Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Steph and Dan!!

Just 10 short years ago, those two kids, with stars in their eyes, were joined together in wedded bliss.

We wish you many, many more!


A day off for us today. Joan had to stop at the marina, so I was able to watch some of the antics of a family that "knows all about kayaks and canoes"... it was pretty apparent that they may have overstated their abilities... especially since the wife hit three docks and two boats while holding the paddle wrong. I've always felt that if you are about to smack into something, that is a good time to STOP paddling. ;-) He was swinging his kayak paddle around his head in some sort of helicopter technique that I'm not familiar with. After we left, I did hear a rescue call on the radio... no injuries, but the kayaks had to be hauled back... no idea who was involved.

We also came across this unique RV...

No idea how you get up to the "penthouse" level. (Notice the picket fence in back on top)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What a day...

Beautiful weather: clear blue sky and warm temps - it climbed above 80ยบ today, the first time this season. Full cruise boat all day. We are expecting the other cruise boat to be delivered in the next few days... and we are ready to get her back into service after her refit.

Busy is good.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blue shirt day...

That's how I approach them: when I'm driving the cruise boat, I'm wearing a white shirt/uniform. On my "blue shirt" days, I'm doing mechanic or general fix-it work. Today was a blue shirt day. When I got there, I had to go through the fishing boat we just got back to make sure everything was ready to go... one of the downriggers was being a pain, and I had to track down the electrical gremlins. In the middle of that, I got a call that they needed some help on the dock... and promptly fell getting out of one of our small rental boats. Fortunately, I fell on the dock and was able to break the fall with my head. Well, I did get some style points for partially landing on a throwable flotation cushion. ;-) It seemed like the rest of the day was one of those "dealing with situations" days. Dead batteries, broken dock, a busted sewer line (not ours, but it did create a problem getting in and out of the ramp area). Excrement occurs. Literally.

On the bright side, tomorrow is a "white shirt" day. ;-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back to the grind...

Steph and Dan left on Friday morning, and we have been back to work since. We are in full swing at the marina, including the Elk Island meal cruises. Here's a view looking back at the cruise boat (and the chef crew supply boat) from the island.

We've done a couple breakfast and dinner cruises and will be running at full schedule from now on. Our second cruise boat will be delivered later this week, so lots to do to prepare for that.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rafting and kayaking...

A few more images taken from above while we were rafting...

Considering that Steph isn't big on water activities, I was impressed that she was so enthusiastic about the rafting.

The next day, we got Steph and Dan out on kayaks...

We padded out into the coves outside of Colter Bay. I was able to show them them waterfalls on the far side of the lake, and on the way back in, a bald eagle flew right over the top of us!

After cleaning up, we moved on to one of Steph's favorite activities: shopping. We have a great selection of Grand Teton and Colter Bay sweatshirts in the marina store. Not exactly Macy's, but you won't find this stuff in the department stores. ;-)

We rounded out the day with a great dinner theater in Jackson: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The food was outstanding and the play was a lot of fun; a rowdy musical with lots of laughs. Then, the cautious drive back in the dark... lots of eyes catching reflections from our headlights.

And this morning, we said our good-byes, as Steph and Dan had to head for home. We had a great week with them here. Yes, there were a few tears... but I don't think they saw them under my sunglasses.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

White Water Rafting

You know how they say, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree"? Well, our daughter doesn't like water activities. I would say that perhaps she was switched at birth, but she looks like a cross between Joan and me and acts just like me. She surprised us when she said she wanted to do a white water raft ride.

So, this is more of a photo essay:

Getting prepped...

On the water...

And then back on solid ground. I think something took a bite out of Steph's paddle...

Was it an exciting time on the water?

Oh, and that thing that looks like an IV bag that Joan is wearing: that's a dry bag for a handheld radio... works to keep a camera dry, too. ;-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My little girl is here...

Steph and Dan came to visit us - a long drive from the Phoenix area. It makes my summer. They came with us on the sunset cruise last night. Joan and I have to work today, and then will get a couple play days off with the kids. Nice!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Father's Day...

The best Father's Day present: my little girl is coming to visit; she and Dan (our son-in-law) should be here Monday afternoon. We are very excited to see them. Joan and I worked all day, she in the marina store, me in the office with the best view: the helm of the cruise boat...

We had a couple seasons of weather in a couple days: sunshine, calm winds, rain, wind, calm water, big waves... never the same thing twice.

An interesting event during the weekend - check out the photo...

No, they're not watching a shuttle launch. Across the lake, and all the way up on Mt. Moran, there were three guys skiing down Skillet Glacier. We had delivered the guys to the base of the mountain the day before, and they climbed up the mountain with their skis strapped on. I don't have a photo of the skiing for you, since they barely appeared as dots in the camera; but look to the middle of the top photo here and follow that snow all the way to the top of the mountain. That's a 60 degree slope they were skiing down in the chute! Ah, to be young again... on second thought: nahhhh.

