Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shop Day

On Tuesday, the boss came down to the boat to give my my paycheck (which included all the overtime from labor day--OMGpaycheck), and suggested I spend wednesday in the shop working on the map and brochure I said I'd make for the ferry. I was pretty stoked, since I felt pretty burned out on the boat in general.

So Wednesday morning, I showed up at the boat at my normal time, then around 9:30, they guy who runs the boat on my days off (and has a shop day on wednesdays), showed up with the county truck at the boat. I hopped in and spent until about 4:30 at my old desk, with my old coworkers, having a really nice time.

And I'll say, yes, I got pranked before I even sat down. Damn you Patty!! Some of you may not know this, but my coworkers and I like to prank each other. I got really really good at it. Most of my pranks used things like the little paper bits left over when you hole-punch a paper. If you collect them every month from the photocopier, it really adds up. And if you strategically place them so they explode out on people when they least expect it, it's pretty awesome. So when I walked around the corner and into my old cube, Patty jumped out at me, yelling, "HI JENNY!" and honking a horn at me. I about peed my pants. It was awesome.

I didn't get the map done, but I made a lot of headway. Maybe one more shop day? :) I'm excited at how it looks, and it'll be really useful to show people how to get to the interstate or the butterfly place.

Around 4:15, I headed back to the ferry, since my coworker's wednesdays end at 5:30 and he needed to get back. The day flew by, I left with a ton of energy. It was so nice. It reminded me what I used to feel like after a normal day of work. I miss that. The 12.5 hour days are intense. I get home, too tired to cook dinner, too tired to run any errands. All I want to do is knit for a bit, then go to bed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Summer is over

Really really over. It poured yesterday and again this morning. Then this afternoon it was so windy but also warm, it almost felt like massive thunderstorm weather in Texas. Because of the clouds and rain, there's virtually no traffic on the boat. Yesterday, instead of the usual 150 cars of Sunday tourists, I had 92, 20 of which were bikes. Today, driving rain in the morning and brutal wind in the afternoon, 56 cars. Do you realize how boring that is? I knit. I read. I listen to podcasts and music. I eat more chocolate than I should, simply cause it's there. I walk laps around the deck (40 laps equals a mile. I measured and calculated).

I'm bored. :( I think I'm sort of over this job. The whole fun boat in the summer stuff is over. Now it's fall, crappy weather, dark mornings and nights, even less traffic. I'm ready to get out of here, get a job in my field. There's a good job I'm hoping to interview soon for, and a few in Corvallis that I'm going to apply for. I'm sort of disappointed that it's now fall, and I'm still on the ferry. The good pay, the scenery, the quirkiness of the ferry doesn't compare with working inside, closer to home, in a job I like, a job that uses my brain.

Sorry, I'm sort of pensive and mopey this week. I'll be better soon, I promise.

In the meantime:

Because it's dark, I've finally gotten to see how the lights are on the ferry. And they're awesome:

The boat lights up like a christmas tree. I love it.

I didn't get a picture, but the wild turkey chicks aren't chicks anymore. they're awkward and big! And there is a doe and fawn I see most days, the fawn is growing quickly. I love the regular wildlife.

We finally got a new desk chair for the cabin, since the old one was probably 30 years old and just terrible. And the new one isn't actually new, and it's terrible in it's own way. Which sucks, but I know there's no use mentioning it, just getting a different chair was like pulling teeth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watch Out For That Tree!

First of all, yesterday the welder came down and did a quick fix on the broken roller plate. The whole setup with the rollers was our made up invention anyway, and was never engineered or anything. The boss came down and with the welder, came up with a better plan that we'll have to manufacture. It'll take a few months, but the quick fix weld should hopefully last that long.

So today was just a typical boring day until I just so happened to hit a tree. Yeah. I hit a tree with the boat, in the middle of the river.

My cousin had come down (he of the previous links to pictures of turdles and rainbows coming out of his butt. There's also the whole underwear made from beef jerky thing...) to hang out on his lunch break. He works in Albany, and it's a quick 15 minutes on back roads up to the ferry. We were hanging out in the cabin gossiping, with rare bits of traffic, since it was around 1, after the lunch "rush."

