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

Photo - Skimmer

Video - Skimming Oil off of Dauphin Island

Side Note

A lot of my friends and family have expressed concerns over how I have kinda thrown my education to the back seat for now. I want to make it clear that I am going to finish school. I am out here doing something that truly makes me feel good. It kills me to see this part of the country get screwed over again. I can't imagine how these people feel after finally getting over Katrina and now being hit by this, it makes me so upset. This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion, we don't know when the devastation is going to end. I am not out here for the money or because I think this job is great (cause this job is horrible, it reaffirms in me everyday how important a college education really is). I am out here for those who's livelihoods are being destroyed and all they can do is watch in horror. I feel like the rest of this country doesn't even seem to care; this is a losing battle that we can't afford to give up on. I love my coast, and I am ready to defend it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This job can be so frustrating. The last 2 days I have been stuck on a barge off Dauphin Island. They put us on there knowing the next 2 days would be nothing but bad weather, So I sat there for 2 days playing cards and watching movies. I will say the food was amazing they have everything you can think of, junk food wise, and the cook is fabulous (same cook I mentioned earlier). I swear whoever is coordinating this entire operation needs to get it together. It's ridiculous - we have coast guard guys calling the shots, but they rotate out every two weeks, and then the new guy never has a clue whats going on. I talked to a safety manager today who isn't even sure how many boats he has on the water right now, and hes responsible for their safety!! Come on!

Anyway, back to what we did this time. We gathered a lot of supplies to restock the shrimp boats (they never come to shore). So things like a palate of drinks, bed linens, trashbags, blow up beds, some more tyvek suits, cleaning supplies, etc. We loaded all of that onto a small transportation barge and scooted off to our shrimp boats, which were anchored in mobile bay. Well as usual plans change - ended up off loading all of that on a lift barge, which was not easy, we were trying to move all those items from a small boat thats rocking all over the place in 6 foot swells, onto a stationary barge. When we finally did get on board the capt. told us we were crazy to try and get all that on here because of rough it was. We got aboard and just piled the supplies in a neat pile on the deck of the barge. And sat around waiting for our shrimp boat, that never came due to weather. Well the weather got so bad (67 mph winds) that our stuff began to fly off the deck, we had to go down and try and save it. We got most of it, but the gulf claimed some of our stuff.

We decided to play poker later on but didn't have chips so we used pinto beans, trading 1 dollar for 4 beans. It was a lot of fun. The barge isn't all that bad, it has satellite tv and internet so its like a floating hotel.

Anyway I just got back to the hotel I am exetremely tired, so I am gonna quit for now. Tomorrow we head for Mobile Bay.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Here are some pictures, so you can get an idea of what it looks like. That picture of me is kinda a lie (removed), I usually take off the gloves and respirator, (BP claims respirators arent needed but I got one just in case) and it's impossible to work with those big bulky gloves, I am currently getting new ones, so don't start yelling just yet.

OK So to expand a little more about the oil. The skimmer system that we are using, was the same system used to clean up the Valdez spill. Why the hell don't they have a better system by now?! This open air system slings oil everywhere. I get in all over my arms and in my hair everyday. The worst part is, if you sit in oil and then sit somewhere else your butt transfers the oil from one seat to another, and I move around depending on where the shade is, coating all the best places to sit with oil. (there isn't exactly any comfortable place to sit on these boats anyway, the best place to sit is an upside down 5 gallon bucket, also known as the number 2 bucket) The type of oil we are dealing with is called weathered oil. Most of the volatile chemicals have evaporated off of it. So much so, that I couldnt smell anything even 2 feet away from the stuff. Unweathered oil has a purplish tent to it, and if we see that we stop what were doing and leave the area immediately. I took 2 videos and several pictures but I have heard what we are doing is technically classified. So if your really curious email me and I can "describe the video" to you. Anyway I may try and post a pic or 2 but that will come later. I want to thank everyone for all the support you all have been giving me, it really keeps me going out here. If you have any questions please don't hesitate, I will try and answer them as best as possible. I hope I haven't been to vague - I'm not a english major (not hard to tell).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tyvek suits! Aren't worth a damn!

