This is the life of a tugboat captain’s wife…

My tugboat man departed mid-September for what was supposed to be a six-week assignment.

In the world of the merchant mariner, that’s easy; a piece of cake.

He’s still not home and what’s today’s date?

November 22.

Will he be home for Thanksgiving?


Will he be home the week after?

Hopefully, but no guarantees.

Am I complaining?

Only kinda, sorta, cos I’m pretty much used to this by now.

During the first fifteen years or so of our marriage, he worked in our local harbor as a tug captain and also as port captain of a tug company, and then with the downturn in the economy in 2008, he was offered an opportunity to return to his roots of long distance towing.

Not only is he a maritime academy (won’t tell which one) graduate and a high ticket tug captain, he’s a tow master.

Being a Master Towboatman is highly specialized and a difficult and often dangerous job.

Which is why if I don’t hear from him every day, I get a little (OK, a LOT) crazy.

Even though we do have limited satellite email, I haven’t actually SPOKEN to him in a few weeks, but tomorrow he’s going to bring one 800-foot-long barge into a port and exchange it for another one to take offshore and do whatever it is that he does (can’t tell you) and the highlight of my day is a PHONE CALL.


Which makes me very, very happy!

So, in spite of my bestie not being here on this Sunday where Princess Rosebud (me) can make him his fave buckwheat pancakes, I am very thankful that I’ll be able to hear his voice tomorrow.

Gratitude…Take it wherEVER you can find it.



if you love someone…

“If you love someone more than anything, the distance only matters to the mind, not the heart.”

I saw this posted on Facebook and it seems so very true—and helpful to remember at those times when we really miss our faraway mariner.

Like me, like now, when he’s been delayed AGAIN and might not be home for Thanksgiving and it all depends on the weather, so I’m sending good thoughts to Mother Nature to calm down a bit!


Our hearts are connected no matter where he is or how long he’s gone.

Remember the Merchant Mariner on Veteran’s Day

And this year let’s not forget the thirty-three lives that were lost on El Faro.
Merchant Marine recruitingposterMy tugboat man is a proud member of the United States Merchant Marine.

He is a merchant mariner.

He also served in Desert Storm.

From the little he’s shared with me, it was a dangerous mission. I met him right after he returned, but I didn’t hear about his involvement until a couple years later when I was updating and re-typing his resume. (On a typewriter!)

Most Americans honor those who’ve served in the military, and we can name the branches of the armed services — Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Marines.

Here on the Pacific Ocean, we always remember to include the United States Coast Guard.fightingMerchant Marine

Hardly anyone would think to include the Merchant Marine, which has long been referred to as the forgotten branch of the military, according to Jack Beritzhoff, former merchant seaman and author of Sail Away: Journeys of a Merchant Seaman. 

“People don’t remember that the Merchant Marine was around before the Navy —  during the Revolutionary War, the Colonies hired merchantmen to protect our shores and cargoes.

At the height of the Second World War, when I served, there were over 250,000 merchant sailors bringing supplies to American forces and our allies, getting torpedoed by U-boats in the Atlantic and strafed by Japanese planes in the Pacific.

There are a lot of historians who say that it was our merchant fleet that won the war as much as anything.”

Please take a minute to learn a little more about the maritime industry and don’t forget the importance of our mariners.

nowfor7seasThe American Maritime Partnership has given me permission to reprint some of their excellent articles.


With more than 40,000 vessels engaged in domestic waterborne commerce, it is clear that this commercial armada is as diverse as the nation it serves. These vessels represent an investment of nearly thirty billion dollars.

Here are some more facts and figures that illustrate the size and scope of the domestic maritime industry:

  • A billion-plus tons of cargo annually, with a market value of $400 billion.
  • 100 million passengers annually ride ferries and excursion boats.
  • 74,000 jobs on vessels and at shipyards.
  • 500,000 jobs in total.
  • $100 billion in annual economic output.
  • $29 billion in annual wages spent in virtually every community in the United States.
  • $11 billion in taxes per annum.
  • $46 billion added to the value of U.S. economic output each year.


  • Grain, coal, and other dry-bulk cargos and crude and petroleum via inland rivers.
  • Iron ore, limestone and coal across the Great Lakes.
  • Refined petroleum products along the East and Gulf coasts.
  • Supplies for Gulf offshore operations.
  • Merchandise and construction materials to and from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

The domestic trades serve more than forty states and ninety percent of the population.

