Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Someone fetch me a fainting couch, I gots the vapors!

Holy cow, did I get a pleasant surprise yesterday!

      So, in my last post, I lamented some bumps I've been having in the process of increasing tonnage and updating the endorsement expiration dates on my Merchant Mariner's Credential, the passport-like document that we use to document our bona fides , or, perhaps more accurately, that Port State Control and the glorified tax farmers that we also deal with use to DISqualify us for insufficient enthusiasm when it comes to loyalty to The Party, kissing ass and paying fees  performing proskynesis, fellatio and other niceties to prove our loyalty to the IMO's STCW code. Which is a fancy way of saying that maritime regulators have found a way to collect indirect taxes, create a layer of administrative hurdles and play Ultimate CYA by shifting blame to mariners and training issues when their awful policies kill or fail to address problems by requiring more training instead of providing practical solutions.

 OK, rant over. For now. Sorry. I was gettting all frothy for a minute there.

 At any rate, I had a problem recently in how the US Coast Guard evaluated my certificates and papers after I had submitted them, and I noted that despite the majority of my shipmates always having similar issues, I had had good luck until this time.

     Well, butter my balls and call 'em biscuits if I didn't get a call from the National Maritime Center (The Coast Guard's merchant mariner administration center) asking for clarification and did I want some help in resolving my issues?

 Coulda knocked me over with a feather. They called me.

 A very nice lady named Kim went over my application, asked directly what, exactly I wanted, and then, after going over some papers, found that 1) They did indeed already have much of the paperwork that they had asked me to resubmit, 2). that while I didn't ask them to actually renew my credential for another 5 years, since I am halfway to my next renewal, they'd go ahead and renew it for me instead of just raising me in grade, and 3), they did want one extra form from me, which I actually did not submit, in order to not take away one of my endorsements which I was apparently not using but would presumably want to keep. In addition, Kim also reinstated my MED-PIC (Medical Person-In Charge), which had been downgraded to MED-PRO (Medical Care Provider) for some reason last time, and which I hadn't noticed until this latest round of submissions.

 So overall, huge Attaboy to Uncle Sugars Coast Toasties for trying to help me navigate the horrible system they've created, at least. Personal service is NOT something that the Coast Guard does anymore. Or didn't.
 Anyhow, it sure soothed the burn of having to spend half Golconda on being able to just keep doing my job.

 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Stuff and Things


I've generally had pretty good luck with submissions to the US Coast Guard for my merchant mariner's documentation.  Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case with my current submission.

    I applied to up the tonnage limit on my captain's license after passing the exam required to do so, and submitted certificates of completion for some required refresher training (Advanced Fire Fighting and Basic Safety Training), stuff I had to pay out-of-pocket to handle, to the tune of about $1,000. Along with this I also got a physical, which I have to do and submit paperwork for every 2 years ($200), proof of holding a Transportation Worker's Identification Credential ($100, renewed last year), and a letter from my employer stating that I'm involved in a random drug screening program, have been handling liquid cargo transfers (so I can also renew my Tankerman Person-In-Charge rating), and have some 2,000 8-hour equivalent days at sea in the past 5 years (I get extra credit when my work hours are 12-hours/day or over, which is pretty much every day at sea), and do weekly and monthly fire and boat drills as part of my job on board an inspected vessel.

      Unfortunately, the Coast Guard evaluators, in their wisdom, failed to look at anything but the medical documentation, and requested the paperwork I had already submitted.


 Well, so it goes. I resubmitted everything today, which will take a few weeks to process. I'm not in a huge hurry, thank God, as my current credentials are not expiring soon and the one thing that I needed on a time-basis was the med cert, which was completed and mailed.

       Well, try again, anyhow. It seems like almost everyone has headaches with the Coast Guard's onerous paperwork requirements. Guess it was my turn.


*****************
 Father's Day is here, and I already received my socks and underwear from Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, who took a running joke between us (every holiday, when asked what I want for a present, I ask for socks and underwear, but never receive them), and actually gave me some fresh socks n' skivvies in a nice gift bag before I left. First time.
    Well, since July will be the first month where I don't have student loans anymore, I took my now unneeded student loan payment and bought a new band saw. Godamn I know how to give gifts. Can't wait to get home and set it up and use it. I already have some projects in mind.

