Monday, November 9, 2015

Hello .... and Goodbye

I have started this particular entry half a dozen times now and remain uninspired. Writing, just now, feels like a slog.

Maybe because this blog has reached its logical conclusion. The heavy lifting along the hawsepipe route is done (from here on out, with the exception of some periodic STCW training, it's automatic upgrades with sea time). 

The oil patch is done, too, for the foreseeable future.

I've enjoyed writing the blog over the past three years (143 posts!). I'm grateful for the 53,000 page views, all of the kind and supportive comments, and even more for the five or six friends I've made through these pages.

Before I close it out, I’ll do my best to bring you up to date. It will be workmanlike. Just the facts. And a couple of pretty pictures.

Push-pull (and the occasional powered indirect)

Upon receiving my big(ger) boy license, I started submitting applications and resumes. A couple of the oilfield service companies, including my most recent employer, replied with congratulations, but no job offers. Most didn’t even bother to reply.

A couple of years ago, the ticket I now hold (plus the $6,000 worth of DP courses I also took) was worth an easy $650/day. This year there are many more qualified deck officers than there are working vessels to put them on.

The towing industry, on the other hand, is steadily growing. The pay has never been as good as in the oil patch, but the benefits are typically better and the schedules way bet
ter. Since my upgrade was always about being able to make a decent living while having a family life, towing seemed to be the way to go.

“Towing” is not one thing: it’s pushboats and barges on rivers and other inland waters; it’s bunkering in harbors and anchorages; it’s long ocean transits in the notch or with a massive ro-ro cargo barge on the wire.

It’s also getting container ships, tankers, bulkers and ATBs safely onto and off of docks, helping them make sharp turns and keeping them from going aground.

I’m now learning how to do those last things, working on a harbor tug on the upper Texas coast.

It’s a whole ‘nuther world, and I feel like my head is about to explode at least once a week. I’m learning to navigate four different ports, how to work with pilots, and how to effectively and efficiently use z-drives – all at the same time.

I work with a good mix of academy grads and hawsepipers, nice guys all and really good at their jobs and incredibly helpful. And for reasons I don’t entirely understand, my first boat (and the one upon which I’m completing my Towing Officer Assessment Record, or TOAR) is – as New England Waterman put it – “one of the dopest rigs around.”

It’s all kind of awesome.

So that’s that. Maybe I’ll start a tugboat blog.

In other news …

I had intended to write a day-by-day account of our adventures on the Gulf of Maine, where my wife and I joined another couple for an 8-day trawler charter. I was going to write about appropriately-named BAR Harbor, and Frenchboro, and Stonington, and Somesville, and – probably my favorite stop on our 118-nm itinerary – Isle au Haut.

It was a terrifically fun and relaxing vacation. The scenery was magnificent, though the seals were shy. The company was first-rate. We had a few, minor, emergencies that were effectively contained.

We ate lobster, climbed a mountain, saw some amazing sunsets. Here – have some photos:

I’ll be sure to let y’all know if I gin up a new blog. Until then, keep the dry side up.