Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wendy’s Shoreside Sea Log – San Diego

Thur., 7/19/12

Greetings from Training Resources Ltd., where good little sailors go to learn the ins and outs of crewing MSC ships. MSC stands for Military Sealift Command, which is comprised of the Navy owned, civilian crewed ships that supply the US military world-wide. They are designated by USNS, United States Navy Ship, to distinguish them from Navy crewed warships, designated by USS, United States Ship. I have crewed MSC ships before, but we need to re-certify every five years for most things, and every year for firearms.

Today we certified in firearms, and I am pleased to say I did not accidentally shoot anyone. In fact, those pirates and terrorists better watch out. Now if I could just get my Molotov cocktail/grenade throwing technique down, there wouldn’t be any more terrorists.

P.S. I didn't shoot anyone on purpose, either.

Wendy with A Shotgun

Terrorists Watch Out
Pirates Beware

Note the open, empty chamber. No shot in the magazine either. Guns are only loaded on the shooting range, and we were supervised by two former Navy instructors and two retired San Diego cops, all crackerjack gun guys who knew their stuff and looked out for us. I shot 231 (expert) with the 9mm and did considerable target damage with the shotgun. But I wasn’t so good at taking it apart for cleaning and then putting it back together right. I still don’t like guns much, and don’t own one.

Fri., 7/20/12

Weird that the horrible shooting in CO., happens right when we’re learning the proper use of firearms, especially when not to use them. Rules of engagement are pretty strict on MSC ships, and on civilian ships, we’re even more limited. Shipping companies don’t want to deal with the liability issues if we accidentally shoot innocent civilians.

Next week we learn more about handling ship security and smoking out terrorists. Oh, and I am going to see Batman tonight. Unarmed. A theatre showing Batman is probably the safest place in the country tonight.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wendy’s Sea Log

Shanghai to Long Beach and San Francisco
Matson Ship SS Lihue

Faded with poison
The city breathes, “Dance with me.”
Welcome to Shanghai

9/26/11, Monday

The Lady Washington Never Did It Like This

On the wing over the Pacific at 35,000 feet, Capt. Cook stowed his spyglass and screwed an eye at me. “Fortunate we are not putting in at the Sandwich Islands. Those feathered heathen savages will be the death of me. But all in all, this is a damnably dull means of transport. No leg room. Why, on my quarterdeck, you could put a King’s Division.” Then the Old Man disappeared.

Did I mention such visions are common to this little old salt? The usual way was to wake up foggy headed after a night of carousing in a dockside bar, which you couldn't remember much of, to find yourself in a foul hold on a strange ship bound across the Pacific--the big one, not the little one that starts with an "A"--for some godforsaken little fishing village on the other side of the world called Shanghai. Lots of tea and silk to be loaded there, on account of its being at the mouth of the Yangtze River in China, wide as the Mississippi they said, and twice as long but they were lying. So we be aloft in a Boeing 777, feasting on delights out of tinfoil and plastic ware, meself, Bloody Wendy, the Wicked Witch of the Seven Seas, Harry the Bosun, the Deadly McDonald Borthers and the Philippino Mafia, out to rescue the good ship SS Lihue from the hands of Chinese privateers holdin' 'er in the Nantong shipyard, and take 'er home wit a load a' loot. Don't know what they did in the yard but we'll have a lotta cleanin' up to do, engine and deck. Good thing they sent me. My seat is comfy enough for economy class, and the food wasn't bad, though I was miffed they didn't have chopsticks for the rice on a plane full of Chinese headed for China.

OK, Shanghai. The Back Pearl of the Orient, the haunt and bedevilment of many a sailor, forsworn and forsaken, the city that fused its name to the terrible practice of kidnapping for a brutal ransom, hired slavery, a six month to a year to an indeterminate time sentence to Hell, or direct entry thereto. The creepers shiver up your spine, the word has a busted bottle with your name on it aimed at yer head; the Ship of No Return is your lot. You are like to disappear from the face of the waters. Oh the varmints! Oh the terror!

9/28/11, Wednesday

Tied up in Nantong Shipyard, up the river from Shanghai. I was going to bring some of the Yangtze River home, but was afraid it might eat through the bottle before I got there. Without a doubt it's the filthiest water I've ever seen. The Mississippi doesn't come close. Don't drink it. Don't bathe in it. Don't eat anything that comes out of it. Don't sail your boat in it. I saw some people crabbing with small pots from a sampan, which they still have a few of, and wondered how long they had to live. Wanted to shout to them, “Don’t eat it! It’s poison!” but didn’t have any Chinese.

