Monday, August 30, 2010

Hit and miss...

Some of the cruises have been full, some not so full. Same with the weather, as far as that hit and miss stuff. A Pacific trough has made for some cool and wet weather. On one of the sunset cruises, we had this interesting cloud formation over the mountains...

And another cruise provided this look towards the mountains...

Of course, this early morning view at the marina...

On one of the cruises, we had only 6 guests. We took them out in the cockpit for a close view of the mountains and a little history/story time. They decided to sit out there for a bit, leaving me all to myself in the cabin...

One day to go for this work week; supposed to be another chilly one tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Where'd they go?

Back to work yesterday, and the crowds have diminished... kinda. We had two boats for breakfast, a "special", since we don't generally do a breakfast cruise on Fridays. Our cruises the rest of the day were in the teens or 20s for guests. I spent some time working on one of the cruiseboats while the other was out.

When we got home after work (two boats for the dinner cruise), we discovered that our loop in the campground has been closed down... all the picnic tables are standing on end. I guess this is the beginning of the end for the season. Another 3 weeks for guest services at the marina, then we'll begin putting it all to bed for the year.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


We had a couple very nice days off... our usual trip to Jackson, laundry, a motorcycle ride, and some patio time with Izzy. Today was the marina pizza party, just up the road at Leek’s Marina (it’s where we usually go for pizza). The company bought pizza, beer, and lemonade... since we don’t care for beer or lemonade with pizza, we bought our own Diet Coke... we made up for it by eating lots of pizza. ;-)

It was a good turn out, with about 20 people from the marina. Captain Ron and first mate Terry had to drive a sunset cruise this evening, so Ron’s wife came and took pizza back for them. It was a nice evening of conversation and laughter. Here’s a look at some of the people we work with...

You might notice that there are two age groups: old retired guys like me, and college age kids. That is who is working in the National Parks; everyone in between is still out making a living. It's interesting how it all comes together to work. It's a good bunch.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Tuesday, August 24th. The seasons are a changing. It was 27º when we drove to work this morning! 6:30 am makes for some beautiful sunrise views in the marina...

Joan came along on the breakfast cruise this morning, her first time to see Elk Island in the morning light (my favorite time of the day there). She took this photo as we were boarding the boat to head out after breakfast...

Notice that the passengers are all wearing coats. It warmed up nicely, eventually making it to the low 70s by mid-afternoon. It was a calm day on the lake... the way you see the water in the photo above is how the lake looked for all 5 cruises. Nice!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Smoke On The Water...

Sunday, August 22nd. One of my long days, with 5 cruises. The season is changing... it was all adult couples on the breakfast cruise. It's a different atmosphere from families with small children. Both are interesting, one is a bit quieter. ;-)

There are some forest fires in the area. We've seen the plumes to the south and northeast; nothing particularly close to our area, though. By mid afternoon, the smoke once again rolled into the Tetons. When we headed out with the 3:30 scenic cruise, the mountains were a monotone (it had been crispy clear for the 1:30 cruise)...

Still strikingly beautiful, just not the cobalt blue sky that we see most days. I'm assuming there must be a fire in Idaho... as the wind came up in the afternoon, the valleys filled with smoke first, then the sky above the mountains.

Besides the monotone blue silhouettes, I asked the 3:30 guests if they wanted to see and feel why the smoke was rolling in the way it was. I took the boat up close to Moran Canyon where you could see the wind line on the water. "This is the venturi effect of the wind being compressed as it comes through the canyons here." I shut down the engines so they could hear and feel the wind. Mother Nature is pretty impressive.

By the time the 6:30 cruise rolled around, the mountains were almost completely obscured by smoke. Then the wind really kicked up. And the rain. Before boarding, I polled the passengers to make sure they still wanted to go for this cruise... yep. Coming around the sound side of Elk Island, the wind had kicked up to more than 40 mph, with the top blowing off the waves. I spent more time in the lee of the island to keep the ride more comfortable. The rain seemed to cleanse out some of the smoke, and we were able to see the mountains a bit better. I avoided the middle of the lake where the whitecaps were really pounding; we pointed out things from afar, told a few stories, and surfed the 4 foot waves on the way back in to the marina.

