Friday, July 25, 2008

Hurricane damage update...

Water and power are out. Water had to be shut off because there is no way to pump sewage off the island. Folks are eating good right now, since freezers are off... that will come to a rather abrupt end very soon.

The bridge is still out - no way on/off the island other than by boat. This situation is very different from many others, and looting will not be a problem... owners only on the island.

We lent our generator to our neighbor, so they have lights, a fan, and their fridge. They are having to siphon gas out of the car to keep it going, but they aren't driving anywhere any time soon. The word is that electricity will be "5 days or more before it is restored." Knowing how things get done there, I'm guessing more.

The word we are getting is to stay away for at least a week or so to allow emergency work to be done. We are concerned about the lack of ventillation in the house without electricity. Joan is ready to go now, but we have to go back to the Black Hills to pick up some of our stuff before heading south.

Quite a bit of damage throughout the island. No idea what is happening IN our house, other than "no standing water."

More when we know more.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bigger problems than Xanterra...

Our home is in deep south Texas, on a small island just off from South Padre Island. Hurricane Dolly came right over the top of our place; we are 1600 miles away right now. Here is the latest update I sent friends...

Hurricane Dolly has passed. I was able to get through to our friends who stayed on our island this morning. They are OK... said they'd never do that (stay) again. Winds topped 125 mph on our island. Lots of damage. They lost some roof and have water that came through their upstairs and has leaked through to the main floor. They have not gone out to survey the rest of the island, and can't see our house from theirs. They said the street looks like a war zone.

I asked if we should be heading down right away. She said, "No point. You can't get on the island. A shrimpboat busted loose and hit our bridge, so they can't get it closed right now. We'll make our way to your place by late afternoon and let you know how your house did."

So... our friends are safe. Stuff can be replaced. Sounds like I may have to learn how to do some house construction. I have plenty of tools... they were all in our underneath storage area... nevermind.

Wish us luck.

Jim B.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A new wrinkle...

I have been contacted by a gentleman from the US Coast Guard regarding the situation at the marina and the Lake Queen II. I gave him the information, including documents and e-mails, to be forwarded to the NPS. The more I write here, the further down the posts regarding Xanterra and the marina management will go. Probably to the delight of those folks. I will take a break from further posts for a few days. I feel my employment had to be ended due to their attempt to coerce me into being quiet... certainly not ethical, probably not legal.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Riding the storm out...

Well, the storm last night turned out to be more than a "light show"... we had winds that reached 70 mph and very heavy rain. No problem with our trailer; fortunately, we were pointed right into the wind. Of course, 70 mph is faster than we generally drive! This morning, I had to look around to find our rug and camp chairs; well, not far, but certainly not where we left them, up against the heavy picnic table. I walked around the trailer to see if we had any "pings" from the small hail - no, we're fine.

Today, we are going to stock up on groceries. A bit different from our Yellowstone experience, where the closest big grocery store was 80 miles away; we have plenty of nearby options. Then, we may look around for a bigger RV. Our Rage'n toyhauler has done an admirable job, but if we decide to do more RV traveling, it would be nice to have more room. We'll see; the RV industry is having some tough times because of the high fuel prices. It will take the right unit at the right price to make us want to upsize again.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Riding through the twisties...

Today, we put a couple hundred miles on the new motorcycle, driving through some of the best motorcycle country around. (The Black Hills are consistently voted in the Top 10 of Best Motorcycle Roads by the Harley Owners Group and various motorcycle magazines.) Out butts are tired, our smiles are big, and we are feeling completely relaxed. Mt. Rushmore, Hill City, Custer, Custer State Park, Iron Mountain Road (and the tight-turning "pig tail" bridges, back through Keystone, and a great meal out in Rapid City. We rode through a herd of buffalo (yes, very cautiously), worked through the gears on some fine "twisties", got off and walked through some interesting shops, felt a swell of good ol' American pride as we first saw "the faces", and admired the beauty of the Black Hills. It was a truly fine day.

Tonight, I sat in a campchair outside our RV and watched a thunderstorm build over the Hills; it is slowly moving our way. Nature, her beauty, and her power are an awesome sight to behold. The rain has started, along with the wind... hopefully, we won't have hail, but I know it isn't going to snow!

Life is different at 3200' elevation as opposed to 7800. It's all about how you adapt.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A change of scene...

We are back in the Black Hills, staying at the nicest RV resort in the area. Paved sights, plenty of room between sites, nice landscaping, all the utilities, plus cable, wi-fi, 24 hour security, swimming pool, restaurant, golf, mini-golf, hot tubs, entertainment, a grocery store... and no schedule. When we got here today, we sat outside in the warmth... got to the mid-80s. I was concerned that I had forgotten how to sweat, but some things come back to you. We have the awning out, and we've met the neighbors - nice folks. The stress of the past few weeks is gone

We'll take the next week or two and plan out the rest of the summer. Or, maybe be serendipitous and just go where the road takes us. The truck, trailer, and motorcycle are all in perfect working order... and you can be darn sure that if they weren't, we would correct that right away. Nice to be back where that's possible.

With the various web sites that I post to, we've gotten a surprising number of supportive comments regarding our bad experience with Xanterra. My thanks for that, and we are ready to move on. There's a lot of summer left.

Happy Independence Day...

Seems appropriate. We are heading east today, and should be in the Black Hills by mid-afternoon.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Exit letter...

