Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dead End!

Well, yesterday I got the call that I "thought" was locking things in... But today, I got the call that unlocked everything. Apparently by the time PMI submitted my paperwork, the company had already decided to put a halt on interviews and settled on two applicants that were in the system already.. FRAAAKKK!


This new career path is ending before it even begins!


Now we are putting in my paperwork with another company that was interested, but if this one doesn't work out, I may not be able to attend the school as they have no other leads for me. The past 2+ months have been dedicated to getting into this program and now we are up against the wall and not having luck finding a company to sponsor me. I have credible sea time experience, a college degree, business experience, liveaboard experience, yet for whatever reason, not many nibbles. I'm beginning to think that I might have stepped on a crack somewhere or walked under a ladder and didn't realize it. I'm a good person, hard working, reliable, trustworthy, punctual, fit, respectful, honest, experienced, pleasant.... Yet that seems to matter very little. Frustration.


I don't really have strong back-up plan... That's what sucks. If schooling isn't an option, then I'm forced to hitting the streets and knocking on doors of companies to start full-time work as a deckhand. This route without schooling is 5-6 year path minimum to get where I want to be. The school would have cut 3-4 years off of that. The "Hawsepipe" method of climbing ranks is fine, but I was really hoping to get there sooner given that I've put in a fair amount of time at sea already. Next week is a new week, lets see what happens.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Mariner Math

PMI sent me a math competency exam to make sure I had a basic understanding of some algebra, trig and general math concepts. It's been a few years since I've had to calculate the Cos, Sin and Tan of a triangle, so I did a little head scratching to wake things up and it quickly came back. I had to bug a math teacher friend of mine on a few things, but soon I was whipping them out. Other fun stuff included adding and subtracting Lats/Long, bearings, 24hr times and more. I did a ton of compass work and mapping in the Navy, so most of these were almost natural, but still had to dust off those archives in the brain and give them a little motivational speech.

When I attended Operations Specialist A-School, I worked my butt off because I knew that the top 10% of my class got to pick their orders of their first duty assignment. Needless to say, I studied hard and made it happen. I partied less, studied more, and the end result is some info that became ingrained for life, and luckily is getting to be pulled out of mothball and put back into service. One of the skills that is still ingrained and probably never going to be useful again, is the ability to write backwards. Yes, I can stand behind glass and right you a novel, complete with numbers, punctuation and more. It's kinda freaky that it's still natural, but I guess it's like riding a bike.. :-). These skills were taught to us for the sole purpose of being able to update radar contact information, call signs, and other fun war stuff on a plexiglass board without getting in the way of the TAO (Tactical Action Officer) within the Combat Information Center (CIC). The interior CIC picture here is very similar to the workspace onboard my last ship (USS Abraham Lincoln). It was always dark, always air conditioned and always fairly quiet. We would emerge out of there after a 6 month cruise looking all pasty and white from long dark days in "the blue".

Most of my shipboard duties as an OS in the CIC included radar work, but we all took turns updating boards, making coffee, cleaning,...which btw, is the center core of all Naval operations. When your not working, you're cleaning and even when you are working, you're cleaning.

So, I busted out all the math questions, scanned the test and sent it back into the school for grading. I think I aced it, but who knows. So, back to the waiting game and hoping to get "the call" any day with news on which company is going to bring me onboard. The most current news, is that Bay Delta Maritime is interested in me and especially my Navy experience. Fingers crossed, eyes crossed, etc. this would be the opportunity that any tug wannabe would drool over. Bay Delta is an awesome operation and I really hope it works out for to get in with them. They are based out of Pier 17 in the Embarcadero, SF. Wish me luck!



Monday, February 11, 2013

Back on Deck

Once the shop closed, I had a few months of wrap up to do and it gave me ample soul-searching time to think about "what's next".  I looked at jobs, willing to do whatever I could to make money.  The jobs that paid well, I wasn't qualified for and the jobs that were easy to get, I was over qualified for.  Application after application and not one (1) interview.  The whole time, I was looking into the maritime world and trying to crack the nut I knew was inside.  It's not an industry that you just jump into.  There's paperwork, physicals, background checks, more paperwork and tests, just so that you can try and figure out how to apply for all the jobs, that then require experience.  It's complex and elusive, but everything I read was amazing.

Finally, realizing that I needed some training, I came across some schooling options.  Being that I had a degree, the 4-year maritime academy route didn't make sense.  I then set my sites on a vocational program in Seattle that trains you and places you with a company all at once. Pacific Maritime Institute made sense, and so I applied.

Now, 2 months later, I have jumped through all the hoops, gathered all the credentials, taken tests, got my passport, visited Seattle for an interview and am ready to begin a new career.

