Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The tried and true adventures of a ferry boat captain (to be)

Well, it's really happening. Tomorrow is my last day at my beloved job. I work for the county planning department, with people I love, doing something I love. Yet, because I'm the lowest paid worked, plus the most recent hire (4 years ago), I'm being laid off in a really bad budget year.

However, thanks to the wonderful rules put in place by my union (go unions!), I'm able to pretty effortlessly slide into any available job for the county that I meet the minimum qualifications for. So, as of Monday morning at 8 am, I will be training to operate a small car ferry across the Willamette River. It's sort of the most bizarre career change, ever. I still can't really wrap my head around it.

About the ferry:
Why not build a bridge? There are two ferries across the river in Marion County, and both of them are in rural, farming areas, and also places where the land slopes slowly down to the river, and there are marshes on both sides. It'd probably cost $20 million or more to build a bridge, and there's just not enough traffic to support it. Yet there's enough traffic to support a ferry, ferry operators, toll takers, river dredging, etc.

The boat? It's a 6 car ferry, and costs $2 to get across, and takes about 5 minutes. I learned just last week that, hooray, in the wheelhouse there's a microwave, mini fridge, computer, and coffee maker. And there is a flushable toilet on board. That makes my life a LOT easier.

The work? Well, I haven't done it yet, so I don't know! On the WL Ferry, supposedly it's pretty busy. It connects two areas with lots of wineries, small farms and rural communities. It's also the easiest way to get to the interstate from some locations. Rush hour, in particular, is pretty hectic, with lines of cars waiting on both sides to get across. The BV, on the other hand, is pokey enough that, as my boss said, "bring a book!" I responded, "book, phone, and knitting!"

I'm hoping to work on the BV ferry. It's in a gorgeous stretch of the river. It's halfway to my parents, cousins, and friend's houses in Corvallis. I like the idea of it being slow. My boss said that he once had a bbq on the banks, when working the BV. Every now and then, he'd have to rush over and float somebody across, and he'd be back before he even needed to turn the meat!

What else?!? Oh, shifts! Unfortunately, starting on Tuesday, I'll have to be at work at 5:15 am. It's a half hour drive up there, so I'll have to get up before 4 to get ready. Ack!! The other shift, which I'll also be working, runs from 1:30pm to 10pm! Either way, it's a rough schedule. The tentative schedule on the BV is 7 am to 7pm. Both opportunities include mandatory overtime, so the pay will actually be significantly more than my job as a planner!

The BV Ferry isn't open yet. The county got a grant to build a new boat, since the last one was 65 years old, as well as rebuild the docks and dredge the river. Supposedly the boat should be open by July 1. Until then, I'll be working solely at the WL ferry. I really want to work the BV, the schedules are better, the pay is better, the hours are better. While it's 12 hour shifts, you get either a 3 day or a 4 day weekend...every week.

That's the scoop. I'm excited and nervous. Excited to learn it all and to start, scared and nervous about all the stuff I need to learn. Overall, I'm extremely sad to be leaving my beloved job. Most of you have heard stories about the pranks we're always playing on each other, the camraderie, the friendships there. I'm so bummed that MY job, a job that I truly felt I would have for the rest of my life, is ending. But I'm very grateful that, in this economy, I will have a job.

Oh, and the captain thing? It's true! I will be an "Inland Operator," I'll be a licensed "merchant mariner," and a boat CAPTAIN. So yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, to all!

(I promise, future posts won't be this long!)

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