Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sense of humor...


Talking about Mother Nature.  Seems like every time we stepped outside, she dumped some rain on us.  We went out for breakfast early... no rain as I got the scoots out... it rained on us on the way to the restaurant.  Back to the motorhome... yep, sprinkles.  (It had stopped while we were eating breakfast.)  We got laundry ready to go... made it to the laundromat with out getting rained on.  One in a row!

I worked on getting apps set up again on my phone while Joan folded.  As we carried the laundry out to the scoots, it started raining again.  Really?

We talked about going out for a late lunch and a stop at the grocery store.  Nope, it rained.  Heck with it; all three of us took a nap.  While Mother Nature rained.  We had the heat on - it was only in the upper 50s.

No schedule.  We have some mail to get; need to start gathering and getting stuff ready for the road.  Well, if Mother Nature stops with the rain antics.  ;-)


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

iWait...


No, it is not the newest Apple device - it is what happens when you go to the Apple Store for a repair, without an advance appointment.

Not like I didn't TRY to get a service appointment with one of the "geniuses."  A couple days ago, my iPhone screen started coming apart from the body of the phone.  Interestingly enough, this is the only phone we ever bought an extended covers-everything warranty for.  (Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition.)  The warranty (2 years) expires next month.

If you call the Apple Store direct, you get into their: "Press this button for this; press this button for that; press this button and wait a long, long time."  It doesn't matter which number you press: you will get transferred to someplace far, far away.  I found out later, you cannot get through to the store.  I just wanted to get my name in the service cue.  Oh, they have appointments - 4 or 5 days out.  I knew this phone was not going to hang in there much longer.  I also know they do accept walk-in service, but there will be a wait.  Really, I get that.

We walked on the 8:05 ferry, with the understanding that the rental car company would have someone there to take us from the ferry landing to their office in Anacortes.  I should mention that it is going to be rainy all day... no way were we going to take the scoots to the mainland, then ride another 80 miles or so in the rain.  Then back.  At highway speeds.

No sign of anyone from the rental company (Enterprise: "We'll pick you up!"  They say that in their TV commercials.)  They don't say they will be 45 minutes late.  And we are on a somewhat time-critical mission today... the later we get to the Apple Store, the longer we will have to wait.  When our buddy Thomas from Enterprise arrived, he could tell I was pissed; instead of taking us back to their one-man office in Anacortes, he took us to a parking lot about 1/2 a mile away and said, "You can take this car from here."  He had the paperwork done (since Joan called yesterday to book this), so all I had to do was: initial, initial, initial, sign here, sign there, initial... and initial.  And, we were off.  In the rain.  The car was peppy, reasonably comfortable, had a good heater, and good windshield wipers - it's all good.

We got to the Apple Store shortly after 11:15.  I was told they could get us in today, but it would be around 1:30.  "We will send you a text when your time is getting close."  We wandered the mall to do some shopping while we waited.  At 12:09, I got the next text: "Your service time is close - please return to the Apple Store now."

Not even close.  After waiting another 2 1/2 hours in the Apple Store, they cease looking like "geniuses."  One guy came over to us and asked if we have been helped.  "Apparently not..."  This brought the "guy with the red iPad"... apparently a status thing amongst geniuses... "We are running behind..."

I plead my case to him... he only looked semi-down his nose at me and said something into his headset.  A guy came out, looked at my phone and said, "Your battery is swollen."  He then disappeared.

Another guy came out and asked, "Are you the swollen battery?"

"No, I am the guy who has been waiting for over 3 1/2 hours because of the phone with the swollen battery."  He apologized... "Sorry, I didn't have your name."

"You can call me Swol - it's short for swollen battery.  What can you do for me?"

"We have to replace it."

"The battery?" I asked hopefully.

"No, the phone."

Had I known that, I could have backed up the phone while I was waiting.  No, we don't have wifi.  Our phone IS our wifi, so there is no way to back it up with our current situation.  He said, "The cloud should have all your phone data."

He was wrong.  Oh, my apps are on iTunes... but, you have to reload all of them, AND you have to try to remember all the sign-ins and passwords.  I really hate that shit.  Lost all my photos.  All my music... it is music transferred from CDs, not from iTunes.

On the bright side, they replace my phone for free.  Well, it cost me to get to the store, and I am pretty sure that annoying wait put some stress on my heart and central nervous system.  On the down side, I will be spending the next couple days trying to get this new phone as functional as my old one was.  Oh, and it didn't want to talk to my Apple Watch at all... I had to "wipe" the watch and start over with that.

