Friday, May 5, 2017

Master upgrade

Last Fall, I tallied up my sea time as a Mate and realized that I had enough to apply for an upgrade to Master.  In addition to that, I was eligible to upgrade my license from 3rd Mate, to 2nd Mate.  I looked into it and then found out that if I'm applying for a 1600 ton Master's license, it's better to upgrade to 2nd Mate first because the crossover from 2nd Mate to 1600 ton Master is an easier route, so I applied...
About 2 months later, I received my upgrade to 2nd Mate and approval to test, requiring only one module.  I was excited about that, but I also received a letter stating that in order to get my International Master's license, I would also need to complete the current (as of 1/1/17) STCW requirements.  Most of these I have completed, but there are 3 classes in particular that I would still need to take according to the new Coast Guard rules. Ugh.

-Advanced Stability
-Advanced Ship Handling
-Advanced Meteorology

I looked into and found that those 3 classes alone are a total of 4 weeks and approximately $9000 in tuition and aren't offered locally, so I'd have to go out of state most likely for the courses.   So, I checked around to see if there was a loophole and so far, the only thing I have found, is that I can forego the International endorsement and just go for the 1600t Master Domestic (National) license if I don't want to have to take all the new classes.

Now, I'm currently waiting for a reply from my boss to see if my company requires a International license, of if a Domestic will suffice.  For now, I wait.  I will however, begin studying soon for the exam, which I plan to take in June sometime.  I'm hoping that one module isn't too tough.  I'll know more when I pay the Lapware fee in a few weeks and start studying.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Stolen Bike Journey

So, here’s the story of my bike from what I know…


The frame after powder coating
When I closed down the bike shop in 2012, I sold off my other bikes and had my friend Robert Ives, from Blue Collar Bikes, build me a custom single-speed cyclocross bike that would be my main bike and one that I would keep till the day die.  

The closing of the shop was a tough turning point in our lives, but the bike was the one good thing that happened that season.  It took a few months to get it together, but it was awesome.  Custom fit, tapered steel head tube (rare), Columbus tubing, eccentric style bottom bracket using a Beer Components adapter, carbon bars, carbon fork, Paul Mini-Moto brakes, custom Stan’s rims and American Classic hubs.  It was the bike I had dreamed of for a while and I absolutely loved it.

After it was built

One of its first races

In June 2014, I was attending classes up in Seattle for a month at a time to get my Coast Guard license and start a new career.  In between class sessions, I would either come home for a few weeks, or I would go to work.  I was working for a tugboat company based in Everett, WA, and I’d typically go to sea for 3-5 weeks at a time.  I got called to work immediately after a class session and didn’t have time to go home and drop off some “stuff”, so I was forced to leave some things in my car. Well, being that I was in Seattle quite a bit, I had decided to bring my bike up there for exercise and was forced to leave it in my car at the company parking lot while I went out to sea.  The lot was fenced in and many employees leave the cars there for weeks/months at a time, so I wasn’t overly concerned, except that I had all my “worldy possessions” in there, including ALL of my riding gear, clothes, bike tools and a bunch of other nice comfort things that I take to Seattle.

So, I locked the frame of my bike into the back seat mounts and covered it with a blanket, plus my windows were limo tinted and you could not see into the car.  However, you could probably tell that there was “something” in the back if you looked hard enough. I also had an alarm, so again, I wasn’t overly concerned.

Anyhow, 2 weeks out to sea, Erin (my wife) gets a letter in the mail stating that my car had been impounded!  After putting 2+2 together, she figured out that it had been stolen and abandoned in Anacortes, WA.   

I was bobbing around out in Alaskan waters at the time and didn’t have any cell service, but managed to get an email and then a call later to figure it all out.  I was pissed and mostly concerned about the contents of the car and frustrated that I couldn’t do anything about it being stuck on a boat in the middle of nowhere.

So, over a period of the next few weeks, Erin arranged to get the car picked up, repaired and returned to the company lot, however everything in the car was gone… a complete loss. Insurance helped and I was able to replace a few things, but even still to this day, I haven’t replaced all my riding gear and tools, and am still using my old-old stuff to get by.

Fast forward 8 months.

Robert Ives got a message from a friend of a friend that a Blue Collar bike was spotted at a Performance Bike shop in Lynnwood WA.  It was my bike and verified by photos.  I got a hold of the shop, but the bike was gone.  They “thought” they might be able to track down the guy riding it, but no luck…  It had slipped through their fingers never to be seen again, so we thought.

Spotted in Lynnwood, WA
I searched Seattle area Craigslist for months, hoping to come across the frame or even some of the parts, but no luck.

