It Must Be Thursday. . .

It's Nu-tastic
Originally uploaded by A Ditlefsen.
I swear this stuff is like crack. . . only a bit safer. I know you can get it in the states but I never remember it's existence until I've left the country. I don't smoke, I don't drink coffee and I rarely huff turpentine so I've decided to take up nutella as my daytime vice. If you wanna get crazy and spread some on a sugared crepe you've got a recipe for me workin' all day long with a big ol' smile on my face.

I won't put it lightly, today has sucked. Mattresses, spare parts, gnomes, tools, pipes and more mattresses all coming in for a ship that isn't here yet, and into a town that can't handle it. Super. Don't want to bore you too much. . . so I won't. Suffice to say I'm off to check the piers, count some Exhaust Flue Gas Boiler Tubes, snap some pics of a couple bearings that are to get crated up and sent to New York and then it's off to the mattress warehouse where I've got to see a man about a horse.

I picked the wrong day to quit huffin' turpentine.



Quimper 2
Originally uploaded by A Ditlefsen.
As promised there are more pictures from my drive around Brittany up on Flickr. But if you're bored enough to look at all the pictures on Flickr then you've obviously got time to write my bored ass an email.

Not actually that bored of course but being over here ain't like travelling like I've done in the past. Without travelling to a new destination every few days I do find myself a little bored with just work to do. However, last night BB and I hit the pub to watch the Man-U/AC Milan game. Excellent match that Man-U took 3-2 on an amazing goal in the 92nd minute. Another good match on tonight with Chelsea FC vs. Liverpool.

Got a fun phone call from the Port Agent last night around six o'clock. We had been expecting a shipment of mattresses for the Constellation but normally they come in forty-foot containers, just regular shipping containers. Well the mattresses come from Italy and since we're so close the shipping company decided to just load everything onto trailers instead of containers. Whoops. First of all the ship won't be here for almost another week which means I now have to find the means to offload two-hundred mattresses per trailer AND I need to have warehouse space to store them. If the mattresses come in containers as they should I can just drop the whole container on the pier and leave it there. Secondly, the way we load mattresses on board ships is by hanging the container against the side while fifty guys unload it. How am I supposed to get these mattresses on board the ship now. Of course there are answers to that but my biggest concern is that there may be four of these trucks which equals ~eight-hundred mattresses.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, but if it's not one thing it's another and everyone is using every muscle but the one that counts. (And I'll just tell you that I'm talking about the brain before you sickos get any further in your thought process.)
Back to work. All of us.


One Man Sub

One Man Sub
Originally uploaded by A Ditlefsen.
This past weekend was cool. Got me a rental car that goes and took Saturday and Sunday off. BB and I walked all over Brest (kinky) on Saturday and drove South down the coast on Sunday to see some smaller cities and take in the coast and country side.

On Saturday we hit the Maritime Museum for a few hours in the morning and found this gem from WWII (I think). One man sub made out of a torpedo with another torpedo mounted underneath. Sounds smart to me. I had heard of these before but it was pretty bizzare to see one up close. The musee was decent but the fort it is housed in stole the show. Parts of the fort have been there since the Romans built it seventeen-hundred years ago. Views from atop the fort allowed some of the Best angles that I've had of Brest so far. . . if you're into that sort of thing you can see a few of the pictures up on Flickr. . . but remember that the pictures are of Brest, not breast.

Had a killer seafood casserole for lunch at a local place and then checked out some other parts of downtown that I hadn't seen yet. Didn't get too many good shots off downtown, might be due to lack of subject matter. I also don't photograph churches as often as I used to (could be the atheism) so that cuts down on picture options in European towns. Did get a good one from a town called Douarnenez down the coast a ways; try to get it up later.

Saturday night we ate at Le Boeuf Sur Le Quai. Pretty darn good steak, beer and creme brulee. . . and all for less than my expense account allows. Amazingly I am attempting to be financially responsible over here. Really no reason I shouldn't just spend the money the company gives me and call it a day.

Sunday was pretty nice. Picked up a map and just headed South with no real plan. Went through a few smaller towns like Crozon, Douarnenez and Quimper. Not much open though on a Sunday that also featured the first round of the French presidential election. The field was narrowed down from 12 candidates (including three major contenders) to just two who will have a runoff in two weeks. Anyone taking notes? . . . THREE viable candidates pared down to two for a second election in Two Weeks. Sounds better than what we're used to in the States.

Sunday dinner involved more crepes but I didn't spend much time translating the ingredients and ended up with some funky, funky stuff on my plate. Still interesting and I'll know what to stay away from in the future. Still quite a few good places to eat at in town including one sushi restaurant. . . but when we stopped in there once before the staff either spoke no English whatsoever or at least pretended they didn't. Have to bribe a local to go in with us.

