Friday, August 30, 2013

Steak and a Movie!

Last night, I decided we needed steak. When we were in Ketchikan, the Captain went ashore for some groceries, and he picked up 6 awesome rib eye steaks. I was not feeling super comfortable trying to broil (and do justice) to $60 worth if meat, but after hunting around in my cook books, I came across a pan-fried rib-eye recipe and decided to give it a shot, along with a new mashed potatoes recipe that uses a block of cream cheese and garlic. The seasonings and the cooking process all went perfect and the crew was stoked. I got compliments from everyone, but my favorites were 1.) "I think that was the best meal I have had out here on a tug!" and 2.). "God damn, that was good!" I pretty much fattened everyone up to the point of food coma and they kept talking about how full they were and they were going to sleep good on the next go-round. I was a good night as "cookie".
This morning, I put together a broccoli and cheddar quiche and called it good. Tonight I'm preparing a shrimp and fettucini scampi dish with fried oysters on the side.
I grabbed a few movies from home before leaving, so last night and the night before, I watched Gangs of New York. Great movie. Tonight, I'm going to watch Master and Commander because I don't think I've ever seen the entire movie. At some point, I need to get my movie collection going on a portable hard-drive so that it's easily transported, and actually acquire a "movie collection" as I really don't officially have one.
Next stop, Anchorage!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ketchikan and Beyond

We pulled into Ketchikan around 18:00 on Monday. I had prepared a chicken enchilada dish earlier that morning, know that dinner time would be interrupted by docking and cargo ops. After jockeying the barge into place and getting her all tied down, the other AB and I went to work. We only had about 50-60 containers to unload and the unlashing went pretty quick. The full unload took about 5 hours and then we had about 8 or so containers coming back on ("backload") that were headed towards Anchorage. All said and done, we were in and out in about 6 hours and again heading north.

The weather was fair, just some thick fog here and there. The Gulf weather was reportedly calm, so we popped out into the big water at Cape Decision. Had there been heavier winds or seas, we would have stayed on the inland route north and popped out at Cape Spencer a few days later. Cape Spencer is the northernmost entrance to the inland passage.

It's now Wednesday, and we are into the Gulf heading northwest on a heading of 302 towards Cook Inlet. It'll take us a few days, but we are already making fast headway with the winds at our backs. To steam along at 10+ knots in the Gulf is good and we've been doing just that. Once into Cook, we head north for about a day into Anchorage. At that point, all cargo will come off and some backload will come back on. At this point, we aren't planning to stop anywhere else, so the trip back home should be a quick one. Everything can and has changed, so we've learned to be flexible and not count on anything to be solid until our feet are back on the docks.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Trip #3: Snohomish - Mike 'O

After 9 days off at home, I flew back up to Seattle, grabbed a shuttle to where my car was parked, and then drive up to Dunlap in Everett. I immediately had to stow my gear, grab the company truck and head to Safeway to pick up our food order. It was a fairly sizable order, and I added another cart on top of it to round it out to a whopping $2500. That amount of food is usually good enough for about 2 weeks, then we re-stock when we are in port.

After loading the truck and driving back to the docks, we transferred all the food over to the boat via crane, threw it in the galley and cast off. We started out on the "Snohomish", but our orders were to transfer everything to the "Mike O'Leary" somewhere north along the way. After chatting with the "Mike-O" on the radio, we learned that we'd be meeting up with them around 04:40. So, we grabbed some fuel, grabbed our barge and headed north.

Knowing fully that all of our food was going to be transferred over to the Mike-O, I only unpacked the frozen and perishable times, leaving everything else in boxes. We had about 25 cases of food, (enough to fill a longbed Ford, with two layers of boxes) so finding storage space in the galley was challenging. I ended up putting about 10 boxes in my room and filling up the settee with the rest to get it out of the way. The Snohomish had a funky layout, so I was glad that it was only a temporary stay.

04:00 came quick and I been up since 03:00 re-packing boxes with frozen meats and things. We had to "flop" on the barge, break tow, transfer all of our foods, gear bags, and bedding over to the Mike-O and then make tow again to the barge and get underway. The crew of the Mike-O, had to break tow, leaving their barge adrift in the middle of the channel and come over to us, transfer their gear and bedding to our boat as well. It was a cluster F#%^, but we pulled it off without a problem. After all transferring was compete, we broke away, grabbed our barge again and went on our way. At that point, I started stowing ALL the foods, which took me about a 2 hours.