A little bit of everything today.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Date Night...

Friday, August 20th. This was my "bonus" Friday, where I get one off once every three weeks. Joan had to go to work early and got off early. She asked if we could do a "date night" when she got off work... dinner and a movie. Great idea! And something we haven't done in months.

While she was at work, I got some of my "house husband" duties done, took Izzy for a nice long walk, then headed off for a great motorcycle ride through the park. Traffic was light as I rode south; the road construction by the dam is now complete, so it was a great time to stop for a panorama photo...

Then further south where there's a great view of the diabase dyke and one of the glaciers on Mt. Moran...

And then, a close encounter with several moose...

Then, the best part of the day: when Joan got off work, we headed for Jackson. If the traffic and timing worked, we'd make it in time for the 5:00 movie. We found a parking place less than a half block from the theater at 4:50... just in time to get tickets and popcorn.

Joan's choice was "Eat, Pray, Love"... definitely what I'd consider a chick flick, but it was a nice diversion. And, the popcorn was good. The pick for dinner was Mile High Pizza Pie... and a good choice. We sat out on the front patio and watched the crowd walk and drive by... a busy evening in Jackson.

The obligatory grocery shopping before heading for home. It's been a while since we've drive in the dark, and we saw deer and elk near the road along the way... a bit unnerving, actually.

Home just before 10:00 and time for bed. We both have an early morning at work on Saturday.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That Big Smelly Park To The North...

That’s what I call Yellowstone when I’m on the boat visiting with guests. Of course, I’m kidding... Yellowstone is beautiful, with some of the most amazing diversity on Earth. And on this day off, we decided to take the bike north to Yellowstone.

Having been there many times, we weren’t interested in visiting all the tourist attractions like Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Come on, you know us better than that - we were looking for a nice ride and a good place to have lunch. Our favorite place for lunch in Yellowstone is the Lake Lodge. It is another mile or so past the more famous Lake Hotel... and way more casual. The prices are reasonable ($4.95 for a big bowl of bison chili) and it has a nice view of the lake.

Cafeteria style, we picked up our trays and selected our meals. Our table choice was by one of the big windows facing the lake. We were surprised by how few people there were, both in the restaurant and on the roads.

After lunch, we spent some time in the rocking chairs on the porch of the lodge, just enjoying the view. The Lake Queen (the boat I drove there) went by; yep, don’t miss that one bit... but, the bison chili is good.

After lunch, we hopped back on the bike and headed south. With no schedule, we took our time. Well, you always take your time here: the speed limit throughout the park is 45 mph. It’s about 125 miles round trip, so about 3 hours on the bike. And we stop for regular breaks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Employee Dinner...

On Tuesday evening, we took two boats full of employees to Elk Island for a special dinner: recognition for 5+ years with the company. The weather was perfect, the mood very upbeat. When we got to the island, there was one addition: an open bar. The meal was nice, and then the awards ceremony... that went on for quite a while. Actually, it was nice to see how the folks who have been here for that amount of time seem to genuinely appreciate the company and vice versa.

It was nearly dark when the ceremony ended and we headed back to the boats. Somehow, the coolers from the open bar wound up on my boat. I let folks sit out in the cockpit, but sent the first mate out there to keep order. With an open bar and some guys who work in rough and tumble jobs, I knew what to expect... Mikey did fine in keeping everyone safe back there; the people in the cabin were more subdued. The sky was clear and we watched the silhouette of the Tetons fade into the night.

It was well after dark when we got everyone back to the dock... I have no doubt that they all had a good time. A long day for the Elk Island and boat crews - 14+ hours.

Looking forward to my days off... with perfect weather predicted.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Singing in the rain...

No, dining in the rain...

Tonight, I had a group of RVers on the dinner cruise. Mother Nature isn't always kind, and tonight she rained on us... while we were trying to serve dinner. Oh, and then it hailed. People were holding trays over their heads. I did my best to be a "cheerleader" for the folks on my boat, and I have to say they all had a sense of humor and a great spirit of adventure. We came back to the boat, I told stories and did my best to keep the folks entertained... while waiting to see if the cooks could get dessert (cobbler) hot... in the rain. And then I got the call that dessert wasn't going to happen; the rain had ruined it. My guests could have been pissy, but they were very understanding and appreciated how hard we all worked to give them this experience. We were all soggy, but it was a pretty special evening.

