Monthly Archives: February 2013

Progressing Slowly!

Progressing slowly!  As you can see the little red arrow has moved right one place.  I was hoping for more movement this week.   I’m really hoping this jumps a few places next week. The medical review part should be a breeze. All of my physical reports and medical stuff is really good. You never can tell how long this might sit on some one’s desk though.

Exhibit B

In other news:  I downloaded a free chartplotter program off the Internet called opencpn3.0 and downloaded the entire U.S. West Coast Raster Charts from NOAA.  Pretty cool little program available for anyone and it was pretty simple uploading the charts.  All I need to do now is buy a Globalsat BU-353 GPS Receiver off of Ebay or Amazon for $35 and I’ll be all set.

Somewhere along the process, I lost the “open with” ability that you get when you right click with your mouse.  I use that allot and now feel naked without it.  Tried to Google for a fix and most of the people with answers are speaking computer geek so I have no frickin clue how to fix this without calling my local computer nerd to rescue me.  Maybe I will try to phone a Friend first.

Edit:  I found a website that made restoring “open with” easy.  Here is the link if you should need it:

Inside the belly of the beast

Inside the beast!  As you can see from exhibit A, my application package has been received and is about about to snake it’s way through the flow chart.  Considering that I just turned this in to the USCG offices in Seattle on Friday last week and Monday was President’s Day (all government offices closed), and that the paperwork has been received at the USCG Merchant Mariner National Maritime Center in West Virgina,  I feel lucky that things appear to be moving along well.  The red arrow indicates where I’m at in the process.

Exhibit A
As long as the little red arrow keeps moving to the right and down I’m happy.

USCG REC Seattle…..Service With a Smile!

Today was my big day to hand deliver all of my paperwork to the USCG Regional Exam Center (REC) in Downtown Seattle.  I do my very best to avoid Downtown Seattle as much as possible.  In fact it was probably 4 years ago since I was in the heart of the beast last.  So I found parking in a garage, figured out how to get up 3 or 4 levels to street level, walked down the street two blocks to the Federal Building.  Upon entering, I had to go through a security check, show I.D., remove belt, keys, phone, etc and walk through a metal detector.  Just as I was emptying my pockets into the little tray for scanning, the guy in front of me is having a hard time.  The security guys are repeating instructions to him multiple times.  He finally gets all of his stuff into the tray, including his wallet.  They then ask for his I.D. and he says it is in the tray (which is like 4 inches from him).  The guard says “I can see that, but if you want to enter, you must show I.D.”.  The guy asks if he has to show I.D. and finally a more senior guard pops out from behind a scanning machine and says “Show us your I.D. or leave immediately!”.  It looked like the guy might have been some sort of contractor or something coming to the building to do some work.  Not being able to enter the building would mean the job wouldn’t get done and his boss would probably be furious.  It was all I could take and burst out laughing at the guy for trying to “stick it to the man” with his little one man rebellion.  He finally got through and I was able to proceed.

I made into the Rec, signed my name on the list, took a seat for about 45 seconds while the mariner ahead of me completed him business and they called my name to come forward.  I handed all of my copies, application, physical, sea time letters, etc.  The nice lady behind the counter quizzed me about a few things I was applying for.  (I was advised to ask for more ratings, endorsements, tonnage, etc and let the USCG figure it all out).  She went over a few items and asked a few questions about what I was qualified for and had me remove a few of my requests.  She knew the rules inside and out and didn’t mess around.  She asked for me to take a seat while she entered everything into the system, which was very slow this day according to other workers behind the counter.  I sat down and started to thumb through a Coast Guard Magazine.  I only made it a dozen pages or so and I was called back up, paid the appropriate fees, was given a receipt and said have a nice weekend.  Bada Boom, Bada Bing!  Painless and very efficient.  I can’t believe it was a guvmint agency.

Heading home on the freeway, I decided that today would be a good time to go and inspect a boat that had gone aground in Steamboat slough of the Snohomish River.  The boat is visible to the West of old Hwy 99 out near the tide flats, but too far away to see any details, like if it floats, has any value, is aground or tied to a piling, etc.  So I stopped by Everett, hopped in the Vessel Assist boat and motored slowly upriver.  The tide was ebbing strongly and I knew it was very shallow getting to where I needed to go.  I also thought I could make it through on the short cut.  That didn’t work out as when I was crossing the depth meter read 1 foot. So I backtracked and went around the long way.  I was able to get fairly close to the boat, but it took about an hour longer to there than if I had been able to cross the short cut.  Turns out the boat looks like a derelict vessel that someone has abandoned.  We will turn in into the state’s derelict vessel program and let them handle it.  That means that in about 4 or 5 months, they will likely hire us to move it somewhere to be hauled out and demolished.  If they can find the owner, they will fully charge him for all of the costs, but usually these vessels are all stripped out before being discarded and it is very hard to trace any ownership.

