Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So, how was your day?

Our bookkeeper read my incident report.  When I got off the boat today, she asked the above.

"What a spectacular day!  Only the second time this season that I didn't need 4 layers!  No Orcas, but we got up close and personal with several Minke whales.  And eagles, sea lions, and seals, oh my!"

She said, "You sure have a good attitude."

"People pay good money to ride with us - they deserve to have a good time.  And what a beautiful day on the water: sunny, light wind, and nearly flat seas - it doesn't get much better than this!"

I wasn't saying that for her benefit.  We had guests on our boat who have ridden with this company twice before, both times on the bigger boat.  Joan suggested they try the other boat this time.  When they got off the boat, they went back to the office and told her how much they enjoyed it.

A boat full of happy people... just the way it is most days.

No photos to show you our time on the water, but when we came home, this cute little face was waiting for us...

How could you not have a great day when looking at that sweet little face?

Oh, and on the walk home, a marimba band was playing in the park.  I got to walk home with my Honey.  Yep, it's island time. ;-)  And a damn fine day.

Like glass...

Decent visibility this morning, even though there was no wind.  The water was like glass...

It was breezy yesterday, but not choppy (like I expected) south of San Juan and Lopez Islands.  I have come to just appreciate what Mother Nature offers.  Of course, smooth water is more friendly than lumpy... and sunny seems to perk up everyone's attitude.

The tides have been lower than typical.  A full moon might explain yesterday's antics, but we still have two more days before it's full.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Drunk and Disorderly...

No, not me... come on, you know me better than that.  I had three obnoxious and inebriated guys on the boat.  I should have put a stop to them before they got on the boat.  I did talk to them; they were loud, but didn't seem like they'd be any trouble.  I told them, "You need to tone it down or hit the bricks.  There are other guests on this boat."

They promised they'd be agreeable.  I stopped the boat a couple times to check on everyone below and everything seemed to be fine.  The naturalist onboard tells me that they didn't have anything to drink while on the boat (one of our rules).  Unfortunately, an hour into the trip, they got loud and obnoxious... well, louder and more obnoxious.  I stopped the boat and told them that they only get one warning, and I would put them off at the nearest land if there were further problems.

"We're just having fun - it's Javier's birthday!"

"Happy birthday, Javier.  You need to hold it down, you're making the other guests uncomfortable.  We want everyone to have fun, and you are NOT allowed to mess with other peoples' fun for yours.  Do we understand each other?"

They agreed.

We went a long ways, only found one Minke whale, but saw lots of other great wildlife.  I understand that people come here to see Orcas... but, they Orcas aren't always here.  Still, I felt everyone was getting a good show.

On the way back, I guess these guys felt like they were safe to be obnoxious.  I turned around and saw one of them leaning over the railing past his hips, and putting his hand in the water!!  I pulled off the power and said, "That's it! Sit down and shut up.  I am done messing with you!"  I was concerned the idiot would fall off the boat he had leaned so far over.  They made threatening gestures towards me... "You don't want this fight!"  I told them.  "You can sit down and shut up or I'll have the Sheriff waiting at the dock."  They continued being belligerent.  "OK, that's how we'll play it."

I called the office and told Joan, "Have the Sheriff waiting for us at the dock.  I'll be in in 10 minutes."

She had to deal with them earlier, so she knew why, "I'll have them there."

Even better, as I came into the harbor, the Sheriff's boat came alongside us.  The three loudmouths got amazingly quiet.  Well, I could hear them trying to formulate what they were going to say.

I visited with the deputies on the VHF, so they knew what to expect.  "We'll escort you in and have deputies waiting on the dock."

"Thanks, gentlemen."

"And people say there isn't a cop around when you need one, huh?" one of the deputies said to me.  It was just a coincidence that they were on the boat - they were coming back in from another call.  Great timing!

When I got the boat to the dock, the first mate tied us off, and two deputies stepped onboard while another waited on the dock.  I thanked the guests and apologized if anyone had been uncomfortable at any time.  One lady was mad, the rest of the guests thanked me for handling the situation.  The tips were better than usual.  Oh, three of the guests weren't happy at all.

The deputies started by letting the three loudmouths tell their side of the story.  The one who threatened me started getting all worked up again, and the deputy told him, "You need to cool down, son.  I've heard enough from you!"

He took me aside and said, "How do you want this to go down?"

I said, "Let 'em walk, with the understanding that they keep on walking.  If they are stupid enough to continue being belligerent, cuff 'em, I'll press charges, and let 'em spend Javier's birthday in jail."

"You're being generous," he said.  "I think that's a good solution.  From the looks of these guys, you did the right thing in calling us."

We went back to the boat and he told them how it was going to go down.

The nasty one continued to glare at me.  Javier shook my hand, and said, "Thanks, man."  The most sober of the three also gave me a nod and said, "Thanks.  I'm sorry."  They let 'em walk.

We have a new company policy: if they seem drunk or obnoxious at the front counter, they don't get on the boat.  If they make it as far as the boat and they seem like a problem, the boat crew will send them back to the office for a refund.  This is the first I've come across this on this job.

Lesson learned: I was trying to be a good guy; I really do want everyone to have the opportunity to see all the great things we see out on the water here.  I can't be in the guest area when I'm driving the boat (but, the naturalist did a fine job), so I need to cut our losses before we get out on the water.

