Best of 2017

Here it is, the end of another year. I can hardly believe it’s another one gone by so fast. Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened last year and how to make things better next year. Here’s a quick rehash of CaptainJillsJourneys from 2017.

Here’s a month by month of my most popular posts (not counting the moonshine recipes which are by far the most hit on!)…

One Word Photo Challenge: Drink

Travel Theme: Turquoise

My Wish

K is for Kestrel- #AtoZChallenge

Still Out Here

Going to Court Tomorrow

Working

Back to School

Change of Plans

The Jones Act vs Puerto Rico

Sea Trials

Shipping Out

Seems funny that I’ve had so many popular posts about work this year, when I’ve really hardly worked at all. 🙁

I wish I had more interesting travel stories to tell, but hard to come up with those when I haven’t been able to go anywhere (due to lack of funds/work). It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by and I’ve done so little with my life.

Yeah, I keep myself plenty busy every day. I have to-do lists every day that I never even manage to finish. But they’re full of all the normal little everyday things you need to do around the house. Plus, spending lots of time online, looking for work and still filling out those damn online applications!

I’ve made forays into writing, painting and photography. Unbelievable how much time those things can take up! So far, nothing has come out of any of them, but I’m still hopeful. I have made a few contacts at least.

I just feel like a chicken with it’s head cut off. Running around like crazy and never going anywhere. My goals in life have all been tied to work and without any work for so long I’m just stuck in a rut and don’t know what to do with myself.

Today I feel like just saying ‘to hell with it all!’, ‘I quit!’. But then I come to my senses and wonder HOW??? Should I just give up and throw away everything I’ve worked for my whole life? My license (my ability to work), my property, my house, all my stuff? Everything but what I can easily carry with me?

So far, I can not make myself give up everything, but I also know if I don’t get work soon I am going to lose it all anyway. It takes money- lots of money!- to keep all of those things! Those few short jobs I’ve managed to find over the last couple of years have allowed me to still have a few thousand dollars left (out of $75,000 when I lost my job).

Most of that will get spent this month on fixing one of my properties. It needs to be leveled again and previous contractors refuse to honor their guarantee. So, I’m stuck having to pay another $15,000 to fix it. Otherwise, I will continue to lose $800/month on that property.

I also screwed up and mailed the check for property taxes 1 day late and now I owe another $5500 by the end of January!

If anyone wonders why I took that last job, this is why. It’s very hard to make good decisions on finances when you’re under so much financial stress.

Some people have told me I should just give up and go take a job at McDonalds or Walmart. Why? Jobs like that won’t come close to paying the bills. If I’m working like that I won’t even be able to keep looking for a real job (or on my other projects that might someday earn me a few bucks).

All I can think to do at this point is to keep on hoping that things will get better in 2018. A lot of the ‘experts’ are saying so, but they’ve been saying that for the last 2 years. I’ve got enough to be OK through February and then???

I hate to think of what’ll happen then. 🙁

All I want for 2018 is WORK! PLEASE!!!

Looking For a Ship

Not just the title of a pretty good book! I’m back home, rested up and back on the job of looking for a job.

I’ve already called all my usual agencies (C-Mar, Oceanwide, CLS, Northstar, Spencer-Ogden) and no one has any work now or for the foreseeable future.

Some linkedin contacts have mentioned a couple of places overseas. I’ve been trying to contact them, but so far no response. Looks like the situation is still the same. Thousands of us out of work, resumes stacked til filing cabinets overflowing and still no hope of work any time soon.

The price of oil has been flirting with $60/bbl over the last week, but it’s still not enough to get anyone moving. We keep hearing ‘next year it will be better”. It’s 3 days away from ‘next year” and I’m hoping like hell it really will be better!

I don’t know how others are managing to survive. Well, yes I do, most of them have families to help them out. They’re lucky. The younger ones have mostly left the industry and found something else to do. They’ve let their documents lapse and won’t be able to come back. Of course, they didn’t have all that much invested in this industry yet anyway. There’s a huge difference between an AB and an unlimited master as far as costs (and everything else).

I’m heading up to Galveston today to move my art. The gallery where it’s been showing is moving (they’re having their own problems) and all artists are being asked to help move. Looks like it won’t be on display again til late January, maybe February. Just another way to try to survive!

First Few Days On the St Louis Express

I joined the St Louis Express in Houston at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal. I got there around 1030 at night after driving around looking for the ship for a while. The ship didn’t get in til 1900 and they told me to get there soon after.

