that I haven’t been working, my savings are greatly depleted, and if I don’t keep getting at least that little bit of work every year I won’t be ABLE to keep working after 2021 since I can’t afford to keep paying for the required “training” and my licenses won’t be renewable (lack of sea time), so no matter what, I won’t be working after that unless things improve.

SO, I’m trying to figure out: how in the hell can I make the rest of my savings last me for another 20+ years (hopefully)?

1- move out of the USA! I’m trying hard to get to Mexico.

2- start house sitting. That will allow me to keep traveling (which is just about my favorite thing to do). I’ve been trying to do that already, but seems about impossible when I don’t have any sort of schedule. That is such an issue on so many things. I suppose if/when I just give up on ever trying to get work that problem will go away. 😉

3-? any suggestions?

What are you all doing? Still working? Retired? What are your goals for 2020?

Now What?

Well, I’m back home again. I’m so grateful that I got to go on that fantastic trip. Cruising to Antarctica has been a dream of mine for decades, and I’ve wanted to see Chile for a while too. 

I had hopes that I’d be able to get some work when I got back, but I’ve already been home a week and there is still NOTHING at all going on out there. This time of year is usually the best time for getting work. People want to be home for the holidays. But for 5 years now, everyone has been scared to death to take a vacation. It’s still THAT BAD out there. 😦

My friends ask me if I’m retired yet? Well, I probably would be if I hadn’t been laid off 4 years ago and not able to find any real work since. Yes, I’ve managed to get 1-2 real jobs every year and lucky to get that. No more than that- when I used to work 8 hitches or more. I’ve beat the bushes and scrambled to make a few bucks doing other things like teaching, selling some art, garage sales, etc.

So far, I’ve been able to survive. I’ve even been able to do a bit of traveling over the last couple of years. Not nearly as much as if I’d have been working, but enough to keep my sanity. 

Now I’m home and after spending all week looking for work again I’m at the point of being extremely frustrated- also bored and depressed. I have a million things I couldbe doing: cleaning the house, pulling weeds, cutting down the damn mimosa trees that never stop coming back. 

I could be figuring out how to publish the book I’ve been working on. I could be finishing the pastel drawing I started. I could be uploading more of my photos to the stock agencies. I could be pitching stories.

I could be doing all those useful and productive things, but I don’t feel like it. Instead, I spend my time on the computer (not doing anything useful). Why?

I should change my attitude- my outlook on life- but HOW? I’ve never been able to figure that out. How do you change your most basic thought processes? 

Celebrate


I’m so happy! I finally got a call to go to work! Yeah!

I was thinking a lot about my situation. I hate being broke. I really don’t like being constantly on call either. I feel like I can’t really do anything. I certainly can’t plan anything more than a day or two in advance.

I have only had 5 weeks of work since the end of October. I had planned to go to the Rigzone job fair in Houston today and meet a friend for lunch afterwards. I had to blow off that and everything else and just get ready to go to work. Pack, clean out the fridge, get rid of garbage, drop off library books, get all the bills in the mail, make important phone calls, etc. This job is only for 2 weeks, but thank goodness, it should pay my bills next month.

I heard from a friend late last week that they needed a relief on his boat, so I called about it yesterday. They called me this afternoon and asked if I was available. Hell yes! I’ve been available for months!

I can’t get this song out of my head now. 🙂

Still Out Here

Tomorrow will mark 3 weeks offshore and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will get to stay out here even longer.

Usually by this time, I’ve about had enough and I’m itching to get off the boat and go home. Take a nice, long vacation somewhere. This trip has been the first real work I’ve had in a loooong time, so I am not in quite the same frame of mind.

The only thing I could wish for out here is a little better situation with the internet, but oh well, we all just have to deal with it…

I will stay out here for as long as I possibly can. Especially since there is no telling how many more months I might have to wait until I can find another ship.

I know most people are happy that the price of oil has been so low for so long. I would be too, if my career didn’t depend so much on it. Sadly, the US Merchant Marine is almost totally dependent on the offshore (oil) industry. We have less than 100 deep sea ships left and probably half of those are shipping oil.

When the Gulf of Mexico slows down and lays off crews, it affects the entire US Merchant Marine. Sadly, US mariners are not wanted in most of the rest of the world. Everyone is afraid we are going to sue them I guess. 😦

Internet Today?

Amazing! My computer is actually working for the first time in weeks!

After working on the tuna boat in the South Pacific with extremely limited internet (I would have to wait til we got to port to go ashore and check email), I swore I would never again work on a boat without it.

Well, sad to say, things have been so bad offshore that I am very, very thankful to be out here with or without internet! I just feel frustrated with not being able to keep up with the daily blog posts (or at least weekly). 😉

I don’t know how long the internet will stay on, or how long I will be able to keep working. I’m hoping both will continue for a long time. 😉

I’d like to write more about what we’ve been doing out here, but want to at least let you all know I haven’t stopped posting just because I don’t want to keep communicating with you. 🙂

I hope you’ll stick around for more posts (whenever I can get to post them). 🙂