Monday, August 31, 2015

Cabin fever...


No, not me.  Isabella.  She is used to getting some outdoor time; not today.

The wet weather system is hanging around - looks like we'll have some precip through Friday or so.  It is not a pounding rain like we sometimes see in the Tropical Tip.  In Pacific Northwest fashion, it is light rain, then drizzle, then no rain (well, there is water dripping off the trees), then sprinkles, then rain, etc, etc.

I am not complaining - just "reporting the weather" as I see it.  We have had beautiful summer weather since we arrived here.  None of the "Fogust" (fog in August) or days of rain in June.  This morning, I woke up around 5:00 (our typical work-day routine), hearing the sound of gentle rain on the roof.  Knowing I didn't have to get up and get ready to go out and work in it, I smiled... and turned over for a bit more sleep.  My internal clock will just have to get used to this new routine.  ;-)

Most days this summer, Joan went to work before me.  I had time to take Izzy out for some leash time.  On days we didn't work, we have spent a lot of time outside on our patio (well, patio mat)... and little Izzy is out there with us.

As wet as it was today, we couldn't open the door... when she is inside, she likes to look out the screen door.  Joan said that Iz looked "forlorn" laying in her cat-bed.  I quite enjoyed cocooning... we even got a short nap in this afternoon.  Joan kicked my butt at Yahtzee and cards.  She made us a nice breakfast and supper.

It was relaxing.  Maybe we need to get Izzy a job?  ;-)



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Put a fork in me...


OK, don't really stick me with a fork.  But, we are done!  Last day for both of us.  Well, September 1st is our "official" end date, but we have Monday and Tuesday off... so, we are done.

I did my usual morning trip out of Roche routine: get there early and have a nice hardy breakfast; leisurely, then go prep the boat.  Breakfast was great, and fast.  I checked in early; good thing - the storm yesterday left the boat littered with pine needles.  Every horizontal surface was covered with 'em.

I hosed the boat, starting at the bow and working my way back.  I had to get all that mess out of the way before starting the engine and systems prep.

We had a fairly light passenger load today (mid-teens), and the only whale report I had put them way south.  Doable, but not in a three hour trip.  At the last minute, the boss booked a party of 4 and told me, "They have to be back by 3:00 - they have a wedding to attend."

That would make it a 4 hour trip... and that isn't going to be quite enough.

I visited with the guests while we waited for the last 4 people; when they arrived I did the safety orientation, then asked about time constraints.  When I told them where the whales are and what I estimated for timing, the 4 people decided they could do "3:30... OK, maybe 3:40, but absolutely no later than that."

"I'll do my best to make that work."  Of course, everyone wants to see Orcas.  As I chugged out of Mosquito Pass and into Haro Strait, I got a latitude and longitude of the whales' location... it is going to be close.  I put the coals to it.

Haro Strait was lumpy (as in 3 to 4 foot waves) for about 10 minutes, then began to lay down.  The view from the bow...


Calculating the boat speed, lat/long, and estimated current, it was going to take us an hour and 50 minutes to get to the whales... unless they started to move towards us... and that is a possibility.  Not today, though - they turned and were moving away from us.  Not fast, but not making this trip any shorter.

We were well into the Strait of Juan de Fuca when I got a visual on a couple other boats who were with the whales... yeah, that is still a long ways away.

This is my last day - I am going to get these people to the whales!

Before we got to the other boats, I saw a couple Orcas further north than the others - that will work!  I made a 30ยบ turn and set us up for viewing...


Look towards the top of that image, and you can see the other boats.  We determined that we were viewing J-Pod, and had Granny (J-2), Onyx, and others to ourselves.  I am pleased that I will get to say good-bye to my J-Pod friends on my last trip.  Some of them decided to come up close and personal for a good-bye...



When they were further away, I started up again, and set up for more viewing.  The guests were so happy to get to see Orcas...


It wasn't going to be the longest viewing ever, but we all enjoyed it...




Calculating again, I knew we had to be heading back no later than 1:30.  At 1:25, I told our guests that "these will be our last looks."  As I rotated us to head north, two more whales came by our stern... nice way to end this viewing.

The tide was coming in, so I was anticipating a bit of a "push" heading back.  The water was nearly flat, the wind and current at our back... nice ride.



Nice cloud pattern...


Looking back towards the Olympic Mountains...


Looks like the weather might be moving back in.  Won't be an issue for us; we are ahead of it.  One more double check of the timing... we should be pulling up to the dock around 3:20.

Happy guests getting off the boat.  The crew was feeling good about the trip, too... especially the Captain.  We definitely went "the extra mile," today.  Nice way to end the season.

