Saturday, June 19, 2010
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
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
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.