I try to impart to the young people in the marina how this may be a once-in-a-lifetime visit for our guests, and how it's up to us to make it memorable for them. I love boats, I love this place, and I really want the guests to get a feel for how special it all is. And these folks tonight got it. Really nice people.

RVers seem to have that in common with boat people.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday the 13th...

Yesterday was Friday the 13th. I'm not a superstitious kinda guy. In fact, it was a lovely day... nice people on our cruises. And then came the dinner cruise...

When we came in at 5:00, it was warm with a light southwest breeze. Two boats for dinner. When we left the marina at 5:30, the wind had changed to the north... that wasn't predicted. By the time we got out of the protection of Colter Bay, the wind was blowing like stink and the waves were building. Fortunately, our route took us mostly south, so it was a tailwind.

Once on the island, the temperature dropped; glad I had the foresight to bring a jacket. People were pretty decent, considering that cold wind. I let the people vote to see if they wanted to board the boats early to get out of the wind... a unanimous decision. Well, except for the 3 people on my boat who didn't come back with the group. The folks on my boat had to wait another 15 minutes for those 3 people to finally make their way back to the boat, but at least we were all out of that cold wind.

As we pulled away from the dock on the island, the sky grew dark and the rain started to fall. Coming around the east side of the island, the waves were 4 feet, close together, and growing. Again, my passengers had a good spirit of adventure as the bow of the boat would climb, then crash into the next wave. They listened when the marina manager called on the radio, asking about the conditions. And then he recommended that the Elk Island crew not even attempt making it back to the marina. I told him that we would go back for them.

One of my passengers asked, "You aren't going back for them NOW, are you?" as the boat crashed through the next wave.

"No, ma'am. We'll get you folks back to the marina, then we'll head back and get them." Some were relieved, a few were having fun with the roller coaster ride and said, "Let's go around again!" ;-)

I checked radar on my Droid... there was one cell chasing right behind us, it was getting dark, and then another bigger cell coming up behind that. The timing was such that we got our passengers back to the dock before the big rain hit. Joan and the marina assistant manager were waiting at the dock to catch the cruiseboats. We unloaded passengers, then got ready on my boat to head back to the island to get the chef crew. Joan and Mary (the assistant manager) asked if they could come along, too.

"Sure, but it's gonna be a lumpy ride." We headed out with both captains, both first mates, the Blonde and the assistant manager. And the weather was worse. I got the boat up to 14 knots as we surfed to the south, with the wind at our stern. The rain pounded. It was a bit of a "hurricane party" atmosphere on the boat.

When we got to the island, we had the island crew grab lines and I held the boat with power on up against the dock while they transferred food and equipment from the crew boat to the cruiseboat. Quickly! The other captain undid the dockline while I powered against the dock; he jumped on and we were off again. The next cell was moving up behind us quickly.

The boat would rise and fall as the waves continued to build. It was dark and rainy; I was glad to have the GPS and my Droid radar app. We made it back to the marina and I formulated a plan to put one of the first mates on the dock so he could grab lines for us... when we got to the dock, one of our dock neighbors was out there in the rain to catch a bow line. He hollered, "I don't know what I'm doing, but I figured you could use a hand!"

"Put the line on ANY cleat and take a wrap! And we REALLY appreciate this!" We wrestled the boat in, unloaded the chef crew and equipment, and I put the boat away.

It had been a very long day.


I volunteered to come in early this morning to get the island crew out to the island. Normally, they head out about an hour and a half before the cruise boats, to get set up and the food cooking. So, after a long evening, I was back to work at 5:45 am today. We loaded up the food, the supplies, the chef, and the wrangler, and headed for the island.

It was a cold morning... as in: 34º. Fog rolled up off the water. As we headed towards the island, the sun was just starting to come up... the mountain tips were lit, above a cloud layer about mid-mountain. Gorgeous!

