Tuesday, October 30, 2012


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.


  1. Not sure how you deal with those seas. I guess you get used to it. But you never get used to the missing loved ones.

  2. I'm happy you'll be home soon. I'm not sure how you handle it, but I guess knowing that it's helping your family gets you through. They (we) will be so happy to see you....