Well, I've been in the union hall again. It has been two weeks since I started looking for a ship again, and all has not been going as well as I would hope for. A couple of jobs were posted on the shipping board, but I was beaten out on all occasions. How did that happen? Well, it goes like this.
For one, I waited a little too long, after returning home, to re-register my shipping card. What's that all about? Well, the "game" works like this: The shipping cards issued by my union expire after 3 months. If I happen to have a ship in mind that I would like to sail on and there ought to be a job opening there on a given date, it would be a good idea to make sure my card is as mature as possible on the date that job gets posted. But it's never as easy as that.
Registering your shipping card for a ship can be tricky business. As I said before, the ideal is to have the oldest card on the job call date. However, should the ship become inordinately delayed, or there is a surprise schedule change for the ship, or someone with greater seniority beats you out, you will be left with an expired card. You are now at the bottom of your seniority list and having to wait for your card to mature all over again. Since I'm a B-card, there's always the chance that a full-book member (A-cards have invested six or more years of sea-time with the union. That can take anywhere from eight to twelve years) can snatch a job I've been gunning for out from under me.
To minimize the degree of job-seeking damage that kind of subterfuge can inflict upon me, I usually plan on having a little over two months on my card when shooting for a ship. Giving myself that extra month leeway allows me that month's worth of opportunity to salvage work somewhere else. Unfortunately, when the ship I was waiting for (the President Truman) showed up, two guys came out of the woodwork and beat me out. What made it really sting was that both of them were in my seniority level. Then again, it was obvious that they were waiting to get out for a long while. Chances are, they needed the work more than myself. No resentment there. We're all brothers in the struggle.
The Evils of Technicalities
Despite all that disappointment, there is still a bright side to all this shipping-out biz. It has wonderfully happened that American Presidents Line added an extra week to their ships' schedule--from 8 weeks/56 days to 9 weeks/63 days. What's so good about a longer voyage? According to the Sailors Union of the Pacific's Shipping Rules, Shuttle Voyages (trips that neither begin or end on the West Coast) are a minimum of 120 days and a maximum of 180 days.
How is that interpreted in cases of voyages greater or less than these times? If a given set of voyages fall short of the 120 day minimum, another voyage must be undertaken to secure a paid trip back home to the West Coast, as well as recognition as having not quit and access to unemployment insurance. That's the short side of things. With the old schedule, you had to do a three trip minimum of 24 weeks, for a total of 168 days. With the new schedule, it's down to two trips and only 18 weeks, for a total of 126 days. 42 days is a huge difference when it comes to your own personal measure of sanity, being able to score your free ticket home and unemployment money.
So here's the other tasty bit of scheduling news that's filtered down to the butt of scuttle: Despite the East Coast ships having to visit a very unsecure and unnamed port, it has been said that the ships will be visiting GENOA, ITALY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is that not AWESOME or what?
I am dancing the jungle boogie as I write.