Monday, October 31, 2011

A busy Halloween on the Boat

It was Halloween? What? When did that happen!? Actually, I did bring a costume pun to the ferry, but I put it on once and that was it. I had fairy wings and a captain's hat. I was a fairy captain! Get it?! I showed it to one of my favorite regulars, who cracked up.

Today was my first day of being a trainer. A few months ago, they hired two relief operators, guys who will work on the bridge or road crew, and can be called in as a sub on either ferry as needed. Each of the two guys have spent about a month working the WL ferry, and are doing a week on the BV. So around 8 this morning, M came on board. Really nice guy, spent 4 years in the Army, 15 months in Iraq as a heavy equipment operator, mostly working on building roads and removing land mines. He's a total smartass, has a foul mouth and a good sense of humor, so we got along pretty well. Even so, it was sort of exhausting suddenly having someone share the ferry with me all day. There's only one chair, there are hour long periods with no cars, the guy's been working on a ferry for a month and already knows what he's doing. So it was tiring. He spent a lot of the day playing Plants vs. Zombies on my (omg i freaking love it it's the best thing ever) brand new iPad. As nice as he was (and no mom, not date-able, he's too young for me), I was glad when it was time for him to go. I'll get him again on wednesday, then next week, I'll spend 3 days with R, another trainee.

So along with training, we had boat problems. The gate on the boat, the one that keeps cars from rolling into the river, stopped working. It wouldn't go up. For awhile, I could futz with it, and get it up eventually, but finally today, it just stopped. Boss knew about it, and spent at least an hour on the ferry this morning trying to diagnose where the problem was. We finally came to the conclusion that it was one of two problems. Boss went off, and I figured it'd be some time tomorrow before it got fixed. In the meantime, I had to chock each car, stick a heavy rubber wedge under a tire, as a failsafe measure so the cars wouldn't roll into the river. That was exhausting too. It was just tiring all day!

So then around 5ish, the boss walks onto the ferry. Really? What are you doing here?! He said that J--a county welder who's also all around handy--was also on his way. They were going try to fix it. It took almost 2 hours, having to turn cars away, and a lot of standing around doing nothing while J climbed into the bilge, the 3 foot high space between the hull and the deck, to replace a solenoid. Amazingly, it worked, and they left just in time for me to shut down for the night.

I was hoping that I'd see kids going into town to go trick or treating, but I only saw two kids (zombie and mummy). Gave them both candy though! And I hoped that I'd get home in time to get a bunch of kids come by, but I only got one knock at the door, for a vampire, zombie and hello kitty.

Tomorrow I get to sleep an hour later. I've got a training at the shops, so I'll get to see my friends too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This is what it all looks like

A good friend had the idea that I should take a video of a trip across the river. It's not great, but it actually shows the trip pretty decently.

(I hope this whole video posting thing works. My first time!)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back from vacation

Do I have to? I had 10 days off and I really really didn't want to go to work today. Plus, I had an odd morning just getting to work:

-As I leave the house, I discover that someone is standing in the corner of the park across the street, pruning the huge (huge huge) cedar tree. Ok, it's pitch black, 6:20 in the morning, on a sunday. And someone's using long reaching pruners to trim the 100+ foot tall tree. As I drive past him (cause of course I'm going to drive past and take a look), there was a surprisingly large pile of branches, like he'd been at it for the last few hours.

-Driving down the interstate, I pass a large RV. Keep in mind, it's still very dark out, so the only light is from cars headlights. As I pull back in front of the RV, I look in the rearview mirror and almost have a heart attack. In the front window of the RV is a jack o lantern, grinning eerily at me. Couldn't see anything in the RV other than the brightly lit orange plastic pumpkin.

-When I get to the ferry, there's a car parked where I park my car. There isn't anyone in the car. I guess they went kayaking and put in super early? Or something. It's eerie though. I don't really like the super dark early mornings, it's creepy enough as it is. Now add a car, and let your imagination run wild.

-The gate was up on the boat. WTF, dude? When we leave for the night, you lower the gate on the side where the boat is parked, so you can walk off, and back on in the morning. For some reason I don't know or understand, my coworker raised the gate last night, then climbed over it. Which is what I had to do at 6:45 in the morning.

Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day. It's really dark now. I had the lights on by 6pm tonight, and I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I hadn't needed the lights at all. There's supposed to be a frost this week (local people, bring your plants in!), which'll mean extra chilly mornings.

Vacation was nice. lots of sleep and lazy time. Finished my sweater (it's amazing, no I don't have pics yet, yes I will eventually), went on a business trip to Snoqualmie Falls with my mom, got way too drunk wine tasting with her business associates. And now, normal life returns.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Deciding to put up a whole post of pictures, and lots of them, was really a good excuse to clean out the SD card on my camera as well as all the pics on my phone. Anyway, here are a ton of pics. I often snap random pictures whenever something catches my fancy. I think most of these are ones you haven't seen before, or ones I posted on facebook but not here. Regardless, enjoy!

