15/16, the never-ending winter

I can’t believe I’m going back to work in one week.

We finally made it out of Valdez three weeks ago – after multiple flight cancellations due to blizzard conditions, our reliefs drove from Anchorage, arriving on Thursday afternoon. My second mate and I made it out on the evening flight during a break in the weather. Another day and we would have been forced to make the six-hour drive back to Anchorage ourselves.

My first week at home was taken up by five days of ECDIS (electronic chart display & information system) which is now a required endorsement to keep your merchant mariner license valid if you hope to sail on any vessel that has a hint of an electronic chart system (which is most vessels out there). The entire week centered on Transas, which is what we use in Valdez and which is a popular electronic chart display program with many companies; it’s more or less the industry standard. I’m glad to have that out of the way, though I couldn’t help but slightly resent a week of my life being taken up with something I wouldn’t choose to do with my free time. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since I was taking dozens of classes to earn my original license, and I’m not used to it. And my company paid for the class, so I was spared considerable expense.

The next week started with Roman Easter sunday, concurrent with the loss of my father’s cousin, a wonderfully wacky, warm, and kind woman who was lost too soon to illness and pain. The memorial held for her last weekend brought me into contact with numerous extended family members, and I was reminded not only of how many great and interesting people I’m related to and never see, but also how deeply our family history is rooted in Prince William Sound and Valdez, Alaska, where my Norwegian great-grandfather worked in copper mines at the turn of the twentieth century. I have to make more of an effort in the future to become more involved with these strong, amazing people who live nearby – my grandfather and all his brothers and sisters were raised just up the hill from where I live now, and most of their children and grandchildren still reside in the Seattle area.

I’ve spent the last two days at annual safety training for Crowley, and was planning to drive down today to the Bay Area to try for ride-alongs at some tug companies there, but I realized last night that my head is not in the right place to cope with a trip like that, especially considering how much stuff I would be trying to fit into only a few days, how I would be rushing. I’d like to make the drive because I’m tired of flying, but the 13 or 14 hour drive from Seattle to Napa is brutal (I used to do it all the time), and a quick flight and a rental car are small worries compared to the stress and waste and frustration of a day-long journey. I don’t know what I’m going to do, probably just try again next month when I have more time and money. But it was a relief to let go last night and realize I don’t have to put so much pressure on myself, I don’t have to be so hard on myself when I feel like I’m not accomplishing enough. Lately I’ve been in such a fog, feeling every day like there is so much to be done that I’ll never get through it all. It’s been so long since I felt like this that I don’t remember the last time I was so insecure and confused. Now that I’m trying to do what I’ve wanted to do since the beginning – get a job working on a tugboat in San Francisco Bay – it seems every door I reach for gets slammed in my face. With the price of oil where it is now, a usually pernicious job market has become all but hostile. I get discouraged and frustrated too easily. It will probably be a months-long process. At least now with the loss of the contract in Valdez and the prospect of our jobs going away in two years, the fact that I’m looking for a new job doesn’t have to be kept secret. We’re all looking, and we’re probably all going to get stressed out about it.

And even though the sun has been optimistically persistent for some days on end, it’s still too cold in our apartment to sit here and write without turning on the heat. I don’t know why it feels like this winter just refuses to end; it could be because I was stuck at home for three months with a bad back and half an income and now not only am I financially stressed, but my ability to contribute domestically has been considerably tapped. I don’t remember much of the day-to-day of those three months off, but I remember they were mostly very cold, and taken up with minutiae and routine. Getting away to work clears my mind. Getting away to work also means that my expenses diminish and my income grows, which is why a small part of me is glad I’ll be in Alaska a week from today. And now that I’m going to stay home instead of running off on a job hunt, I think it’s time to hang it up for a few days and just have a beer, on the deck, in the sun.

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