I was excited to join my first container ship, so tried to get there soon after 7, but as usual things got in the way. Turns out, I really shouldn’t have showed up ’til morning anyway. I had to find a spare room to spend the night in, then move in the morning when the guy I was relieving got with me.

view from my cabin, starboard side looking forward

view aft from crane #4

So, first thing we did was get me checked out in the crane. I’ve run cranes before and do fine with them. These cranes are way up off the deck. I’ve tried to count the rungs on the (straight) ladders, but keep losing count. We have 4 large cranes onboard. The climbing up and down has been killing me! I hate to admit it, but I may not be able to handle this job for another month if it consists of so much up and down climbing. 🙁

I haven’t even been here a week yet and I’m already worn out! I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into by signing on as a dayworker. “AB Maintenance”. On the other ships I’ve worked on, they just did the usual maintenance work. The big difference here is the cranes. I’m really concerned about my ability to do that part of the job. I hate to be a crybaby or a quitter, but I really can’t afford to take any chances. Especially now, when I’ve been out of work for so long. It’s already been over 27 months with just a few little 1-2 week temp jobs every few months to keep me going. I can’t afford to get hurt.

Other than crane ops, I’ve been doing a lot of greasing. I have my little green bucket filled with rags, grease gun, screwdriver, pipe wrench, WD-40, and crescent wrench. I carry it around in the mornings from 08-10 and work on greasing and exercising all the movable parts on board. So far, I have only got the aft mooring winches and roller chocks done since I usually only do that work from 08-10.

After the morning break, the Bosun (the boss of the deck crew) has had me chipping with the AB on the catwalks. We take off the gratings and crawl around underneath and get as much rust off as we can with the needle guns and air chisels. After coffee in the afternoon, we clean up the mess and the OS paints everything with corroseal. Next we prime it, then paint. It’s a big project, but gives everyone a chance to get overtime.

walking up the main deck port side

lots of ship traffic S Florida

We left Houston 2200 Sunday (night). The weather was cool and the seas were calm. We had a nice ride across the Gulf of Mexico. I was hoping to see the Florida Keys when we passed but they were too far away.

We got to Savannah this morning around 0900. It took a few hours to run up the river and dock. We spent the night at anchor due to fog and the weather was still pretty grey and misty. We were all fast by 1130.

coming up the river to Savannah

First thing we had to do was to move all our cranes out of their cradles and hang them over the offshore side. If not, they’ll interfere with the dockside cranes loading the containers onboard. Same with the pilot ladder (it’s attached to an accommodation ladder).

we’re docked just forward of the first containership in the photo

After lunch, it was back up in the crane. This time in crane #4 to load some crates into the engine room. They have a large hatch right behind the accommodations. It opens up right over the engines. It’s pretty cool to see all that machinery. My first day, I was in the crane and we had to change out a part for the engine. Someone mentioned it cost about a half million dollars. I’m glad they told me afterward!

So far, the sailing board is still set for midnight tonight. We’ll be off to Norfolk and then after that, on across the ‘pond’.

passing downtown Savannah, tug coming alongside

I’ll post more later. My new smart phone and it’s ‘mobile hotspot’ seems to be working OK so far, but we still have to be in cel phone range for me to use it. As soon as we left Galveston, we lost signal and only got it back on arrival this morning.

Shipping Out

Well, I’m off! I’m leaving soon to join a ship. I’ll meet her at Barbours Cut on the Houston Ship Channel. It’s a container ship, so probably won’t be in port for very long

I don’t know much yet about what I’ll be doing or for how long. All I know is, we’ll be going to Northern Europe and I should be gone anywhere from 35 days to around 70 days since they don’t crew change overseas. I’ll probably get off in the same place I got on after we make a couple of round trips.

Here’s a picture of the ship I found on google.

I hope I can get some better photos while I’m out there. 🙂

I’m not exactly looking forward to crossing the North Atlantic in the middle of winter, but I’ve been hunting up all my old winter clothes from when I used to work in Alaska. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad.

If you want to keep track of where we’re going, here’s a link that’ll show you where the ship is located.

I’m told the ship doesn’t have internet access (for the unlicensed crew- I’m pretty sure they have it for the ship itself). I’m told it does have email. Because of that, I finally broke down and bought a smart phone. I’m hoping I can get my computer to work through its hotspot so I can keep in touch here.

It may work. It may not. I won’t know til I get onboard and have enough free time to mess around with it. I’ll probably try to go ashore every chance I get anyway, just no idea of how that will go yet either. I’m going out as AB Maintenance. That means I’m not a watch stander and will be working days.

Of course, I wish I could’ve found work as an officer, but after more than 2 years of trying I really can’t wait for one of those jobs to open up. I have to take anything that I can get and thank goodness the SIU at least has some AB work for me. None of the officers unions did. It will be a real different hitch for me.

Hope you’ll stick around for the adventure. 😉

 

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.

Bourbon Street

Maybe tomorrow. I’m too tired after 3 days of getting up early and 2 straight days of constant walking at the Workboat Show. I’ve been on my feet from 1000-2200 for the last 2 days. Stayed up late last night for the usual company sponsored parties. I’m not used to that anymore. 🙁

I should have more stories tomorrow. Stay tuned. 😉

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?