The ship’s been here in the yard since the end of July and the deck is still a mess, but we are scheduled to sail in three days.

Sailors and shipyards are a rowdy combination, but the Chinese are more subdued than we are. The yardbirds here are hard workers, but quieter, warm enough and polite, but resigned, maybe cautious. Maybe it's knowing that if you say the wrong thing, the Red Federales will get you. Maybe it's from not having a real say in how you're governed. Maybe it's a remnant of Chairman Mao's repression. They have one release: Firecrackers! Never heard so many firecrackers as in the last couple of days. Appears to be a holiday week or weekend coming up, and I’m told they shoot them off for any old reason, someone died, someone had a first date, someone stubbed their toe, etc. Firecrackers going off in a shipyard! They’d get arrested for that in the States.

I suspect they make half of what we do. Not sure. No evident resentment toward us about it. More to come when we get to Shanghai.

There were about a dozen female yard workers, chiefly painters and welders. Several did double takes when they saw me; are Western female sailors that much of an oddity? Noticed that most of them were wearing make up, eyebrow pencil and lipstick mostly, and if working girls are wearing makeup the market in China for it must be good. Tried to talk to one but she didn’t speak English. I have only one Chinese phrase: “She-she,” “Thank you.” It goes a long ways. One gal was littler than I am, but we hauled some heavy garbage to the bin together and dumped it in, without needing to talk. Amazing what you can get done without knowing the other’s language, using gestures and nods. Why can’t they do this in the Mideast?

Capt. David Burchard is a young looking 40ish, and looks like a dark haired surfer dude. The deckies are all out of the Wilmington SUP Hall, as are several in the Engine Dept.

10/1/11, Saturday

Nantong Shipyard, China.

Departure day. Chinese Customs came aboard: two officers, one military, with four military enlisted guys. They called us all to the officers’ lounge and checked that we matched our passports, then the military guys went to search the ship for contraband and stowaways. Two stayed behind to watch us, and it felt like being held hostage. They didn’t find any drugs or bombs or pirated DVD’s or Chinese hiding in a container, trying to get to America.

Tied up at Shanghai, which is down the Yangtze from Nantong, to load containers. No shore leave. We parted a stern spring line tying up but had no injuries or damage from it. Can’t see Shanghai for the smog. Literally. LA never looked this bad, and I remember some bad days from the 1960’s, before emission controls. A yellowish concrete hued haze smothers sea, land, and sky; the city disappears before you can see much of it.

Instead of the customary beep-beep from the forklifts when they back up Stateside, here they speak in Chinese. No kidding. A warning message is activated when the forklift goes into reverse. One forklift had a lady driver; we caught eyes when she was helping with the forklift to haul the gangway into position, angled away from the ship onto the dock. She seemed a little surprised.

Left Shanghai after less than twenty-four hours, and headed out to sea. I steered her out, and had no trouble following the Chinese pilot’s English orders. While we were loading stores late lat night after a full day’s work, the guy on the dock didn’t secure the net properly and three boxes of food fell in the water. Don’t know what kind. We’ll find out when we don’t have enough of something.

Hey! I get to sit down!

Wendy’s Sea Log
10/3/11, Monday
        At noon every day we test the ship’s alarm bell and whistle. Today I pulled the whistle lever over and got a tiny “ennnnh” sound. Apparently the engineers are messing around with something. The ship’s forty years old, and mostly solid, but has her little glitches.
        The Chief Mate likes rock on his watch. The 3rd Mate likes ABBA. The 2nd Mate doesn’t like music on his watch at all. Yuk. That’s my watch. Maybe I can change his mind. I mentioned I was glad we weren’t going south to Hawaiian waters this trip, so the Red-footed boobies wouldn’t be a problem. He said, “If that’s your biggest problem you don’t belong here.” This man has clearly never washed down a deck paved with boobie guano. Maybe he never washed a deck.
        Matson has a Sparks on this ship, a radio operator. Radio operators were phased out with Morse code, now that everything is high tech. There is some older equipment on this ship, but not a Morse telegraph. He does a few additional things like print out our daily e-news for the crew. Great that the Tigers are 2-1 over the Yanks in the American League Division Series.
        Had a bomb drill with a realistic looking homemade “bomb:” a box with batteries, wires, flares, etc. stuck to it. Not too much worry about that in this part of the world. But you never know. At least we’ve had no pirate warnings.

