Saturday, August 1, 2015

I don't think she understands...

Before Joan headed off to work this morning, I asked, "Is there anything I need to get done around here?"

I am only scheduled for one trip today, and that isn't supposed to depart until 2:30, thanks to an early charter on one of our other boats.  That gives me plenty of time this morning to take care of any important stuff.

She said, "You can dump the poop tank.  Then pump the fresh water tank into that to flush it - it has been a month since we did anything with the fresh tank."

I am pretty sure she doesn't realize I am now a star on the big screen, after the shoot with the helicopter yesterday.  Also pretty sure that Johnny Depp doesn't have to dump and flush the poop tank.


Cue the helicopter...

We are going to be in an IMAX movie.

Yes, really.  My understanding is it will be featuring scenery from northwestern Washington State for a new IMAX theater that will be built near the Seattle Great Wheel, the big ferris wheel at the Seattle waterfront.

Our Roche Harbor boat (SeaHawk) was used for filming the whale watch scene.  Before we left for our trip, the helicopter was flying low over Roche Harbor for those set-up scenes.  The assistant director was on our boat, in radio contact with the helicopter crew.

These folks chartered our boat, and had us put people onboard... free trip, but they were instructed that: "I'll let you know when to point and act excited.  We'll CGI the whales in later."

Yes, really.

We discussed heading out Mosquito Pass, with the helicopter making a close pass as we moved into the open water of Haro Strait.  Then, we'd pick a direction and hold that while the helicopter made more passes, with the passengers doing their "excited" part.

The "close pass" turned out to be about 50 feet above the flybridge (with our usual bimini top removed).  At one point, I grabbed my little pocket camera for a shot...

Then, the start of the passes from the side...

Even closer.  Then, a call from the helicopter: "Can you have the captain slow the boat down, and not take photos while we're making our pass?"

Ummm... sorry.

Then another call: "That lighthouse is good for a background.  Can you maneuver closer to the lighthouse?"

Lime Kiln Lighthouse.  The whales were further south; if they had been right here, we have to stay 1/2 mile offshore from the lighthouse.  Yeah, we can get closer.

The helicopter made a pass about 20 feet over our heads, then moved closer to the water towards the lighthouse, then a sweeping pull-up.

"That's great!  Take the boat back and make another pass by the lighthouse!"

The whale watch captain in me was itching to get to the whales, which were further south.  They made another close pass, told us they got the shot, and were heading back to refuel.  I pushed the throttle forward to head for the whales.

About 30 seconds later, the assistant directer got a call... "Well, that was fast.  Someone called the Sheriff about our helicopter buzzing the lighthouse.  Another 10 minutes and another call: "The shot looks good.  You're good to go."

The passengers did a fine job of "whooping it up" for the filming.  And, yes, we did get them to the whales... where they, again, whooped it up... this time, for real. 

We got back to the dock in time to get the assistant directer to his chartered seaplane and on to Seattle for the next shot.  Happy guests... yes, some of them were people who had paid for the trip, then got a refund and a free trip.  And get to be in an IMAX movie.  (Yes, they all had to sign releases.)

First mate Mike said, "So, if they CGI the whales in from that shot next to the lighthouse... does that make us look like we are violating the regulations?"

Making movies.  ;-)

On our second trip, I had a report that the whales had moved north and were moving north between Battleship and Turn Point (close by Roche Harbor).  Of course, the largest party on that trip was late... so the only boat that had been with that group of whales had to move on.  We were going to have to "re-find" them.  At least we had a general idea where to look.

One of the Victoria boats was heading to that area, so we coordinated who would take which part of Haro Strait while we both looked.  We found the whales first, called the other boat, and set up for viewing.  Another boat called and said they'd be heading that way.  Another boat (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) didn't call, but also set up... to keep an eye on the boats doing the watching.

