22 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

My older sister Lynn and Rebekah.

My sweet niece Bekah helping with the sugar cookies.

Greetings to my Beautiful Family and Friends!

Well, as much as I hate to begin this letter the same as everyone else’s, it just seems so appropriate to say that I can hardly believe how quickly this past year has gone by. It seems as though it were yesterday I was sailing home from Israel/Canary Islands.

I guess the beginning of this year was the end of a long season in my life. January 2nd The Spirit of Grace ship returned home from a four month long voyage to Israel. Then after nearly three years at Friend Ships I packed my bags and said goodbye to all the beautiful faces I had the opportunity to work alongside. I moved out to Blacksburg, Virginia and was living with three of my best friends in a little duplex out in the country. I lived there for a couple of months and was working at a bakery called Our Daily Bread. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup than what we had at the duplex, but after being in the Friend Ships “bubble” for three years and then just returning from Israel, life back in the “real world” was a very difficult time for me. I was trying to figure out what the next step was? Where did I go from there? And what did I actually want to do in life?

Well, after traveling, sailing and doing missions, I knew it had to be somewhere along those lines, because I loved ever bit of that. But I just wanted to hop on the next plane and head to some foreign jungle far far away, unfortunately that required planning and more money than I had in the bank. So obviously a job was going to have to be the first thing to look into.

I was able to go to the Coast Guard in Baltimore and get an MMD (Merchant Mariners Document), which allows me to work aboard some vessels. Following that I took a trip down to Texas where I did a week of BST (Basic Safety Training) with Mercy Ships. The first couple of days were firefighting classes, then we had first aid and CPR, sea survival, radio communications, personal safety and pollution prevention. You’re required to have BST along with 540 days at sea to get an Able Body-Limited license. I have enough sea time now for that; I just need to do some studying for the Rules of the Road/ColRegs test. Hopefully sometime this next year I’ll get that.

In June I flew to Baltimore and made my way to the Constitution Pier in Inner Harbor where the American Star cruise ship was moored. This was my first job aboard a vessel outside of Friend Ships. And upon seeing the ship what I should have done instead of hopping aboard was to run for my life, but unfortunately I couldn’t see into the future. …I actually shouldn’t say that, because I did meet some amazing people while I was there and was able to further my knowledge in the vessel/sailing area.
American Cruise Lines only hires crew for three months at a time; I thought this a little strange at first, but then came to realize the real reason was that they can’t actually keep crew for a longer period of time. I started as a deckhand, and though I know nothing about the engines was promoted to ERA (engine room assistant) after about eight weeks. We didn’t actually sail with an engineer; so I was able to start the mains, switch generators and do the fuel soundings everyday. They even let me do oil changes! I’m still not exactly sure what they were thinking, but I was happy for the new challenges. After working 12-16 hour days everyday for three months I was never happier to finally reach September 1st. I have so many stories as you have probably seen on previous posts.

Toward the end of September I took a trip up to Idaho to see my best friend Amanda, who’s also my Alaskan salmon fishing buddy. Since we didn’t get go fishing this year and hang out, I had to go up and see her. After spending a couple weeks with A, I flew down to Lake Charles to sail as second officer to Nevis and then Roatan for Medical and Childrens ministry. The trip however did not go as planned and as we were about to make our way through the Yucatan Channel we lost our engines and the decision was made to alter course back to Louisiana. It was a crazy couple of weeks making about 2knots through the water and knowing nothing could be done about it. But there was also a lot of peace about returning even though we never made it to the beautiful islands we were headed to. We had a couple swim calls and were able to put the shore boat over once to go tubing. Being able to swim in the middle of the ocean is enough to put a smile on nearly anyone’s face. All in all it was a wonderful little trip out in the Gulf with a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

As most of you know already, I will be flying to Africa in January. I’ll be in Xtutulu, Nigeria for four months working in an xrphanage with Xinistry of Xercy. It’s the largest orphanage there with over 200 children. I’m looking forward to all God will show me in these upcoming months and know I will come back a changed person.

I think that’s all for now, I hope each of you have the most wonderful Christmas and the happiest New Year to come. God bless you and love always!

A granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a sister and a friend,

Danette Bjornstad

21 December 2007

Emma Nicole ~ 15 December

Emma Nicole Mason

My beautiful niece! She was born on the 15th of December 2007, weighs 9 pounds and is 21 inches long.

Proud parents are my brother-in-law Robert and sister Lynn.

05 December 2007

On the go again...

Hello to all my beautiful family and friends,

I hope each one of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great weekend!

I wanted to make the official announcement that I will be going to Africa in January. I bought my ticket about a month ago and had been waiting on my visa to go through. It finally arrived about a week ago, so I am all set to catch my flight and head out. I’ll be in Xtutulu, Nigeria for four months working in an xrphanage with Xinistry of Xercy. XOX is the largest orphanage in Nigeria with over 200 children and youth living there.