And, my commute to "the office" on Father's Day...

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Signs of the runoff are showing up on the big lake: the water has turned murky and I am on high alert for debris in the water (logs, branches, etc that comes down the Snake River into the lake). I know that situation is only going to get worse before it gets better.

We "soloed" two new first mates today - they both did their first narration, and both did a fine job! I am real happy with the way the marina crew has come together.

Off and running...

We started our scenic cruise runs yesterday! At different times, we saw eagles, osprey, and elk... the cruises are not promoted as wildlife viewing; that is just a bonus to go with the magnificent scenery. We are hoping to get our meal cruises going by next week.

Feels great to be back on the water.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Another day off for us... yet, we both went into work before 8:00. Joan was doing some training with the activities software, I would be working with Captain Ron to get first mates trained on the water for man overboard and fire drills. It was a gray day, with clouds allowing a view of only the mountain bases...

We started our training at the dock, introducing everyone to all the features on the boat, learning how to check engines, going through fire and MOB procedures before heading out. It also gave the dockhands a chance to see how and where to handle lines for the cruise boat.

By the time we headed out to practice those drills on the water, the wind had come up and the temp dropped to the mid-40s. It was a good opportunity to let everyone get a feel for boat handling and man overboard recovery procedures in the wind... glad I brought gloves.

The training went well, Joan and I got to have lunch together (doesn't always happen this season) and we were headed for home after lunch... so, we get the rest of the day off.

Cruises start tomorrow - I am excited about doing what I came here to do.


On edit: some details about the drills today...

Two men overboard, two engine fires at separate times, a cabin fire, a fuel leak, and then on the way back in, another man overboard, an electrical fire, the boat taking on water, and all topped off by the captain having a heart attack. What's that old saying about a good day at the office vs a bad day on the water? They learned how to deploy the lifeboat, how to use a Lifesling in conjunction with a davit, fire fighting, passenger safety, MOB, and each got hands on the helm in open water and docking.

If these weren't drills, it would have been a very bad day on the water. ;-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A day off???

Well, it's Wednesday and... we have functioning landing gear! The part I was most concerned about turned out to be a snap: jacking up the front of the trailer. I paid a guy who has pneumatic jacks that are tied together - the right tool for the job.

The directions that came with the "kit" were pretty straightforward, but the access to the tops of the legs is tight...

There is a spray-on foam around the jack housing that has to come out - you can see some of that debris in the photo above. I have the feeling that only one jack leg was binding, but I replaced both. Even though the kit came with new extensions, I used the old ones - already had my brackets set for my Plug-It-Right stabilizers.

And here is the culprit...

The mfg calls this "composite"... looks and feels like plastic to me. The break caused the gears to bind, making it impossible to move up or down, even with the emergency crank.

Once it was all back together, I hit the extend button... it sounded like it was moving slow (something I noticed before it broke)... and, then it quit. angry I could tell it wasn't binding. A quick check of the fuse - yep, it was blown. When I went to put a new fuse in, the wiring came unconnected in my hand. cry It was pulling out of the crimp connectors. WELL, that could certainly be why it was running slow. I double checked the batteries (fine), opened up a bit more wiring, and crimped it hard.

It runs fast and strong, up and down - even on this slope. We are good to go!

On the boat front - we have a cruise boat in the water! I went down to the marina after dealing with the landing gear to check on it. Yep, it's floating. We can't put it at the normal dock, our fuel dock isn't operational, we need to get crew trained, and we start cruises on Friday. One piece of equipment we couldn't check while on land was the depth finder - and that's going to be REAL important with the low water level. It's not working, but I think the fix will be pretty simple. Tomorrow is another day off for me, but I'll be going in first thing in the morning to work on getting crew trained.

No meal cruises until we get more water; we still need to take the dock out to the island where the meals are. I'm really looking forward to the new chef crew and that island dining experience.

Joan went to Jackson without me today, to get groceries. We kinda crossed paths a couple times; when she got back from Jackson, I went down to check on the boat. The folks in the store needed a manager decision on some stuff, so when I got back, she went to work for an hour or three.

Our daughter and son-in-law are coming to visit next week - we'll be taking our days off, in full. ;-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The magic number...

Watching the lake levels rise, today we reached the "magic number" of 6753'... that's considered the lowest point for the Colter Bay boat ramp to be usable. At that number, a small boat could potentially be launched. It would be good to have a bunch more water - especially if you want to launch something like... oh, let's say: a cruise boat.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Did we move?

The water was up another 6" in the past 24 hours. The morning was quite lovely...

