Friday, June 28, 2013

Triple Digits

I stayed over an extra day to catch-up on my water survival training with shallow-water egress (SWET). Fun stuff, and I still made it home by dark.

It’s definitely summer in Central Texas. My first day home also marked the first triple-digit day of the year, and today we’re looking at a high of 106 degrees. And I thought it was hot at the shipyard!

The high temps also argue for a matinee of World War Z with the 14-year-old. Rockin’ ….

One of the best things about our 17 days in shipyard this year  -- besides a zero deficiency topside inspection -- was that our company’s newest acquisition also was there, on the hard, for a total refit.

That meant our boat’s crew got to spend quite a bit of time with that boat’s crew. Good guys, for sure.

It’s a strange thing: when I’m on the boat, I’m anxious to get home. When I’m home, I look forward to going back to work. Some days I feel like our cat, Nemo; whichever side of the door he’s on, he always wants to be on the other.

For now, though, it’s air-conditioned comfort and kids … all kids, all the time. And that makes me happy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It’s been a quiet couple of weeks on this site. Not so much where I am.

Sandblasting, painting, welding, big wrenches banging around in the engine room … and every two hours or so an air-raid siren to mark breaks and the end of the work day.

We’re in shipyard for scheduled maintenance and our (bi-annual) hull and (annual) safety inspections.

Shipyard is exciting: we’ve gotten lots of things fixed, a few things upgraded, and even a couple of nice-to-haves.

Shipyard is tedious: everyone on the same watch, 0600-1800, and a fair amount of heavy lifting. Meals are catch-as-catch-can.

Shipyard is messy: lots of cleaning-up after mechanics, electricians and welders, not to mention the sand and dust and overspray.

Above all, shipyard in late June in southern Louisiana is H-O-T.

At least it’s not August.

One of the things I like about my current employer is that the office personnel generally seem to support the crews in doing the right thing when it comes to complying with MARPOL, Coast Guard and EPA regulations.

But out here in the oil patch you see a lot of stuff that is ... well, cringe-worthy. Sometimes it's laziness on the part of a crew or cheapness on part of a boat company or charterer. Sometimes it's just unavoidable.

Shipyard is a whole 'nuther thing, though. I suspect neither OSHA nor the EPA would be very pleased if they were to camp out here for a few days.

It was good to finally get back to the boat after an extra week off. The first five days we ran and ran, and then I brought the boat over to the Morgan City area from Fourchon.

With one spotlight down and one radar down, the trip up the Eugene Island Channel and through the Horseshoe was exciting, but not as much fun as the run up Bayou Chene, my first.

Anyhow, bottomside is done and new bottom paint is on.

Our topside inspection has been pushed back a couple of days while we wait for mechanics to finish on the boat.

We’re ready for the inspection now, and past ready to get back to work. Where that will be is anyone’s guess.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for somewhere in Texas. Most of the other guys, not so much.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What I Did on My Summer Vacation (or: Your Birthday is When I Say it Is)

It happens to all of us; we hire on with a company we really want to work for, get to a great boat with a good crew, and fall into the rotation wherever the gap was.
Then we start thumbing through the calendar, figuring out when we're working and when we'll be home for the next eight or nine or 12 months. 

Knowing that this, too, could change, but perhaps will not.

Oh, July 4th off -- good! Damn, I'll be on the boat for Thanksgiving And Christmas? Oh well ... 

Honey, I'll send flowers for our anniversary and make it up to you when I get home. Really, I will.

When I started with the new company, I proposed a couple of start dates that would let me take a long-planned vacation with my wife. 

That didn't do anything for their pressing need for another captain NOW, but -- happily -- true to their advertised emphasis on working with employees to make sure they don't miss important family events, they got that week covered.

I got an extra week off, someone else got an extra week of pay. In the morning I go back to work and he goes home for a week of recuperation. I talked to him earlier today and he's ready.

In the meantime, I got the week away with the wife -- not the one we planned (I have a huge credit with United Airlines now, and a modest one with a very nice hotel in Cabo San Lucas) but salutary nonetheless.

I also made it to my cousins' 25th wedding anniversary which morphed into a very nice family reunion at the beach in the South Texas town where I grew up (and where much of the family still lives).

And we celebrated the middle child's third birthday, which according to his birth certificate is this coming Friday, but according to Daddy's work schedule was Sunday.

I can get away with this maybe one or two more times with him, I figure.

So anyhow, we drank a lot of cocktails. Got sunburned. Held hands. Listened to music. Saw some old friends and made some new ones. Caught up with the extended family. 

I packed for work before we left, so now all that remains is to eat supper, play with the kids and read them to bed, catch a quick nap and get up at midnight to start the drive to Louisiana.