I will be flying to London alone, then from London to Xbuja, Nigeria my best friend Amanda’s parents will be with me (or I guess I should say I’ll be with them seeing as how this is their second year). Anyways, after we arrive, Bill and Christy will be living at the school and I’ll be living at the orphanage about an hours ride away. I’m looking forward to the challenges I’ll be faced with being pretty much alone out in the bush, but also very thankful that Bill and Christy will be there if I need them. Hopefully Amanda will be able to join us on this trip, but I wont know for sure until she gets back from Guatemala the beginning of December.

I am so excited to get away from the “American way”. I’m working at JC Penneys for six week’s while I’m in Arkansas with my parents, and though I worked there four years ago, it’s just not what it once was. I used to love walking around with the rest of the crowd in my cute little cloths and clicky shoes, but that’s just not the life for me any more. I guess I prefer hot, sweaty and miserable. :)

Anyways, hot and sweaty is what I’m going to be getting I believe, because Xtutulu is closer to the equator than I have ever been in my life.

I’m so excited for this trip! I know that if I let Him, God will teach me more than I can imagine.

I don’t know how often I will be able to get to an Internet cafĂ© while I’m there, but I will try to keep my blog page updated as much as possible.

I love you all and you're in my prayers,


22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving ~ Nov 07

Happy Thanksgiving!

My very sweet niece Rebekah. I love her so much!

I am so thankful for second chances. For Gods forgiveness and everlasting love. For lessons learned, no matter how hard they were or how long they lasted. I'm so thankful for my family always being there for me. For opportunities to go and see amazing things. For the ability to work, to travel and to sail. For feet to dance with and arms to give hugs with. I'm thankful for friends to love and laugh with and for the ability to make more. I'm thankful for ice cream and pizza. For flowers and their beautiful smell. For rain and sunshine and for all the seasons of the year. For smiling faces and a babies laughs. I'm thankful for the open ocean while sitting on the bow of a ship and for the salt water in my face. I'm thankful for silence and for ears to hear. For the stars in the sky. For jeans and flip-flops and for everyday life. I'm thankful for YOU!

25 October 2007

In the Gulf ~ October 07

Captain Stan, 2nd Mate Danette and Chief Engineer Wally Barber. The two greatest guys a girl could ever want to be standing between.

Well, like I said in my previous post, we never made it to Nevis or Roatan. So instead of a mission trip it turned into more of a pleasure ride.

Pictured above are some of the crew tubing out in the gulf. It was so beautiful and so much fun! The Hope was still underway going about 2kts when we dropped the shore boat into the water. I never thought Captain Stan would let us swim while the ship was still moving, but after much begging, pleading and smiling he finally said yes. :D

(Tami, Capt Jake, Dan, Jordan and I)

Jake, Jordan and Dan, once known as the Black Ops were on the 12-04 watch, then myself, Tami and Shay (not pictured) were on the 04-08.

So it all started one morning about 0345. One never quite knew what to expect when coming up to the bridge after three guys had been together for 4 hours and had eaten every piece of sugar there was available. Well, our watch (the 04-08) came up to relieve the 12-04 watch and Jordan was somehow hanging in this rain jacket we kept on the bridge to scare us. ...It was kind of funny...

(Tami and Danette)

Tami and I decided to entertain the Black Ops guys one dark night by dressing up like pirates, rappelling off the flying bridge to the front of the bridge windows then sword fighting with each other like... ...well... pirates. I don't know how funny they thought it was, but Tami and I laughed about it for several days.

After our great display of skills and talent, the best the guys could come up with was locking them selves in the bridge for four hours while they proceeded to eat cans of bean and waited for us to come up to relieve them.

By the time we arrived, you can just imagine what it smelled like. It wasn't very pretty. They made the unfortunate mistake of taking a very unflattering picture with my camera. So the next morning I had the ships manager, Murray, show it to the entire crew and make an announcement about gas and needing to see the ships nurse.

It basically went straight downhill from there.

The next time we went up to the bridge, the guys, now known as the Black Oops, hauled 5gal buckets of salt water up to the flying bridge. As hard as we tried, there was no hope of escaping that one. I was drenched from head to toe when it was all over with!

I guess seeing us sopping wet wasn't good enough for them. So the rumor around the ship was that they would be doing their "victory" dance at 0500 the next morning. We assumed (which is never a good idea) that after they relieved us and left, that they would think we thought they went to bed and we'd let our guards down. Well, it was night so we were going to shrinkwrap everything leading up to the bridge so they couldn't come up very easily.

It didn't work as we hoped because when we showed up that night this is what the bridge looked like:

Every window had trash bags inside and out, there was line and tape on absolutely everything. Sticky side out. I mean they took light bulbs out of the sockets and covered up lights the size of a grain of sand. It must have taken them hours to set the whole thing up.

