Another Trip to Houston

I was up in Houston yesterday. I don’t go up there any more than I have to. I usually plan to do everything I need to in one trip. It’s ‘only’ an hour and a half drive, but with traffic it seems longer.

Yesterday I did a little shopping, stopped by the SIU to see if they had any work coming up, and finished up at the WISTA event.

Turns out, the SIU did have something for me. They called me this morning with good news. They had a ship for me!

Now I have to go back up there and do some paperwork. Hopefully I will ship out about this time next week. 🙂

I don’t really know anything about the job yet (except that I’ll be going as AB maintenance- not watch standing). I’ll find out more this afternoon.

Knocking on Doors

I flew into New Orleans Tuesday morning and picked up my car. I got on the road around 1030 and headed for Bayou Lafourche. It took about an hour to get there.

I spent all day knocking on doors at every boat company I could find (about 20 of them). First stop was Gulf Offshore Logistics right as you turn off the highway to head down the bayou. I filled out an application and waited to speak to someone about the job situation.

Turns out, it was a friend of mine who I needed to speak to. I forgot that he had changed jobs and went to work at GOL. We talked for quite a while and tho they weren’t hiring right now, he did at least offer me a little bit of hope.

I went on down through Raceland, Cut Off, Galliano, Golden Meadows, and back up to Houma. I got the same story everywhere I went. They had 20 boats total and 15 were stacked (just making up the numbers of boats but the ratio is what matters). No one was hiring at this time.

One company even showed me their (long) list of previous employees they would be calling first when things did start to improve. A couple of places said they thought they might start doing a little bit of hiring after the first of the year.

I didn’t get to see every company I wanted to. I missed Harvey Gulf and Hornbeck. Those were two of the most important ones I wanted to see. I have heard they are actually hiring. I just ran out of time. It was 1630 by the time I got through and too late to get back to New Orleans and over to Covington.

I met a couple of people yesterday who gave me some encouragement about that. One recently got hired at Hornbeck. He basically told me I had to go in person. If I did that, he was pretty sure I would get in. So… I am thinking I should blow off the last day of the Workboat Show and go over there Friday morning.

I spend all day yesterday at the Show. I met up with my old friend Captain Bill who was also looking for work. We met up with some old friends and former shipmates who were working the Show. We had a quick lunch at the food court (BBQ which was awful!). Bill had to leave early so we said goodbye and I continued wandering around the amazing amounts of boat stuff on display. 🙂

During the day, I talked to quite a few people about the situation offshore. Everyone agreed 2017 was done for. Most were hopeful that 2018 would be better. Some were more pessimistic and thought it would be 2019 or later (or even never).

I’m not sure I can manage to hold out for another year. I think most mariners are in the same boat. It has just become too hard to keep our credentials current. The IMO, USCG and the companies have decided it is imperative to continually load us down with super expensive, shore based “training”.

Renewal started out fairly easy to comply with. We just needed to do a couple of things like take a physical and renew RADAR every 5 years. Now, we still have to take a physical (but every 2 years-minimum), we still have to renew RADAR every 5 years, but we also have a slew of other requirements to renew our mariners credentials. Without those we can not work anywhere on the water!

That’s not even to mention all the ‘training’ the companies require. They all want different versions of the same course and refuse to accept the same training from anyone other than their approved providers! All of those courses are required to be renewed every 3-4 years too!

I can state for a fact that unless you are working on the water, there are very few jobs (I can’t think of a single one) that would both pay you enough and give you the time off you need to take all those courses. So…. how is anyone going to be able to go back to work in 2018, 2019, 2020 if they are not already working now?

What Are the Odds?

I hate to be so gloomy all the time. I do have to admit I’m one of those people who sees the glass as half empty. Lately it’s been harder than normal to keep my spirits up. I’m not used to being unemployed and broke. I don’t like it. I really, really don’t like it.

This morning I got a call from one of the temp agencies I work with. When I got the message I thought “oh great, I finally got some real work”. When I called them back I found out they needed me to be there tomorrow! I could’ve cancelled out the last part of my trip without losing too much. I could’ve been there late Friday, but they had to have someone tomorrow.

