August 16, 1996


If is foggy outside. We went through Unimak Pass about Noon. Six more days to Seattle then a quick turn around and back to Russia. It is very difficult for me to do nothing, but I'm getting better at it. This morning I did a close check of the Reefers and changed one to read centigrade instead of Fahrenheit. I then installed a rubber flap on the cable passage of the generator container, cleaned up the shop a little and then called it a day. I can only dream of what I would like to do. I have only Russian speaking mates that only speak to me in broken English. They all try to practice their English on me, and I don't get a chance to learn Russian with them. They would rather tell me some boring story or complain about some irrelevant bull-shit. I end up doing the same to them. I seems that complaints are a from of power. If I don't have anything to complain about, then I'm being paid too much. So, after listening to their constant complaining I feel I must demonstrate to them that I too have problems, and off I go on some complaining spree. It really is depressing. I will try not to do the return trip next time.

I've been working on the Sunmar Container Loading Program. I have succeeded in linking it to Access but need to learn an obscure language called SQL in order to communicate with the Access Data Base in Visual Basic. I will try to buy a manual for SQL while in Seattle this turn around.

I've started a Data Base of all the containers that I get. It includes information on the service history in addition to information related to parts supply.

The SOCOL 2 is a 6,000 ton vessel, fairly new, of Panamanian Registry. The Crew is Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and me. Although I'm not really part of the crew. I just hang out by myself. So, now begins the story of this trip.

I began working on the ship on the tenth of July. Organizing the equipment and discussing the loading of the containers. I was in a good mood, the sun was shining warmly on that beautiful Seattle summer day. My friends on the boat and I were happy to see each other, I was looking forward to learning the language and visiting the ports of call that I has seen only so briefly on the last trip. I had arranged with Sunmar to allow me to stay in Vladivostok one week after the end of the trip. It was to be my vacation. My pay would stop on the day I should have departed if I had not stayed. I was to be good.

We departed Seattle on the 12 Th. of July. The passage was uneventful and we arrived in Petropavalof on the July 23. I did not go ashore there as I did not go ashore there the last time I was in Petro; the first stop is very hectic and I am very busy. It was a short stop and them we were off to Magadan. I was looking forward to Magadan because I had such a good time there the last call. We arrived in Magadan on the 26 th. of July, and departed that same evening at around midnight. The only eventful thing that happened was that I lost my camera. The electrical engineer and I went to town and ate in a restaurant. When we left I forgot the camera on the table. When I returned to get it an hour later, it was not to gotten. Such is life. I caught some shit from the crew but all in all it did not matter much. The camera was one that I got for free. One of those cardboard, one-time use things.

We arrived in Korsakov, ( the next Port of call), on July 29. We ended up staying in Korsakov for three and a half days. To my great embarrassment I lost another piece of equipment. My Language Teacher was stolen from me, right out from under my nose. The only consolation was that I met a nice girl. Catherine is a language student in Vladivostok. She was in Korsakov for her summer vacation. We talked and walked and exchanged addresses. I ate dinner at her mothers house and we practiced our language with dictionaries and gestures. Time went by too fast in Korsakov. I left Korsakov around noon on the 1 st of August. We arrived in Vladivostok on the 3 rd. Also on the 3rd I was asked by Micheal Breavik if I would return with the vessel to Seattle and not discharge in Vladivostok, I agreed. My vacation was shot to hell.


Part of my job on this vessel is to eliminate my job by training the crew to do the work. They have been raised in a socialistic environment and are union workers. It seems that it is impossible for them to designate one person to the job of reefer maintenance man. I can see their point to a certain degree. Normally they get paid overtime for working after their eight hour shift. If the reefers do not "go out" precisely at 4 PM, then they have no incentive to work on them. If they work on a container during their regular work hours they do not get paid for it. If something happens late at night then it will wait until the next day before it gets a close look. In order for them to work on a reefer it take a least two or three people. First the Mate that records temperatures has to notice that something is wrong. If this happens to be the second or third mate them he must inform the chief mate of his findings. The chief mate informs the Chief Engineer of the situation. The Chief engineer must make plans for one of his men to look at the unit. He most probably will send out the electrical engineer. The only time things have ever gotten that far was in Petropavlof when we loaded a container that did not have power after being plugged in. The decision was made to discharge the container. At that point I stepped in and repaired the unit. I try to have someone with me when I do repair work but it almost always does not happen. It takes too long for them to arrange help for me. In some cases I have been told it would take two, three or four hours before someone could come to my assistance. Communication is difficult so I usually don't even ask. If I do ask, it just creates a huge problem. They tell me it will be two or three hour before someone can help me. I tell then not to bother I will do it myself. This creates a crisis for them and they send out a helper after complaining about it for twenty minutes. The helper they send out does not speak English at all and knows nothing about refrigeration, so instead of him helping me and learning from me he just slows things down. I still have to do everything myself.

