The other day I started looking through my binder of papers, licenses, and certificates to double check that everything was in order so I can start looking for a ship again. Somewhere in this process I noticed that my semi-annual drug-free certificate had expired.
When I went down to the union hall to get set up to take the drug test, the dispatcher was really happy to see me. It turns out that there hasn't been anybody in the hall lately, so nobody's been available to fill any Port Relief Officer* jobs.
I don't usually like taking these gigs because they destroy whatever sleep schedule I'm on and it tends to take me fully two days to recover afterwards. Still, it does come with a paycheck and I'd hate to be on the other end of the deal; stuck on the ship because nobody bothered to check in and see if there were any ships in port.
So since then I've renewed my drug-free certificate and been the only one around and willing to pull all-nighters on deck on three separate occasions. The first time I got to take the watch for a full fifteen hours aboard the APL Phillipines, the very same ship I was paid off of back in February. The second was aboard another container ship named Horizon Hunter** and the third was the APL Singapore.
In all I've now worked for about 45 hours spread out over three and a half nights. The views have all been pretty nice:
And despite the ridiculous hours and unpredictable schedule, I'm in pretty high spirits:
*Port Relief Officers are union members who take the night watches on ships in port in U.S. ports. This way the ship's officers get a chance to rest or go out and catch up on buying necessities or have dinner or whatever. It's a pretty good deal.
**Horizon Hunter is a pretty cool name for a ship. It sounds like it goes places.