10/5/11, Wednesday
42°41’97” N
145°59’50” E
Course: 090°
0150 hrs.
        This is the good part, the fifteen minutes of romance and adventure. Heading home, through Tsugaru Kaikyo, the strait between Honshu and Hokkaido Islands, Japan. Could see lights from Japan on both sides. Clear night, no more traffic, and headed out into the Pacific. Passed some trash in the water earlier—pieces of plastic that looked like parts of food containers.
        There were ten to twelve fishing boats about, longliners, and northern waters mean arctic birds—fulmars with mean looking eyes, set into a natural permanent glare, narrower winged kittiwakes, plus terns and gulls. Lots of birds now. Good fishing waters but we can’t drop a line. Thank God we’re on the northern great circle route and so aren’t going near Hawaii; that means tropical waters and Red footed boobies making poop all over my deck.
        Saw two good ship names on the AIS: Great Blossom and Oriente Shine. AIS is the Automatic Identification of Ships (I think those are the correct meanings of the initials), a little box with a screen that tells us the name, position, distance, and bearing of nearby ships. Pretty nice. Picked up some Japanese and Russian on the radio.

10/6/11, Thursday
2345 hrs.
17 kt.
        My words to John, relieving me at the bridge watch change: “Well, we can look at the radar screen here, and you can see there’s lots of nothing. Out the window, more nothing. But wait! There’s more—nothing! Nothing on the AIS! Nothing! Your watch.”
        Strong wind off the starboard beam. Thought about the “still waters” the 23rd Psalm promises. Not a night to be outside in the weather. Wonder what the wind is saying; “Eat you alive.”? Maybe Mother Nature is doing some deep breathing. An alarm beep went off and the 2nd Mate said to me, “Have any idea what that was?” Great. Nothing like a guy who knows his bridge gear. Not a DIW (Dead in the Water), when the ship loses all power and is at the mercy of the wind and waves, or every alarm on the bridge would be going off.
        Brought some tooth floss up here. You don’t offend anybody when you do it in the dark.
Sent 10/28/11

10/7/11, Friday
38°55’29” N
162°03’94” E
Course: 109°
Beaufort Force 7 weather; 28 kt. wind
        Midnight to 0400. Rocking and rolling, but steered south to avoid bigger seven foot swells up north in the Gulf of Alaska. Whee! Whee! Upsy daisy! Downsy daisy! Wind and swell making lots of white horses. Temperature has gone from the 50’s to the 70’s since we turned south. Might see those bloody boobies after all.
        Noon to 1600. Thought of Arwen in the wind and spray and coils of spindrift last night. Think she was out there. The Evenstar of her people has become a guiding spirit and light for all mariners.
        Still see an occasional piece of plastic floating by. Wish I could pick it all up. Came up to the bridge in a T-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater and carrying my jacket, and quickly disrobed of all but the T-shirt. Don’t want to get the guys too excited. I always sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” in heavy weather. Brings good luck on the bridge. The mate doesn’t seem to be into superstitions.
        We checked the accuracy of the gyro compass, in a room below the bridge, with its repeater on the bridge. I was below on the radio, reading out the compass numbers to the mate on the bridge as we steered on automatic pilot, when the compass jumped suddenly, so the report went like this: “90.5°, 90.2°, 90°, oops, 88.2° . . .” “Oops” is now an official nautical term.

10/8/11, Saturday
30°00’00” N
178°51’04” E
        Midnight to 0400. The wind has shifted from the starboard to the port quarter. The moon is nearing full and is bright enough to write by.
        The 2nd Mate never read Tolkien and doesn’t want to. How sad to have no imagination. Our ETA on the navigation computer says, “ Never (space) Never.” We’re going to Neverland! Second star to the right and straight on till morning!
        1155 hrs. The outline of the wheelhouse looks like the Art Deco ferry Kalakala, like a rounded sea slug. Got our first visual contact of another ship in three days. Many small pieces of trash, mostly plastic, have floated by in the last couple of hours. There was one bathroom sized trash can. We see them every ten seconds or so. There were also three crab pot buoys between 1300 and 1400. We’re halfway through the voyage.
        Closed in on the International Date Line and crossed it around 1500. In the Western Hemisphere now.