Yeah, I know: first world problems.  I probably wouldn't have been pissed if they had just told me at the start of this wait how long it would really take, and what I could be doing for the backup during that wait.

We were hoping to get back to Anacortes in time for the 4:45 ferry.  We stopped for a very late lunch, since we were already past that time.  Picked up a couple things at the store.  Then, I dropped Joan at the ferry terminal, drove to the parking lot a half mile away, then walked back to the terminal in the rain.

The guy at the ferry terminal ticket office couldn't take our motorcycle multi-pass for a walk-on, because, "The Seattle office will think we are crazy here if I do that."  Stupid, perhaps?  We have done this before.  The lady with the scanner as you walk on the ferry had no problem taking our multi-pass.  In the rain.

When we got back to Friday Harbor, it was 9:30... and not raining.  We walked to the parking lot for the scoots.  The roads were plenty wet, so it has been raining.  The wind was gusty on the ride home, but we didn't get soaked.  About 10 minutes after I got the scoots in the trailer, the rain came down again with gusto.  My only good timing for the day.

I had a selfie that I took of Joan and me in the Apple Store; and a couple photos of the crowd in there... yeah, with the old phone... they are gone.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Cabin fever...


No, not me.  Isabella.  She is used to getting some outdoor time; not today.

The wet weather system is hanging around - looks like we'll have some precip through Friday or so.  It is not a pounding rain like we sometimes see in the Tropical Tip.  In Pacific Northwest fashion, it is light rain, then drizzle, then no rain (well, there is water dripping off the trees), then sprinkles, then rain, etc, etc.

I am not complaining - just "reporting the weather" as I see it.  We have had beautiful summer weather since we arrived here.  None of the "Fogust" (fog in August) or days of rain in June.  This morning, I woke up around 5:00 (our typical work-day routine), hearing the sound of gentle rain on the roof.  Knowing I didn't have to get up and get ready to go out and work in it, I smiled... and turned over for a bit more sleep.  My internal clock will just have to get used to this new routine.  ;-)

Most days this summer, Joan went to work before me.  I had time to take Izzy out for some leash time.  On days we didn't work, we have spent a lot of time outside on our patio (well, patio mat)... and little Izzy is out there with us.

As wet as it was today, we couldn't open the door... when she is inside, she likes to look out the screen door.  Joan said that Iz looked "forlorn" laying in her cat-bed.  I quite enjoyed cocooning... we even got a short nap in this afternoon.  Joan kicked my butt at Yahtzee and cards.  She made us a nice breakfast and supper.

It was relaxing.  Maybe we need to get Izzy a job?  ;-)



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Put a fork in me...


OK, don't really stick me with a fork.  But, we are done!  Last day for both of us.  Well, September 1st is our "official" end date, but we have Monday and Tuesday off... so, we are done.

I did my usual morning trip out of Roche routine: get there early and have a nice hardy breakfast; leisurely, then go prep the boat.  Breakfast was great, and fast.  I checked in early; good thing - the storm yesterday left the boat littered with pine needles.  Every horizontal surface was covered with 'em.

I hosed the boat, starting at the bow and working my way back.  I had to get all that mess out of the way before starting the engine and systems prep.

We had a fairly light passenger load today (mid-teens), and the only whale report I had put them way south.  Doable, but not in a three hour trip.  At the last minute, the boss booked a party of 4 and told me, "They have to be back by 3:00 - they have a wedding to attend."

That would make it a 4 hour trip... and that isn't going to be quite enough.

I visited with the guests while we waited for the last 4 people; when they arrived I did the safety orientation, then asked about time constraints.  When I told them where the whales are and what I estimated for timing, the 4 people decided they could do "3:30... OK, maybe 3:40, but absolutely no later than that."

"I'll do my best to make that work."  Of course, everyone wants to see Orcas.  As I chugged out of Mosquito Pass and into Haro Strait, I got a latitude and longitude of the whales' location... it is going to be close.  I put the coals to it.

Haro Strait was lumpy (as in 3 to 4 foot waves) for about 10 minutes, then began to lay down.  The view from the bow...


Calculating the boat speed, lat/long, and estimated current, it was going to take us an hour and 50 minutes to get to the whales... unless they started to move towards us... and that is a possibility.  Not today, though - they turned and were moving away from us.  Not fast, but not making this trip any shorter.