America’s domestic trades have been the birthplace of innovations that transformed waterborne commerce worldwide:

  • Containerships
  • Self-unloading vessels
  • Articulated tug-barges
  • Trailer barges
  • Chemical parcel tankers
  • Railroad-on-barge carfloats
  • River flotilla towing systems

Click here to see a gallery of photos of vessels in the domestic trades.

Safety is another benefit that flows from U.S. laws regulating domestic waterborne commerce. U.S.-flag vessels are built and operated to the world’s highest safety standards. And no other nation sets a higher standard for mariner credential

Why We Need the Jones Act


Under U.S. domestic maritime laws, commonly known as the Jones Act, cargo shipped between two U.S. ports must move on American vessels. These laws are critical for American economic, national, and homeland security, which is why they have enjoyed the support of the U.S. Navy, Members of Congress of both parties, and every President in modern history.


From the earliest days of our nation, shipping has been the grease for America’s economic engine. Today, the maritime industry is by far the most economical form of domestic transportation, moving more than 1 billion tons of cargo annually at a fraction of the cost of other modes. Remarkably, the domestic maritime industry transports about one-quarter of America’s domestic cargo for just 2% of the national freight bill. Fundamental U.S. industries depend on the efficiencies and economies of domestic maritime transportation to move raw materials and other critical commodities.

America’s domestic shipping industry is responsible for nearly 500,000 jobs and more than one hundred billion dollars in annual economic output, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Transportation Institute. Labor compensation associated with the domestic fleet exceeds twenty-nine billion dollars annually with those wages spent in virtually every corner of the United States. The American domestic fleet, with more than 40,000 vessels, is the envy of the world. Every job in a domestic shipyard results in four additional jobs elsewhere in the U.S. economy.

A small number of individuals and organizations support repeal of the Jones Act, which would allow foreign-built, foreign-operated, foreign-manned, and foreign-owned vessels to operate on American waters. The result would be to take a core American industry like shipbuilding and transfer it overseas to nations like China and South Korea, which heavily subsidize their shipyards and play by their own set of rules. Additional losses would occur from the outsourcing of American shipping jobs to foreign nations. Particularly at a time of severe economic dislocation in the U.S., it makes little if any sense to send American jobs overseas and undermine an essential American industry.


The U.S. Navy’s position is clear – repeal of the Jones Act would “hamper [America’s] ability to meet strategic sealift requirements and Navy shipbuilding.” Over the past several decades the Navy has consistently opposed efforts to repeal or modify key U.S. maritime laws.

America’s domestic fleet is an important part of the national maritime infrastructure that helps ensure there will be ample U.S. sealift capacity to defend our nation. American ships, crews to man them, ship construction and repair yards, intermodal equipment, terminals, cargo tracking systems, and other infrastructure can be made available to the U.S. military at a moment’s notice in times of war, national emergency, or even in peacetime. In addition, during a major mobilization, American domestic vessels move defense cargoes to coastal ports for overseas shipments.

During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (2002 – 2010), U.S.-flag commercial vessels, including ships drawn from the domestic trades, transported 90% of all military cargoes moved to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Defense Department (“DoD”) has consistently emphasized the military importance of maintaining a strong domestic shipbuilding industry, stating “[W]e believe that the ability of the nation to build and maintain a U.S. flagged fleet is in the national interest, [and] we also believe it is in the interest of the DoD for U.S. shipbuilders to maintain a construction capability for commercial vessels.” A study by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, reached a similar conclusion:

The U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry is a strategic asset analogous to the aerospace, computer, and electronic industries. Frontline warships and support vessels are vital for maintaining America’s national security and for protecting interests abroad. In emergency situations, America’s cargo carrying capacity is indispensable for moving troops and supplies to areas of conflict overseas. A domestic capability to produce and repair warships, support vessels, and commercial vessels is not only a strategic asset but also fundamental to national security.


As America works to secure its borders, it must also secure its waterways. Homeland security is enhanced by the requirement for American vessels that operate in full accordance with U.S. laws and with the consistent oversight of the U.S. government. In that respect, the Jones Act is as effective a homeland security measure as any federal agency could ever write and enforce.

Today, it takes a small army of Customs agents, Immigration Services officials, homeland security staff, and others to regulate foreign ships that enter and exit the U.S. in international trade, even within the carefully controlled structure of U.S. ports. However, there is no precedent for allowing foreign-controlled ships operated by foreign crews to move freely throughout the tens of thousands of miles of America’s navigational “bloodstream.” Inland lakes, rivers and waterways go to virtually every corner of the nation.

