It's a wonder that this blog hasn't been erased from Blogger over the year that I've been ashore. Haven't written since February, so it's not like it's been a year. Mostly, I've been writing over at my "shore-side" blog, Coop de Kitchen. Well, even over there I haven't been as diligent as one could be.
Well, keeping with my established maritime theme, it's time to announce that I'll be (finally!) heading back to sea next month. I was cleared to return to work by my Orthopedic surgeon last month, so it's time to ship again. The only difference will be that I will be flying to Hawaii to find a ship. I spent some time "handicapping" jobs, and it turned out that all the steady jobs have been taken. Nothing will open up in Seattle until November and December. Because of that, I decided to head to Hawaii.
I've twice shipped from the Los Angeles/Long Beach (Wilmington) hall, and I must confess that hanging out there is kind of depressing. I didn't have full seniority at the time, so my wait, both times, was for much longer than I cared. The only upside was that the hotel rooms I stayed at were relatively inexpensive. On the downside, Wilmington is not a terrific place to kill time waiting for over a month. Yeah, great Mexican food, but my constitution can handle only so much of that through a week of dining.
I suppose San Francisco would be a fun place to hang out. There are so many things one can do in town while waiting for a ship--and all within easy reach by walking or using public transit. The Museum of Modern Art is very close to the San Francisco union hall (headquarters!). I've also walked across town to the North Beach neighborhood to City Lights Bookstore, the Vesuvio Cafe, and even Specs. The idea here is to make the pilgrimage to City Lights, buy a book or several (I have a problem with that, which I explained to the sales clerk at CL, the last time I visited there and was paying up. I confessed to him that I can't seem to leave a bookstore without spending at least $50. He then smirked, as I finished speaking. I immediately understood what just happened. "How much?" I asked him. "$50.40," was his reply. Ouch!) and then retire next door to Vesuvio or cross the street to Specs. I have found that the combination of beer and books does lend toward a form of relaxed concentration that assists absorption of the reading material. Inevitably, while reading, the opportunity for an interesting conversation often presents itself. This is probably one of the best things one can do with excess time while in San Francisco.
Sadly, San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the country to spend time in. I can't imagine how much it would cost to stay in a hotel anywhere in town. The only other option for me would be to stay somewhere in Oakland near Jack London Square, which is very close to where the Matson containerships dock. I doubt lodging would be any cheaper there than in S.F. The only advantage in staying in Oakland would be the greater ease of hauling my sea bags to the ship I just snagged. On the other hand, staying in S.F. makes getting to the hall a lot easier. Meh... Whatever...
So I decided to head to Hawaii. Why? Because, in a nutshell, I got wind of a job opening up next month on a ship that will head straight to Seattle after leaving Honolulu. Can't beat that! It pretty much operates on the same northern loop route as the last two Matson ships that I was on: Honolulu, Seattle, Oakland, Honolulu, Seattle, etc. A two-week round trip between those three ports. On top of that, I hear that the Manoa stays longer in Seattle than either the Kauai or the Maui, which I sailed on last year. I'll finally get a guaranteed full night's sleep and a whole day off at home while in Seattle. Can't beat that.
All that aside, though lodging in Honolulu is normally very expensive, I did find one place for just under $80/night. That is practically unheard of. There is also a bus stop about half a block from the hotel that goes direct to the Honolulu union hall, taking less than 25 minutes. To add to the savings I found between lodging and transportation, there are a lot of cheap eats to be found in Hawaii. This is a passion for the many locals who have to work at least two jobs to barely make a living. Fortunately, there are lots of inexpensive dining options very close to the hotel. Good flavor and big servings. No going hungry and broke at the same time in Hawaii. Just "broke yo' face" the food is so good.
My other ambition, while in Hawaii, is to visit the top two ukulele manufacturers there. KoAloha and Kamaka sit at the pinnacle of Hawaiian ukuleles. In history, Kamaka is the last of the original Hawaiian makers. They were founded in 1916 and continue to make quality instruments. KoAloha are relative new-comers, having started as recently as 1995. I happened to have bought one of their soprano ukuleles (100% koa wood!!!) in 2000, over at a kiosk in Ala Moana Mall, after getting off of a Chevron tanker ship. It is no surprise that KoAloha has achieved the level of success they have over the subsequent years, if the quality of my little ukulele is proof and testament. The clarity and purity of tone and amount of volume is jaw-dropping. It is easily one of the finest instruments that I own. I plan on visiting both plants after job call.
Well, I hope to continue blogging here, once I head to Hawaii. It should be fun over the couple of days I will be spending there. No rent-a-car, though, if I can help it. I doing this all on the cheap as possible.