Sunday, January 26, 2014

Shenanigans (Part One): FNGs

Shenanigans abound offshore. Some are the predictable result of having six guys cooped-up in a smallish aluminum box with limited outlets for recreation.

Some are the result of laziness or restricted bandwidth at the management level, which shouldn’t tolerate such things (coming in Part Two). Some are pure criminality (see Part Three).

There is an entire seabag of tricks to screw-around with newbies. I probably don’t even know the best ones, but they include things like: sending the green guy to get a bucket of prop wash, replacing spark plugs on the (diesel) mains, tuning the radars ….

That last one involves having the new guy wander around the dock with a foil-covered hard hat, a metal rod of some sort and a hand-held VHF. It is … almost … plausible. And hilarious.

At the beginning of the last hitch, there was much discussion about preventive measures to avoid the dreaded “dickworm.” There was even an ersatz Wikipedia article about penile helminthes, and warnings flashed from new guy to new guy across the fleet.

All of this from an off-hand remark after the newbie wondered why chlorine tabs were being dropped into the rig water we took on at the dock.

New guys get f*cked with. A lot. Often to the point of counterproductivity. Recently the captain of one of our other boats was painting a dire picture of the chances of a romantic relationship surviving a deckhand’s new career. Jody was mentioned. At length.

That deckhand made it about a week before rushing home.

I’ve seen some captains call the office and demand a replacement for a newbie on the first hitch. Or state angrily that they’re not training someone without extra pay.

This is disheartening.

All of us started our workboat careers knowing nothing about the job. Every. Single. One of us. 

And training is a privilege that comes with a license, and with experience, and the last time I checked was part of the job description.

I was proud to be a temporary part of a temporary crew at the beginning of the last hitch. With two Short Service Employees (SSEs, or FNGs, if you like), the other captain and I collaborated to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible.

Five in-depth actual emergency drills in seven days. A near-complete review of the company’s new Safety and Environmental Management System. Pop quizzes. 

People staying up into the next watch to provide hands-on instruction. Extra folks on deck during cargo operations. Words of encouragement when a tired, overwhelmend new guy says dejectedly: “I’m never going to get this!”

It was pretty awesome. And it still left time for some people to worry about dickworms.


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  2. The truly hilarious aspect of the whole "dickworms" fiasco was that it was used to great effect on several new hands even after you had moved on. I can assure you that your legacy on that particular vessel lived on.

  3. Too funny. Good to hear! It was inspiration born of an idle day at the dock, for sure ....