Lady or Sailor?

"You might meet women who sail, but you sure won't meet no ladies."

light or mess?  lady or sailor?

light or mess?  lady or sailor?


The vessel is inbound for Bahrain.  I'm off watch and sound asleep.  The Captain and Third Mate can't get ahold of Port Control to gain entrance to the buoyed channel.  They've called and called - they've tried every channel they can think of - nothing.  I get a knock on my door.  'Mate, we need you on the bridge!'.  I scurry up to the bridge in my jammies.  The Captain looks at me and says, 'I'm really sorry to wake you up but, we need you to call Port Control...'.  I look at him blankly and grab the Mic.  'Bahrain Port Control, Bahrain Port Control, the is the Good Vessel Lollipop.'  'Ahhh...yesss!!!!!  Good Vessel Lollipop!!!!  Good Morning, Good Morning!'  'Yes, Good Morning Sir, We'd like permission to enter the buoyed channel.'  'Ah yes, no problem, no problem!'.  I had the Mic back to the Captain.  He looks a little miffed and says, 'Thanks Megan.  You can go back to bed.'.  At the end of the trip they had a shirt made for me that said:  you give good radio.


I rarely change my sheets at work.  One time, I ate chocolate chip cookies in bed and smeared chocolate chips into my sheets on accident.  It looked like baaad things had happened.  I still didn't change them.  On this last go around, I just spent three months on the same sheets.


I'm in Fujairah.  We've been anchored for a bit.  Spot market for tankers - Fujairah is popular waiting ground.  I've caught a launch in for some time at the Seaman's Center.  I have had a few too many Diet 7Ups.  It's time to head back towards the launch.  I may have 'escaped' my shipmates watchful eyes.  There may have been things shouted like, 'you're not the boss of me!'.  There is a flotilla of Dhows.  I hop on one and immediately scurry below deck.  I wake up the first sailor I see...and ask him to make me something to eat.  He is looking at me like I am craaaazy (and well....I guess that's fair).  I realize I'm maybe in the wrong place so I try again.  I run back to the main deck level and hop from one Dhow onto the next.  I scurry below deck.  I wake up the sailors who are all laying together around a stove.  'Hi!  Do you guys want to have dinner?!'  They're rubbing sleep out of their eyes.  I must have been the weirdest thing they'd seen in awhile.  'Miss Megan!  Miss Megan!'  I look up the ladder and there is a little Filipino man.  I've never seen him before in my life.  'Miss Megan you must come with me!'  He seemed so sincere that I start my way up the ladder and am on the deck of the Dhow with him.  'Miss Megan, we have to goooo!!!'  He grabs my hand and pulls me from the Second Dhow onto a Third and then we hop back onto a different pier.  'Miss Megan, these men are very, VERY dangerous!'.  I'm nodding like I understand.  'Miss Megan, you have to be VERY careful!'  He walks me back to the launch.  He exchanges rapid fire Tagalog with the launch operator and then the launch operator comes over and grabs my hand.  I look at my new friend and say, 'I have no idea how you know my name is Megan but, thank you Manong.'.


It's my first ship.  I left home knowing that I'd be at sea for Christmas.  I decide I have to take gifts with me.  I go old school and make cinnamon and glue ornaments.  They smell so good I figured people could use them as air fresheners.  I roll out the cinnamon and glue dough and cut out different sized stars and throw them in the oven to harden.  I've pre-poked holes and I string ribbon through them.  I take the time to package them in little gift bags.  I label each one for the specific individual.  I pack them all safely in a shoe box and throw them in my sea bag.  On Christmas Eve I sneak out and hang a gift bag on everyone's door.  Christmas morning I'm sitting at the galley table.  I'm just waiting for someone to say thank you for their present...and nothing.  After a bit I hear one AB say to another, 'Man, I don't know who left those cookies but that shit was fuuuucked uuuup....'.