Hey everyone,

I just got back from 3 days on the Gulf. It was my first oil action, and I didn't quite realize how awful it was going to be.

Memorial day weekend for me was supposed to be real light, and easy. Saturday I went in to work at 5:30 and they let us go around 7:30. Sunday was the same story; Monday started off the same, so we all decided to head down to Biloxi and gamble at 8 in the morning. We roamed around the casino for a little bit, I finally decided to play some texas hold em, about 5 hands into the game my capt. came over and informed me we had been deployed and need to leave( I thought we was saying this because I just won a big hand) Needless to say, we got a call and all they said was report to the boats in one hour. So we raced back to our hotel and threw 2 days worth of close in bag. Once at the boats, we were informed a patch of oil had been spotted off Dauphin Island, and away we went. It took us about 2 hours to get there, by this time it was about 2 in the afternoon.

My first glimpse of oil, it was just little, red rust chunks floating in the water. We put on our tyvek suits, which lasted all about 2 minutes before they rip in the grotch or butt. I mean, mine ripped just from putting on socks this morning, (some of you might be thinking "Hey dummy get a bigger suit," well this was a XXL suit! I didnt get it either.) Anyway, back to the oil. We got under way and the shrimp boats began corraling concentrated areas of the clumps towards out skimmer. These chunks would band together as they got funneled closer to our boats. When it comes on board our skimmer squeezes it to get the water to come out, making the oil look like fudge as it rolls off the belt into the holding tank. It kinda looks like fudge, but sometimes it has a browner color and begins to look like peanut butter. It is super sticky once you get in yourselves hard to get off. I have to use Gojo or dawn soap.(gojo works better) It began to get to dark to see, so we set off to find a place for the shrimp boats to anchor. Once we found a place we came aboard a shrimp boat and spent the night. Though, they were not prepared for us to spend the night becuase we were originally supposed to be staying on that lift barge I told yall about earlier. But they were being complete morons and wouldnt let us on board. Don't ask me why. So the first night on the shrimp boat they didnt have enough beds because we had a Safety officer, Bp Rep, 2 shrimp decks, the capt. and his wife and 3 of us. So the capt. gave me his bed, and his wife gave hers to another, my other co worker slept on a sofa in the galley. (the capt. slept in the wheel house, his wife on another sofa in the galley)

The next night the safety rep, and Bp man were gone, so I got one of there beds. Just a mattress and a pillow, no blanket, it wasnt bad. The next day, we woke up to a broken boom and storms off in the distance; so we got out in my notorious zodiac and putted along to fix the boom. The storms built up and stopped our work for about an hour. Once we got it fixed we went out in search of oil. Around 4, we got a ride back from a transportation barge back to Pascagoula to have a nights rest and figure out the living situation at sea.

I am sorry I flew through this blog I am extremely tired I just got back in from all this. One last thing, we have helicopters who fly above us to find the oil. Those helicopters to videos of us skimming and that video made it up to BP's board. My supervisor claims when they saw it that they all stood and applauded, and were amazed at what a good job we were doing. We estimated somewhere between 1500 and 3000 gallons.

More later.....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Outboard Outrage!

So I thought I would share one mishap that happened to me the other day. We have a small zodiac (inflatable dingy) that I take out to fix the booms if there are any problems. Well we were out about 2 miles, when I got bored and decide to go fix a very minor problem. I got into the small zodiac with a coworker, and my capt. untied us before we started the out board. Well needless to say I couldnt get the damn thing started. And our boat can't stop. So I watched as our boat got small and smaller into the distance. We finally got it running and I got us back to the boat. The next day the shrimp boat capts. couldnt help but laughing at my expense for the next 3 days about it. They now refer to that story when they see me.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

First Blog!

