Friday, May 31, 2013

Heading to the other side...

Today will be my first day on the boat in Roche Harbor.  That boat is between the size of the two we have in Friday Harbor, both in length and passenger capacity.  Another system and docking procedure to learn... I'm thinking this old dog can still handle a new trick or two. ;-)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coming to America...

A business errand to run, we thought it would be a quick trip to the mainland and back... um, nope.

Getting on the ferry was no issue... time to get a bite to eat after we put the car in line.  

By the time we got to Anacortes, it was drizzling.  We had to pick up something about 30 miles south.  On the Interstate.  With the Interstate bridge across the Skagit knocked down, we took a back road.  I thought it would be the best route... well, the name of the road is: Best Road.

Even in the gray weather, it was a beautiful drive.  It is billed as a "scenic farm road" and it lives up to that description.  Since the speed limit varies from 35 to 50, it takes longer to cover the same distance.  Lots of flowers and green fields all along that route.

We thought we could make the 2:40 ferry returning to Friday Harbor.  We were there before it shoved off, but it was already full.  They let a few cars at a time on as over-flow, but we didn't make that cut.  So, it was 2 hours of sitting in the ferry landing parking lot, waiting for the next ferry.  We both had our iPads with us... it helped pass the time.  Yep, it rained.

There were several school buses loading at the same time.  One class was quiet, sitting at the booths on the ferry.  The others were... um, not.  It was more relaxing to make the ride in the comfort of Big Red.

Not a lot of boat traffic out there today.  This big cruiser was pulling a dinghy... well, the dinghy is about the size of Wild Blue.  ;-)

It was (surprise) raining when we got back to Friday Harbor.  The weather weasels were predicting clearing weather... missed that one.

However, the 10 day forecast looks glorious.  Really.  :-)

Izzy "shunned" us when we got home...

No, that didn't last long... she is too sweet.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hello, Captain... Captain... Captain...

There is a professional association for whale watch operators: tonight, we had a meeting with members from the San Juan Islands and Anacortes.  The discussion was about the legal distances, legal speeds (distance to whales related), radio procedures, reporting procedures.  Last year was my first year meeting all these captains... so I wasn't the new guy this year.

"Hey, Jim, I heard you on the radio - glad to see you're back."

"Jim, you shaved your beard off - I didn't recognize you until you spoke."

It's a good bunch, and all cooperative boat operators.  It was nice to see them all again.  You see the same people out on the water, day after day, and it's good to know that everyone works together.

It's shaping up to be a different season from last year, while we learn the new owner's style.

That sounds like a potential liability claim...

When Joan got home from work last night, she asked, "What's the new dock for?"

I spruced up around the boat while she was at work, but I didn't replace the dock... I had no idea what she was talking about.  I stepped out of the boat to take a look...

"I have no idea - it wasn't there when I came back from the store this afternoon."

This morning, I walked by one of the marina staff and asked about the dock... "I think it's going to be for a playground for kids... you know, like with a slide and stuff."

Ohhh, that can't be good.  I can't imagine kids running around on a dock; someone is going to go in the water.  Joan said, "That's a big liability problem, if it's true."

It used to be a space where people tied off dinghies, especially those on mooring balls.  It will be interesting to see what it actually turns out to be.

It's a rainy morning in Friday Harbor, but the 10 forecast looks good after today.  We have the day off, except for a captains' meeting I have to attend this evening - all the islands commercial whale watch operators will be there.

Little Izzy is keeping an eye out...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

House husband...

Well, more like a boat husband.  We worked over the busy holiday weekend, and were scheduled to have the next 4 days off.  Joan was asked to work today, open to close.  So, it's just Isabella and me... and a list of things to get done: some housekeeping, some shopping... I'll do my part while Joan gets in the hours.

Izzy is working on her to-do list, too:
1. Eat
2. Sleep...

That leopard blanket (a towel, actually) has become a family heirloom: all 3 cats have claimed that as their own.


After lunch (and before her early afternoon nap - not to be confused with the mid and late afternoon naps), she gets playful and lovey...

