Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My early charter ran late...

The seaplane flights kept getting moved back.  The charter that was supposed to go out at 10:00 am got moved to 12:30... then, 1:30... then, 3:30.  We actually shoved off from the dock at 5:15.  I had to have them back for a 7:30 flight departure.  That didn't leave time for a "leisurely" wildlife tour.

After seeing some Minke whales, I had to put the coals to it to get them back.  I dropped them off at Kenmore's seaplane dock instead of having them walk from our dock.  Yes, I am considerate that way.

Back at our dock, it took a while to clean up the boat... seems we had a bit of salt spray flying on the way home.  ;-)

Another one in a row!

My morning charter was delayed due to the fog... not on our part, but because the guests couldn't fly in.  We'll see if it actually happens.

In the meantime, I was able to walk uptown and have a real sit-down breakfast.  Then, back to the boat for an update on the firmware for the GoPro and the accompanying GoPro app for my phone.  The new app allows you to view what you've shot - nice feature.

The firmward download took some time... loading from the hotspot on my phone... while anticipating a call from the office for an update on the charter.

A call from the office came about a minute after the download was complete.  No firm time when Kenmore can get a plane out, but they are anticipating some time this afternoon.  I guess I can get a nap in... maybe.  From the sound of it, this may turn into a late charter, as in: a couple hours after our usual afternoon trip.  We are doing all we can to accommodate... "Keep me updated."

In the meantime, the firmware updated the camera just like it's supposed to.  The app update worked fine, only requiring me to re-enter a password.  I held my breath and tried it... I had to "re-introduce" the camera to the phone, but it all worked.  No fussing.  No swearing.

Technology is nice, when it actually works.  ;-)


Test shots:

It's almost Fogust...

Seriously, this is getting old.  The fog is heavier than yesterday morning...

Yes, I have an early trip today, a charter.  No idea if they are flying in this morning, or if they are already on the island.  It's a pretty safe bet that no seaplanes will get in early today.  And, if the folks are already on the island, it's going to be hard to see or find whales (or anything else) out there.  ;-)

I may get a day off after all... of course, I still have to get ready to go in.

I think this may be my last post about the on-going fog.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


After supper (Joan made steaks), I took the GoPro out for a short session, this time using the phone with the GoPro app as a viewfinder.

If you have the time to set up the shot, it works.  You can't just point and shoot quickly... there is a 3 to 4 second delay while the camera sends the view via wifi to the phone.  I walked around the docks, getting the reflection of the setting sun in the water.  And, some other stuff.

I can see a closer subject is going to be more striking with this camera.  I haven't been able to find a place to mount it on the whale watch boats... yet.

A long way to go...

Right before we were going to head out, we got a report of a humpback... quite a ways out in Juan de Fuca.  With no report of an Orca anywhere, this was our best option.  I didn't know that there was miles of fog, starting at Cattle Pass.  Will the fun never end?

The visibility was down to about 150 feet.  I had to slow down.  Miles to go, guests who have to catch seaplanes... I mentally did the calculations: if the fog would let up a bit, I could pick up the speed and get them to the humpbacks.  But, we're going to have that same fog on the way back.

These folks came to see whales - I pushed on.  It took an hour an 40 minutes to get to the humpbacks... on a 3 hour trip.  I had the naturalist check with the guests to see what time everyone had to be back.  5:15 was the absolute latest.

There were two humpbacks, and they were pretty regular: 3 or 4 surfaces, then one deep dive; 7 or 8 minutes between the deep dives.  I stayed for 3 cycles of that, then it was time to head back.  It was decent visibility where the humpbacks were, but I could see the wall of fog to the north.

As we ran north, we saw a Minke surface... to stop or not to stop, that is the question?  We stopped briefly, then pushed on.  If wanting an Orca to appear would make it happen, we would have had another trifecta.  Didn't happen.

I continued to work the radios, hoping to hear of a sighting.  Nope.  We ran into the fog bank, and it was down to 100 feet visibility...

