Doing Something New!September 24, 2014
Normally the Chief takes a car to the airport and he picks up a car from the airport to come home. Without giving away too much, he normally sails on the opposite coast. In 1997 I sailed with him for about 7 days when he was assigned to a Gulf Coast ship. In 1998 I drove to the major shipyard in our state to spend a day or two with him while the ship was being overhauled for new owners. But since then I have not been able to visit the ship or sail with him–either not convenient to our schedule, not on the same coast, or an emergency comes up. That happens more often than not with children.
So his ship is now on the same coast and doing what is called “tramping”. In other words, they are picking up cargo runs for anyone and everyone rather than having a dedicated intra-company cargo run. this means he could be anywhere at any time. As luck would have it, he was coming into a nearby port (by nearby I mean within 4 hours of home) right around crew switch out. But this kind of tramping could mean delays and detours with no real way of knowing where and when he would arrive. With the children and their schedules it was looking like if they arrived early I would once again miss the opportunity and he would have to get himself to the airport to pick up a rental car and drive himself home. So I was crossing my fingers for the delay.
I got my wish! I asked my father and my father-in-law to go with me… my FIL is 70+ years old and his health isn’t the best. This could be the last realistic opportunity for him to do something like this. I wanted my father to go because really until you’ve been up close and personal with the guts of a ship you have no idea what mariners do for a living.
I gave daily updates on the Chief’s position. At first my father was a little confused about the schedule, etc., and actually did back out of going at first (“unless you need me to ride shotgun” to which I replied “my FIL is planning on going so it is okay”). Then as the Chief got closer the arrival time was narrowing–it could have been just a drive 3+ hours, meet him at the terminal, and turn around with no time for a tour, etc., but I still wanted to pick him up so I’d make the trip either way, understanding if the fathers wanted to back out. My FIL offered his car. Then I get a text from my father, “We can take your mother’s car… it is only a year old and it has the EZ-pass.” Wait. “We”? Sunday morning I get a text from the Chief saying to get to the terminal sooner rather than later because their departure was bumped up 3 hours. This allowed me to tell him our plans–dropping the girls off at church and trusting someone would take pity on them and bring them back to the house, driving to my home town to pick up the fathers (BTW, my dad is coming and we’re driving my mom’s car), and getting on the road by 10:30 and eating in the car. The Chief appreciated the update because my father had been taken off the security list! ACK!
At first my dad didn’t let me drive but we did switch out when we potty stopped. We hit a 10 mile back up due to a tractor-trailer on its side. Could have been worse because we were expecting to hit several sporting events traffic. So we arrived probably an hour later than expected but still with plenty of time to take a tour after the Chief came and collected us with his official TWIC card.
The 3rd engineer was given the task of giving us the tour while the Chief went and took care of paperwork, waiting for his relief to get there. And he was cutting it close–they were concerned we were going to be put ashore and would have to leave without him and the exchange was going to have to take place downriver and we’d have no idea where. Whew–the guy arrived about an hour before we were warned the gangway was being removed in 20 minutes. “Um, have you told the Chief that because we’re here to pick him up?”
My FIL ate up all the technical stuff. For me and my dad, we just smiled and nodded. The 3rd was in his element explaining everything to us, in our hardhats and hearing protection. My dad asked about all the work benches crammed in every available corner and the machine shop. “I see all these work benches. Is there that much to do or is it just for convenience?” “Oh there is that much to do. My job is to take this one apart and then the next and then the next and by the time I’m done with the third it is time to work on the first one again. We’re in a state of constant maintenance and repair.” Now, Dad, you know why the Chief is the way he is and how he ticks. It was good for my dad to see.
It was such a relief to have the Chief with us. I drove home, hitting some traffic and being stunned at the food prices at the highway rest stop. the girls had a great afternoon with friends from church and then waiting patiently for us the rest of the day (both were asleep by the time we got home).
This was such a huge thing for me… I do NOT like to travel to new places without at least 5 different maps and building in at least 2 hours for traffic, etc. We didn’t even have an exact place for the terminal–we were totally winging it! I had no problem driving to the shipyard back in 1998 by myself but the older I get, the less I like to take chances. Either that or I was just young and stupid. But we did it. I did it. I got to pick him up right off the ship and I can’t stop grinning.