Friday, July 31, 2015

Once in a blue moon...

You've heard the old saying.  A "blue moon" happens when there is a second full moon in a calendar month.  And, tonight (July 31st) is the second full moon this month.

As far as I know, people aren't necessarily any crazier during a blue moon than they are during any full moon... and, the crazy-ass people do come out during a full moon.  And during hot weather.  According to the weather weasels, this will be the warmest day so far this season in Friday Harbor.  It always feels warmer in Roche Harbor... maybe because it is open to the western sky?

Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


No, not the smart phone that was formerly made by RIM Ltd.  I'm talking about the Orca, J-27.

I haven't seen a lot of Blackberry this season.  The past three years, Blackberry has had some close encounter of the Orca kind with our boat.  I don't know if he likes that big ol' Cat diesel, or if it is the fact that I painted the bottom of the boat black and white (that is a joke)?

Today, we had some nice Orca viewing, with the stars being Blackberry and "the Cookie Clan": Oreo, Cookie, and DoubleStuff.  At one point, while the engine was off and we were viewing off the stern of the boat, Blackberry made a deep dive, changed direction, then swam right under our boat!  On the way, he turned on his side, so he could look up at us!  We could clearly see him under the water.. very impressive, the size of that big boy!

The only shot I had time for...

We had Blackberry, his sister, and the Cookie Clan to ourselves for a while, then other whale watch boats (mostly from Victoria) came rolling in.  There were whales up by Vancouver, whales in Rosario Strait, and these guys that we were watching in Haro Strait - it split up the fleet, so it never felt crowded.

A very nice day on the water.

Coming in, we have to do a "pirouette", essentially a 270ยบ rotation, to bring the boat to the dock.  As I made my shift from reverse to neutral to forward to rotate into the dock, I felt the shift lever go slack... that's not a good thing (understatement).  I hollered to crew on our other boat to "hold us off and give us a hand on our dock to catch lines."  They were there in a heartbeat, and it was a very uneventful return.  We thanked guests and helped them off the boat.  Then, went to work to see what was wrong... the shift linkage has a locking lever that holds the cables in place; it decided to cut loose.  We got it put back together, and will put some safety wire on it before the boat goes out again.  The safety wire isn't a required item... well, it now is, for me.

All that took some time, so I was able to ride home with my Honey (I'm usually home before her when I only have one trip).

Tomorrow, I'm on the Roche Harbor boat, doing some sort of trip where we are being photographed from a helicopter... I'm sure I'll get the details before we go out.  Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's all downhill from here...

No, not talking about our work situation.  Today was laundry day.  While Joan was tending to clothes, I picked up stuff at the store and ran it home.  We need our gas-powered pack mules to get the laundry back and forth.

On the way back to the motorhome, I was dodging the multitude of bicycles in town.  Coming up the slight uphill on Argyle Street, I overheard two people on bicycles walking their bikes up that hill... looking around the corner, she said, "I don't know if I can take any more hills."

He said, "Looks like it is downhill from here."

It is.  For a short distance... then, the real hills begin.  San Juan Island is beautiful, and I can see why people want to ride bikes here... but, the hills and narrow (or non-existent) shoulders on the roads are not well-suited for the casual bike rider.  And by casual, I mean: you better have a lot of low gears and toughened-up leg muscles.

I picked up a pizza for lunch today.  Waiting outside, I overheard a mother and young son talking about their bikes.  She said, "How are you doing with the gears?"

He said, "Gears are stupid!  I told you I wanted a Razerback - they go fast without those stupid gears!"

She patiently tried to explain the premise of shifting gears to keep the effort the same.  The kid wasn't having anything to do with that "stupid stuff."

At our home in Texas, the terrain is flat.  The only reason you need gears on a bicycle there is because of the wind... and there is always wind.  Single-speed beach cruisers are the norm there... that wouldn't be the best around here.  ;-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day off...

Sleeping in 'till almost 7:00 feels almost decadent.  Interesting, as you, um, mature, what passes for decadent.  ;-)

We had breakfast out.  Yes, at the Hungry Clam; it isn't fancy, but it is good and consistent.  We walked around town a bit.  Since the ferry situation cut our time off the island really short last week, Joan didn't get the opportunity for some needed "retail therapy."

Oh, King's Marine has some clothing, but it isn't like going to the mall.  (insert understatement emoticon here)  We walked through a few places...