Frankly, it shouldn't have to come to this.  Those three made things uncomfortable for everyone onboard.  That's not right.  I won't let it get to that point in the future.

But, other than that, it was a great day on the water!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Use your head!

Early in the season, we had an issue with the head in the boat I drive most often... I had to pull things apart, remove something (no details, but apparently the woman who put it in the head can "run, play tennis, and ride horses"), and put it all back together.  After that, I made a new rule: the first mate has to check the head after each guest use; mostly to make sure the valve is NOT left in the wrong position.  The owner put it into our SOP.  I tell the guests: "If you didn't eat or drink it, it doesn't go in the toilet.  The first mate will be checking the head when you are done, to make sure the valve is back in the proper position."

Apparently, one of the first mates thought I was kidding.  When we got back from today's trip (a beautiful day on the water, thanks for asking - it was nice to not get pounded by waves), the head compartment was flooded.  When I looked down there, the cause was immediately apparent: the valve was left in the wrong position!  No pun intended - I was pissed!  Yes, we had words... well, I had words, some of them less than pleasant, because the lack of attention on the part of the first mate was making an ugly job for me (and more expense for the company).  This was not done in front of anyone else (praise in public, correct in private), but there is NO question that this job will be done on every future trip.

When I was done, I felt like a meanie.  She apologized over and over... "Don't be sorry - just do your job, and you won't have to feel bad, and I won't be up to my ankles in waste water!"  If this was the first time, I would have more patience.  It wasn't, I don't.

All that aside, it was a beautifully sunny day.  The water was mostly pleasant.  We didn't see Orcas, but we did see whales (Minkes).  And eagles.  And watched two male Stellar Sea Lions argue over who was the alpha male.  Lots of seals, including some cute little pups.  It really was a lovely day on the water, just a pissy ending when we got back to the dock.

A few views from the day:

Mt. Baker in the distance...

You know the water is calm when someone is standing on the cabintop of a boat (no, we don't allow that on our boats)...

Beautifully sparkly water as we left the Minke whales...

A classic looking schooner that we passed on the way north...

A beautiful day to be out on the water. :-)


Joan is a great cook.  Even onboard the boat, we eat well.  We don't eat out as much here, but last night we had prime rib and mashed potatoes on the boat... this morning, pancakes and bacon.  It's nice when we (OK, she) don't have to go in early.  Today, it's around noon for both of us. :-)

Foggy again...

Foggy again this morning when we got up.  We heard the ferry come in, but can't see it.  We haven't been keeping track, but it sure seems like we've had a lot of foggy starts to the day... I don't remember it that often when we've cruised here in the past.

When I checked the hourly weather before going to bed, it was saying "clear" for this morning.  And now...

Next 6 hours

Low clouds, fog and poor visibility conditions will improve by noon. Rapidly decreasing clouds with temperatures rising towards the low 60s. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.

 Hope the guests who are coming by sea plane can get in for our 1:30 scheduled departure.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let the healing begin...

I guy's gotta heal from a beating... I was glad to have the day off today... guess I'm getting soft in my old age.  A beautiful day in Friday Harbor.  I did go into the office today - twice, actually.  Once to get some lunch for Joan, and then later in the afternoon when they decided they deserved an ice cream break.

I did my boat chores, walked little Izzy, wandered up to the Farmers Market, then took a drive with my boss to see their place here on San Juan Island... a pastoral place, set in a green valley with a view of the water and the mountains in the distance.  Very nice.

This afternoon, I did a reset on my Raymarine E-80 chartplotter.  I didn't bring a compact flash drive, so I wasn't able to save all my settings and waypoints.  No big loss.  It acted up the last time out - the plotter showed where we are on the screen, but not the proper heading or course.  I switched the screen over to radar and used the iPad as the main nav aid.

While setting things back up, I came across these aerial photos of Friday Harbor...

In the lower photo, you can see the ferry at the left side.  That first little boat you see to the right of the ferry... yeah, that's the boat I drive and where I have to put it into the slip.  That whole basin turns into a swirling pool when the ferry comes and goes... keeps you on your toes!

This morning, I took this photo of Izzy...

She was sitting in front of one of the window covers, with just a bit of soft light on her cute little kitty face.  Photogenic little thing.  She and I sat out on the dock, taking in some sunshine today.  And waiting for her working Momma to come home.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Took a beating...

The whales were reported between Kellet Bluff and Turn Point... and easy run from Friday Harbor.  Yeah, that didn't materialize.  Then, a vague report on the southwest side of San Juan Island and 4 to 6 foot waves.  Then, a firm report that one pod was between Turn Point and Pender Island (Canada).  I put the power on and ran north.  The whales were moving fast to the north.

On the bright side: I was running north with the waves.
On the not so bright side: I had to run all the way to Active Pass to catch up with the whales.
On the really ugly side: I had to slog home against the waves.

The "three hour tour" turned into 4 hours... most of it in 3 to 4 foot steep, closely spaced waves and wind.  The guests were delighted that they got to see whales, and I had let them know before we departed that we were going to have "wind and waves."  They were great... when they got off the boat, they all thanked us for spending the extra time to get them to the whales.

I was thinking, "Oh, my aching back!"  I was happy they were pleased with the tour.