It was a great day to be out in the boat, but with the extra time it took me to get out there, the tide had run out too far for me to cross the shallows to return to port.  I tied off to a old crab buoy in 5 feet of water and waited about 1.5 hours before I had enough water to make it back.
I returned to port, tied up and drove home.  I go into the office to check my emails and there is an email from the National Maritime Center in West Virgina, that my package has been received and is being reviewed!  Are you frickin kidding me?  I should go buy a lottery ticket tonight.  This is the guvmint, how the hell are they working so fast, especially for them this is the Friday before a three day weekend in honor of Presidents Day?  I’m guessing it will all blow up next week, but until then, I’m smiling.

Lifeboatman PSC!

Today was the final day of Lifeboatman class and we took the test and were issued a Lifeboatman PSC Certificate.  Yesterday was the really interesting day as we broke the class into two groups with one group heading to the marina to do the practical assessments in rowing, while the other group went to the gravity davit and did multiple evolutions in raising and lowering the lifeboat. 

The group rowing were able to get a crew aboard the lifeboat (think of lifeboat of yester-year in the movie Titantic) and row around the harbor using oar commands from the 1800’s or before.  Toss oars, backwater, let fall, trail oars, in bows were some of the commands.  For me personally, I knew exactly what I wanted the boat to do and how to do it, but when the time came to give the command, I was racking my brain to remember the proper command to give.  I’m sure with more practice it would come very naturally.

After lunch our groups switched with the morning rowing group taking over on the davit.  We ran through several raising and lowering evolutions with each man in command of the crew several different times.  The process is fairly straight forward as long as you remember to terminology.  Much easier to remember than the oars commands.

We finished up the day and returned this morning for a little bit more course study, some really useful discussion from Capt. Dana regarding the USCG licensing process and some of the pathways to make your package sails through easily.  Whenever you go to the USCG and turn in all of your paperwork (your package), you want to make sure that everything is filled out properly, you are using the correct forms, and you are asking for everything you qualify for.  The USCG won’t always offer to let you know that you may qualify for a certain rating or endorsement, so knowing the things to ask for is important.  We had a nice lengthy discussion about that this morning and I think everyone in the class found some good value from it.

Once again, I would like to recommend Compass Courses to anyone getting a captain’s license,  upgrading or going after some STCW training.  They really do a good job and you’ll get your money’s worth.

For the next few days, I’ll be working on my getting my package ready to deliver to the USCG in Seattle.  Stand by to stand by.

Lifeboat class

Today was the beginning of Life boatman Class at Compass Courses. This course teaches you to be in charge in an emergency and get the life saving rafts or boats deployed and other passengers / crew into the crafts as safely as possible. The course is led by Capt. Dana Lewis. Much of the day was spent learning about life boats, rafts, safety gear and several real life emergencies were shown and different scenarios involving abandoning ship. Much of this equipment was covered last week in Basic Safety Training, but repetition is a good thing when learning about safety. The reason for the repetition is because most people don’t take all the courses back to back with everyone’s schedules so when you come for just this course, you get the full monty of life raft / boat safety and how-to.

After lunch, we went outside and tried to deploy an inflatable survival raft that had been donated to the school. The raft was officially taken out of service and “condemned”. Inflatable rafts have a specific life span and this one had outlived its useful service life. During a real emergency, you want to count on your raft opening. If it failed to open, you would be in a worse predicament than the one that caused you to need the raft in the first place. Rafts are inspected annually and after so many years are retired. So we set out to deploy the raft. Watch the video below to see the results:

As you can see from the video, this raft was in pretty bad condition. It was too bad it didn’t deploy, but it was still interesting to see how things were packed and organized inside the raft. You definitely want to make sure your equipment is top notch when the day comes that you need it!

 Once we completed the raft exercise, we did a bit more discussion inside the class room and then headed out back to get our first look at the Gravity Lifeboat Davit.  This is some of the equipment we will be training on over the next few days and today was just a quick familiarization walk through for about 15 minutes.  Compass Courses is one of only two schools in the U.S. to have an actual gravity davit like this.  This is what makes their training so good: Realistic is good! 


Good training today!

Basic Safety Training Complete

Whew………..That was one long week!  It all started on Sunday night when I was gathering my things for a week of training in Basic Safety Training.  At first I thought just a couple of sneezes, maybe some dust, but no worries.  Woke up Monday just a head cold, sneezing, snotty nose, etc.  I started pounding water and kept at it all week.

When I signed up for the course, I knew I had already committed to conduct tuna fishing seminars at the Seattle International Boat Show at 6 on Mon, 5 on Tues and 4 on Wed.  I talked with the folks at Compass Courses and they were very help full and accomodating to make everything work.  Monday was classroom courses in personal safety, survival, etc.  I left the course at 4:40 for a 20 mile drive to boat show only to get jammed in heavy traffic.  I made it to the seminar just as they were announcing the 6pm seminars over the loudspeakers.  44 People attended the seminar even though I felt like an auctioneer.  My tuna seminar is usually 2 – 2.5 hours in length.  At the boat show I have to be done in 50 minutes.  As soon as the seminar was over, I scooted home for a quick bite, shower and early bed.