A stop at the grocery store to start our weekly shopping - getting as much as we can easily carry on the scoots... we make regular grocery runs each week since there is a limit to how much we can carry.

Back home, while Joan put groceries away, I took Izzy for a walk.  She loves walks, and gets plenty of outdoor time here...

Yesterday, Izzy tussled with a bee.  The bee won.  The old mobile home behind us has several bee and wasp nests, and they have been way more active lately.  Time to defend my little furry girl and see if we can get the stinging critters to move on...

That is a mesh laundry bag on my head... you have to be resourceful when doing hand-to-stinger combat.

Afternoon, and some scooter-time.  We headed south on Cattle Pass Road, turning onto False Bay Drive...

Almost all the way out on False Bay, we came across the dreaded orange signs...

Yep, they messed up one of our favorite rides with fresh oil and loose gravel...

Apparently, they count on traffic to pack down the loose gravel... and this road doesn't get that much traffic.  I think we'll take this off our scooter-route for a while.

Back on to decent road and heading to the west side...

LOTS of people on bicycles on the roads...

Don't get me wrong, I am all about "sharing the road"... after all, we see our share of cars and trucks that act like we are invisible.  Some of these bicyclists are obviously not aware of the hills (walking their bikes) and the fact that many of the roads have no shoulder.  We came up on one group where they were riding all across the lane, with one guy riding ON the double yellow line.  Seems to me that is not playing nice.  You can tell the dedicated bicyclists by their attire and riding style from the complete amateurs with no helmets, riding in jeans and no shirts, and weaving all over the place, and riding 3 or 4 abreast instead of single file.  We give them plenty of room.

We stopped on the west side for a relaxing look across Haro Strait...

That motorsailor was working against the incoming tide... and making less than 3 knots forward progress.

More riding, eventually looping our way back home.

The batteries we ordered for the scoots came in and were waiting to be picked up at our company base.  I went to get those while Joan started supper: my favorite, spaghetti.

A very good day.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Photos from Rachel...

Some very striking photos taken by naturalist Rachel...

Nice to have images of the boats I drive, taken from one of our other boats.  My thanks to Rachel for allowing me to share these.

And, a composite with the above photos...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

You may be right - I may be crazy...

100 bonus points if you said, "Billy Joel, 1980, from the album Glass Houses.

Another line from that song: "... even rode my motorcycle in the rain..."

Today is my "Friday."  The last three weeks, I have had to work on Monday, but (for some wonderful reason) I get my agreed-upon 3 days off this week!

Going to work today, I... rode my motorcycle in the rain.  It stopped just before I got to Roche Harbor.   Gray, but dry while we prepped the boat.  No whale reports before we shoved off, but I got one before we got out of the harbor: a humpback about a half hour away - we have a plan!

Before we got to the humpback - which turned out to be a humpback momma and calf - it started to rain.  I had my rain gear on before it started.  There were only a couple boats on the humpbacks when we got there; nice viewing, including plenty of flukes.

As usual, I didn't have time for many photos, but grabbed this one right before we were ready to leave...

Hey, it was raining - my little pocket camera isn't waterproof!

Also as usual, we did some other wildlife viewing on the way back.  Rachel, our naturalist, asked if we could stop and pick up some bull-kelp to show the guests... "Sure."  She drug a big ol' hunk of it onboard... showed them, explained what it is used for and how it grows, even let them take a bite of it, if they wanted to give it a shot.  In the rain.  The guests enjoyed it.  We saw some bald eagles hunkered down... they don't much like to be wet.

Back at our dock, we thanked the guests - good attitude and a spirit of adventure.  We strung up some line to hang seat cushions - some of them were completely soaked.  We put the boat away, and I headed for the scoot.  In the rain.

On the way home, it was raining harder.  It had rained enough that the indentations in the road from the tire tracks were holding water.  The center part of the lane is where grease drops off the car engines, and is slippery when wet.  Over the past 40+ years of riding motorcycles, I have "out-grown" any desire to ride in the rain.   Amazing that we are now approaching our 2/3 point here, and this is the first real rain (besides the occasionally drizzly stuff) for my commute.

Still, not a bad day.  Humpbacks are cool.  Guests who can handle a little weather are good.  And, did I mention: it's my Friday!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I am running out of adjectives...

Driving the boat out of Roche Harbor today.  The report I had before heading to work had the whales up by Vancouver.  Beyond our range on this boat.  Maybe they'll come south?

