Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cleveland Rocks!

Or so I'm told.

Well, I got my wish from a few days ago concerning the weather. It truly was “high winds and rough seas”. In fact, I do believe the weather conditions were worse than the previous episode. Southeast winds at 25 knots and an easy 6 foot seas with the occasional 3-wave sets that were 8+ footers. The biggest difference this time was the launch boat was a 50-foot (approximately double the size of the boat in our last adventure) fully enclosed pilot boat. It didn't make a difference.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

At 2230 (that's 10:30 PM for those of you not familiar with military time), a mere hour and a half before I was scheduled to head home, our deckhand informed me that my relief was in Cleveland. And he was staying in Cleveland for the night. Something about planes being broken and missed connections. I honestly didn't care about the actual reason. All I knew was my relief was in Ohio and I was in Texas. Not the easiest way to conduct a face-to-face crew change. Annoying? Sure. Not quite as annoying as getting this information third hand instead of a direct phone call or text message from the man himself. (As I am writing this I have still yet to receive any sort of update from my relief).

So I settled myself to the fact that my flight was going to depart early the next morning with my seat being vacant. At least I could keep one of the tankerman from my crew from being lonely. His relief told him on Monday that he wasn't coming back to work either. Misery loves company.

Turns out that a glimmer of hope for me still existed. Big thanks go out to our Personnel Manager who let me go home on time, as one of the deckhands on the other crew had a license and would cover the spot until my relief got there the next day. Or not. I still haven't spoken to him yet.

Minor hiccup averted.

Time for hiccup #2. The pilot boat wouldn't be dropping off the crew at midnight as scheduled. Instead, the boat would be picking up one of their pilots from an outbound cargo ship around 0100. Sometime after they finished up with that job they would get to us. Time is money.

Hiccup #3 enters the picture. The oncoming crew gets picked up at the airport by a car service (van service really) and gets dropped off at the launch boat. The driver then waits until we get off the boat and then does the return trip dropping us off at the place where they keep the planes. Turns out the driver didn't feel like waiting for us to get off. He told the other crew that he would be back at 0330 to drive us to the airport then. I guess it could have been worse as we stood waiting in a parking lot at 3 in the morning. It could have been raining Or snowing. Or both. The cockroaches learned their lesson from the first escapade, as there were none to be found. Cockroach swimming lessons were canceled.

Of course all of these hiccups have found their way into our consciousness before we have even taken one step off the boat.

Which is where we are at right now in our story.

At 0130 our aluminum hulled chariot is spotted rounding the breakwaters enroute to us. It looks like a shitty ride from far away. It doesn't get any better looking as it gets closer.

It looks to be getting worse.


Now one boat bobbing in these waves is dangerous. Add in another vessel bobbing in the waves at a completely different frequency as the first vessel and you have a disaster in the making. Now add in trying to transfer 11 people between the two out of sync bobbing vessels and you have an insurance adjusters nightmare. But wait! It gets better!

During the many conversations between the two Captains, the oncoming crew was told to buy only the most essential grub items (bread, milk, & eggs) as the transfer of people was going to be dangerous enough without the added in factor of trying to hand over a ton of food between the boats. That sage piece of advice was completely disregarded and a full boat of grub arrived alongside.

We tried to create a lee. It almost worked.

The pilot boat operator tried to come alongside. It almost worked.

We tried to get our personnel and luggage and grub and cases of drinking water (only the essentials) from one boat to the other. It almost worked.

The eggs didn't stand a chance.

Detect a pattern with the eggs?

I'm not a religious person, but I can only comprehend that the only reason why someone didn't get seriously injured, or worse, was that someone was looking over us. Or beneath us, if you subscribe to the Neptune or Poseidon mythology.
I'm sexy and I know it.
One crew member, who has been working out at sea longer than the majority of us have even been alive remarked, “This is one of the stupidest things that I have done in a long time!” Based on some of his experiences that I know about, I'm fairly positive that that list of “stupid things” is both long and distinguished.

I'm not sure how long it took to transfer the people and food between the two boats.

I know it took longer than it should have.

I know it was more dangerous than it should have been.

And I know that tempers were running short.

I also know that when people are trying to get the last bags of grub onboard and get the last remaining crew member onto the launch, that it is probably the wrong time to be taking a video on your iPhone.

Mariners have a surprising number of profanities at their disposal. And yet there were some words shouted at one another that even I had never heard of. It is possible that someone even went so far to be flinging profanities in Dutch. No one, on either crew, even knows how to speak Dutch. Maybe there is something to that Rosetta Stone thing after all. I'm fairly sure somebody's feelings were hurt. Somebody's mother was probably offended as well.

After all was said and done, no one got physically injured. No one got... well... worse. And the only thing that got broken were the eggs. Which I can neither confirm, nor deny, were thrown on purpose.

Sure, a crew change in New Orleans would have been cheaper, easier, and less dangerous. But there has to be something to base these sea stories on. This was just one of those crew changes for the ages.

Too bad my relief wasn't there to partake in the festivities.
I wonder if he is still in Cleveland?

Finally, a tip of the watch cap to the deckhand and the operator of the pilot boat. Who both went well above and beyond the call of duty in getting us safely on and off the boat. I hope the two cases of water that we refused to even try to pass to the tug were a small consolation for your outstanding efforts.

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