Thursday, December 31, 2009

Loading in the oil fields

Location : Oil fields off Mexico

This isn't really an ideal sight a captain likes to wake up to. But what we
have up here is my ship loading oil from an floating/storage oil tanker in
one of the oilfields off Mexico. Most places, ships like us tie up at Single
Buoy moorings (or SBM's) and load oil through flexible hoses, but quite
often, we tie up right behind these FPSO's and recv oil directly from them.
To be honest, this way gives me the creeps every time look at it. SBM's are
sturdy stuff. They are designed so that even if the ship rides up to it and
bangs it around a bit, it just moves away. Plus swinging around an SBM as
the tide changes is also a relatively simple matter, much akin to swinging
around on your anchor.

But FPSO's are bigger then your ship. And I don't like getting close to
things bigger then my ship. I find that things bigger then my ship rarely
make way for my ship. So I am always glad to cast off from the bloody thing
and put as much distance as possible between my ship and it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

one eighteen

Location : The gulf of Mexico

I met one-eighteen. Now I have been coming into the Houston ship channel for
more than two years, so it was just a matter of time before I met him, but
the fact that I actually met him just a day after I wrote about him on my
blog did startle me. Since I'm again posting my email, you'll have to go to
my last post to get a link to his pictures (or down on the left to the links
section), but he sure does have some of the best pictures on the Houston
ship channel. Now that I analyze it, there are a couple of reasons why I
thought of one-eighteen in the last post. Firstly I have been thinking of
buying a DSLR these last few weeks and being stuck with an iphone for
photography is weighing heavy on my mind. Secondly, 118 likes Bow waves. If
you go on his flikr pictures, you'll see a whole section on the different
pictures of bow waves. Whereas, me being stuck on the bridge, am a forced
fan of the stern wakes. and writing on the "skid marks", just made me
realize the difference and brought him to mind.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I saw that it was him who had caught the
shift of taking my ship out of Houston. From where we were moored, it takes
about five hours to get out to the breakwater, so it was sufficient time for
me to catch up with him. He remembered my blog. Now there are so few
visitors to my blog that it seems a statistical impossibility that you would
actually meet someone who has not only been on your blog, but actually
remembers it. Next thing you know, I will be taking bunkers from the pirate
or meeting Ken on shore leave!

We turned out to be kindred spirits. Turns out he also has daughters.
Ofcourse his elder is almost as old as me, but I'm sure she burps, doesn't
listen to him and probably keeps him awake in the middle of the night as
well. So we talked of daughters, blogs and photography. The funny thing is,
all this happened in the middle of the night. So I doubt if he'll recognize
me if he meets me the next time. Well, nice meeting you 118. And Happy new

Pictured above is the Bayou city. It is 118's ride.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Skid Marks

Location - Houston

I love the wake that a ship leaves behind her as she swings. An area like
Galveston is anyway shallow enough to churn up the ground and throw up the
mud. We were anchored over in the western anchorage and this snap was taken
as we crossed the fairway and lined up for the channel and the pilot

People who also frequent Gcaptain would remember houston Pilot oneeighteen who takes
some great pictures in the Houston Ship channel. I was hoping to bump into
him this time around, but I met another pilot with a camera who was his good
friend. I sent my regards. Hope you got them 118.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Fred Hartman Bridge

Location : Houston

Came into Houston today. The last couple of days weather settled down as the
cold front passed over the Gulf of Mexico and we had better weather today.
The sun shone for a couple of hours and if it wasn't for the chilly wind, I
would have called it fine weather.

Took a snap of the Fred Hartman Bridge as we were passing underneath it. The
bridge named after the Editor of Baytown Sun, is the longest Cable Stayed
bridge in Texas. I am a fan of Bridges and love to take snaps of them
spanning across the ships bows. And cable Stayed bridges are just so modern
and neat looking that it makes it all the better.

You can find more info about the Fred Hartman Bridge at Wiki ( ).

Friday, December 25, 2009

Safe & Happy Christmas!