When I got home, Joan reminded me that a boat neighbor had invited me to come over with my guitar for some playing.  There were 3 guys there, and we took turns introducing a song to the group.  It's been a while since I've play with anyone else... two guitars, a banjolo (kind of a cross between a banjo and a mandolin), and a dobro.  It was fun... and took my mind off my aching back. ;-)

Clanging halyards...

That's the sound of wind in the marina.  The forecast was for wind around 9 - 10 mph.  The actual: currently 14 gusting to 22.  It's going to be a "sporting" day out on the boat today.

It's interesting what one gets accustomed to... back in Texas, 14G22 is a typical day.  You can always find some protected water to play around in.  Here, there are so many open channels and straits, combined with currents from the tides, that the water can get lumpy in a hurry.  The NWS is calling for Small Craft Advisories this afternoon and this evening.

I head off to work in a few minutes... hope the whales are not out in open water. ;-)

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Here's proof that she picked out my clothes today...

Also proof that it was nice enough for shorts. :-)  We really like the Madrona Grill - outstanding prime rib sandwich (that they call a Kobe beef grinder).

We walked around the marina a bit.  It gave me the opportunity to get a photo of the "interesting boat of the day"...

It is an 82' Ocean Alexander; for sale, and you can have it for only...

Always fun to walk by stuff like that.  And keep on walking.  Hey, we used to have a boat with a 20' beam... of course it was 1/3 the length and 1/100th the price.  And a big ol' 8 hp motor, but it would sail like crazy. ;-)

OK, I'm kidding about that OA being the "interesting boat of the day."  Maybe the "OMG boat of the day"?  Here's a beautiful boat that really caught my eye while we were having lunch...

It's a Coastal Craft.  If you use your imagination, it kinda resembles a very large C-Dory.  Nice upper deck and helm, but still has an inside helm.  Metal hull.  Yeah, it's also way beyond my budget... well, if I had a "boat buying budget"... which I don't... 'cause I don't have any plans for a different boat.  Unless, you know, we win the lottery.  Nice boat, though.

We enjoyed our drive across the island and back.  It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day.  We stopped at "the other store" on our way back, picked up a few things not available at the closer store, then back to the permit only parking to see if there would be a spot available... no problem; we had several choices.  Back at the boat, I said to Izzy, "Did you miss us?"

"Um, were you gone?"  Kidding, of course... she adores us (and vice versa).

No lovely day is complete without a walk to the ice cream shop.  We sat on a bench overlooking the marina on our way back.  This really is a great place.  Before long, we'll have to make some decisions on what next.

More exciting life living aboard: it's been 10 days since we pumped out, so we drove the boat all the way around to the pump out station... and back.  I enjoyed listening to the marina chatter on channel 66, as boats came in, looking for a slip.  Sometimes the boat names make me chuckle... like today when "Sloop Dog" called in.  And a short time later, a guy with obvious mic-fright and the boat name "Corn Dog"... you could tell the girl on the marina radio was stifling a laugh.  These young kids that work in the marina are very professional and helpful on the radio.

A short nap and some guitar time.  And now it is almost time for happy hour out in the lanai.  I think days off may be my favorite part of these summer jobs. ;-)

A day off together...

After a long day yesterday, my Honey said she'd take me to lunch at Roche Harbor.  When we got up this morning, there was a light fog... a couple hours later, it has become a thick fog.  My day off.  I don't have to be concerned about it.  On the bright side, the smaller boat has a functioning horn now. ;-)  We're sitting in the cockpit - Joan has her coffee, I am on-line, little Izzy has been brushed and is happily looking out.  The only fog signal I'm hearing is from the ferry.  Hope it's running on time today.  Did I mention: my day off?

Joan picked out clothes for me... she was having fun going through things... "You haven't worn this, yet"... apparently, she is dressing me to take out in public.  A shirt with buttons. ;-)  No matter, I am easy-going.  My day off. :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I said, "Lucky" in the previous post.  Well, I didn't have to do laundry or spruce up the boat.  I got in early to work to finish some maintenance and get the boat fueled... and found out the ferry was running an hour and a half late!  That really messes with guests being able to make it on time.  We decided to send one boat out on time, move the people who were here from the second boat on to the first, and hold the second boat for an hour late departure.  We were doing our best to accommodate everyone... no good deed goes unpunished.  A couple parties were upset because they weren't on the adult boat... I explained to them that both boats were going to have kids on them, thanks to the ferry being late all day long.

No one in the area saw Orcas today.  I guess they didn't see them yesterday, either.  We worked hard to find some Minke whales, went out of the way to see bald eagles and stellar sea lions.  The water was calm compared to my last trip.  We went out of our way to be sure no one missed a trip.

I got off one boat and got on the other, just in time to shove off.  Lots of miles, and we didn't see a whale until towards the end of the trip, and then it was one shy Minke.  Still, it's a whale!  Plenty of other wildlife.

The water was great, the sunset was beautiful, the weather was perfect (I only had two layers on most of the day - a first!).  But, we didn't see Orcas.  It could not have been a more beautiful day on the water.

While walking back to our boat as darkness settled in, a guy asked me, "Do you work at the marina?"

"No, I'm a boat captain, but can I answer something for you?"

"Do people, like, stay over night on boats here?"

"Yeah, they sure do.  This marina allows liveaboards, so there are folks here who live on their boats."

