They Call Me Captain Sugarbritches

For a little more than six years I worked offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, out of too many ports to recall, between Aransas Pass, TX and Venice, LA. Like most of the crossroads that I've come to in my life, I made a sharp turn away from one lifestyle full speed ahead into something completely different practically over night.  My fourth marriage fell decidedly short of being anything fairytales are made of and after a decade of spinning my wheels I got on a bus and took up a new life as a sailor. 
My husband had come home one day and walked out on the front porch and started yelling at me again while I was in the yard cleaning up the mess left behind after his latest claim to fame cook out. It was the strangest sensation that I've ever felt when instead of the usual gut-punched feeling that I'd get when he started in like that I seemed to have a marked loss of hearing. It was as if someone had pointed a remote control at him and pressed mute making his voice nothing more than background mumble. The voice in my head, however, was certainly loud and clear and it was saying, 'You do not have to live like this.  You shouldn't live like this.  Why don't you stop letting him do this?  Do something -- even if it's wrong, but this needs to stop.   You will not survive here. Go.  Just go.' 
I didn't say a word to my husband, I just walked in the house and called my brother and asked if he could get me on his boat as a deckhand if I were able to get hired on with the boat company that he worked for... and he said that he probably could.  And he warned me that it was no place for a lady without a husband around. I'll never forget Kass' reaction when I asked him for a ride to the bus station.  He seemed as if he genuinely didn't understand why I would choose to go and even asked, 'Weren't you happy?'  I was flabbergasted at the question and just asked back, 'Did you think I was?'  So, to quote Forrest Gump, ... just like that... our marriage was over.
Ten days and one Greyhound ride across country later I was at a fitness evaluation center in LaFayette,  LA (known by merchant marines as 'The House of Pain') taking the toughest physical exam of my life trying to get a job as an ordinary seaman. There were men there who were dropping like flys from the grueling tasks they had lined up.  So, when I got angry over the stupidity of some of the requirments and said that these morons ought to be exposed for making employment in the merchant marines nearly impossible for women -- about five guys volunteered to go on Oprah to back me up (lest people think I'm just a whiney girl).   I failed The House of Pain so badly that it wasn't even funny. When I returned to Joey's and Linda's place with my tail between my legs, their neighbor, who knew me well, did not recognize me.  I looked like I'd been mugged. 


I was seriously depressed over failing since I'd up and left my marriage and all.  Now what was I going to do?  As far as I was concerned there was only one thing to do and that was work out until I could pass that test. So I worked out at a gym for two hours a day, six days a week, for two and a half months. I felt like a wirey little man made of nothing but muscle to the touch.  I had no fat on me at all and when I could dead lift 150 lbs. I went back to The House of Pain and passed that stupid test. 
I worked on the decks and in the engine rooms of crew boats for three years and then I went to school and got my 100-ton captain's license.  The men out there that I lived and worked with were for the most part decent family men who couldn't care less if I was green and an alien, as long as I could pull my weight on my shift.  But there was also the 'other guys' who made up roughly 30 - 40% of the offshore oil field workforce and they were split pretty evenly between guys who openly resented my presence in their domain  (heaven forbid they'd have to close the door to the head when they take a leak) and those who were convinced that all I needed was a man and they were just the man for me.  Suffice it to say there's a story or two somewhere in there.
It took me a while to establish a reputation as a person who was there to do a job -- just the same as everybody else out there -- but in time I did just that.  Even the guys who didn't want me there admitted that I could do my job. 
Still every now and then some floatin' Romeo would board my boat and try to hit on me before they realized that I wasn't the cook.  Sometimes they'd call me honey, sometimes baby, and then there was my all time favorite: Sugarbritches.  Then one of the guys in my crew would politely take them aside and say, "Sir, that would be CAPTAIN SUGARBRITCHES, to you."

honeybit honeybit
61-65, F
1 Response Jul 22, 2010

honeybit,<br />
i'm having fun. this is my third story, and have more to go before i sleep! your writing is really good. get an agent... a publisher...<br />
againg thank you, for i do enjoy my reading time, and writers like you make me oh so happy...<br />
mike