I had mentioned to my assistant manager that a sunrise cruise might be something to offer once in a while... and this magnificent scene took my breath away. I'm sure that there would be some guests who would love to have this (very early morning) experience.

On the way back from the island, the fog really settled in... and my next task was to find two canoes that guests had beached and abandoned when the weather turned ugly yesterday. I waited for the fog to lift a bit, found the canoes, hooked them behind the rescue boat, and slowly made my way back to the marina in low visibility.

The rest of the day was a "blue shirt" day, with the occasional cruise to drive. Never a dull moment.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Camera Test...

Friday the 13th. Joan had to go to work at 7:00 this morning, I check in at 9:45 (no breakfast cruise on Fridays). I took her to work this morning and tried out the new camera at the marina...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Days Off...

Wednesday was lovely - sunny and comfortable. We both felt the need for a "veg day," and this was it. We sat outside with Izzy; she joined Joan on the hammock...

I did a little work on the motorcycle, then we took it for a short spin... out for pizza.

The plan for Thursday: road trip to Idaho, a bit of shopping and lunch out. I went in to Best Buy with a USB connector for the iPad on my shopping list. They had a hot deal on a camera, and we have worn out our last pocket camera... good timing.

We took care of some other shopping and had lunch at Carino's. On the way back home, Joan drove so I could try out the camera and the GPS app for the iPad; both pretty impressive.

When we got home, I tried out the new camera on little Izzy. It's been a while since she's been featured here, and I wanted to try out the camera with low light and the zoom racked out...

I'm impressed with the features and the way the camera feels. Oh, and little Izzy is a good model.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A new old friend...

My day started off pretty typically, with the breakfast cruise. It was a beautiful morning. Nice folks on the cruise. By noon, the weather started to deteriorate. We had two boats for the 1:30 cruise. My first mate, Mikey, was back on the job today, but still wasn't 100%... his voice was going fast. After about 20 minutes, I let him drive and I did the narration again. We made it back to the dock just before the rain started.

I closed windows in the boat and made it almost all the way down the dock when I got a call from the assistant manager: one kayak was out, a mother and young boy, no kayaking experience, thunder and lightning... "would you go out on a search for them?" Absolutely. I brought one of the dock hands along and we took off with the rescue boat. We found them on the shore in one of the coves, a little scared but just fine. We loaded them and the kayak into the boat and brought them back to the marina. They both had a great attitude about the situation, and felt pretty good about how they had done with the kayak... until the weather turned ugly. They were grateful for the rescue.

After we got them back, I went into the store... and got to meet a TrailerSailor friend that I've corresponded with for years. We've never met in person, so this was a treat. Tim and I visited for a while, before I had to deal with the next situation: more thunderstorm cells on radar and 75 guests for the dinner cruise. Management decided it would be best to cancel the cruise... a tough call, but the wise choice as it turned out. There was some blue sky at what would have been our departure time, but more thunderstorms rolled through shortly after.

Tim and his wife will be joining us on tomorrow's breakfast cruise, so we'll have some time to visit.

Rescue Me...

I was told things would slow down in August... no sign of that, yet. Job security. Saturday was my "blue shirt" day, but I didn't get much time working on boats. After driving the breakfast cruise, I did some interior work on one of the cruiseboats, then got a call from the manager to find and bring in a boater whose motor had died... at the very northern part of the lake. The Park Service called it in to us. It took about 45 minutes to find them and then over an hour to tow them back to their marina. In rapidly deteriorating weather. Our ride was rough; the 3 guys in the boat we were towing got plenty wet thanks to the waves, wind, and rain.

We didn't quite get back to the marina when there was a call to rescue 6 kayakers who had beached the boats and were hiding under them because of the rain and lightning. One of our other boats had gathered up the people; I was driving the metal boat, so we were able to run the boat up on the shore to gather up the abandoned kayaks. The dock hand that was with me hopped off the bow in the rain and gusts and hauled the kayaks to the boat where I tried to find a place to put them. Let me clarify that: the dock hand picked up two double kayaks by himself and handed them off to me. I looked around for two more people to help me lift them, but there was no one else on the boat... those tandems are heavy! The second gust front was blowing down on us when I backed the boat off the shore. With all that weight in the back of the boat, I couldn't trim the bow down, so it was a slow ride back to the marina.