I passed a sailboat that had a wooden mast, that barely registered a target on radar.  A much smaller powerboat painted a bigger target.  The closer we got to Cattle Pass, the thicker the fog.  I called our other boat who was about a half hour ahead of us... we should drive out of the fog and be able to pick up speed.  I told the guests we'd be back around 5:15, and that was working out.  Close for those who needed to catch a seaplane or the inter-island ferry.

In fact, the ferry rolled in just ahead of us.  Instead of waiting for the wake from the ferry to subside, we landed at Spring Street Pier and unloaded our guests there.  Then, a chance to catch our breath and put the boat in our slip.

Only one trip today, but it was a long one.

Another day, another...

... fog.  I think it's been 8 out of the last 10 days.  It isn't as thick as yesterday, when we were down to about 200 feet visibility while on a whale "watch."

Joan doesn't have to work today, I don't have to go in until noon.  We were able to sleep in until 7:00.  Well, I think all three of us were awake, but no one had to get out of bed before 7:00.

Little Izzy looking out at the fog...

A view towards Shaw Island from the boat...

Wild Blue's view on a morning jaunt...

Watching the Evergreen State ferry go by...

Decent visibility at the water this morning... the sun is supposed to burn this off by 11:00; if not, I hope the vis stays this good.

Monday, July 29, 2013

They lied again...

The morning was gray.  Not rainy gray, but a thin, low fog.  The air felt chilly.  But, the weather weasels said it would be sunny by noon.  Only an hour late, but shortly after 1:00 pm, the gray sky turned to blue.  There had been fog south of San Juan Island, but it was supposed to be clear, as well.

It wasn't.  At Cattle Pass, we ran into a wall of fog.  The visibility went from miles and miles to less than 1/4 mile.  Another boat had reported a Minke sighting within a mile of the pass.  I knew right where to head, 'cause there were a half dozen other blips on radar heading to the same spot.  ;-)

We got to see the elusive Minke a couple times before the visibility in the fog dropped.  When I couldn't see the boat 200 feet off our starboard side, I decided there was no point in sticking around this spot.  We made our way north through Cattle Pass in thick fog.  I could see the other boats on the radar doing the same.

A couple miles north, we drove out of the fog, still like a wall.  I ran north to the Wasp Islands, then a trip to Oneil Island, where we saw a pair of bald eagles up close - they were posing for us!

By then, it was time to head back to Friday Harbor.  Along the way, I listened to boats in southern Haro Strait and at Hein Bank - they were all in thick fog.  Still.

We had a nice trip; the guests seemed to enjoy the fog... to a point.  I heard one of them ask the naturalist, "How does he know where to go?  You can't see a thing."

"He has radar and all kinds of other stuff up there."


If you think she was cute when she was sleeping...

Yesterday, I posted some photos of little Izzy sleeping out in the cockpit of Wild Blue.  After posting that, I took this when she woke up...

I had to head off to work (I tell her that we work so we can afford to buy kitty food, otherwise, she gives you those "please don't go" eyes Wink) and didn't have a chance to post this.

Hard to believe this little girl is five years old.  She is still "the baby kitty" for us.  That sweet little face... I think she knows how to "work it."

Friday on a Sunday...

Everybody's working for the weekend... 100 bonus points if you can name that band.*

Our work week on these "fun summer jobs" has been Wednesday through Sunday, with Monday and Tuesday as our "weekends."  For the past couple months, Sunday was our Friday (end of the work week).

Not this week.  Joan has to go in this morning to open the office.  I have a trip this afternoon.  This is the busiest part of the season (for the next 4 weeks).  We knew what the job was when we accepted it.

Well, unless Mother Nature decides to mess with us.  It was perfectly clear this morning when we got up (at 5:30).  If fog rolls in, that will mean no seaplane flights can get in... and I think all the guests on my boat are supposed to be flying in.  The sky is blue straight above and grey above the trees to the south... the temperature differential between land and water could easily make for fog.  That could mean extra work for Joan (re-scheduling flights/trips) and no work for me (if the guests can't get to us).

I guess this is Monday on a Monday.