Location : Gulf of Mexico

A low passing over the Gulf of Mexico is tossing us around a bit and I guess
trying to remind us how thankful we should ordinarily be of god.

Well if God is listening, as god inevitably does, I assure you that I am.

I wish you all and your families boundless joy and impeccable health for the
Christmas and new year.

Mind you this wish runs for the whole of the next year. To recv wishes for
the year 2011, please drop by next year.

Finally as Ken commented on the last post, to all shippy's, " I wish you
secure anchorage with good
holding ground, plenty of room to swing and light breezes. " Thank you Ken
for your great comment and wishes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays

Location : Gulf Of mexico

Well the winter holidays are finally here, though we'll be lucky to even get
an anchorage over here so that we can relax a bit. Still, I hope you all
have a great and safe holiday.

Best Wishes!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

a picture for you

Location : Gulf Of Mexico

Finally we managed to leave the port of Houston and get out to sea. Even
though I don't mind a couple of days at anchor, all that fog and cold fronts
had put a damper on the whole anchorage. So its good to be out sailing
towards (hopefully) sunny Mexico.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The fog lifts

Location : Off Houston

Finally, a cold front came down and blew away the fog. It is almost a
surprise for the air to clear up and see the anchorage filled up to its
gills. Of course the cold front did bring about its chilly winds, but after
so many days of fog, pretty much anything seems welcome.

And we can always look back at warm sunny days. This is us leaving the
Mexican port of Pajaritos. Faintly in the distance you can make out the
breakwater entrance (exit in this case), and about two points on the port
bow, is the very same Channel Buoy that featured in this blog a few posts

Hopefully with the fog lifed, we should finish off with deary houston and be
on the sunny shores of Mexico soon!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AIS Feed into the RADAR or the ECDIS

Of all the crappy equipments that I have seen on the ships over the years,
the AIS by far has to be the uniformly crappiest of all equipment. Its not
crappy because of its purpose - Which nobody clearly understands. Is it
supposed to be for ship security? How is is supposed to achieve that if it
keeps broadcasting your position to everybody? Or is it for collision
avoidance? Does it come under Rule 5 of Colreg? Its not a hotly debated
topic as one might assume it to be. The reason is - crappy equipment. Give
the ships crew a 0.50 Calibre Remington Sniper rifle and they will discuss
the purpose of it late into the night - From Anti piracy to settling
interdepartmental disputes. But give the men an AIS and they will use it as
paperweight. The AIS has to be the most unfriendly equipment to operate
on the bridge. With dull black & white screens sometimes smaller then an
iphones, you are left to make sense of various ships in assorted azimuth,
range and sub-menu selections.

Which is why if any practical sense of AIS information is needed, you need
to give its feed into another equipment. A Radar or an ECDIS.
On this ship, the feed for the AIS goes into the ECDIS and not into the
Radar. This has been bugging me during my hours on the bridge. I know its
probably just me sulking at change, but the ECDIS and the radar are placed
right next to one another and it certainly wouldn't have been difficult for
the chap giving the feed to put in another wire. So someone must have taken
a decision to give only one feed. And that one feed was decided to go into
the ECDIS and not into the Radar. Now that is what is bugging me.

Having an AIS input into the Radar does allow the operator to make better
sense of the Radar picture. Also the ARPA and AIS information when provided
side by side gives better comparison and cross check of Data. For example
Radar Limitations such as Range or bearing discrimination can be better
resolved by an AIS when looking at a crowded anchorage, and ARPA limitations
such as an target swap or time delay in accurate CPA/TCPA can be cross
checked by the adjacent AIS information.

Putting AIS information on the ECDIS is similar to getting a cadet to plot
other ships on
the BA paper charts. While it may give more information to the navigator,
his ability to use the data to full advantage will suffer.

