Monthly Archives: March 2013

This week’s job – Red October


If all goes well, we will departing Thursday morning, to take advantage of a really nice weather window, aboard the 50′ x 14’6 trawler “Red October”. This is a fairly quick job from Seattle to San Francisco and should take around 4 days (820 NM). The boat is a West Coast veteran, having sailed between Baja and Alaska on several occasions with her previous owners. Now she is to become a live aboard in SF. Tomorrow I will deliver all of the gear to the boat, get it stowed, go grocery shopping, time everyone getting on their survival suits, double check the systems, spare filter supplies, etc. It is commercial crab season off the W. Coast, so we will need to stay out deeper than 350′ to avoid all of the pots. Along the Washington Coast, this can mean being out 25 – 30 miles off the coast. The further South along Oregon / N. Cal it is more like 15 miles off. This boat, while not fast, is very comfortable and has hydraulic stabilizers.

My new MMC credentials came in the mail on Saturday, so as soon as I return from this trip, I will be booking a trip to Louisiana to take the RFNPW course.


Seattle Waterfront, Testing and Progress!

Today was my scheduled appointment at the USCG Seattle REC to complete the test that the National Maritime Center said I needed. I left plenty early and arrived way to early (traffic was really easy) so I spent an hour or so walking around the Seattle Waterfront doing my best tourist with a cell phone camera. It was cool and crisp this morning we had ice on the windows this morning.

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One of the Argosy Harbor Cruise Boats

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The Seattle waterfront shops along Alaskan Street. and Ivar’s Seafood “Acres of Clams”

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A statue of Ivar Haglund feeding the seagulls. If you grew up or spent any time around Seattle before 1985 when he died, you definatley know this man. His TV commercials were great. Keep Clam!

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The Seattle Fire Department’s Fire Boats “Chief Seattle” and “Leschi” (pronounced lesh eye – it the boat in the back)

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Small Seattle Fire Dept. Boats

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The Washington State Ferry “Tacoma” leaving Coleman Dock with West Seattle in the background

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Another look at the Seattle Fire Boats “Chief Seattle” and “Leschi”

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Another Agorsy Cruise Harbor Cruise Boat. When my daughter was in the sixth grade, they had a field trip on this boat (I chaperoned). I was amazed how many kids had never been on a boat before in their life. It’s not like we are in Oklahoma or something.

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A shot of the Ferry Tacoma with the Olympic Mountains in the background. The Argosy Cruise boat is in the forefront.

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Looking South towards Seattle’s main shipping port, Harbor Island and the “Dirty D”, also known as the Duwamish River. The Dirty D is a super fund site and one of the most used industrial waterways in the area.

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Just to the East of last picture, you can see CenturyLink Field where the Seattle Seachickens play (formerly known as Qwest Field) and just behind that (hard to see) is Safeco Field where the Seattle Mariner’s Play. If any Merchant Mariners come to Seattle and take classes at PMI, it is located just between the big harbor cranes on the right and the stadiums on the left.

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Some maritime history signs

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On the other side of Alaskan Street is the Viaduct. This elevated roadway gives the driver probably one of the best views of any major city’s waterfront. It is in terrible shape and is a serious risk when the “big one” hits Seattle. It is currently being replaced by a tunnel which will not quite be the same. It will make the waterfront much quieter without all of the cars and trucks buzzing by just overhead. I will still miss the viaduct anyway – it’s part of this city.

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Another shot of the viaduct, Alaskan Street and the “Qlink” or CenturyLink Field

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The Seattle Aquarium

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Aquarium again. One of the best places in the world to see a Six Gill Shark is right at the end of this pier at night in the spring. I grew up in this area and had no idea these things were here. The first time I saw how big these things get, I filled my pants. A big one can get over 15’ long. They look like a fat Great White to me.

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Another maritime signpost and Seattle’s newest eye sore in the background

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From the Aquarium, I climbed a few sets of stairs and popped out at the Pike Place Market

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It’s probably been over 20 years since I’ve been here, maybe more. I’m going to have to spend a day doing this stuff.

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Random shot of the market innards

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The famous fish market. I was starting to run low on time so I didn’t get a chance to see how bad they are sticking it to the people who can’t catch thier own.

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These trees didn’t get the memo that it is still cold outside and blossomed anyway. You can also see the viaduct and waterfront.

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The Jackson Federal Building where the Seattle REC is located. The REC is actually in the offices directly behind the little brick wall. If you ever come here, forget about the address and go to the corner of 1st and Madison and you will be there. If you follow the address, you’ll have to wander a maze of elevators and floors to get there. This concludes the photos and touristy stuff for today.

I went through security, walked into the REC office and was pointed down a hallway, through some doors and to the testing room. Another mariner was getting his test graded and was given another module before the man behind the counter acknowledged me. He asks me what I’m doing here and I told him my name and that I was there for a test (no shit – I am in the testing room). He said I didn’t have an appointment and he didn’t appreciate me arriving without at least 2 days notice and got all heated up. I showed him the appointment receipt that I printed out from the confirmation email sent to me by the NMC. He didn’t even look at it and said their system is not connected to his system and I should have called. So if you read my last post about the Appointment Scheduler, you can forget anything nice I said about that system.

He agrees to allow me to take the test anyway and gives me all of the instructions while he printed out the test. Remove coat and hang it up, turn off cell phone, checked my calculator to make sure it wasn’t hiding any secret formulas, etc. He gives me the answer sheet to fill in and go forth and take the test. Right away I look at this test and think “Oh Shit!” I didn’t recognize to manny of these questions, and there were way more than 70 that I was supposed to take. So I return to the grumpy man and said “are you sure I have the right test?” He had given me two tests instead of one, but the one I had was correct. So I worked on it slowly and methodically and used common sense and the CFR books to find answers. There were really only a few I didn’t feel confident about, some I at least felt like I had a good chance to be correct and several that I knew were correct. I finished up, took the test in to be graded and received a 89%. I’m very happy with that.

