Tuesday, August 30, 2016


A participant on a boating site I frequent was asking about cruising in the San Juan Islands... this is a world class cruising area, and I gave him some tips on not-to-be-missed places,  I described Friday Harbor as a quaint waterfront town.

We went out for breakfast this morning, then took care of some errands and chores in town.  While walking around I saw this...

There is a shop beyond that tree arch.  I have walked by this place many times, but never paid any attention to that tree arch... they do a great job in keeping it trimmed and looking good.  Definitely, a unique entrance.

Walking down the street...

Many of the shops in town have flowers outside.  The city maintains hanging baskets of flowers on the main drag (Spring Street).  Yeah, I'd call this place "quaint."  Plenty of touristy shops, but also restaurants and places where you can get the necessities.  We have only gotten off the island twice during our season here, and haven't missed the shopping opportunities.

Yes, things are more expensive here - you really notice that when you go to the grocery store: an item on the mainland that is $1.99 is $2.99 here... it is easy to say, "Well, that is only a dollar more," until you start figuring percentages... and it is 50% more expensive here.

It's an island.  Everything costs more here because it has to get here on the ferry.  Joan fields lots of calls from people that have no idea where Friday Harbor and San Juan Island are... "We're at Pier 59 in Seattle - I don't see your boat anywhere..."  Might be because it is a two hour drive north, then an hour and ten minute ferry ride from there.  Or, a 50 minute flight by seaplane.  Probably what helps keep this place "quaint" - you aren't going to just be "driving by."

I kinda like that.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Izzy's Big Adventure...

The fog lifted mid-morning, the sun shined, and things started drying out.  Izzy wanted to go outside, but I told her we'd have to give it a little time to dry out - long, luxurious fur and wet grass and leaves are not a good combination.  By noon, she got to go out - a happy girl.

We got to lounge in this morning... we both needed that.  Joan made us a great breakfast.  I could get used to this pace.

Around 2:00, Joan asked what I wanted for lunch: I suggested dining out at the Chinese restaurant.  While getting ready, I opted for sandals today.  I haven't been wearing sandals much this summer, since I have been scooter commuting.  Even when wearing shorts, I have generally been in shoes and socks.  Looking down at my white ankles, I asked, "Am I going to embarrass you in public with these day-glow white ankles?"

She looked at me, and with a straight face, said, "That's the least of what you do in public that embarrasses me!"

We both laughed.  I think she was laughing with me, not at me.

At the China Pearl, the food was good, the waitress knows what we want, and it was quiet in there.  We walked up to the grocery store afterwards and picked up a few necessities; Tuesday is our main grocery shopping day - produce is on sale at "the other" grocery store.  On the way home, I asked, "Since it is a nice day, would you like to take a drive down to South Beach... Izzy has never been in the car - we could see how she does with it and a new place to walk?"

"That sounds great."

Izzy wasn't so sure...

Izzy is sweet - she generally doesn't make a fuss, and she laid nicely on Joan's lap.  Off to South Beach.  She was ready to explore when we got there...

There are several parking areas at South Beach; we picked one that didn't have any other vehicles there.  Izzy walks fine on the leash - noises don't bother her, except for people talking or laughing.  She has traveled extensively in the boat, the truck (Big Red), and the motorhome; she has always had her stuff in any of those... this would be different for her first ride in the CR-V, and then a new place to walk and explore...

She did great!  Lots of new smells, rocks, driftwood, sand, and water...

She did amazingly well.  Even when two other vehicles pulled into this parking area, with two screechy women, and a hollering kid.  We intentionally steered Izzy the other direction as they made their way to the water, then screamed because: "It is cold!"

No shit, Sherlock.

Izzy had fun climbing in all that driftwood...

Then, back to the car...

A very successful outing.

Even though Izzy is well-traveled, she is not as worldly as Molly was.  Molly loved the attention she got from new people... Izzy, not so much.  She did great with all the new situations today.  Plus, we are understanding each other better these days.  I am understanding better what she wants when she meows... and when she chooses to, she understands what I am saying.  Strong-willed little thing, with the heart of a lion.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A foggy start to the day...