There were two cars on board and we were mid-river heading east, when suddenly my cousin says, "whoa what's that?" I turn to look, just as I see a bunch of branches crunch into the apron. I throw the boat into reverse and then cut the engines completely, so the props wouldn't get beat up. It seems like most of the tree stayed forward of the boat, mostly rolling under the apron (which juts out over the water).

The next concern, and a big one, was the low water line (LWL). If you remember from my last post, this is the cable that sits downstream and underwater. A tree with a big root ball and a bunch of branches could snag in the LWL really bad. The tension on the line from the tree could snap the LWL, or the tree could get hung up, which means we wouldn't be able to operate until we got a chainsaw down to the boat to cut the tree up. Amazingly, none of that happened. The tree hung onto the LWL for awhile, then slowly the whole thing rotated and rolled under the line, root ball, branches and all. It was pretty amazing.

The passengers in the two cars were super surprised and a bit stunned. Once I was sure the tree was totally out of the way, we continued on our merry way completely unharmed.

The tree stuck on a gravel bar at the start of some very small rapids, only about 30 yards downstream of the ferry.

I doubt it'll stay there long, water levels are projected to rise sharply next week, which should free the tree and send it downstream, so it can wreck havoc on someone else. I feel like I really escaped a potentially awful situation. Worst case, to me, would have been if the tree had become stuck. I would have had to take the boat back to the west landing, back the cars off, give them back their money, and call in that the boat was stuck. Ugh. I really don't want something like that to happen on my shift!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's Not My Fault!

Something broke. Something that sort of surprised me that it could break. My boss felt the same way when I called him.

This is what the low water line (LWL) roller should look like.

So a plate on top, a plate on bottom (that you can't really see because of the water weeds), two rollers inside, and the LWL moves through it. Basically, as the boat goes across the river, the LWL, which sits underwater, is picked up and moved through these rollers. There's a secondary set, so these are on outer edges of the boat.

This is what the other one looked like this afternoon:

Do you see that? We're talking quarter inch steel plate here. The LWL broke through it. That's craziness!

I discovered this when I landed on the east side, and had one of the worst landings I've ever done. Slid super far over, landed really hard, had very little control, skidded over a bunch of rocks. When the people in the two cars looked over, a bit scared (I hit super hard, the whole boat rattled), I just smiled, like, "oh yeah, every landing is like this!"

So now the boat drives all wonky. The landings on the east side are crap now, I slide way far up the ramp, hull out (slam into the ramp with the hull), it's just a mess. I've figured out how to land for the most part, but it's messy and complicated.

Since I'm sure none of the logistics makes sense, here's a graphic. The LWL is the underwater cable. It's usually pretty loose, but really helps at the landings. When the boat is mid-river, it helps to keep the boat straight.
So the roller on the far right (east) side broke off. It's amazing to me how many things it changes. Basically it's just a royal pain.

The boss is going to come down first thing in the morning, he wants to see the problem and see how it affects the boat. I'm guessing the welding crew and welding truck will spend most of the day on the boat tomorrow. Which means intermittent closures, big noises, and epic levels of boredom (cause it's not like I can weld!).

The only sliver lining is that I really can't see a way that this was my fault! I think the part just broke. So even though the boat broke on my watch, I didn't break the boat!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall is Coming

The sun hasn't risen when I get to work, and it's just about set when I leave. The last few days have been cool, cool enough that I've turned the heat on in the cabin in the morning. Leaves are starting to trickle down from the trees. The turkeys are wandering all over the place, and this week I started seeing deer everywhere. It's sort of fascinating to have a job that keeps me so aware of the weather, seasons, animals, river. I'm so used to sitting in a cubicle, 20 feet from the nearest window, mostly out of touch with the world outside. And now I am outside.

Yesterday I had a visit in the afternoon from a woman who said, "Are you Captain Jenny? I read your blog!" OMG! A stranger, who reads my blog! I was so dorked out, I forgot to get her name, but she and her husband were out exploring all three ferries yesterday (though evidently the Canby ferry was closed). Strangers read my blog?!!!! Somehow that just makes my head explode. Really, I never thought I wanted to blog, that I wouldn't have anything interesting to say. And now that I'm doing it, I really love it. So wonderful woman who stopped by the ferry, thank you, and I'm sorry I was so dorkish!