So we show up, it's pitch black, auto pilot's on so the helm looks like a ghost is steering and everything else on the bridge is shut off. There wasn't a soul in sight. We figured they must be outside watching us somehow. So after I finally weave my way through all the line and make it out to the bridge wing, there was still no one around. Of course the only place left to look was the flying bridge, I climb up the ladder only to be greeted with a bucket of flour in the face... I mean you would think blacking out the bridge would be enough, but no, they just had to add a nice little touch of flour.

I hate to say that the guys had the last prank, but we couldn't think of anything to get them back with.

What fun times at sea!

23 October 2007

To be at Sea! ~ October 07

Life still goes on…
…I’m in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on the ship Hope with 35 other people. We got underway the 1st of October to sail to Nevis and then Roatan for medical and children’s ministry. Four days later and 55 miles from Cuba as we're about to go through the Yucatan Channel we lose our engines and the decision is made to return to Friend Ships in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We’re making 1.4kts through the water and know that God is still on the throne. Though we never made it to Nevis or Roatan there is such peace about going back. A lot of people have said they feel like the mission is over and that what was needing to be done was in fact completed. I don’t know why, but I feel the same way also…
Maybe I will never know the reason for being at sea without getting to see the beautiful souls on the islands we were going to, but I know that ALL is for the glory of God! I thank Him so much for His peace and for his timing for everything, even when we can’t see the end.
Trust… …God has said go, so I’m going. I’m not sure where to but I know that God has great plans ahead. Trust is always the word... My heart aches but I know that God is in control. I know that all is for His glory! I know that trials bring me closer to who I need to be in Him. I know trials give me strength that I will one day need. GOD LOVES ME SO MUCH and I’m so happy that He will never leave me.
My name means “God is my judge”. For as long as I can remember, I've always looked to others for my self worth. Depending on how well I’m liked or loved by others is how important I am. But what I have been realizing this past year is that God is my only judge. Yes, obviously people are going to judge me, but that’s not what’s important. God’s judgment is all I need to be concerned with. That I am worth so much more than what man says. God is enough!

23 September 2007

Idaho ~Sept 07

I was working with American Cruise Lines this summer so wasn't able to make it up to Alaska to go commercial fishing. Well, I guess Amanda and I actually swore we would never do it again, but after so much time has passed you kind of forget about all the hard times. So because Amanda and I didn't make it to Alaska I decided to take a trip to Idaho to see her. And we had so much fun!

This is a cabin we stayed at one of the nights I was there. We of course had a blast! There was a hot spring there so we spent a good amount of time in it. And it was my first time in one too.

The cabin was about a 45 minutes drive from town so you would think there were be nobody around. Wrong... Turned out there was a forest fire two miles from where we were staying, so there was a ton of fire fighters everywhere. They had hoses EVERYWHERE! Below is a picture of some of the fighter men. They all came by our cabin and were waving and stuff. It was a lot of fun!

This is Amanda and I the night we stayed on a sailboat. Did you know that you have to have your toes pointed to sleep in one of these things? It was bad! So our whole plan was to run an extension cord to the boat and watch a movie and then go to bed. Well our cord didn't reach so we just hung out on the dock. It was pretty funny, because all the rich sailor dudes that came by thought we were pretty crazy.

My first time sailing! Yay!

Now I love big ships, but this little thing was a bit different! It was freezing cold out so we had like two pairs of pants and four shirts on.

We get out there and there's like no wind.. We're just kind uh bob'n around wondering how the heck we're even going to get the thing back to where we started.

So, of course the best thing to do in a situation such as that is to pray for wind. Well, Amanda decided that we didn't just need a little wind but that we need a near storm, so she prayed for big white caps.

And what do we get? Lot's of wind! We have no idea how to sail the thing so when the first little breeze came we nearly lost it. We're both screaming and it gets to the point where you just know you're going to go in no matter what, so no amount of yelling is going to help. But by some miracle we stayed in the boat.

We were out there for several hours and didn't even realize it. By the time we returned (putting it perfectly into shore because we are professional sailors at this point) we were completely sopping wet! We nearly went in every couple of minutes but managed to keep most of our selves in the boat. Such good times! And so many good laughs!!

21 September 2007

Arkansas ~ Sept 07

The longer I’m away from Arkansas the better I like it when I return to see my family. Maybe that’s because I’m growing up, but I’m not sure. And every time I go “home”, I plan to take a picture of the whole family to post on my blog page, but it just never seems to happen.

So, I just wanted to let everyone know… I have met and seen so many parents as I’ve traveled around. I actually like to watch families wherever I may be to see how they work together. And as hard as I look I have NEVER seen any parents as great and (I use this word lightly) cool as mine. So yes, I must say that I do have the best parents in the world. (Daddy dad! You better leave me a comment and tell me how much you love me too.) :D

My brother-in –law Robert was at work so didn’t make it into the photo either. Robert is married to my oldest sister Lynn who’s 23 and they have a sweet little girl Rebekah who is 2 ½. She’s the cutest kid you have ever seen. My favorite niece ever! Lynn is expecting another one in December. Hopefully the 10th so we have the same birthday. But I don’t think it will be so. The three of them live about 30 minutes from our parents.