From that point, it was about a 4-day trip to Ketchikan where we would ditch some of our cargo and sweat off some pounds.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 13: Back in Gulf

Well, we slammed out Anchorage in a shit-storm of "hurry let's go!". Our goal was a 12hr turnaround on cargo, which means we have to get everything off the barge, and new stuff brought back on, lashed down and ready to rock. We did it, but it was a long day with no breaks. We took a 30 minute lunch break, but aside from that, it was go go go all day. My hands were fried, swollen and numb, for about 2 days afterwards.
The last 2 days since we left Anchorage have had us bucking some high winds, heading mostly into it, and bouncing us around real good. I still managed to pump out the meals, but it was work. In heavy seas, everything becomes harder and slower. A simple task like getting something out of the fridge, becomes an exercise in patience. First of all, you have to get to the fridge, which requires certain "drunken sailor" walking, then you position yourself, feet approx. 3' apart for stability, then you are ready to open the door. At this point, you have to be ready to catch anything that falls with one hand, holding the door with the other, or catch many things and somehow hold the door with your knee. Last night, I went to the freezer, opened the door, and about 6 heavy frozen items came crashing to my feet before I could even get an arm in there. It sounded like we had run aground on a gravel bar or something. It was like opening a cage full of dogs who wanted to bolt.
Then there's the stove. Everything that goes on the stove, needs to be held down, this is done with metal bars and springs. It's crude, but works very effectively and keeps the hot stuff from dumping into your lap. I'll add a picture once we get home. One of the most dangerous items in my opinion, is the knife. You're cutting some veggies, you set the knife down for one second to grab another veggie, and its as if the knife will come to life and slide across the counter and is looking for something to kill.
So, meals are tough when the boat is a rocking. This boat rides like crap, so I've been told. I hear the stories from all the seasoned guys about other boats and other crew. Apparently this boat is a cork compared to some of the others.
I got word this morning that I will be sailing with the same crew on a different boat, leaving the 23rd. I'm cool with that since I like everyone onboard, AND they haven't screamed at me yet about any of my cooking. I'm fairly certain that I've done an ok job so far, so hopefully that continues and they stay happy.
It's now Wednesday the 7th and we are about halfway across the Gulf, heading east. We got word that we might need to stop in Sitka for a little cargo, but that may mean skipping Ketchikan. Either way, I think our arrival time back to Seattle will still be around the 13th.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 9: Cookin up a storm

So, I woke up at about 03:15, got dressed and came into the galley for coffee to find the AB and Chief Mate chatting it up. We all shared a few words while we sipped our morning liquids. The Mate ascended to the pilothouse, the AB hit his rack and I went to work.

I had planned on making a pot roast for dinner tonight, so I thought I'd better get going on it since it takes a few hours to cook and I won't have enough time when I come on watch at 16:00 to get t done before dinner at 17:00, so I whipped up spices, some broth and got it going in the oven. Then, I fired up the crockpot and made a pretty tasty corn chowder for lunch, complete with bacon, which then prompted me to get breakfast going with bacon and pancakes. The AB caught a whiff of the bacon and re-emerged from his stateroom around 6:45, mumbling something about eggs. I said, "no, just pancakes and bacon, but I'd be happy to make some for you". So I cooked him up a few eggs so he could make a breakfast sandwich.

It's now 08:00, the breakfast is nearly gone, the chowder is cooking, the pot roast is cooling, the trash can is full of wrappers, the coffee pots are full of freshness and I'm tired. Whew. I think I washed my hands about 40 times in 4 hours and my skin is as dry as sandpaper. I do believe I earned my pay today.

Headin' to bed... See ya.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 8: Entering Cook

We are slowly getting closer Chugach Island at the tip of the Kenai Penisula, which marks the entrance to the Cook Inlet (which takes us to Anchorage). It's about a day to Anchorage after we enter the inlet and head north by Northeast, which is really just slightly left of northeast. :-)

We are getting pushed in the right direction with some nasty winds right now, and the boat is riding pretty nice. The gusts are supposed to be hitting about 40-45 knots here within the next few hours, so the captain asked me to make sure the galley was all lashed down and ready for weather. With an old boat like this, who knows what is going to bust loose and decide to go flying. Seems like she's got a few loose screws here and there, but something tells me she thrives in the heavy seas. Old Manfred Nystrom himself came strolling through the galley the other night while I was doing dishes. The fidley door just magically swung open, and then swung closed all on its own. The upper dog is always latched (everyone is pretty good about doing so), so I just assumed it was Mr. Nystrom making his rounds.

