Poti, Georgia :: An Abandoned Church

I reminisced about Poti, Georgia the other day while musing on the goings on in Sochi.  It made me rustle up some of the photos I took when I was there.

I was so timid while in Poti.  I literally told myself, 'go outside for thirty minutes and then you can go back to your hotel room'.  I ended up on a photo safari.  I took photos of house, churches, beaches, shells, bon fire remnants.  I snapped away.  

I happened upon an abandoned church and tromped all around it taking photo after photo.  I wondered how old it was, why it was no longer in use, who mowed the lawn...


This church was gorgeous.  It was stately.  It looked a little lonely.  It looked like it was a keeper of memories.  It looked like it hadn't been forgotten.

There are many, many photos of this old beauty.

Click through at your leisure.....

Sochi Deserves Compassion

About two years ago I got off my ship in Poti, Georgia and, it was an experience that changed how I viewed the world around me.  More importantly, it changed how I see things when I travel.  Sure, it's easy to look around my apartment and think, 'gosh, I'm really lucky to be surrounded by all this cool shit...' it's another thing to look around someone else's apartment and think, 'I've never met a human with a more giving spirit'.  

I tried to blog about my time in Poti but, ultimately I never wrote about my experience there.  I wrote about day one and then kept the rest of the experience and pictures to myself.  Because, Georgia seared itself to my traveling spirit.

Here's what I now know to be true.  

Travel isn't about the place.  It's about the people.

I spent three days in Georgia and I was really nervous.  I felt like a fish out of water.  I was nervous to get outside and take pictures.  I thought about staying in my hotel all day.  I didn't know if I should eat at the hotel or try to venture out.  Luckily, I was given a 'keeper' for that time - he was an employee of the shipping agency - I've never been given more consideration during a transit between ship and airport.  He truly changed my experience in Georgia.

This gentleman lived in a studio apartment with seven family members.  His wife was a teacher who made 200 dollars a month.  On our way to Batumi where I'd be flying out of he took me the 'scenic route' over the mountains through the snow.  He stopped on the side of the road and bought me a bag of oranges.  

Here I was.  Sitting in a car with two men who barely spoke english.  I had a pocketful of cash.  They were driving through ravaged streets proudly pointing out scenic points.  Spending money they could definitely have used to buy me some oranges because it was orange season.

It's about the people.  Because, people will surprise you - if you let them.

I've been watching the tweets coming out of Sochi and quite frankly, they break my heart.  I just can't help but feel that Sochi is being unjustly portrayed on social media.

Here's the tweet that initially got my attention:

Travel can be exhausting, it can be daunting, it can be invigorating.  It requires an open mind!  

Any seasoned traveller knows that paying for toilet paper and putting it in a bucket next to the John is not a big deal - consider it normal in many, many, many regions in the world.  Let me be clear - if you've got a john you're lucky - I grew up peeing outside and can squat like it's nobody's business - which has served me well in many, many, many regions of the world.

There is only one way to survive a new, albeit foreign, experience.  You absolutely have to keep an open mind.  That barbecued eel in South Korea that looks like a very, very bad idea?  It deserves to have one bite taken.  Just open your mind and give it a try you might be pleasantly surprised - and if you aren't - remember your manners!

Friends, you are currently in a region of the world who has been through a lot.  Politics aside you're currently shoulder to shoulder with community members, families, and children who have seen and survived more than most of us can imagine.

While I agree that Sochi wasn't 100% prepared for the population influx that the Olympics would bring I'll remind you that Vancouver's Olympic Village struggled to be completed on time and that there were lasting consequences to hosting such a large scale event.

Every now and then in my home town of Hilo, Hawaii I play tour guide to out of town guests.  I take them to my favorite dining locations, beaches, shops, parks, etc.  Do they leave thinking, 'how can she love it here?  all that peeling paint...termite infested buildings...no jobs....lots of homeless...'.  Maybe.  Hopefully though, they leave thinking, 'I never would have seen all that if I hadn't met Megan!'.  People are proud of where they're from - no matter what the surface looks like.  They want you to meet their friends, their favorite shop owners, the town kook - they love those people and want you to also.

There are people in Sochi who live in houses that are less posh than some of our chicken coops here in the States - and while I wish I was just being snide, I'm not.  Regardless, I put money on the fact that they're proud to be hosting the Olympics.  I put money on the fact that they want you to enjoy yourself while you're there. 

