Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Changes?

After a miserably bouncy last day in the field, and a cold and foggy day at the dock, our trip back out was quite pleasant. I let my deckhand make passing arrangements with an inbound supply boat, which made him happy.

A quartering sea gently urged us offshore and the full moon hung off our starboard rail, one point of an isosceles triangle that included Jupiter and Aldeberon.

Here’s some trivia for you: a full moon sets in opposition to the rising sun. So, at least once a month, you can get sunrise to the east and moonset to the west at about the same time. It’s pretty cool.

It’s not exactly calm out here, but seas are from the east and the period is a little longer than usual and the current is an easy half knot to the south; all in all, no real challenges at the platforms.

I’m still enjoying the company of this crew, but seriously thinking it may be time to move on from the company for which we work.

Our crewing coordinator can’t tell me if I’m getting off this coming Wednesday, or the one after that. I’m already working over from my regular 14-day hitch, and by the time the next crew change opportunity rolls around will have been on the boat ten weeks of the past twelve.

On top of that, my six-month short-service employee period is in the books now, but the pay increase that was supposed to come with that is not. 

I don’t have a regular boat, unless I go back to the one I’ve been on – and I’m not too excited about that.

So, I’m thinking maybe a job as a relief on mini-supplies with dynamic positioning next.  Or maybe knock out some schools and come back in a couple of months ….

It’s tricky, making a change around the holidays – enough people just quit as it is because they want to be home and can’t get the schedule they want. Which of course might be an opportunity for me.

Whether on my regular boat or this one, I’m already scheduled off for Christmas, so that’s not the issue.

What to do?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving Thanks


It has been absolutely gorgeous out here; a big half moon has lit the Gulf half of each night, and if I had a solid, non-vibrating surface on which to set the camera I could take some really nifty long-exposure photos our here right now.

On the way out, bio-luminescing jellies (or so I supppose) rolled out of our bow wave like so many radioactive bowling balls.

In the field, large, white gulls (the Sibley is at home, I believe) are colonizing our buoy, and brown pelicans -- rarely seen over the summer -- have taken up residence on several platforms.

I wish I could share the sights with my wife and kids.

 It’s Thanksgiving as I write this. Last Thanksgiving, on another crewboat at another company, the turkey came out of the oven just as we cleared the ends of the Galveston jetties.

Today our deckhand has been tending the galley between offloads and a veritable feast awaits us: smoked ham, candied yams, macaroni casserole, corn, hot rolls, made-from-scratch mashed potatoes and (also made from scratch) gravy.

Man, it really smells good.

This year I am thankful for many things: including the continued presence of my 13-year-old in my life, my wonderful wife, who keeps things going while I’m away, the healthy little guys at home, and my job.

Renewal

No, nothing to do with the Coast Guard or the TSA … it’s more like, well, vocational renewal, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago I told you my boat was headed to the shipyard. It did, but I didn’t go with it. Instead, I was asked to hop over to the replacement boat – a sister ship – and help familiarize the new crew with the field and our job out here for however long they are needed.

One week has turned into two, and for all I know (and, actually, rather hope) may turn into a full four-week hitch. 

The regular third captain on this boat had other business the first week, and then – just as I was preparing to head to a completely new boat and a possible long-term relief master position – “mysteriously fell down a ladder” the day he was supposed to come back to work.

That means that when the first captain comes back to this boat, and the regular second goes home, they’ll be right back where they started if I also leave. So it would make sense for me to stay for a third week, and at that point (in my humble opinion), I might as well stay on the full four.

It does not escape my notice that this arrangement would still allow me to have Christmas at home with the family.

Anyhow, same job, almost identical boat, different crew. And it’s a world of difference.

I am grateful for what the guys on the other boat taught me over the past five-and-a-half months, for sure. 
But it was a couple months past time for me to get off that boat. Call it differences in management styles, or priorities. Maybe culture, too.

A week working with the crew on this boat, and it’s like a whole different company. We actually do things I’d only read about in our recommended safety practices binder.

I can see the bottom of the bilge when I lift a deck plate in the engine room. 

People are pleasant, and professional, and I share some common interests with the other two captains here.

So, anyway, we’ll see what happens. The boat I was supposed to go to this week also sounds cool.

