The highlight of the hitch has definitely been an in house job of sorts we did earlier in the month. It involved heading to Gulf Island Fabricators in Houma to pick up three large housing units at their west yard, and then delivering and offloading them to the HOS Iron Horse in Mobile Alabama. One of the reasons I am more than happy to be on a smaller older boat is precisely this kind of job. The weakest part of my portfolio of experience is a lack of trips in and out of places other than Fourchon. I have been all over New England, but as far as the gulf is concerned I’ve done Fourchon and more Fourchon.
With this job I got to do another passage in and out of the Houma Nav canal, relatively easy all things considered, and then a trip inbound Mobile from sea. When I came back on watch after starting our transit to into Houma we were secured and it was a couple hours wait to load the housing units in the morning. This is the first special lift project of any kind that I have been involved with as one of the decision making parties and I am glad it was a relatively simple one. The housing units were pre arranged on the dock and after a pre job JSA and talk was conducted we went about loading the units. I discussed loading and securing with the lift director and in order to make the crane work easier and have the least movement with these 76 ton lifts it was decided I would slide the boat ahead on the dock to line up the second and third loads. Due to the sparse bollards on the dock this involved me keeping the boat into an aft leading stern line and using the rudders and bow thruster to keep up firmly planted on the dock.
As seen below the lifts went off with out incident and I was very pleased to have worked with such a great team on the dock. Gulf Island Fabricators lift crew was top notch to work with. Here are a couple go pro stills of the loading, and if you have been viewing my blog for a while you will know whats coming when I get to some faster internet!
The trip inbound Mobile I looked forward to quite a bit and while an over all very easy trip a couple challenges were introduced for me.
-Our arrival time orders got changed en route and we needed to arrive +/- sunrise
-I had to make the trip in at night in order to try and arrive around sunrise
-Further complicating this was a flood tide speeding our progress, coupled with already having planned to transit inbound at clutch speed.
-We had heavy rain and thunderstorms for much of the inbound transit
On the plus side this boat has great radars, great spot lights, and handles quite well even at low speed. Not to mention much of the transit up mobile bay is more or less a straight line. The channel isn’t terribly narrow and well dredged/marked. Certainly not narrow enough that you have to worry about playing Texas chicken with other vessels. Below are two shots of my radars coming up to the gap between the mainland and Dauphin Island, really the only curves in the channel.
After getting passed Dauphin Island we had intermittent rain, however the last mile before our turn into the Theodore Ship Channel the sky opened up and absolutely dumped on us. Torrential rains, gusting winds, and lighting all around. A typical gulf coast thunder storm. We made our way into Theodore and got secured alongside the HOS Iron Horse to stand by to offload our cargo.
As it turned out they still weren’t totally ready for us to offload and we followed them farther up the bay into Mobile itself to Signal Ship Repair. Here we again secured alongside and stood by to offload. The next morning we got to it early, shifting positions slightly and then swinging all three lifts with the Iron Horse’s 400 ton crane. They were stacked three high on top of each other just behind the ships superstructure and this was another well planned and executed lift.
Look out for a time-lapse video in the next few days when I get to some fast internet!