If you want to get the most out of your time in Sochi, chat up some locals.  Ask them where they like to eat - if they say at home ask them if you can join them - and offer them a trade!

Have some compassion for Sochi.  It wasn't easy to get where they are today - I get it they weren't prepared - have some compassion anyway.  Be humble, be gracious, be open.

Tweet about the people you meet.  Tweet about the beer / vodka you enjoyed.  Tweet about snow and sun.  Tweet about how hard the locals are working to pull this off.  Tweet about the athletes and how privileged they feel to be there incomplete housing and all.  Tweet about the good.  Tweet about the school aged kids and how they'll remember this for the rest of their lives.  Tweet about how lucky you are to be there live tweeting the freakin' olympics!

Poti, Georgia - Roadside Orange Stand

Poti, Georgia - Roadside Orange Stand

Roadside oranges in Poti, Georgia changed me.  I bet despite broken lights, door handles, off colored water, Sochi will welcome you with open arms if you let them.  It's about the people.

A Really Good Bad Day

Sometimes, things don't go as planned. Reality. Sometimes, you can't plan for events even if you wanted to. Shipping is dynamic and the variables are countless. Sometimes, you're humbled. Shipping is dangerous and bad days can become relative. I mentioned previously that the vessel was preparing for HPC (High Profile Cargo) and that we were in overdrive. This is still true because, during our heavy lift operation one of the cranes suffered a casualty.

I'm not going to go into details (because I actually love my job) but, what I will say is that it shook me up a bit.

Through the years, I've had friends hurt, I've seen gear fail, and I've seen people have close calls. I've had close calls too. It's humbling.

You are suddenly reminded of how dangerous the industry is (statistically the most dangerous industry with fisherman leading the way). You realize how quickly things can take a turn for the worse.

Having a solid plan drastically reduces an error chain however; on a vessel of this type there are so many moving parts, vectors and unseen points of tension that one must be constantly vigilant.

Strangely enough, heavy lift operations are some of the safest evolutions on these types of vessels. There are many eyes watching, all the safety factors have been taken into account, and most importantly the operation is a slow one.

As I've gained experience I've had to assign my own value system to onboard performance. It's easy to get lost in the minutiae. Sending reports into the office - entering crew hours - signing off on stores received. These things will all get done.

There will always be someone willing and ready to critique your performance.

Did anyone get hurt a d are we continuing to work safely? Is the vessel and cargo in a safe condition? Are we operating as efficiently as possible?

If I can say yes to those three things then I am satisfied we're doing our best.

After being shaken with our casualty I had to stop and reassess the situation.

No one was injured. No damage was done to the cargo or the vessel. All available resources were utilized to get back up and running.

And that is called:


Editors Note: I received several very concerned emails and thought I'd add a note to clear up any confusion. There were no Human Casualties. I was referring to equipment failure of large magnitude. The crew and personnel associated with the heavy lift are all safe!

The Panama Canal :: Sailor Friends Are The Bestest

I woke up on Panama Canal Day (yes, thats what I had been calling the day we were to arrive in Panama) with a tweet waiting for me.  It said: sailor friends

You see, when I was a Midshipmen at Maine Maritime Academy I wasn't the only tropical transplant.  I had a classmate from Panama.  We called him Panama.  Seriously.  (and for the most part he called me Hawaii...)  So of course, knowing that he still lived in Panama and worked on Tugs I sent him a tweet.  Hello, 2013!  The age where sailors can tweet eachother from sea!

Bahia di Limon

(okay fine, that's a highly edited photo of our anchorage.  but doesn't it look cool?!)

Sure enough - there was an email waiting for me.  Full of detailed information about what to expect for the day - detailed information - like, what anchorage we would be at, what our pilot boarding time would be, and what an admeasurement survey consisted of.

Unfortunately, we knew just due to the timing of our arrival - and his work schedule that he wouldn't be able to come aboard for the transit however; being the crafty sailors we are we had a plan!

Things went exactly according to his email.

The admeasurer boarded the vessel and began his task.  When a vessel makes its frist trip through the canal The Panama Canal Authority sends a representative to the vessel to literally measure the ship ensuring that the tonnage and beam of the vessel is accurate.  The admeasurer calculates the vessels 'extreme beam'.  The extreme beam of the vessel normally doesn't vary much from the beam listed on the ships particulars but, will include the width of shell plating and, any fenders or gear that may protrude from the ship which may interfere with their ability to enter the locks.