Hey everyone,

This is my first blog, hope yall enjoy it. I started a blog for those of you who want to know exactly what I am doing down here. The first question folks usually ask me is how did I come about getting this job. Well, while attending USA I took a field study, which had an optional extra portion of the class call hazwoper training, not to many students took it because its miserable. But I heard it would help get me a job, so I decided to take the course. Hazwoper stands for Hazardous Waster Operations Emergency Response, in a nut shell its training to deal with bad chemicals. While dealing with those bad chemicals, I had to wear a tyvek suit on top of my work clothes, its like being wrapped in plastic. Anyway, back to the oil spill. On April 20th, an oil rig blew up just south of Venice, Louisana. Being in geology we all kept a close eye on what was going on. Then it hit me I had just been trained for this last summer, so I put a resume together posted it on the internet, and Bingo! I had job offers come flooding in, (if any of you want to work down here that's literally all you need. OSHA 40 Hazwoper training check it out).

I got a job with a labor company who informed me I would be on a ship the entire time. So we set out to Louisana to get aboard. Well thats when plans changed and I was driving to Gulfport on a early friday morning. We arrived looking for a ship that was going to pick us up. We came to the only ship there that was not a cargo ship and figured this has to be it. Someone yelled to a deckhand, Are yall the ones waiting on a crew? They replied, " Yes come on aboard." We boarded a narrow gangway with luggage in tow. Everyone set there stuff on the deck. It was a boat straight out of Deadliest catch. Long deck with no back end, so that crab traps and ropes could slide right off into the water. The capt. invited us into the galley and explained several safety issues, then turned it over to the cook. The cook made a big deal about his galley, the do's and don'ts. We ate breakfast and then everyone went back out to get there luggage and find there way to a bunk. That's when the capt. realized we are not the crew that he was waiting on. So we got off with a free meal.

Finally, we figure out in the confusion, we are not going on a ship anymore, we are working on the docks building SupSalv Navy Marcos Skimmers. They were in peices like a giant erector set. A crane would lift peices as we would fit them together. By lunch time, my team had put 3 of them together. After lunch my friend Peter, (Peter is a classmate of mine who I dragged along to keep me company, who consequently has quit) came to me and said that 4 of us were moving to Pascagoula. I have been here in Pascagoula ever since.

I work here in Pascagoula, in conjunction with BP and the Coast Guard, operating the same boats I was putting together the very first day. The ship is approx. 30 foot long and maybe 10 feet wide its not big at all. Most of the equipment takes up all the room on board. there is no where comfortable to sit and to make it worse there is very little shade, (though we have added a tent but it covers the equipment more than us. To sum it up, the boat has to be pulled through the water by 2 other vessels who tow us with boom lines, (Booms are inflatable bouys that are used to corral and funnel the oil directly to our ship). We have hired 2 shrimp boats to pull us. Once the oil is pushed toward our boat, we lower a treadmill looking belt into the water that slowly spins pullin the oil and some seawater aboard, then drops it into a storage tank below. Once our storage tank is full we decant the water off of the oil we just collected, then pump the oil into a bladder that is dragging behind the boat. The bladder can hold up to 50,000 gallons of oil before needing to be emptied. So far we have only been practicing I have yet to actually skim any oil.

My day starts at 5am, we have 2 spud barges (lift barges) that support us if we ever go out for extended periods. My crew has been broken into 2 teams because we have 2 boats. So half my team meets on one barge the other on the other. I always have to race to the wrong barge every morning because they have a better cook, and I have to eat breakfast and get back to my barge before our safety meeting starts. Safety meetings are fairly short we discuss goals for the day and ways to stay safe. Same old same old. After that we go to our boats prep them and take them out. We stay out for 3 or so hours then come back and prepping them for docking takes about 3 hours. It's very tedious and sometimes very boring, but the feed us well, and pay us well. And I am tired of writing More to come. AND PICTURES! All you english majors point out the mistakes and I will fix them.