We were well into the Strait of Juan de Fuca when I got a visual on a couple other boats who were with the whales... yeah, that is still a long ways away.

This is my last day - I am going to get these people to the whales!

Before we got to the other boats, I saw a couple Orcas further north than the others - that will work!  I made a 30ยบ turn and set us up for viewing...


Look towards the top of that image, and you can see the other boats.  We determined that we were viewing J-Pod, and had Granny (J-2), Onyx, and others to ourselves.  I am pleased that I will get to say good-bye to my J-Pod friends on my last trip.  Some of them decided to come up close and personal for a good-bye...



When they were further away, I started up again, and set up for more viewing.  The guests were so happy to get to see Orcas...


It wasn't going to be the longest viewing ever, but we all enjoyed it...




Calculating again, I knew we had to be heading back no later than 1:30.  At 1:25, I told our guests that "these will be our last looks."  As I rotated us to head north, two more whales came by our stern... nice way to end this viewing.

The tide was coming in, so I was anticipating a bit of a "push" heading back.  The water was nearly flat, the wind and current at our back... nice ride.



Nice cloud pattern...


Looking back towards the Olympic Mountains...


Looks like the weather might be moving back in.  Won't be an issue for us; we are ahead of it.  One more double check of the timing... we should be pulling up to the dock around 3:20.

Happy guests getting off the boat.  The crew was feeling good about the trip, too... especially the Captain.  We definitely went "the extra mile," today.  Nice way to end the season.

Joan got off work early today - a first.  When I got home, she suggested we go out for supper to celebrate a good conclusion to our work time here.  There is a Mexican restaurant in the Best Western... our first time there.  The food was good.  Not fast, but we weren't on a schedule.  No need to hurry home to get to bed early, so we can get up early.  This feels good.

We will probably be around here for another week or so... looks like rainy weather for the next 4 or 5 days (glad to not be working in that)... then, we'll start getting our rig ready for the road again.

We are both ready for some traveling.


Gearing up...


Getting ready for work today.  I originally had a charter that would have taken most of the day.  They canceled yesterday.  Now, booked for at least one public trip today.  May turn into two.

Oh, and this is really the last work day.

The "gearing up" from the title: it rained most of the night.  The weather weasels are calling for rain on and off this morning.  I will get to ride the scoot on those water-standing-in-the-dips roads one more time.  Back in "real life" mode, I don't choose to ride in the rain.

This boat has an open flybridge, which means you are on top of the cabin while running the boat.  Good visibility, but you are open to the weather.  Oh, there is a canvas bimini top, which does provide some shade, but once you are moving in the rain... you are going to get wet.

So, rain gear is the dress code for the day.  Even though there are some forecasted "sunbreaks" for later in the day.  The wind is down to single digits this morning, but I expect the water to still be churned up for a while.  Back to low double digits for the afternoon.

Yep.  Gearing up.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blowing a hoolie...


That's a sailing slang term: howling wind, driving rain.  AKA: fugly.

All our trips today have been canceled.  That is the smart move.  Not sure what it is like at the water, but here at our motorhome, we have had some gusts that I would estimate well into the 40s (mph).  A report from land is saying Haro Strait is one big mass of white caps.  First time this season we have canceled trips.  I have at least one scheduled for tomorrow; the wind is supposed to die down some (it will be lumpy out there for quite a while after this blow), and a 40% chance of rain.

The power has gone out here several times.  That means, when it comes back on, I have to go through the set up procedure on the satellite TV receiver.  Not a big deal, 'cause it is automatic after you tell it you are in Washington State.  During one particularly nasty gust, the power stayed on, but the satellite TV went to "no signal found."  When I looked at the Tailgater, it was laying on its side.  Yeah, that's some wind.  The coach is solid... and covered with crud from the nearby tree and pine needles from the big tree the next property over.  Yep, it's blowing.

Isabella has cabin fever.  I went outside to dump our holding tanks... she really wanted to go out.  Pretty sure that 8 pound cat would be like a kite at the end of her leash.  ;-)  I found myself trying to explain to her why she wouldn't want to go out in this crap.  Trying to reason with a cat... maybe I have cabin fever, too?


What a great last trip!


If only it were my last trip for the season.  Not the case.

The predicted rain didn't materialize.  In fact, it was downright pleasant.  I had a leisurely lunch at the Lime Kiln Cafe, then went to work prepping the boat.  Even had a decent whale report... not close, but certainly doable.