We slept in this morning, the first of our days off.  I was still sore from the rough trips on Saturday... it felt good to just lay there and stretch.  Little Izzy curled up by me... she is a "Momma cuddler," so that was a nice start for my day.

I got up, fed Iz, and opened up the shades...

Whoa - foggy!  When Joan got up, she said, "I don't think we have many people coming in on flights today."

I said, "Days off - not your concern."

Not always easy to just turn it off... because she cares.

Looking at the 10 day forecast, the weasels have again changed their minds - looks like we are in for a wet week ahead.  I started thinking about this upcoming last work week... nope, days off, think about that in a couple days.

Izzy asked if she could go outside... "No, it is cold and wet out there."  I let her out for a bit on Saturday, when the wind was howling... she put her face into the wind and wanted to come right back inside.  Smart cat.  With the rain yesterday, she was inside the whole day.  She is a house cat, but really likes to be outside... on her leash.  If I open the door and she "makes a break for it," she will go a couple steps, then wait to get her leash hooked up.

This morning, she will have to be content to be in her bed, next to Joan on "their side" of the dinette.

I know what she is dreaming about...

For full disclosure, those images were on the camera when I got it out to shoot the fog this morning.  But, I know what my little furry girl likes.

Nice way to finish off the work week...

It rained.  No, that's not the nice part.

I went in this morning to do some maintenance on the boat.  It was looking like I wasn't going to have a trip, and this was the chance to get this done.  While working at the helm, I saw a lady walk down our dock... I am the only person here on any of the boats, so I said, "You look like you have a question."

She said, "Yes, I do, if you have a moment.  Do you take people out on this boat?"

"Yes, ma'am, that's what we do."

"Did you drive this boat yesterday?"

"Yes, ma'am, I did."

"We have a boat - not here, back in Montana.  My husband and I watched you park this boat at the dock yesterday... that was an impressive job of swinging the boat around and backing it between those other boats."

"Yeah, I wasn't hot-dogging it - that's what it takes to get this boat to this dock."

"Well, we'd like to go out with you, on this boat.  Can I just give you money and you'll take us out?"

I said (with a chuckle), "Well, they don't let me touch money or schedule things - I'm just the captain.  But, if you go up to that office on the waterfront, there is a pretty blonde lady who will tell you what's available and get you all set up."

First mate Erick and I took the boat around to the fuel dock; I like to leave it ready to go for whoever drives it next.  When we came back, Joan was coming down the dock.  I said to Erick, "Well, that probably means that you and I are going to have a trip today."

Joan said, "You sold those nice people on going out today.  Can you do a charter with a 1:00 departure?"


"I'll get it written up.  I know you thought you were done when you finished working on the boat today."

"Hey, this is what we do."  I walked up to the office to visit with the folks: 5 people from Montana.  If they can see a whale, "that would be great... but mostly we just want to see more of this area... so wherever you want to take us would be fine."

I talked with them about a Washington State Beverage License, in case they want to have adult beverages on the boat (only on a private charter).  They were excited!

Erick and I finished prepping the boat while those folks went to have lunch.  Joan helped them get a beverage license.  Erick brought them to the boat at 1:00, and I had a report of a group of transient Orcas about 20 minutes north of us.  The makings of an easy day.  And a big plus: the wind wasn't blowing like stink (like yesterday).  The sky was gray, but the water looked mostly flat.

We visited for a bit before going out.  When I asked what they'd like to do, Kim (the blonde who first came to the boat) said, "I would really like to see a whale.  They (pointing to the three guys) would like to drink beer and be out on a boat... and see some cool stuff."

"Let's see if we can make that all happen for you."

There were a lot of boats with the transients, but our timing was good: they had just turned down San Juan Channel, heading towards us - I could rotate the boat and be at the front of the "cha-cha line."  It wasn't long before more boats came, and we were in the middle of the line... with all the traffic, I didn't have a chance to get my camera out of its case.  But, the viewing was good.  After 45 minutes, Erick came up to the helm and said, "They are happy with what they saw with the whales and would like to see more stuff."  I went down and visited with them, we formulated fun stuff for them to see, and we were off... leaving all those boats behind us.