"Wanna rub my belly?"  Chomp!

Monday, May 27, 2013

More photos from Saturday's trip...

Courtesy of our Naturalist, Kevin...

Kevin was shooting with a DSLR, and not having to shoot through the windshield at the helm - great photos!

It truly seemed like this humpback was posing for all of us.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A whale is a whale...


Ummm, no, not really.  We work hard to find whales for our guests to view.  Everyone wants to see Orcas when they come to this area.  If you read all the advertising around here, you'd think the whales are swimming next to the boat while it's still at the dock, and handing out brochures for the San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau.  ;-)

Yeah, that's not quite accurate.  These are all wild animals.  No, they are not tagged with radio transmitters so we always know where they are (I hear that a lot).  No, they are definitely not "always off the west side of the island at The Whale Watch Park."  Did I mention: wild animals?  They can easily travel 70 miles or more in a day.  And sometimes, the Orcas just disappear for a while.  I think we had a 10 day stretch last year where no one saw Orcas.

Yesterday was one of those "no one saw Orcas" days, but the super-active humpback made most of us forget about that.  I did hear one guest say, "Too bad it wasn't a Killer Whale."  It made me chuckle... that humpback did everything except tap-dance with a top hat and cane.

And, the sun was shining.

That wasn't the case today... we woke up to a steady rain.  For those who think I have a "cushy job," I worked for 3 hours today, mostly in the rain, on the smaller boat.  It was her turn to get out there today.  Well, it was everybody's turn to get out there today... I think every operator in the area was completely booked.

And, did I mention: it rained?  By the time I boarded guests on the boat today, I had good news, and not so good news: the rain had pretty much stopped.  The first mate had rain slickers ready for everyone, just in case, but we didn't need them.  The not so good news?  No whale reports.

Just before receiving guests, the new boss told me, "I'm riding with you today."

"It's your boat.  You can help me find whales."  I did my safety talk and we headed out of the harbor... and a report of "I saw a Minke whale south of Cattle Pass."  No Orcas, no humpbacks, we were on a Minke-hunt.  Along the way, we saw eagles, seals, harbor porpoise, all kinds of water fowl, and several Stellar Sea Lions in the water.  The boss described the Stellars as "the grizzly bears of the sea."  I like that description.

South into Juan de Fuca in search of Minkes.  Minkes are whales.  Longer than most Orcas, but much smaller diameter bodies and a very small dorsal fin.  Frankly, they aren't as impressive as Killer Whales... but, they are elusive and fast.  Shaped like a torpedo, they really move through the water, and when they break the surface for a breath, it isn't as dramatic as the Killer Whales.  But, they are whales.

And fortunately, the guests on our boat were having a good day, and really got into the Minke search.  I counted at least 5 different Minkes today, more than I have ever seen in one day before.  I took the guests behind another island where I had seen an eagles' nest last year.  Yep, they were home.  I took the scenic route home, keeping my ear to the radios in case there were any Orcas sightings... nope.

The first mate and I cleaned the boat, and about 10 minutes after I got back to our boat, it started sprinkling again.  Good timing for the guests on our boat.

The marina seems even busier than yesterday.  No doubt, the rain brought in folks who might have otherwise anchored out.

On the bright side, the wind is near calm, as is the water... we had a great ride today, nice since we passed through Cattle Pass twice.  Plenty of current and eddies on the way north, but barely a ripple for waves.

No photos today - I mentioned that the Minkes are fast.  Yesterday, that humpback was just strolling along in a nearly straight line... it was pretty easy to predict where he would pop up next.  The Minkes zig and zag all over.

Oh, and how'd it go with the boss on the boat?  I asked for a critique when we were done, and I still have a job.  ;-)  He was very helpful with the new first mate, providing a good portion of the info.  I think we all had a good day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What a show!

It wasn't sounding like the best of whale watch days: no reports as we boarded guests.  The weather weasels were predicting solid rain after 2:00.  The Kenmore Air flight was going to be late, meaning a late departure for us... and some guests onboard who couldn't be late getting back due to a close ferry connection.