In the end, I’m carrying everything I need to go wherever the company needs me, or home if it comes to that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Which is not to Say ...

That I am ungrateful for the opportunity to perform work I enjoy and get paid well enough for it that I can have only one job, not two or three, as so many people today must.

If I worked in an office downtown, I'd be carping about having to wear a tie (well, probably not in Austin), and I'd certainly be cursing the traffic.

On another note: bald eagles along the ICW in Morgan City this morning! Pretty cool.

My regular boat is off to the shipyard, and I'm filling-in on a sister ship for the week. It's interesting -- and a little discouraging -- to compare "my" boat to this boat.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't Leave Me

I have an hour to pack and get on the road if I'm going to sit-out Houston's rush hour at the Petrol Station with one of my oldest friends. Then on to Morgan City with crew change at midnight.

The day I arrived home I drank a six-pack of beer and struggled to stay awake long enough to see the kiddos and re-set my internal clock to normal waking hours.

The next morning started with a 0430 wake-up and trip to the hospital for an outpatient procedure that left me groggy and off-balance the rest of the day. Then into the weekend and kids, kids, kids.

It's chaos here: Two boys under 3, two dogs and a cat. I really don't understand how my wife keeps up with it all and works full-time, but I'm grateful.

And then, there's this: every single day, every time I walk toward the door or the 2-year-old hears the jangle of car keys, he says: "Daddy, don't leave me!" And he means, specifically, don't go back to the boat.

I wish I didn't a.) love my work so much, and b.) need the income.

A 5:1 schedule is just ridiculous, and I doubt I'll be doing that again. Even the 2:1 schedule is kind of crazy, and I'm still holding out hope for even time.

It's not all about stacking up the green, and I decided a long time ago that I was on the "work to live" team, not the "live to work" bunch.

We'll see. In the meantime, one more load of clothes to throw in the dryer ....


Friday, November 9, 2012

What Lies Beneath

I've written about some of the cool critters we see out in the Gulf, but had to come home to have the time and bandwidth to actually upload video.

So here it is, with thanks to JJ Grey (with whom I briefly sat on the board of a marine conservation non-profit) for the music.

The camera is a Panasonic Lumix duct-taped to the end of a hook pole. No live view as I was filming, so please excuse the herky-jerky quality of the video.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Adapt and Overcome

Second day offshore of the final week of a hard five and the weather is beautiful. Early this morning we get the call to backload a crane part and head to an unmanned platform 20 miles distant – in another field altogether, as a matter of fact – and in water nearly 700 feet deep.

It’s directly on the other side of a busy shipping lane for vessels headed to the mouth of the Mississippi, and I got to make passing arrangements with a 600-foot tanker on the way out.

This particular unmanned platform is our customer’s most productive in the area and we carry equipment out there on average once a month.

The issue with the crane is a bad swing motor; we’re carrying the replacement, and meet half a dozen production operators who have flown out to the platform.

The first challenge is getting the boat positioned directly under the fast line so the lift can be picked-up while the crane is in its rest. There’s a pretty good current running into the jacket, but light wind and calm seas make that part of the operation pretty straightforward.

Until the operators discover the crane won’t start.

On Channel 10: “Hey Cap, y’all wouldn’t happen to have a 12-volt jumper box on the boat?”

“Yessir, we sure do. Do you have somewhere to plug it in?”

“No, we sure don’t. I guess we’d need a mighty long extension cord.”

I eyeball the distance from the deck to the crane pedestal. Less than a boat length, but not much. Maybe 100-120 feet. I consider how many extension cords we have on the boat.

“Well, I think  maybe we can make that.”

We cobble together four or five extension cords and send them up on a low-tech handline we tie to the handle of the jumper box.

A few minutes pass as I hold the boat directly below the crane, and simultaneously I hear a diesel engine roar to life and a ragged cheer go up from the cluster of men on the platform.

Success.

We offload the swing motor and set a course for our next stop, more than two hours away.

I am reminded of advice I once gave boaters in a hook-and-bullet magazine I then wrote for:
Carry jumper cables on your boat. Many otherwise fine fishing days have been ruined by a dead battery, and for some reason most boaters don’t carry jumper cables on board, even though they probably have them in their trucks.