That turned out to be my "short day" this week: only 9 1/2 hours. The other 4 days are all "13s." We've had nice mornings and quickly building thunderstorms in the afternoons. We had to cancel one afternoon cruise on Saturday, but all the rest have gone out. Last night on the sunset cruise, we started out with a relatively calm lake that turned to gusty and choppy on the ride home. I could see it blowing in from the north and let the passengers know what was coming... no problems... well, a few "ohhhhhhs" when the waves would fill the windshield. The first mate and I told stories on the way back in and everyone seemed fine with the "whitewater ride."

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Well, you've heard me talk of the "weather weasels" often here... I'm a bit of a weather nerd and when you spend time on the water, weather is always on your mind. But, no; I'm talking about the weaselly, nasty animals.

Joan got off work before me yesterday and had let Izzy out on her leash... not walking her, just hooked up to the stairs on the coach. She checks on Izzy regularly and never closes the solid door. At one point she looked out and there were two long-tailed animals moving towards Izzy... ON the patio mat! Joan ran them off and brought Izzy inside.

When I got home, Joan described the animals to me. "Sounds like weasels," I said. "They can be NASTY! Izzy may be scrappy, but she wouldn't stand a chance against them." We got out my Yellowstone Eco-system Animal/Bird Identifier, and Joan picked the long-tailed weasels out of "the line-up."

"That's what was on the mat!"

So, we now have a new rule: Izzy only goes out when one of us is outside with her.

Close call.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stormy Day...

Another 13 hour day today... we started with first mate training on each of the cruiseboats. It's required monthly, man-overboard and fire drills. We upped it a bit, when I became incapacitated and the first mates had to get the boats back to the dock. They also got to fire off a flare and deal with an electrical fire, an engine fire, a cabin fire, and a child not breathing. If it wasn't all practice, they would have been having a very bad day.

By mid-afternoon, the first of the thunderstorms rolled in. I checked radar and delayed the 3:30 cruise by a few minutes to let an ugly cell move through. The passengers had to walk to the boat in a light rain, but it was clear blue sky by the time we got out of Colter Bay.

Back to the marina in time to load up for the 5:30 dinner cruise. Another check of radar showed a large cell coming our way from the southwest... if the timing was good, we would have time to get our guests to the island, get dinner, and get back on the boats. It was close. When I could see the wind waves coming at us from a couple miles out, I told the passengers to bring their dessert with them and get back on the boats. We loaded up and got out just as the first gusts hit. Within a minute, the waves were pounding, the wind howling, and the rain pouring. It was an "interesting" ride back with one very cool sight: a black bear swimming across the lake to the island where we had just had supper! The rain let up when we were a couple miles out, and the wind eased. And then another rainbow. We had to cut the time on the island a little short, but the passengers all understood the circumstances.

Before leaving the island, one little girl and her Mother came up to me; the Mom said, "Olivia is very concerned. Can she talk to you?" Tears welled up in her eyes and she told me how she was scared of the thunder and lightning and was afraid the boat ride was going to be scary. I told her, "Sweetie, I am not going to let anything bad happen to you. I can stop the rain and lightning, but I am always very careful with how I drive the boat. If you are worried about anything, you can come sit right behind me on the boat and watch how I do it. It will be more like a fun ride at the carnival than anything scary. OK, let's get on the boat, now."

While the boat was rockin' and rollin' I said to her, "See? Isn't this fun?" She flashed a tentative smile. It was not long after that when we saw the bear swimming to the island. I swung the boat around so all the guests could see. "That was pretty cool, wasn't it, Olivia?" The smile was now very big.

I matched the boat speed to the following waves as we turned east, and the ride got more comfortable... we rode that all the way back in to the marina. And that view I love when I pull up to the dock: the Blonde waiting to grab lines for the cruiseboat... in her raincoat tonight.

A very interesting day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Well, Shake It Up, Baby...