*  Loverboy, 1981, from the album "Get Lucky".  If you got that right, you earned 100 bonus points.  Bonus points are not redeemable and have no value.  BUT, you do get to accumulate them, strictly for the bragging rights.  This offer is void where prohibited by law.  You must be 18 or older to participate.  One winner per household.  Listening to hairband music in 1981 was OK... if that is still at the top of your playlist, you may need to "get a haircut and get a real job".*


* George Thorogood and the Destroyers  - 100 additional bonus points if you got that right.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Relaxing in the cockpit...

Yeah, we do that some evenings after work.  But, this morning, when Joan was about to head off for work, one of us had the cockpit to herself...

Such a sweet little thing.  The backlighting brings out that soft fur and luxurious tail.  She slept through her close-up...

She and I will get some quality time this morning before I have to go to work.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another step...

The GoPro camera became more functional when I downloaded the GoPro app for my phone.  The camera came with a remote, so you can shoot without touching the camera... the GoPro app allows you to do that from your phone; plus, the phone becomes a viewfinder!  Another big plus: the menu on the app allows you to switch between photo and video, and all the other features (resolution, time lapse, etc, etc) without having to work your way through that little screen on the camera!

This definitely makes the camera more user friendly.  If you have the camera strapped onto the boat or the scooter, you can see what you're shooting and make the shot from the phone.

Of course, it doesn't change your ability to mistakenly shoot up your nose...

Camera on medium view instead of wide.

You can also shoot up the cat's nose...

She was not amused.

One of these days, I'll get to use the camera like it ought to be used.

Minke madness...

The resident Orcas are apparently on summer vacation.  No transients to be found anywhere in the Salish Sea.  Yesterday on my late trip, we ran out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca... in lumpy, choppy water... to get a glimpse of a Minke whale.

Today, we were fortunate that we found Minkes just outside Cattle Pass.  And the really good news: there were multiple Minkes.  And the really, really good news: the water in the pass and out onto Salmon Bank was near calm.

After getting a report of a Minke reasonably close in, I put the coals to it.  We were the second boat on the scene, and came across a Minke before we got to the other boat.  And then another.  And another.  We had a ring-side seat to some pretty nice Minke activity.  And three active Stellar Sea Lions, a couple bald eagles, seals and other birds.  And, did I mention that the water was beautiful?  And a lovely air temp in the low 70s.  Hardly any wind.  Visibility that went on for miles and miles.  It was just an absolutely beautiful day out on the water.

I was able to shut down the boat and visit with guests while we viewed the Minkes.  So, no photos.  I had my hands full, being near the rocks when we were viewing the Stellars and bald eagles.  The only photos I had time for was the beautiful water off the bow and stern...

Of course, seeing some Orcas would have made the day even better... but this is about as good as it gets sans Orcas.

A break...

No, not a day off; but, I don't have an early trip today.  The boat doesn't need fuel.  I can go in and prep the boat around noon.  That almost feels like a day off.

Joan was opening the office again this morning, so she was up early.  Yep, we're all up early.  I have a list of things that need to get done, and had most of them done before 8:30.  It's Saturday, and I am looking forward to a walk through the Farmers Market and some tasty, spicy pizza... after 10:00 am, 'cause that's when they open.

This means I had some time to play with the GoPro this morning.  I walked up to the truck to get some supplies, and two scooters that have always been covered were greeting me at the parking lot...

A Vespa and a tropical looking Honda Metropolitan.  Yeah, I miss my scoot.  The GoPro does an admirable job on this subject.  And, a close up...

Nice detail.  But, for someone who spent over 30 years composing through the viewfinder, the GoPro is the opposite of a professional tool.  Oh, it has great resolution, and couldn't be smaller, but this is the ultimate "grab shot" type of camera.  Well, it would be if the controls on it were more intuitive.  You have to scroll through the menu with two buttons, meaning a bunch of "press this one, press that one" moves to get to the setting you want on the camera.  It also means I get a lot of this type of image...

A most attractive up-the-nose shot.  Press the wrong one of the two buttons, and you get 30 of these in one second... 'cause, as everyone knows, just one up-nose is never enough.  In this image, I am trying to read the miniscule monotone screen to switch from extreme wide angle to a more normal view.

A stop to view the marina, on wide view...