This marks the first time I’ve every jump-started a crane from a boat, but apparently it’s not unheard of.

Telling our other captain about the morning’s fun when he comes on watch, he recalls the time he used an air compressor on deck to start a platform’s crane, 100 feet of air hose draped from the pedestal to the boat’s deck.

More than one hundred miles and many hours from shore-side support, we frequently have to find work-arounds for challenges that beg more perfect solutions.

Some challenges, of course, can’t be adequately met out here, and for that we have our scheduled shipyard time – scheduled, in this case, to coincide with our biannual USCG hull inspection.

Our office still hasn’t given us a date, but it pretty much has to be in the next two weeks since our COI expires Nov. 18. Our work list is already three pages long.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More Wx

And here's the NWS forecast for our offshore area the rest of this week (it looks really nice):

Synopsis...HIGH PRESSURE OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO WILL PERSIST THROUGH MOST OF THE WEEKEND. A COLD FRONT IS EXPECTED TO MOVE THROUGH THE CENTRAL GULF COAST REGION SUNDAY NIGHT. 

Today: West winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. 

Tonight: West winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. 

Thursday: Northwest winds 10 to 15 knots becoming light and variable in the afternoon. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Slight chance of light rain. 

Thursday Night: Northwest winds near 5 knots becoming southwest in the late evening. Seas 1 foot. 

Friday: South winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 1 foot. 

Friday Night: Southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 1 foot. 

Saturday: Southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 1 to 2 feet. Slight chance of light rain. 

Saturday Night: Southeast winds near 10 knots. Seas 1 foot. Chance of rain. 

Sunday: East winds 5 to 10 knots becoming northwest late in the afternoon. Seas 1 foot. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. 

Sunday Night: Northwest winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Slight chance of rain. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Small World


A shout-out to my compadre from Florida who sherlocked his way through this blog and correctly deduced not only what company I work for, but what boat I’m on and what field we’re working. Of course, he’s a captain on a sister ship for the same company.

Anyhow, thanks for reading.

More proof that it’s a small world … I’ve been puzzling over why this damned norther just keeps blowing and blowing after the front passed through. Navtex delivered the answer this afternoon:

High pressure well NW of the area is combining with the large wind field of Hurcn Sandy to produce fresh to strong NW to N winds behind the front. These winds will persist thru early Mon over W portions of the Gulf … and linger to the E. Winds will diminish basin wide Tue and Wed as high pres builds SE across the Gulf ….

And here I thought that the late-season hurricane that barely brushed the Gulf was a mid-Atlantic and Northeast problem, one that wouldn’t affect us at all. I looked at the projected track last week and dismissed it from my mind.

“Fresh” and “strong” are adjectives with specific meanings in marine meteorology; they correspond to Force 5 and Force 6 on the Beaufort Wind Scale, or 17-21 knots and 22-27 knots, respectively.

So, thanks Sandy, for the extended cold front. And my very best wishes to the mariners who must deal with the comparably much worse conditions up the east coast and in the Atlantic.

Winter


Winter in the Gulf of Mexico comes like a freight train, frequently but on no set schedule. Blowing through, shaking and rattling and roaring, then gone.

This particular cold front has dropped temps to the “chilly” mark – we’re all staggering around the boat in jackets – and a low moan of protest has been emanating from the rigging on the boat the past 24 hours.

An aluminum crewboat – especially one that has pumped-off about 150 tons of water and fuel and been relieved of its deck cargo – bobs erratically like a cork in a maelstrom. Not usually to the point that the vessel’s seaworthiness is endangered, but it’s damned uncomfortable.

Navtex showed “6-9 ft” seas for Saturday, and that was pretty close, though I didn’t see many six-footers.

My watch turnover notes directed me to a platform about 5 miles distant at daybreak to offload a crane box and three crane weights.

I’m not sure what they’re using the crane weights for – pedestal cranes like the ones on the platforms out here don’t need them as counterbalances – but we’ve been toting the 11,000, 13,000 and 14,000 pound (respectively) hunks of iron from platform to platform since we got out here.

I was skeptical about getting the crane weights off the deck – lifts that size require the big block, which is slow -- but figured it wouldn’t be much of a problem to fastline the crane box up to the platform.