Of course! I am leaving tomorrow for the Workboat Show in New Orleans. I’m heading over a day early so I can head down the bayou and visit a few boat companies in person (since the online applications don’t seem to be doing any good). The job wouldn’t pay enough to cover the expenses I’ve already paid for (and can’t get back). I’ve worked there before and already know the drill. Sadly, I had to turn it down.

So few jobs around, and I’m so broke I’m hardly ever doing much. What are the odds that an actual job comes around at the exact same time I can’t take it due to previous engagements?

End of a Long Weekend

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving holiday. I did OK. It’s not like I’ve been working so hard all this time and needed a break. Still, it was nice to have some time off where I knew no one would be calling me for work, nothing to do with work would be open (so useless to call), and I could take the time to catch up on other things.

I spent Thanksgiving with friends. They cooked a big turkey (in a greaseless fryer- it turned out nice and moist). They had ham too, and roast vegetables, mashed potatoes, mani-mahi, broccoli rice casserole, hot rolls, and a half dozen desserts. I’m still eating leftovers.

After pigging out and needing a nap Thursday, I’ve spent the last couple of days just piddling around the house. I went through a big pile of t-shirts to sort. I finally packed some away and put others in the yard sale pile. I put a bunch of stuff away that got messed up while I was gone last week (I still can’t find half of it). I’ve caught up with the mail, bills and phone calls.

Now I’m getting ready for a trip to New Orleans for this years Workboat Show. I’m so frustrated and depressed about the situation with work. I think this is going to be my last hope. I filled out a few online applications (again) for nearby boat companies. They say they are hiring.

I’ve rented a car and will drive down the bayou and try to find someone to talk to. It’s become almost impossible to talk to a real person when you’re looking for work these days. Everyone gives you a computer to talk to: “leave a message” and someone will get back to you. Except they never do.

I hear through the grapevine (and also their own ads) that Hornbeck (HOS) and Harvey Gulf are hiring. I plan to hit up both of them. I’ve got plenty of resumes printed out and will be trying to talk to anyone I can who might have some work going on.

If this doesn’t work out, the only thing left for me to do is go back to the SIU as an AB. Wasting the 40 years I’ve spent working my way up and earning my license. What a shame!

I feel like one of the old horse and buggy drivers when Henry Ford came out with the model T. I can see the complete destruction of my livelihood on the horizon. Like them, I am not at all happy about it!

I have been trying my best ever since I got laid off (Sept 2015) to find work. I’ve been trying all kinds of things to bring in extra income. I’ve been teaching at San Jacinto Maritime. I’ve been working as a role player at Maersk Training. I’ve been trying to sell my art (writing/photography/painting) anywhere I can.

I’ve been applying to jobs in every sector of the maritime industry. I’ve tried to find work as a math tutor. I’ve tried to find work in the safety industry since that is a huge part of what I do every day anyway (but learned I would have to sell myself- body and soul- for a $14/hour job). Sorry, no way! I might be down, but I will NEVER be that self destructive as to submit to that level of control.

Hair follicle tests?! What kind of idiots do they think we are? These tests can have NO possible connection to anything going on at the job. I’ve asked over and over- PLEASE tell me how something I might’ve done last YEAR could possibly have anything to do with the job I’m doing TODAY? Of course, they have no answer. They’re wrong and they know it. Those people have NO right to strip our constitutional rights from us. In the name of safety or any other reason.

I am getting pretty desperate. I was one of the lucky ones. I was halfway prepared for this downturn. I’ve been through 3 big ones before. I’d saved as much as I could and paid down my debts as much as possible. I had a pretty good stash in my savings account. Of course, after 2 years with no real work, that savings account has been seriously depleted.

It sucks not even being able to get unemployment. Especially after being forced to pay into it for over 40 years! It would be nice to be able to get some help when I need it. But noooooo, ONE job out of all those years was with a foreign company, so I get zero return on all that money I’ve paid in.