Then there’s my little sister Sarah who I believe is 19. And I’m not sure how she’s catching up to me in age but I think she is. But she’s living in Missouri now and is working in a church up there.

My brother Luke who’s only 17 and has already moved to Texas. He joined the ALERT program. And I really have no idea what they do. It’s a Christian program and they do search and rescue stuff, but he is going through basic training right now. I’m actually feeling kind of bad that I told him about it to begin with, because I know that it’s pretty hard. (Sorry Lukey Luke, guess I should have mentioned I didn’t actually know what they did. Oops).

And then there’s baby Joseph. And no, just because I’m holding him in the first picture does not make him mine, though I would take him if given the opportunity. He’s 7 months old and super cute.

So that’s my family. The best family I might add. I wouldn’t want a one of them to change.

These are a couple of my friends in Arkansas. And I love them all. I guess I’m just blessed with knowing and being related to such cool people. (And if you are reading this you must fall under the super cool category also).

Myself, Cameron, Matthew and Nick.

Trent, Cameron, Matthew, Juli, Randy and Nick…

02 September 2007

Final Day on the Star ~ Sept 07

Wow… And I say that with the last bit of energy I can muster. I can’t even believe September 1st has finally come. 12 hours or more of work a day everyday for 12 weeks. If I were asked to work another day, I probably would have died. I don’t think God ever intended us to work that long without a day for rest. This job has taken everything I had out of me.

I’m on a plane now headed for Northwest Arkansas. I’m in tears and about to break. I should be jumping for joy that I will never see the American Star again. But my heart is breaking for all my friends I left behind. So many are going to hell and are happy about it. I don’t even know what I should do.

I hate religion… I hate when people try to force God on you. I don’t believe that it has to be that way. I’ve talked to so many people that have been completely turned off from God by people shoving the gospel down their throats. I have even witnessed it myself!

While aboard the Star I talked to several people about God. But how do you tell them the Truth when they believe something completely different? One example is a girl I was talking to, she said she would go nowhere when she died, that once she took her last breath on earth that that would be it. And I asked what if that didn’t happen? What if there was a heaven and a hell, what then? She says, well, I guess I will be wrong. That she can’t believe in something she can’t see. What do I say? I have nothing. I want her to know that God really will help her when she calls on Him, but how do I prove it to her?

This happened countless times. Countless times. I was so unprepared. How do I get hope out there if I can’t even remember what the Bible says about anything?

What about the guy who served God with his whole heart for seven years? Every morning he spent an hour praying and reading the Bible before he started his day. Now he just doesn’t want to serve God because he has to give up things like drinking, smoking and living with his girlfriend. I tell him that he can still serve God and that with time God with give him the desire to change. He says he just doesn’t want to.

How can you serve God and then not? Once you know the truth how can you turn your back?

What am I supposed to do? I feel completely helpless! And I call myself a missionary? What am I supposed to do?

Life aboard the Star ~Sept 07

(Chief Mate Max Taber, Danette, Captain Henry Thorpe)
Everyday aboard the Star was pretty much a struggle for me. I did get to make some really good friends and had some good time, learn quite a bit and even had some great experiences. But besides my commitment of 12 weeks, Captain Thorpe and Max are the only reason I stayed. They are amazing people and I loved working with them! I can't say enough about them.

Most people are pretty excited when they get to leave American Cruise Lines, including myself. Well, Max, Ned and I had a count down going on the bridge window of when we were leaving. This is mine, three days left to go. Captain and Max drew faces for me so I drew my own also.

(Independence Shore boat)


My last week, both Captain Thorpe and Max let me drive the launch. I had so much fun! I love the launch anyway, but then even with passengers aboard to get to pretend to be a captain! So much fun! And they even let me dock it, or attempt to dock it anyways. I almost hit a couple of boats, but either the captain or mate was there to give me good directions to get out of the mess I found myself in. I think I was getting the hang of it towards the end. But it could have all just been in my head. I never actually hit anything though, so that was good!

(Lobster pots)

I wish these lobster pot buoys showed up a little better in this picture. I just wanted to give you a bit of an idea of what we were dealing with up here in Maine. It was so much stress yet so much fun to try to get through these things. I could usually make it through a two hour watch and manage to only hit one (or two). If it was foggy out though, forget it. Didn't even try, we'd just mow them over. There was no hope for navigating around them when you could hardly even see past the bow.