I was standing right at the edge of those shrubs.  With any other camera, you'd see lots of marina and maybe just a bit of shrubs on the sides.  No, this is a lot of shrub and not much marina.  No viewfinder, so it's a "grab shot."

I took a few more images up my nose, then got the camera set to "normal view"...

Yeah, not much different.  The camera is really designed for up-close-but-really-wide views... that's where it shines.  With my little point & shoot, I find I use the zoom lens on a bit of telephoto most of the time... with a viewfinder so I can compose.

That's not to say that you can't crop the heck out of the image...

but, that really doesn't bring in the boats.  I don't think will be my favorite camera anytime soon, but it will be fun to experiment with it for action shots, like on the scooters or kayaks (neither of which we have with us).  The waterproof housing is a nice feature... if I ever get to have the use for that.

Walking down the ramp on the way back to our boat...

Again, a LOT of foreground... but the boats are the most interesting part of this image to me... and, you can't make any of them out.

Back in "the day," I had a Hasselblad SuperWide that I would pull out for the occasional shot that could only be conveyed with an extreme wide angle view.  I'm pretty sure that's how I'll be using the GoPro.

I was asked how this camera would be for whale photos - the worst, since it makes thing at a slight distance appear to be at a great distance.  And, 200 yards away would barely be a spec in an image from this camera.  But, it is possible to strap this to the boat and set it to take a photo every 30 seconds (or .5 seconds, 2 seconds, etc, etc)... after you have taken 30 or more images up your nose while trying to get it to the other setting.  ;-)

We'll see if I have the patience... or the need for a LOT of up-the-nose images.  "Delete" is my friend.


On edit: a couple shots of one of the boats I drive...

Friday, July 26, 2013


Nothing to do with the lights and darks in photographs.

I had an early charter today.  Besides prepping the boat, I needed to get to the fuel dock, and get back in time for the caterer to deliver some very nice meals for the guests.  Six people had the boat to themselves.  Coho, one of the nicest restaurants on the island, delivered meals, fancy bottled water, and a selection of wine.  These folks know how to travel.  It took three of us, two trips each, to get the food and beverages onboard.

I met the guests at our office and escorted them to the boat.  Nice people.  I asked what they had in mind for their trip... "Well, we really aren't interesting in chasing around doing a whale watch thing.  Can you take us to some pretty places and tell us something about the islands?"

"Absolutely!  It will be our pleasure."  I saw the look in my naturalists eyes - these young people are all focused on the wildlife.  They all have some sort of biology degrees.  But, I have cruised these islands.  I have some hands-on knowledge.  I told my first mate, "I'll come down from the helm from time to time and explain where we are and give them some local knowledge.  Your main job today is 'hostess'.  Make sure they get time to enjoy these great meals.  Point out some wildlife as we pass by it.  Keep their glasses full."

No, not what we normally do on a whale watch trip.  The guests had a great time; I made it a point to keep the ride smooth and easy (didn't want them to spill their drinks), and took them to some beautiful places in the San Juans.  I'm glad they had a good time, but it was a real treat for the crew, as well.  So many people come to the San Juans and are totally focused on seeing Orcas... I point out where we will be cruising and how beautiful the area is, but most just want to see whales.  I get that.  But, this was relaxed and refreshing.

We got back in time to do a fairly quick turn around: food and drink off the boat, a cleaning, and set up for a boat full of whale watchers.  Just the opposite of our morning charter - these folks were here to see whales.  There were no Orcas in the area today... I am missing our resident Killer Whales.  The only report I had was a pair of transient Orcas that had moved through the area in the middle of the night and were already long gone on their way out Juan de Fuca... beyond our range.

I took the guests out to Hein Bank, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Instead of smooth and relaxing, it was full tilt boogie on 2 to 3 foot waves to get these folks to where they could see some Minke whales.  They could see how hard we were working for them; and along the way, we saw eagles, Stellar Sea Lions, seals, and a nice variety of water birds.  And then - Cattle Pass had kicked up by the time we came back in; so these same folks got to experience a bit of a "thrill ride," as well.  Everyone seemed happy, but I wish we could have seen some Orcas.

It was a very interesting day; I really appreciated the contrasts between the trips.

Another early day...

