Dry-docks and Hard Choices



Dry-dock. Here I stand aboard a Russian cargo ship with my new Russian friends who were kind enough to show me around.


Drydock was an interesting time, filled with enjoyable off ship activities. I had discovered a local biker bar that provided occasional off duty entertainment for me with its outdoor parties and a class of patrons that I enjoyed associating with. I couldn’t encourage any of the crew to join me however, and we were a pretty tight group, so most of the time I would hang with a number of them on my off hours.

A nearby baseball diamond was home to the Jacksonville Suns, a minor league US team, this provided the occasional sporting event to attend,  and the day to day work was plentiful and combined with evenings off, this became my routine for a time.

Many of our crew of 21 had been let go upon our arrival and we were down to a smaller number of essential personnel. I’m sure many of the crew wondered from day to day whether their employment would continue.  I didn’t share this concern as the work I had before me appeared endless. The engine room was in disarray with cables and wires providing shore power, water lines providing fresh water. The ship remained home to many of us during this time.  Living aboard a 315′ ship that had been hoisted out of the water on a world war II era floating dry dock was certainly an interesting and new experience for most of us.

One of those who left the boat perhaps a month into our dry-dock time was a nice young red-headed British man. I have known only a few British folk, and if I am allowed to generalize on such a small amount of data, I would say I have generally found the English to be a little whinny. Pleasant, but whinny.  This young man was no different.  He was quick to complain, and first to take off for any fun as soon as it presented itself.  His vocalizations increasingly carried openly negative sentiment towards his position and our living conditions. Everyone had grown tired of his attitude. Though despite his regular complaints he was quite a lot of fun to have around during off hours. This was his first trip to America, and he was enthralled with Americana and thrilled to be spending time in the land of milk and honey. Along these lines he was a fan of monster trucks, a thing apparently hard to come by in his home country with it’s narrow roadways and dense population. Once we reached Jacksonville he began an earnest search for a monster truck of his very own. His search was immediately fruitful, and he quickly found a ridiculously jacked up black ford pickup with giant balloon tires. He purchased this vehicle and enjoyed ownership and use of it for a few long weeks when without warning (or much surprise to most of us) he was given his walking papers and was dismissed in a flurry of unsuccessful pleas to stay.

In yacht work, the crew-members enjoy a certain protection in that if you leave a ship in any place other than where you had joined her, it is the yacht’s responsibility to send you back to your home port. This along with his immigration status meant my British friend was to be shipped back to England directly, and would have to leave his monster truck behind. He spoke of bringing his truck back to his homeland, but I don’t believe he was successful in this effort.  Leaving these yachts generally comes quickly and without prior notice.

As my day to day progressed at a rather routine rate, Carrie had picked up a couple of short trips. One in particular came about when she received a page from a yacht she had been aboard previously who had recently lost their crew as they had walked off collectively and defiantly the previous midnight while in port. Carrie was flown to Boston late the next night and had a terrific adventure accompanying her yacht from Boston and back down the coast, eventually arriving in Savannah, Georgia. We had been keeping in communication and were more determined than ever to share a ship. Towards this end we’d lined up an interview in Savannah. I took a couple days off and picked up Carrie in Georgia where she cordially vacated her position.

While in Savannah, we interviewed for and enjoyed an afternoon with a captain and his wife, eventually I declined the position aboard this particularly beautiful yacht due to my own insecurities with tending the brand new and highly touted Detroit Diesel MTU 2200 engines that had just been installed in this high performance multimillion dollar watercraft. I was still new to diesel engines and the layout of smaller yacht engine rooms and didn’t feel I had enough experience to handle such responsibility at that point despite the confidence placed in me by the captain and by Carrie.  I know better now, I could have handled it just fine. My life might be quite different today had I accepted that duty, and though I have no regrets, it was recognizably a fork in the road for our yachting career.

I returned once again to dry-dock and worked for another few weeks there. Immersing myself in routine and duty.  Carrie continued to find day work as we searched for a yacht to crew as a team.




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