04 August 2007

ACL's Deck Crew ~ Aug 07

Well, I’ve given you all several pictures of the scenery and stuff but no people pictures. Just thought I would post a picture of the deck crew I’m working with and also the two coolest people ever Heather and Peter. We (the deck crew) like to call ourselves the “dream team”. But the word nightmare is often heard coming out of the captains mouth when in reference to the crew. I don’t understand why…

I also get so many complements from the passengers about my uniform… They usually go something like, “ohhh, you are actually cute when you’re not in uniform.” I smile and say, you’re so sweet, thanks. Thinking to myself that I spend 80% of my time in the stinking things!

(The Dream Team)

So first here in the picture is Will, he will be leaving the crew tomorrow. He’s our “jumper”. Meaning he jumps out the hatch when we arrive at a dock to take our lines to a bit. He’s also our expert towel folder and has his own personal condiment fanny pack. Well, it’s probably not a fanny pack, but we all think it’s a better story.

Next we have Ned. Ned is my partner on the stern, we are often referred to by the captain as the “A team”. I believe that’s because he watches everything going on on the bow, but only sees what we want him to on the stern. There is also a list going in the laundry room of how Ned will injure himself, he is know as the one to always slip on or get his hand caught in the gangway.

Max, He’s our fearless leader and the Chief Mate. He’s totally cool and a great guy to work under.

Bill is our #1 Deckhand/ERA (Engine Room Assistant). I will be taking his place when he departs in a week. He’s totally cool also. I spent the most time with him when I first arrived, he looks out for me. I think.

Then there’s me… I get made fun of all the time because I always “hog” the launch/shore boat. I would like to say in my defense that it is not my fault though, the Mate always asks if I want to go for a boat ride. And I can’t very well say no can I? I totally have to much fun on the launch; Wednesdays are definitely my favorite days.

Lindsey’s a line handler on the bow with Bill. She’s going to the Maine Maritime Academy to be a real sailor. She's my roommate... Or I guess all 11 girls are my roommates but Lindsey and I share a bunk and a small space.

Then there’s Tom… We like to make fun of him also… He’s the “doorman”, meaning he watches the door as the jumper hops to the dock. But Tom is usually the first out. He also likes to point out to Max when he’s on the launch all the boats or buoys that could possible be hit. He doesn’t realize that Max is way taller and can see just as much as him. We just laugh…

(Peter and Heather)

These are the two coolest people ever. Peter and Heather. Heather reminds me of my best friend Amanda and Peter is just sweet like my brother… They are both stewards.

31 July 2007

Another Day ~ July 07

(Lighthouse in Maine)
Saturday the 21st was my halfway point for being with American Cruise Lines. Six more weeks left to go. I can't believe I'm going to make it. I'm so excited to be done simple to move on to the next thing in life. I've been talking with Captain Stan and Sharron and am so excited to say that I will be sailing on M/V Hope with Friend Ships for the next trip to the islands of St. Kitts & Nevis, located in the Leeward Islands, the island Roatan and also Honduras .. I really am looking forward to it!

(Starfish in Belfast)
Things here in Maine have been going pretty well. I got a complement the other day from the Mate that I was the best deckhand he had ever seen, I was so happy!
The "#1 Deckhand"/ERA (Engine Room Assistant) is leaving in two weeks and there is talk that I will be the new one. I'm excited and kind of nervous. We don't sail with an engineer so there is just the ERA... Now they want a chick to be starting the engines and all that jazz.. And I say all that jazz because I really don't know much about the engine room. Yikes! How do I get myself into these situations?

(Acadia Park)
Beautiful Maine and the salty sea.

01 July 2007

To be an example ~ July 07

There’s something about getting underway that brings a smile to my face.

So, life on the American Star is not quite as horrific as it had been the first two weeks. We are always working so it actually makes the weeks go by pretty fast. Only 9 more more left to go. 62 days. Not that I am really counting or anything.

I haven’t found my Christian friend yet, so I am having to be the example on my own... It was so easy at Friend Ships because everyone there was a Christian already and I didn’t have to set any examples. Here everyone knows I’m a Christian and it feels as though they are all watching every move and just waiting for me to make mistakes. That seems to be the hardest part now…
God actually gave me my laugh back this past week. It was gone for quite some time, but has finally returned. There are six of us on the deck crew and we all seem to get along pretty well, this makes for a more pleasant day. They don’t understand why I am always laughing, of course neither do I. I’m just happy to not be quite as miserable.

21 June 2007

Curtis Island ~ June 07

(Curtis Island)

This is the most beautiful island I have ever seen. I want to live in that cute little home and man the lighthouse. I'll get myself a little sailboat and pretend like I'm all salty and the princess of my island.. It's all just a dream.

Though I’m not in Prince Edward Islands I feel as though I could be Anne of Green Gables. The Lake of Shining Waters as she would say. I was on the helm this morning, the water was flat calm and the sun was hitting it just right. It was like a million diamonds, the Lake of Shining Waters now has a whole new meaning to me. It’s beautiful up here in Maine.

My days are long and I’m still counting down to the 1st of September. I am trying to look for the good in this job and have actually found two things; one, the weather is not hot at all. And two, I can have as much ice cream as often as I want. That makes me happy.