I'm at the Farmers Market with my Mom and we run into old friends.  She starts catching them up on life and says, '...and who knew Megan would end up a Sailor?!  Doesn't she look like a pre-school teacher?!'.  This wasn't the first time she had said this.  We walk away from the friends and I look at her and say, 'if you ever tell someone I look like a pre-school teacher again I am going to freak.  the.  fuck.  out.'.  


I walk into the cargo control room.  The Bosun is sitting there with the Pumpman and the Chief Mate.  Things look serious.  I'm feeling nervous.  The Bosun says, 'Magpie.  We need to tell you something.'.  Now, I'm freaked.  The Pumpman looks like someone has died.  The Bosun, clearly the designated bearer of bad news says, ' have the most annoying voice on the don't worry!  Your voice isn't annoying in real life!  Buuut, on the radio, can you try to lower your voice an octave?'  I don't say a word.  The Pumpman pipes up, 'Seriously, it's like a screech.  One octave.  Pleeeassee...'.  I now have a radio voice.


I'm on my first tugboat.  I'm getting to know a new Captain.  A week into our trip he looks at me and says, ''re kind of alpha....'.


It's twilight.  I'm on the bridge.  It has been the longest watch ever.  I stood a six hour watch in the Persian Gulf.  Non.  Stop.  Traffic.  I finally call the Captain to assist me with traffic.  I have a traffic situation that's making me nervous  We normally do sanitary prior to daylight however; I have had one AB in hand-steering almost the whole watch - the other has had his face in the windows with binoculars.  I haven't made a fresh pot of coffee.  There was some sugar spilled at the coffee station through the night.  The Captain comes up to the bridge - sees the mess at the coffee station and freezes.  Then he flies forward.  He takes his hand and sweeps everything to the floor.  The coffee.  The creamer.  The sugar packs.  The carafe.  He whips around and yells, 'Megan!  Clean this shit up!' and storms off the bridge.  I turn around and say to my AB, 'hard right'.  I slow the vessel with the turn, let the two ships pass each other, complete my round turn and meet the third ship while getting over taken.  The bridge is silent.  My AB finally says, 'Mate, that was totally fucked up.'.        


I'm at work this past go around.  A dude from another boat says, 'I like your sweater'.  I look down and say, 'Thanks!  It's a good work sweater and pajama sweater.'  I realize that I haven't been differentiating between the two...and that I've been wearing it to bed and work...for three days... I look back up and say, 'I think I've had this sweater on for three days.'.  Dude says, 'You are a tow boater!'.  I felt kind of proud.


Someone sent me this prompt:  You might meet women who sail, but you sure won't meet no ladies.  I thought he wanted me to write about it but, instead he called it a prompt....or a psychopomp for the blog.  A Woman Who Sails or a Lady?  Is there even a difference?



The Mine

Bridget asked me a question while I was at work and I rudely never responded!  I'm here to rectify this!

So is the tug going really slow to get these calm, quiet looking photos? Pushing/pulling a large barge?
— Bridget

Here is the operation in a nutshell:

I was working at the Port Site of a mine.  The mine is approximately 50-60 miles inland.  The product (ore) is trucked to large buildings that act as holding facilities.  At the Port Site the product is moved from the buildings to 'the cells' on a belt system.  The cells are basically an Offshore Terminal.  This isn't the most correct description because they aren't very far offshore but it will work.  

the cells

the cells

Once the product is loaded onto a barge at the cells it is towed to the anchorage where it is discharged to a ship.  There are normally three to four ships waiting in the anchorage for product.

