Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Must Go Down to the Sea Again...

It's time.

I'm still able to pay all of my bills, but money's finally gotten to the point where I actually have to worry about it. That means it's definitely time to get back out to sea for a bit.

Oddly enough, I have been trying to get out for some time now. Unfortunately, the shipping industry reacts to market influences just after the manufacturing industry. If nobody's making things, nobody's shipping things. If nobody's shipping things, no ships are moving. If no ships are moving, no navigators are needed. If no navigators are needed, I'm going to be sitting on the beach for a while yet.

In the meantime, I've been picking up a few watches here and there aboard ships in port. As the Port Relief Officer, my job is to come down and cover the cargo watches so that those officers who are working on board can get a much-needed night off.

To get these gigs I have to appear in person at the union hall at noon for the job call.  Then, if I'm lucky enough to get something, I have to be back on board the ship that night to stand the watch.  The following day I have to go back to the hall to get paid, so if everything goes the way it usually does, I end up cranking out a 36-hour sleepless day.

Despite all of the nuisance, it's nice to be doing something professional on a ship again.  I even look professional:
Aboard SS Maui

That picture was taken aboard the MV Horizon Falcon, a Horizon Lines containership.  Here's a file photo of her from a better angle:

After finishing that gig at 0800, I had to make my way to Santa Rosa by 0915 to take care of some Navy business before going back to the Heart of Gold and promptly losing consciousness.

My next gig was aboard the SS Maui, a Matson Navigation Company containership.  So excited was I at the prospect of standing another watch that I ended up arriving at the pier early.  Three days early in fact.  That's what I get for not reading the dispatch before driving to Oakland to get lost in the freezing cold, pouring rain, and pitch dark.  Oops.

When I went back I still got there early in order to learn my way around before taking responsibility for the ship's safety.  I was glad I did too, because she's a somewhat odd old ship.  Here's a file photo of her:

The odd part about this ship in particular is the split superstructure configuration with the pilothouse and quarters forward and the engineroom and support spaces aft.  In more modern ships, these are all combined together at the stern.  Fortunately, the inport cargo watches give me a chance to get familiar with whatever wierdness these ships have before I find myself out at sea on one of them.  I also get to see the sun come up:
Oakland Harbor Sunrise

I've been pretty consistent in picking up the midnight to 8am shift, so after the job call I've had hours free to catch up on other projects while waiting for midnight to roll around:
Prepwork for Chaplain Helmet

Wednesday night I stood watch aboard the MV Mokihana, a combination container/Roll-On Roll-Off ship (aka car carrier).  She was originally built purely as a containership and was later retrofitted with a garage section aft.  Here's a picture of this oddly hermaphroditic ship:

The garage section back aft has parking spaces for over 1,300 vehicles.  Here's a shot showing some of the eleven levels inside:
Mokihana Garage

It's huge. Like me:
Aboard MV Mokihana

Cargo operations shut down at 4am, so I got to spend the next four hours waiting for the sunrise:
Oakland Harbor Sunrise 2

I also got to see the APL Thailand pull in:
APL Thailand Arriving

With all of the running around and sleep deprivation, I'm definitely geared back up to go out to sea again.

Fingers crossed I'll find a ship soon.

(In case you were wondering, the letters "SS" before a ship's name stand for "Steam Ship" while "MV" is "Motor Vessel" and "SV" is "Sailing Vessel")


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