March 25th, 2017

About a week ago, Robert Ives was doing a little Google research online for his company name “Blue Collar Bikes” and ran across a random ad for a $100 single speed bike in Los Angeles and low and behold, my bike miraculously appeared again at the other end of the West Coast!
The ad in LA. (It was marked "sold" after we bought it back)
He sent me the link and I immediately jumped into action with a callout on Facebook to my friends in SoCal to see if anyone could help. My good friend from the Navy days, David Tafoya, piped in and said that he managed to contact the guy and could head over there the next day to take a look.  Sunday was a lucky day and David was able to buy the bike back from the guy for $60 (in a somewhat sketchy part of town). 

Then, my other good friend Joe Mattingly in San Diego, who just happened to be heading north to our house a few days later, was able to swing by LA and pick up the bike from David and transport back to its home here in Sacramento. Joe reunited me with the bike yesterday and it felt good to close the book on that nasty chapter after all.  

So, here it is… back in my hands, completely “tweaker-modded” and molested, but the frame is solid and in good shape aside from 3-4 coats of rattle can paint.  It still has my carbon bars, carbon fork and XTR crankset installed!

Reunited 2.5 years later

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it since I now have a newer Blue Collar gravel/CX bike and haven’t been doing much CX singlespeed racing in a few years.  This bike has a good story and I’m putting some thought into how I want to proceed.  I might leave it, I might restore it, but for now I just want to be thankful that I have good friends who are willing to step up and help out in a time of need.  That seems to be the theme here and I’m very appreciative of that, more than I am of actually getting the bike back.  Having good friends in life is key and I'm thankful that I have them.

Special thanks to all involved and to those folks who piped in to help find it originally and recover it in the end.  Much appreciated!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Back in the Bay

It's my 4th hitch with Sause and I'm back on the Cochise and bouncing around between docks here in SF Bay.  My hitch started out with a flight to Coos Bay via Seattle and Portland, and I crewed up on the Klihyam for a few days and we took the new cargo barge (Namakani) up to Portland.

Klihyam pulling the Namakani.  picture courtesy of Sause Bros.
At that point, I sat around for a few days  on the Klihyam awaiting new orders.  Then they flew me from PDX down to San Francisco to the Cochise.  Immediately after checking onboard we did a run up to Eureka, then back to Richmond, then up to Portland.

The PDX trip north was slow with 30-40 kt winds in our face for the entire leg. It pretty much sucked, but we managed to claw our way up there, unload our barge and then have a few days of downtime at the Sause docks.

Typically when I'm in PDX, I try to hang out with my good friends who transplanted up there a few years back.

So, after that short layover, we popped back down the Columbia and headed back to the Bay with an empty barge.  Now we're sitting at Pier 50 by the ballpark, awaiting our next load date over in Richmond, which will take place late tonight.  We'll load up, head to Martinez for a day, then come back to Richmond for another load and then up to Eureka.  After that, it sounds like we'll be sitting back here at Pier 50 for a few days until our next load on 10/1.  I'm should be going home shortly thereafter, so the busy schedule leading up to it will be nice and help time go quick.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tandem Lumber South

After a nice refreshing 44 days off, I got dispatched up to Portland to the tug Chinook that was doing the lumber run from Rainier down to Long Beach.  I checked onboard Thursday afternoon and we got underway Saturday to head down the Columbia and grab our two barges in Rainier.  I guess the lumber we haul is mainly for Home Depots in Southern, CA.

So, we are currently just off the coast of the Oregon/California border and heading south at a whopping 6 knots.  We are scheduled to get into Long Beach sometime around Sunday or so.  From there, we will tie up at the Sause docks for a short spell and then head back north with a couple empty barges in tandem.

The crew onboard is great, including the cook that is providing me with endless reasons to get fat.  Every meal so far has been excellent and hard to pass up.  We picked up a PMI cadet on Saturday before departing.  Good guy, eager to learn and a hard worker.  I remember those days and it seems like yesterday. I've been doing my best to give him a good overall introduction to the job of a Mate while at the same time, giving him some good navigational ammo for his TCNav classes next month.

The Chinook is an older boat, built in the 70's, but quite roomy, fairly quiet and has a pretty good ride.  So far, most of the winds have been at our backs, but she handles it well and smooth.  The quarters onboard are more than roomy and the overall layout seems pretty well thought out.

Anyhow, we'll be down there in a few days and then back up to Rainier.  I've been told that the boat will be heading into the yards after this round-trip, and I'll probably depart at that point and head home for Meg's (my daughter) high school graduation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sause Bros Hitch 1

Sitting in a bus-stop waiting area, waiting for my wife to pick me up here in Richmond outside the Chevron refinery.  I just stepped off the boat after a hitch of about 37 days. This was my first trip with Sause Bros. towing and I felt that it went quite smoothly.  There was certainly a learning curve as I figured out a new way of doing things and working with new people, new boats and new ports.  At times, it was overwhelming, but I nestled in, took good notes and slowly began to figure it all out. The captain gave me a good review today, so hopefully they keep me around for bit.

