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By Bruce S. Kershaw
Heres a story for those who have grown weary of working the old nine-to-five.
Check out what BYYB member, and Weekender builder, Brian Eleser does for a living.
Ill let him tell it...
I work for Shell Exploration and Production Company on an offshore oil
production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. I
am a Control Room Operator on the Ursa TLP (Tension Leg Platform). It is a floating
platform that is tethered to the sea floor in 3,800 feet of water, about 70 miles off the
coast of Louisiana.
As a CRO, I monitor the production facilities from a central control room, and
assist the other operators and technicians in the operation and troubleshooting of the
platform. I also hold a USCG license as a Ballast Control Operator, and monitor the
stability of the TLP, as it is a floating vessel.
I have been with Shell for 10 years, and have been on the Ursa project for 4 years.
I have been on the operations team through the design, construction, commissioning, installation, start-up, and
operating phases. It has been a very interesting process.
The construction and commissioning for
the topside modules took place in Morgan City, Louisiana. The hull, in Taranto, Italy. The
installation of the topsides onto the hull took place in
Curacao, one of the Netherlands Antilles Islands, off the coast of Venezuela. We
then towed the whole thing from there to the Gulf of Mexico. We work a 14 days on / 14
days off schedule.
I asked Brian what it was like to be out there in the middle of a hurricane. (That
part of the Gulf gets more than its fair share.)
I cant answer your question, he said, because we always
high-tail it out of there before the thing even gets close to us. Because of the fact that
we are a floating platform, and so far out, (minimum 45 minute chopper flight) and we
usually have from 100 to 130 people on board, we start evacuating early.
Weve been lucky the past few years. This season we started evacuating
non-essentials quite a few times, but the storms were usually far enough away
that we were able to keep a handful of people to keep it running. Shell is a very safety
minded company, and will evacuate down to the last person if it looks like its
coming our way. But they watch hour by hour to make that decision, because its a big
decision to pull the plug on 4 million dollars a day worth of production (give or take a
few dollars ;).
We have seen wind and waves from your average storm, but were so big and so
high off the water, that its not like being in a boat or ship. Were attached
to the bottom, but 4,000 feet of pipe will stretch, so we do feel some movement, but
Back on shore is Brians family.
My wifes name is Rosa, and
we have been married for 10 years. We have two wonderful boys. Justin is 5, and Kyle is 3.
My boys like to help, so I try to include them in whatever I am doing. Justin
will tell people Im helping my daddy build a sailboat. and we have a
cute picture of Kyle attempting to drive a screw with his Fischer-Price drill.
Rosa is a full time student, and gives him a hand on the boat when he needs it.
About his sons Brian says, I am hoping to get them both interested in sailing
at a young age. It appears to me that people who start sailing as kids, tend to stick with
The Elesers live in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, were Brian has lived all his life. It
is a small town about an hours drive north of New Orleans. Ponchatoula is known as
the Strawberry Capital of the world, and he
says they do grow the best. According to Brian, its a nice little town, with a large
surrounding rural population.
Brian will be doing most of his sailing on Lake Ponchartrain, a very large,
brackish water lake, which extends from just a few miles south of Ponchatoula, to New
Orleans, to the south, and from Lake Maurepas, to the west, to Lake Borgne, and then on to
the Gulf, to the east.
I can launch directly into the lake about ten miles from home, or into the
Tangipahoa River, which empties into the lake about 8 mile below the boat launch, which is
about 2 mile from my home. I would also like to do some sailing in the Gulf, over around
Biloxi, Mississippi, which is about an hour and a half from home. There are several
barrier islands that are anywhere from a few miles, to 12 miles off the beach. A friend of
mine lives there, and is restoring a 28 foot Marinette cabin cruiser. When we are both
through with our boats, we plan to take them out to one of the islands for a weekend trip.
There are also a few spots on lake Ponchartrain that are good for camping too. I plan on
daysailing until I build up my skills and confidence. I have always been interested in
anything nautical, and have been around boats all my life, although the only sailboats I
had ever been on were the few times I rented
Hobie Cats over on the beach in Biloxi. They were allot of fun, but it was embarrassing
when we couldnt get back to the beach. I knew we were supposed to tack, but
couldnt quite figure out how.
A few years ago, a friend of mine who worked offshore with me, invited us to go
sailing with him and his wife. He lives on Mobile Bay, in Alabama. He has a 30ft Newport,
and has been sailing all his life. We spent the whole day on the bay, sailing all the way
to the Gulf. I was hooked.
Instead of just taking us out sailing, Andy explained everything as we went, and
let us help with everything. He is a good teacher, and loves to share his love of sailing.
We have since gone out with them several more times. He is now retired, and has been
preparing his boat for an extended cruise. He doesnt know where they are going, only
that they are heading south.
After that first trip with Andy, I started looking on the Internet for a small boat that I could build myself. A friend at work turned me on to the Mother Of All Maritime Links website. The Stevensons site was one of the first ones I looked at. I immediately fell for the looks of the boat, with its classic lines. All the other plans and kits I looked at looked complicated, but the Weekender looked relatively easy to build.
I started in March of last year, and got off to a good start. I got a lot done in a
short time, mainly, since I have 14 days off at a time. Once the heat of summer came, I
didnt get much done, and it took me a while to get back to work on it. I never
suffered from first cut fever, but I guess I had mid-way fever. I
finally got back to it, but kept putting off the glass work. A friend of mine builds fiberglass boats for a
living, so I had him glass it for me. I am now in the process of finishing up the details
and rigging, and will hopefully have it in the water soon.
I have found that if you can keep the boat protected without having to cover it up
or move it around, you will get more done a little at a time. Despite having as much time
off as I do, I usually have so many things going on that I am pressed for time. If I find myself with short periods of
free time, I am more apt to work on my boat if I dont have to uncover it, move it,
or drag out a bunch of stuff that is stored away. A little work here and there adds
He started building in his garage, but has since sold the house. He is now building
a large workshop type building with an apartment above it, on their property out in the
country. He says the shop has to come first, before the house, or it might not get built
for a while, if ever.
Besides sailing, Brian enjoys anything outdoors... Gardening and landscaping,
hunting and fishing. (Louisiana is known as the Sportsmans Paradise.) Brian and his
wife are both certified scuba divers, and he enjoys spear fishing around the many oil
platforms in the Gulf.
While he admits to not being very active on the board, Brian follows it
closely and has gotten a lot of good ideas and help from others. He is looking forward to
attending get togethers, and getting to know other members.
Brian would love to make it to the get together the Stevensons are planning, and
likes the idea of a national gathering once a year.
Feel free to E-mail him. He would enjoy hearing from other members.
Brian Eleser; firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Brian. See you on Bourbon Street.
For more information on the Ursa, Tension Leg Platform, Brian says there is a good
article in the October issue of Fast Company Magazine.