I went early to Roche, had a nice hot breakfast at the cafe there before doing safety training on the boat; then prepping for our morning trip.  The whales were still too far north.

Breakfast was tasty, the training went well... we shoved off, nearly on time... thanks to a couple guests from the Land of No Clocks.  Then, a more hopeful report: the whales were moving south(ish) in the Strait of Georgia.  The "chess game" begins: if they go this way, we'll go that way... if they go that way, we won't be able to catch up with them.  I hope they don't go that way.

The reports became more hopeful, and our "chess moves" turned out to be good.  When we got to the whales, they were grouped up, much like yesterday.  Same J and K-Pod whales, this time north of the San Juan Islands (yesterday, they were south of the San Juans).  Just as active.  It was another spectacular day on the water.

We weren't able to shut down and watch them go by as much today.  I had time to take just a couple photos - the first one...

That is whale belly, on its 4th breach in a row.  Yes, there were quite a few breaches again today.  Guests seem to enjoy that the most... I appreciate seeing them in their natural habitat, doing what they do.

Another breach off the bow of our boat - no, I didn't get that one...

That splash in the upper center of the image is where the whale was.  ;-)  Yes, those people on the bow of the boat are wearing jackets.  It was a bit chilly on the water today.  Oh, look!  Another breach in our 10 o'clock position...

Nope; I didn't get that one, either.  ;-)  And, I didn't have time for any other photos.  We had a couple close encounters, and the especially unique situation where whales were at the proper distance on either side of the boat... while we moved along with them.  It had been a long trip to get to them, and they were "walking us home."  Very nice!

The skies weren't the "sunny" predicted by the weather weasels, but the southwest wind wasn't an issue since we were northeast of the San Juans... the water was nearly flat calm the whole trip.

I could get into more detail with the activity we saw, but it would sound a lot like yesterday's trip... a trip I described as the "trip of the season."  Two days in a row.  Pretty amazing.

We had a little boy on the trip who whacked his head by his eye (just as I told guests this would be our last looks)... he was traveling with his grandparents, who were clearly "out-energied" by the two grandkids (3 and 7).  They left the kids unattended in the cabin, and the 3 year old boy fell on the steps.  Who leaves a 3 year old unattended??  I am guessing the parents will have something to say about leaving the kids in Grandma and Grandpa's care in the future... our first mate and a nurse who was on the trip cleaned the kid up.

Perfectly calm water, the boat moving about 5 to 6 knots.  The little guy probably won't remember the trip, but he'll likely have a little mark to remind him not to be jumping on the stairs.

I offered to have a vehicle waiting at the marina to take them to the clinic, but Grandpa said they have a car here and will take care of it.

I felt bad for the little guy.  His Grandmother said, "Well, at least he got to see whales before he fell."

One of the things we went over with the safety training this morning was first aid.  All of our boat crew personnel are trained in first aid and CPR.  For sure, it was all fresh in first mate Erick's mind today.

Friday, July 24, 2015

So many whales...

It was a light drizzle when I rode to work.  We had safety training on the boat... yes, the first mate had a tough day: a couple people fell overboard, two different fires, I had a heart attack and he had to get the boat back to Friday Harbor.  And use proper radio procedures in the process.

Fortunately, I was feeling much better by the time we were ready for guests.  ;-)  In the rain.  On the bright side: a good whale report, and the wet stuff was supposed to improve as the day went on.

We headed south.  In the rain...

Out through Cattle Pass, and we were on the whales in a couple miles...

There were only two other boats on the scene.  Oh, and one private boat who figured: wherever we were, right in front of us would be the best view.  Dipshit.  I have no issue with other boats on the scene... but there was plenty of room - he didn't have to get right in front of us (and by that, I mean between us and the whales).  Repeatedly.  Well, at least the rain stopped.

We spent a few minutes watching these three whales, then decided to explore another direction where I had seen a couple spouts.  I set us up for some viewing with the engine shut down...

A big male.  Then, a spy hop...

Then, the whales we were watching on our own went on a long dive.  When they came up, they were close.  Real close...

The shot immediately above is shot with a wide angle.  That whales were apparently not aware of the 200 yard regulation.  We were shut down, and I wasn't about to start up with animals so close.  The boat captains call it: "getting mugged."  This mugging went on for well over a half hour, with animals coming up on either side of the boat.  Close enough that I couldn't start the engine.  One after another.