On March 11th I start a 3 week class for basic training and safety classes, then I will be working with a company for 2 months before heading back to Seattle for the month of June.  July-September will be work and then all of October will be classes.  I bounce back and forth for 24 months, but all said and done, I'll graduate with my Coast Guard Mate's license and hopefully still employed by the host company.  A few years after that, I should be able to sit and take my captain's license.  Mate and Captain positions are fairly similar.  Both pay well and do similar duties, yet a captains job consists of quite a bit more responsibility (and corresponding pay).

I will be working as a deck-hand for the next 2 years, earning my way up to the pilothouse.  I need to  fully understand all aspects of deck-work before telling people how to do it.  I'm looking forward to learning the "ropes", some of which I already have a good handle on from prior experiences.

I recently sold my beloved Vanagon Westfalia to purchase a more "Sac-Seattle Commute-Friendly" car, an older Subaru Outback LL Bean with Gold accents...  I hate gold accents, so hopefully you understand that I'm "all business" right now and motivated to get this thing underway.  Function over form is my approach with long-term sites set on financial stability and a hard-working job I enjoy.

I'm awaiting a phone call from the school right now to find out which company is going to take me under their wings.  Rumour has it that one of the best outfits in San Francisco is interested in me, but won't be making a decision until next week.  I'll post up more as it comes.

From here on out, I'll be posting mostly updates but needed to post up some insight as to the "why" before getting into the nitty gritty of everyday life.  At the very least, maybe my kids will read this and get a better understanding of how this all came about.

Tis' all for now....

Bigger Boats, Bigger Dreams

So, I was sailing my dinghy (Catalina C-15) whenever i could, but I was outgrowing it and was curious about bigger and better things.  We had our 2nd child a few years before and he too was now exposed to the passion/sport. I explored some classes and decided that I needed to really "learn" about sailing.

 I convinced my friend Joe to take an ASA Bareboat Charter Certification course with me in the Bay and after a few months of classes, we were out sailing on SF Bay by ourselves.  We rented various ~30' boats throughout that year, taking the kids out on the bay and practicing our technique.  Having lunch in Tiburon, checking out Angel Island, and so forth. We talked about the future on how we'd like to take the families to the Virgin Isles or Croatia and rent a boat for a week or two.  Big dreams that I hope to someday fulfill.

When we closed the shop last year, I was provided the opportunity to make a change....

Back in Civies

Once I was back into normal land-based life, I went down the path of meeting my soon-to-be wife, getting my degree, finding a job and more.

In an nutshell, I went back to school thinking that I'd focus on engineering.  Smart move, but I wasn't "passionate" about engineering. It was cool, but I didn't spend my waking hours, dreaming about equations and designs.  I was out cycling, hiking, enjoying the mountains that I had missed for so long. I eventually changed majors and got my degree in Recreation Administration in hope of finding something that would pay me well to do things in the out-of-doors.

I married my lovely wife in 1996 and we had our daughter in 1998, bought a house in 1999.  Life was good.

During that time, I was offered a full-time position on Campus as Sac State, as the Assistant Director of the outdoor recreation program and I spend about 5+ years doing marketing, training and outdoor trips. During this time, we had our little boy and it seemed as though I was "settled down".  The job was fun, but no room for advancement and eventually budget cuts (a common theme) eliminated my job.

9 months later, I opened a bike shop.

Again, in a nutshell..  the shop did really well for the first few years, but then economic times (we can call them budget cuts for the sake of keeping it in the theme) began to slowly rip away at us.  One of the interesting things that happened in this 7.5 year span, was that I came across a small sailboat through a neighbor.  It somehow re-ignited my passion for the water.  I slowly began to reminisce about "the days" on the boat and how fun it was as a kid.  I started sailing again with the family, racing, joined a sailing club and taking friends out whenever possible. It was fun, but I had the desire to go bigger... just like my dad....

The Navy Days

I joined the Navy for 3 reasons:  1. I was losing my license and knew that going to back to school was going to be really hard considering we lived far away from the JC.  2. I felt the need to explore and get away.  3. I knew about boats and figured I'd do pretty well in that setting.

My parents were out of town when I enlisted and they had no clue that I was even considering it.  If I recall, I told them about it on the phone while they were traveling.  I don't think my mom was too happy, but having been a Navy wife for a few years, she at least had some insight into the life. My dad was an Navy Aviation Mechanic in the early 60's, stationed in Florida.

In July of 1988 I boarded a Greyhound bus wearing shorts, t-shirt, shoes and carrying a small toiletries bag with my address book, shaving stuff and that was all.  I was told that I wouldn't need much, so I didn't bother to bring anything.