This Gentlemen measured everything.  Even the diameter of our Rudder Angle Indicators. Trust me:  everything was measured.



Once the admeasurement was done I took a quick nap.  I knew it would be a long night..

Before I knew it I was up on the bow heaving the anchor and shaping up to enter the Panama Canal.

Let me just interrupt things to say:


Where were we?  Okay, so we're shaping up for the canal.  It feels like a jungle.  I'm literally drenched in sweat.  The humidity must have been 150%.  The sides of the channel were lush and green and there was that weird tropical mist lingering above the trees.  I have this picture in my head of The Heart of Darkness - like I'm on an old steamer and it may be awhile before I see civilization for awhile.

Western Entrance

Very close to the Western Canal entrance is the first set of locks called Gatun.  Now listen, I could go on and on about how cool the locks are.  I'm going to save you from this and instead, just show you lots of pictures.

Basically there are these incredibly powerful trolleys (also called Mules) that give you wires and assist you in and out of the canal.  There are four wires in total - two on the bow and two on the stern - which are crossed from port to starboard and vice versa.  An efficient team of line handlers boards your vessel during your approach to the locks and handles everything for you.  Basically, you need one crew member to operate the winch for the line handling team.  Did I mention this team is efficient?  Efficient!


Due to the variance in water levels sometimes the trolleys are on very steep inclines.  Did I mention they're powerful?  Powerful!

Mule on Incline


Admittedly, as soon as we passed through this lock I went straight to bed - to wait for tweets from my friend letting me know we were passing through his area.

Sure enough the tweet arrived and I ran up to the bridge and there, right near my stern was The Little Tugboat Who Could!

I ran inside, grabbed a flashlight and ran back out so I could start waving my arms around like crazy and swirling my flashlight around in circles.

The Little Tug That Could


Knowing that my friend got his crew together to come over and say hello was a moment for me.  One of those moments where I realize that attending Maine Maritime Academy changed my life - for the better.  The fact that I have friends who are going to come say hello in the Panama Canal on a Tug Boat while I'm on a Heavy Lift Ship is EPIC.  Being a sailor is a strange mix of being lonely and being surrounded by people.  It's hard to maintain friendships when you're at sea but the flip side is that Sailor Friends are friends for life.  Panama (the person) you're the bestest - thanks for the lights and the tweets and the warm Panamanian welcome.

nautie tweetClearly, I needed to tweet Panama.  The amount of tweets exchanged in one day was pretty amazing.  Two Ships Passing In The Night!

Following my Panamanian driveby I took one more quick nap before my last set of locks.

By this time I wasn't taking nearly as many photos.  I was mostly enjoying the scenery and making sure my family could find me on the PanCanal Webcam's.

The grand finale?  Passing under a pretty bridge!  Don't ask me it's name...no clue....

bridgeNautie Friends, this post has taken me forever to write and I feel like I've really rushed it.  There is more to say!  More photos to post!  More to dissect!

It's going to have suffice for now and hopefully I can post a Panama Canal Dos soon.  Please excuse all the grainy iPhone photos!

Nautie Notes :: The Mexico Edition


Dear Tuxpan Mexico,

You were quite picturesque.  The palm trees, the guava trees, sheesh....just all the lush green foliage gave me a pang of homesickness.  So lovely you were - so lovely.


Dear Mexican Customs,

It was absolutlely thrilling to watch the ship get searched from top to bottom by sniffer dogs.  I mean that.  I have never seen a shipboard dog search before!  Thanks for allowing me to check off another box!


Dear Mexican Tug Boat Operator,

The way you decided to use your own ratty-assed hawser vice the beautiful wires designed for towing the buoy really surprised me.  I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.  I mean that.  Because Buddy, you're going to need luck.


Dear Mexican Operations Team,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for that amazing fruit basket.  Amazing is too generic a word for the amount of awesome that basket contained!  (Nautie Friends, fear not...you'll be seeing photos of the fruit....obviously....)


Dear Mexican Offshore Buoy Number One,

I'll miss looking at you sitting on the deck.  You were so big - and colorful - and impressive.  We liked you around here.  I'm quite certain that you'll have a nice new home.  All the best my friend, all the best.