Tuesday, July 30, 2013

May I?

Complain, I mean? Just this one time. For a little while?

I'll be okay later in the week, as the hitch draws to a close. But right now I'm in the past-the-midway-point-but-not-nearly-home part of this thing and I'm tired.

Tired of the noise. Our generators, the satellite TV (almost never off), the radio traffic, the engines of other boats reverberating through our aluminum hull, the rumble and whine of cranes on the dock, the clomp of boots on the stairs .... I crave quiet, right about now.

Tired of my deckhand. He generally does a good job, but he is s-l-o-w. For instance, it's now after 4 a.m., and he still hasn't finished his weeklies.

We're not jerks about this stuff, on this boat. The entire list of deckhand duties -- dailies and weeklies -- fits nicely on one sheet of paper. We thought carefully about what was reasonable and necessary when we put it together. We solicited input from the crew members who would actually be doing the work.

Part of the understanding is, I thought, that the deckhand would knock-out those fairly light duties at the beginning of the watch. Because you never know what might happen later; like, rain. Or a run to our drilling rig. Or ... whatever.

As a matter of fact, I hear snores from the lounge. ... Really? Nah-uh. No way. Hold on. I'll be right back.

Okay, I'm back.

I'm tired of that horrible, helpless feeling when I realize, again, that the 3-year-old's awful meltdown this morning is because he doesn't want to go to pre-school because he's afraid his mother won't be there in the evening, because really deep-down he's freaked-out that Daddy isn't home.

I struggle, all over again, with whether being out here is the right thing for me -- for my family. I love my job. I really do. I'm pretty good at it, too, and I actually can't think of anything else I want to do or even that I *could* do that would pay anything close to what this does.

But I also love my family and I love spending time with them and being a part of their lives on a daily basis.

It's a conundrum, I tell you.

Or ... maybe not, really.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sturm und Drang

Well, today, anyhow. Lightning. Sheeting rain. More than 11 hours underway.

We headed out this morning with a larger-than-usual deck load and 15 passengers.

At the rig, the wind was out of the west-southwest, the current still pulling toward the east-southeast. Into the platform.

The rig called one of their supply boats over and thus began a complicated (but mostly time-consuming) cargo shuffle. Stuff from our deck to the rig floor. Stuff from our deck to the other boat's deck. Stuff from their deck to our deck. Stuff from the rig to our deck.

The supply vessel has dynamic positioning. We don't. But in the back-and-forth banter between the crane operator, the other boat and us I caught a fleeting, off-hand compliment from the crane operator: "Well, at least this guy can hold the boat in there. That makes a huge difference, believe me!"

I was being compared to the captain of the boat we replaced on this job. Then came a critical recollection of another captain who couldn't: "Had to chase him all over the Gulf with this crane ...."

Unfortunately, that guy was formerly on one of our other boats. He's "no longer with us," as they say.

Still, positive reinforcement is rare out here and I'll take what I can get.

Between cargo transfers, our engineer got some time on the sticks; he's off to school at the end of this hitch and hopes to come back as a training captain.

After nine years on deck and in the engine room, it's about time, and I look forward to working with him in the wheelhouse.

Almost three weeks down and just a little more than one to go. I don't really start counting the days until the weekend before crew change -- it's easier if I just don't think about it until I can count the wake-ups on one hand.

And not just because I'm bad at math.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Back at It

I didn't miss much on the boat the two weeks I was home. A couple of brief spot jobs and some paint touch-up, apparently.

I spent my first day back communing with the alligators in Berwick, then awoke yesterday afternoon to the rumble and surging-over-swells sensation that told me we were offshore. A stroll on the back deck confirmed we were heading east.

"Back to Fourchon?" I asked as I entered the wheelhouse.

Yes, indeed. Back on the job. This one looks to be a good one; a short (25-mile) run to a drilling rig once a day most days.

Being stacked, or even in the shipyard, has certain advantages: ready access to the corner store, or to the bar just down the street if that's your thing. No radio watch. No long days on the controls.

But neither a drydock nor a quiet, out-of-the-way set of bollards is a boat's natural habitat. No more than a hangar is what an airplane is built for, anyhow.

As for the crew, we'd all rather be working than not. It makes the time go by faster, for sure.