There is considerable uncertainty about what laws would apply to a foreign shipping company operating in U.S. domestic commerce if the Jones Act were repealed. However, it is certain that the task of monitoring, regulating, and overseeing potentially tens of thousands of foreign-controlled, foreign-crewed vessels in internal U.S. commerce would be difficult at best and fruitless at worst. Repeal or modification of the key domestic maritime laws would make America more vulnerable and less secure.


American domestic maritime laws ensure a level playing field by requiring that all shipping and shipbuilding companies that operate in U.S. domestic commerce play by the same set of rules. Allowing foreign companies to operate in the U.S. outside of our immigration, employment, safety, environmental, tax, labor, and others laws would be unfair. American laws are often stricter than the laws that govern shipping and shipbuilding in international trades. No other industry operates exclusively in American domestic commerce yet outside of our laws (e.g., paying third world wages to its employees). No country in the world would – or does – permit businesses to operate domestically without complying with its national and local laws. Companies that do business here must fully obey American laws, regulations and other rules.


You don’t need to be an expert in the maritime industry to know that repeal or modification of the key domestic maritime laws would make America less secure economically and militarily. Repeal of those laws would provide little benefit while making America more vulnerable.

Shopaholic Crisis Averted—Thanks to Kate Spade

I’ve already unburdened myself and confessed my total lack of interest in my passion—shopping, that is, and I’ve been putting myself in all kinds of situations to heal this PROBLEM of mine.

And that means I’ve been forcing myself to overcome this debilitating disorder by NOT buying baby things, but to purchase something for MYSELF.

So I did.

Crisis over.

Check out these sparkly Kate Spade earrings.katespadeearrings

Totes perf, right? LOVE LOVE LOVE

But as is the case lately, I was inextricably drawn to the other side of the store and look what I found!

How could I resist these tugboat themed babeeee things?

Obvs I could NOT.

tugboatbaby1 Can’t you just picture Grandpa Tugboat Man and AB 2.0 in the rocking chair? ADORBS.tugboatbaby2

Being a Mariner’s Wife is a Constant State of Worry

Woke up to this terse email from my tugboat man:


P.S. What he means by “go in” is sailing into a safe port, but now the weather is swirling all around him, and best practices dictate staying offshore. Oh, and “shitty” is a mariner term too haha.

I’m pretty sure I can speak for most mariner spouses when I say that we’re not completely calm unless our guys are on land — terra firma — and in our sightline.

There are just so many variables out there on the water; like that routine voyage from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico, which my hub has done a zillion times—can be fraught with danger.

IF everything goes wrong. Not just one or two things, but as in the case of El Faro, EVERYthing went wrong. Loss of engine power, taking on water, steering directly into the eye of the hurricane. Like that.

I checked the National Weather Service offshore waters forecast for the area he’s in and it’s not great: high seas and strong to GALE FORCE winds with a late hurricane season disturbance.

In mariner terms, winds are categorized on the Beaufort Scale. Here’s a graphic:beaufortscale

Even though I know he’s the BEST captain in the world-

Even though I know he’s the SAFEST captain in the world-

Even though I know he’s been through dozens of bad storms all over the world-

Even though I know all of that, the El Faro tragedy is so fresh in our minds that it causes more worry.

I keep the boat phone handy—just in case.

I monitor the weather—just in case.

I put the company phone number on speed dial—just in case.

The worry is a constant thread that runs right along with all my other thoughts.

Like keeping a tab open on the computer and refreshing it every couple of seconds.

The worry is there at the gym during an (amazing) kickboxing class.

The worry is there grocery shopping.

Watching television can’t drown it out, nor does reading a book. (Poor choice of words.)

It’s very stressful, and when retail therapy doesn’t work its magic, you KNOW I’m super worried.

Tugs are very sturdy vessels; I’m sure he will be FINE.

After all, we have to decorate the nursery, right?

b4435b75e99e6e0b77e1eef60e97db78To all the mariners out on the high seas, be extra careful.

And a little merchant mariner humor…


When a Ship Goes Missing — The Other Side of Being a Mariner’s Wife

It’s not ALL about shopping ’til I drop while my tugboat man is out to sea.