I went to boot camp in San Diego and 2 months later attended Operations Specialist A-School in Dam Neck Virginia.  After school, I chose my orders back to Alameda and reported to the USS Enterprise (CVN-65).  During my 2 years on the Enterprise, I did multiple short cruises and a full World Cruise leaving Alameda and arriving in Virginia 6 months later (taking the long way around).   I grew up a great deal on this cruise and learned a lot about life while visiting some beautiful countries.

After arriving back in Virginia, I changed ships and went back to Alameda for the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). We did a ton of underway trainings and then a full West-Pac and participated in Desert Storm.

I made some really good friends during these years, some of which I still talk with today.  One of which, my friend Joe, is my closest friend and we still do things together despite living 2 hours away.  I'll add more about him when we get to the chapter on sailing.

I finished out my tour and got out of the Navy in 1992 (a few months early for budget cuts) and went home.  I was ready for land at this point and knew that college was the way to go.  So I changed course and headed down the path that made sense.  I didn't realize at this point that I was abandoning something that was core, the water.  It was years later that I realized what I was missing..

The Roots

I've gotten a few weird looks from folks when I told them what I'm doing, mostly because they don't know my history. I'll attempt to give a quick background, so that anyone coming across this blog will have a better understanding of "why" I'm going down the path I am.

Most of my friends today, know me as a cyclist. For the past 20 years, I have been all about mountain biking and cycling. For the past 8 years, I've been a bike shop owner who raced bikes quite a bit. But my story starts as a kid.

When I was about 5 years old, we spent a lot of time on ski boats on the river. At some point, my parents decided that they wanted a big boat. Boats are expensive, and we didn't have a ton of money, so my dad said "hey, let's build a boat". So he and my uncle bought some blue prints, some tools, secured an area on my grandfather's property and began contruction on 2 similar steel sailboats. I didn't know any better, I just figured thats what people did. I later learned that this was not an everyday thing and was extremely unique. I grew up around raw steel, sandblasting, welding, fabrication and creative concepts. I just figured that's what people did..

8 years after construction began, we launched a 45' steel ketch sailboat into the Sacramento river that bared the name "Kenandora" (my mom and dad's names combined). My uncle's boat took more time as he was spending a little more time on custom interiors and things.

We spent the first few years staying on the boat during the weekends, maybe taking it down to the bay for a few weeks in the summer. But at some point, around the 6th grade, my parents decided that they liked the boat-life so much, that we were going to move aboard full-time. I began 7th grade in a new school as "the kid that lives on a boat". It was cool, unique, and quickly just became a way of life, no different in my mind than anyone else. Soon I had a friend that also lived on a boat and he attended the same school. We were river folk and it was pretty cool. I spent most of my youth fishing, cruising around the river in my little skiff, swimming and being a modern day Huck Finn.


High School came and went pretty fast, nothing really to note except some good memories and good friends.

After high school, I started junior college with 13 units. Lasted about a month or two before quitting and going to work full time as a delivery driver. Life was good, making money, knowing fully that I wasn't going to get anywhere as a delivery driver all my life. Luckily (I say this now) I aquired too many traffic violations in that one year as a driver, and my license was going to be revoked. This was the turning point, or should I say, course change #1.


The boats we built. My uncle's on the left, ours on the right.


BEGIN: Change Course to 360!

For those not privy to compass bearings, bearing "360" doesn't exist..  We use to say in navigation that "359+1=0".  Some people get it, others, not so much...

At any rate, I've created this blog for the sole purpose of getting some things out of my head, and onto some sort of platform that might help me learn a little better.  I'm getting ready to start 2 years of training in the maritime industry and I'm taking some advice from someone who did this same path a few years back, and creating a place to recap on my days in an attempt to retain more knowledge.  I'll also be talking about the "why" of this new direction on some of my first posts and how it came about. I think I might have finally found that missing "1" degree with regards to careers and am hopefully on the right heading moving forward.

This blog is mostly for me, yet I know that over time, many people that I know will slowly be tuning in to read my crap.  I'm not going to proofread and take extra time to fix grammar/spelling. I'm hoping to keep this raw, real and easy.  I won't have a ton of time to right essays, but I will take time to recap on my lessons and clear my head.

My wife and kids have been very supportive of this new endeavor, and I don't think I could have taken the steps towards it, if I had to "sell" it hard.  I think Erin understands that it makes sense for us and that the final outcome is going to put us in a better place.  The next 2 years will be tough, but will go by fast and provide us with a more stable future.  Right now, I can't fathom what it's going to be like having to leave the family for 3-4 weeks at a time for Seattle academic sessions, but I do know that many people somehow make it work when one of the parents have to go away for a greater good.  We've talked in great length about the pros/cons and it's pretty apparent that the pros outweigh the cons on many levels.

So, without further adieux, we turn our rudders to a new heading and aim for brighter horizons...