We ended up getting all of it off the deck without taking-out a deckhand, deck plate or a crash rail, but when the call came to pump water at another platform, I declined.

I did call the field boss on the phone and explain the hazards of trying to do much of anything on the windward side (almost all of our cranes out here are on the NW sides of their platforms) in these seas and 25-knot winds.

He dug it. But he’s also about to be out of water, so we’ll have to figure-out something before too long. The weather report says this sucker will blow itself out in the next 24 hours … I imagine we’ll be running and gunning again by tomorrow.

Today, though, may be another day at the buoy.

Logs are all caught-up. I can work on next week’s grocery order and the next iteration of our perpetual requisition order, and then it might be hammock-and-Kindle time. There’s not a lot of outside work we can get accomplished in this stuff.

Back at the fuel dock last week I got word that the jerk dispatcher at our dock was no longer employed there, a fact later confirmed with a grin by the logistics manager. That was happy news. Everyone else there – including the other “new” guy brought over to help run the construction boats – is just peachy.

Our port captain brought a couple of parts down for us. Two of them – a stop solenoid and a fuel priming pump – are intended to cure the a.) engine won’t stop from the helm station and b.) engine won’t start from the helm station problems.

Because Caterpillar makes at least three versions of the stop solenoid for three different electrical systems, but all three have the same part number, I was careful to specify that we needed a 12-volt solenoid on the requisition. Of course we received the 24-volt version.

The other day the first captain on the boat brought up the notion of going to even time, if the other captain agrees and we can find a fourth. Finding the fourth captain is not a problem – I called a friend I used to work with down south (he’s now working out of Fourchon) – and he said he’d be game if we could start after the holidays.

Like me, he’s the father of a toddler and is missing the kid time.

Anyway, our port captain said running even time is not a problem if we all wanted to do it. My fingers are crossed that we can all come to an agreement here on the boat.

It’s less money, because we each end up working 180 days rather than 240, but with day rates being what they are, we would all still probably make enough to pay the bills.

For me, anyhow, money isn’t everything. I figure I can always make more money later, but I can never get back a first step, a first word or any of a hundred other things I’m missing.

And not just with the toddler – I’ve been home just three weeks of Aidan’s first three months, and even if my 13-year-old doesn’t think he needs his dad right now, he probably does, and his dad definitely needs him.

Not to mention a several-times-weekly glass of wine and long talk on the porch with my wife, throwing the ball for the brown dog, attending Wednesday Night Church Services down at the Continental … I guess that, after a month-going-on-five-weeks on the boat, I’m missing home.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Above and Below the Waterline

Things have gotten better since Saturday. We swapped some watches around on the boat and had some good crews on the platforms out there. Altogether, not a bad Week Three, at least the second half.

I am feeling a distinct sense of loss. Like there's a big hole in my life, suddenly. I'm sort of at loose ends, not sure what to do now.

That is to say, the wheelhouse painting project is DONE!

Man, between weather and dew and running, I thought I'd never finish. But it's done, from the top of the mast to the deck.

Oh, I have a couple of antenna mounts to touch-up, and the ladder up needs another coat, but really it's finished.

In other news, a Common Yellowthroat hitched a ride with us for three or four days this past week. Cool little bird.

This morning, another little warbler flew in through an open door, hopped onto my arm, and then began hunting all of the cracks and crevasses in the wheelhouse.

Not sure what species this one is -- if anyone knows, shoot me an email or leave a comment.

We threw a line at one of our distant platforms day before yesterday and received a very welcome surprise visitor -- a juvenile whale shark.

I say "juvenile" because the fish was only about 20 feet in length, and the world's largest living fish can grow to twice that.

It was the middle of the "night" for me, but I sure am glad one of my shipmates ran downstairs and woke me up for the event.

The big fish hung out with us for a couple of hours, swimming lazy circles right next to the boat. I suspect he may have thought we were mama.

One cool thing about these fish -- probably any really large marine organism -- is that they appear to be entire ecosystems to themselves.

This animal supported or attracted a pretty diverse variety of fauna, including barnacles, various remora-type suckers, ling and more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tension and Contention


Things have been a bit tense on the boat this week.

Not sure why – could be I’ve been a bit peevish; dirty dishes in the sink and dead fish on the deck three days running when I come on watch, well it begins to annoy. As does being one of just two people (of the five on board) actually grinding and painting with a shipyard deadline looming.

