Monday, August 9, 2010

Hey Everyone,
This is my last post, I have decided to quit and go back to school. We haven't done any work in the past 2 weeks or so and all the signs are pointing to our end. I got a letter last week from the coast guard thanking me for my service so I kinda took that as a hint. I am getting back to my geology studies.
The past 10 days we have just patrolled not ever actually doing any active skimming so I really don't have anything interesting to tell yall. Thanks for reading Bye!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Nothing new

So its been a week since my blog, and nothing much has happened. We have put our skimmer back in the water and are ready to go. But there is no oil in the area to skim. We docked up in Mobile bay last night. In fishing news last night was the most fun fishing I have had in a long time. We caught 63(25 were mine) fish and most of them were white trout.(2 speckled trout, 2 bottom drum, and several catfish though we throw them back.)
So they seem to be scaling back the effort a lot so I am not sure how long I have left in this job, but we will see.
The sad thing I haven't told yall most skimming crews don't ever skim, we were the number 1 crew simply because we are the only ones who actually spend the night on the water and actively search for oil. Other crews stay in hotels, taking 2 hours to get to work and then only practice skimming for about 3 hours or so, and then they take 2 hours to get back to shore. And even if these crews get out early enough, the scout boats who go searching for the oil go home at 2 every afternoon,(but most of those have been laid off by now too) I even heard a skimmer capt. tell someone the reason he doesnt skim is that he doesnt want to have to go through decontamination.( ie. he doesn't want to get his boat dirty)
I did alittle research and less than 10% of the oil from the valdez spill was recovered. So in the end this clean up effort is all a show. They are sinking it all with the mentality out of sight out of mind, even though it will probably wash up for the next couple decades.
I am sorry I havent posted any pictures. Unfortunately my internet connection is awful, making uploading next to impossible. But I will post them as soon as I can.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hurricane Bonnie

Hey everyone,
The past week has been fairly disappointing. We haven't been catching much oil; and on top of that our bladder system was leaking oil because the workers on the barge did not put a cap back on it. So we have been skimming oil for the past 2 weeks and its been going out the back of the bladder. We couldn't see that they hadn't put the cap back on because it was on the underside of the bladder. The worst part about it, we got them to lift the bladder back onto the barge to see what was wrong, thats when we saw that the cap was missing and oil proceeded to shoot out like it was coming out like a fire hose. (don't worry we recovered of that oil, but god knows how much we lost riding around). Now that tropical storm Bonnie is coming this way, we have been scrambling to get every last bit of equipment out of the water and moved downed to a naval base in Gulfport. In other news, I finally got a fishing pole and have been catching white trout, catfish, and bottom drum (and the occasional shark). We fish at night and no I dont eat them. We also helped do some air monitoring. I wore what is called a passive air monitor. It was a round disc worn on my shirt, after a days worth of wearing it, it gets shipped off to a lab to find out exactly how safe the air is. ( I rode around taking air samples, the air is every clean in my area) Well this isn't a very long blog, but we really haven't done anything new or exciting to tell you about. So if you have any questions please ask and I will edit in answers.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hey everyone,
Before I begin this entry I want to first apologize about how sporadic my entries are. My goal is to somehow post once a week, from now on.(not quite sure how I will be able to do that, but I am gonna try)
Well I have been out for about a week and half. The first day back was hell. We got our skimmer back in working order, but we had to first, fix a section of boom. It was more difficult than I expected; we also had to reattach our bladder and hose. So by the next day we were back running again, skimming oil. This week has been like the usual, we patrol our respective zone and skim any oil we come across( this week we didn't get all much). The currents and wind have been pushing most of the oil away from us. But we have been training other skimmers lately, who aren't producing results like us. (apparently we are just that good;) ) On saturday, our belt system seemed to get slower and slower until it virtually jammed up; so now it needs to be repaired, which brings us to why I am back on shore.
Here's something that happened about a month ago I forgot to show everyone. Back when the tropical storm was spinning off thunder storms and slinging them our way, we had a lot of storms roll up. Well we were out on the back deck during a drizzly storm when all of the sudden a lightening bolt hit one of the nearby barrier islands. The lightening caught the brush on the island on fire, so I took a picture of it. It was pretty crazy how close it was to us. Thats a boat anchored on the other side of the barrier island in the background of that picture.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Troubled Waters

Hey everybody,

It's been awhile since my last entry. I apologize I have been offshore for awhile now. This last trip has been more of a headache than anything. Last I left ya'll we were going back out to patrol our designated waters. It was going great the first several days. We filled our bladder full of oil, but this time it was different; there seemed to be a huge build up of gas inside the bladder. We had to go offload it even though it wasn't really full of oil. We took our bladder to a barge to be offloaded, which usually takes at least 3 hours if they have nothing else they are working on. Anyway, later that night (around 8 o clock) they called and told us to come get our bladder because the barge was headed for Pensacola. The barge was literally about 1000 yards away from our shrimp boat, but our skimmer is so slow it took us about 15 minutes to get there. The waters were calm when we left, but out of no where a storm came along and made that 1000 yard trip a 2 hour long endeavor on the ride back. The storm took out our canopy we had up for shade. It was rather interesting as waves broke over the side of the boat and my capt. singing the theme song to Gilligan's Island and sideways rain/wind. Everytime we made a little progress, a wave would come along and push us back, we eventually made it to the shrimpers.