We let guests know that we would be boarding a few minutes late; and then the Kenmore Air flight appeared 30 minutes before we were told to expect it.  On the radio, a "rumor" that "someone had seen a while from shore north of Turn Point."  A long way to go on a rumor, but we didn't have any other leads.

The sky was looking better as we boarded.  Guests were smiling.  A confirmed sighting, but it was too far away for us to make it there and back in time.  We departed, heading north.  Within 15 minutes of our departure, a confirmed sighting of a humpback in the area of Cattle Pass, heading north.  We turned around, heading south while the whale was coming towards us.  Another confirmation and, "We've seen him breach 3 times!"

Everyone wants to see whales.  If they can see a whale breach, it means a boat full of very happy guests.  I hoped the humpback wasn't giving his best show before we got there.  By the time we got on scene, there were a half dozen boats there, so it was easy to set up our position.  The first thing we saw...

A pectoral fin wave.  Looks like a young humpback, and it was active!  Another pectoral wave, this time while on his back...

Yes, there is a change with the new owners: they don't mind if we take photographs, as long as we are giving plenty of attention to the guests and the situation.  My visibility from the helm area is good, but we set up the boat to give the guests the best view.  Then, a breach...

I saw it, the camera didn't.  All I had with me was my little point and shoot.  Maybe I would get another chance...

Then another.  And another.  The whale was swimming north towards Friday Harbor, we were picking up more boats every minute.  More breaches...

More boats.  Then, something I hadn't seen here before: the Coast Guard plowed through the line of boats to shoo off a private boat that was violating the distance laws...

We spent nearly an hour with the most active humpback I have ever seen.  When it seemed that the guests had seen the best show ever, we pulled away from the group, hoping to see some other wildlife before heading for home.  This was our good-bye view...

We ran north to an eagles nest, but there was no one home.  Out around Jones Island, saw some harbor porpoise and harbor seals, and then...

This guy just landed.  This was the best my little point and shoot could get... but look at that lovely blue sky... the weather weasels could not have been more wrong.

Back to the dock on time.  A pretty amazing day on the water.  Oh, and I didn't have to worry that the had given his best show before we got there - one of our Naturalists, Kevin, counted along with one of the guests: 33 breaches that they saw!!  Kevin was shooting with a DSLR and promised to send me one of his shots that blew me away.

As I walked back to our boat after work, I could see the marina was very busy - boats everywhere, lots of people milling around.  A busy holiday weekend.  I took a moment to shoot another Interesting Boat Of The Day...

No idea what it is, but it is interesting (from my perspective)... pretty swoopy looking.

Joan is closing the office today, almost time for me to walk down and meet her.



On edit:  Joan and I walked up to the store after she closed the office; town is hoppin'.  It's nice to have the store reasonably close by so we can shop almost daily.  As we were walking back to the boat, she commented about a boat that had some kelp on it's propeller, "Looks like he came in during low tide."  (It was an extremely low tide again today; low enough that we loaded passengers on the Spring Street Dock instead of our own dock.)  I had to laugh as we walked by that boat - it looks like he was prepared for a grassy bottom...

Friday, May 24, 2013

One down...

Day one at work.  Joan was in the office, I was getting the second boat at this location ready for guests, but no trip for me today.  While Joan answered phones and filled seats, I went through safety equipment and put things in place on the boat.  The boat hasn't been run in a while and there were a few things that needed to be addressed.  I spent some time arranging, wrenching, got the boat fired up, then introduced a new 1st mate to procedures on the boat.

The new boss wanted to see how I handle the boat, so out we went.  I must have done OK, since he said, "See you in the morning." ;-)  The arrival procedures are a bit different for this boat, so the 1st mate job isn't cut and dried.  After a few arrivals at the dock, we began to mesh well.

Each time I came into the office, Joan was on the phone or dealing with a guest in person.  It is going to be a very busy holiday weekend.

