Sunday, July 3, 2016

It is important to be good at your job...

And sometimes, it is just as important to be lucky.

Today is my "Friday"... last day of our work week.  I am very happy to have the 4th off; first time since I started working for this company 5 years ago.  Driving the whale watch boat out of Roche over this holiday weekend takes a lot of patience.

My morning started off just fine.  A deer did walk through the yard, but little Izzy was inside...

Yeah, it's a crappy shot... through the screen door.  The Momma wasn't too far behind this baby.  When they were out of our view, I took Izzy out for a bit - she was "on patrol"...

All too soon, it was time for my early scooter ride to Roche.  Early, because I like to get there in time to have a nice hot breakfast before prepping the boat for our 11:00 trip.  The line was long at the cafe, but it moved right along.  Within 5 minutes of placing my order, my food was on the table.

Ready to take on the day.  It was already busy at Roche.  Our guests were mostly on time, and I only got out about 5 minutes late.  That is the earliest I've gotten off the dock at Roche this season.  In Friday Harbor, we almost always depart on time.  I have learned to not stress about it.

My buddy Tande (an essential employee on the kayak side of the business) helped get us shoved off the dock.  That is a big deal considering how cramped we are with the party dock.  I should have taken a photo of the situation... didn't think about that until just now.  Of course, there were dinghies, kayaks, and a couple people on paddleboards, as well as several boats heading to the fuel dock, that we have to maneuver around on the way out.  Yep... patience.  You'd like to say, "Hey, dumbass - can you not wander back and forth without looking, and with no general direction??" but that probably wouldn't be good for business.  So, I smile and wave when they finally notice the big boat trying to get by.

The tide was particularly low this morning.  On my way out of Mosquito Pass, I saw this...

Yeah, that boat, and the floating dock it is attached to, is sitting in the dirt.  There are some things that "crop up" at extreme low tide that you don't normally see.  Like nasty looking rocks.

We went out into Haro Strait.  A vague whale report that put "possible whales" (meaning no member boats have actually seen them) way west.  I calculated how long it would take to get there, figured their estimated speed moving east, then divided that by a report of 5 to 6 foot confused waves between us and the "possible whales."  Yeah, that doesn't add up.

We searched high and low in Haro.  Went north into Boundary Pass.  Communicated with other member boats about where they were looking.  No whales other than the ones way west.  Some boats started in that direction, they turned back.  The tide would be changing soon, and the opposing wind and current should lay down.  But probably not in time for us.  I kept calculating as we came by Turn Point... no way I could get out there, even with improving conditions, and get these folks back in reasonable time.  And one family had a ferry they had to catch.  Of course, that family had a 7 year old boy... and the father said to me, "All he has talked about this whole trip is seeing whales."

No pressure.

I let people know about how we search for the whales, how the member captains coordinate (so we are looking in different places) and communicate... and said, "We don't give up until we are tied back at the dock.  Help us look - transient Orcas can pop up anywhere."

I am sure some people think that is just what we say... on days when we don't find whales.

I was heading back towards Roche, when I heard a nearby boat on the radio: "I may have something."

I grabbed the binoculars and...

In the distance, a dorsal fin!  We were north, two other whale watch boats were east, and we all converged.  Got 'em!  Two large male transient Orcas...

This was happening about a mile and a half from the NW opening to Roche Harbor.  A very nice save to the day!  I positioned the boat for best viewing.  Only the three boats for a few minutes, then other member boats started converging on our position.  A LOT of happy boat captains.

These whales were moving right along, so (of course) I didn't get much of a chance to shoot photos.

I really want people to get to see the whales.  I bust my butt searching when we don't have reports.  And, sometimes, things go your way.  Nice way to finish off my work week.

Heading back into Roche, I looked around to take in the beautiful surroundings... different from the constant scan I had been doing, looking for the whales.  To the east, south, and west...

And, it wasn't lousy with boats.  Well, until going back into Roche.  And then it was the holiday weekend zoo.  I called ahead to have our staff move the dinghies that I knew would be our way.  They also had a dock hand standing by - I was trying to get the family that had to get to the ferry off our boat ASAP.  I was able to get the boat rotated between the big yacht, the buzzing dinghies, and all the boats at the fuel dock... and managed to back it right into place.

Within 5 minutes of tying off the boat, the view off our bow looked like this...

Between the search for whales, guest expectations, and all these dinghies swarming around like mosquitoes... I remind myself that we had a boat full of people who got to see whales.  And I could tell that many of them had given up hope.

I frequently hear, "You have the best job in the world!"  Today felt pretty good.  And lucky.  ;-)

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