There are two barges and four tugs.  Each barge has a dedicated tugboat and either end (the anchorage and the cells) has an assist boat.  When things are running smoothly the barges are simultaneously loading at the cells and discharging at the ship. 

tug and barge headed to anchorage

tug and barge headed to anchorage

I was on the assist boat working the cells however; we were also kind of the 'work boat'.  Meaning, we would work the ship too if it freed up the outside boat to make up to the loaded barge faster.  Our primary function was to keep the operation moving as efficiently as possible.  

the anchorage - you can see that both tugs are made up to the barge as they make their ship approach

the anchorage - you can see that both tugs are made up to the barge as they make their ship approach

It takes approximately three hours to load a barge.  This meant that every three hours we would 'pop' a loaded barge off the cells and then meet the empty barge to 'land' them at the cells.  Once the empty barge was landed we'd have three hours until we did it all over again- so we'd tie up to the dock with that barges tug - and this is why it looked so calm in my photos!  We were tied up!

landing alongside the ship - the yokohama fenders were critical

landing alongside the ship - the yokohama fenders were critical

The port site is north of the Arctic Circle which gives it a fairly well defined season.  The tugs and barges headed up in June and will be heading home by the end of October.  Lots of people just work the full season.  I did a pier head jump from one tug to this tug - which means I was ready for a break!  I'm home for a month and then hopefully I'll head back up to finish the season.

There you have it!

**I realize this post was super 'nuts and boltsy' but, well, it was work which is kind of 'nuts and boltsy'...

Playing Catch Up.

tug boat insides

Sometimes I just don't know where the time goes....It's time to play a little catch up....Let's start with the basics....

Who:  I'm still Megan.  

What:  Well, I'm at work.  I'm outfitting a tug boat.

Where:  I'm on the Columbia River.

When:  I got here at the beginning of April and I'll probably be here until the beginning of June.

Why:  This boat is brand spanking new and is scheduled to be commissioned in June.  I'm here helping put the final touches on her.  I'm literally ordering everything that goes inside a vessel.  From sheets, towels, blankets to mooring lines, tow cable, sledge hammers to fire fighting equipment to televisions to printer paper and sharpies.

How:  I make lists upon lists upon lists.  Then I email everyone I know to ask them questions.  Once I have an idea about what I want / need I send a Purchase Request to my company.  They in turn issue a Purchase Order and items are shipped to me.  I receive the items and stow them in a big container.  Once the vessel is actually ready for things to be inside it I'll unload my container into the boat.

The Good The Bad The Ugly:  I'm very new to tug boats and I haven't ever done a project like this.  It's stretching me.  I'm learning tons.  It's pretty darn fun.  Unfortunately, I probably won't know what I didn't order until we need it.  The ugly?  I'm living in a Comfort Inn.  Yikes.

A Hawaii Morning By Tug

About a month ago I got to head out first thing in the morning on a tugboat from Honolulu.  It was an incredibly enjoyable morning.  First off, it was a gorgeous day.  We left before the sun rose and then got to watch it slowly light up Diamond Head and Waikiki.  It was fun to watch a crew I don't work with (and don't really know) complete tasks that are semi routine for me.  The subtle differences are always interesting from a professional point of view.  Coming back into the harbor in daylight was semi nostalgic.  There's something magical about Aloha Tower.

I was with a friend who is also a peer so, it was fun to get back in the car and discuss the evolution.

It was also kind of fun to see a lauhala basket sitting on the galley table.  Ahh...the subtle nuances of Hawaii...

All in all, a fun, scenic morning!

Flip through some pics at your leisure.

Brave Enough :: Thriving and Healing

When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.
— Cheryl Strayed

It’s hard to say if I’d change anything about my path.

I wanted desperately to go to Waiakea High School and didn’t get a district exemption - so I had to go to my intended school - Hilo High School.  I had gone to Waiakea Elementary and Intermediate.  Thirteen year old Megan was devastated.  

Hilo High School turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I found a really cool group of girlfriends.  Friends that are my family today.  

I started surfing in the mornings before school and fell in love with the water.  To be clear I was always a water baby but the morning surf sessions made me think:  I want to do this always.

I found the canoe Makali’i.  It enraptured me.  I feel in love with navigation.  With the stars.  With the magic of the ocean and more importantly with the magic of getting from point A to point B on the ocean.

