Posted by: towmasters | December 4, 2010

Parallel Parking: Doing the Texas Two-Step on Crew-Change Day.

With a tropical depression threatening the Eastern Gulf, we all had to head quickly west for Texas…..

It was to be a Galveston crew-change, and we were treated to a double-barreled rainbow along the way…..

…..amid the insanely gorgeous skies of the Gulf of Mexico. Thunderstorms at sunset before our last full night at sea were pure lagniappe…..

…..and our sister-vessel Potomac maintained her lead on us…..

…..as we navigated along the main east-west offshore safety fairway, passing by the deepwater platforms standing right at the very edge of the continental shelf.

The next day, as the thunderheads began to build again at midday, we picked up our barge alongside out in the open Gulf off of Bolivar Roads….. the old-fashioned way: turn on the barge, grab the strap, and put out a 3-part headline. We lurked in the anchorage for a little while, picked up our pilot, and then headed in for port. Once inside the protection of the jetties we put up a stern line and slacked the wire out a bit.

Coming through the jetties, the local wildlife…..

…..put on a great aquabatic show…..

…..and the Yellow Rose of Texas gave us a high speed fly-by.

Inside the jetties and hang a left: Galveston Island to port, Pelican Island to starboard, with the Yellow Rose outbound again ahead of us…..

…..and soon we were met by the assist boat, Suderman & Young’s Eva, our single-screw dance partner on this blazing hot August afternoon.

Gliding on past some antiques…..

…..from an earlier time in the offshore drilling industry’s history: a jack-up and a semi-sub.

As planned, we arrived off our berth at slack water and it was time to dance. Eva came alongside and put up a line as we started our final approach….

…..as the Potomac scurried out of the way after landing their own barge just ahead of us.

By the pilot’s orders, slack water was necessary because the quarters were tight and the docks decrepit: old, crumbling concrete and rotten sheet pile, with the occasional tire just for show. We didn’t even want to breathe on it, let alone touch it. In this business, no matter how poorly maintained something is, the golden rule never changes: you break it, you buy it.

Despite the tight quarters and decayed docks, the elements were in our favor: no current, essentially no wind, and broad daylight. We needed the assist tug more for insurance than anything else: using the weight and drag of another tug on a light barge gives you much more predictability. Very little use of the throttles, on either boat, is what we were aiming for. And that’s the way it went, with the Eva clutching in only a couple of times before the final pinning…..

…..against the dock, turning a potentially dicey job into just another routine parallel-parking exercise.

With the day’s dance card not yet completed…..

…..Eva took off to meet the next tug and barge coming in behind us.

Within an hour the final two barges were all fast and it was time for the normal crew-change ritual: abandon ship. Soon we were enjoying a mini-bus ride up the interstate to Houston in high style: heat index well over 100 degrees and no a/c. Ah, the life!

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