He had a wife and two young boys with him, and they were all fascinated with the fact that people could live on a boat.  I visited with them while we all walked along the docks.  It certainly gave them something to think about.  It gave me something to think about, too... we had a few frumpy people because we didn't see Orcas... but, it was a wonderful day to be on the water!  We saw lots of interesting wildlife and had perfect weather.  And at the end of the day, I get to stay on my boat. :-)

On edit, a couple images, showing the beautiful day and flat water...

Lucky I have to work...

Today is Joan's day off.  I have an afternoon trip and an evening trip.  I don't have to go in until around noon.  Joan spent some time in the cockpit this morning, enjoying her coffee and watching TV...

That relaxing will end soon.  She will be doing laundry and airing out all the v-berth cushions.  It is a beautiful day, and I will be driving a boat.  She made breakfast for us this morning, a nice perk when she doesn't have to work.  She is sorting laundry and bedding, so the boat looks like a cyclone came through the interior... I know when I get home tonight, everything will be perfectly in place.

We were joking in the office yesterday about Joan "needing" a day off without me around.  Yeah, it's true... she tells me that it's not because she doesn't want to spend time with me, but it's so she can get laundry and boat sprucing up done without me in the way.  I kinda thought I was helpful... maybe me getting out of the way is best for both of us?

Off to work.

Which do you prefer?

An RV friend asked me, "I know it's like comparing apples and oranges but which scenery do you think is more spectacular, Orcas or The Tetons?"

My response...

Interesting question, and one we've asked ourselves.  The scenery here in the San Juan Islands is beautiful.  Seeing the Orcas (and Minke and the occasional humpback) makes one appreciate these magnificent mammals.  Seeing them daily, and trying to keep up with the distances they cover make me better understand what they go through to survive and why they are endangered.

That said, I still think the Tetons are the most spectacular scenery in the lower-48.  Going to work in the early morning and seeing the light move down those rugged mountains gave me goosebumps... every morning.  My vote for "most spectacular" goes to the Tetons.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it is nice to have the variety.  Both of these places are very special to us.  We camped in Yellowstone and the Tetons way back when we were still newlyweds.  We cruised the San Juan Islands when we first picked up Wild Blue.  Sometimes "firsts" carry a lot of weight.  Yesterday, Joan said, "If we come back here (to work again), it would never be as good as this summer.  I really like the slip we're in and the neighbors around us.  I love the walk to work.  I even like walking to the store."  She loves her job at the front counter of the whale watch business and is the "shining star" in the owners' eyes; while she has learned a lot about this particular business, she has taught them a great deal about customer service and sales.

I like the challenge of the boat driving here; no "route".  I miss the interaction with the guests, since the helm of boat boats is intentionally separate from the guests.

Living on the boat is very workable here.  Joan asked me, "Are you going to be ready to head out with the 5th wheel when we get home?"

"Absolutely!  I miss the room and ease of RVing... having a decent size refrigerator and walk-around room with the bed... and that big hanging closet."  The only thing I miss about the house is the jacuzzi tub.  smiley 

I'm sure it would be different if we were cruising, moving every day with the boat.  Considering all the miles I am getting in and all the different places I go with the whale watch boats, I am happy to do some walking or driving on our day off.   grin

I guess I feel fortunate that we are able to do what we do.  These summer jobs are Joan's idea, but I see the value, both monetary and the physical.  Joan is generally quite shy, except in a work environment; I understand why she likes this.  I have itchy feet, and after a couple months in one place, I am ready to go... somewhere.

We aren't sure what direction we'll head or what mode of transportation we'll use when our time is done here.  I am totally OK with going where the weather looks good.  Joan prefers a bit more planning in her spontaneity  Wink... we have a whole month to thing about it.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I got the horn blues...

We needed to replace the horn on the boat I drive most frequently.  We have a "maintenance guy", but the horn kept getting moved down the list.  Yes, a portable air horn will satisfy Coast Guard rules, but I have had to drive in fog... and I want a real horn.  I didn't have a trip today, so I asked if it was OK if I replaced the horn.


I think there was some question if I was capable. ;-)  The problem wasn't just the horn - the button and relay were bad, too.  The horn button was stripped... I found this out when I started working with it... probably why it kept getting moved down the priority list.  After messing with it for nearly an hour, I got mad and went to the truck to get my Dremmel - I cut the damn button and relay out of there and had the whole thing mounted and rewired in 45 minutes.  And it works!  Kinda sounds like a Lexus. ;-)

Yesterday, when we were getting pounded while whale watching, the portable air horn went flying on one large wave.  I won't have to deal with that again!  The owners are great as far as staying on top of any boat needs.  If we tell 'em the boat needs something, it gets it.

Well, sometimes you have to do it yourself. ;-)


A regional expression.

One of the other boat captains enroute to the whales asked me for a conditions report yesterday, and I said, "3 to 4 feet, confused seas."  Another captain came back with, "Confused?  That's putting it mildly."  I guess some discussions differ depending on where you are.  With waves coming from all directions, not in set patterns, we call it "confused."  You hear that a lot down in the Gulf.  Another interesting difference is in discussing on the radio who is going where in a crossing/passsing situation... the first time I said, "On the one," (as in one whistle signal), I got back a...


"Port to port."


It seems they don't use "on the one" (passing port to port, or making your passing maneuver to starboard) or "on the two"  (starboard to starboard, or making your maneuver to port).