Even so. I did my best while I was working to save and invest. I bought rental property and paid off as much as I could. I’m lucky. That has been my only income for the last 2 years. It’s not much, since the expenses on the property is actually still more than the income I get from it, but it still helps a lot.

I’m thankful I have even that little bit of income. With the little bit of work I get from Maersk and San Jacinto, and a week offshore every now and then, I’ve been able to survive. Barely. I can understand how people get so desperate they will sell their soul to get a miserable paycheck, but I thank god I don’t have to do that. I swear I will die before I EVER submit to their insanely stupid, unconstitutional, illegal, useless hair follicle tests!

I wish more people were able to stand up for themselves. Maybe we could stop this abuse if they were. But, then again, the powers that be are ALL about control. That is ALL they care about and they will do whatever we allow them to get away with.

I hope by going to New Orleans I’ll be able to find something. It’s getting really, really hard to keep trying when it’s been so long and nothing’s happening.

Sea Trials

Whoo-whoo! I’m heading out early tomorrow morning for a job. I’ll be joining the ship in Corpus Christi and heading offshore for sea trials. It’s only temporary, and it’s only as an AB, but it’s a job. At sea!

It should be interesting. I googled the ship I’m going to. It’s a ro-ro (roll on- roll off). I’ve never worked on one of them before. It’s a MSC (Military Sealift Command) ship. Here’s a picture I found on google.

USNS Mendonca

I’ve tried to avoid working for MSC since they seem to never let you off (at least as an officer). I don’t really want to do a 4 month long hitch and then stay for another couple months since they can’t find a relief. Then they want you back after only a month off!

Still, I’ve been considering even going to work for them. I’d rather be at sea as a galley hand than an executive on the beach. I know it’s hard to explain, but I just love being out there.

I am starting to feel like I’ve pretty much wasted the last 30+ years of my life (and tens of thousands of dollars). I’ve worked so hard to pull myself up the hawsepipe to earn my license. For what?

I’m going to work as a deckhand. Same as I was doing when I first started out over 40 years ago. It’s depressing. I’m getting really discouraged. I thought earning the license would help me get a decent job. A good career. Just to get thrown out like last weeks garbage. It’s sad.

But at least I can still get out there and earn some sea time. Every little bit helps. I just hope I can hang on until things pick up again offshore.

Acrylic Pour Weekend

Like I was saying yesterday, I think it’s good to be a well rounded person. I think if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you can tell I’m into that. Not so much on purpose, I don’t consciously try to do all kinds of things. I’m just interested in a bunch of different things and I like to try to keep up with what’s going on.

I like to read, to learn, to explore, to travel, to eat, drink, to listen to and play music, to see and do art, to cook, to swim, to walk, to sail, etc. I like to get into deep discussions on philosophy, history, culture, politics, and how to save the world. 😉

I tend to keep myself busy. Even tho I haven’t had a ‘real job’ (in other words, one that pays the bills), in over 2 years now, it’s a very rare day that I just chill out and hang around the house. I always have a to-do list full of all the things I plan (hope) to get done for the day.

Yesterday it rained. Afterwards the sun came out, it was nice and cool, and I had just bought a bunch of flowers (half off) at Lowes. It was such a nice day, I had to get out in the yard, pull weeds and plant those suckers before the weekend (when I knew I was going to be too busy to get around to it).

The yard still looks like some kind of wicked old witch lives here- overgrown with mimosa trees sprouting everywhere and clematis vines covering everything. I managed to make a dent and cleaned up around the almond and orange trees in the front. Cut down all the lantana which I never wanted anyway. Why does everything but the weeds get sick and die?

This weekend I’m going to an ‘acrylic pour art workshop”. It’s a technique I’ve been wanting to learn how to do for a while. I’ve seen pictures of it before but had no idea how the artist made it come out like they did. Today I learned how.

There were 4 other ladies in the class with me. We all had a blast mixing and pouring colors and making a mess. None of mine really turned out the way I was hoping for, but they looked pretty neat even so. Some of the other ladies made some really cool stuff.