So maybe it’s just me. Maybe everyone else is fine. Anyway, not a huge deal, just not optimal.

This week has introduced a couple of firsts. For the first time I became really, really angry with someone associated with our customer.

I woke up Friday night to the smoothly-surging-forward feeling of the boat cruising hooked-up across flat water, and deduced (correctly, as it turned out) we were headed for the dock. Checked with the captain on watch and found out we’d been sent in to pick up equipment and some passengers. 

Cool. I wasn’t able to get a card in the mail before we left Wednesday, so this will give me the opportunity to place an Internet flower order to be delivered on my wedding anniversary.

About an hour-and-a-half after we get in, our deck is packed. I’ve already been ignored once by a new dockhand when I told him those full totes need to go on the port side, not the starboard side, and argued with the new crane operator about where a 5-ton generator should go.

The aforementioned, plus another rigger, troop up to the wheelhouse to bring me cargo manifests, and one says: “Your radio ain’t working? Man at the office been trying to call you for the last hour and a half.”

I check the company set: yep, it’s turned up.

“It’s working,” I say. “Tell him to call me on the company set.”

The man at the office did, and proceeded to dress me down for not checking-in on VHF 19, implying a.) I don’t know how to use a radio, and b.) I don’t know my job.

A couple of problems with this: First, his tone – whoa buddy, slow your roll! Second, for the 13 months this boat has been on the job, no one has ever asked us to communicate with the dock on 19. Third, we have three VHF radios installed on the boat, and in the port environment monitor three separate channels for regulatory and safety reasons. Fourth, I wasn’t even on watch when we got to the slip.

I decided a face-to-face discussion might be more productive, so donned my hardhat and walked the 100 yards to the dispatch office.

Turned out not to be more productive after all, and ended with the dispatcher threatening to call our company’s sales manager (I’ve since given him that individual’s mobile number and invited him to call any time).

This particular dispatcher is new to our dock, came over when the logistics company added our customer’s construction boats to its production boat business. 

Over the past two weeks, he’s handed-down one contradictory, problem-inducing edict after another (An earlier one was that we could only take on as much fuel as we had when we came on charter, which is about 6,000 gallons less than we typically bring to the field. The field bosses weren’t too happy with that one.).

I get the sense this guy is ex-military. Also that he’s about to be ex-where-he-is-now. 

I’m out here to do a job and support my family. And, if feedback from the customer and our company is to be believed, I do a good job. I’m certainly not here to be insulted, browbeaten or talked to like I’m the Army’s newest basic trainee.

I’m confrontation-adverse in general, so the whole episode fell on the unhappy/tiresome end of the human interaction spectrum.

We finally embarked our passengers at around 0600, got clearance from traffic, and headed downstream to the Gulf.

Along the way I encountered some patchy fog, but didn’t begin worrying about it until visibility dropped to less than a quarter mile. 

When I couldn’t see the stern of the boat or the next set of markers, I sent my deckhand to wake-up the senior captain.

“What should I do now?” I asked.

“Hell, you need to turn around and head back to the dock,” he replied. And then, after ascertaining our position – very nearly out of the river: “Or maybe push up on the mud.”

Since we were just off a point that I figured had a pretty steep bank, I opted for the latter, and there we sat for most of the next hour, broadcasting security calls and watching a diffuse sun rise as Saturday’s fishermen materialized out of the fog and zoomed past us.

Our company has a “Zero Visibility” policy, which is vaguely enough worded that I’m not certain if it prohibits running in zero visibility or if it just gives captains the discretion to not run in zero visibility. 

I’m also not certain if zero visibility means I can’t see anything past 100 feet, past the bow, or past the windshield.

I already knew that one of our captains typically sits-out the fog, and another will happily run through it (especially if it’s crew change day and our destination is the dock).

Anyhow, conundrum solved by asking a question, and I learned a few things, too.

The rest of the trip out was a slog, kind of like running with a fire hose on the windshield the entire time. 

The design of this particular boat, with a fo’c’s’l bow, gives it more interior volume and more clear deck and – possibly – an easier ride, but it also makes it extremely wet.

Week before last a captain from another boat called me on the radio and asked if I still needed a periscope to run the boat. 