Back home, if I am going to pass a tug, the radio conversation sounds like this...

"Tug Brownwater, this is Wild Blue coming up on your stern, looking to pass."

"On the one."

"Roger, on the one.  Thanks."

If we were using sound signals, I would come up behind him, give one blast on the horn, he would signal back with one blast, letting me know that he receives my signal and agrees.  Thus: on the one (whistle or horn).


I asked a couple captains here about that... "Nope, no one around here uses that."

Well, okey-dokey (or "Howdy, y'all")... they don't use that, either. ;-)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes you win, sometimes...

It was iffy as to whether I'd have a trip today... the big boat was nearly full, so I was on-call for the boat I drive.  At 10:30: nope.  At noon: nope.  That is my timing.  We don't leave until 1:30, but we generally have at least an hour to prep the boat.  Truth be told, this was another one of those "I'm OK if we don't have a trip" days... the wind was blowing 15 to 20 from the southwest; the seas were predicted to be 3 feet or more, with Small Craft Advisories.  I was kinda relieved when the 12:00 call came up with: "Sorry."

I settled in with my guitar.  At 12:50, the phone rang.  It was Joan... "Can you come in?  I have a trip for you."

My stock answer: "I'll be right there."  Good thing the boat has fuel... and I'm not going to get my usual hour to prep.  I put the company polo on, tossed a soda and a water in a bag, and headed out.  When I got there, I asked, "Who's my first mate... oh, and what happened?"

It turns out that a family of 8 had the wrong date: they were scheduled for the 30th.  He even had the paperwork to show us.  Only problem: today is the 23rd.  Joan handled it all very professionally, and let them know that we'd probably be leaving a bit late, and they'd have the boat all to their family.  They were very grateful.

It's only a 5 minute walk for me.  I did my normal engine checks, and while warming up the engine, I got the first mate's prep work done.  I walked back to the office, met the family, and told them that we'd board as soon as the first mate arrived.  Nice people.  He apologized profusely for the mistaken date, but I let him know that we often have trips come up on short notice.

Even with the short notice, I checked weather.  I let them know that the sea conditions would be "sporting."  (That's a euphemism for: we're gonna take a beating out there.) ;-)

The first mate arrived, we passed around introductions, did the safety talk, and shoved off.  There were white caps in San Juan Channel.  Knowing where the whales were, I knew we had time to see some seals and sea lions before heading to Haro Strait.  Cattle Pass wasn't pleasant; with the southwest wind, I knew it would be even uglier "out there." (Captain Ron reference ;-))

Yep, it was.  We saw plenty of whales, but I had my hands full trying to keep the boat in a comfortable position with the 3 to 4 foot confused seas.  I checked with the guests a couple times to make sure everyone was doing OK... going slow or not moving is actually tougher for most people.  I worked hard to keep the boat into the waves, but they were coming at us from all directions... we did a lot of rockin' and rollin'.  I asked the first mate to come up to the helm... "Is everyone handling this OK?"

"One lady is puking - everyone else is having a great time."

"Check with them.  When they've seen enough, we'll head out.  I'll run north with the waves to get a better ride.  It will take longer to get back, but it should be easier on them."

She came back a few minutes later... "They're ready to go back."

One of the whales picked that exact moment to surface right in front of us!  We aren't going anywhere soon.  When we could get out of there, I took them north and ran through Mosquito Pass - I knew we'd have some calm water there, and Kristen (the first mate/naturalist) could have other stuff to talk about.  At one point, I had the first mate take the helm so I could visit with the guests... I looked up and we were headed out of the channel... "Take us back to the left, please!"  Then, we were headed out of the channel the other direction... "Now to the right."  The lady who was ill was very apologetic... I let her know that all the other captains were having the same situation on their boats - not a problem, but we came to calmer waters to try to make the situation better for her.

It took longer to get back, but the ride was better... a decision I made for the sake of the lady who wasn't feeling well.  The guests got to see other parts of the island, we saw some bald eagles in Mosquito Pass, and we were getting a better ride.  Best I could do with the circumstances.

I got them back almost a half hour late, but 7 of the 8 of them were beaming!  One still looked pretty green.  They showed their gratitude when they got off... everyone was happy.

Well, except my poor back... I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the kidneys.  All in a day's work. ;-)


On edit: interesting boat of the day...

It's an Aspen, a catamaran with asymetrical hulls and a single engine.  We were on one at the Seattle Boat Show... nice boat.  Well made, good layout, nice appointments.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What a show!

The weather weasels called for a chance of rain after 4:00 this afternoon.  It was drizzling when Joan went to work at 7:45 this morning, and still drizzling when I went in at noon.  It stopped before we loaded up for our 1:30 whale watch trip, but that "partly cloudy" was actually a solid overcast.  And the wind came up from the southwest as I headed south.

I had on 4 layers, gloves, and a stocking cap... had to put the hood up to keep my neck warm.  South of San Juan Island, we headed south... saw a couple Minke Whales.  They are a lot bigger than Orcas, but less impressive to see because they have a very small dorsel fin.  The guests enjoyed seeing them, but they were here to see Orcas.  I had a good report that there were Killer Whales a few miles away, so I knew I had time.  We ran further off-shore, where Haro Strait and Juan de Fuca come together... a bunch of Orcas.  At one point, I couldn't move because we had them on both sides and in front of us, and another boat coming up behind us.  All were 200 yards away, of course.