First mate/naturalist Erick and I visited with guests while we waited for our last group to arrive (they were coming in from one of our over-night kayak trips).  With everyone onboard, I did a safety talk, told them where we were planning to go (south), and we shoved off.  A nice group - they were excited to see whales.

On my way through the harbor, I got a tip from another boat captain coming in from the south: "Go over the top - north, then south."  No other reports of any whales that close, but I decided to give it a shot.

I often joke with guests: "If you read the brochures and magazine articles, the whales are always right outside the harbor, smiling and waving, passing out brochures and posing for pictures.  Yeah, that isn't the reality..."

Today, it was the reality.  Well, except for the "passing out brochures" part.  I never got the chance to "go over the top" or turn south.  We saw whales right outside Roche Harbor.  And - this is really amazing: there were no other boats with them.  Naturalist Erick quickly had an ID: we are with a good portion of J-Pod, moving north.

Our first view...


No other boats.  I expected to be one of many boats with the whales off the southwest side of San Juan Island.  I called the position in, but there were no other boats heading this way.  The first of the "muggings" began...



We are diligent in keeping the proper distances.  Some of these whales were doing deep dives, then coming up in completely different position from the others.  We continued our viewing up to Turn Point on Stuart Island...



North of Turn Point, the stopped heading north and began milling; usually means they are feeding.  I shut down the boat, so we could hear those great breath sounds as well as watch.  It was peaceful and exciting at the same time.


One of my favorite shots of the season...


No, not a breach or other dramatic behavior - the silhouette of a large dorsal fin, the sparkly water, and the silhouettes of islands in the background.  Timeless.


The whales began moving north again... then, a "mass mugging"...




Sitting with the engine off, the whales moved all around the boat.  At one point, one whale went under the boat, rolled... and then looked up at the people viewing at the stern.  There were gasps and shouts from the guests, then quiet, while everyone took in the experience.

I came down from the helm and explained how we work to keep the proper distance... they all understood.  I told them this would be "last looks," while we waited for the whales to move away...


OK, maybe that  ^ is my new favorite image for the season.  Although, I do love to see their breath with some backlighting...



Yes, that would have been a great way to wrap up the season.  I started the boat and let the guests know we would be starting back for Roche Harbor, taking the scenic route.  One person asked if we might see a bald eagle... "We'll be looking," I said.

As I was slowly motoring away, taking in the whales in the distance, I got a call from another boat: a couple miles south of us, there were two boats with whales from K-Pod.  I had Erick ask the guests if they'd like to see more whales on the way back home, or if they wanted to go in search of a bald eagle... unanimous: more whales.

It didn't take long to get there; I set us up to view, just south of Turn Point again.  The whales were closer to shore...


Then - a breach.  And another...


It was the one behavior we hadn't seen with J-Pod.  One lady asked me, "Is this the best whale trip ever?"

"I try not to compare.  Any day we get to see whales is a very good day.  Yes, today was something very special.  And now, for the second time, these will be our last looks."

Keeping an eye on the time, I knew we needed to go pretty much straight back.  I did a slight arc towards Spieden Island... looking with the binoculars... got one!  There was a large group of Mouflon Sheep on the grassy area, but right beyond that: a bald eagle...


We viewed the sheep, visited about bald eagles, and stopped at Sentinel Rocks to see some seals.  On to Roche.  Along the way, a few looks back...




Coming into the small opening to Roche, a Kenmore seaplane took off nearby...


Yep, I sure enjoy those views in the Pacific Northwest.

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This was from Friday, August 28th; I didn't get a chance to go through the photos last night.


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On edit: well, I may get my wish.

We pulled the slideouts in on the motorhome before bed last night.  The weather weasels have been predicting some snotty weather today - rain and wind.  We didn't see much rain, yet, but the wind has really kicked up.  Right now, it is blowing in the upper 20s, gusting into the upper 30s... and still building.

Joan called and said, "You won't have a trip today, due to the wind."

My feelings were not hurt.

This Winnebago is a solid little coach.  We pulled the slides in to protect the awnings over the slides; makes less surface area, too.  Makes it feel a lot smaller inside, though.  We have a windshield cover that straps on, velcros, and has magnets... not enough to keep it in place with this wind.  There is debris from the nearby tree stuck all over.

On the bright side, I am not out in it!  (Well, other than getting that windshield cover wrestled down.)