Friday, May 30, 2014

Never Say Never

I said I'd never come back to this ship again, but here I am, proving that you really, really should never say never.  My being here for a short period is helping so many people in a tight spot, though, I couldn't (in good conscience) say "no."  For a Short.  Period.  Of time.

Having said that- there are several people aboard it has been fun to catch up with- workmates who became facebook "friends" who have become work-friends.  And this ship drives like a skiff- it's hardly work.  And they pay me to do it.  Right now, though, I am done.  Travelled all yesterday, got in at 0130 this morning, unpacked and showered, tossed and turned for a few hours, then got up at 0515 to kick this ship off the dock... I've been working ever since (that would be a pleasant 7 hours of overtime, thank you very much).  And I really have nothing more to add to that except I am going to go to bed and sleep like a bag of potatoes.

This is the pen with which I'm going to write "Never Say Never"
 on my hand.  Yes, in non-military approved red.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

When on "The Beach:" Beachbum.

I have been remiss in my blogging since I “hit the beach.”  The life of a sailor doesn't end when he gets off the ship, and in some cases (like mine), sailoring enables me to afford my aquatic lifestyle so this will be a from-the-beach update (with some actual "inside merchant mariner" stuff at the end).

One of the ways I stayed sane while aboard ship was to do traditional knot-work, making lanyards, bellropes, and roping bottles. Here's a sample:

I roped this bottle, originally, with the full intent
of using it as the envelope for a letter to Laura.
After hunting high and low, I finally found the correct
seine line- something that isn't that easy to
do while on a ship in Florida, but by that point
the occasion for the letter was long past due.
I am sad to say this is not the complete collection of lanyards-
conspicuously absent is the one I did with yellow
polypropylene- a rope notorious for untying itself.  I gave
most of these away but I kept the yellow poly one for myself. 
The day I discharged from the survey vessel USNS Waters, I got my papers from the old man (captain, for the land-legged...) and drove the motorcycle (see previous posts) up the coast and became waylaid in Daytona by some nasty, nasty weather. Onward to Savannah a few days later, I tried to cram in as much of a visit with family as possible in the various places... of note were the falling tree limbs, weighed down with ice from an inconvenient ice storm, but I managed to avoid them all by staying at Georgia and mom's, or having Clay and Suzanne drive me hither and thither. And I circumnavigated Tybee with Fleetwood in his new skiff:

Cockspur Light, mouth of the Savannah River near the end of the stretch of
shipping channel known as the "Tybee Roads."
Cockspur Light Detail.
First order of business once flying home was to take Laura on a legitimate, family-free vacation. So I dragged her to the Florida Keys, where we stayed on a houseboat and spent a week kayaking, jet skiing, canoeing, snorkeling, nature sightseeing, and eating nothing but fresh seafood.  We stayed directly in the mangroves of the Everglades. It was as wonderful as it was long overdue.
About a quarter mile from the houseboat.
Yellow feet!
A funny bird, the Peli Can, Its bill can hold more than its belly can...

My marinering-for-money has given way to sailing and boat-work on my own boat since coming home, also known as disposing of all the money earned marinering as fast as humanly possible. The needle gun has been swapped for a sanding board, the hawser for a dockline, the ECDIS for a handheld GPS.  It is, essentially, the same existence but I get to have coffee made by baristas and I go home at night and harass Laura and our cat. Here is a video of a grueling day of work, cleaning the boat bottom.

Gluing teak with resorcinol glue- once this was all clamped up I had to take
it in to the office and turn on the heat - resorcinol won't kick below 70 degrees!
Not Northwest friendly at all...
I made new grab rails and I'm almost completely ready to paint the decks.
One of the things you can't see here are the new, tinted windows installed
on the other side.  These windows are next!
Other than boat work and vacation, I have managed to start writing a book (oops- what in the hell?). I have remodelled our bedroom. I completely redesigned the plans for my ulua sailing canoe- after using AutoCAD to loft a set of plans I bought from a respected designer, I discovered the curves weren't fair. Since only I know what I want in a canoe I figured I should just design it myself- besides, what the hell does that guy know, anyway!? He knows how much work it is, that's what! And, lastly, I have ridden the bike a lot- to the tune of about 3 pounds. Must. Ride. More.

But the sailoring requires homework to be done in order to do it correctly, and in my case I have heeded the advice of "The Bos'n" from the first two voyages of the Polk and registered in the Hawaiian union hall. Honolulu, here I come!  

The Seattle union hall wanted to put me on another military ship and I really wasn't all that keen to find myself on another one of those without first going out on another commercial ship. Not that they're in any way worse, but the commercial ships are always moving, going places I want to go. The hall in Honolulu has lots of good ships and fewer sailors, so I should be able to get a decent job.  

But it's all about time, and lots of it.

When I first started in the union I was a "D-card" - low on the seniority ranks. After my first ship and paying my dues I became a C-card, which made getting my second ship (hypothetically) easier because I was only competing with A and B sailors. After my last ship and paying my dues I made it to B-card status, which means I'm an actual full union member now, but not yet a fully vested "Book," or class A sailor. However, I am only competing against older B-card registrants and Books (registrations are good for only 3 months, after which they expire and I need a new one).

So the trick is in knowing when to register and where to register. Timing comes into play because I need to know where the ship I want will be in about 2.5 months, give or take a week, so my registration will be the oldest. I need to know how many jobs will be called. And I need to know who else will be throwing down for the job.

Since the inner workings of the process take some divination that is much more clear to the guys who've been there 20 or more years, my best bet is to be someone other people want to sail with (like the 20 year or more veteran sailors). Work hard, make the bos'n look good, be a courteous sailor, learn as much as possible and always be clear about my knowledge, et cetera. If I am lucky enough to sail with these guys, I'll actually try and get the delegate position so I can learn from them how it's supposed to be done... much more work with no payoff except being better at what I do.

So, I do all that, and these "old timers" are suddenly willing to tell me when I need to throw down and where- I can deconstruct their thinking and learn from them not only how to do it, but how to teach it to the ones worth keeping down the line. And have a much greater chance for a chill voyage while I'm at it.

OK... more soon.