It was quite a viewing... the salmon must have been running with the current, because the whales were not moving, but were very active.  The guests got to see why they are called "Killer" Whales, when one of them came up with a large salmon in its teeth and gave it a toss.  Apparently, their Mothers never told them not to play with their food.

The wind came up while we were out there; the sea state went from nearly flat to 2 to 3 foot waves.  The viewing was so good that no one seemed to mind.  You really notice the rockin' and rollin' up on that flybridge helm, though.  I do try to keep the boat oriented so the guests get the best ride possible along with the best views.

I told our naturalist that this would be "last looks," then started turning out.  More whales on both sides of us; it was a slow departure.  We swung by Whale Rocks and Long Island where we got to see a Stellar Sea Lion (rare this time of year - they have gone north), Mommas and baby seals, two adult bald eagles and one juvenile.  It was a good viewing day.

Well, except for the rain, which drizzled on us all the way back.  The guests can stay dry in the semi-enclosed cabin; I have Sunbrella and eisenglass... I didn't get wet, except for when I have to unzip the eisenglass to wipe it so I can see.  It was barely sprinkling when we got back to the dock.

I was scheduled to do the 5:30 trip, but was offered some "hours" trade.  Works for me.  I got to walk home from work with my Honey.  :-)


On edit:  The rain let up for a bit and some sun came streaming through the clouds to the west - a rainbow!

That was the view from Wild Blue's cockpit... it didn't last long, but pretty while it was there.  Reminds me of an old Hawaiian saying: No rain, no rainbows. ;-)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Can you come in?

Around 5:00, I got a call from Joan: "The boat is running really late, I need to get food for the crew, and I'm here alone - can you come in?"

"I'll be right there."

You know that old saying about "When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp"?  When I got there, I found out why the boat was late and why Joan was there by herself: another boat (not ours) was taking on water; our boat has an emergency pump and they were close by.  They had to help out the other boat.  Four people on our boat had to make the seaplane departure, and that wasn't going to happen in time.  Our other boat was also nearby, and took the four people off the big boat, and headed back.  That boat went right to the seaplane dock, where the seaplane was being held by our owner who was pleading with the pilot, "Just a couple more minutes, please!"

Then another call: could we sent back the second boat to get the passengers off the disabled boat?

"We're on the way."

What they called me for: crowd control and coordination.  The people waiting for the evening trip didn't know why the boat wasn't in, yet.  I explained that: "It's a maritime law, we have to help another boat in need.  I apologize for the delay and assure you that you will get the full trip, even with a delayed departure."

One guest asked me if they would make it back in time for the 10:00 ferry departure.

"Let me call the captain on that boat."  It's going to be close.  I said, "Would you like me to put your car in the ferry line for you?  That way you don't have to walk all the way up town where your car is parked."

His wife asked, "You would do that for us?"

"Sure; we're all about the service."

When I saw our big boat coming into the harbor, I walked these passengers out, helped unload the guests on the boat, and got these folks onboard.  Then went in search of this family's car.  I drive a truck... you put a key in it, you turn the key, it starts.  This thing didn't have a key.  Just a fob.  Swell.  I pressed the start button after locking myself in the car... lights lit up, but the car didn't start.  Fun.  I looked for a place to put the fob - Joan had rented a Prius once, and you actually put the fob in the dash... nope.  I got out the owners manual... nope, it didn't tell you how to start the car.  Seriously?  I stepped on the brake, and the car fired up!  Good thing, I was sweating like a farm animal and afraid I'd set off the alarm if I opened the door. ;-)

I drove the car to the ferry lanes, checked with one of the parking attendants, explained the situation, and told him it was gonna be close.  He let me park the car in one of the last lanes that would be loading... good guy.

Joan was supposed to get off work at 5:00... shortly after 7:00, we walked back to the boat.

Never a dull work day. ;-)  Oh, this wasn't a work day for me.

It's a happening place!

If you are going to boat cruise in the San Juan Islands, you are going to be in Friday Harbor at some time... it is the center of commerce (and the only incorporated town) for the county.  During the summer, there is always something going on here.  Today, the town and marina are packed.

Besides the usual Saturday Farmers Market, there is an Art & Crafts Fair (featuring booths and music) on the courthouse lawn.  Probably the biggest draw today is the Fly In at the Friday Harbor Airport.  There have been scads of planes flying in, a couple military jet fly-overs, war-birds flying in formation.  Joan had to work today, and I just didn't feel like walking all the way to the airport, so I watched a lot of it from the dock beside our boat.  I did walk up to the Farmers Market and then on to the Arts & Crafts Fair...

The day started overcast, not good for the Fly In.  But, by mid-morning, the sun started peeking out.  Before noon, there was an abundance of blue sky... nice that Mother Nature cooperated with all that is happening here.

Walking back from the courthouse, you get a nice overview of the marina...

The camera in my phone doesn't do it justice, doesn't show off that pretty blue sky.

The Blonde just called - she's going to be late getting off work.  They had to run north quite a ways to get to the whales and the boats will be late getting back.  She needs to cover while the crews drop people off at the seaplane dock and try for a quick turn-around.

