For those of you just tuning in, Branden has been away for just over two months, with a few months still to go. His months away have been busy, with work on the ship and a couple of port calls. Branden is the air maintenance officer on his ship, so he keeps busy all the time, not just when he's flying. He and his maintainers are responsible for everything on the helicopter, so you can imagine how busy they are. They do all repairs, checks, etc. He has a team of about 15 maintainers and he's lucky because they're a great group of guys.
For now, the ship is where it is going to be for the remainder of the cruise, other than when it heads into port. The pilots fly over to a nearby island about once a week for supplies, including food and mail. When the helo is down (i.e., not working), they have to take a small boat over to get the supplies. Recently, this happened, and Branden was invited to go along. You can see his big ship behind him in the photo.
To try and relax each week, the ship has a "steel beach" picnic most Sundays. They all cook out and try to enjoy some down time. Sadly, there are no Coronas to go along with the BBQ; this cruise is totally alcohol-free. It's not like the Royal Caribbean cruise you took last year; there's no Lido deck on this ship. Even still, BBQ is better than the cafeteria food they get the rest of the week, so it's a welcome change of pace. In case you're wondering, yes, that is Branden playing chef in the photo, and yes, his hairline continues to recede!
Once in a while, every few weeks or so, the ship pulls into port, either for supplies or just a few days of liberty for the sailors. So far, their port calls have included Hawaii, Guam, and Malaysia. The port calls are nice because they usually mean a day or two away from the ship, with time to explore the city, eat out, and have a few beers. They have another port scheduled in about a month, and this is the one I am meeting him at! I can't wait to see him and I'll be sure to blog all about it (okay, maybe not all about it, wink, wink).