Up and at'em early this morning.  I have an early charter, and the guests are flying in.  The fog has been an issue the past week, creating a hassle for folks flying in, and making extra work for Joan and the folks at our front counters.

Joan was up at 5:30, and the first thing she did was look out our back door... I asked, "Is it foggy?"

(Big sigh)  "No!"

Here's what I saw...

Some might call that a thin fog, looking east towards Shaw Island.  I call it glorious, because you can see Shaw Island!  Plenty of sunshine, so that thin stuff should burn off pretty quick.

Two of us showering and getting ready on a schedule.  In a smallish boat.  Yeah, we make it work.

Speaking of "small-ish"... a young lady on the boat yesterday said to her Mother, "I thought you said this was going to be a BIG boat??"  She was referring to the 42' boat of ours that they were about to board.

I pointed to the raft of dinghies off our bow and said, "Compared to those, we are a big boat."  Perspective.  Of course, it doesn't help my argument when the little girl was looking at the 108' private yacht right behind our boat.  ;-)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Good news, bad news...

The fog cleared up pretty quick today.  Well, for those of us who headed north.  For the captains who went south, they had fog AND lumpy water.

We are busy.  I stopped in the office late today and the boss was making out the schedule for next week.  He asked, "Will you be OK with no day off next week?  Lots of charters and full boats."

Yep.  It's the height of the busy season.

The forecast: sunny!

The reality...

The fog is the thickest I've seen this season.  I lucked out yesterday... well, other than spending time after a long day of driving working on the head that someone plugged up.  Shitty.  Literally.  Oh, but the "lucked out" part: I had an early morning and it was beautifully clear when we shoved off before 8:00.  It was the only morning in the past week that didn't start out foggy.

And then, this morning - it's back.  With an interesting gray-green cast to the fog.

While I was out getting these photos, a couple old guys heading up the dock said, "I think you're gonna need radar today."

I think they might be right...

Yeah, there's a ramp there, somewhere.

The boss gave me my choice for today: a for-sure and a potential trip with an 11:00 departure, or a for-sure one trip with a 1:30 departure.  I took the earlier with likely two trips.  Sure hope the fog burns off by then.

Sorry to make this sound like a weather report - living and working on the water, we pay a lot of attention to the weather.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Yes, it turned out to be a very long day today.  I put in 11.75 hours, and that was with a one hour lunch break.  Two trips, a water taxi, and some maintenance.

Along the way, I had the opportunity to try out the GoPro a bit; I compared it to my trusty pocket-size Canon point & shoot.

The bow...


The sky...

I kinda like what the GoPro is doing to the images. 

A view of the boat I was driving today, docked at the Srpring Street Landing, in front of the Victoria Clipper...

And, a look at the silhouettes, I enjoy...

That last two were not taken with the GoPro.  No whales today, but I stayed very busy at the helm.


You're probably familiar with O-Dark:30, as getting up when it is still dark.  The sun comes up at a VERY early time here, and we were up to see it.  Joan has to open the office all this week, so that means 5:30 for her.  I usually go in around noon, unless I am driving out of Roche Harbor... and then I go in around 9:30 or so.

This morning, I have an early charter that picks up at a different location, leaving from Roche... I have to leave the boat at 6:20.  The charter also drops off at a different location, then deadhead back to our dock, then another late afternoon trip.

A long day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A few more test shots...

I walked around the marina a bit, shot a few more images.  This camera has a very nice lens, but the extreme wide angle will limit its use for me.  You can adjust the res and shoot a medium view, making it more like a normal lens.  With no viewfinder and the usage being a lot of self-shots, I understand the reason for the wide angle: it's gonna be in there, somewhere.  ;-)

You can see the distortion with the vertical lines in these images...

The earlier GoPro cameras didn't have the low light capability of the Hero 3 Black model - it holds the detail nicely in the bottom image, which is contrasty.

A look out the cockpit on medium view...

Not a lot of "bend" to the masts, and it would be easy enough to straighten that in processing.

I did a video test on the docks, too - just "walking around" stuff.  It has near production quality video; I'm impressed.  I'm going to have to find a LOT of extra time (not likely) to play with that, though.