I’ll be there again all day tomorrow. I’ve already made a few paintings. I’ll do a few more tomorrow. Hopefully, they’ll be dry enough so I can get them home without dumping paint all over my truck. Maybe I can set them in the back for the ride home?

I decided yesterday to bring my stuff and get a booth at the “Treasures by the Sea” Market. It’s at Stahlman Park, Surfside Beach on November 4th. I didn’t know if I would have enough stuff to bring to make it worth getting a booth (it’s not free). I tried to reach an artist friend of mine to see if she wanted to share a booth with me, but she’s not answering my phone calls. 🙁

After this weekend, I should have at least a dozen new paintings! I already had a couple of things I just got framed (and lots of photos). I think it ought to be enough. If I keep my fingers crossed, maybe someone will buy something!

I’ve got work again in Houston Mon-Tues (and maybe Wed) and another dentist appointment Friday. So I’ll need to be busy Wed-Thurs getting those new paintings ready to show and working on photo cards.

I’ve always heard it’s super hard to make a living as an artist. I’m sure it must be, I would just like to be able to earn enough to help get me through this rough spot. I mean, this is fun and all, but I really, really need some way to pay the bills!

Frustration

I am just steaming right now!

I FINALLY got a call for a real job! First one in ages, and after talking to them for a few minutes, they eliminate me because I don’t have one, (just one), of the multitude of newly required certificates of “training’.

You want to know which one? It’s a fairly new one, called “T-HUET”. T-HUET is supposed to be a less involved iteration of the HUET. HUET is a less involved iteration of the BOSIET.

I have the HUET, in fact I just renewed it. I also have BST (which has also been repeatedly renewed). They have not taught anything new in either course in the last 20 years.

ALL of these courses cover almost exactly the same stuff! But the companies now are insisting that you need to spend the thousands of dollars and weeks of time to take ALL 3 of them! Of course, THEY will no longer help pay for any of this. YOU need to spend all YOUR time and money on this stuff!

This is the email I just now sent off to the recruiter:

Just for your information: 
T-HUET 
Course Outline
Procedures at Heliport
Helicopter Safety Equipment
Types of Helicopters used in the Offshore Industry
Dangers associated with Helicopters
Helicopter Safety Procedures
Preparation prior to Emergency landing
Emergency landing on Land
Surface Evacuation into an Aviation Liferaft
Escape from a Partially and Capsized Helicopter
In – water Survival Procedures
Helicopter Winching
HUET
Course Outline
Procedures at Heliport
Helicopter Safety Equipment
Types of Helicopters used in the Offshore Industry
Dangers associated with Helicopters
Helicopter Safety Procedures
Preparation prior to Emergency landing
Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET)
Emergency Breathing System Exercises
In -water Survival Procedures
Helicopter Winching

I don’t know why they don’t add the following to their description of their HUET course since they DID cover that same material. The only thing they did NOT cover that they say they do in the T-HUET is: 

  • Surface Evacuation into an Aviation Liferaft- (we DID do this in the HUET course)
  • Escape from a Partially and Capsized Helicopter- (this is the exact same thing as what the HUET course describes as Helicopter Underwater Escape Training)
  • Emergency landing on Land

Do these companies SERIOUSLY want to eliminate pretty much ALL experienced mariners from consideration because they don’t have 10 minutes of ‘training’ differing in a course (that is only for the insurance company that has no clue about what ANY of these courses cover anyway)?

Do they really expect someone who has been out of work for months or years to pay hundreds of dollars for another course when the ONLY difference is at most a half hour talk about emergency landing ON LAND??? We get that same lecture every single time we fly, wether to go to work in the helicopter or flying to vacation. I would think it is 100% memorized by everyone in the country by now! 

So now it is not years of experience and who can do the job, but who has the largest stack of certificates (most of them completely irrelevant to the job at hand). That is really sad. 

I am perfectly willing to wait and ride the crew boat in if they are not willing to put aside that 10 minutes! I think it’s NUTS to throw someone out of a month of work because of some ridiculous ‘rule’ like this!