I burnt a pie tonight, probably the my first cooking screw-up. The oven is funky and never wants to cooperate with me. I typically leave it on all day so that its ready to go (typical protocol), and it was reading 350 all day. I bumped it up just a little for my pie, but it went way high and burnt the crust. It was still good though with a little ice cream.

We had pizza for dinner and they turned out perfect. Everyone was concerned because I put "pepperoni and sum thin" on the menu board, along with "margherita pizza". They was confoozled and thought I was making blended drinks. They liked the pizza nevertheless...

Anyhow, can't sleep. Pretty typical. I'll sleep really good after one watch and crappy after the next. It all works out in the end and usually end up with the right amount per day. It would be nice to just sleep all my spare time away, but its not that easy sometimes. The crew continues to be really cool.. "Stinky" (the chief engineer) relieves me from my watch a bit early every day because he gets up early. Hs real name is Steve, but everyone calls him Stinky. I work the 4-8, he takes over and works the 8-12 with the Captain (Terry).

I got an email from home (via the boat's Sat modem) and my dad is doing well. They had to do a tracheotomy, so he can't talk, but is apparently in good spirits. I told Erin to let him know that teeth are not required for driving a motor home. Hopefully it made him smile.

Well, I'm gonna give sleep a chance and see what happens. Chat at ya later... It sure who, but someone inside my iPad I presume. :-)


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Day 7: Sauerkraut and Eggs

No, I didn't combine them. But I did throw some kraut/dogs in the crockpot at the same time I was making sausage and eggs, AND bran muffins from scratch. I guess my French roast brew was a bit strong this morning. The other AB usually makes coffee for me at the end of his watch, but he will usually make the standard old Folgers, which I refer to as "water-bewitched" since its more like tea to me (referring to an earlier post about nautical jargon and tea). Folgers will suffice for most folks, but when you have to be up at 3am and preparing 2-3 different meals for 6 hungry dudes, I prefer something with a bit more punch in the eye hole.

Every hour we do engine room checks or "security rounds" on our watch to make sure there isn't a gaping hole in the side of the boat or lube oil flinging around in the engine room. After each round, we check in the with pilothouse and make sure the watch stander (Mate or Captain) is still alive and kicking (there are stories of guys kicking the bucket at the helm and nobody new for hours). Occasionally the mate on watch will ask me to watch the helm for a bit while he hits the head or grabs something to eat. Today, the chief Mate did so, and I had the opportunity to sit there, enjoying the view, thinking... "Man, this is so much more relaxing than having to cook shit all day or clean showers... and I look forward to getting my mate's license!" :-). He returned a good 15 minutes later, so I descended back down to the galley and slaved over the foods for another few hours.

At any rate, another boring day on the gulf. The seas are still 4-6', pretty easy going... But just enough to make you look drunk as you stagger down the passageway.

I was aiming for some good sleep last night, but I tossed and turned for about 3 hours before falling asleep and dreaming that there was a rattlesnake in my room. I wasn't alway in my room, first it was in my house and a friend of mine was trying to convince me that it would be a good pet if we can simply ensure that hedoesn' get out of his aquarium (duh!). He was attempting to illustrate how docile they can be by petting it and treating it like a cobra by waving his arms around slow and mysteriously, but I wasn't buying it. I was trying to figure out how the hell we could make it go away without pissing it off. Once I awoke and convinced myself that even if there was a rattle snake in my room, he probably wouldn't be real... THEN and only then was I able to go back to sleep. Wicked wicked dreams out here I tell you. The steady motion (eventually) rocks you to sleep and settles you into your rack like a layer of sediment... The more motion, the farther you settle. I have some extremely vidid and weird dreams on the water, some good, some bad.

Tonight's menu is chicken tetrazzini. Some sort of chicken and pasta combination thingy that I pulled from the cookbook. Sounded good and looked easy so therefore meets my criteria. We will know for sure around 6pm if it pleases the masses.

I found out that I will most likely be sailing with the same crew on the next run, which leaves on the 23rd. It will be another Anchorage run, and unless we get a cook to fill in for the AB that is leaving, I'll probably be cooking again. Call me cookie.

I'm off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of dreams. Ttfn