From ABC News:

“A stricken cargo ship with 28 Americans on board that vanished during Hurricane Joaquin remained missing early Saturday.

Officials said there was still no sign of the El Faro, which was last heard from around 7:20 a.m. Thursday when a distress call indicated it had lost power and was taking on water.

The 735-foot vessel was bound for San Juan in Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida, at the time. It was carrying 28 Americans and five Polish nationals.

Image: Cargo ship El Faro missing in Hurricane Joaquin
The container ship El Faro. TOTE MARITIME via EPA

Around 850 square nautical miles were searched on Friday and the effort resumed at dawn Saturday.

When the El Faro left Jacksonville on Tuesday Joaquin was just a tropical storm. It quickly grew in intensity and was declared a Category 4 storm Thursday as it approached the Bahamas carrying winds of 130 mph.”

It could be 1815 or 1915, but in 2015, ships still go missing and are at the mercy of the elements.

Even with advanced communications technology and state-of-the-art equipment, Mother Nature reigns supreme.

The terror of being lost at sea is all too real and always somewhere in the back of our minds.

That’s why I need to hear from my tugboat man every day or I start to worry.

It doesn’t matter that he’s one of the best captains in the industry; in a heartbeat, things can happen that are outside his control, and all it takes is a minute—for a disaster.

This is our nightmare.

Our hearts go out to the crew and their families.

P.S. My own tugboat man is sorta in the area, and he’s safe but I wish he was here; home, on terra firma.

The Life of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife

This is so me when I heard he’s going to be helicoptered in to a remote offshore location…


When he’s home, like he’s been for about a month, I can totally erase from my mind the fact that he’ll have to leave –a little amnesia — and when “the call” comes in, I get all cranky and whiny, because it’s time for the fun to end and my other life as a single woman starts all over again.

It’s another critical situation and so far away only a helicopter will be able to approach — and then what? Land on a boat? In the water? Will he be dropped down a rope? Loaded in a basket?

He isn’t here right now as he’s a a United States Coast Guard class for licensing maintenance (at least it’s local) but when he comes home, I will definitely get the answers to my questions, not that any of them will make me feel great, but at least I’ll know what to expect.

All I know for sure is that whatever it is,  it’s dangerous.

And I’d rather have him here, at home, with me.

But he has to go, and like he says, the sooner he goes, the sooner he’ll be home.

Or something like that.

Women Are From Venus, Men Are From Stupid

SOME men.

All right, MOST men.

Why am I throwing down the gauntlet with such a broad and inflammatory statement?

Because I am REALLY REALLY tired of tugboat man being gone more than 120 days, that’s why.


I flew up to San Fran to spend the weekend with Angel Boy and DIL which consisted of making breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for three days — and hiking until my knees hurt and I had shin splints in both legs.

Oh, and scrub the toilet, wash the floors, and take a toothbrush to some pretty gnarly tile grout.

Just another day in the life of a mom.

As you can expect, I’m exhausted; and now that I’m home again, I planned to take it easy for a few days and leisurely prepare for the arrival of tugboat man, who was tentatively (again) scheduled to return next weekend.

That is, until late last night when I received an email along with flight arrangements.



No food in the house, I mean none, except for hummus and coffee. And wine, of course.

First thing this morning, I ran off to the grocery store.

I’m taking a five-minute break before baking oatmeal cookies, granola (his faves), and banana bread…putting up the welcome home signs, managing a bit of personal ‘scaping and scraping, and chilling the champs.

This is pretty much the longest he’s ever been away and I’m not gonna lie, it was becoming a bit unpleasant, so that’s why I think women are from Venus, men are from Stupid.

No real reason, just a feeling.

(Until he walks in the door, that is!)

Let’s Not Forget The Merchant Marine on Memorial Day, OK?

We honor all who served and made the ultimate sacrifice, but let’s never forget our merchant mariners.

California…December 1941: Submarine Sinks U.S. Ship; Fires on Rescue Boats

Montebello1941rescueYou can read about the attack of an oil tanker off the coast of Cambria, California here. The oil tanker crew were all merchant seamen.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the pipeline oil spill in Santa Barbara. 

That’s where I’m headed tomorrow by Amtrak train  to meet my son/DIL for a few days of camping and hiking along the California coast while my tugboat man tows an eight-hundred-foot barge across the high seas.

Did you know that all tugboats (and I’m sure other vessels) have an Oil Spill Response Plan?