Joan got off work early today - a first.  When I got home, she suggested we go out for supper to celebrate a good conclusion to our work time here.  There is a Mexican restaurant in the Best Western... our first time there.  The food was good.  Not fast, but we weren't on a schedule.  No need to hurry home to get to bed early, so we can get up early.  This feels good.

We will probably be around here for another week or so... looks like rainy weather for the next 4 or 5 days (glad to not be working in that)... then, we'll start getting our rig ready for the road again.

We are both ready for some traveling.


Gearing up...


Getting ready for work today.  I originally had a charter that would have taken most of the day.  They canceled yesterday.  Now, booked for at least one public trip today.  May turn into two.

Oh, and this is really the last work day.

The "gearing up" from the title: it rained most of the night.  The weather weasels are calling for rain on and off this morning.  I will get to ride the scoot on those water-standing-in-the-dips roads one more time.  Back in "real life" mode, I don't choose to ride in the rain.

This boat has an open flybridge, which means you are on top of the cabin while running the boat.  Good visibility, but you are open to the weather.  Oh, there is a canvas bimini top, which does provide some shade, but once you are moving in the rain... you are going to get wet.

So, rain gear is the dress code for the day.  Even though there are some forecasted "sunbreaks" for later in the day.  The wind is down to single digits this morning, but I expect the water to still be churned up for a while.  Back to low double digits for the afternoon.

Yep.  Gearing up.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blowing a hoolie...


That's a sailing slang term: howling wind, driving rain.  AKA: fugly.

All our trips today have been canceled.  That is the smart move.  Not sure what it is like at the water, but here at our motorhome, we have had some gusts that I would estimate well into the 40s (mph).  A report from land is saying Haro Strait is one big mass of white caps.  First time this season we have canceled trips.  I have at least one scheduled for tomorrow; the wind is supposed to die down some (it will be lumpy out there for quite a while after this blow), and a 40% chance of rain.

The power has gone out here several times.  That means, when it comes back on, I have to go through the set up procedure on the satellite TV receiver.  Not a big deal, 'cause it is automatic after you tell it you are in Washington State.  During one particularly nasty gust, the power stayed on, but the satellite TV went to "no signal found."  When I looked at the Tailgater, it was laying on its side.  Yeah, that's some wind.  The coach is solid... and covered with crud from the nearby tree and pine needles from the big tree the next property over.  Yep, it's blowing.

Isabella has cabin fever.  I went outside to dump our holding tanks... she really wanted to go out.  Pretty sure that 8 pound cat would be like a kite at the end of her leash.  ;-)  I found myself trying to explain to her why she wouldn't want to go out in this crap.  Trying to reason with a cat... maybe I have cabin fever, too?


What a great last trip!


If only it were my last trip for the season.  Not the case.

The predicted rain didn't materialize.  In fact, it was downright pleasant.  I had a leisurely lunch at the Lime Kiln Cafe, then went to work prepping the boat.  Even had a decent whale report... not close, but certainly doable.

First mate/naturalist Erick and I visited with guests while we waited for our last group to arrive (they were coming in from one of our over-night kayak trips).  With everyone onboard, I did a safety talk, told them where we were planning to go (south), and we shoved off.  A nice group - they were excited to see whales.

On my way through the harbor, I got a tip from another boat captain coming in from the south: "Go over the top - north, then south."  No other reports of any whales that close, but I decided to give it a shot.

I often joke with guests: "If you read the brochures and magazine articles, the whales are always right outside the harbor, smiling and waving, passing out brochures and posing for pictures.  Yeah, that isn't the reality..."

Today, it was the reality.  Well, except for the "passing out brochures" part.  I never got the chance to "go over the top" or turn south.  We saw whales right outside Roche Harbor.  And - this is really amazing: there were no other boats with them.  Naturalist Erick quickly had an ID: we are with a good portion of J-Pod, moving north.

Our first view...


No other boats.  I expected to be one of many boats with the whales off the southwest side of San Juan Island.  I called the position in, but there were no other boats heading this way.  The first of the "muggings" began...



We are diligent in keeping the proper distances.  Some of these whales were doing deep dives, then coming up in completely different position from the others.  We continued our viewing up to Turn Point on Stuart Island...



North of Turn Point, the stopped heading north and began milling; usually means they are feeding.  I shut down the boat, so we could hear those great breath sounds as well as watch.  It was peaceful and exciting at the same time.


One of my favorite shots of the season...


No, not a breach or other dramatic behavior - the silhouette of a large dorsal fin, the sparkly water, and the silhouettes of islands in the background.  Timeless.


The whales began moving north again... then, a "mass mugging"...




