Friday, December 19, 2014

Feet Dry

We arrived in Seattle at about 06:00 this morning and quickly broke tow and handed off the barge to the guys at Western Towboat and then immediately high-tailed it north to Everett.  When you're running free on a tug, it's called "light boat".

We got to Everett around 09:00, offloaded the trash for the FDA inspector to check out and then packed the car and headed south.  I had to drop our 2nd Mate off at the airport and then I was southbound to Portland to grab a flight home.

Good trip, relatively speaking.  Good crew, good boat, bad weather and a long boring crossing.  I really don't like the long boring runs and would prefer to be engaged more on a daily basis with new sites, new ports, different scenarios, but I'm glad to have gotten the trip at this point in the year when most of those "other" trips are dwindling.

At any rate... Glad to be off the boat.  Glad to be off the ocean.  Glad to be going home.

Now it's holidays!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Homeward Bound

Honolulu came and went without a hitch.  We pulled in Friday afternoon and back out on Sunday around noon.  It’s now Tuesday morning, 2am and we are heading NE at about 10 knots.  The weather is good and the tradewinds are working in our favor.  There’s some large storms brewing up north that are creating some nasty conditions for anyone heading southwest, but that works in our favor and should get us home much quicker.

We run two trips to Hawaii each month, leaving every other Friday.  The boat that was scheduled to leave from Seattle this last Friday was put on hold until the weather conditions lighten up.  We should come sailing in with some good winds on our stern, but they can’t even poke their nose out into it without getting beaten down.

At any rate, all is well and it’s nice to finally be coming home.  The past few months have been draining.  I haven’t been home since the first part of October and it was only for a week.  Prior to that, I was in school for all of September.  The entire Fall season has been spent on a boat or in a class and I’m really ready for some downtime.  I’ll get a few weeks off after this trip for Christmas and New Year’s and then back north for a short week and a half of classes.  At that point, I’m going to hopefully be organizing my packet and application for submittal to the Coast Guard.  I have to show proof of all my seatime, my certificates of class completion, medical exams, drug screening and all the assessments that I’ve had to complete underway.  If all goes well, they will approve my application for testing.  It should take a month or so to get approval and then I just need to schedule a testing date, study and sit for the exams.

I’m shooting for the 3rd Mate Unlimited license, which will include 7 modules (exams).  Each module covers various topics, (i.e. Deck General, Deck Safety, Nav General (oceans and near coastal), Nav Problems (oceans and near coastal), Rules of the Road, Chart Plot, ) and each module will take about 3 hours to complete over a period of 4 days.  Once completed and passed my license will be issued and I’ll be deck officer.  I won’t bore you with the details of what happens if I don’t pass, because that isn’t an option.  :-)

I’ve begin studying, using an ipad/iphone app called Upgrade U.  It’s about a $20 purchase, but well worth every penny.  It lays out all the test pool questions and then tests you repeatedly until your scores are high enough.  We have to score a 90% on Rules of the Road, which is the one that typically haunts everyone the first time around.  I plan on studying as much as I can over the next few months to prepare.  I’ve learned a great deal of information over the past few years, and regurgitating it is going to be tough, but do-able.

Anyhow, that’s all for now….

Sunday, December 7, 2014


We arrived in Hono yesterday afternoon, got the boat and barge tied up nicely and then headed ashore. I was on the hunt for wifi and ended up at a new brewery just across the street.  As per company policy, we can't drink at all during a trip, so I sat at the bar, enjoyed an iced tea and a burger while I uploaded some blogs from the past few weeks.

Today, we moved the boat over to the fuel dock and took on 59,000 gallons for the trip home.  My job during fueling is to keep an eye on the valves and make sure no leaks appear.  So, I essentially sit on deck in a camp chair for 3-4 hours and chill.

It was actually a nice relaxing afternoon and I managed to squeeze off some emails and make a call or two in the process.

After we finished up, moved the boat and helped the cook load groceries, Jon (the 2nd mate) and I headed over to Waikiki for the remainder of the day.  He proceeded on up to Diamond Head for a hike and I hit the stores to do a little Christmas shopping.

It felt good to get out and stretch the legs and look around. I managed to pick up some cool island stuff for the family, grab some fish tacos and meet back up with Jon at the beach during sunset.  
At that point, we grabbed some ice cream, then a cab back to the boat.

We are scheduled to get back underway tomorrow around noon, and then hopefully back in Seattle about 12 days later.  Overall, it was good quick stop here on Oahu.

Right now I'm on a security watch for a few hours then I think I may grab some sleep and head out for some breakfast before we get underway.  The weather is looking pretty promising for our return trip, but we'll see.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pacific Crappiness

It’s day 11 of our trip to Hawaii and it has been less than pleasant, scratch that, crappy.  The last Hawaii run I did was back in March/April and we had our share of bad days, but once we got down low enough in latitude, the weather improved, the seas become calm and blue and it was actually nice out.  This trip has been nothing but hell.

We started off out of Juan de Fuca with some pretty heavy seas, which are always to be expected, then we battled headwinds all the way down the western seashore because of a low pressure system farther out.  As we got down below the pressure system, it followed us and we ended up just having headwinds for a few more days.  Then, the system appeared to be dissipating and things were looking good, but then it picked up again and started following us farther.  At one point, it got so windy and nasty that we just had to point our nose into the wind, throttle down to idle and sit in place for a day, probably moved backwards quite a bit as well.  It was gusting 40-50 with 30’ seas and the ride was absolutely nauseating. 

The 2nd Mate and I were discussing how much were hating the Hawaii run and were amazed that these regular guys can put up with this trip year round.  But then, just when we thought we were being wimps about it, we happen to see an email that the Captain sent to the main office. It went something like this.  “The weather has been bad and this has been THE TRIP FROM HELL”.  So, after reading that and knowing that this is somewhat of an anomaly I feel better about my wimpy-ness.   This captain strictly does the Hawaii run and has been for many years, so if he says this is bad stuff, then I feel better about myself.

A while ago, I stepped outside the back hatch to get some air and as I look out off the starboard side, all I could see was swell after swell coming at us.  As they approach the boat, you look up at the crest of the wave about 10’ higher than you and it makes you feel pretty insignificant as they crash over the back end of the deck.

The good news is that, the stalking low-pressure system appears to have given up on us and we are finally leaving it behind as we finish up our last 800 mile leg into Honolulu.  The winds are slowly coming around behind us and the ride is starting to smooth a little into a gentle surfing action. The pounding over the past week has been hard to sleep with.  You have to wedge something under your mattress to cradle you in, otherwise your body gets tossed back and forth, waking you up every other minute.

The icing on the cake for the week, was that our A/C unit blew a refrigerant hose today, so we have no A/C until we can get into port and get it fixed.  Luckily, the air temps are too warm yet and it’s not unbearable.  The upper deck staterooms get a bit warm because they are near the stack, but mine is below and insulated slightly.

Today is our cook’s 58th birthday, so the engineer made him a really cool chocolate cake with peanut butter filling and cream cheese frosting. He even drew a picture of his custom van on the top that turned out quite awesome. I built him a pretty cool little key fob out of some small stuff that I had and added a nice stainless shackle and a turk’s head to finish it off, then wrapped it up in a paper towel and tied it off with some fancy string.  He was totally stoked that I took the time to make him something for his day.

Cornish game hens for dinner.  Hopefully my appetite comes out to play.