Being Montana guys, they were excited to see Spieden Island (we told them about the exotic game animals there) - they got to see the Mouflon Sheep and the Sika Deer, bald eagles, seals, pretty vistas.  I stopped the boat a few times and went down to tell them about "a slice of life" on some of the islands.  They had good questions for Erick, laughed a lot, and really enjoyed their personalized tour of this part of the San Juan Islands.

Yes, it started to rain while we were with the Orcas, but guests can stay dry on this boat - either in the cabin area or under the Sunbrella canopy.  It wasn't a hard rain, the views were misty and dramatic, and they were enjoying it all.  And Erick and I were enjoying our time with them, as well.

On the way back into Friday Harbor, I heard one of them say, "This is for you Erick - don't give any of that to Captain Jim."

"You people know I can hear you, don't you?" I said.

Laughter.  Truly, a fun group.  And, a very nice way to finish up my work week.  No photos, but I'll remember the day.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The long arm of the law...

It was a tough day on the boat today: big wind.  I had a charter this morning, and a public trip this afternoon - the wind continued to build during the day... by half-way though my afternoon trip, the wind was 15 gusting to 25.  I'll get back to that.

I went in early to do some maintenance; I haven't been on this boat in over a week.

As I was coming in from my morning charter, I got a phone call... I had my hands full with bringing the boat in, so I let the call go to voice mail.  We were close on time between the trips - while my first mate went to the office to escort the people for our afternoon trip to the boat, I checked the voice mail: it was from a NOAA officer.

No, I am not in trouble - I witnessed some awful behavior around the whales by a kayak operator a couple weeks ago.  SoundWatch asked if they could give my name and number to NOAA for a statement/description of the incident.  Absolutely.  That was the purpose for this call.

I let officer Dan know that I had just come into Friday Harbor and only had a few minutes... "Friday Harbor?  I'm just coming into Friday Harbor!  Can I come to your boat?"

"I let him know that were were on the main commercial pier, and there was room behind us for them to dock.  I stepped off our boat to grab lines for them.  We made our introductions and visited a bit... I said to them, "You know the other commercial operators are going to think I am in big trouble, with NOAA officers on my boat, right here on the main pier!"  We all had a chuckle about that.

As they were wrapping up taking my statement, Alex (first mate) arrived with our guests... I saw the look of "oh-oh" on Alex's face when she saw the NOAA guys.  I explained to the guests what was going on, shook Officer Dan's hand and thanked them for coming by.  Dan said to our guests, "You are in good hands with Captain Jim!"  Nice of him to say that.

I let our guests know "the good news and the bad news"... there are whales in the area... they aren't close... if they had the time, I would do my best to get them to the whales... Mother Nature was going to give us some wind and lumpy conditions to deal with.  I had three guests who had a 5:30 seaplane to catch.  That is going to put some pressure on us to get to the whales.

As it turned out, we did see a humpback whale about 30 minutes out of Friday Harbor...

The report I had for Orcas was transient killer whales... in Canada... way in Canada... into the Strait of Georgia... not a good place to be on a windy day.  The guests were all excited about that prospect.  I knew we were at least an hour from the Orcas when we left the humpback.  The latest report had them moving south (towards us)... that didn't last: they turned north and were moving a fast pace.  Away.  Not good news for us.  To add to the fun, the wind and waves continued to build.  We were consistently taking spray over the top of the boat.  Rough ride.  My first mate came up and asked for some wristbands - accupressure bands to help with seasickness.  "How many do you need?" I asked.

"Two."  She took them down and came up a minute later... "Two more if you have them."

"Yep, but that's all I have."  I was taking a beating on that tall flybridge helm.  I could see the other boats on the whales in the distance... we weren't going to get much time with the Orcas.

