Monday, September 30, 2013

Dose of Reality

Usually when I tell someone that I work on a tugboat the standard reaction is, “Wow. I’ve never met anyone that does that. That is so cool.” I then attempt to answer all of the questions they have concerning the maritime industry.
“What do you do at night?”
 “Where do you stay?”
 “What do you do for food?”
 “How long do you work?” Etc. Etc.

Two years ago, our new neighbors moved in across the street. After pleasant introductions, the conversation gravitated towards what everyone did for work. Once again, I prepared myself for the onslaught of the usual questions. 

Imagine my surprise when my new neighbor mentioned that he works for two weeks and then has two weeks off.
Someone works the same type of schedule that I do?

As it turned out, Kevin was a pilot. He flew anti-cocaine drug interdiction missions in South America. For once, I was the one with all of the questions.

For the next two years, Kevin and I worked the exact same schedule. He was home the same days I was and gone for the same ones as well. He missed the same holidays I did. He was around for the same birthday parties as I. We were both around during the day so we could go to the shooting range together. We could ride our quads late in the evening and not worry about having to be at work early the next day. A quick walk across the street to lend a tool or borrow a lawn edger was all it took. It was refreshing to have a friend that understood what it was like to be away from home and your family six months out of the year.
It was also nice to be able to say to your friend, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
And then laugh at all of those people who were stuck in their 9 to 5 jobs.

This last time that I was off from work we moved into our new house. Granted, we only moved 0.68 miles. Essentially, we moved from one side of the main road, across the street, to the other side of the main road. But it meant that Kevin wasn’t going to be my neighbor anymore. It meant I wasn’t going to be able to look out my front door and see Kevin doing something stupid on his ladder as he was trying to hang up his Christmas lights. It meant that when we need more chairs for our “Thanksgiving Three-Peat” I couldn’t just walk across the street to get more. It meant that babysitting services (for both houses) weren’t just a walk across the front lawn. 

Just before I came back to work, Kevin and his family came over to our new house to take the 5-cent tour. As they were leaving, Kevin and I shook hands and he said, “Hey, see you in two weeks.”
“Nope. Three weeks,” was my reply, “We are doing our holiday switch around this time.”
“Well that sucks. That means our schedules are going to flip. With you guys moving and now the schedules changing I’ll never see you guys again.”
“I severely doubt that.”

A few days ago my wife called me and left a message on my cell phone.
Two things were wrong with that. First, my wife never calls my cell phone when I’m off watch. Secondly, she never leaves me a message. Especially one that says, “Hey, give me a call when you can.”

The next day I called my wife back.
The exact details of the call I don’t recall.
But the one line I do remember, “Kevin isn’t coming home.”

Kevin was at work flying a mission. During the flight, his plane suffered some kind of mechanical problem and went down.
Kevin’s co-pilot suffered severe injuries in the crash.
Kevin was killed.

Once again, I’m at work and there is nothing I can do. I can’t be there to comfort his family. I can’t be there to help. I won’t be home to attend his funeral. My only solace is that if there were anyone who would understand that I’m stuck at work and the reasons why I can’t be there, it would be Kevin. And even that doesn’t help.

Kevin leaves behind his wife, two step sons, and his own toddler son. Just last week, my wife told me that Kevin and his wife are expecting another child. 
He was 39.

I miss my friend.

More than words can ever say.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


We are going to do a little bit of time traveling here. The next few posts actually happened last hitch. But with moving/work/life, etc. getting in the way I just haven't had time to put pen to paper. Or 000111010100111's to a digital memory system, as it may be.

Shipyard sucks. There. I said it.
Shipyards look so clean and organized in the pictures

Generally, life aboard a tugboat isn't too taxing. In fact, anytime you meet someone new and tell them you work on a tugboat a usual response is, "Oh, that must be EXCITING!" No. No, it's not. Which is just the way we like it. Sure, it is usually 23 hours and 55 minutes of complete and total boredom. Only interrupted by 5 minutes of sheer terror. But we like boring. Boring is good. Boring means things are going well. Boring means you haven't screwed up. Screw ups are expensive. 'Boring' trumps 'exciting' any day of the week on a tugboat.

But shipyard isn't boring. Shipyard is expensive. Shipyard is a lot of hard work in a minimal amount of time. Time is money in this business. And the longer you are in shipyard the more money the company spends and the less money the company makes. It's like "Fast and the Furious". Without Vin Diesel. Or cars. Or women with clothes that are 2 sizes too small. In essence, shipyard is: Get in. Fix it. Get out.

Maybe clothes 3 times too small?
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Tugboats are work boats. You don't make money tied to the dock. The busier you are the better things are. The hitch seems to go by faster. The company is making money. Everyone is happy. However, tugboats are floating pieces of machinery. Machinery that needs to be maintained. Constantly. There is ALWAYS something to do on a tugboat. If you aren't doing regular maintenance, you are doing preventative maintenance. Let things go too long between the two, and you are doing replacement maintenance. The maritime environment is brutal. Even worse so in the southern climates and the Gulf of Mexico. Even with keeping up with the maintenance schedule and doing everything 'by the numbers, things still break. Things wear out. Not to mention that some things just can't be fixed or overhauled while the boat is out working. Which is why we are in the shipyard. It's time to fix all the stuff that is broken, is about to break, needs to be overhauled, worked on, tweaked, inspected, repaired, replaced, or just looked at.

Plus, you have less than 2 weeks to do a over a months worth or work.

Which is why I'm trying to get caught up with the blog.
Shipyard isn't exactly a blog friendly environment.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Role Reversal

I'm ready to go back to work.

Wait? What?!

Ready to go back to work?

That's right, folks. I'm ready to go back to work. Technically, I'm ready for a break.

We bought a house. We moved a whole 0.68 miles. But it's not the distance that matters.
It's the stuff. Lots of stuff. TONS of stuff. More stuff than I even realized.

Thankfully, we (and by we, I mean my wife) has made a lot of GREAT friends. Friends that disregarded any weekend plans they had made and helped us move everything we owned in only 2 days. We couldn't have done it without them.

Physically, I'm just beat.

But I'm also mentally drained.

It turns out that picking up everything you own, shoving it in a truck, driving down the street, and then shoving all of your belongings into your new garage is the easy part.
It just never ends

Then the fun really begins.

Then you get to call every type of "Customer Service" that you can think of.
Phone, cable, power, water, Tivo, gas, banking etc. etc. etc.

The best part of moving into a brand new house, is that it is a brand new house. It doesn't exist. It's not in ANY database for ANY company.
No amount of arguing with any "Customer Service" person will convince them that your new house DOES, in fact, exist. Even when you tell them the you are calling them from your own living room. If it's not on the computer screen in front of them, you might as well be calling them from Neptune.

Just trying to get anyone on the other end of the phone that has any idea of what you are talking about is a monumental task. Sometimes it takes multiple calls to the exact same phone number just to speak to the right person. My wife and I like to refer to it as "Customer Service Roulette".

It's mentally taxing trying to explain time and time again that you just want to give these people your hard earned money. All I want to do is watch Robin Meade on the news in the morning.
You would think that they would want your money.
Apparently not.

I have a new found hatred for Time Warner Cable. Congratulations! You really deserve it.

I'm physically beat and mentally drained.
I'm ready to go back to work.

Although we are working a three week hitch to switch around for the holidays.

 On second thought, maybe painting the kids rooms isn't so bad after all.