Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seventeen Seagulls

The production boat in our field suffered the third mechanical breakdown in as many weeks Thanksgiving morning.

What that meant for us is that when we headed out on our normal daily run about 0500 Thursday, we didn't hit the dock again until late Saturday.

A good rule of thumb is that mechanical failures, family emergencies, sudden illnesses, falls from ladders and so on that occur on or immediately before holidays are suspect.

I'm not saying the other boat's crew (all of whom are local) went home for the holiday. But I wouldn't be surprised.

So, anyway, we took up the slack. Which was okay, because we had been sitting at the dock for five days, while that other boat rolled around in 10-14 foot seas.

And it's not like we were being fair-weather sailors; every morning the company man at our platform took a look at his weather forecast, took a look over the railing, then called us and told us to sit tight.

By the time we did get to the field, seas had subsided to an easy 2-3 ft. and our nights on the buoy were downright soporific.

Two nights in a row we had a flock of seagulls foraging beneath our deck lights: exactly 17 of them, both nights.

They were quiet, almost ghostly, and soared in and out of the darkness, flopping inexpertly into the water to pick-up their prey. I marked them down as first-winter birds, with blockier heads and less voice than Laughing gulls.

I suspect Bonaparte's gulls, which should be easy enough to identify if I think to look for a couple of distinctive field marks next time.

In other news, our boat has a new first captain, and it's not me. And that's just fine: the guy who was chosen has loads of experience with this company and has been doing this long enough to make his worst mistakes and learn from them.

More than anything I'm happy that we'll now have continuity across watches and someone to make final decisions.

Ever dreamed of working on a democratic boat where decision-making is by consensus? There is a reason that not even the Soviet Union operated a ship as a worker's cooperative.

It. Does. Not. Work.

There are usually about half a dozen ways to do anything out here, and two or three of them probably even work pretty well. Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference or habit, and that's okay.

There's some more shaking-out to do, and we'll see how that goes. I'm sure I don't understand everything -- the resume, the experience, the demonstrated knowledge, the communication skills, the management chops, the boat-handling ability, the maturity, the dues paid, the politics -- that factors into these decisions.

But the fact that the office folks got it right with our lead captain gives me hope, and quiets the turmoil of my thoughts enough that I can go back to counting seagulls.

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