Sitting with the engine off, the whales moved all around the boat.  At one point, one whale went under the boat, rolled... and then looked up at the people viewing at the stern.  There were gasps and shouts from the guests, then quiet, while everyone took in the experience.

I came down from the helm and explained how we work to keep the proper distance... they all understood.  I told them this would be "last looks," while we waited for the whales to move away...


OK, maybe that  ^ is my new favorite image for the season.  Although, I do love to see their breath with some backlighting...



Yes, that would have been a great way to wrap up the season.  I started the boat and let the guests know we would be starting back for Roche Harbor, taking the scenic route.  One person asked if we might see a bald eagle... "We'll be looking," I said.

As I was slowly motoring away, taking in the whales in the distance, I got a call from another boat: a couple miles south of us, there were two boats with whales from K-Pod.  I had Erick ask the guests if they'd like to see more whales on the way back home, or if they wanted to go in search of a bald eagle... unanimous: more whales.

It didn't take long to get there; I set us up to view, just south of Turn Point again.  The whales were closer to shore...


Then - a breach.  And another...


It was the one behavior we hadn't seen with J-Pod.  One lady asked me, "Is this the best whale trip ever?"

"I try not to compare.  Any day we get to see whales is a very good day.  Yes, today was something very special.  And now, for the second time, these will be our last looks."

Keeping an eye on the time, I knew we needed to go pretty much straight back.  I did a slight arc towards Spieden Island... looking with the binoculars... got one!  There was a large group of Mouflon Sheep on the grassy area, but right beyond that: a bald eagle...


We viewed the sheep, visited about bald eagles, and stopped at Sentinel Rocks to see some seals.  On to Roche.  Along the way, a few looks back...




Coming into the small opening to Roche, a Kenmore seaplane took off nearby...


Yep, I sure enjoy those views in the Pacific Northwest.

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This was from Friday, August 28th; I didn't get a chance to go through the photos last night.


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On edit: well, I may get my wish.

We pulled the slideouts in on the motorhome before bed last night.  The weather weasels have been predicting some snotty weather today - rain and wind.  We didn't see much rain, yet, but the wind has really kicked up.  Right now, it is blowing in the upper 20s, gusting into the upper 30s... and still building.

Joan called and said, "You won't have a trip today, due to the wind."

My feelings were not hurt.

This Winnebago is a solid little coach.  We pulled the slides in to protect the awnings over the slides; makes less surface area, too.  Makes it feel a lot smaller inside, though.  We have a windshield cover that straps on, velcros, and has magnets... not enough to keep it in place with this wind.  There is debris from the nearby tree stuck all over.

On the bright side, I am not out in it!  (Well, other than getting that windshield cover wrestled down.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

A change in the weather...


I posted that photo yesterday of the trees changing color in Roche Harbor.  No doubt some of that is due to the particularly dry summer we've been having.  That is about to change for the weekend.

It rained all last night; never what I would consider "pounding," but it was very steady.  When we first got up this morning, the weather weasels were predicting rain through most of the day.  By 7:00, they had backed off on that.  By 7:15 the rain stopped.  Joan won't have to ride to work in the rain.

But, a fog is settling in the trees...


No idea what it is like at the water, but I just heard a fog horn.

The real change will be happening overnight and tomorrow.  The prediction is for a "winter type weather system with rain and wind, potentially gale force at times locally."  That doesn't sound like any fun at all.

I am on-call today and tomorrow... may have trips, may not; just depends on how the bookings come in, and whether the seaplanes are flying and the ferry is running on time.

My last weekend before being gainfully unemployed again may go out with a slosh instead of a bang.  ;-)




Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fashion blogging, and she slipped me a phone number...


No, I have no plans to change what we do here.

We had an early charter this morning.  And by "early," I mean I was at the boat at 7:30 to start our prep.  The departure time for the charter was 10:00 am.  Out of Roche Harbor.  With one of our Friday Harbor boats.  Depending on what gets booked first, these things happen.

Captain Gabe had the boat all fueled up for us, after his last trip yesterday.  Nice, or it would have been an even earlier morning.  First mate/naturalist Rachel was there at 8:00.  Before she arrived, someone hollered, "Good morning, Jim!" from the main pier - my buddy Herb.  He came down to the boat and we visited for a bit while I continued my prep work.

Shortly after 8:00, this cute Blonde from our office brought me down a piece of paper... with a girl's name and phone number on it.  No, not a date, it's my contact info for the charter.

We untied and headed out.  I figure an hour or so deadhead to get to Roche.  A pretty morning...


