Part Fourteen - Meeting Up With Todd Again
Often it seems as if my life does not follow a straight path from birth to death, rather it is a series of circles. I always have a sense of returning, even when I seem to be moving forward. By the time Dylan's mother made it to Tacoma, I was ready to return to work. I do not wish to give anyone the impression that my ex-wife Chris is anything less than a very good parent; she was just not ready to make the move when I was.
As I have already stated, fate is a directing force in my life, and the four months before she arrived, ranked as one of the most significant periods of my life. Things seemed to work out the way they were meant to happen. Those four months alone with my son changed the type of person I was. Chris, and other people, have always said to me that my life was too hectic, and that I never took the time "to smell the roses." Dylan and I became more than just father and son, we became friends; hanging buddies. We explored the world around us, always seeking to find that which we had not seen before. Dylan called this going on adventures. Without this four-month period, I am not sure that our relationship would be what it is today; so it seemed as if fate understood that Dylan and I needed this time together. Like some guardian angel, fate provided the opportunity to fulfill a need.
In those four months I was also able to accomplish with my hands what those bozos down in San Diego were unable to do in a year. Now that I was ready to go back to work, I went down to the library and found the address of every shipyard within 50 miles of where I lived, and sent out resumes to each. Within days I got two responses. The first wanted to send me up to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. If it were not for Dylan, I would have jumped at this opportunity, but being with Dylan was far more important to me. The next job offer came from Todd Shipyard. Back in the days when the shipyards were booming Todd had yards all over the country, but when the industry went bust they closed down all of them except their yard in Seattle. It seemed as if I was fated to meet up with the last Todd.
Todd Seattle was doing massive overhauls on Coast Guard ships and ship repairs. Again, fate stepped in and I found myself working on the repair side of the pipe department. This did not happen very often to new employees, but as fate would have it, I walked into Todd at just the right moment. Among the ships we worked on most often were tankers, tote boats (Totem Ocean Trailer Express), APL container ships (American Presents Line), cruise ships, ferry boats and fish processors. It did not take the leadman long to see that I knew what I was doing and that I was good at it. It is not that, I as a person, was better than anyone else, but I now had been doing this work for 16 years. There was not anything new in the work for me until the day I was sent to a tote boat (we called them boats, but they were really full size ships). The tote boat had been docked at its terminal and some minor repairs were being done on its engine. The machinists had the sea water intakes opened up, when someone opened the seawater valve. That flooded the engine room with seawater until the ship hit bottom. They pumped all the water out, and then towed the ship to Todd.
From the outside you could not tell that something was different from other time we had worked on the ship, but we knew that this was not to be an ordinary job when we were told to put on rain gear from head to toe. Once inside the engine room we could see the reason behind the rain gear. There had been 35 feet of seawater in the engine room and the whole place was dripping with oil. Since oil is lighter than water, all the oil had risen to the highest points of the flooded engine room We had a few small jobs that we had to do before the engine room was steam cleaned, then we had to recycle the fuel oil through filters because it had been contaminated. The sparkies (electricians) had the most work because they had to replace all the wiring below the flood line. Most of the pipefitting work was on the steam lines. Steam pipes expand when heated by steam, and contract when they cooled. This contraction will cause the steam joints to leak when the heat from the steam hits them. This is why ships don't like to shut down their boilers unless they have to. One of the first things they had to do when the ship flooded was to shut down the boilers. Boilers are potentially the most dangerous part of a ship; if a boiler blows, what is left of the ship is only good for scrap. With the sudden cooling of the steam system by the flood, we knew that every steam gasket had to be replaced.
My job was to break all the pipes loose off the steam feed pump, which had to be opened up for inspection. This meant, not only did I have to break loose all the piping and move it out of the way, but I also had to take note of where each pipe was connected so that I could put it all back together when needed. It took a few months to complete all the repairs to the tote boat, and move on to the next job. When there was not a ship in for repairs the leadman would often hide me out down at the hose pile, where all the different types of hoses used in the yard were kept and repaired.
Oil stained skin, muck of unknown origin, squeezing down through bilges and tanks into places no one else would go; making the impossible possible with blood, sweat and a cause upon my lips. Lord, Lord, I got them old Todd shipyard blues again.