10/9/11, Sunday
        Midnight to 0400. Ship’s doing long rolls, slowly back and forth. The wind’s up as a small front is overtaking us.
        Standing lookout is mandatory by federal law, even in the middle of the Pacific without a ship in sight or on the radar. It’s not like we have to worry about terrorist attacks out here, either. Just Mother Nature, but she can be a real child abuser. Going through multiple time zones can play holy willy with your circadian rhythm. Wonder if the real reason they have two of us on watch, an officer and an AB, is so one can make sure the other doesn’t go to sleep.
        What makes me feel good? Not sinking.
        There’s no getting around it. As dull and boring as it can get out here—and staring out the window at an unchanging sea can get pretty dull and boring; “What do you do for a living?” “I look out the window”—there is still the romance of the sea. The weather can stink, the people be difficult to work with, and the hours unending, but there’s something about the sea. It’s a different kind of job; it’s not something everyone does for a living. It’s not something everyone can do.

1240 hrs.
38°27’30” N
172°04’60” W
Temp: 70’s

Ship rolling all night through today, gentle to severe, things about the house bumping, my closet doors swinging open. Had a bizarre dream that I was on a ship rolling in the ocean. Usually my dreams have nothing whatsoever to do with the waking world. Rain earlier; clearing now. Some cumulous clouds at the NE horizon.

The deckies, day workers Jun and Gabby and Bosun Harry, are done on the bow and are going below, after hauling two big mooring lines up from the foc’sle hatch and faking them out and securing them on deck. I was concerned for their safety as the ship is rolling and the wind is a near gale, but no waves are coming over the bow. The ship is riding well, angled at about 45° to the seas.

Bosun Harry is amazing. About eighty, shuffling walk, and is hauling lines and moving heavy stuff. White ruffled fringes of hair. Never carries a radio, which bosuns normally do. Yells a lot, which bosuns normally do. Gets ticked off at us AB’s.

1400 hrs. Near gale; wind shifted 180° from the starboard quarter to the port bow. Beaufort Force 7; 28-33 kt. wind. Heaped up waves starting to break ,and white foam blown in streaks by the wind. That front that was astern has caught up with us.

Sent 11/3/11

10/10/11, Monday

0100. Partially cloudy, little rolling, temperature in the 60’s. Bright moonlight. Walked out on the starboard bridge wing and laughed; breathed, “I get paid to do this!”

Columbus Day celebrated today, an officially union recognized holiday, ergo, OT (Overtime)! Twelve OT hours! Eight hours of watch standing plus my usual four of overtime. Since all of the following discovered America, how about a holiday each for St. Brendan the Navigator, Eric the Red, or was it Leif Erickson, and the Chinese from the Pacific side, was it Madame Chang or somebody from the Ming Dynasty? Put them all in August, which doesn’t have any holidays, and you’ve got three OT days. Huzzah!

Just after the noon bell and whistle check, we are also required to test the steering. The sequence of actions I do under the Mate’s orders is this:

        1. Switch from autopilot to hand steering by turning the little handle below the wheel
        2. Turn the switch on the console from port to starboard hydraulic pump.
            (Or from starboard to port, depending on which pump we’re using that day)
        3. Wait ten seconds for the pump to get going.
        4. Turn the wheel five degrees right, wait to see that the rudder angle indicator
            shows that the rudder is responding five degrees right, then repeat to the left.
        5. Switch the Gyro/Hand/NFU control knob to NFU, Non Follow Up steering. This
            is a separate system and uses a knob instead of the wheel.
        6. Turn the NFU steering knob five degrees right and left, as with hand steering.
        7. Bring the ship back to its original course, with either NFU or by switching back to
            hand steering.
        All done!
        Oh, if any of the systems doesn’t work, we yell at the enginheers.

Temperature’s in the 60’s; the thermometer is still put away somewhere and is not in its outside mount, so this is a guesstimate. Overcast with strato-cumulous clouds.

Beaufort Force 4 – Moderate seas, some whitecaps.
Waves: 2-5 ft.
Wind: 15 kt.
Direction of wind 315° and seas135°, off the port quarter.
Fairly smooth, with little rolling.
Course: 85°  Steering great circle route.
Speed: 17.5 kt.

Talked with the AB’s and Bosun about ships’ ghosts. The container ship Mahi Mahi had a bosun who fell to his death while fixing a bow antennae, and he’s still aboard and has made his presence known. He is there to help, like the Tryfina’s Extra Hand. You can hear him walking, and sometimes you hear music with no source nearby. They called him China. He was Hawaiian. Another ghost on the ITB Moku Pahu said to a crew member, “I mean you no harm,” If you die on a ship you become its guardian angel. ITB stands for “Integrated Tug Barge,” where the bow of the tug fits into a wedge shaped cut-out in the stern of the barge. It is considered one vessel.