For the past 3 years, I’ve worked with containerized cargo barges, loading and unloading, lashing and unlashing.  The container barges are pretty simple and the boat crews have to manually handle all the lines upon arrival at the docks.  The tank barges that we deal with at Sause, have hydraulic winches to do all the hard work, we simply have to make sure the lines get lead correctly and that the barge is on spot for transfer operations.  Makes for a much easier job, but it comes with a little bit of a learning curve.

Sause put me on one of the newest boats in the fleet, the “Cochise”, which was built in 2007.  It has 7 staterooms, 3 heads a large galley, satellite TV and wifi.  The latter 2 were having some issues, but the wifi worked most of the time.  The boat is extremely quiet, spacious, comfy, plus she rode fairly good compared to what I’m used to.  It also has a computerized winch system that allows you to punch in a number and the winch will stream the tow in or out to the preset number all on its own.  This particular boat also has an elliptical machine and rowing machine onboard to ensure that we don’t get too lazy and fat.  Many nice positive attributes and features.

The crew was really good, seasoned and helpful as I scratched away at the learning curve. Sause likes to keep its crew on roughly a 42-day rotation, but everyone is on a different schedule.  We went through a full crew swap during my hitch, so I got to work with 2 separate Captains, 1st mates, Engineers, Asst Eng., Cook and so-on.   All good guys.

So, for the next 35 days or so, I’m off work, paid, home, enjoying my off time.  The dispatcher has me on roughly a 35 day rotation so that I can make my daughter Megan’s graduation in June.  After that, I’ll most likely be going back on a 42-day rotation.

So, it's time for the honey-do list and 35 days of rest and relaxation...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sitting on the dock of the bay...

That pretty much says it all.  I arrived down in San Francisco about 2 weeks ago to start my hitch onboard the Sause tug "Cochise".
 She's a good looking boat, built in 2007 and very comfortable with regards to the interior.
The boat was actually up in Martinez that day, so I shuttled it up there and checked onboard. We finished up in Martinez, then headed down to Richmond to fill up for a trip to Eureka.  Our job down here is to move fuel and oil via large tank barge to various facilities in the Bay Area and occasionally up to Eureka.  It's not a hard job, but sometimes we stay on the move for a few days straight between docks down here.  

Last week, we did a Eureka run and then came back down to pier 50 (next to AT&T park) in San Francisco where we have been tied up ever since.  Our next run isn't scheduled until this coming Sunday, so we've just been doing maintenance and cleaning aboard the boat and enjoying some free afternoon/evenings to get out into the city.

I've been lucky enough to meet my family for lunch, go for a bike ride (we have a bike that stays onboard the barge), catch a movie and see some sights here and there.  It's pretty boring being tied up to the pier for so long, but sure beats getting tossed around in Alaska somewhere in between heinous cargo stops.

The boat is nice, the crew is good, the food is great and the weather has been amazing to say the least.  The view from my stateroom looks out at the San Francisco skyline and the Bay bridge.  Pretty hard to beat a view like that!
I've taken a few coffee breaks out on deck and just enjoyed the view while we have it.
We will be heading over the Richmond in a few days and then make another run up to Eureka.  From there, I'm sure we will be back down here bouncing around the bay from dock to dock. 
We did nearly a full crew swap today, so I've got some new names to remember. Everyone seems cool so far!  Anyhow, thats all I've got for now.  2 weeks down and about 3 to go!  

Back to my duties...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Change Course: new job!

I haven't written anything for a while, so I thought I'd take a minute to update anyone who might wander across my blog now and then.

The past few months have been pretty quiet. I finished up a couple hitches on a dredge job down in San Francisco and then went home for Christmas, New Years and all of January. 

I received an officially layoff in the beginning of January, which was to be expected.  I was hoping to avoid the "job hunt dance" with unemployment, but ended up having to put out some resumes and applications here and there in order to receive benefits.

In the process, I did a little networking and talking with friends in the industry and with some solid referrals, landed a job with a new company.

So, I'm currently on a plane, enroute to Coos Bay Oregon for a new-hire orientation at Sause Brothers Towing.  They do mostly cargo and petroleum barge towing up and down the West Coast and Hawaii. 

I have heard really good things about the company and am looking forward to learning more over the next few days.  The dispatcher told me to bring my gear and be ready to ship out after orientation. The typical schedule with them is 6weeks on/off steady rotation from what I've heard.  I don't yet know where, when, or how long I'm heading out on this first hitch... So let the adventure begin.  

I'll make more entries after I learn more and get my first assignment.