As you might know, there was a bridge on I-5 that collapsed... that bridge is right before the main turn for traffic heading to Anacortes and the ferry to Friday Harbor.  The detour procedures need to be explained so people won't be late for the ferry.  This is going to be an issue as the traffic gets heavier.

I was done about 4:30, Joan worked until 6:00.  We traded stories at the end of the day... definitely different from last year, lots to learn as we blend the two companies.

It's going to be interesting


Little Izzy missed us while we were away all day...

Yep, that's the sound end of a north-bound cat... something more interesting out the window than the fact that "Daddy's home!"  ;-)

Like the first day of school...

 Joan's first day in the office today.  She is very organized: has lunches made and clothes laid out.  With the new owner, she will have a different system to learn, but already knows the logistics of booking guests; with ferry timing, flying up from Seattle on Kenmore Air, etc.

My first day, too; but I will be going over the boat, not with guests.  I've done this enough to know to be prepared for things to change.

She goes in an hour before me... it means I get to wipe down the shower. ;-)


On edit: Perspective.  I called our daughter this morning... it's their last day of school.  She loves those kids, but you can hear the excitement in her voice.  A wrap-up for them, just getting started for us.

Happy Summer Break, Steph and Dan!!

For those who know Steph and Dan, it was a hard-fought battle for the Kick Ball Tournament.  It came down to Steph's class vs Dan's class.  We try not to play favorites in this situation, but ... proud to say: Mrs. B's class was victorious!

There was some grumbling from the other side... some accusations of performance-enhancement drugs possibly being used.  Demands for a pee test.

Side note: my pee test came back perfect.  Good thing - I stayed up all night studying for it. ;-)


Off to work...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Up and at'em...

You know when you feel really lousy, then you get a little better, so it's only lousy?  Yeah, that's today.

It was such a beautiful day today, I wanted to get out.  Joan made us a fine breakfast, then we took a walk to the store.  It felt good to be upright and out in the fresh air.  As we walked back from the store, I regretting leaving the camera behind... the phone is a mediocre substitute...

Sunshine and fresh air go a long ways towards rejuvenating ones self.

We got a call this afternoon, asking if we can come in to work tomorrow.  We were talking about going to Victoria for the weekend, if we didn't have to start early... but, we are ready to see how things go with the new owner.

Down for the count...

This bug kicked my butt.  If I wasn't flat on my back, I was rushing to the head.  But, I think I'm on the mend.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Somebody breathed on me...

Cold.  No, not just the weather.  Seems that I picked up a bug that knocked me on my butt.  I had a bit of the "sniffles" when I went to the clinic yesterday for the drug screen; which turned into a full-blown, raging head cold.  And now this morning, my lungs decided to get in on the party, too.

I think my fun event for the day may be a nap. ;-)

Monday, May 20, 2013

That's a LOT of likes...

I shared this photo of Izzy...

... with the facebook site "And My Cat."  You often hear that cat related content is popular on the internet.  Well, Izzy has WAY more likes than anything I've ever posted: over 7,500 likes in a few hours from that site.

I tried explaining to her that "everyone likes you"... but, you wouldn't know that from the way she shies away from anyone she hasn't met before.  Loud noises don't bother her... but the sound of footsteps or people talking makes her skittish.

Obviously, she is very content on the boat, as evidenced by this sleeping-by-the-window image...

Pee in cup...

No, nothing to do with the latest cleansing diet.  I was asked to come into the office today.  Since we haven't started work, yet, I assumed it was for a drug screen.

Yep, they made me an appointment at the new clinic.

A pre-employment screening has been required on every boat job I've had.  I don't call it a "drug test" anymore, 'cause you don't have to study for it. ;-)

The new clinic/hospital in Friday Harbor is very nice; beautiful decor.  And a big plus: it didn't smell like a hospital.  I know I will have no issue with the drug screen... but, being an "older guy," the concern is going on demand.  I "hydrated."  By the time I was called into the lab, I had to urge the very nice young lady who was doing the paperwork: "You might want to write faster.  I am an over-achiever, and I can fill 3 or 4 of those cups... but not sure how much longer I can hold it."