After that we had more troubles. The next morning we had a problem. There was a kink in our hose that pumps the oil into our bladder; so we used a winch on the shrimp boat to pull up the bladder and fix the kink. Well, long story short, we got a rope caught on the prop of the shrimp boat that was attached to the back of our bladder. So the capt. of our shrimp boat decided to get the other shrimp boat to come pull on our skimmer (which is attached to the bladder) to free everything, well doing that caused the hose connected to the bladder to rip in half. This made the Shrimp boat capt. quite angry, so he quit right there on the spot and left. (He comes back later) We tried to calm him down but he wouldnt. (Most seasoned shrimpers are just like him its go, go, go and if you can't fix it why are you here.) He was upset that it was gonna take us a day to fix a problem he caused. We got it fixed, and got to skimming for the next several days.

The capt. of the skimmer decided he needed time off so he left for a month and we now have a new boss to get used too. Since he has come on we have had nothing but trouble. In one day we ripped a hose off, our skimming belt also ripped in half (the treadmill looking thing), the hose in turn took out a leg of my canopy destroying our tent for the second time. And our boom somehow ripped in half.

On top of all of this hurricane Alex forced us out of the water, but before we could come in we had to get our boat decontaminated at a barge. The barge took 3 hours to do it, and all they used was a pressure washer on the outside which just knocks the oil from one place to another. Oil doesnt really come off like that. Our boat looked hardly clean but we took our it to dock, and went to the hotel to get some sleep. We came back to make repairs on the boat the next morning and a safety man came over and noticed oil and sheen were coming off our boat, because of the worst decontamination job ever. He took a photo with his iphone, and I left to get supplies. I came back 10 minutes later and there were literally 50 safety men quarantining off our boat. So they boomed off our boat and began scrubbing it down, and preventing me from doing work so I got 2 days off. It really was kinda ridiculous to watch these guys work, does it really take 20 men to clean a 8 ft, blow up zodiac, or 20 men to run boom around our boat, and tie it off? It really was too funny, a coworker got a video of what Im talking about (which will be posted soon). But finally, they got our boat cleaned up and we are now underway.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Hey everybody,

It's been quite awhile since I told ya'll what I was up to. I have been living for the past 10 or so days on the shrimp boat. I got a quick night on shore tonight because the boss of the shrimp boat came out to transfer some of his crew and bring us supplies. Anyway, we have been finally doing some real work. Our assignment has been to patrol the off shore waters between Pascagoula and Mobile Bay. We patrol everyday getting the help of what used to be charter fishing boats, but are now oil scouts who jet around finding large areas of oil. The only problem is some of these boats don't know what they are looking for and send us on a wild goose chase leading to things other than oil. For instance, globs of seaweed, places of heavy sheen - no oil, and then dispersed oil which doesn't stick to our belt. So while the shrimp boat capt. takes us on these wild goose chases we sit around playing Rummy until we arrive at the coordinates and then we either skim oil, or everyone gets frustrated at the scout who gave us bad coordinates (they seemed to have fixed that problem though - lots of scouts have been fired or shown us what we want, that peanut buttery goodness).

Life on a shrimp boat is a mix of boredom, card games, movies, working, wishing I was back bored in the A/C, along with good eats and the occasional good sleep. Even though the beds are way to small for me - wait make that everything is too small on a boat. I have to duck through every door way! Proud to say I've only hit my head on a door frame once, sadly it was on the 9th day. Showering is interesting; I have to get in, get wet, then turn off the water, scrub on soap, rinse it off, then get out. Water is a precise thing out here, though they do let me use as much as I need when I am scrubbing the oil and GOJO off my arms every afternoon. Everyday I wake up around 5 or 5:30 to a nice hot breakfast - usually eggs, grits, sausage, & biscuits. The capts. wife is a good cook. After breakfast we usually sit around watching the news. The capt. is taking us to where he's gotten tips about oil. It sometimes takes hours to get there. I know how firemen feel now; we sit around doing nothing but watching movies, mixed with the occasional card game until the capt. yells out from the wheel house' "We are here ya'll get on it." That's our cue to race outside get on our boots, and tyvek suits. The capt. will throw his boat in reverse and butt up against the bow of our skimmer, and we have to jump from the stern of the shrimp boat to the bow of the skimmer (sounds dangerous, yes it is but calm down we now have a rope ladder and a new more reliable outboard so the new way of getting on is to climb down the rope ladder to a outboard then we drive over).

On day nine, we finally got a great tip, we found a oil slick that was 5 feet or so wide, and about 15 miles long stretching north to south off the coast of Dauphin island. We skimmed almost all of it. It was coming in so quickly it would over flow the booms, and begin to spill out from under it because the oil is so buoyant. Oil would get up under the boom and lift it, letting some escape. We got so much we estimate about 10,000 gallons were picked up that day. Though right as we were finishing we found ourselves with a huge problem. The boom that is connected to our boat is attached to the hull by a metal plate that drops down into a socket that gives the plate a little bit of play, well long story short this plate broke at a weld point and we needed a new one. One piece of that plate was stuck in that socket that is half under water and the only way to get it out was to get into the water. You can imagine who had to do that (that's right, I did). I put on long sleeve clothes and had to hop in and pull out the piece then get back on board and immediately went to shower off. I was in the water for a totally of about 2 minutes, literally.

We saw our first oily bird, it was a loon (see pics) so oily it couldn't fly. It sat on the water way out in the Gulf. As we saw it a sea turtle came swimming along though he seemed to be in good spirits.

Anyway, I am extremely tired, and am very surprised that I even did an entry tonight. I want to thank everyone again for reading, and giving me support you all have been very kind, thank you. More to come soon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010