Easily, the most amazing viewing this season!  So many whales - most of J-Pod and K-Pod.  Groups.  Individuals.  All the activity you could imagine.  I stopped counting after 15 breaches.  A half dozen spy hops... one about 30 feet from our boat.  We try so hard to keep the proper distance, but it is startling when you see one of these big males come out of the water to the height of our flybridge with a nearby spy hop.

All the big males in both pods were identified.  And hanging together...

The females are just as impressive, even though they have shorter dorsal fins.

We had a family from Mexico onboard; their young daughter asked about sea lions.  On the way home, I made a little "side trip" where I had seen a couple Stellars in the water on our rough water trip last Monday... I was hoping we'd see one up on the rocks.  Nope, not on the "easy" side of the rocks... I took us around to the other side...

A young male.  He doesn't have the "mane," yet, but you can see how much bigger he is than the seals in the photo.

A very special day.

A wet one...

The weather.

We have been very fortunate with the weather this summer... so far.  Especially considering that we are "scoot only" for conveyances.  We haven't had to ride in much precip.

The weather weasels are calling for "a 100% chance of rain" during certain hours today.  That's kind of a firm stand.  ;-)

We woke up to a light rain.  I offered to take Joan to work (she goes in a few hours before I have to be there).  The hourly forecast was calling for "rain starting at 8:15."  Again, pretty specific for the weather weasels.  I dropped Joan off at work about 7:38.  No rain.  Back home, I put the scoot in the "mobile garage" (aka: cargo trailer).  About 30 seconds after I came inside, the rain started again.  A little early, but still pretty darn close.

The odds are pretty good that we'll get wet today on the boats... for those who think: "You have the best job, ever!"  (Which I hear frequently on the boats).  Only one of our boats has a solid enclosed helm... not the one I am driving.  My helm today is enclosed on three sides with canvas and eisenglass... and once the eisenglass (that's the "plastic windows) gets coated with rain, you have to unzip it part way so you have a way to see forward.  Translation: you get wet.  Mostly in the face.

Our Roche boat (I'm on that one tomorrow) has a completely open helm.  Oh, there is an inside helm, but the viz is quite limited and no GPS or radar in that location.

Yeah, I have foul weather gear.  Haven't had to use it much this season.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Back to the whales...

Back to work.  It wasn't toasty warm, and there was a bit of light breeze... but it sure beat the conditions on my last work day.  And the best part: to quote the philosopher Jimmy Buffett: "Fins to the left, fins to the right."

We had whales to the north, whales to the south.  We decided to go south.  This was one of those days where either direction would be the right choice.  South was closer for us.  Conditions were quite nice.

And, we had lots of good whale viewing...

The whales were scattered about, and not a lot of boats.  While watching several of the whales, they went on a deep dive... and came up kinda close...

That's with a wide angle view from the helm.  Engine off.  Yes, the supports for the canvas were in the way.  Sometimes the whales don't play by the rules.

More views...

It was a good day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Well, that wasn't the plan...

There was no plan.  Well, until right before we left.  A day off, we had our normal "Wednesday laundry" done.  Izzy is getting quite low on the cat food she really likes... and we can't get here on this island.  I said, "Let's hop on the ferry and go to America!"

We pulled up to the ferry landing about 5 minutes before loading time (no reservation - they always have room for a couple scooters, right?)...

We got on - first ones.  I like how this works.  Up to the passenger deck...

Joan had fruit and breakfast sandwiches for us.  I went outside to get a photo of the construction starting on the building where the new office for San Juan Safaris (and several other businesses will be)...

That light colored small portable office (we call it: the kiosk) is where Joan works.  It is going to get loud, being right next to the construction.  While waiting for the ferry to pull out, we got an e-mail from the bookkeeper: they have cut the phone and internet lines to the office... fun.  And things are just getting started.  Nothing we can do, the ferry is about to pull out.

The weather weasels were calling for "partly sunny"...

Cloudy and damp feeling.  Since we were able to get on without a reservation, we decided we better not push our luck, and pulled out our phones to make ferry reservations for the return trip at 4:45... "Sold Out - all reservations have been released."

Well, crap.  I don't want to hang out until 8:00 tonight, so... we made reservations on the 2:00 ferry.  That cuts our time here real short.  OK, "retail therapy" is out - Target (for cat food), Wally World (other stuff), a quick stop for lunch, and we will need to haul ass back.

