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.


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.

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