The first view of the whales brought gasps and squeals from down below.  I set us up for the best viewing and ride I could get in the conditions.  No, I didn't have time for a single photo of the transients - I was working hard at the helm.  I let Alex know our "have to depart" time... knowing that it was going to be even rougher on the ride home... I would probably have to slow down more.

That departure time came quick, I pulled away from the whales, set up a track for home, and had Alex take the helm... I went down to check on the guests - they all seemed to be doing OK... and happy that they had seen Orcas.  I said, "Remember that excitement and anticipation you had on the way to the whales?  Well, try to enjoy our 'white water ride' on the way home, because we have along ways to go.  Keep up that great attitude!"

The whales had moved further north while we were with them - I estimated my time back at an hour and 45 minutes... giving us a 15 minute pad for getting the guests who were flying out to the seaplane dock.  That would give them enough time to stop to use the potty on their way to the dock... if it was going to run any longer than my estimate, I would be dropping the 3 who were flying at the seaplane dock, then take the rest of the guests to our dock.

The first hour or so heading back was a punishing ride at the helm - not as rough for the guests in the cabin, but still not a leisurely cruise.  I kept updating my calculations.  The last 45 minutes were almost pleasant (other than the wind) - the chop on the water was down to about one foot.

I was going for 5:15 as our arrival time... we pulled up to the dock at 5:13.  Happy guests getting off the boat.  The boat needs fuel and a very thorough rinse to get all the salt spray off.  We did the cleaning, but I just didn't have it in me to rush to the fuel dock before it closes at 6:00.  I come in a little early tomorrow to get that done.

It was a long day on the boat.  Five work days to go.  I could really use a hot tub.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bike shorts and a cowboy...

I posted a photo of this face, with the bottom part of a goatee shaved off.  Just a mustache.  In all likelihood, I'll scrape off the mustache when I am done (or close to it) being at an open helm.  It really does help protect my lips from the sun and wind, along with a heavy helping of sunscreen.

At our Roche Harbor desk yesterday, one of the reservations ladies said, "You grew a mustache!"

"Well, almost - I lost a beard."

"That looks good... you look like a cowboy.  An Australian cowboy!"

Apparently Australian cowboy mustaches are different from American cowboy mustaches?  Either way, I am not a cowboy.  I don't trust horses.  Oh, they are magnificent animals, and I understand the huge part they played in settling this country.  A century or two ago.

Back in my photographer days, I had clients who wanted to be photographed with their horses... yes, sometimes plural.  Rarely was the horse excited about that whole prospect.

Some people look great riding a horse.  My only experience with that has been the cheesy trail rides you do when you are in some "natural wonder" area.  About the same amount of time ago as when this country was settled.  But, I digress - I am not one of those people that look great riding a horse.  I bobble around looking like a bobble head... well, more like a whole bobble body.  And I don't stay "stuck to the saddle" the way the people who are good with horses do... I look and sound like I am applauding with my ass.

Maybe that's the way Australian cowboys do it?  Probably not.


I didn't have a trip this morning.  Joan asked if I'd take a deposit to the bank (yes, we get paid for this "fun summer job").  "If you don't have to go to Roche this morning, you could ride your e-bike into town to go to the bank."

That sounded like a great idea.

It is another warm day - probably the last of that for a while.  I put on some bike shorts before heading out.  No, not the outerwear kind, the ones you wear instead of skivvies.  I know they are supposed to be more comfortable, but I find that instead of protecting the area they are supposed to protect, they seemed to be designed to pinch "the boys" in new ways.  If you don't have "boys," no explanation will suffice... if you do have "boys," no explanation will be necessary.

I was fine all the way into town.  On the highway, there is a bit of a shoulder on this stretch - I'm calling it a bike lane.  Passing vehicles have differing thoughts on how close to that white line they should drive... most give you a bit of room when passing.  Some seem to feel that "Share the Road" means you should both be occupying the same space at the same time.