 I started to write something poignant and nice about Father's Day, and my own father, but it ended up being a little too much of my private thoughts exposed, and very sentimental besides, so I deleted it.
 Hell with it. Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!

Friday, June 15, 2018

I didn't have as much time to tinker in my shop as I wanted this past month, but I did get a couple of  hours here and there to work on my little boats.





Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Damn it, I'm back


All good things have a beginning and an end. Today marks both. Good, in that I get to draw a paycheck after a gloriously long and full time ashore, and bad in that I get to draw a paycheck after a gloriously long and full time ashore because I’m going back to work.
      In my off time, there wasn’t much off time, if you get me. I had been studying for the last several months to up the tonnage limit on my captain’s license, and took a 5 day prep class this time prior to sitting for the exam. So that is done and once Uncle Sugar’s Sea Scouts meditate over my paperwork and withdraw their pound of flesh, and provided I maintain the Mandate of Heaven, I’ll hopefully have my new Merchant Marine Credential in my hot little hands in a month or so.
 But wait, there’s more. I also got to take refresher classes in Basic Safety Torture Training and Advanced Fire Fighting.   I’m ambivalent there, because the refresher training was actually very useful and knocked the dust off some rarely-used skills that involve muscle memory. I forgot how miserable swimming in a survival suit was. Same with Fire Fighting. Watching a flashover, well, flash over my head and relearning how to attack a nasty fire was also illuminating. Paying for this shit was not illuminating one bit, either, but what can you do? Aside from the confidence that I once again am sufficiently afraid of emergencies but better prepared and aware in dealing with them was well worth the price of admission.
 So the other 2 ½ weeks were also damn busy. I started off in Boston, closing the sale of the B Family estate, which was both more stressful and less strenuous than I had expected. I was, apparently, well prepared to deal with the emotional aftermath of being the sibling among my siblings who was entrusted to pull the pin there. So that got done and some long-standing issues were resolved in the process. All to the good. And I got to say goodbye to Boston in a more permanent way, which was nice. I am a southerner now. Well, I live in Margaritaville, so I’m a hemidemisemi southerner. Good enough. My grandkids will say ‘y’all’ one day maybe.

       Aside from several long-term projects coming to fruition, there were the usual small fires to put out and some other weirdness to be dealt with. I went to a Brazilian Quincenera a 15th birthday party for a friend’s daughter, which was a trip, and I bet would have been an absolute blast or all had the family involved not been among the holiest of holy rollers. Well, there was good food, anyhow, and I took the opportunity to arrive a day early and leave a day late, so we could go to Disney.
     2 days at Disneyworld= 5 days in any other vacation site. Holy shit it was pricey.
 Also, I really, really don’t like crowds or amusement parks, but the fam had a blast and I survived, so… mission accomplished I guess.

     I did get 2 half-days to work in my shop on my little model boats, so that was nice. It was probably the most relaxing time I had overall. I got in some time with my own nuclear family on non-Disney grounds where I could have a good time, too, and that was wonderful, but there wasn’t enough of that overall. Maybe next month when I come home.

     So, after 3 ½ weeks, this has been the longest consecutive time I’ve had ashore in over 10 years.  I had hoped to be more relaxed, but such things aren’t always in the cards for me, given my hyperactive nature. Am I relaxed and ready to face another month of being chief bottle washer aboard a floating metal gas station? No. I’m not. But I’m going anyhow. I might feel a little frazzled, but I planted the seeds for a new path to open up for my future. I’ll have to decide what, if anything, to do with it while the paperwork and such is hashed out. It’s nice to have options. If you’ve noticed, my posting has dropped off, and this is in line with my enthusiasm overall while I’m at work. I feel as though things are about to get interesting again for me for the first time in a long, long time. I’m not excited yet, but I’m keeping a weather eye out for excitement in the future.