The grumpy man (now in a much better mood), gives me some papers to take up front to the office to pay for the test. This is the same office where you would come to apply for your license. I paid the lady (the same one who helped me when I applied several posts back – very nice and super knowledgeable) and told her how the schedule was screwed up. She shook her head slowly like she wanted to say something. I could tell she wanted to say something so I just talked to her for a minute or two longer and she finally said “He doesn’t look at the appointment calendar he is supposed to use and he has been told numerous times”. So forget what I just said about the appointment scheduler being screwed up. It works fine, but you have to have someone using it for it to work right.

With my receipt in hand, I returned to testing room to prove I had paid. The grumpy guy shook my hand and said “well done” and sent me on my way.

It was now 1230 and I was hungry, so I stopped at traditional Seattle place called Dick’s:
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I arrived home after some traffic and sat down at my computer. An email from the NMC was waiting and it said my “Application is complete and has been issued”.

This is the end of the road (for the near future) for me regarding licensing. I still need to get a RFNPW course done. I’ll probably go to Louisiana for that class at Fletcher’s next month. I have short job next week that I’ll fill you all in about soon.
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USCG Appointment Scheduler

Friday I scheduled an appointment to take a test at the USCG REC Office in Seattle via the online appointment scheduler. I chose the first appointment I could (tues. 1030). Immediatley a email came through confirming the appointment. Last night, while laying in bed watching Wicked Tuna, another email came in reminding me of the appointment. This was approx 2130 Pacific Time last night. So far, this system seems to work good.

Some photos from New England Waterman’s blog.

New England Waterman

There is never, ever, rest for the weary down here. A couple days offshore and it will be a less than 24 hour turn around for us. Something we are all too familiar with. I woke up to the deck cargo being off, with the exception of the drill pipe, and the boat still heavy with 5000 barrels of 13.8 mud. We are now sitting in slip one C-Port 2, offloading the pipe, and then it is back to the client dock to load up for DD1 again. All I can say is please give me an on time crew change.
On the plus side I took a couple of good photo’s this trip. I have been watching a video lecture series on digital photography and I would like to think it has improved the overall quality of my shots.

Allie Chouest & Shenzi


Stim Star III


“Chaining Down”



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The End Is Near…………Or Is It?


For a week and a half (since Monday last week), my application has been marked on the NMC Website as “being evaluated PQEB”.  Since I’m not currently at sea, I check the website daily to see if any progress is being made.  Yesterday I called to see “WTF”.  They said they were waiting for my legacy file so they could review it and I should call back in 2 or 3 days.  Later in the afternoon, I recieved an email stating that further information was needed and that I have 90 days to respond (I have been expecting this).  I called as soon as I got the email, trying to get someone to email or fax whatever information they were requesting, so that I didn’t have to wait for the letter to come in the mail.  The lady on the phone said that the email I recieved was auto generated and there had not been a letter issued to me and there was nothing for me to respond to.  OK, I will have to wait.

This morning I called again, just to be sure, and they said there was a letter issued to me yesterday (wtf?) and to hold on while they located it and read it to me.

My application was approved for AB and for 100T N.C., however, I am being required to take a test (module #221) at the USCG before my license can be issued.  With a few phone calls I was able to find out that going from Inland to Near Coastal is the reason for the added module. So I spent a few hours tracking down exactly what is involved in #221 and for what reason I need this test.  Turns out that I have already taken and passed this module with my first license in 2009 and most of #221 was covered in the AB class I took a month and a half ago.  The module covers deck general, deck safety and environmental.  I feel like I could take the test cold turkey and do just fine, but will study over the weekend to be sure.  I don’t want to go downtown any more than needed.

I then went through a couple of rounds of email with the NMC to get a letter to test. You can’t just show up and expect to take a test. First you need an approval letter, then an appointment, then a test. At least I hope it works like that – I haven’t been there to test yet, so I’m not sure what else might happen.

As I get started on this career path, I do sense a pattern regarding the CG.  It seems that redunant testing of subjects comes up quite often (see my earlier post regarding RFNPW).  If any of you mariners out there, can confirm this for me or set me straight, please do.

Hopefully, with a little luck, this will all be completed next week (my part at least) and the thing will get approved to print, printed, approved to put in an envelope, put in an envelope, approved for postage, postage added, approved to mail, and mailed to me.  (They should hire me to build some really wicked flow charts for there website).

I would like to thank Capt. Richard Rodriguez at the Bitterend Blog for his quick and accurate answers. In addittion to providing license training for mariners in Washington State through Zenith Maritime, Capt. Rodriguez also publishes his blog daily.

Going back to skool

Yesterday, while waiting to hear nothing from the Coast Guard, I made a list of the classes that I will need to take in the future.  I’m sure before I can complete this list, the rules will be altered and I will have to take more courses.  Here is what I’ve come up with so far:


2. Radar Observer

3. Visual Communications (flashing Lights)

4. Medical Care Provider

5. Bridge Resource Management

6. Vessel Safety Officer

7. Advanced Fire Fighting

8. Celestial Navigation


10. ECDIS (Electronic Charting)

Hopefully I didn’t miss anything.  I looked at all of the checklists on the National Maritime Center webpage to come up with the list.

My master plan is to knock one or two classes off (depending on length) every chance I get.  Should keep me out of the house for a while.