Yesterday I was on the shore boat for most of the day transporting passengers to and from the ship. The weather was actually pretty miserable, but I was having the time of my life. It was rainy and freezing but it felt as though I could be up in Alaska fishing. That was the first time I actually has a genuine smile on my face since starting this job.

Song by Ginny Owens ~ June 07

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I'm gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

Cuz I'm not who I was
When I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
Then I will go through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'll never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley
If You want me to

By Ginny Owens

Thank you Rebekah Larson for the CD "From My Heart To Yours", I love you so much!

13 June 2007

Trip to Bangor, Maine

(Penobscot River)

Well, it has been four days since I started my adventures with American Cruise Lines… I would have written sooner but I try to use that language as little as possible… Yes, this has been hard. Probably pretty dang close to the worst days of my life. I’ve been kicked of the bridge I believe five times now. The first two days were the bad ones, today has gotten better.

I flew into Baltimore on Friday night and started work early Saturday morning. It was quite chaotic with the disembarking of passengers and keeping everyone’s luggage going to the right location. It was a disaster with four people in charge telling us all to do something different… And I thought Friend Ships was unorganized.

I didn’t get my uniforms in, so am wearing someone else’s that is entirely to large. First of all I don’t wear white tennis shoes and secondly I definitely don’t wear shorts.. This alone has left me standing awkwardly in the middle of beautiful people.

Now I haven’t been on a ship since January 2007 but still know my port from starboard, how to carry out an order and to stay on a course. But to everyone else I am a just chick that has never seen a ship…


So I flipping work all day, I think it was like 13 hours and then I had my four-hour watch on top of that. So we get out to sea and I report to the bridge for my first watch. Keep in mind that I have actually been an officer before and this is not the first time at the helm... Anyways, so I report to the bridge and we happen to be in a narrow channel. “Permission to relieve the helm? What’s your heading?” and all that jazz. Relieve the helm, the Captain says... I barely touch the thing and he wants to know if I have ever been with American Cruise Lines before. “No Sir, not with….” Is all I got in before he removed me from the bridge. Come back when we’re out in open waters he says.
Now I have never been kicked off the bridge before, so this has nearly brought me to tears. I know how to flipping stay on a course!

It’s dark out and I have been working all day. I come back to the bridge I believe like 3 hours later to do my duty on the helm/lever.

(Pause, let me go back) I haven’t been at sea for six months and this has now just brought back all the memories of the Israel trip that I cherish and miss so very much. I don’t think there has been more than a couple of days where I haven’t looked at my photo album from that trip, but something about being at sea made me miss my friends more than I ever thought I would. I’m surrounded by faces yet am so alone. I put up the “I’m so independent” look most of the time, but the truth is, I really need a friend by my side.

So with all that said, let’s go back to the bridge.

I relieve the helm and have been standing there for approximately 15 minutes. I can’t believe I’m so far away from everyone I care about and am working my butt off for money. Do I even freaking like to sail or did I make it up?

I start to blackout and know it will pass pretty quickly because I usually never get sick or anything... I can’t see the compass and this is a bad thing when you’re the one steering the ship. “Mate, I’m blacking out and I can’t see the compass” I say. I couldn’t see a thing but could hear quite a bit. My first thought was, what’s going on and why did they sound man over board on the ships whistle? (three prolonged blasts) I’ve got you! I’ve got you! Said the Mate. I’m going to lay you on the flour! What’s wrong?! What’s wrong?! What’s wrong?! Said all the voices around me. What happened to her?… I come-to on the deck of the bridge with 6 faces rushing round trying to make sure I’m going to live or something. Now I’m embarrassed! What the heck just happened? I never, ever, for any reason pass out. (Once when I was like 14, had the flu and was walking outside to my room. But besides that, never!)

Anyway, I lay there on the deck and then sit in a chair for a bit and tell them I am completely fine, I’m not sure what happened but it wont happen again. I’m ready to go back to work. Oh no you’re not, they inform me. You’re going to lie down. But, I can do this, I tell them, I’m fine. They put me in the room next to the bridge so they can keep and eye on me, but I’m to be sleeping. The Mate comes to check on me and I ask him why they sounded the man over board signal. He said, we didn’t. You hit the danger signal on the ways down. (five short blast). Oh dear god! Can this actually get any worst?

The next day I am so flipping seasick! And it wasn’t even rough out! Yes, I have been seasick before but not like this. I didn’t even get seasick to or from Israel! And we went through how many hurricanes again? I don’t know what came over me, but that morning I threw up like 15 times. I report to the bridge again for duty and they ask how I’m doing. Said I was a bit seasick but would be fine. Come back when it’s calmer. That’s number 3 now! By this time I’m in my room in tears! What the heck am I doing here and why can’t I do this?