That’s part of hub’s job, to respond to oil spills and actively contain them. He’s nowhere near Santa Barbara, so he’s not part of that cleanup, but he’s been involved in cleaning other spills. 

Our United States Merchant Marine had the highest casualty rate during World War II, yet received no GI benefits…

The U.S. Merchant Marine has rarely received its due recognition in helping the Allies win World War II, although mariners were the first to go, last to return and suffered the highest casualty rate of any group that served.

One in twenty-six mariners was killed in World War II; by comparison, one in 34 Marines was killed.

The first American victim of Axis aggression was not at Pearl Harbor, but a Merchant Marine ship two years earlier.

By the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 243 mariners had already died from Axis attacks on the ships that shuttled materiel to U.S. allies already at war.

The Merchant Marine suffered its own Pearl Harbor at the Italian port of Bari, Dec. 2, 1943, when a German air attack sank 17 Allied merchant ships with a loss of more than 1,000 lives. The attack released a cargo of 100 tons of mustard gas bombs.

The conflict claimed 8,300 mariner lives at sea and wounded 12,000. At least 1,100 of those wounded succumbed to their injuries.

One in eight mariners experienced the loss of his ship, and more than 1,500 Merchant Marine ships were sunk during the war.

In 1942, on average, 33 Allied ships went down every week.

Until the middle of 1942, German submarines were sinking merchant ships faster than the Allies could build them.

Many of the crews who perished in these sinkings were blown to death or incinerated. Thirty-one ships simply vanished without a trace.

These casualties were kept secret to avoid providing the enemy with information and to keep supplies flowing to soldiers. A soldier at the front required 15 tons of supplies. Most of those supplies moved on ships.

Who were these 250,000 seamen who kept these supplies moving?

The volunteers ranged in age from 16 to 78. Many, like Tom Crosbie of Saybrook Township, dropped out of high school to serve their nation. They were often rejected from other branches of service because of a physical defect – one eye, heart disease, a missing limb.

It was the only racially integrated service during the war.

The end of the war was not the end of their service; 54 ships, including one on which Tom Crosbie was serving, hit mines after Japan and Germany surrendered.

President Roosevelt, upon signing the GI Bill in June 1944, suggested “similar opportunities” would be provided to mariners.

That hope died when Roosevelt passed the following spring.

Mariners were denied everything from unemployment to medical care for disabilities. It took years of court battles for the mariners to finally receive partial veteran status in 1988, too late for many of those who had served.

They continue to seek full, official recognition for themselves and their spouses.

For more information, including pending legislation, visit From

Butterflies, Bees, Bunnies, Babies, and Bliss

Everybody needs some bliss; especially ME when tugboat man comes home unexpectedly and then even more shocking, gets a call to return to work WHILE WE’RE DRIVING HOME FROM THE AIRPORT!

It’s not unheard of in the maritime world, but I’ve not really experienced it until now.

Glass half full; we had an enjoyable one-and-a-half days. Thirty-six hours is better than nothing.

It’s important to stay positive and present in the moment, rather than dwelling on the injustice, which would be a waste of time, and TIME is precious.

So he’s gone again and it’s time for a little bliss in the form of Mother Nature.

Breathe deeply and OMMMMMM….


ButterflyMay172015may2015butterfly3 Bee on buckwheat. may2015bee Bunny trying to get into the vegetable garden. May2015bunnyI also saw a baby bunny running around, but couldn’t snap a pic before he ran under the deck.

Baby announcement!

The ultimate blissful event is the birth of one of my resident hummingbird’s eggs; you can BARELY see a miniature fluffy speck huddled in the bottom of the nest.

HummybabyMay16Mom feeding her newborn. HummyfeedingMay15

And JUST NOW, the second egg hatched! Could anything be more amazing than Mother Nature?


Here’s an update: Pretty good close up video of the two newborn hummingbirds:

Ending with the B is for Bliss theme, a boat birdhouse.

At least THIS boat is firmly anchored and will stay in one place, right?

boatbirdhouse After the rain; blue sky bliss.

BlisscloudsGone in the blink of an eye; it’s as if he was never here, except that he fixed a couple of my car’s minor problems and I have more laundry than usual.

Tugboat man should be home for sure at the end of June; at that point he’ll have been out to sea for more than ninety days when it was only supposed to be for six weeks.

Such is the life of a tugboat captain’s wife.

PS All photos, unless otherwise noted, are property of EnchantedSeashells.