The way things turned out, a big male (most impressive because of the big dorsal fin) broke off from the rest of the group, essentially blocking the two boats who were coming on-scene.  We had a very active group pretty much to ourselves for about a half hour.  And by "very active," I mean: one of the females breached... then again... and again... and again.  I reached for my little pocket camera, that had been sitting in the sun since the helicopter shoot... I turned it on, got a "low battery" screen, and it shut off.  I think the heat was too much for it.  What happened next will certainly sound like I am making this up.

More breaches than I have ever seen in a single trip.  A couple of double breaches (two whales together).  I stopped counting at 25 breaches.  By this time, the whales had moved near Turn Point Lighthouse, making for a gorgeous background.  The third boat on the scene had a group of photographers onboard - just in time for the whales to stop breaching.  When the whales moved on from the lighthouse, the breaching started again.

Somewhere beyond 35 beaches (including 2 each for the double breaches).  Tail slaps.  Spy hops.  A tail wave as we departed the scene.  Yes, really.

And during it all the 3 young boys (part of the late party) screamed through the whole trip.  I took us back on the "scenic route," through John's Pass and the Cactus Islands.  We saw seals and bald eagles, then turned along Spieden Island and saw Mouflon Sheep and Sitka Deer, including something I hadn't seen before: an albino deer.  All white.  Then heading back to the harbor, a bald eagle fly-over.

Quite the day.


And, a shot of the blue moon...

Yes, that was after I got back home and got out my "real camera."

Friday, July 31, 2015

Once in a blue moon...

You've heard the old saying.  A "blue moon" happens when there is a second full moon in a calendar month.  And, tonight (July 31st) is the second full moon this month.

As far as I know, people aren't necessarily any crazier during a blue moon than they are during any full moon... and, the crazy-ass people do come out during a full moon.  And during hot weather.  According to the weather weasels, this will be the warmest day so far this season in Friday Harbor.  It always feels warmer in Roche Harbor... maybe because it is open to the western sky?

Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


No, not the smart phone that was formerly made by RIM Ltd.  I'm talking about the Orca, J-27.

I haven't seen a lot of Blackberry this season.  The past three years, Blackberry has had some close encounter of the Orca kind with our boat.  I don't know if he likes that big ol' Cat diesel, or if it is the fact that I painted the bottom of the boat black and white (that is a joke)?

Today, we had some nice Orca viewing, with the stars being Blackberry and "the Cookie Clan": Oreo, Cookie, and DoubleStuff.  At one point, while the engine was off and we were viewing off the stern of the boat, Blackberry made a deep dive, changed direction, then swam right under our boat!  On the way, he turned on his side, so he could look up at us!  We could clearly see him under the water.. very impressive, the size of that big boy!

The only shot I had time for...

We had Blackberry, his sister, and the Cookie Clan to ourselves for a while, then other whale watch boats (mostly from Victoria) came rolling in.  There were whales up by Vancouver, whales in Rosario Strait, and these guys that we were watching in Haro Strait - it split up the fleet, so it never felt crowded.

A very nice day on the water.

Coming in, we have to do a "pirouette", essentially a 270ยบ rotation, to bring the boat to the dock.  As I made my shift from reverse to neutral to forward to rotate into the dock, I felt the shift lever go slack... that's not a good thing (understatement).  I hollered to crew on our other boat to "hold us off and give us a hand on our dock to catch lines."  They were there in a heartbeat, and it was a very uneventful return.  We thanked guests and helped them off the boat.  Then, went to work to see what was wrong... the shift linkage has a locking lever that holds the cables in place; it decided to cut loose.  We got it put back together, and will put some safety wire on it before the boat goes out again.  The safety wire isn't a required item... well, it now is, for me.

All that took some time, so I was able to ride home with my Honey (I'm usually home before her when I only have one trip).

Tomorrow, I'm on the Roche Harbor boat, doing some sort of trip where we are being photographed from a helicopter... I'm sure I'll get the details before we go out.  Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's all downhill from here...