My dad came up to the ferry again this morning, guitar in tow. I love it that he shows up, doesn't call, I just look up and there's a familiar looking gray suv parking next to my car. Today when Dad was on the boat, a couple of carloads of retired tourist types came through. They thought it was so cool, live entertainment!

I think I'm starting to somewhat get used to the super long hours. I'm not quite as tired at the end of the day or the end of the week. I'm still at the point where I consider it a victory if I can make dinner and do the dishes when I get home before collapsing on the couch or straight into bed. I'm starting to get a routine on the boat, knitting and reading, listening to podcasts all day since the radio doesn't get NPR. Speaking of which, favorite podcasts? I've already got a bunch of good ones, This American Life, RadioLab, The Moth, The Story. What else should I listen to?

Regardless, it's my Friday, I've just worked 52 hours, and I think I'm about to turn into a pumpkin if I don't get into bed soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Birthday on the Boat

All told, it was a really nice day. Sundays are usually hit or miss. It's a weekend, so it might be crazy, it might be dead. The people might all be drunk, or all really nice. You never know what you're going to get.

On the way to work, I looked over to see a coyote trotting through a field.

The sunrise was pretty great:

My first car of the morning was an ultralight parachute airplane thingie. I wanted to go for a ride!

I bought a new sun hat yesterday, and I love it. It's very light, way more feminine than the cap I've been wearing, and keeps my head and neck cool and shady. And I think it looks great on me!

My mom and aunt Merrill came up to the boat, and brought me a blackberry shake from Burgerville. It was so great to see Merrill, who lives up on the Olympic Peninsula. They hung out for awhile, then my cousin Brady and his family came up for awhile. Hectic, fun, good times.

I had expected that it would get super hot (like 95) today, and be just awful. It didn't feel like it got that hot, plus there was a breeze all day. It was really nice, and later in the day, it cooled down quickly and the breeze picked up. It felt great.

There were lots of motorcyclists today, this cracked me up:

Traffic totally died around 5:45, which made me happy. Around 6:45, a woman walked on board. She often drives over to the boat near closing and just sits on the shore, watching the river. This time, she came on, and we talked for awhile. She mentioned that she had sailed around the Caribbean and spent about a month in Grenada. Of course, having spent two weeks there, I exclaimed, "oh isn't Grenada wonderful?!" and she was totally flabbergasted! She said she's never met anyone who had ever been to Grenada, and most people have never even heard of it. It was fun to talk to her while closing up the boat.

All said and done, I'm glad I worked today. While talking to the Grenada woman, I mentioned that it was my birthday and that I was working so I could ignore all of the media today. And she agreed, saying that it felt pretty grim. While today didn't especially feel like a birthday (but what should a birthday feel like, anyway? Especially once you're no longer a kid and it's a work day), it was a nice day. I had fun.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Twenty Questions

People seem to ask the same questions all the time. Some of them, I've come up with charming, snarky or funny answers. Let's go through some of them:

Q: Can I get out of the car? (This is asked at least 10 times a day)
A: Of course!

Q: Where do I park? Is here ok?
A: Wherever you want! You've got the whole boat to yourself.

Q: What's the bell for?
A: For you to ring.

Q: Where will I be when we get to the other side?
A: You'll be on the other side. (seriously, this is my most favorite answer)

Q: How long until you leave? What's the schedule?
A: How about now? (People think the ferry is on a schedule, like the Seattle area ferries. Instead, I go when I have a car. Also, they like that answer. They think I'm doing it special just for them.)

Q: Are you electric of diesel?
A: Electric

Q: How's your day going?
A: Eh, back and forth. (Get it?! that's what I do all day! you've got to have the right person to use that one on)

Q: Is this boat new?
A: Yup, it's got that new boat smell.

Q: What happened last month when you were shut?
A: Ummm.....operator error. And no, it wasn't me!