When you get into town, any semblance of a bike lane goes away.  This is truly "Share the Road" time, but I still try to stay as far to the right as parked cars will allow.  I made it unscathed to the bank, climbed back on the bike for the ride back.  It is a lot of uphill this direction.  The e-bike allows you to dial in the amount of pedal-assist you like... that doesn't do the pedaling for you, it allows you to go a bit faster with the same effort.  I was down to second gear riding up Spring Street in Friday Harbor.  Passing the airport, there is one long and relatively steep hill between me and home.  I have wanted to see how the e-bike would do with this hill... I have seen plenty of bicycle riding folks who have given up half way up the hill and are walking their bike.

No problem with my trusty Trail Viper...

9.8 miles per hour in second gear.  Uphill.  It was about that time that the bike shorts started to feel more like bite shorts.  It isn't like you have a lot of position options on a bicycle... but a short stand-up-and-shake-down helped a lot.

The more I ride this bike, the more I like it.  Yes, it has a throttle, if you decide to go "scooter mode" with it, but I still haven't run it 'till exhausted to see how far it will go.  It inspires some confidence, having that throttle to fall back on... in case the hill gets too steep.

Or, the shorts start to chafe.  This may be a good song for Weird Al: a parody of a Taylor Swift song... "Shake it down - shake it down!"


Thursday, August 25, 2016

The countdown continues...

Back to work today.  Driving out of Roche Harbor, the early report had the whales west of Constance Bank (south of Vancouver Island).

We had a full boat, and the tide/currents were not going to be in our favor.  Fortunately, the whales moved east and a bit north at a good pace.  By the time we were heading out of the harbor, it was looking good.  We cruised down the west side of San Juan Island - bright sunshine and a north breeze... and warm.  You could feel the cool air coming off the water of Haro Strait, but going with the wind... warm.

The whales came across Haro Strait, and we met up with them a few miles offshore from False Bay.  Our first view...

J-Pod... and, the boys are back in town...

They slowed their pace and moved slowly up-island... walking us back home.  It was a delightful, relaxed viewing.

We looked, hoping to find J-14 (Samish) in the mix - she has not been seen since the end of July.  These animals always travel with their family, so that likely means she is deceased.  Sad.  She was 42 years old.  There is another female in that matriline who appears very malnutritioned (we did not see her today)... that does not bode well.

No one was on a schedule today, so I spent extra time with the whales.  Haro Strait was nearly calm (see the water in the above photos).  Nice to have a bit of flexibility.

A very nice start to my second to the last work week.  :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


And singing.

After that wonderful meal, we sat outside, under the awning.  Into the low 80s for a couple days, before the next cool front moves in.

Time for some guitar playing...

Joan brought us out an adult beverage, and we moved into the shade.  And an hour or so of music.  Nice to have the time for that.

Tomorrow, back to work... but, the work time is ticking down. 


Great smells filling the motorhome this afternoon: Joan is making a roast... the smell has me drooling.  She gave me a "preview bite" while the sides are cooking - yeah, it tastes as good as it smells!

The last of our three days off, and the time has gone by very quickly.  We ran into town to pick up a few groceries and decided to wander a bit on the way home, to see if the road construction is getting close.  My commute to Roche Harbor takes me on a slightly longer route because of the construction.  Yeah, the roadbed is mostly filled in and has been chip-sealed.  It will still have to be oiled and striped... and I don't want to get caught in that when trying to get to work.

I am guessing they will have San Juan Valley Road completed about the time we head out.  It has changed our scooter play time, but every season is different; no complaints, just an observation.

It was a chilly start to the day this morning, but that will change for the next three days - the wind has changed to out of the north.  North wind here this time of year means that things will warm up.

Our deer neighbors didn't seem to mind the chill...

It warmed up quickly, by the time the deer moved on and Izzy got some outdoor time...

By noon, the a/c kicked on, and Izzy was inside and down for a nap...

I'm enjoying this no-project day off.  Less than 2 weeks, and that will be the norm again.  In the meantime, I think I will get a roast beef sandwich to take for lunch this week.  :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Been a while...

... since we have taken the scoots out to play.  Oh, I still scoot commute each work day; lately, I have been driving Joan's scoot to get more miles on it (compared to mine).  Today, we were just out and about on the scoots, enjoying the beautiful weather.

