Saturday, January 14, 2006

Working on the Boats

When I moved back to Alaska in early 2001, my intention was to get a job as an Alaskan State Trooper, more specifically the "blue shirt" rather then the fish and game enforcement signified by a "brown shirt". Since I was in South Carolina just long enough to loose my Alaskan residency, I had to spend a year doing something worth while during my year's wait.

One of the advantages of having a large family is the amount of job references that I get when I decide to job hunt. This particular one came from an uncle who was an office manager for the company, and since I would fall under fleet operations I wouldn't have had to worry about cries of nepotism or favortisim. It wouldn't have mattered too much anyways, the company always had a hard time keeping a full time year round staff due to the odd hours we worked. We always said the hardest part of the job was getting up on time for the 4 am shift.

I worked my way up the ladder, the vessel is large enough that you get sea time on a fairly high tonnage and it was always a "promote from within" policy. One thing I eventually learned was the two captains of the M/V Admiralty Wind were always on the lookout for their own skins and job first and foremost, and who were the biggest opponents of the crew getting wheel time after we'd earned our Master's Licenses.

A third captain, who only worked the off season for fishing, would let mself and AL get behind the wheel, which let him wander about the bridge and just socialize with the miners on the upper deck. He'd depart and dock the vessel, we'd make the 35 minute run between the docks. It's a fairly "canned" operation with exact departure times and run times and routes that are nearly constant, the miners could almost set their watches to us.

Whenever I was behind the wheel during the run, he'd always ask if I had a hot date or something, I could almost always be counted on to knock about 5 minutes off each leg of the run. I figured that the fuel I saved per run when I was at the wheel paid for at least my salary.

Looking at our speed over ground as described by one of the GPS systems on board, every piece of equipment had a redundant back up, he'd always tell me to kick back the RPM which he figured I had running higher then norms. He would always look at the GPS before the guages, so he always figured I had the engines running a little hotter, since we usually had to power against wind and current when departing from the far dock.

I can't really explain it, but I could feel the boat's movement through the water and knew just what the course I needed to steer in order to minimize the wind and tide working against us, called set and drift. I wouldn't mind working for that company again, not like the people were bad, just the hours, especially if you wanted a social life.

Working here is where I was able to take the majority of the pictures I've posted so far. So, I thought I'd post a few more intresting things we'd see from the decks of the A/W as we called her. Animal right's activites would have a fit seeing these, but we were operating well within the specified guidelines, not our fault the Dall's Porpose decided to come over and ride our bow wave. When something like this would happen we'd have to maintain same course/speed. These pictures aren't quite as high quality, they are scans of 35mm pictures.


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