Getting close to Roche, I handed fenders down to Rachel to get ready for docking.  We planned to make a reasonably quick stop at the fuel dock (across from our kiosk there)... nope.  When I called the Roche harbormaster, I was told it was "too busy at the fuel dock."  No room on the main breakwater pier, so we went around the south side of the marina and found a side tie on C-dock.  Walking over to the kiosk (our Roche "office"), we saw there was one small boat at the fuel dock.

Shortly after we arrived at the kiosk, our contact person (the one from the number Joan gave me) arrived.  I'm thinking: "Wow - they might actually be on time."  We found out this charter was for a group of fashion bloggers from New York City.  Oh, and that "on time" thing... yeah, the rest of the group was 15 minutes late.  Not a big deal, we have ample time between trips today.

While Rachel waited for the rest of the party, I went back to the boat to see if there were any whale reports.  Nope.  Well, it's early.  When the group got to the boat, we visited for a bit, did a safety talk, then discussed the timing... they were pretty set on being back in that "3 hour" time-frame they discussed when booking the charter.  OK, time's burning.

We launched from the dock, rotated by the expensive display boats and headed out.  Before I got out of the harbor, I got a vague report... in Juan de Fuca.  Not close, but doable with this boat.  I visited with the guests to let them know what I expected for timing and conditions: we'd probably be at least a half hour longer (getting out 20 minutes late didn't help), and there would be some "chop" along the way... but, I would do my best to get them to the whales.  The young lady who set this up said, "It is my dream to see these whales..."

"Let us make that dream a reality for you."  They all agreed that they would be OK if they were a bit late for their next activity (found out later, it was shucking oysters).

As predicted, conditions were decent when we first got into Haro Strait, then lumped up to 2+ foot, confused chop.  Not awful.  I went down to check on them - they were having fun with the ride.  By now, there were a couple boats with these whales, so I had some good numbers to aim for.

Welcome to Canada.  We were south-southeast of Vancouver Island.  When we got to the whales, it was even better than the report: lots of whales, not many boats.  The upside of getting out early.  Almost all of L-Pod was present...







There were squeals of delight coming from the guests (female and male)... none of them had ever seen an Orca before.  The whales were moving towards San Juan Island, so we would be closer to Roche when it was time to head back.  It's all coming together nicely.

The viewing was very nice; with the whales movement, we were able to spend plenty of time with them, and still be in good shape for getting these folks back in the time they wanted.  When I said, "These will be our last looks," there was an "Awwwwwww."

"I'm working with you here.  This beats the heck out of shucking oysters, doesn't it?"  Enthusiastic agreement.

The water had smoothed out on our way back.  I put the coals to it.  They were enjoying the pretty scenery along the way.  Coming back into Roche, I put the boat where our Roche boat docks (they were out on their first trip today).  Happy guests getting off the boat.  I think there may be some whales in some fashion blogs this week.  ;-)

Heading out of Roche, I looked back and could see this line of trees - looks like fall is in the air...


Our timing was good coming back into Friday Harbor, going into our slip about 10 minutes after the ferry departed... I use the Washington State Ferry app to check their "Vessel Watch"... I slowed down just a bit to time our arrival back at our dock.

There is another trip on this boat today, but Captain Gabe is looking for more hours and was happy to take it.  We had the boat back in plenty of time for re-prepping for the next trip.

Back at our Friday Harbor office, Joan told me, "We are not on the schedule after this week."

"Time off for good behavior!"  September 1st will be our official end date.

Rain coming for the weekend.  No fun driving in the rain, but this area could really use the moisture.  Hopefully, it will also get over the mountains, to the area where the fires are.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A touch of home...


We had supper this evening with friends, Herb and Wilma.  They are just now back in "the lower 48" after spending the last 90 days cruising their Ranger Tug 31 to Alaska and back.  It was a treat to hear about their adventures.

We first met them at home in the Tropical Tip.  They, too, appreciate all the Pacific Northwest has to offer, we we get to see them up here the past few summers.

Wilma and I have had an ongoing discussion about "the boat they bought me."  They presented me with the boat when we came to their boat in the Port of Friday Harbor.  I have been teasing Wilma that it doesn't look quite like the boat she said she was getting me.

Here's a link to that discussion...

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205013704397608&set=a.10205003337858451.1073741853.1092173577&type=1&theater&notif_t=photo_comment_tagged

I did not bring a camera with me... so, I'll post some photos when Wilma sends them to me.

Good friends.  Fun conversation.  We didn't get home until 8:15... party, party!  ;-)

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The original photo from Wilma...


The boat presented, in front of the computer screen...


Somehow, I don't think they're the same.  ;-)

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On edit: photos from Herb and Wilma...