Turned out he had trained on an identical hull, and remembered well the constant deluge. I told him that if our windshield wiper ever went out, that would be a no-sail.

The truth of that statement became evident towards the end of my watch when a utility boat materialized off my port bow. A quick check of the AIS showed a closest point of approach of 0.13 mile. I called the boat and asked if he intended to hold his course and speed.

“Sure, cap. I ain’t gonna bother you none,” was the reply.

About a minute later, probably due to a course correction by one or both of us, the CPA had dropped to 0.00, and my  Mk I range-finding devices (eyeballs) agreed that a collision was imminent.

I called again, and informed the other boat that the CPA was now showing zero, and that I would alter course to port to pass behind him.

Thing is, that was his job, as the burdened or give-way vessel. Until he didn’t do it, when it became my job.

Reading up on the practical assessments for some of the STCW endorsements required for my next license, I saw that one of the standards (I think it was for Radar Observer Unlimited) is to maintain a CPA of three miles with other vessels.

Given the number of boats in our field, that’s not practical. 

But given all the open water out here there’s also no reason anyone should get as close to anyone else they don’t have business with as that utility boat did to me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Boat Life


Living on a 145-foot boat with four or five other guys is a trip, even when we’re at the dock.

It’s part office cot, part college dormitory and part your brother’s room (no, you really don’t want to know what lurks beneath his bed). 

Some days it’s part summer camp and part hunting camp. Usually it’s pretty campy, altogether.

Despite all that – and mostly because our deckhand works hard every day – the boat stays reasonably clean. Mixed in with the reading material you wouldn’t want your mother to see are attempts to recreate Moms’ recipes and some of Dad’s rules.

We tend to put stuff where our wives or girlfriends told us to at home. When we remember. Then, when we get home, we spend at least a few minutes remembering which cupboards and drawers we really keep the coffee mugs and forks in.

We’re just a bunch of boys out here with minimal supervision. It’s a tribute to … something, I guess, that the whole situation doesn’t devolve into the Lord of the Flies.

I suppose that’s at least partly because work and the exigencies of keeping our little island afloat and running gives some structure to our days. And because we know we will in fact go home, eventually.

First Week of October


I figured my birdwatching would be curtailed nearly 100 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. And while it’s true that I have no 50 or 60 species days out here, I continue to see interesting birds. Only a cuckoo has been a quick and easy ID.

Apparently, this is wren week out here; I’ve added two to my list – a Winter Wren, distinctively tiny and dark, hopping about the deck with its tail cocked-up, and (tentatively) a Marsh Wren, which took up residence in the wheelhouse last night.

Both are winter residents of the Gulf Coast, and perhaps farther south. Whether these are migrating birds that decided to take a break on one of the many platforms out here, or resident coastal birds that went astray, I don’t know.

I do know a production platform on the outer continental shelf is no happy place for a wren; not a lot of bugs out here, and the platforms themselves have galvanized steel grating on the decks. That means there’s not a lot of fresh water.

On the boat, we have moths and the occasional cricket that ride out with us, and there’s usually a puddle of freshwater somewhere on the deck.

As I write this, the field is coming alive with radio traffic – helicopters up and flying personnel from platform to platform. I’m thinking we’ll probably stand by on our buoy today, as the seas are building in the wake of a front that blew through about two hours ago.

Our dispatcher knew it was coming and had us finish our backload yesterday.

With seas running less than two feet and a couple of hours of standby time at the far south end of the field yesterday morning, I continued work on the top of the wheelhouse; got the handrails whirewheeled and primed, scrubbed the entire surface and put another coat of white on most of it.

The midnight-to-noon watch is a tough one for getting boat projects done on the deck; not enough light to easily work the first half of the watch, and too busy running the second half.

The other watch got our two new deck lights up a couple of days ago, and yesterday evening replaced one of our old Carlisle & Finch searchlights with a brand-new, but not much brighter Perko light.

If the sky clears, I’ll try to finish up the top of the wheelhouse and get our sidelight boxes painted this morning. We also have half a cable of 2-inch polypro that needs to be made up into a couple of mooring lines.