The fog and spiderweb pics were from yesterday morning. It was so foggy that when a coworker came down to the boat at 9:30 and I was parked on the other side, he had to text me for me to come over and get him. He was flashing his lights, and it was so foggy there was no way I could see the opposite shore.

Looking at these pictures, it makes me realize what a beautiful sky there is down there. I also really love watching the sunrise. It's magical, fresh and new, and all for me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dead in the Water

This morning around 11:30, a county radio shop worker, V, came down to install a phone for the boat. Nice to see him, he's a quiet, methodical guy, very nice. About 5 minutes after he comes, I get a car, so we load up and head to the west side of the river. Drop off the car, and a few minutes later, 3 pedestrians walk down the hill and onto the boat. This is pretty common. Some people want to see the boat but don't like being on the water. Some people are too cheap to want to pay the $3 to ride. No big deal.

They walked on board and were looking around a bit, when I noticed that we'd slipped off the ramp a bit. It's not all that uncommon, especially with the wind gusts we've been having. When that happens, you just put the boat in gear and power back up the ramp. The friction of the boat against the concrete is enough to stick us pretty well. Well, I pushed the throttles forward...and nothing happened. Ok...sometimes they flip the breaker and V was working on electrical stuff. Flipped the breakers to reset...nothing. ummmmm. We're now about 20-30 feet off shore. The current is extremely fast right there, and the boat was just stuck, sitting in the current, which was pushing against the side of the boat.

First things first, I called the boss. V is an electrician, so they talked, and V had checked everything there was to check, nothing worked. So here goes nothing, and I have to put the work boat in the water and see if we can get to shore that way. The work boat is a small outboard motor boat that's attached to the side of the ferry and lifted out of the water. We've got a device that lowers it into the water. So I grab the gas tank, hook that up, lower the boat, grab my life vest (always!) and hop in. I don't disconnect the work boat from the ferry, since I know that in theory, you can use the motor from the outboard to slowly creep the ferry to shore. It's set up to work that way, and I know they've done it on the WL ferry.

Well, it didn't work. Later, talking with the boss, I learned that if you're stuck right where I was, in the current, you're just out of luck. The outboard just isn't strong enough. I didn't know that at the time, and V and I were coming up with an alternate plan of attack. Just in case, he went and checked the power, which had come back on. Hooray! I take the boat back to the shore we'd just come from. I call the boss, let him know. He was relieved, since he said the power company had lost power from the ferry all the way out to the town of Gates (40 miles away), and that it might have taken until 2 pm to get it fixed.

So, everything's hunky dory, right? The pedestrians stay on board, intending to just go for a ride (a choice they would later regret). A car, a mini, comes on board. We head over to the east bank. And the boat dies again, in the middle of the river. I crack up. Nervous insanity laughter of doom.

Ok, well I know that we're out of the current, there should be no problem getting the work boat to get us to the east bank. We're closer to that shore, the water moves slower over here. So I get the outboard going again, and it's working! I can see the boat moving. Not fast, but it's totally getting us there. Until, that is, the outboard dies. Now, the extent of my knowledge about outboard motors comes from the tiny bits of training I got before I got my license. I don't have a boat, I'm never in a boat. This is all new to me. And I knew from day one, that I didn't feel very comfortable handling the outboard. And it showed. V and I (he's not a boat person either) worked and tried everything we could. We thought it was vapor lock. We thought we'd flooded the engine. After about a half hour of dead in the middle of the river, V discovers that I had clipped the gas tank to the hose wrong, and there was a leak. The motor had shut down from air in the line.

Finally working now, we actually get to shore! We tie up the boat, and spend the next 20 minutes lowering first the gate, then the apron, manually. Took wrenches. If the car on board had been a big pickup, they could have just gotten off. But there was about an 18 inch gap between the apron and the ramp, and the car was a mini. Those things have like 2 inches of clearance.

V checked the power, and we had half power. One line worked, he said. I don't know what that means, but it wasn't good enough. So we were still stuck.

So we got the car off. But we still had 3 pedestrians!! And they were on the wrong side of the river. V and I climb up to the electrical boxes on the tower ("climb" meaning a flight of stairs, I didn't go to the top of the 50' tower!), and he thinks that one of the breakers had blown, but he doesn't know which without a volt meter. A half hour later, Ed shows up with a volt meter. We'd thrown a breaker at the tower, and then a fuse in the electrical panel on the boat. All told, power wasn't restored until almost 2.

The poor pedestrians. They were an elderly couple and their adult daughter. The daughter was a knitter, and loved my pile of projects, knitted things and socks on my feet. We talked yarn for a bit. The dad used to build custom motorcycles and wanted to jump in the work boat to help us, but were as clueless as we were. The poor mom! She probably will never go on a boat again in her whole life. She was utterly terrified. I felt so bad for her. When the boat was in motion, she grabbed onto anything she could and hung on for dear life. I almost thought she was going to kiss the ground when we got her to the proper side. Really though, they were wonderful sports about it all. The daughter was up visiting from Phoenix and they were intending to go to the coast today.