Should be able to provide regular updates this week. BB and I have a decent office at the shipyard with a good 'net connection (Finally!) so we'll probably be in for regular eight hour days. Love to hear from people back home to find out what the goins-on are.


One Down, One To Go

Insert Here
Originally uploaded by A Ditlefsen.
Well, that's it. I made it through the first ship here in Brest. I had some easy days in the middle of the job and then (predictably) it got a little crazy at the end. But the Millennium is in the water now on her way to South Hampton. From what I've heard all the important stuff on the ship works fine. You know important stuff. . . like the integrity of the hull.

So now I'm 'stuck' in Brest for the next ten days with a guy from purchasing, a rental car, a hotel room and an expense account. . . what could go wrong? We were toying with the idea of going to Paris cause BB has never been but it's about a six hour drive and there actually is work to do here so now we're thinking that we'll head to Normandy this weekend since it's only 3 hours away.

It's pretty fun driving around the city. A little harrowing, sure, but a good challenge. I do okay with the traffic circles but the larger ones that have traffic lights built into them are a little harder to decipher. We went through a circle today that probably had six major streets feeding into it so there were lights for each of those intersections within the circle and coming into the circle too. Couple that with the fact that I didn't know where I was going and you've got a stellar morning commute.

I'll try to get some better pictures up soon. I've got an office at the shipyard here and should have a good internet connection at the hotel too so look to Flickr if you want to catch some more photos. . . and not just photos from the shipyard. By the way the pictures above may be hard to make out so I'll tell you what you're looking at.

The whole reason for these drydockings that I'm working at is the large item on the right side of the frame. On the right you'll see a section of hull that's been prefabricated and has a shiny new diesel generator slapped onto it (though I think they're pretty careful when they do the slapping). The mess on the left side of the frame is a giant hole in the hull of the ship. So they just discarded the old hull material and slid that new one it. Easy. Pretty slick actually cause the new portion of the hull is on a flatbed vehicle with about fifty wheels underneath it that can turn three-hundred and sixty degrees. They just drove the new section right into place. You should have seen the mess of piping that they had to fit this thing into. . . but somehow it fit within ninety percent which is pretty amazing.

Guess I'll get back to work now. Somebody reminded the other day that I get paid to be here which is kind of easy to forget after enough time passes. Au revoir.


Crepes Are Gooooooood

Got off the ship twice yesterday; once in the afternoon for a little stroll around downtown Brest and again in the evening for a fantastic dinner. Both times I was in the presence of a younger dude from Nantes, France. He found a place for us to eat and we took advantage.

Started the meal with small glass of wine that was like a mescal or port. Ordered up a couple of crepes and enjoyed some light cider. The crepes were amazing. The options for fillings are seemingly endless and they range from basic to amazing. Think of ordering an omelet essentially. I had a basic tomato, sausage and mushroom crepe to start and then a seafood mix for the second. I literally cannot adequately describe how good the seafood crepe was. For desert, why not have a crepe? A whole separate menu has crepes made with flour (though I can't remember what the first crepes were made of. . . some local dough found only in this region of France which is called Brittany). Decided upon a banana and chocolate crepe for dessert while one of my companions opted for his a flambe. Once again, good beyond belief.

We tried a few other things that the server was kind enough to bring us samples of and then ended with a digestive that was essentially a wonderfully smooth scotch. The dinner probably would have only been about 20-25 Euros for each of us but the supplier picked it up on his company expense account. . . good action. I should be staying in a hotel downtown between the two vessels that we're working on and I will probably have quite a few more crepe experiences.

As my brother says. . . A-out.


She May Not Look Like Much

Originally uploaded by A Ditlefsen.
But wait'll you get her out on the open sea.

Actually, I truly must say that this picture does nothing in the way of justice for this ship. Really, it's the enormous cranes that are taking away from the true size of the vessel. And by cranes I mean MY cranes. . . and by MY cranes I mean just one out of the three of them. . . and yes, it happens to be the closest one in the frame that didn't do a lick of work the day I took this picture. My crane is just like me!

So this is the Sobrena shipyard in Brest (though it's actually in a smaller sub-section/town/district/whatever called Le Havre). A moment ago I started a sentence about the shipyard and it's properties that would have put a rabid Bugbladder Beast of Traal quite well to sleep, but I erased it and wrote what you just read instead. Now I rhyme, I hope you've the time.

It's 2343 hours here which means it's like 2am, three days from now in Mongolia. I would go to sleep but I'm waiting for a toolbox to arrive from Paris. Paris is not close. The toolbox is coming in a taxi. . . from Paris. Paris is not close. If I can get the information past corporate security I'll let you all know tomorrow what the flippin' taxi bill comes to. Paris is not close.


