Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Crew Changes of the EPIC Variety

Not all crew changes are completely screwed up. 
Okay, most of ours are. 
But take this story of a crew change gone right.
Epically so. 

Our friends over at gCaptain provide the tale:

Check out this photo showing a February 16 crew change on the frozen Great Lakes. Photographer Mark Langdon tells us:

This is the Tanker Algosea sending 2 crew members across the ice to the Canadian Coast Guard Ice Breaker Griffon… The crew were well over their time onboard and opted to change like this. The Griffon picked up the C/O (Chief Officer, a.k.a. Chief Mate, a.k.a. The Mate) and 2nd Eng (Second Engineer) and took the (sic) to the dock and picked up their reliefs and brought them out the Algosea. 

Which, in and of itself, is a pretty cool way to crew change. But it gets better…

The pilots had changed out the day before by snowmobile!

I told you it was EPIC!

I don’t think the weather conditions down here in the Gulf of Mexico would ever allow for such a rare opportunity to crew change like that. 
However, my friends working in the Northeast may want to consider it.
It has been a bit chilly up there this year. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Don't Text and Drive

That’s just good advice, right there.
This advice is also brought to you today by my six year old daughter.
Just the other day my wife recanted a tale of said six year old, scolding her for texting while in the car. Now granted, she was stopped at a red light, but ‘Lil’ Suzy Safety’ had to make her feelings known that even a six year old knows that texting while driving is a REALLY bad idea.

Now, how does this relate to crew change on a tugboat?
Patience, grasshopper.

Once again, crew change was screwed up.
I’ll wait a second while everyone feigns shock and disbelief.

Upon arrival in Houston I met up with The Boss. The first words out of his mouth, “Crew change is screwed up.”
This is the point where I feigned shock and disbelief.

The boat was anchored offshore. They had been unable to enter the port due to f-o-g. Or “Limited Visibility” as we like to call it. Just because it sounds a little cooler and also that we are a bit superstitious and try not to use the “F-word”. Or course we use the other F-word constantly. We’re sailors, damn it!

So they were offshore, and aside from swimming out to the boat, the only way to get there was by launch boat. However, our launch boat (remember these poor guys) had looked at the sea conditions and decided that a repeat of the #1 Stupidest Crew Change EVER! was probably a poor decision and had pulled the plug on us running offshore.  And since stringing a bunch of 2x4’s together to build a raft was also voted on as being a poor alternative, crew change was going to be screwed up.

Hotel rooms were booked. Phone calls were made. People were informed. E-mails were sent.  Everyone was prepared to get aboard the boat the next day.

Right up until the point where crew change was back on.
And then it wasn’t.
And then it was. Again. Kind of.

All of you weather aficionados will like this part... What happened was, a Cold Front moved through the area bringing with it showers and thunderstorms.  Along with the rain it brought a sharp decrease in the temperatures. After the front went through, the wind switched around from the warm southerly breezes to a cooler northerly direction. Which then helped to push the warm moist air out of the area and thereby lifted the f-o-g. Take that, Cantore!

What it meant for us was, the visibility had lifted, the pilots were able to sail the ship that was in our berth, and our boat was able to proceed into the port where we could do crew change on the fly by launch boat.

No worries, right?
Cancelled plans that had been cancelled had to be cancelled again. The new plans needed to be cancelled after the other plans were cancelled. And the newly cancelled plans had to be un-cancelled.
I think.

Seems simple enough.
Except, by this point, we were already on the road. The Boss was on his cell phone with the office. The boat. The agent. The launch boat. The port security. The pilots. The dock.  The hotel. And just about anyone else who had a phone. The good thing was, he wasn’t driving.
The bad thing was, the driver (who was supposed to be driving, it’s right there in his job title!) was on the phone with all of those people as well.

He was texting and calling all kinds of people. Getting directions to the new dock where we were supposed to meet the launch boat. Playing with the navigation program in his phone. Showing The Boss that it was only 0.8 miles from the turnaround to whatever the hell the next road was. Zooming in on the road to show us where the grocery store was in relation to the dock we were going to. Etc. etc.
Doing basically everything, except for DRIVING!

We were all over the road. Getting WAY too close to tractor trailers doing 70 miles an hour. Drifting from one lane to the next. Straddling the white line between lanes. Doing 60 mph. Then 85 mph. Then playing with his phone to put some head banger music on the radio. Telling us that he likes M&M’s and that certain stores don’t have the good M&M’s. Basically, doing everything that you shouldn’t be doing while driving.  
It was very reminiscent of THIS.
This place has the BEST M&M's EVER!
Amazingly, we made it to the launch boat without ending up upside down in a drainage ditch surrounded by alligators.
"Hey, is this a 6 or a 9 ?"
And then proceeded to wait for a couple of hours for the boat to get to where we were waiting for them.

At least we got to talk to the guys from the launch boat. Reminisced about the old times. Getting their point of view concerning the #1Crew Change of Death! Swapping sea stories. Mariner type stuff. I might have even convinced them to start reading the blog.

Eventually, we managed to find our way aboard the boat. A few hours late. A few more gray hairs (like I need any more). And just a bit wiser.

But I think we all learned a very important lesson today.

Don’t text and drive.

That’s just good advice.
Even from a six year old.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No Match for Mother Nature

How do you avoid a screwed up crew change?
Of course, the correct answer would be, ”Don’t work on a boat.”
However, since that ship has sailed (see what I did there?).
Screwed up crew changes are a fact of life.

Sweep the leg!
Back to the original question…
How do you avoid a screwed up crew change?

You do a preemptive strike.
And I don’t mean we blow up some military base in the Middle East.
Although, I’m cool with that.

What I mean is... 
Before things get screwed up, you screw things up.

Lost yet?

After our ‘switch-a-roo’ crew changes for the holidays, we were finally supposed to be back on our regular rotation for Wednesday crew changes. However, it’s winter. And with it being winter, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with our desire to go home to our families.
The current forecast for the Northeast (where +50% of the other crew comes from) is not looking good. Snow. Wind. Ice. Plague. Locusts. Typical Northeast winter weather. (Note: This is a link to my wife's blog. You should go there. It's funny and irreverent. You should leave comments. Plus, it comes with a money back guarantee.)

Quick! Go buy up all of the milk and eggs!
Which means flight delays, cancellations, and treacherous roads.
Well there's your problem right there.
The possibility of crew change getting screwed up was determined to be somewhere between “hell yeah” and “without a doubt”.

So, instead of waiting and dreading what we all knew was going to be the inevitable forthcoming debacle, we screwed up crew change ahead of time.
On purpose!
Take that!

Actually, it was a well thought out, discussed, calculated, and planned move.
No, really!  

Save the eggs.
We have all read the story about how Lake Charles, LA had decided to take over the #1 spot in F*#ked up crew changes (If you haven’t read it, HERE is the link. Click it. It won’t hurt. I’ll even wait for you to come back. Okay, now that we are up to speed…)

Once again, we will be in the Lake Charles area. Once again, the weather forecast is less than optimal. So instead of trying to get one of us hurt, killed, maimed, or just scared to death trying to pull off a crew change, that we were pretty sure was going to be screwed up even before we get to that point, we pushed it back a day.

Thursday crew change for the win! (again)

Sure, it’s not optimal. Sure, my wife is going to be angry. Sure, my kids are going to be disappointed. Sure, everyone’s plans are going to be messed up a little.

But it sure beats being dead. Or worse.

Which is smart.
Take that, crew change! You are no match for our intellect!