For about two weeks, every day was foggy during a time I was working offshore. While it would lift enough for some visibility, it was mostly heavy fog, with almost zero visibility at night.
All in all, it was about a three week period, but I was off for a week in between my two work shifts. It was only foggy at night on the bank. Out in the Gulf, it never lifted. It would become heavy as soon as we hit the jetties on the way out. The crew we relieved had the same report: heavy fog all week.
Moving between the platforms was tedious. The boat skippers were navigating by radar, so they kept their speed low to compensate for their lack of visibility. Looking out the window was like looking at a gray wall. There was little to see, until we were close to one of the platforms. The skipper would let me look at the radar, which told me little. There were blips on the screen, but I had no idea how to tell how far they were. I could see the basic configuration of the gas field, but it was a two dimensional basic version of the real world.
One night, the night man on the bank called to inform me we had lost some gas. Instruments in the control room showed we had lost a satellite structure at the far end of the field. The structure, which had more than one well attached to the header, meant there was no waiting until morning. Since it had shut in, all the attached wells would have shut in, also. After waking the gauger on call, we called the boat and started out.
It took a long time for the boat to reach the platform, even though it was only about a half mile away. After we boarded, I went to the wheelhouse to shoot the breeze with the skipper as we travelled to the platform. We had a few miles to travel, so I knew the trip would be longer than usual.
The skipper had his face on the hood of the radar. The hood could be removed, but the skipper liked it that way. It was probably due to the instrument lights on the console; they would distract from the two dimensional view on the screen. He didn't have much to say, so my mind drifted as we travelled.
I became lost in my thoughts, which is easy to do when there's nothing to see, or hear. The reference of time becomes distorted. The engines droned in the background until the skipper suddenly pulled back on the throttle. I was instantly alert.
I asked what was wrong. He replied there was nothing wrong; we had arrived. It seemed like we arrived faster than expected, and I wondered if the skipper was lost. It could happen, which was not a pleasant thought in the Gulf of Mexico. We didn't have Loran on the boat, so there was no reference other than the radar, which could be inaccurate.
I looked out the front glass. It was like a blank wall. There was nothing to see. The skipper gave the boat a little throttle, and we started creeping forward. I kept looking forward, but still didn't see anything. Suddenly, something caught my attention. I looked up and could see a faint greenish glow above the boat. As my mind sorted the image, I realized it was the mercury vapor lamp on the generator room on the platform. The front of the boat was only a few feet away from the bottom catwalk on the platform. The skipper gunned the throttle in reverse, stopped the boat and then went to the back controls. He spun the boat so we could leave from the stern.
We repaired whatever was wrong, I don't remember exactly what it was, but it had something to do with the fire loop. More than likely the plastic tubing had failed due to the constant exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. It was common and the fix was usually a few feet of new tubing with some stainless fittings. The gauger stayed on the platform, while the boat skipper brought me to the satellite structures to bring the wells back on line. After everything was back on line, we returned to the main platform, so the gauger could get a few more hours of sleep and I could go back to my usual tasks.
As I made my rounds, I realized how working in that environment was surreal. Visibility was limited to a few feet. The mercury vapor lights cast an eerie greenish glow.The spider webs, which sparkled as they moved in the light breeze, looked like bizarre jewelry made of some exotic green stone. Turning my flashlight toward the Gulf only made the fog seem thicker. The yellowish cone disappeared within a distance a little more than arms length.
Eventually the fog was swept away by a cold front. I was glad to see it gone. The constant wet, dismal conditions had caused me to have a sour and negative attitude. Work had become a small oasis of sanity in a bizarre world without depth.