That scene was replaced late morning with rain. And wind. And rain. We had a lot of work to do today, getting power boats in the water, working on motors, and repairing docks. In the rain. It's beginning to feel more like the Pacific Northwest than the dry mountain climate. The precip hasn't been a heavy, pounding rain; more like a drizzle that keeps people away from water activities.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Inch by inch...

The rapid runoff that has been a concern has not materialized... yet. We get a light precip at some time during most days this time of year, but we have not had the warm weather to really kick start the runoff.

That said, we did put the rescue boat in several days ago, and I've been able to do rescue training with our dock hands and first mates. We are renting kayaks and canoes, but from a long walk down to the end of the next dock over.

Today, during a rainy spell, we had three gentlemen who rented kayaks... they came back a bit soggy, but delighted - they had seen a baby moose and elk, bald eagles, an osprey. So, while the marina isn't fully open, people are enjoying what we do have to offer right now.

The cool nights slow the runoff, but each day for the past week, we have had more water coming into that lake than going out. The lake has been going up about 4 to 10 inches per day, after a few days of barely perceptible increases. The next hurdle is to have enough water to launch the cruise boat, and I'm hopeful that we'll get that in by late this week. We'll have crew training on the water and some shake-down things before we can start carrying passengers. Then, with enough water, we'll be setting the dock and gearing up for our Elk Island meal cruises... I can't wait!

Friday, June 10, 2011

I lost...

Well, I lost the "boats in" pool... I had June 9th. On the bright side, the lake is up nearly 2 feet since it started trending up. We still need more than that for the cruise boat, but we should be able to get at least one of the fishing guide boats in by this weekend. With the rescue boat already in, I am hoping we will be able to rent kayaks and canoes, but the weather forecast is still pretty iffy for the weekend.


On edit:

We had quite a few canoe and kayak rentals today! Not what I do for a living, but I was happy to help with that because it meant happy people in the marina. It will still be a while before we launch the first cruise boat, but the water level trend continues upward.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summitting Rendezvous Peak...

Yesterday, we swung by the marina before heading south; we wanted to see the water level. It is coming up, but it's still not enough to launch anything but a kayak or a canoe...

Joan checked on her staff in the store, while I visited with our dock wranglers, then we were off. The plan: summit Rendezvous Peak. We had a break in the weather - the precip was forecast to hold off until mid-afternoon. We were ready for the strenuous climb, knowing that we would be well above 10,000' before we got to the top. Looking at it from below, the clouds were already skirting the peak. Would we be up for the challenge?

Ummm, no. We got our tickets and boarded the tram. Up 4,100' in about 12 minutes. Yeah, that beats an 8 hour climb. ;-)

The views on the way up were pretty spectacular. The valley floor...

And, the nearby mountains.

As you can see, there's still plenty of snow on the mountains. A typical winter would see 400 - 500 inches of snow; this year, there has been over 700". And here we are at the top:

Of course, no trek to the snowy top would be complete without a snowball fight...

And some hiking around...

That's Idaho in the background. Joan said, "Step back just a bit further... a little more... a bit more..."

Since we did the tram instead of climbing the mountain, we had plenty of strength for an afternoon of shopping. And the weather timing for going up the mountain was good - we drove through a thunderstorm on the way back to Colter Bay.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Here it comes...

Last year, the lake level got to 103% - it came up fast. This year, when discussing the low levels, I frequently heard, "This lake can rise a foot a day with this kind of runoff..."

I had my doubts. The Hydromet data showed that we are up .9' in the past 24 hours - close enough. Two days with warmer temps, and then the precip, and the runoff has begun in earnest. It's clear that we are going to see higher water flow before this is over.

Joan and I are scheduled to have the next two days off (our weekend); Mother Nature is supposed to rain on us, but the sun is out this morning. I'll have to drive by the marina to see what the water looks like before we head out for the day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When the rain comes...

From a Beatles' song. With our marina bay water slowly rising, we are all in anticipation of getting to do what we came here to do. Unlike last year, where I worked a bunch of days without a day off when we first got here, they are cutting hours... I volunteered to take the day off, and the manager quickly agreed to that. Then, he took the day off, too. We have done as much of the prep work as possible, now we just need enough water to launch boats, kayaks, and canoes, and we will be plenty busy. The flow out the dam has been closed down by nearly half, the water coming into the lake is increasing... we had about a 6" rise in the lake overnight; doesn't sound like much, but the lake is 16 miles by 8 miles - that is a lot of water. I'm expecting to see similar increases the next couple weeks. Our temps in the 70s have dropped to the 50s, with light precip off and on all day. Clouds obscured the mountains.