Last time we were at the dock, we received a large pallet of really useful supplies. It’s nice to be finally getting some of what we need.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Critters

Well, the fall migration appears to be heating-up. Nearly 100 miles off the Louisiana coast, I'm seeing an increasing number of warblers and other songbirds. Had a Yellow-throated Warbler perch outside the aft helm windows last week, and a hummingbird flitted around our grocery boxes at one platform.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet hitched a ride on the boat for almost an entire day, week before last.

In the water, I spotted a Box Jellyfish a couple of weeks ago; it's only the second one I've ever seen, and they still freak me out.

Unlike other jellies, box jellies actually have eyes, they can swim against the current, and they actively hunt their prey. They're also quite venomous and can inflict very painful and sometimes even fatal stings.

Let's see, we also briefly sighted a sea turtle, and the dolphins (Atlantic bottlenose) have been playing around the boat a lot lately.

Our standby buoy is back, at the astounding cost of $27,900. With it we're seeing some new fish that like floating objects: dolphin (dorado, mahi-mahi) and  tripletails. The latter, sometimes called "sleeping fish" due to their habit of swimming and floating broad-side up, are terrific table fare.

As a youngster, I was endlessly amused by juvenile tripletails that hung out around the pilings and bulkheads in Rockport Harbor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Call me Ishmael

My brother just alerted me to a new, free e-book site, and mentioned that he's reading Moby Dick. Because I don't have anything else good to write about today, I'll simply post what is perhaps my favorite passage in any book written by an American -- the first eight lines of Chapter One of Melville's sometimes ponderous tome:


Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Which reminds me, of course of a really cool t-shirt I recently bought at Parts & Labour on South Congress in Austin.

It's a sperm whale with "Call Me Ishmael" worked into the outline. I thought it was appropriate.

Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day. Groundhog ....


Groundhog Day

More than halfway to the end of my probationary period, and the “new job” smell has pretty much worn off.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy my work. Really, I do.

The days and nights, though, are starting to all run together. Seas are higher this week than the last week I was on the boat, someone got off and someone came back, but other than that … it’s mostly just more of the same.

I finally got to meet our new port captain when we were last at the dock. He said he was bringing supplies, and in fact we did get three new halogen light bulbs. He explained the new supply procedures and it does indeed sound like a significant process improvement.

But only if we start getting the stuff we started asking for three months ago.

Can I run the Atchafalaya at night without a spotlight? Probably. Will I, if I have a choice? No.

Can we pump out our waste oil tank with a suction hose made up of the remnants of three others? Yes – we did, tonight, but it made a hell of a mess in the engine room. That’s just more work for a guy who already has enough to do.

Should we wash down the wheelhouse with freshwater every night? I’d like that. Will I ask the deckhand to do it if we don’t have a nozzle for the end of the hose? Nope.

Will our patch on the turbo cooling line on the number four engine hold a while longer? Maybe. But it would be really nice to have the part we asked for a month ago.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough of a rant. I’m sure most folks in this industry – no matter what company they work for – have similar frustrations.

Things aren’t bad, but they could be better.

Update: Back at the dock Wednesday, and somewhere around here allegedly is a pallet ... a freakin' PALLET of supplies with our boat's name on it. Sweet.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Other Boats

I'm no ship spotter, but I do sometime snap pics of other boats whose paths we cross. Here are a few:
Ms Anna Mae, a C&G crewboat.

Wateree, a crewboat owned by South Carolina-based Starfleet.



 Beauregard.
















American Constitution, a dive boat.

Ricky P. Cavalier, a 148-foot utility boat leased to Gulf Logistics.
Candy Counter, outbound in the Atchafalya (and in the rain).
Spud barge and pushboat westbound below Bayou Boeuf Lock.
 Miss Peggy Ann.
Take a Break, a pretty cool floating camp.
Emily G., out of the  Bayou Bouef Lock.
Luke Thomas, a pretty cool little DP dive boat.
 Blue Bill, a little break bulk freighter that's been on the dock forever.
 Utility boats stacked in the yard in Larose.
 Mr. Colby, a Gulf Logistics utility boat.






















Betty G., a 110' utility boat. Typical of the "G Boats" once ubiquitous in the GoM. We're about to stern up to her to pass a package.

















Mr. Blake, an Iberia Marine Services crewboat.
Lady Eve, another IMS boat.