I went to Maine Maritime Academy - only because I didn’t know about California Maritime Academy.  Thank God.  I wouldn’t trade my time in Maine for anything.  

I got out of school and couldn’t find a job, so I sailed AB (able bodied seaman).  On a tanker in Alaska.  I learned how to work hard.  How to not complain about being cold because the evidence is in: everyone is cold.  I look back on those days as ‘baby Megan goes to sea’.  They’re precious.  I’m lucky I didn’t get a Third Mate’s gig right away.  Those AB days molded me.

I sailed tankers and reached a breaking point.  I knew I couldn’t go back.  I decided not to return without another gig lined up.  I ended up Chief Mate on a heavy lift.  Hallelujah.  I learned how to learn.  How to learn fast.  How to trust my shipmates.  How to motivate my shipmates.  How to let people be who they’re going to be.  I learned how to float.  I mean really, Hallelujah.

That ship got laid up and I was distraught.  Then I learned what it was like to really not have a job.  It was terrifying.  It built a sense of empathy that I had never even remotely possessed for the unemployed.  

With 300 bucks in my bank account and a mortgage payment due in 2 weeks - I reached out to friends.  I drove two days straight - walked into a brand new union hall and got a ship.  I was flipped.  Totally flipped.  Except, I had a safe place to sleep, my brakes got fixed by people who care, I found a job.  I learned that your people are your people.  Forever.  

I sailed out of the union hall for awhile.  It was okay.  I learned that being a nomad isn’t always all that it’s cracked up to be.  I also learned that it’s not as cheap as you’d imagine.  I had fun.  I travelled to new places.  I’d do it all again in a heartbeat but, it’s also nice to know exactly where your garlic press is.  

I decided to drive to Seattle and try my luck there.  The union hall was deader than a door nail in California.  Seattle wasn’t looking promising.  I was worried.  

After a year of ‘being nomad’ and shipping straight out of the union hall I was drained.  On a whim I sent my resume in to a tug and barge company.

Three days later I had an interview and four days after the interview I was flying to Japan to meet my first tug boat.  

I wouldn’t have chosen any of that but, I’m absurdly grateful for it all.  I’m just going to hold my empty bowl and work on filling it up.  It feels good.  I’m going with: feeling good = healing.  For all intensive purposes I’m thriving.  



After reading Cheryl Strayed's book Brave Enough I wrote responses to the quotes that resonated with me.  You can read more about why here.  

Currently :: The Getting Underway Edition

We've been sitting idle for a week while we waited out some nasty weather in the Gulf of Alaska.

Hoonah, Alaska

Hoonah, Alaska


It's hard to describe how sitting and taking it easy on a boat is much harder than being underway.  

Here's what I've been up to currently... 

 I've been coloring. I'm so glad I brought my 'adult coloring book' with me. I know it's a fad. I know it screams look at me I'm a yuppy hipster but, I've been grateful for it. I even walked to the hardware store and bought a 64 pack crayola crayon box (because how can you turn down the built in sharpener?!). Apparently, the hardware store is where you go for everything in remote Alaskan villages. 

I've been binge watching Game of Thrones. I was on season 1.5 and now I'm on season 4. Need I say more?  Maybe I need to say that the Red Wedding did shock me, I was sad, I now understand why my FB feed was flooded with Red Wedding gasps about two years ago... 

I've been Instagramming.  I find it perks me up a bit. Makes me look for the good and beautiful in my day. It allows me to share that with friends. Sure, sure we all pretty up our lives for the insta-love but, I know for myself it's not always a bad thing. 

I've been sitting here thinking about what else I'm up to currently and am having a hard time. How's that for mopey boat syndrome?

The bottom line is I'll be headed into the Gulf of Alaska on the final leg of this '8 day trip' *ahem* 'one month trip' and I'll be without Internet. I figured I'd stop by and let you know I'd be away! 

Here's to Fair Winds and Following Seas!