Saturday, July 18, 2015

North South and North again

Well, I'm once again in Anchorage and about to spend a really long day on the barge doing cargo.  I had flown up here a few weeks ago, hopped on to the Snohomish and took it south to Seattle, then sat in port for a few days before hopping onto the Polar Ranger for another trip to... you guessed it, Anchorage (and beyond).
Polar Ranger
So, it's Saturday the 18th around 01:00 and I'm standing security watch for a few hours before we head over to the barge and start cargo at 06:00.  It will be a long day, especially with only 3 hours of sleep under my belt since yesterday morning. This barge is fairly full, and it's supposed to get most of its contents unloaded and some of it will get back-stowed or re-loaded in a different spot. We were originally going to hit Nome on this trip, but things changed and now we aren't, so some of this cargo intended for Nome has to get pulled and placed in a different spot.
Our barge (the Westward Trader)
The trip north went well.  We popped strait out into the Gulf because the weather was looking good and "supposed" to be south easterly, meaning that the winds would be at our backs as we headed northwest... but not the case.  We had winds on our port side almost the entire time, putting us in the trough and rolling us around a little the entire time.  It wasn't terrible, but it was enough to annoy you after 4-5 days of it.

Once we wrap up our off load and re-load here in Anchorage, it's off to Dutch Harbor, then up to Bethel, Dillingham, Naknek and back to Dutch, or at least that's the plan as of today.  Things change rapidly in this business and the next thing you know, you're on a boat heading somewhere else, doing something entirely different with a completely new crew.  It doesn't always go like that, but it can and has.

I'm settling into my new duties as 2nd Mate pretty well.  The boat driving aspect is easy to do, but there's paperwork and reports that need to get done, so I'm learning.  I'm also still learning more about winch operations and other fun stuff that we get to handle when underway, but for the most part, it's all going great.

The most exciting part of this trip for me, is that my new room, even though it is smaller than the AB's room, has a really long bed.  Being 6'2", this is a big deal.  I'm always cramped on these boats because of my height, but this bed is an awesome 7' long and has nice little shelf at the end for my laptop, or what I call my "entertainment center". No longer do I have to lay diagonally to fit and I have been sleeping wonderfully.

Sleep is a funny thing out here.  When you're underway, you get too much sleep.  I average about 9 hours a day when we're at sea, yet in port we sometimes go 20-30 hours without much rest.  Somehow it all works out.  There's really not much else to do, especially when it's crappy outside and you can't go out on deck.  You eat, sleep, watch a movie, read a book and stand your watches.  Get's a bit boring after a while.  I try to workout, but I hate working out in the engine room, so if the deck is awash, I don't workout.  I have, however, been doing pushups on my night watch.  I'm doing 20 every hour x 8 hours/day.  Occasionally I'll take a day off to rest my boobs, but so far, I've done a crap-load of pushups and seeing good results... I'm already jumping up one cup size.  :-)

Anyhow, I'm babbling and should probably go make some rounds and ensure that the gen sets aren't spewing diesel all over the engine room.  more later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


It's day 2 underway out of Anchorage and I've stood 3 successful watches as a mate and feeling really good.  In the world of "Coast Guardness", you have a series of assessments and requirements in order to be qualified and licensed as a navigational watch officer, or what they call "Officer In Charge of a Navigational Watch" (OICNW). I obviously have completed all of mine or the wouldn't be sailing as a mate. All of those requirements become a daily part of your life when standing watch.

My 4-hour watch, (2x/day), consists of log keeping, positional chart plotting, course adjustments, navigational arrangements with other vessels via VHF radio, vessel traffic check-in at set checkpoints, chart corrections, various paperwork and daily reports. It's not rocket science, but it does apply everything I've learned over the past 2 years.

There is a certain peace of mind when standing watch in the wheelhouse.  It's hard to explain, but that feeling of you and the sea working together in some sort of weird harmony. I have great respect for the water and feel almost honored to be allowed to drive a boat across it.  I like it.

Anyhow, it's 5am and I feel the need to watch some TV or maybe even a read a book.  I know one thing that I won't be doing on this trip... STUDYING!