I come back 2 hours later and am on the helm for about 15 minutes again and start getting so flipping sick. The officer looks at me and asks if I’m alright… NO!.. Tell me what you want, he says. I’ll be right back, and I sprint towards the door. Down the passageway I freaking run to the head, throw up and come back to the bridge.. Of course I feel fine now, but this will only last for about 5 minutes before I am sick again. Go lay down! Number 4! Oh my gosh! I can do this I swear!

I’m doing laundry now at this point in the completely closed-in bow, and I pretty sure there is not a worse place I could be. I haven’t eaten now in two days because I am so flipping sick. I come back to the bridge and same story. That now makes 5 times I have been kicked off the bridge!

And at this point in my life I’m seriously thinking about jumping overboard! It’s 2 in the morning and can see land. I have to call Debi or I’m going to die.. No cell service! Could my life possible get any worse? The answer is actually no… It was the worst it could get. I actually thought that I really might die! For real! It was that bad!

I was finally able to actually stay on the bridge for two watches before arriving in Bangor, Maine. (I have never been so happy to be moored at a dock in my life!) The two Captains and two Mates seem to actually like me for some reason. I don’t know why, but I believe they think I am delicate or something. For the two times I was actually allowed to stay on the bridge they were very impressed with my work and what I actually did know. I really can do this! I just haven’t had the chance to prove myself yet.

Things have gotten better today, but I’m still not sure I’m going to make it the three months. I know with God all things are possible, but I would really like a Christian friend here to talk to.

(Bucksport, Maine)

31 May 2007

A Bench in Baltimore ~ May 07

So the question is...

As a Christian am I supposed to give money to everyone who asks?

(Beautiful souls in Baltimore)

As I sat on a bench in Baltimore and watched people pass by with their children, families, boyfriend or even their dog; I couldn't help but wonder how many of them loved God? How many of them have even heard of Him before? And I sat and wondered, what am I doing about it? I want to be a missionary in a foreign land, yet I can't even help the ones walking by or around me. I wonder why I even decided to sit on that particular bench and offer a smile to the ones I did. I wonder if God had put me there for a special purpose or I just happened to sit there for no apparent reason. I'm sitting there with four dollars in my pocket and an empty Starbucks cup which once was a Java Chip Frappuccino.

A lady comes and asks me for money to get supper, she says it's already eight o'clock and I haven't eaten yet. I look at her with my apologetic look and say the first thing that comes to mind when a person ask that question... ...Sorry, I don't have any money... Now yes I am speedily depleting any funds I do have at the moment. I want to make a trip to Idaho to see my best friend Amanda, but I also need that same money to fly back out to the east coast to the ship I will be working on this summer. So the big dilemma was, do I pay $3.52 for the coffee or do I save it to put towards my trip(s)? Of course the flesh won and what difference is three dollars really going to make towards a flight that is probably going to cost around six or seven hundred dollars? So there I am sitting on the bench having spent the $3.52 on the coffee I really didn't need, and tell the lady I have no money... Obviously this was the wrong answer because I do have money and it was nothing more than a lie. So, I really want to know, am I supposed to give money to every one that asks?

Training in Baltimore ~ May 07

I finally arrived in Baltimore on the 28th of May after missing my flight in Chicago. I’m not exactly sure how they expect you to catch a flight when your first one is an hour behind schedule, but it’s pretty impossible. Running through the terminal I go, at least a mile to get to the gate my flight left out of. This is with my luggage, in my flip-flops, after being bucked off a horse and can hardly move! Then running to gate K13 trying to catch another flight to some other foreign airport in DC. Which happens to be boarding at the moment. After I was finally there, it dawns on me… … Isn’t this the same plane I flew on from Fayetteville to here? Well of course, because I landed at gate K13.

My best friend Debi, whom had already driven five hours from Blacksburg to Baltimore just to stay the night with me, now had to drive another hour to DC just to pick me up. We had the greatest time at the hotel just catching up and doing what girls do best… Kaltgni otuab ysob… :D Anyways, so the next morning, we drive around Baltimore looking for Constellation Pier in Inner Harbor. After finally finding it and a parking spot we head for the dock. Now where the heck is the darn ship American Star? (where training is to be held) We ask Information, the water taxi, Port Control and anyone else who might have an idea… Their answers of course would be, she's not here, she sailed on Saturday… So you’re telling me that I flew half way across America only to find out training has been canceled? We finally get back to the car where I had left my phone, and I call the home office in Connecticut to see what's up. It just turns out the ship will be arriving within the hour... Talk about a scare!

(American Cruise Lines ship American Star)


This ship was finished in 2007 and is completely rust free, talk about super sweet. 220 foot in length and actually doesn’t have a helm. Apparently the new fancy thing is a lever, or three I guess. Yeah don’t ask. We did three days of training with basic deck stuff, it wasn't anything to exciting, but good to get to know the ship a bit. I’ve lived on a ship for three years, so the stuff that is just normal life to me is like a whole new world to others. It's actually kind of strange.


