Posts Tagged ‘engineers’


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?” IMG_3592

Whoops... had to remove the company logo! But thumbs up on the engine. :)

Whoops… had to remove the company logo! But thumbs up on the engine. 🙂

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.


How Could I Have Missed This??? (Take 2)

November 7, 2013

I know how. Have your contact information send contacts to a e-mail account you only use like twice a year. That’s how.

On APRIL 24, 2013 I received an e-mail from a delightful fellow mariner wife named Callie.

Just found your blog, I had no idea you were out there, Enchanted Seashells directed me your way!  I started a website last December along with a blog, &  I’ve just been reading some of your posts and it’s  wonderful to know you’re out there, too. 😉  Now I’m going to go add you to my blog list so I can keep up with you!  A new friend!  Callie

Callie’s mariner is on the deck side, like Enchanted Seashell’s tugboat captain, but I won’t hold that against her. 🙂

It is now NOVEMBER 7th! I hope Callie did not take my silence and lack of response as a personal snub. I wouldn’t want to fuel the whole engine vs. deck thing and let it spill over with the wives. 😉 I don’t even remember making that e-mail account my default e-mail for messaging.

I applaud Callie, and Enchanted Seashells, for filling the void about all things merchant marine, mariners, and spouses. I am still hampered by this whole blogging anonymously but after nearly three years of blogging (my anniversary is coming up) I may have to change things up a little bit. Besides, I am a little outnumbered and need to find another engine wife out there to balance things out.

WordPress is being a little fickle this morning and not letting me auto add links but I will be updating my resources page and blog list ASAP. Heck, it’s not even allowing me to auto tag right now either! I am seriously starting to get peeved… I have been trying all day to add tags and update this page!!


The Chief Speaks: How Changes to the Coast Guard License Process has Ruined the Next Generation of Officers

June 13, 2013

The Chief just made his last phone call for the next 20 days. It was wonderful to hear his voice over the past few days. He was able to talk to his mother on her 70th birthday. I have the task of trying to find a domestic calling card so we can talk when he reaches his destination.

The following is a Guest Op Ed from the Chief. I’ve done minimal editing; his writing style is different from mine. I believe the background of what he calls a “rant” comes from supervising midshipmen/cadets recently and from personnel changes. I am assuming I have permission to post here as he said: “Wordsmith as you see fit, I could probably have gone on another page or two!”

How Changes to the Coast Guard License Process has Ruined the Next Generation of Officers

I can still remember the testing for my original Third Assistant Engineer license for Steam and Motor Vessels. Rows and rows of desks were lined up in the gymnasium, and 150 Midshipmen nervously worked their way through all the modules over the better part of a week. The lump in your throat as the proctor graded your exams, and the relief when he gave you the thumbs up that you passed all led up to the thrill of ringing the bell at the end of exams. I couldn’t wait to get my license in hand and get out to sea and sail on it.

As soon as I started working, I was already thinking about upgrading to my Second Engineer’s license. I was going to need my year of sea time before I could even think about upgrading. I was going to have a slightly longer time to sail, as I started out as a Pumpman, an unlicensed rating that was only going to earn me ½ of the time sailing on my license would have. I was just glad to have a job, and the experience I gained during those first 5 ½ months has served me well over the years.

During that time, new rules came into play, and new ‘user fees’ were instituted in the licensing process. Each time you upgraded, it became a significant financial event, with a couple of hundred dollars in evaluation, exam, and issuance fees. Still, as soon as I had enough time to get my Second Engineer’s Steam license, I was on my way to the Regional Exam Center to take my test. After a month of studying, I booked my hotel room down the street from the exam center and spent the next 2 days testing and earning my Second’s license.

It was 3 years after I started sailing that I finally had sailed on enough motor ships to meet the requirements for my Second’s Motor. This meant another application, another set of fees, and more hotel stays and testing. Having the license was worth it.

Back then, all the hassle to get your license seemed to separate those who had a strong desire to advance from those who were happy where they were at. If you didn’t bother to do the work on your license while on vacation, you didn’t advance. If you wanted to take a vacation or two off, then you might be a year or two behind your contemporaries.

The natural desire after all that work is to sail on that license, even before the ink is dry. After all you put in all that hard work and personal time to earn it you at least should be given a chance to sail on it!

After I was sailing Second Engineer, I kind of slowed down a bit. I was happy in my job, enjoyed it, and it didn’t look like there was any chance of promotion anytime soon, so let’s take a break. I had just gotten married a year or two before, and had better things to do on my time off. Then, I was on a ship where the First Engineer had to be relieved, and none of the junior engineers had the license to replace him… I missed my chance. That next vacation I received my First. At least this time I could take both tests at once, and get both halves at the same time. I cranked out all the modules in one day, a pretty big feat in my eyes.

I finally started sailing First Engineer around 2000, and I loved the job. To be honest, that is as high as I thought I would like to sail. I had no aspiration for promotion, so I sat on my license. I renewed it when it expired, and it wasn’t until it was about to expire again that I was pressured by some of my longtime shipmates to upgrade. I hadn’t taken a test in almost 10 years, and I was a bit nervous again. I studied for about 3 months, and planned on 2 days for the test. It was a bit unnerving that the time I was scheduled to test was a week AFTER my license was to expire, but the exam center said that this was not a big deal. (not having a valid license was a pretty big deal to me, especially if I didn’t pass this exam!) I took all but one exam the first day, and finished the second day by 9 in the morning and had my Chief’s license in hand by noon. I was so pleased that I would never have to test again. A total of 5 different series of tests over 15 years.

This test of an Officer’s desire to advance has been removed in the past decade. In the early 2000’s, the USCG decided that there were too many tests to be taken, and they simplified the process. Basically, they made it so that when you sat for your original Thirds license, you were also testing for your Second engineer’s license. This means that after you have sailed for 365 days, you just have to send in you r paperwork and you are given your license. They have done the same for the First engineer and Chief’s exam. Enough days at sea, you earn an automatic promotion.

This has removed the burden of the junior officers from having to put their own time and energy into planning their time off the vessel to work towards their advancement, but not the desire to sail on their license as soon as they get it. The combination of this and the instant gratification of current society have spawned a new generation of officers who are actually angry when they aren’t promoted instantly. I know I was probably not as ready as I should have been for my first job as Second Engineer, but I can guarantee that the majority of the younger guys today could do with another year’s experience under their belt before wanting to sail on their license.

This has mainly been prevalent in the junior officers, as they still have to apply and test for the First Engineer license. Since promotion to First Engineer can take a little while, there is not the instantaneous ability to get the time needed as First Engineer to qualify for Chief.

In a lot of ways I feel sorry for those under the new system. The sense of accomplishment of putting in your time, taking your tests and earning your license has been replaced with a ‘participation trophy’. The pride I have felt after each test (and relief) makes each license that much more special to me. The time I had to wait in each position made me that much more prepared (and mature) when I finally had the opportunity to sail at the next level. Hopefully the USCG will reevaluate this process in the future.


More Fun Snipe Stuff…

July 25, 2012

Thanks to the Old Snipe, a USN engineer who retired in 1975. The Chief sent me this link. I especially like the last poem. 🙂

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