Q: How much money do you make? This must pay really well. (seriously, people ask me this all the time!)
A: Plenty.

Q: Do boats get snagged on the cable?
A: Nope. They can cross just fine. We recommend staying decently far from the boat. That gives the cable time to sink back underwater. It's also safer.

Q: Why don't they build a bridge?
A: A new boat and ramps cost $5 million (I think). A bridge would probably cost $20 million.

Q: Where's your fishing pole? Do you fish off this thing?
A: Can I borrow yours?

Q: How late are you open?
A: Until 7, and my last trip is from west to east at exactly 7.

Q: Are you open year round?
A: We are now. (The previous ferry was closed in the winter. This ferry is more powerful and should do fine in the winter currents)

Q: Can I launch my kayak/canoe here?
A: Please don't! It's not safe, the ferry can slip off the ramp and slide 10 feet that way, right where you might be standing.

Q: How many trips do you make a day?
A: As many as I need to. (We don't keep track of that, just the number of vehicles per day)

Q: It's $3? The other ferry is $2!
A: We've got to pay for that new ferry smell!

Q: Have you been busy today?
A: Busy knitting!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

an odd and busy day

It's Labor Day weekend, so of course, everyone's out and about, going wine tasting, to the coast, kayaking and canoeing, swimming, driving in the country. And lots of them come across the ferry. From 10 am until about 5:30, I was going back and forth nonstop. The vast majority of people had never been on the ferry before. There were a ton of random gps followers, the best being the one heading EAST on the ferry, and asking if it was the way to Seaside (which is on the coast--Northwest of the ferry).

At one point late morning, I was listening to the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou. I had it on the stereo in the cabin, and depending on where you were standing on deck, you could hear it. This is the song I was listening to:
Around the 1:10 mark, there's yodeling. So I was out taking tolls, and was standing talking to three bicyclists. One of them heard the song, smiled that he knew the song, and right at the yodeling part, started yodeling! So I started singing along. His friends thought we were both crazy. It was hilarious.

At another point, I was talking to a woman who had just taken her kids to Wings of Wonder, the butterfly place in Buena Vista. I was looking to my right, at her, while I walked forward, and walked straight into a wall. I started laughing, then she started laughing, and then she SNORTED. Oh man it cracks me up when people actually snort with laughter.

This afternoon, I walked up to a small pickup to take toll, and it was an older man and his wife. The guy was probably at least 75 or 80, his wife the same. As he hands me his $3, he said, "We've got a hot young babe to drive the boat today!" EWW! So inappropriate!

I totally got yelled at! It was so weird and I was livid. So here's the deal. On the old ferry, the east boat ramp was shared as both a ferry launch and a public boat ramp. When the ramp was rebuilt for the new ferry, it's no longer a public boat ramp. Because this is a change, and the ferry has only been reopened for a few months, we're having to educate people to not use the ramp. Often though, kayaks and canoes will try to land their boats next to the ferry anyway. This is where they land:
It's about 8 feet from the boat. Sometimes when the boat lands, it'll jump and slide quite far in that direction before I can get to the throttles to control it. It's unsafe to stand there. And there are signs.

At least 4 times today, I had to go and talk to boaters and tell them that it's no longer a public boat launch, it's not safe, please use the park across the river, etc. 98% of people are fine with it. Until today. So a group of 8 kayakers pulled their boats up while I was on the other side of the river. By the time I got over there with a car, they were up at the parking area. So I walked up, and gave them my friendly speech. And this lady got all loud and yelled, "WHERE DO YOU GET OFF TELLING ME NOT TO! IT'S PUBLIC LAND AND I PAY MY TAXES!" One of her boating friends stepped in and stood between me and her. I basically just said that I'm only the messenger, and turned and walked back down to the boat. I was so livid! People are so weird.

I expect tomorrow to be equally busy, with as many random gps-ers, newbies and awkward people. Most of the day was fun. I'm thinking tomorrow or tuesday, once I'm done working, I'm going to walk back down the boat ramp and jump in the river for a quick swim. It's still 85 when I leave work. I was very tempted tonight.