My day has been very laid-back... besides wandering around town, I did my boat husband and cat Daddy chores at my leisure.  Yep, a good day. :-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

An AMAZING whale viewing today...

The morning charter didn't happen - the sea plane couldn't take off from Seattle.  I walked back to work, in the rain, to get the boat ready again, this time for our 1:30 whale watch trip.  The rain stopped before we boarded guests, but the sky stayed gray with a low overcast...

One of the guests asked me what direction we'd be going to look for whales.  I told her, "Probably north.  I'm hoping for an updated report on the whale location, a fresh weather report, and then we'll make our decision as we're heading out of the harbor."

That's how it is done most days.  Today, I was hearing about 4 to 6 foot waves to the south, 2 to 3 foot waves to the north... and the whales somewhere between that.  North it is.

It was a lumpy, chilly ride.  I heard from one boat that was south of where we intended to go, confirming the sea state and saying the the whales were heading north.  As I came around the northwest side of San Juan Island, I saw the first three dorsel fins - got 'em!  We got as close as we are allowed, and the guests were ooooohhing and aaahhhhing.

This group was heading south.  Another report of a larger group to the south, heading north.  I checked with the naturalist to make sure everyone was doing OK in the lumpy conditions, then turned south... into more wave action.  We all saw about 10 dorsel fins break the water, heading in our direction.  Then, more behind that!

A "super pod"!!  A get-together of J, K, and L pods!  As the groups closed in on each other, we were perfectly positioned for viewing.  I swear, it looked a a choreographed dance!  The came together, passed through each other, swung around, circled, then moved together as a group!  This was the biggest group of Orcas I have ever seen!  And, they were active: a breach here, a series of tail-lobs there.  A female showing a tail slap, then a youngster doing a few of the same.

More boats showed up, but there was plenty of room for everyone, and we were still positioned right.  This is going to be hard to top as far as my summer experience here.  I wish I had photos to show you, but I had my hands full at the helm.  I have the images captured in my memory.

When it was time to head back, I had to wait for a break in the whale activity so I could get by them to head east.  The water was still lumpy, but no one seemed to notice.  On the way back, I took the guests by some rocks where we saw Momma seals with their fresh pups.  More wildlife on Spieden.  It was truly an amazing day.

Back at the dock, I thanked the guests, helped them off the boat, then helped the first mate get stuff put away and washed down the boat.  Joan has to work tonight, but I brought her some supper, got little Izzy fed, and sat down to replay the day in my head... yeah, just as good as a rerun.

When I walked uptown to get Joan something, I walked by this - I'll call it the interesting boat of the day...

That little bitty tug looks like it would almost fit in Wild Blue's cockpit.  Not far from this boat was a brand new Mainship Trawler - it was gorgeous... and not getting nearly the attention that little tug was garnering.

Oh, and yep, it started sprinkling again as I walked back to our boat.

Back to work...

I had an early charter this morning.  Well, I had a charter scheduled.  It rained most of the night here, and was still coming down steady at 7:30 when I walked to work.  I am scheduled to pick up two people at the sea plane dock at 9:00.  While prepping and fueling the boat, I watched the steady rain and decreasing visibility.  I got an old report on a whale sighting... it would give me a starting point if I could run at normal cruise speed... probably not going to happen with this visibility.  And then, the call: the sea plane is holding in Seattle due to weather; at least a one hour delay.

So, here I am with some time on my hands.  The hourly weather predictions don't look promising.  We had things timed so I'd be able to do an early charter and still take a full boat out for our normal 1:30 whale watch.  Mother Nature gets to make the call... I'm just along for the ride.  Or, sometimes, I don't get the ride.

My friends, Joe and Ruth, reminded me of my birthday 5 years ago, where I was wearing my Gortex winter coat on July 18th... sitting in the van while they and Joan were out in the drizzle picking peas.  Of course the comments there were: "This isn't typical of our summer weather here..."

Yeah, I was wearing that Gortex winter coat and foul weather pants today.

I feel bad for the folks I work for... the season here is short, every trip counts.  Most of the time, guests are here for a short visit; we can't always find them another time to join us out on the water.  Getting to see the beautiful scenery (even with crappy weather) and the those magnificent Orcas is an experience that shouldn't be missed.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Off Island...

What a beautiful day!  We were up and about early; Joan said, "Let's go off island for a birthday meal!"  Sounded good to me.  We put the truck in line for the ferry, had a hardy breakfast at The Hungry Clam, and got back to the truck in time to drive on the ferry.

We did some shopping, banking, more shopping, and then lunch at Carino's.  We got an e-mail from Carino's giving me a free dessert for my birthday... it pays to promote!  Lunch was outstanding... and plenty left for supper tonight.

I've been wanting a capo for my guitar, so Joan looked up the closest music store, called to make sure they have guitar stuff... and it was pretty much right on the way.  I pulled up in front of the place, and she said, "I'll wait here; take your time.  And get whatever you want."

"Ohhhhh... whatever I want?"  She knows we are in a boat and have limited space. ;-)  I had fun looking around, but other than a capo, there just wasn't anything I needed.  They did have a lot of guitars and a couple really hot deals on amps... which I do not need.  I kept telling myself that.  Music stores are like boat stuff stores for me: with a little effort, I can always find something I didn't know I needed.  "Oh, look, ukuleles!" :-D

We were too late for the 2:00 ferry and way too early for the 4:45 ferry.  We made a side trip to LaConner.  There is a C-Brat gathering there this weekend; we won't be able to make it due to work, but it sure is a fun town.  Lots of neat shops and restaurants right off the waterfront.  We have stayed there in the past, and enjoyed it a bunch.