1400 hrs. Up to Beaufort Force 5, Fresh. 17-21 kt.wind, with more whitecaps. We’re skirting the edge of a front from a low system in the Gulf of Alaska. Skies clearing. Cumulous and cumulostratus clouds. Never pay much attention to weather at home. Take a coat or umbrella with you is all it means. Out here, it’s fascinating. Weather is way more important at sea, as weather changes can delay arrival dates and mess up scheduling.

10/12/11, Wednesday

0001 hrs. Another fine night on the SS Lihue. Some squalls on the 1200-1600 watch Tues. but clearing with some leftover cumulous and smooth sailing now. Course 093°; we’re starting to curve south on the great circle route to Long Beach, CA. Out on the bridge wing, the Mate said the star overhead is Venus. I think it may be Jupiter or Saturn. I started singing “When You Wish Upon A Star,” and the Mate went inside. Sang “Eddystone Light” in the mess at dinner, and no one had heard it before. The checkered red tablecloth and wine bottle shaped Balsamic vinegar bottle made it feel like a NY Italian restaurant, so I sang. No tips. Course 094° now. Will be home in time to watch the World Series. Nice.

The secret to longevity is good genes and a steady job. One you like.

39°08’30” N
145°24’10” W
Course: 097°
Speed: 15 kt.
Wind Direction: 320°, from port quarter (NW)
Wave/Swell Direction: 140° (SE)

Overcast but warm on the bridge. Don’t need a sweater. We’ve slowed to meet our arrival time. The Bosun is outraged because he thinks the Chief Steward is running short on food. No more milk for the mess or bridge coffee. Thought the White Act abolished all that, along with corporal punishment, i.e., flogging, back in 1898. If there’s a shortage the other unions aboard will have it out with the Steward’s SIU (Seamens International Union). We’re not starving but the breakfast cereal boxes are getting low. Don’t know what the stores problem is; the three boxes we lost in the drink in Shanghai weren’t that big. Maybe they didn’t deliver enough even with the boxes.

We were throwing some pieces of scrap metal over the side. Rusted iron makes good fish food. Been hauling old lines and crap out of the foc’sle hatch. Our expensive new navigator computer is trying to steer 074° when the Mate asks it for 097°. Machines. Switched from the nav. computer to gyro autopilot.

Sent 11/23/11

10/13/11, Thursday

38°07’83” N.
137°22’24” W.
Course: 101°
Speed: 15 kt.
Wind Direction: 014°, over the port bow
Wind Speed: 23 kt.
Swell: 225°, SW
Temperature: 63°

1200-1600. There is nothing better than warm and dry after cold and wet. Spent the morning out in the rain, humping the old crappy lines back below to the storage holds. Felt like Sisyphus, as we’d pulled them up to clean the holds last week. Rainy and blowy on the bow. Warm socks are toasty, and my boots and gloves are drying in the laundry room, with both dryers going. And hot Navy Bean soup never tasted so good.

Saw a flock of birds this morning around 9 am, flying just ahead of us. 1st since leaving Japanese waters. Finally got our thermometer set up outside the bridge.

10/14/11, Friday

36°45’54” N.
130°24’84” W.

Course: 106°
Speed: 17.4 kt
Wind Speed: 25 kt.
Wind Direction: 225°, from the SW, off the starboard quarter
Wave Direction: 045°, NE
Wave Height: 1-2 ft.
Swell: 145°, from the SE, wide but gentle, 3 ft., underlying the surface waves.
Temp.: 67°F

1200-1600 Watch

A Beautiful Day! Sun out, some scarce, high cirrostratus and stratus on the horizon, deep blue ocean, and I Love My Job! Skylord Apollo’s flint and steel hoofed horses have ignited his chariot and catapulted it onto the waters, spilling a fiery shimmer that invites us south. Bright sunlight on the forward port counter, where I write when on the bridge. The crew mood is jubilant and the girl-starved guys are reading Maxim magazine, copies of which are appearing in the crew coffee room. The last time change was last night and we are on West Coast time now, with three days to go.