I am always impressed with Joan's ability to pack a shopping cart full of stuff in the scoots.  Well, after leaving Wally World, my dry-bag backpack was weighted down...

We rolled back to the ferry landing with a couple minutes to spare...

And then the plan really went downhill... the parking attendant said, "Load 'em up!"  Joan was saying something to the woman on the red Vespa next to her... I went around... and there was no Joan in my rear view mirror.  I stopped.  The woman on the Vespa said, "Her bike won't start," as she rode by me.

I pulled the bike off the road to the ferry and started back on foot... and Joan was pushing her scoot towards the ferry.  "You can't put that on the ferry if it won't start!" said another attendant.  I took the scoot from Joan and parked it next to mine.  We quickly determined that the battery was weak.  The attendant ran to get a jumper battery pack and told us we could get on the ferry last, instead of first... if it would start.  I clamped on the jumper pack, and the scoot fired right up.  "Let's get on the ferry, and we'll figure out the problem from there," I said.

The attendant said, "They have a jumper battery on the ferry, too - just in case!"

We were the last ones on.  I called NAPA from the ferry to see if they had this size battery... nope.  And, he let me know it would be a special order and "you will have to pay for the extra freight."  I hadn't even asked about the price.

When we got to Friday Harbor, I pushed the starter on Joan's bike... and it fired right up.  Whew!  Straight home, and I put a battery tester on it.  It was showing a full charge.  I put a load on it while not running, and it dropped.  Faster than I would like to see.  Fired up, and the alternator pulled it right up.  Yep, a new battery is the next plan.  But, it didn't drop so low it wouldn't start.  Not something I want to put off, but with the charger on and tested again, it seems to be holding the charge.

I guess we were fortunate it happened where it did and the ferry attendants have a jumper pack handy.  Of course, if we had more time, we could have hit up a Battery Plus or an Interstate Battery shop and swapped out on the spot.

Living on an island.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Like having a teenager again...

Well, she won't take your car without permission (Grand Theft Auto, Steph), but one of us has been exhibiting a bit of attitude.  And, by "one of us," I mean: Izzy.

Sweet little Izzy?


She has been getting more "outdoor time" in the past two months here, than she has had in the past two years.  She loves our "RV site" with the big yard.  I walk her several times a day.  She has been getting even more outdoor time by herself, on her lengthy leash.  With us keeping a close eye on her.

I have always thought Izzy is a smart cat.  She took to the leash right away (not lengthy walks).  She has learned some key "people words": chow, walk, outside, home.  She has adapted to life on the boat, in the different RVs, and in the house.  Rarely a fuss.

Until recently.  She REALLY likes being outside.  She will meow at the door 'till I let her out on her leash.  She will meow at the door to come inside and use her litter box, then want to go right back outside.  (Yes, I know that is more like a little kid than a teenager.)  If I say, "Walk?" she goes right to the door to wait for her leash to get hooked up.

She does NOT like to come back from our walks.  When I say, "Home!" (which is her cue that we are heading back to whatever our current domicile), she has taken to hissing at me.  Today, I said, "Home!" and she completely ignored me.  (That sounds more like teenage behavior).  I repeated, "Izzy, home!"  You have not been ignored, until you have been ignored by a cat.  I gave a little tug on her leash... she hissed.  A long, spitty hiss.

I said, "Not smart to talk to the Daddy like that!"

She hit me!

Now, keep in mind that she is a small 8 pound cat (with a lot of fur).  A "hit" from her is like a tap, but she was letting me know that she isn't going back without a fuss.  I don't understand most of what she says, but I am pretty sure this was, "You aren't the boss of me!"

Oh, yes, I am.  I shook my finger in her face.  She snapped at it.  Knowing how fast she is, and how less-than-that-fast I am, I know she wasn't intending to bite.  She punctuated it with a growly hiss.

Guess who spent some time in "time out," today?

Obviously, she doesn't hold a grudge... she rubbed my legs with the usual enthusiasm at chow time.  And, she is back outside on her leash as I write this.  Behind her back, I chuckle at her "independence"... although she is quite pampered.  The heart of a lion in that little cat body.


In a different vein, we went out for "happy hour" this afternoon.  No, we didn't go to a bar, although we did have lunch at Haley's (kind of a sports bar/grill).  This "happy hour" was at the grocery store.  On Tuesday afternoons, they have a good deal on select produce.  And, they make it look pretty, too...