I am often asked what it is like working offshore for lengthy periods of time, what's it like being stuck at sea away from family and friends. The usual 8am commute to work, stuck in excessive traffic is something I am fairly unfamiliar with. Instead my journey to work consists of usually a 10+ hour flight and a rib boat or helicopter transfer. I very rarely work at the same site twice so my 'office' so to speak is always on the move, in some respects my career resembles that of a Gypsy travellers lifestyle.
Once onboard you are thrown straight away into work mode, as after all that is what you are there to do. You have your vessel safety induction, get the guided tour of your new 'home' for the next 28 days and more often than not depending on timing you go straight onto shift. The usual working pattern whilst working offshore is that of 24 hour operations, 12 hour shifts - midnight to midday or vice versa. There is no such thing as weekends in the world of offshore, in fact all real sense of time goes out the window. You quickly forget what day of the week it is, days merge into weeks and before you know it weeks have turned into a month.
I have come to terms with the fact that my life has no real structure to it. Project dates are forever changing, extending and being delayed so planning and committing to things back at home is always difficult. I am not a big fan of routine so this lifestyle actually suits me quite well. No one day offshore is ever the same, of course my role and duties stay the same but there are so many variables involved. Every location and hole we drill varies, every soil sample we retrieve is different, every insitu test brings back different results your mind is constantly active while you are on shift. As a geotechnical engineer my job isnt glamorous, its physical and involves getting muddy and sweaty depending on where in the world you are. A typical day offshore for me consists of drilling, sampling, testing, logging and reporting. It is important to keep healthy whilst your offshore so I try to spend at least 30mins a day in the gym after shift which is definitely easier said than done.
Food, the defining element of a good or a bad stint offshore, well it is for me anyways. The power of a decent well cooked meal offshore is incredible. Hats off to the Norwegians, without a doubt they provide the best food on their vessels - Taco Tuesdays, Steak Saturdays and Seafood Sundays, Bueno! It is always within your interest to make friends with the chefs and crew onboard, it's surprising how many chocolate treats, mars icecreams and packets of popcorn you get given if you take the time to be nice and acknowledge them.
I am all for home comforts during my time offshore. I thought it might just be a female thing but I can assure you some of the guys bring some weird and wonderful things on board too. I have a travel essentials list that I advice all should take when heading offshore:
- A pillow - I might be unlucky but they are always flat as a pancake and well slept on.
- Your own bedding - the bedding is generally well used and you can't beat the smell of home washing.
- Full length Pyjamas - I always find the rooms cold, aircon seems to be a constant setting onboard.
- A 3m long Iphone charger - Plugs always seem to be the furthest possible distance away from your bed as possible.
- Barocca - You always need your Vitamin C no matter where in the world you are.
Initially the guys laughed at the thought of carting your own pillow and bedding but many have come round to my genius way of thinking. Some have even taken it a little overboard, I have seen a couple of people pull out Nutri Bullets from their cases!
I find that my time offshore flies by 6 weeks away from home does not phase me in the slightest, but I know that isn't the case for everyone onboard. Like anything in life you have to immerse yourself in the situation and not put energy into the negatives. Yes you are away from home for a lengthy periods of time, you are probably missing some sort of birthday or social event, boats are noisy and you forget what silence sounds like but I couldn't imagine myself working in any other sector and being as happy as I am when I am offshore.
It has been a while since my last stint offshore due to the current downturn in oil price, onshore work, the 9-5 lifestyle is definitely an adjustment. I genuinely appreciate the memories and experience working offshore has given me to date. I've been fortunate enough to travel to experience some amazing places and cultures all over the world.