A Letter From Camp Milbrestadock

Dear Mom,
Camp is great! I love being far from home, playing with new friends and trying different things. They've given me my own room amongst all the other campers. The coolest part of my room is that it has TWO BEDS! and comes with a complimentary temperature well above Earth norm. And then they have really outdone themselves by adding a guy with a hammer and a metal grinder about one floor down who somehow manages to sound out the changing of each hour THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE NIGHT!!! What service! I expected all kinds of problems with the accommodations but you can't go wrong with your own Grinding-Hammerer-Man!

It's also really cool to listen to people from Norway, India, Germany, China, Greece, Netherlands, France, Italy, Philippines, Canadia, England and Scotland talking in over-the-top LOUD tones constantly. . . every waking minute. . . really, they do! It's awe inspiring to me, and makes me proud of the normally self-conscious human race, that so many people would like me to know how their lives are going AT TOP VOLUME!!!! And usually in a full elevator too! (That's right, Ma, this camp has not one but sixteen elevators to get us where we are going. . . and none of them are ever being repaired. Amazing!) But nothing beats the lively discussions I hear in the meeting room where they let me keep my computer. Truly you have not lived until you experience eight people from seven different countries joyfully arguing about shipments for the camp that have arrived or not arrived or Hell, haven't even been ordered yet when they were needed last week! Joy!

And speaking of my computer! They really went of their way for this one! They must have known that I love antiques. . . and that they are worth the wait. In this case mine might have to be worth a Constant wait but I think she is, so I named her Constance. Oh, and combine that with the awesome power of an internet connection that comes through the camp's satellite network. . . wow! I truly can not say more.

But not everything is so grand here. The food is served all day long but apparently they ran out of lobster some time ago. I'm just kidding! We have fresh seafood every day!!! You see we're right on the water and the camp has no less than fifty people who are fishing or diving all day for the treasure of the sea. Then they have a whole army of chefs who prepare your meal to the exact tastes of your pallet. Mmmm, mmm. Just thinking of the scrambled eggs that are never watery or tasteless and the beef in the stew that must have been cut from the cow that morning because no stew that was ever re-used four days in a row could taste like that! It's all I can do to keep myself out of the eatery!

This camp is great. Now if only I knew what I was supposed to be doing here. . .
Love and Joy,
Your Baby Boy!


But I Don't Wanna Learn French

Well, things here have gotten a little better and they will continue to be good tomorrow. Why, you ask? Easy. The magic of Easter. That's right, little fluffy bunnies running all over the shipyard laying mystical (and slightly painful) eggs of reprieve. It's almost true. Apparently Easter is an important enough holiday over here than nobody works all weekend and they have Monday off to boot. Good for them. Guess I can't complain however. The shipyard's lack of progress translates into a bit of time for me to actually learn what I'm supposed to be doing over here. Don't get me wrong, I know an awful lot about the industry from my days at SFD but doing this work from the side of the cruise liners is a whole different world.

So, yes, things have gotten a little better for me over here. Small miracles; my own room, occasional running water (sometimes it's even hot), a few beers with the fellas in town and a little bit of work actually accomplished. I've been lucky enough to have another Project Manager with me here in Brest. He's been with the company a few years and has been showing me the ropes, as they say. Unfortunately he's leaving early Tuesday morning so my life will certainly become more painful at that time. FYI, Brest is nine hours ahead of California in terms of time. . . though not

I could write more but I should be working. I'll try to get a few pictures up hopefully tomorrow before things get crazy. Looks like I'll definitely be here through our second job which means I'll be here thru May 20th or so. With a little luck I'll have a hotel and a little time off in between the two vessels (Celebrity Millenium and Constellation).

Peace and Cheetos (or Peaceful Cheetos?).


Brest, France

Got into town yesterday.  Things are fairly FUBAR and I don't know how much help I'm going to be right away.  Guess I have to remember how things were when I first started at the shipyard in SF.  Just trying to keep my head above water for now.  Don't have much time at the moment so I'll try to write more later.


. . . And That's How That Goes

Well, I'm already worried that I won't be able to update my blog as often as I thought.  I found out yesterday during my first day of work that my initial tour of service will not
be taking me to San Francisco as I was previously told but rather I'll be heading to France.  France doesn't bother me too much and even the fact that I'll be flying out today or tomorrow doesn't have any great weight on my mind. . . but the fact that I might be there until the end of May???  Weeeeeeelllll, I gotta admit that now I've got a lot to think about over the next few hours.

So!  Just bought some new luggage and now I'm gonna try to pack for a month and a half.  If I don't fly out tonight then I'll try to update this again and maybe even get to a few emails that people have been kind enough to send me.  Of course, who knows if this whole thing will get called off at the last second anyway. . .