As promised, here it is...

To Xanterra Personnel

Regarding: Exit interview for James and Joan Bathurst

I would like it to be known that we are not “disgruntled former employees”. We worked hard for this company and were regularly told by our managers that we were performing above expectations and were professional in the execution of our jobs.

I have no doubt that the management team at the marina was embarrassed by the blog ( that I published. I only made things public after the situation got beyond reasonable. Had Wim told me that he was embarrassed and asked me man-to-man to remove the blog, I absolutely would have done so. When he made the repairs on the boat contingent on the removal or modification of my blog, it became a matter of coercion. For that, he should be more than embarrassed, he should be ashamed.

We constantly heard from that team: “Xanterra doesn’t care.” We refused to believe that... Xanterra is a corporation, it is the PEOPLE that can choose to care or not care. We met many Xanterra employees who do, indeed, care. We feel that this was used as an excuse to not get things done.

We were also told, “Don’t work so hard, you’ll work yourself out of a job.” Our work ethic is such that we will do the best work possible at any task. That is how we were able to retire in our early 50s: we ran successful businesses and created an atmosphere of pride and cooperation with our employees. We did not see either of those attributes being endorsed by the marina management team.

In spite of the general lack of enthusiasm and pride in the marina, the employees there do a good job. Imagine how much better it would be with proper training and guidance.

I have attached a copy of an e-mail sent to Wim 5 days prior to quitting this job. I gave him the opportunity to fire me; I was told that I was “a valuable employee and his most professional captain.” I also have attached a copy of suggested policy for training and minimum knowledge requirements for dockhands and first-mates. The marina had no written policy that was distributed amongst these employees. I was simply trying to help. When given guidance, people will try to do a good job... with no guidance, there will be no pride.

I submit these documents to show that we made an honest effort. I have no doubt that our departure will be put in a different light by the management team at the marina. Let me state that the marina is a wonderful addition to the services managed by Xanterra... it could certainly be more profitable and a much better workplace with proper guidance. People will work hard for leaders who show pride and a willingness to pitch in; just the opposite will be true when the leaders badmouth the company they work for, allow people to go improperly trained, ignore ringing telephones, and leave customers waiting.

I was once admonished for boarding passengers “2 minutes early.” Even though it was 3 minutes LATER than the published times. I felt it was rude to make passengers wait beyond the published times; management chose to move that time back with no regard for the time necessary to board or what times the guests were told... pointless rules like this were the norm. We actually changed boarding times THREE TIMES in one day. Pointless. And it certainly doesn’t serve the guest.

We don’t leave Yellowstone relieved to not be working for Xanterra; quite the opposite. We wanted to complete our time here, but felt that we had been put in a position to compromise our ethics. We are very disappointed in this experience.

James and Joan Bathurst


Our "exit interview" was scheduled for 8:00 this morning. Another joke... we dropped off the form they gave us, turned in our badges and IDs, showed proof that we turned in our uniforms, and that was it. No interview. I asked the young lady if anyone would review the paperwork, and she said, "Absolutely." Good thing I took the time to type up a letter.

We had the trailer ready to roll, except for loading the motorcycle into it; had to wait until we could pull the trailer forward to drop the back ramp. We were driving away shortly after 9:00. Joan's eyes teared up as we left the campground... we were very excited about the jobs here; neither of us wanted to leave, but we simply could not work in this negative environment.

I had the opportunity to visit with the other Lake Queen captain this morning before we left. Paul and Pat are wonderful people and we didn't want them to think we were just bolting.

We have put the nastiness of the past few days behind us and are looking forward to enjoying the rest of our summer. I will post the contents of our "exit letter" a bit later when I can take it off the other computer.

In the meantime, we are in the western foothills of the Big Horn Mountains and will be heading for the beautiful Black Hills tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I QUIT!!!!

A new development! I got a call from the marina manager today - the boat is getting all new ECU units. That is a victory. He then said that there is another issue: my public blog:

He asked me to remove or modify what I had written... if not, they would "remove the resources from the boat repair."


I will NOT be coerced, I will NOT be quiet. Xanterra was lax, bordering on negligent in the repair of the boat. It was only when I made things public that any serious action was taken to get the necessary repairs.

What I have written was all true. I told them that there was a facility on that blog for them to respond if they feel the need to support their inaction. I was told that the company will not respond.

We will turn in our uniforms and employee IDs today, as soon as possible. It will be our pleasure to put as much distance between us and this company as soon as possible.

Jim and Joan Bathurst

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I visited with the manager today; offered to quit so he didn't have any angst with firing me. He said he wants me to stay, and appreciates my principles. In reality, I think he is probably more worried about replacing Joan - she is a real asset at the front counter. We are trying to work through what it will take for us to stick it out. I have been promised the ECU repair is on the front burner. He said he'd have a date of expected repair hopefully by tomorrow, and in the meantime has agreed to get the switched-around black boxes back where they belong.

I have a couple days to think about what we intend to do. When we owned our own business, I never got this worked up... guess I didn't have to depend on others or "work my way up the chain" to get things done. Maybe I should buy my own big ol' tourboat? Nahhhhhhhhh!

Day off today... other than a trip to the marina for the above visit, we lounged around the trailer. The forecast was calling for afternoon thunderstorms, and they were right. Glad to not be out on the bike.