My Story of being out of Communication with our home office

The El Faro, has been bringing back some memories that I had long since stopped thinking about, or I had hoped. The amount of time that they were out of Communication really bothered me.

The following is a true story of how things happen that we all would not believe if it had not happened to us. I am only sharing this as an example of the way somethings are looked at from the office.

In the Early to Mid 90’s I was working on one of my companies rigs out of Puerto Rico. We Sailed from a Port on the South Eastern part of Puerto Rice bound for N.Y. We were towing a Oil Barge Loaded with 6 oil and in the First day we encountered very bad weather and lost our S.S.B. and Sat Phone antennas. This meant that we had no Communication with our office or for that matter anyone that was not very close to our position. Also at this time Puerto Rico had a different Cell Phone service that was not compatible with what we had in the Continental US, so the Tug Cell phone was useless once we left port and got our of range.
The policy of my Company was to “Check” in once (maybe twice I do not remember for sure) a day.
Well, after being underway and being out of Communication 3 1/2 days the Captain was able to contact a Fishing Boat that just happened to be close to us. My Captain asked the Fishing Boat if they had a S.S.B. and if the did would they please contact our company. The Captain on the Fishing boat was more than happy to lend a hand.

Once the Fishing boat made contact with our company, their FIRST QUESTION was what was the Temperature of the Cargo (so they could bill the customer) not are they OK! You would have thought that after 3 almost 4 days of no contact they might have been a little worried.

My Skipper just about lost it and asked the Fishing Boat to relay his exact answer, The Fishing Boat Captain said that he would keep the S.S.B. mic keyed so the Office could hear what my Skipper had to say.

My Skippers response was “GO FUCK YOUR SELF!” end of message! He then thanked the Fishing Boat for their help and we continued on our Trip.

It was several days until we got into Cell Phone (it was my personal phone that got service first for some reason) range and then the Captain had a really long conversation with the Office.

I am sure that most of those that sail never share things like what happened to us with their love ones. As for me this weekend was the First time that I shared this story with my Wife. She is very happy that I am now retired but she does know that there was more stories that she is not in any rush to hear.

Now to be fair, I worked with this company for a long time after this happened and They were one of the most caring when it came to trying to help if we needed to go home for a family emergency. I am not sure why what happened did but I feel that those that work there after now would make different decisions Most of the Office people that were there when this happened no longer work there.

This post reminds me of an episode from my past. Back in the early eighties. Communication with home was via the SSB WOO or VHF marine operator. One particular trip fishing things got pretty bad. I didn’t call my wife but I thought about doing so. I figured if I called she would hear the nervousness in my voice. I sat holding a survival suit for 12 hours. I never did share this with my wife.

The recent events with the El Faro hit home and bring back memories. Hopefully everyone learns something from this tragedy. Whether it is the way we keep in touch with home and office or our choices regarding weather.