Category Archives: Life at Sea

Sea Poems

“When ships  are no more than ships to me,
And there’s no place left as I’d like to see;
When fun’s all flat and jokes are stale,
There’s  no tate left in the cakes and ale,
Stitch me up as soon as you like,
In a corner of a worn out sail;
With oily stones at my heels and head,
Toss me overboard, and I’ll be dead.”
-Steaming to Bamboola

The new job is going well

It’s coming up on three weeks since I started working on the Gulf Reliance, an Articulated Tug and Barge or ATB, and I’m really liking the work. It’s all kinds of new experiences, which is great, because I was really ready for a change of pace.

The ATB’s are a pretty cool deal, they are essentially a small tanker ship, but they are still a tugboat with a barge held together by a locking pin system that is a very interesting system. It’s basically hydraulic rams that have teeth on the end that mesh up with corresponding teeth on the barge. This is what holds the whole thing together, no lines involved.

The boat is just the right ticket for me career-wise, it’s 10,000 horsepower is good to get me the sea time I need to get unlimited horsepower licensing in a year or two. The CAT 3612 engines are huge! 8 feet tall by 6 feet wide by 20 feet long. The reduction gears are jumbo versions as well, nearly as big as the engines were on the last ship I worked on.

The crew are all nice to work with, professional and knowledgable, so that is a big relief. It is strange to work on a boat with a crew of only 10, I often times go hours without seeing another soul, which is very different than what I’m used to. I have no complaints.

Scheduling for these boats is 28 days on and off, which is just about right in my experience. Because I’m an engineering trainee, I am rotating in the middle of everyone else, so that I can work two weeks with each of the chief’s. This is good, because I get to meet and work with both crews and learn from them all.

I’m really excited about my new career here with Crowley, I think it’ll be awesome for a long time to come.

The hole in the middle

It’s a strange feeling, being in the middle of two jobs and not having a paycheck coming in. I am beyond positive that this move is a good one, but it still marks the end of an era and that makes it a little hard.

Over my 7 years working for Lindblad expeditions I watched the company change in a million ways. Some good, some bad. It went from a small company that was as close to being “family run” as is possible to being another corporate entity. The good part of that is that when I started we were constantly worried if it would last, money was always tight and things were always chaotic, but now it’s not like that so much. Financially they have it together now. The bad side of it is that it went from a place where everyone worked together and everyone knew each other, to a place where employees are simply a wheel in the cog.

I get it, this is a natural progression, but it’s still hard to swallow. If I were starting there now, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but just know too much. If you are planning on going to work for them, here’s what I can say. Working on the Sea Bird and Sea Lion is a great place to start as a sailor. You can get a job fairly easily, and see if the lifestyle is what you want. Then from there one can get started down the road to licensing and that is what matters. I’ll say that this goes for the other small cruise lines as well, Uncruise, Allen Marine and others. Use them to get started, it’s what they are for. I you do go to work there, set a timeline of say three years, and don’t expect much more than that. After 3-5 years on these boats you are wasting your time, so keep that in mind. Some folks don’t mind wasting time, but I’ll advise against it here.

This is getting a little long-winded, so I’ll wrap it up now. The last few years have been pretty good for me, but now I hope to make the next few years REALLY good! I’m excited about the next job I’m headed to and will tell all about it when I get there.

Onwards and upwards

After successfully passing the exams for licensing as a designated duty engineer I’ve made quite a bit of career progress. Basically the DDE unlimited is the golden ticket for sailors. I’ve been interviewing with both Foss and Crowley for work over the last month, and after getting offers from both companies I’ve decided to go to work for Crowley. The boat I’ll be working on is a 550 class Articulated Tug and Barge or ATB, based out of Seattle and running refined fuels up and down the west coast. I can’t even begin to tell you all how excited I am about this! It’s going to be a whole new great world and I’m glad to be moving up into it.

The best part about this move is that I’ll be moving into a junior engineer position, training to take a spot that will free up in a couple years as chief. Not only is it a better and more secure job, it’s also got quite a bit of room to grow. I’ll be able to work my way into bigger unlimited licenses which will only make things better for the long haul.

Anyone who’s sailing as an unlicensed engineer and thinking about getting a DDE, I have to say it’s very worthwhile! Job security is a great thing.

USCG Licensing and Engineering

Well, I managed to make it past the first set of hurdles yesterday. I passed the exams to qualify for Assistant Engineer Limited and Designated Duty Engineer Any Horsepower! Now that I’m in transition from unlicensed to licensed, I have a few thoughts on the process and I thought I would share.

The biggest thing I would like to say about this stuff is that the US Coast Guard is a great bunch of people. I’ve found them to be nothing but helpful the whole way. I’ve heard rumors that it wasn’t this way in the past, but for whatever reason it’s easy now. When I started this process I had visions and flashbacks of my last few dealings with the DMV, but this was absolutely nothing like that at all. If you have sea time and are thinking about licensing or endorsements in any way, give them a call. It’s too easy for you not to, and it’s very worthwhile.

Another point I would like to share is that there are study guides out there, and anyone with relevant sea time can pass these tests with some studying. Look at hawsepipe.net and marineradcancement.com to get started. There is also a new online study website called uscgq.com, and while it’s not perfect it is free and easy to use.

As for engineering books, there are a few out there, but I can personally recommend the “Reed’s” series of books and all of Niger Calder’s books.

There are several things going on now to eliminate “Hawsepiper’s”, so if you are one of us and thinking about taking the step, now is the time. If anyone finds this randomly and has any questions to ask about this please feel free to contact me either by leaving a comment below or via email at clay@atlastrekker.com.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Written by Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953