How beautiful?  Thanks for asking... mid-70s, bright blue sky with lots of sunshine, and very little wind.  Nice!

We did grocery shopping and laundry this morning, so we could play this afternoon.

Just fun to be out today...

We wound up at Roche Harbor for a late lunch at Madrona Grill.

We decided to see what kind of shape the roads were in that had the worst of the construction.  Through the trees to get to a road we haven't been on for a couple months...

I didn't get photos of that road - much of the work is done on Wold Rd - there is still some loose gravel, and it will need to be sealed and striped.  Probably not going to be finished while we're here.

Coming home, we drove on another road that had the center stripe way off center.  As I was discussing that with Joan (bike to bike), a ratty while pickup came around us... uphill... on a solid yellow center line.  When a Volkswagen van came over the top of the hill, the asshole in the truck swerved back into our lane - coming in between us, and not missing either of us by much!  Some good riding on our parts is what kept of from getting greased off.  Did I mention: asshole?

Joan said that she thought it was the same truck that blew by us a couple years ago, then screached on his brakes, so the guy could holler "Those things shouldn't even be on the road!"  Yep, pretty sure it was the same asshole.  At some point, this asshole is going to cause a nasty accident - hopefully, it will be a one-vehicle situation and he won't take someone else out with him.  Because... he is an asshole.  Of course, I am kidding: an asshole is a necessary body part... nothing essential about this asshole; I mean that in the derogatory sense, not in the body part sense.  'Cause he's an asshole.

I let it go.  Back to the coach, some outdoor time with little Iz, and just enjoying what's left of the beautiful day.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Day off - Joan was doing hair stuff, a good time for me to get out and about.  Since we are beyond the loose gravel on all the roads, I decided to head out for a ride on the Trail Viper...

Out on the road, on the level...

If you can't make out the screen, I am doing 14.8 mph on the level, not working too hard.  Joan said she'd be at least an hour, so I had plenty of time - heading for my "loop" by False Bay.  There are some uphill stretches...

Doing 7.8 mph on the uphill - not bad for an old guy.  I turned off the main road, where there are marked shoulders for a bike lane, and down a wooded lane towards False Bay...

This is my favorite part of the loop.  I also hit a new personal high speed on the downhill stretch here: 25.4 mph.  I was going to get a photo of that, but holding on to the handlebars with one hand at that speed on a bicycle - not a good idea... gets a bit squirrelly.

Around the corner and into the pasture lands...

There is a view of Haro Strait off to the left...

Well, more of a glimpse than a view.  Rounding another corner, there was a car stopped in the road... oh, and a flagman in front of him.  I rode around up to the flagman and asked, "Are you oiling the road ahead?"

"Yep, but just one side right now - there will be a pilot car in a couple minutes - you can stay on the side where it isn't oiled."

And then he had a bunch of questions about the bike.  We chatted until the pilot truck arrived, I waved the only car to go ahead of me, and I took off...

Yep, that is freshly oiled - you can smell it.  The pilot truck must have been doing about 25 mph - I was pedaling in the top gear, and could only do about 20 mph on the level.  A couple miles later...

Oh sure, they have the signs on this end of the road - nothing where I got on it.  I waited for traffic on the main road at that intersection, and that flagman had questions about the e-bike.  I should carry brochures.  Heading uphill from that intersection, there were signs warning about the fresh oil...

The rest of the ride was uneventful... and mostly uphill.  That's the downside of getting above 25 mph on a downhill stretch.

When I got home, I put the bike away and headed for the shower.  Well, before the shower, I was feeling like it was time to scrape off the beard.  Joan said, "You better put a LOT of sunscreen on for the next couple weeks - that skin hasn't seen the light of day in a long time."

Good point.  OK, I lost the beard, but kept the mustache...

One of us isn't crazy about this look... something about looking like an 80s porn star... or maybe it was a porn star in his 80s?  Regardless, I think I'll keep it at least a day to see how my naked chin feels.