And you can feel free to pass this email on to Oceaneering (and any other company with the same stupid rule!). Just in case they REALLY believe there is some inherent advantage to their insistence on T-HUET, please do send them the facts, the ONLY difference is 10 minutes about emergency landings ON LAND! 

Hope I’m not burning my bridges here too, but some things just have to be said! 

Jill Friedman

MASTER MARINER (35+ YEARS OFFSHORE EXPERIENCE). 

Do you think that was a little excessive? I don’t, I really don’t. I am getting SO fed up with the amount of complete and total pure BULLSHIT these companies are putting us through. Just in order to go to work for them.

Does anyone really think that after almost 50 YEARS spent working at sea, that 10 minutes, or even if I really push it, 2-3 hours of instruction, will make ANY difference to ANYTHING out there? If anyone does, there is no other word for those people than “INSANE” or “STUPID”. And yes, I am specifically talking to everyone involved in insisting on requiring these so called “training’ certificates!

They’re expensive and they’re USELESS! I know it and you damn sure OUGHT to know it!

How many mariners have you heard gushing about how much they learned in one of those courses? How many have you heard thanking the heavens that they’ve been forced to waste their vacation time in one of those classes instead of spending their time enjoying it the way they EARNED the RIGHT TO?

I can count the number of mariners who’ve felt that way on one hand, and after working out there for so many years, I know a LOT of mariners!

This whole certification rigamarole is just one more unnecessary burden. It’s not as if it’s all that great offshore anymore. They’ve cut and they’ve cut and they’ve cut some more. Yeah, things were finally getting pretty nice out there. Back a couple of years ago when the price of oil was sky high and they needed us badly and so were finally willing to offer us decent pay and conditions. Up until the price of oil dropped like a rock.

Now, we’ve dropped right back to where we were decades ago. Lost pay, lost benefits, lost time at home. Increased workload, increased forced ‘training’ and costs associated with all that, loss of freedom, loss of opportunity.

I used to think this was the best job in the world. It really was, way back when I started. Now, nah, not so much. Yeah, I still do personally consider it the best for me. I really can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than out on the ocean somewhere. Sailing to some obscure foreign port with adventures awaiting.

Sadly, there’s not too much of that on offer anymore. It looks to me more and more that my days of sailing the seven seas are about over with. After so many years of fighting to get my license, it’s become all but worthless these days.

Who in their right mind would want to sail as master these days? When every meaningful decision is made by some bean counter on the beach? Yet YOU and ONLY YOU are the one held responsible for the results of those decisions. When you have NOTHING to say about them?

That license you worked so hard to get will be taken from you. Without it, you can’t work ANYWHERE! On top of that, they will probably fine you a lot of money (millions), and then throw you in prison just to make sure that bus runs you over reeeaally good.

The companies need you for your license (by law) but refuse to pay you for them now (see my last job). They treat you like shit and expect you to lap it up like you were slurping down an ice cream Sunday (with a cherry on top)!

The longer it takes me to find a job, the more frustrated, cynical, depressed and angry I get. I think it’s just sick that a company in need of good workers would turn someone with my qualifications and years of experience away simply because they lack one simple certification. Especially when that particular piece of paper is so completely worthless! I worked for that company for 5 years, they KNOW I am perfectly capable and will do them a good job!

I’ve probably just burned my bridges with them and a bunch of other companies office people with this rant. Well, so be it. They need to hear it. For damn sure I’m not the only mariner who feels this way. I guarantee I’m saying what most would say about the situation. These companies need to wake up and get their heads out of their asses and THINK for themselves for a change! STOP sucking up to the god damned insurance companies and their suck-ass lawyers and do the RIGHT thing for once! Stand up for their companies and their people instead of cowering behind the threats of the paper pushers.

God DAMN I wish people in the USA would grow some balls and start acting like the free people we brag to the world about!

I really wish I could afford to start my own boat company. It would be so nice to work for a company that was run by people who really understood the business and was willing to stand up for their employees. I don’t see any like that around anymore. It’s a real shame.