So that's my tale. I learned a ton. I'm way more comfortable with the work boat. I think primarily, I learned that I tend to flail about a bit in emergencies, and I just move too fast. I was doing all the right stuff, but I was just moving too fast. If I'd slowed down, I would have noticed that I hooked the gas can up wrong. Stuff like that. V said at one point, "You've got all the knowledge. I just needed to slow you down enough to extract it." He's a good guy.

I'm up and running now. No further problems. The boss did suggest that for the remainder of the day, whenever I don't have cars, park the boat on the east side. That side is more convenient for the county (it's our side of the river), plus it's where my own car is parked. Good point. I'm parked there now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm on the boat

I brought my laptop to work today, since it's pouring rain and so dreadfully slow. It's 11:39 as I write this, and I've had exactly 14 vehicles. That's 14 vehicles in 4 and a half hours. Slooooooow. I didn't have a single car between 8 and 10. Had a nice conversation with my sister for most of that time though!

So the job interview last week went really well. The job is different than I expected, in a really good way. A lot of my apprehension about working for this agency is alleviated. I do really want this job. I was told they were interviewing 7 people, and they're hoping to "know the next step" by the end of the month. GAH! Government jobs take so damn long to hire!

I'm going to buy an ipad soon. I'm really looking forward to it. Right now I'm online using my cell phone as a hotspot, but the reception is really poor, so it's like using dialup. So very 1998.

My sister made a comment this morning that I don't really put that many pictures up on the blog anymore. That's really true. I think it's because I've seen it all. I forget that you, my blog readers, haven't. It really is pretty here. When my mom comes to visit she always comments on it. I forget how pretty it really is, I'm sitting looking at it all day. Right now, the sky is flat and gray, and it's raining. The river is greenish brown, reflecting the trees on the far shore. The leaves are only just barely starting to turn, the green foliage is just starting to be a brownish green. The wind just picked up, so the rain is coming in at a steep angle. I can't see very far in either direction, the low clouds and rain are blocking the distant views up and downstream.

Soon, I promise (next time I remember, and when I'm at home with better cell reception), I'll put up a post full of pictures. I do still take pics of the boat on my phone, I just never post them. oops.

Yesterday, an old retired guy walked onto the boat. He evidently used to be a ferry operator on the BV back in the 1970s. He said he was working one day and a truck waiting on the road forgot to put on the brake, but hopped out to look at the ferry, and the truck rolled into the river! I think he was tickled that I was a young woman operating, I think people always expect the operators to be crusty old dudes.

Then just now (as I was writing this post, actually), another guy walked on. He used to work on the Bridge Crew, which does a lot of work on the ferries for the county. He had all sorts of technical questions. Pleased with myself that I knew the answers.

So yeah. That's a raining morning on the BV for you. I'm bundled up in wool socks, and a thick fleece, with the heater on, watching the rainy world outside the cabin. I think I'll go have a mug of tea.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weird stuff

It's really dark when I get to work now. Plus it was pissing rain this morning. I unlocked the boat, started the engines to head across the river. When I was about 50 yards out, the boat started twisting weirdly. I look up, and there's a BIG tree stuck on the low water line:

It probably drifted down sometime overnight and got wrapped up in the line. I crunched into it, stopped, backed up, crunched into it again, and repeated. The 2nd or 3rd time, I broke enough branches with the ferry that it broke free and drifted downstream. What a mess first thing in the morning. I remember the more experienced ferry operators mentioning that you really had to watch out for trees at the BV, but jeez man! That's intense. It was sort of freaky to deal with. I was worried about breaking the line, but really, I guess it's sturdier than I expected.

So I finally get the boat open and start setting up for my work week, unpacking my food and knitting, and reading the log book to see if anything interesting happened on my coworker's 3 days on the boat. And holy crap. There was an entry for yesterday that said basically, "Sherriff's office recovered a dead body approximately 70 yards downstream on the west side. 4:30 pm." Wait...WHAT? And yeah, that's what happened. There was an article in the Oregonian. Poor guy. Really sad. I guess he was a local. I didn't really talk to many of the local regulars today, but I'm going to ask someone who'll come by tomorrow morning if she knew the guy. I also feel bad for my coworker for probably seeing the guy drift past the boat. Turns my stomach.

Other than that, I guess, it was a pretty regular day. It rained almost all day. I really got to see how pokey and cold and wet it's going to be if I'm working this job all winter. I'm considering getting flannel lined jeans. I bought a fantastic fleece jacket this weekend. Still, it was wet, no way around it.

I've got a job interview on thursday for a local job in town that I really want. I'm well qualified, and know the department really well. Fingers crossed. I don't want to be working the ferry in the dead of winter.