It was downright warm while we sat in line for the ferry to return to Friday Harbor.  We went to the top deck and sat up front - nice view, good protection.  The water was flat on the way over and back... sure to be a good day for whale watching.

When we left the permit parking lot at the marina this morning, there were only 3 open spaces... I just knew there wouldn't be a spot available when we got back.  It weighed on my mind most of the day.  Turns out my concern was unfounded... plenty of spots available.  Maybe there were all out for supper, or maybe there was something going on last night that filled most of the parking spots.  No matter, all I need is one.

We are really enjoying our time at Friday Harbor, but every once in a while, it is nice to drive the truck, go to Wal-Mart, and just be people.  Now, we'll go back to walking to work and the store, and the truck will sit in its parking space.  If I had to use the ferry on a regular basis, it would get old... you have to be in line over an hour ahead of the departure time to be sure you can get on.  Then, 20 minutes or so to load.  An hour and 10 minutes to get from Friday Harbor to Anacortes.  Then, do it all in reverse for the trip back.  We're not used to that "hurry up and wait" routine... it eats up a lot of time.  Miss the ferry, and you may have to wait another 3 hours or more for the next one.

With our relatively short time here this summer, the ferry is still a bit of a novelty.  It is something we deal with everyday at work, though... Joan has to let guests know how to get on San Juan Island and how to time the ferry, and I have to deal with the ferry coming and going as we come and go from our close-by slips for the whale watch boats.

Yep, that's a wrap for the birthday celebration stuff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A nice birthday, even while working...

I went in a little early today, had a couple maintenance things to do on the boat.  I got a call from the office, "Can you come inside?"  When I got there, I saw Joan in the office... "Um, I thought you weren't working today?"

"I just stopped to say hi; I'm running errands."

One of the naturalists said, "Come into the staff room."

They had a gourmet cake, decorated with boat flags and a Happy Birthday banner, and a nice card... these really are great people.

We had the cake about half eaten before Joan got a photo of it...

Amy was my first mate/naturalist today; she said something about my birthday, because all the guests wished me a "Happy Birthday" as they boarded the boat.

As usual, the weather weasels were way off - the 'mostly sunny' forecast looked like this...

The report I received that said the whales were just outside of Roche Harbor got updated as I left the dock... almost to Pender Island in Canada, and moving 5 to 6 knots.  I put the coals to it and headed north.  I passed several sailboats along the way, not a one of them sailing...

I ran north beyond Spieden, Johns, and Stuart Islands, heading across Boundary Pass...

The view from the helm above.  Even when it's cloudy, the scenery is still great...

When we caught up to the whales, this was one of our first views...

We saw a good size group of Orcas moving north.  One nice breach, a couple spy hops, and a lot of porpoising.  Not a bad work day.  ;-)

When it was time to head back, Amy asked if we could look for some seals and eagles... "Sure, we'll take the scenic route home and see what we can find."  In the Cactus Islands, we saw a Momma seal with two pups.  No photo, the current was running pretty fast.  The guests were delighted.  Then an eagle fly over, and when I turned east, I saw two eagles sitting on a tree branch by the water... "Amy, two love birds at 11:00 o'clock."  More awwwwws from the guests.

I was running a bit behind, but the current was with me on the run back to Friday Harbor.  We passed a familiar boat: that's another whale watch boat that uses the same model as Wild Blue (we are equipped a bit different, though)...

I didn't have an evening trip, so after getting the boat put away, it was home to my Honey.  We picked up a pizza and she made salads - a relaxing supper back on Wild Blue out on the lanai.  Then, more cards and presents...

Little Izzy hopped out of the cockpit, staking out her territory...

It took until just before sunset before we saw the sun today...

The little furry girl looks pretty with some back-lighting.  My day started with a call from our daughter, with a promise for another call this evening to see how the day went.  Yeah, it was a very nice day.

On this day, many years ago...

Today is my birthday.  My sweet little girl called this morning... not the same as being there (anyone remember that old commercial?  Damn, I am getting old.), but it was a very nice start to the day.  Little Isabella "sang" to me.  Joan is making me a nice breakfast.  My friend Roger wished me Happy Birthday on the C-Brats site... here's my response:

Thanks, folks! Very Happy Another work day for me, Joan has the day off. She will celebrate the day by doing laundry. Wink We both have tomorrow off, so we'll extend the celebration one day.

Back when we were really working, Joan would go through our appointment book when the new one arrived and cross off dates for no bookings. She always made sure I got my birthday off... in later years, all the staff got the day off with pay ("In celebration of our aging founder..." Mr. Green ). Back then, we'd go for a motorcycle ride or an overnight sail. These days, with our daughter living half way across the country, we don't make such a big deal out of birthdays... but, I did see some cards - we have a family tradition: one funny card, one mushy.

Little Izzy sang for me this morning... or maybe it was, "Feed me!"?

Today, I think I'll take some new friends out for a boat ride, maybe go look for whales. Cool

Each new day is a good reason for a celebration. Hot

My thanks,

For those who want to know: I am forty-nineteen. Very Happy