Friday, July 3, 2009
A basket is hung from a crane. The basket is completely open, that way if it plunges in the water, you can just let go and you won't drown in the netting. You stand on a little donut and hold on. No harness. Trust me, holding on is not the issue, it's letting go. If you're exiting a platform, you do this while standing on the helideck, which is usually at least 200' above the water (at least on the bigger platforms). You hold on to the netting and stand on the platform while the basket is lowered over the water (you don't want to be lowered while over the boat, in case you fall) and then you have to let go precisely when you get near the deck, no easy feat in heavy seas.
[WARNING- SEA STORY AHEAD]
A THREE HOUR TOUR
I've only had to do a basket transfer once and it was in absolutely calm seas. The platform was fogged in and our mid-day helicopter couldn't make it. We could either wait a day for the fog to lift or take the boat. We elected to take the boat. It took hours to round up a boat. We assembled on the helideck at night. Looking down from the helideck, the sea was a long way away and pitch black. I put my gear in a locker (big chest sent down separately) and got on a life jacket. When it was my turn I stepped on to the platform and held on with all my might. You'd need an oxy-acetylene torch to break my grip. We were lowered over the ocean and you can feel every single hickup of the crane operator's brake usage. Apparently, this was his first basket transfer and it was very jerky. Like I said, holding on was not an issue. Oh yeah, and don't look down. If you're afraid of heights, they tell you not to look down (not that that's going to stop you). Got down and got to the boat. Let go. No problem.
We loaded up the boat with everyone from our platform and stopped by two other platforms. It took at least an hour to coordinate the loading at each platform. At about two or three in the morning, I took this video of a coworker who was on Cognac [PDF] doing hurricane repairs. Cognac is a fixed plaform with legs going over 1000' deep that's been producing since the late 70's (in the first offshore oil boom). It got later and later as the boat got more and more full. We eventually loaded around 80 people into a 120' long oil service boat. I teased my coworker about being on a "three hour tour" and he thought it was funny. When it got to be 4 AM and we still weren't in Port Fourchon, he wasn't amused by the "three hour tour" joke. We eventually got into port (Fourchon looks creepy that late at night).
We then had to get a "hot shot" (bus/delivery service used for parts and personnel) back to the Venice heliport, where our cars were. The bus driver was, of course, 2 hours late. He then proceeded to drive 40 mph all the way from Fourchon to Venice. Roughly 2/3 of the way through the journey, there was a riot on the bus. A bunch of oil workers, some of whom had been on a full 3 week rotation and were anxious to see their family, went up to the bus driver and threatened to throw him from the moving vehicle if he didn't speed up. I can't remember too many details because I was falling asleep in my seat. Eventually the mutiny subsided and the driver got the point and picked up speed. We got to the cars, we drove back to New Orleans, and I walked in my place in the Quarter at around 11 AM the next day. I proceeded to walk right to my bedroom and collapse face down on the bed and sleep.
... a three hour tour.
Here's some more video of basket transfers (a lot clearer than mine):