In my opinion, the ECDIS is primararily a Navigation tool, whereas the Radar
is primararily a collision avoidance tool. Whereas I have always used the
Radar also for navigation purposes, it is probably the first time that I am
seeing an tendency to use the ECDIS for collision avoidance. There always
has been a danger of overreliance of the bridge team on the ECDIS, and
giving the AIS feed into the ECDIS and not the Radar simply reinforces that.

I do agree that the solution to over- reliance on an equipment can not be to
reduce the information provided on it, but instead has to be somewhere in
the better training of the operators to deal with understanding the
limitations and proper utilization of that information. But if given a
choice between the two, I would prefer the AIS feed into the Radar rather
then the ECDIS.

A few years back, one of the nightmares of the ships master was that of the
duty officer wouldn't even look outside because of the Radar. Now because of
AIS feeds into the ECDIS, the chap isn't even going to look into the Radar!

Graffiti in Amsterdam

Location : Off Houston

Still engulfed by fog at anchorage, I came across an picture I had taken of
an interesting wall in Amsterdam when I had gone there in summer for a ship

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Letters to Santa

Location : Off Houston

The fog set in again yesterday and it just might mean another extra day out
here at the anchorage. But the Telly is working here, so not much to
complain. The season to be merry seems to have set in on the Americans, and
crazy sales ads are the only things that seem to be on.

The whole nation seems to be firmly in the grip of the Christmas season,
though nobody seems to be sure of what role Christ had to play in the whole
event. I think this has firmly become an Santa event, with gifts becoming
the main focus. The last time I was in Macy's in Beaumont, TX, they had a
table set up for kids to write postcards to Santa.

I loved the concept. The Kids could write postcards to Santa, and mail them
right there in the Macy post-box. macy promised to donate 1 dollar for every
card that was dropped in their box up to a million dollars. Apart from the
fact of the donation of money, I love the concept of mails being written to
Santa. I need connection to the net to get more figures / fact on this, but
the USPS actually has a process for dealing with Santa mails that land up in
its post-boxes. If you register with the USPS, you can even get the Santa
mail delivered to you so that you can take action on mails that you want.
And be the defacto Santa.

I think its also a neat way to get children to write atleast a couple of
postcards a year. :)

I picked up a couple of cards myself and maybe I'll post one myself. I just
don't know how much postage its going to take to the Northpole!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Pajaritos channel

Location : Off Houston

I like this picture. To go from the Tanker terminal to the city, you have to
take a boat ride for about 10 minutes which takes you across the ship
channel. The boat ride costs five dollars if you are alone, and ten dollars
if you are any number greater then one. It is a calculation that I have
never been able to understand.

And its great to argue over this with the boat man because neither of you
understand each other. Ofcourse that doesn't make a difference because I
guess its the same with any person you argue with even at home. During this
boat ride, the argument we even fiercer because the boat chap was insisting
on charging me ten dollars for the solo trip. In his baseball cap and two
day old stubble, he looked like a character in "Desperado" - the kind that
gets shot in the first two seconds - while he bemoaned the rising gas prices
and the effect of carbon emmission cuts on the Mexican fiscal deficit.

As the couple of Modello beers buzzed around in my head and the cool breeze
whizzed around my ears, I squinted my eyes against the sun and took the
picture of this buoy as it whizzed past. The sun had pretty much blinded me
and in the glare I couldn't even see what the iPhone had clicked. So I put
the phone back in my pocket and gave his great diatribe with the only
sensible retort that came to mind. The first words of Spanish I had picked
up - "Uno cerveza Porfavor!" - " One beer please!". He still charged me ten

I like this picture.

A day by the water

Location : Off Houston

The nothern winds have blown the fog away, but nothern winds being what they
are, these nothern winds are cold as an Penguins crap. Makes you almost wish
for the fog to come back in.

But then on cold days you can always remember the warmer days. The picture
is of my lunch appetiser down south in the sunny town of Pajaritos, Mexico.
It was a beautiful sunny day and I had taken up a seat in a quaint
reataurant by the water. They brought around the fare without me having said
a word. I liked that. The day when we can give a stranger a beer without a
word being spoken, will be a day when we will all smile much more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fogged in

Location : Off Houston

Its that time of the year again. No - No holidays for the evil. But the time
of the year, when captains all over the world lie huddled with fear on their
ships engulfed in the evil fog.