No, not talking about our work situation.  Today was laundry day.  While Joan was tending to clothes, I picked up stuff at the store and ran it home.  We need our gas-powered pack mules to get the laundry back and forth.

On the way back to the motorhome, I was dodging the multitude of bicycles in town.  Coming up the slight uphill on Argyle Street, I overheard two people on bicycles walking their bikes up that hill... looking around the corner, she said, "I don't know if I can take any more hills."

He said, "Looks like it is downhill from here."

It is.  For a short distance... then, the real hills begin.  San Juan Island is beautiful, and I can see why people want to ride bikes here... but, the hills and narrow (or non-existent) shoulders on the roads are not well-suited for the casual bike rider.  And by casual, I mean: you better have a lot of low gears and toughened-up leg muscles.

I picked up a pizza for lunch today.  Waiting outside, I overheard a mother and young son talking about their bikes.  She said, "How are you doing with the gears?"

He said, "Gears are stupid!  I told you I wanted a Razerback - they go fast without those stupid gears!"

She patiently tried to explain the premise of shifting gears to keep the effort the same.  The kid wasn't having anything to do with that "stupid stuff."

At our home in Texas, the terrain is flat.  The only reason you need gears on a bicycle there is because of the wind... and there is always wind.  Single-speed beach cruisers are the norm there... that wouldn't be the best around here.  ;-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day off...

Sleeping in 'till almost 7:00 feels almost decadent.  Interesting, as you, um, mature, what passes for decadent.  ;-)

We had breakfast out.  Yes, at the Hungry Clam; it isn't fancy, but it is good and consistent.  We walked around town a bit.  Since the ferry situation cut our time off the island really short last week, Joan didn't get the opportunity for some needed "retail therapy."

Oh, King's Marine has some clothing, but it isn't like going to the mall.  (insert understatement emoticon here)  We walked through a few places...

A stop at the grocery store to start our weekly shopping - getting as much as we can easily carry on the scoots... we make regular grocery runs each week since there is a limit to how much we can carry.

Back home, while Joan put groceries away, I took Izzy for a walk.  She loves walks, and gets plenty of outdoor time here...

Yesterday, Izzy tussled with a bee.  The bee won.  The old mobile home behind us has several bee and wasp nests, and they have been way more active lately.  Time to defend my little furry girl and see if we can get the stinging critters to move on...

That is a mesh laundry bag on my head... you have to be resourceful when doing hand-to-stinger combat.

Afternoon, and some scooter-time.  We headed south on Cattle Pass Road, turning onto False Bay Drive...

Almost all the way out on False Bay, we came across the dreaded orange signs...

Yep, they messed up one of our favorite rides with fresh oil and loose gravel...

Apparently, they count on traffic to pack down the loose gravel... and this road doesn't get that much traffic.  I think we'll take this off our scooter-route for a while.

Back on to decent road and heading to the west side...

LOTS of people on bicycles on the roads...

Don't get me wrong, I am all about "sharing the road"... after all, we see our share of cars and trucks that act like we are invisible.  Some of these bicyclists are obviously not aware of the hills (walking their bikes) and the fact that many of the roads have no shoulder.  We came up on one group where they were riding all across the lane, with one guy riding ON the double yellow line.  Seems to me that is not playing nice.  You can tell the dedicated bicyclists by their attire and riding style from the complete amateurs with no helmets, riding in jeans and no shirts, and weaving all over the place, and riding 3 or 4 abreast instead of single file.  We give them plenty of room.

We stopped on the west side for a relaxing look across Haro Strait...

That motorsailor was working against the incoming tide... and making less than 3 knots forward progress.

More riding, eventually looping our way back home.

The batteries we ordered for the scoots came in and were waiting to be picked up at our company base.  I went to get those while Joan started supper: my favorite, spaghetti.

A very good day.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Photos from Rachel...

Some very striking photos taken by naturalist Rachel...

Nice to have images of the boats I drive, taken from one of our other boats.  My thanks to Rachel for allowing me to share these.

And, a composite with the above photos...