This morning after breakfast I was laying down staring at the ceiling when the Chief Mate came in and told me that two Reefers were alarming and one of them was shut down. I asked him if he had checked and cleared the alarms. He said that he had not. His English is not bad, but we frequently have misunderstandings. I asked him if he knew what the alarms were. He said he did. I asked what the alarms were. He said he didn't know. He showed me his record sheet and began explaining how at 4 PM yesterday the temperature was up, but he thought it was a defrost cycle. I interrupted and asked if the alarm was on then. He said he did not know. Then at midnight the temperature was up more; again he thought it was a defrost cycle. Again I asked if the alarm was flashing at that time. He said he did not know. So, now it is 9 AM and he tells me that the alarms are flashing and the temperature is up. I told him that I would take care of it.

I went out and cleared the alarms. The unit began working. It had been down for almost 24 hours. There was no problem with the machine it only needed its alarms cleared. I came back in and explained to him that it is his job to clear alarms and then report the alarm number to the engineering department. I must develop an effective method of discovery, analysis, and repair for this crew. I will discuss with Sunmar a payment plan that emphasizes reward for maintenance and speedy repair. Then again I should try to work here for at least one year. I could probably get a raise if they want me to work after this next trip. It will have been a long one. I need to check to see if my sea service letter is valid for the Coast Guard. The money is good.


The lack of something to do is closing in. Books, I need books. Escape from reality. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Right now it is taking all I can do to convince myself to stay for the next trip. I think about money. I should have gone fishing. Oh well. Life is 99% waiting. I'll just have to wait some more. At this moment I'm waiting for 11:30 to come around. I did not get up for Zavtruk (breakfast), as the previous two mornings the fare was less than appetizing. Two Hot Dogs and a teaspoon of cold green peas two days ago, and yesterday it was Two slices of cheese and two pieces of Baloney. I don't know if I can do this much longer. I'm going to bring some chips and some good Life Stream bread. I won't be able to maintain the proper pace without food. It is not that the type of food is bad on here but the quality of food is bad. I'm sure they buy the cheapest of everything. I've never been on a boat where the food is dispersed with such frugality. There are no snacks of any kind. In the evening I check the refrigerator and find slices of raw bacon laying in a tray. People eat it. There is no microwave oven. And everything is locked up. I have to ask for jam for my toast in the morning. Butter is only on the table in the mornings not at lunch or breakfast. Salads have stopped since the old cook left. To drink, there is only one small glass, (6 ounces), of koolaide or some other bug juice. Or water. No V8 or tomato juice or orange juice.


I've been going over how much I've made with Sunmar on this run. The First trip I made $4,200 and this trip by the time I get to Seattle will be $7,300. That makes $11,500 Or since I'm doing another trip right away, 50 days is $8,750 for a total of $12,950 for three months work. I guess that's not too bad. That comes out to be $4,300 per month on average. If the next trip is 22 days from departure at Seattle then it will be a total of $16,600 for the reefer work add that to an other $10,000 for work done at the beginning of the year and I will have made $26,000 this year, ( at the end of next trip.) If I can make two more trips after this one then I can expect to make about $34,000 this year. If I can stay on the boat the whole time then I can do very well indeed


This trip has taken on bit of a dark side. But I'll stick it out. All I have to do is continue to hang out. I can't figure the Captain out. He has this laid back kind of .... I don't know. I don't get a good feeling from him. What ever... If I can do another trip like this last one then I'll be doing all right. But still the money is not that good. Even if next trip is as long as this trip, I'll have made only $27,000 for the year. That's almost poverty wages. I might as well go back to living on a sail boat and working less. OK keep your head. One Year, work as much as you can for one year. Get another computer and put this one up for sale on commission. Get some software and learn, learn, learn.

I just came down from the bridge. I had to listen to the captain rave about how screwed-up everything is. I can't argue with him, I can only agree with him. The office is all fucked up that's for sure. We pick the pilot up at 5 AM. We'll be in town by noon. Hopefully I will be off this Fucker by 2 PM. It will be nice to stay in the apartment for one night. I'm itching to fine out how much money I lost in the stock market. My CD is due next month but will have to wait till February. There is no way I can get down to Red Bluff and cash it in. It is probably better off sitting in the Safe Deposit box anyway. RD still has my dividend from last April. So much for buying a piece of property. Looks as if I'll be doing this for a while.


3 AM. I can't get to sleep. We are in the Straits of Juan the Fucker. Three hours out of Port Angeles, and nine out of Seattle. I am tired. I have had no coffee or tea for the last three days. But I have been sleeping allot during the day. I will buy Windows 95 while in Seattle this time. I definatily like the long file names. But I sure do not like how much it slows my computer down. I will sell this computer next time I have a couple of weeks to spare.


Bought a nice computer yesterday. Today was the day we departed Seattle. I'm definitely not coming back on the boat this trip I'm sure. Sold my old computer to one of the Mates on board the ship. Terry Anderson was going to buy it, but I kind of screwed him out of it. I don't know how I let it happen. Oh, well.


All is well except for this damned Windows 95. I can't get into Visual Basic or Access. I need to borrow the AC adapter from my old computer in order to power the Large Hard drive. Somehow something got screwed up.