With the rain and low visibility, there would have been little interest in boat cruises and rentals, even if we had more water. I think we may be able to get the small stuff in the water by this weekend. The rainy weather is forecast for the next 7 days... should be an interesting week.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nice while it lasted...

We had several beautiful weather days... I actually worked up a sweat yesterday! 70s yesterday and today. And this evening, the clouds and rain moved in, with more of the same predicted for the next 7 days. The warm temps will kickstart the runoff, and the precip will accelerate it further. The lake level is up slightly, an upward trend for the last few days.

People coming to the marina are surprised that we have no water when much of the west and midwest has an abundance... it becomes clear when we explain that our low water is in anticipation of expected conditions. I think this is the start of it.

There is still much to be done here, but so much of it can't be done until we have enough water to float our docks and launch our boats. Soon... well, probably not soon enough for me to win the "boats in" pool. ;-)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stuff to do...

My project for the day: wash the Rendezvous, clean the dock "skid marks" on her side, and get her waxed. I had two dock wranglers and a first mate working with me to get the job done. An hour and a half into that, I got a call that we were launching the rescue boat for a trip out to Elk Island to take a carpenter and two wranglers out there to check out the equipment. With the "waxing crew" hard at it on the cruise boat, we launched the small metal boat at the next marina up the lake since we still don't have enough water.

It was a beautiful day as we made the run towards Elk Island... and uneventful until the depth finder went from 70 feet to 5 feet in a heartbeat! I pulled the power off and raised the engine as I heard that most unpleasant grinding sound... yes, it was a "field test" of the new prop guard I installed yesterday... unintentional. I sent one of the stouter guys forward, and we floated off. Our landing site at Elk Island was nearly unrecognizable with the low water. With my boss eyeballing the bottom from the bow, I put the boat on the rocky shoreline. The four of them hiked up to the meal site while I stayed with the boat. My boss called it "getting paid to get a tan", but while I waited, I checked the prop and motor - the new guard did its job reasonably well. I had time to shoot some images while I waited...

There will be some repairs needed on some of our Elk Island facilities, but I would guess we are a couple weeks away from having enough water to run this in the cruise boats. The boss wanted the rescue boat at our docks, so coming back was quite a challenge... this was the same area I "poled" the depths with the kayak last week, and I know it is shallow. With two guys on the bow to look down into the water, we slowly made our way back to our docks.

From there, it was back to the cleaning and waxing - the Rendezvous is looking good!

The water level is slowly coming up (a few hundredths of a foot the past couple days), but at least it is an increasing trend.

After the work today, every muscle is achy - even my hair hurts. I am looking forward to enough water to be driving the cruise boats.

Friday, June 3, 2011


We started working with dock hands and first mates today on how to tie off the cruise boats... there are a lot of ways to tie a cleat knot, apparently, but only one of them is acceptable. We got to see many "alternatives," but in the end, they all came to understand why we tie off properly. Then, on to other useful knots on boats. I did more work on the cruise boat and added a few things to our rescue boat. Still waiting for water in the marina basin - we have an enthusiastic crew!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

All's well...

Three big things to deal with on a day off: Coast Guard inspection, getting the parts shipped for the landing gear for our 5th wheel, and waiting to hear about a water project in the campground that could potentially affect us for the next month and a half. Most all of it worked out as best case scenerio: our CG inspection went well (I poured over that boat for days); after being told that parts were back-ordered on the landing gear, I called the gear manufacturer and they are sending the parts direct; and, while they will be working on the campground water, they will only turn our water off for 4 to 6 hours at a time... and that's livable, since we can go for days on our freshwater tank.

Joan only worked until 2:00... on her day off (computer training for activities). I did laundry. Good news on all of the stuff above, and just normal "takin' care of business" with the rest of it. The weather was better than predicted, but not nice enough to take the kayak out.

Now, if we can get some water in the lake, we'll be ready to get on with our season.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Going to Jackson...

The first day we both had off. Well, I had it off; Joan had to go in for a few hours this morning (manager stuff). It was time for a grocery run, so we were off to Jackson. On the way there, we took the inside loop through the park. There doesn't seem to be any change in the amount of water going through the dam, which is a bunch. Here's the dam Blonde checking it out...

A calm morning, it made for a beautiful image...

Mt. Moran...

Along the way, we passed a series of traffic jams. Around here, they are called "bear jams". Being more specific, today we went by a moose jam, a buffalo jam, and an elk jam... cars pulled mostly off the road, people leaving car doors open and engines running...

After lunch at the Cadillac Grill in Jackson, we wandered around a bit. Checked in with an RV place to see about getting our jacks repaired, bought diesel for $3.99 (52¢ per gallon less than our last fuel stop), and hit the grocery store - Smith's... good prices, excellent selection. I look forward to these weekly food excursions, especially the Devil Dogs!