I did my business, gave her the cup, initialed the vials she poured it into... and my work for the day was done.

The Memorial Day Weekend is shaping up to be busy.  We may be starting early, again.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's been HOW LONG???

I didn't realize it has been a week since little Izzy's face has been seen here.  Yes, she is still a part of the family.  No, she didn't get married and move to Arizona, like someone else in the family whose name I shall not mention, but it's our only child.  ;-)

We woke up to sunshine this morning.  Well, in other parts of the country, it would be called "broken" (sky cover of 5/10ths to 9/10ths), but here, they call it: sunny!

After lounging in, we cleaned up and walked uptown for breakfast.  Back to the boat to pack away most of the music equipment.  Back to the boat again, to take Izzy for a walk, and some time for her outside the boat...

Joan sat out on the dock and brushed little Iz...

Afterwards, we took a walk on the dock to see how many C-Brats were still around...

LOTS of open slips - a beautiful day to head back to where they launched or on to the next cruising destination.  We visited for a bit with Barry and Patty, and Tom and Susan (they were out on their kayaks, taking advantage of the nice weather).

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. :-)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another C-Brat Gathering In the History Books...

The rain held off, and the potluck was great: 4 big tables of entrees, salads, breads, desserts - an amazing spread of food!

I played guitar and sang while people gathered...

It was announced that this was the largest C-Brat gathering to date.  Lots of nice folks, boats and people from all over,

Barry and Patty put this on, and did a fine job of it...

Two gentlemen from the factory made an appearance, told us about their work, and answered questions.  Then, gave away a selection of hats, shirts, vests,  and C-Dory mats.  It's the first C-Brat gathering in a while that I've been to that had any factory presence... and it was appreciated.

Then, Sam Landsman, one of the youngest C-Brats, and now the managing editor of Waggoners and the Dreamspeaker Cruising Series, gave a short talk and gave away some of their cruising guides.

I did another couple songs and Barry performed some christenings for 4 boat owners.

It was chilly by the time we finished; Joan helped pack up the food stuff while I put away my music gear, and we had a nice visit with new friends, Kevin and Laura back at our boat.

Another C-Brat gathering wrapped up.

Weather permitting...

The C-Dory gathering at Friday Harbor continues.  "Show & Tell" on the docks, and a pot-luck meal later this afternoon.  Yours truly is providing the musical entertainment for that portion... IF the weather cooperates.

It was raining this morning when we got up.  I checked The Weather Channel on the computer, Joan checked The Weather Channel App on her iPad... you'd think they'd have the same hourly forecasts, but you'd be wrong if you thought that.  We went with the computer forecast, 'cause it was better.  ;-)

Still, both were calling for rain during our meal time this afternoon.  The rain stopped around 11:00; still solid overcast, and occasional lower "fingers" on the clouds, but we have now been a couple hours without rain.

There is no cover on the dock.  I'll have to set up an amp and some effects pedals, and hope to not get rained on... 'cause there's no quick ducking inside in that situation.  And, an amp, mic, and guitar that all plug in isn't a good thing to be hooked up to in the rain.

So, we'll see if we've been living right.

I did have a few "requests" for the contract this year: no green M&Ms in my dressing room (didn't even get a dressing room, and besides, the green ones remind me of salad, and I sure don't want that stuff); the choir for my backup vocals (I might get Izzy to sing along); a sky-crane for the video crew (I haven't seen the video crew yet - at least, no truck with satellite uplink from VH1 - I'm sure they're coming); all female security and road crew (I am my own road crew, and I don't look good in a skirt... trust me, we were poor... I had to wear my sisters' hand-me-downs when I was a kid... I don't want to talk about this, it's too traumatic).  And one other simple request: re-route the Washington State Ferry, so they don't blast their horn in the middle of my performance... they've already come and gone a few times today, but I'm sure they'll send them somewhere else while I'm playing.  ;-)

If Mother Nature decides to rain down on us, it's all a moot point, anyway.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Summit on the dock...

After lunch, Joan and I walked back to H Dock to see how many C-Dorys had arrived - we were surprised to find the dock nearly full...