Tuesday we studied more safety, social responsibilities etc and then moved to the Shoreline Pool after lunch to don our survival suits, work in teams to gather all survivors,  and right a turned over life raft.  After we put away the survival suits, we treaded water and tried several different styles of PFD’s (life vests) and spent time maintaining body heat, and making ourselves more visible in a search.  I left the pool and made the boat show with about 30 minutes to spare.  18 People made the seminar.

Wednesday was fire fighting classroom training with topics like the fire triangle, extinguishers, halon and co2 systems, etc.  The instructor for the day was Kim Cunningham from Triton Marine Training.  Kim is a firefighter / EMT and also specializes in maritime training for several large Washington based companies.  Her knowledge and training was excellent.  I had to leave a touch early to make it to my Wednesday Boat Show Seminar and Kim helped make sure I had taken my test in time.  55 people showed to the seminar on Wed. and was standing room only.  Since I finished early, I raced home for dinner and quick to bed.

Thursday I was out the door at 0600 to drive to North Bend, WA to the Washing State Fire Training Academy.  The academy is really about 10 0r 15 miles East of North Bend, but I left plenty early and still arrived early.  This is where fire fighters from around the region train for live fire emergencies.  They have some of the most realistic training scenarios I’ve seen and is one of only two training facilities in the US that use real fuel / oil fires vs. propane fires.  We started in the classroom signing away our lives and indemnifying everyone at the school including the dog and mail man.  We got a very detailed lesson on the use of the SCBA equipment we would be using and then headed to the training course.

On the course, we donned our bunker gear, SCBA, boots etc and started by putting out fuel fires with extinguishers, fuel fires with co2, advancing in groups with high velocity spray and extinguishers all the time while getting used to the breathing apparatus.  I can tell you this one truth:  This big boy burns air much faster than the little guys.  I changed out my tank before lunch, while the rest did it the second half of the day.

After lunch, we headed into the live indoor fire scenarios where they first built a class A fire out of pallets in the end of a 40 steel shipping container.  We all climbed in the other end of the container as they closed the doors to allow for the build up of heat.  Let me tell you this second truth:  This big boy does not like heat in a container!  The 10-15 minutes we were in there seemed like hours and I had to pee bad.  Of course we were crouched on the floor to avoid the most heat and made me even more uncomfortable.  Remember when I told you I had switched my air bottle out before lunch and everyone else after lunch?  Yep I was the guy with low air (again) and my alarm bell started ringing while in the hot container.  I knew that it would probably happen so I made sure to get all of my nozzle time and lessons completed before everyone else, so I could spend the rest of time as close to the door as possible.  When the bell started ringing, Tony to the instructor, said “you’re good” and kept on giving the lesson.  Of course he knew how much was left of the lesson and that we would be done in time, but I didn’t know that and was ready to bust the door down as the needle got closer and closer to zero.  To Recap:  Firefighters can keep their heat!  I hope I never have a fire on a vessel!

After the heat evolution, it was time for our group’s search training.  I started this with a full bottle!  We broke into four man teams and one of our four was the team leader.  The instructors taught us about different search tactics and how easy it was to get disoriented.  We headed into another container that was connected with several other containers in a series of rooms, passageways, bulkheads, hatches, etc. They were all filled with smoke and totally dark inside.  Just like you may find on a real vessel filled with smoke.  Our team entered doing a right wall search.  The first right door we came to led to a room that turned out to be a dead end.  I was in the #4 position, so when the search team reversed, I was then leading.  We found another right hand door and continued to search.  I came to a set of stairs and started climbing and soon found a victim.  Our team pulled the victim down and we retraced our path as best we could.  We made it to the exit and I had plenty of air!  I like air.  While our team was debriefing about our search, we could hear another team inside totally lost, their air bell alarms ringing and our instructor said they will be exiting the wrong door.  Soon they came out and had left their victim inside.  They had made it to a passageway and got plugged up and ran low on air.  A decision was made to leave the victim and save the team.  Even though we weren’t part of their team or search,  we still learned a good lesson from it.  To Recap:  I hope I never have a fire on a vessel!  Home for some grub, a shower and deep sleep.

Friday was CPR / First Aid at the classroom.  Even though I had these courses three years ago, much has changed and even more has been forgotten.  It was good to get the latest and some information relating to the maritime world.  There are no doctors at sea and help can be hours or days away.

This was a very informative week and great training.  If you need BST, think of Compass Courses in Edmonds, WA.  Passed the tests, then headed home, caught one of my wife’s new dinners she’s been making off of Pinterest and crashed out.  Good Week!

Next week: Lifeboatman courses!