I will be flying back to Arkansas 01 June and then returning back to the east coast to work in hopefully less than two weeks. It will be interesting to see what kind of situations I run into working for this company, I have a feeling I will end up with a couple of stories.

11 May 2007

BST ~ Texas ~ April 07

Well, you all might have figured out by now that I love to sail. I actually just heard back today (11 May 2007) from the American Cruise Lines. They hired me for the deckhand position I applied for a couple weeks back. I am so excited! The end of May I will be in Baltimore for a couple days doing training ACL requires to work aboard. After that I'm not exactly sure what location I will be headed to next; I'm betting there will be some water around though. :D

I am working toward getting my Able Body license which is required for sailing on a lot of vessels. It almost feels like I am playing a video game trying to get to an AB, that there are all these secret steps inbetween that no one can tell you about. I have made at least a hundred phone calls to the Coast Guard just trying to get information. I was finally able to go to Baltimore and get my Merchant Mariners Document. Apparently that was the first step.

Next I went down to Texas for a week of Basic Safety Training. The first two days were fire, then next we had first aid and CPR. The fire training was a lot of fun simple because I prefer hands-on over the sitting in front of a textbook trying to cram information into the brain stuff.

(Sonya and I)

That person in the grass is the man I killed just because he was a guy... No, just kidding.

(Amy and Buck)

Along with all the other fire drills we did, we had a dummy who weighed 165 pounds that was needing to be rescued from a "blazing" container. That of course was a workout with all the fire gear on.

The next three days we studied radio communications, personal safety, pollution prevention and sea survival. Once again my favorite was the sea survival, seeing how we were able to "go swimming". :D

(Amy trying to get into the life raft... It's not as easy as one might think.)

(Steve and I)

At the end of every day we would take a test on what we had studied. Talk about stress. I hate taking tests anyways, but to have to take them on something I really want to do good at, it just didn't add to the enjoyment. I am happy to say however that I did get 100% on most them. I had an advantage though, with being at Friend Ships for nearly three years. It really helped a lot.


So, I have this theory that I have met to many people in my life time of 21 years. That an average person probably meets around 100 to 200 people a year. Well, it seems to be that everyday at Friend Ships you were always meeting someone new. That I would meet like 400 or more people a year. Actually while I was in Gretna for the three months we had over 800 people come through. I talk to all of them. I seriously felt like I never want to meet and get to know another soul after returning from Israel. While I was living in Virginia I only left the house to go to work (the girls drug me out a couple times at first to socialize with their friends, but, I learned pretty quick not to fall for that trick again). My name's Danette, I was with Friend Ships for almost three years. Bla, Bla, Bla, Bla Bla. And NO I'm not a Hokie! (Their mascot)


Anyways, so before BST I'm thinking, here I go down to Texas only to what? Have to meet more people! If I can dodge everyone this will be good, then I won't have to pretend like I have everything together and life is perfect. I mean I do do missions, so I must be close to perfect right? NO!

I roomed with this girl Amy from Canada and we totally hit it off. She works on the African Mercy with Mercy Ships as the only girl deckhand so we had a lot in common. Then there was Sonya, she was totally cool and I had a great time talking to her. I actually went out to coffee one night with this huge group and had a good time... I realized something while I was down there. That I didn't have to pretend I was perfect, or that I had everything figured out in life. People are people and no one has it all figured out, especially the ones that pretend they do. I also learned that everyone has something special about them, that everyone you run across is different in their own unique way; that by not getting to know these people, I am the one missing out.

Virginia ~ Jan-April 07

After returning from Israel I moved out to Virginia and was living with the coolest girls EVER! Jennifer, Debi and Janna. We had so much fun at our duplex, also know as DeAnnJeLynns.

(Janna and Danette)


It snowed several times while I was there so we were able to go sledding, make angels and such. My favorite was sledding down the half frozen highway. I had never done that before due to the fact that its like unsafe or something, we did have a lookout at the top of the hill so it was all good.


Jen took me hiking the Cascades one day. It was up hill the whole way and I didn't even realize it until the decent on a different path. At the end was a beautiful waterfall which was the first I had seen that was over like 4' tall. You would think with as many places I have been I would have run across one somewhere.

(Debi and Janna)

Those two beautiful ladies pictured above are my best friends; it was taken when we were in Baltimore for flights and to get my MMD. We had a lot of fun looking at all the ships in port and trying to find a hotel. I think we took every road twice. Anyways, we finally found a hotel and paid a fortune to stay. I'm sure we must own part of it now.


(Danette, Jen and Jean)

Jen, Janna and I went up to West Virginia to see Mark and Jean and then the New River Gorge. They are the sweetest people ever and I miss them so much. I hadn't seen them since they left Friend Ships around the beginning of 06.

(New River Gorge)

This is my favorite picture. Every time I see it, it just reminds me of how great my God is.