We made it a quarter of the way down the dock, when C-Dory friends were everywhere!  We were there for almost 4 hours and didn't make it any further down the dock.  It was a delight to see old friends and make new ones.

The rain was off and on early... mostly off.  By 3 o'clock, we had one of those famous PNW sun-breaks... that lasted a whole half hour!  It was warm enough that Joan and I were able to take our coats off for a while.

5:00 rolled around, still visiting.  We had a group supper at Downriggers Restaurant, so we had just enough time to stop back at our boat, feed little Isabella, and follow the group to the restaurant.  We sat with Jule and Craig (Salty) from Montana for supper, then visited with folks outside the restaurant for a while.  I had an especially nice visit with Mitch and Marge from Texas, who are here on a "recon mission" to buy their first boat.  I remember the angst that goes with that decision and tried to answer questions for them and just visit about "boat life."

It was almost 9:00 as I made my way back to Wild Blue.  My legs felt like the "old days of photography conventions," where you were on your feet all day long, but not walking around.  I saw the last rays of the day as I got back to the boat...


We saw something sad today as we came back after lunch: three women with boxes headed for the boat next to Wild Blue.  Our dock neighbor, Don, has been living on the boat for years, but had a stroke 3 years ago.   He gets around with a walker, and seems to manage.  We haven't seen him since we got back.  We feared the worst.

No, Don was OK, but had been convinced by his kids that he needed to get off the boat.  His condition was about the same, maybe a bit less mobility.  They were here to collect his things.  There was a gasp when they opened the boat... some discussion about the water inside and the general condition.

The boat hasn't moved in years, and is in rough shape...

Another boat dream comes to an end.

It's my fault...

The rain is coming down in Friday Harbor.  Hopefully, it doesn't dampen the spirit of of those attending the C-Brat gathering here this weekend.

Looking at the raindrops falling, I tried to count them... impossible.  They keep splishin' and splashin' all over the place.  The other day when I was working on replacing the onboard charger, I got a visit from the Curse Fairy.  Seriously, who knew there was a Curse Fairy??

I was deep into fighting wires through a conduit, fiberglass scraping my arms.  Seems that I may have let out a curse word or two.  POOF!  The Curse Fairy appeared and said, "Naughty boy, you need to watch your language."

I didn't recognize the voice, knew it wasn't the Blonde, and I may have told that tiny voice where to stuff her suggestion.

She then said, "Mother Nature is a dear friend of mine.  For every curse word you utter, a drop of rain will fall."

I may have told her what she could do, and perhaps might have referenced the horse she rode in on.

So, for any C-Brat who might be reading this and attending the gathering at Friday Harbor - do not blame Barry or his "sun dance" for this.

I figure we'll put on our #$%&#@ rain gear and just have a grand ol' time.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

They're coming...

It was a gray start to the day...

Since we put in "a full day" yesterday on the charger, we took the morning to lounge on the boat.  Before noon, the sun came out and it was an absolutely beautiful day.

A couple boat projects, sorta: Joan wanted to get laundry done, I needed to wire a 3 prong female plug for the charger.  The plug I bought at the hardware store wasn't big enough for the wiring, so when we went out for lunch, we also stopped at the home center on the edge of town to get a bigger plug.

When we came back to the boat, Joan toted off the laundry, so I kinda had to do the last bit of wiring.  Of course, my part took longer than I anticipated, but I finished up before Joan came back.  Wild Blue's holding tank needed to be pumped, so we unhooked and made the trek all the way around to the other side of the marina.

When we came back, C-Dorys were starting to show up for the gathering this weekend...

So, for any C-Brats, you can see that there is blue sky and plenty of slips waiting for your arrival.  Somewhere around 50 boats are expected for the gathering.  Should be fun!


Interesting boat of the day: I saw this boat here last year.  It is a rowing.sailing skiff...

Small, but efficient.  Outboard oar-locks, a single sail, even a solar panel on the aft end (not sure what it runs).  Might be a bit too spartan for our needs, but it looks very interesting.