Dropped anchor in the night and this anchorage is going to get packed like
sardines with ships if the fog doesn't lift in a day or so.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mexican Graffiti - 2

Location : Off Houston

Here's another example of the Graffiti which is probably from the same
artist, who signed himself as Francisco Gali. I'm not sure what
"Ayuntamiento" means in Spanish, but Coatza is the name of the town.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mexican Graffiti - Jar 8

Location : Gulf of Mexico

I have always liked to take pictures of Graffiti in different places, as I
believe that its a unrefined portrayal of the thoughts of people. Got a few
samples of the Mexican Graffitti during the visit to Pajaritos.

Loved the way the way the women have an almost Jamican look with the Mexican
guy is in an actual Sombrero. Wonder why he's named "jar-8"?

Gulf coast lighthouses

It is always a pleasure when your hobby intersects with your job. So I
though it an amazing coincidence when I found this sheet of the "Gulf Coast
lighthouses in the USPS store - especially when I am going to be on the US
Gulf coast for the next few months.

The lighthouses shown here are the (from L to R) - Matagorda Island - Texas
, Sabine pass- Louisiana , Biloxi - Mississippi , Sand Island - Alabama and
Fort Jefferson - Florida. As you can see, they pretty much seem to have
picked one light house from each state on the Gulf coast. I had not
known till last year that there was also a state called Mississippi.

As luck would have it, the very next port we went over to was Beaumont, TX,
which we had to go over the Sabine River. Which ofcourse mandated that we
pass within hailing distance of our Lighthouse No 2. The description behind
the stamp described the lighthouse as follows:

"Erected on soft, marshy ground in Louisiana, Sabine pass light house
features eight buttresses that stabilize the heavy brick structure and give
it a distinct missile like shape. Completed in 1856, the light house was
deactivated in 1952 and is currently closed to public. "

I do like the American method or giving a slight detail behind the stamp. It
is an example that should be followed more by the other countries.

I just had my Iphone to take the picture with, but there certainly was no
brilliant Mississippi sunset in the background or Herons prancing around in
the foreground as in the stamp sheet.

The pilot claimed that someone from Houston had bought the lighthouse for
18,000 dollars. When asked why, he said that he had never owned a light
house before. As per the pilot, " In Texas, that's as good a reason as any."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another view of Coatzacoalcos

This is pretty much what the same breakwater looked like this time when we
came in the port. We couldn't see the breakwater from a mile away and the
pilot got delayed by some time. Drifting towards the shore in the strong
northerly winds, trying to maintain her position till the pilot boarded - A
few uncomfortable moments back there.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Location : Coatzacoalcos

The last I had come to this port town was back in the 90's and it certainly
doesn't seem to have changed that much since then. Coatzacoalcos or
Pajaritos as the town is called, is still very much the laid back coastal
town that epitomises Mexico.

The above picture shows the town in the background, while you can see the
breakwater to the port in the foreground with a tiny fishing boat next to
it. The picture though is from last week. This time around, the place looks
depressed with 10 feet waves crashing over the breakwater and rains lashing
the town. Infact, we're having a bit of a holiday seeing as to the kind
harbour master having closed the port for the day.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Back at sea

After a long long time, I am back doing what I do best. Write blogs and
transport a million barrels of oil from one place to the other. From my last
post, you must have realized that coming out wasn't easy this time around.
The picture up there is the last I saw of my daughter sleeping as I left in
the middle of the night.

Still, on the upside, I am back in the part of the world that I have grown
to love working in over the last few years - the US Gulf and the Mississippi
river. Infact I joined the vessel in New Orleans and make a quick run to the
Mexico coast and it does feel good to be out at sea with the slaty wind on
your lips.

But it doesn't compare. Not by a long shot.

Children sure have a silly knack of tossing your priorities all over the