Yesterday was my Birthday, and I had a pretty good time. We were in Clarkston, WA, so I went out and spent some time in town. It was nice to be away from the boat for a few hours and spend some time not worrying about what was going to break next. That’s the thing that I’ve been working on lately. On a boat everything is in a constant state of time, either broke or on it’s way to being broke. There is rarely a day when something doesn’t work or something doesn’t go boom. Usually it’s not too bad, but sometimes its a total PITA. This leads to the “Engineers Worry” or the constant state of wondering what is going to be next. Some can’t handle it, it drives them crazy, and some can. Apparently I can, lucky me.
I think when we get into Astoria in a couple of days I’m going to buy myself a present, I’ve been real good about my spending lately, so I think I deserve it. Wahoo!
Things have been trucking along at a pretty casual pace for me, here on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. These trips are really not all that exciting, and to be honest with there’s not all too much to report about them. It’s pretty much Locks, Locks and more Locks. It’s interesting the first couple times, but after that……
The good thing is my job is keeping me entertained and happy. I’ve been learning all about the ships systems and how everything works. The last couple of days I’ve learned all about the safety systems on the engines, and more importantly, how and why they work. It’s actually all stuff that is pretty much what I’ve been dealing with in my own vehicles for years now. Good to know either way. Other than that I’ve been learning about the Oily Water Separator and bilge pumping systems, which have been something new and exciting for me to learn about. To simplify the subject, water and oil spill into the lowest level of the boat (the bilge) from multiple places in the engine room, and in order to pump it out I have to separate the water out from the rest of the fluids so that the water can be pumped over board and the fluids can be off loaded and recycled. The OWS (oily water separator) is a filter that separates the two and sends them off to there proper place, and the machine is pretty complicated as well as easy to break. Lots of training needed on that one.
Sonya has made it out to Utah with Eli in the past couple of days, and now it seems as if Donna and Mia have settled into a place in Grass Valley. The problem is still there, on what is the best way to deal with this. One day at a time, I’d guess.
I thought I would post up a couple of pictures of where I work now. It’s a pretty tight space, so it’s hard to get a picture of the whole thing, but that’s it. We have two Detroit Diesel Main Engines and two CAT Ship Service Generators. It’s my job to keep up the maintenance on these and all of the other systems on the boat. On top of that, I am also responsible for fixing any of the problems that occur within the hotel department as well, everything from toilets, to doors, to HVAC. It’s a pretty dynamic position, to say the least.
I’m here in Portland, Oregon for a couple of days right now. It’s a great city, a good place to explore around and see some sights. I think. I’ve not gotten out as of yet, but I hear it’s nice. I get paid tomorrow, so that means I’ll have a little money to go check out the book store and what not.
4 more weeks here on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, I hope to get some good videos and photo’s of the Locks to show you. They sure are interesting.
For the first time in many years, I can honestly say that I love my job. Working as a marine engineer is truly one of the coolest things I have done in my life. The learning potential is unlimited, the career opportunities are every where, and the work is just how I like it, full of instant gratification. So far this week we are doing pretty good, I’ve been learning all about the way the boat works. Really it’s a floating city, complete with every aspect of life that a city usually has (power, water, sewage, etc) and all of that is my responsibility now. My mentor Pedro has been giving me some great info on each system as I run into it. He’s a fountain of information, and a good guy to be around as well.
The beauty of the Columbia river is more and more appealing to me every time I look. Its a pretty diverse area which means that it’s not really the same view out the window every day. There may be mountains with thick forests on them one day, then a coastal area the next, and then after that a high desert-ish terrain. It’s good to be here.
I’ve been on the boat for a month now almost, and I’m starting to miss my kids a bit. I love them both very much, and miss them both dearly. I can’t wait to get back and see both of their smiling faces.
For a while, anyways. Today I start down the path of being a marine engineer. I won’t miss the drama so much, it’s always interesting, but never really all that much fun to take part in. In a couple of hours, my mentor for the next couple of weeks will be on board. His name is Pedro, and he’s from Venezuela. Pedro is, in my mind, a pretty normal example of a middle class male from South America. There is a kind of air about him, very masculine like most Latin males, a little sexist, but most importantly, he knows this boat very well. I’m sure that he’ll be a good teacher.
We are done with our first trip up the Columbia and Snake rivers now. It’s really a diverse and interesting area, never mind the history of Lewis and Clark who followed the river. It starts at the mouth of the river with the “Bar” which is essentially a ship graveyard, up through Portland and Gresham with steep slopes and tons of trees, and then out to a southwest feel about half way through the trip. It’s pretty interesting to see the difference in climate as you travel inland like this. Then there are the dams. The locks are amazing feat’s of human intelligence. Words cannot describe how big of a project these things must have been, and how grand they really are. I haven’t had much time for picture taking, but I have 5 more trips to get that done, and I plan on it.
Not much has changed on the home front, I still really have no idea where I’ll end up. I really am not sure at this point what is best, so I’m just taking things day by day. I guess I’m ok with that.
Half way through the first trip now, and all is going good. We made it up to Clarkston yesterday, the turn around point for us. The sister towns of Clarkston, WA and Lewiston, ID are pretty much what you would expect in this area. They could literally be any town in eastern Oregon or Washington, southern Idaho or Wyoming. We actually had a deck hand walk off the boat as well. This is the first time I’ve seen this, but I guess I understand it. She went to town, got piss drunk at the bar, then realized she would be fired when she came back to get on the boat, so she quit, rather than having a permanent mark on her record with the Coast Guard.
Now we are headed back down the river. We actually took a little side trip on a river called the Palouse today. It reminded me of sections of the Colorado River, very arid with rocky outcroppings. I love this type of terrain, so it was good to see it. Made me think of Moab, Utah. I like that.
Only a couple more days of cooking for me! I went into Clarkston and bought some tools, and now I’m ready to go. Things are looking good, I’m getting to know the boat real well now.
We pulled into Portland yesterday, and had a good trip down. The seas were pretty calm, nothing crazy by any means. Even “crossing the bar” or turning into the mouth of the Columbia River wasn’t half as bad as it could have been. Supposedly, there is quite a few wrecked ships in the bottom of those waters, and there have been many more that have gotten quite a scare. Portland is a pretty cool place. This was the first time I have been to down town proper, and it really didn’t seem like such a bad place. I did a little tour, went to Powells books (which was insane) and then to some other places that I can’t remember the names of as well. Really, they could have been in any town, anywhere, but still nice to check out.
Now we are heading up the river to a town called Clarkston that is right on the Washington and Idaho Border. We’ve been going through huge locks all day, which is quite a sight to see in itself. The tallest one is 127 feet, which is kind of an amazing feat if you think about what that might take to put together. I’m enjoying the area well enough, though it’s not nearly as pretty as Alaska or Baja, but that’s ok.
Life has made another crazy twist on me. Just in the couple of weeks that I have been gone both of my children have left, and will be leaving, their home town and moved to another place. My daughter, Mia is now in Redding, CA with her mother, and my son Eli is will be moving out to Provo, UT with his mother. I’m pretty saddened by this, and I’m not quite sure how to handle it. I was kind of expecting it, anyways, but it still hurts. Either way I will barely get to see one of my children, and choosing brings nothing but pain every time I try. I just keep hoping that a good solution will come up. God, I hope one does.