We had just gotten back from Jackson yesterday; had a wonderful day off, exploring around the area. Joan picked up a new rubber washer for the bathroom sink at a hardware store while we were in Jackson. While she was installing it, I was helping by staying out of the way... grabbed a short nap on the couch. I woke up with a start when the whole coach shook... "What the hell are you doing up there?" I called to her. I thought the plumbing repair must be going REAL bad.

"Nothing," she said, "I thought that was you!"

We both looked around to see if someone was messing with the 5th wheel. Apparently, someone was - Mother Nature, with a 4.8 earthquake centered about 40 miles southeast of us. No damage to us, but a new respect for how these beautiful mountains across the lake from us were created.


Shake and Bake...

I forgot to mention, there was a forest fire about a mile away from Colter Bay. It started late Tuesday, likely caused by lightning. We saw the small smoke plume when we came home on Wednesday... fire equipment heading towards it. Today, that side road is closed off, but close enough to the main road that you can see the area is still smoldering. A sign posted said the fire has been contained. Tis the season.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our little girl is growing up...

Not our daughter, I'm speaking of little Izzy. Today, Izzy scored her first "kill." The ground squirrels around here have been teasing her when she is out on her leash. A couple days ago, one of them ran within a foot of her, apparently aware of how far she could go on the leash. As near as we can tell, one mouse didn't have the same distance judgment. Izzy laid the carcass on the step to show us. She is walking around with a new air of confidence... knowing that she is only slightly removed from her jungle cat cousins.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Weather or not...

Weather played a big part in today's cruises... for the first time in a couple months, we had to cancel the breakfast cruise because of weather - wind and rain. By mid-morning, the sky had cleared and it was absolutely beautiful. Then by the sunset cruise, it was very apparent that we were going to get rained on again... the storms were coming over the mountains from the southwest. I pulled out my Droid phone, brought up the Radar Now app, and deviated from the usual route to stay where the weather was best. Oh, we had some rain, but we also had a rainbow... and then a double rainbow. There were sunbeams coming through some of the valleys. It was absolutely spectacular. I jokingly told the passengers that the only thing missing was a unicorn.

For the 3:30 and sunset cruises, I was tossed another curve: my first mate (also the narrator) has laryngitis... and we were out of first mates for the day. I told him that I'd get the boat out of the marina then he could drive... and I would do the narration. Frankly, I'd MUCH rather be driving the boat, but we have to look out for each other. Besides doing the talking, I also had to keep an eye on his boat driving... he may have been the one at the helm, but the safety of the boat is still my responsibility.

I think we both were able to appreciate what each other contributes to making the cruises enjoyable for the guests. We made it work just fine.

As we came back into the marina, the sun came out. Along the way, we had some rain, some wind, some reduced visibility, and some spectacular scenery... lit in very dramatic ways by the play of the light, the clouds, and the mountains. Quite a day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interesting days...

We have been very busy the past couple days.

There was a strong storm that blew through on Friday night. Saturday morning on the breakfast cruise, I saw something was amiss as I pulled the boat up to the dock on Elk Island... no boarding steps! They must have blown off the dock during the storm. The cruise boat sits several feet above the dock, so we lifted and helped people climb down off the boat. I may start charging by the pound instead of by the hour. ;-) I called in the situation, and the manager came out with the rescue boat with our diver onboard. While the guests ate breakfast, the diver jumped in, found the stairs, hooked a line to them, and we hauled them up onto the dock. He celebrated with a backflip off the top of my cruiseboat...

It is uncanny how similar Scott and I are in physique.

Great cruises and guests the rest of the day. Another thunderstorm blew in during the afternoon, and I used my Droid with a radar app to pick the safest route around. Love the technology.

Sunday morning, I was treated to these views when I arrived at the marina...

During the day, I deviated from our normal cruise route and took the boat into Moran Bay... swung the boat around, turned off the engines, and let the guests really take in the beauty and majesty of being up close and personal with these mountains...

One of the guests took my photo with Moran in the background... well, sorta - she did get my head in there when I went back to the aft cockpit to point out a few things...

We also cruise by an eagles nest, but don't often see them there. We were treated to eagles all day long on Sunday. Quite a treat...