Did some “pretty work” painting this morning—lipstick on burnt pork chops. They painted one coat over rust and dirt in the shipyard, so it looks good for one photo op, then rusts away again. We will look decent enough when we pull into the layup berth in San Francisco. She’ll be there till she’s called out again to replace another ship. No plans to put her on a regular route, as steam engines are far more expensive to fire up than diesel, and the SS Lihue is just what the first two letters say it is—a steam ship. She’s an old girl, built back in the 70’s before the oil crunch made fuel costs soar. Wish they could figure out a way to recycle the steam, turn it back to water, then reheat it and use it for power again, instead of just letting it go out the stack. Would solar heaters and a non-toxic refrigerant work?

Brought my laptop up on the bridge again last night and we had Gilbert and Sullivan on the 0000-0400 watch. A number of water level clouds out there now—fog banks that reduce visibility to one to three miles for a few minutes, and then we’ve passed by or through them and visibility clears.

10/15/11, Saturday

0030. Moon bright enough to write by, though past full, right through the port bow window onto the counter. Hanging up there just off the port bow. Picked up our first Coast Guard radio message, out of San Diego. Welcome to home waters.

Comfiest watch chair I’ve ever had to sit in, like a Captain’s chair. Feel like a little kid sitting in the Grownup’s Chair. Nobody ever really grows up. Not if you’re lucky. got Steve Lalor’s Airs to You CD on now. Ah, Bach.

Just got a GMDSS warning about a rocket falling out of the sky into the Western Pacific. Wonder if it was from the missile range on Kwajalein. I’d rather deal with Mother Nature on a Katrina day then this. P.S. No sign of a rocket.

10/16/11, Sunday

34°35’05” N.
122°17’40” W.

1200-1600. The 3rd Mate left his whale watching book on the bridge. No sightings yet. Not onto the continental shelf yet. Gray and overcast but a bright glare; shades down on the bridge windows. A birdie flew across the bow. First California bird today.

I’ve got 45 hours of OT, second only to John’s 49. The other guys have 20’s and 30’s OT hours. Mine works out to 60 hour work weeks, seven days a week. Our very experienced AB, Jun, asked me for help carrying the bridge life ring holder from the main deck level up to the bridge. Hooray!! A sign of respect.

10/17/11, Monday

1200-1600. In and out of Long Beach in 12 hours. Now heading up the coast to San Francisco at 22 kts. Got to sleep in today; no OT call out. Hooray! Going to a spa when I get back and get all pretty.

South of San Francisco I saw a whale blow three times. Didn’t break the surface. But I got to say, “Thar she blows! Whale, two points to port!”

Fog at 1300 hrs. Visibility down to a quarter mile. Closing in on San Francisco Bay; in the traffic separation zone, where you have lanes with invisible lines on the water you have to stay within.

By 1500, the fog had cleared and we made our entrance. First time sailing into San Francisco Bay and I got to steer under the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridges!

Checked the chart and was surprised they haven’t officially charted McCovey Cove as such yet, by the Giants’ stadium. What’s the matter with those guys? What are they waiting for?

10/18/11, Tuesday

Signed off, took my pay, and flew home.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wendy’s Sea Log
8/6/11 to

At Sea – Gulf of Mexico

Greetings to all again, and welcome back to the highjinks and shenanigans of your humble Able Seaman. Joined the ship in Violet, LA, on the muddy Mississippi, just south of New Orleans and not too far from where they fought the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Hadn’t been here since 2004, so I didn’t know what Katrina had taken and what she had left. They’ve re-done the Superbowl, the food is still great, the politicos are still crooked, and all’s right with the world. The road to the ship had a tree lined avenue section, with big oaks or big somethings overhanging it, like you see in the road up to the plantation house. Did Katrina demolish them? There was a 90 year old frame house near the ship, and the lady who lived there had a lovely garden with roses and other flowers. She had once given me some for the ship. Was it still there?

The trees remain, and are still grand. The house and garden are there, and well cared for, but I didn’t get a chance to knock on the door and say hi. I couldn’t find Bessie, our gate security guard, or anyone else I shipped with here in 2004. But the new gate guard is an off duty cop, and if you ever get in trouble down here, just mention my name and you’ll be fine. Under the table money is good too.

Started off on the wrong foot when signing ship’s articles. I signed my name on the Captain’s line, and flubbed up a couple of other places. That is not the way to make a good first impression. I then went to my room, pulled out a piece of paper and wrote, “I will never mess up signing articles again.” twenty-five times, and handed it in to the Captain. So I’m still aboard.