Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Be Late!

Let's compare, shall we? A normal morning versus this morning.

On a normal morning, I wake up at 5:26, shower, dress, make a pot of coffee, drink a cup and eat a piece of toast. Pack up the rest of the coffee, plus lunch, and head out for work at 6:18. I get to the boat around 6:42, and take my time opening things up. Usually I'm across the river and unlocking that gate by 6:55.

Now, this morning:
Wake up at 6:30. Think the clock said 5:30, and don't realize it was later until I've got one foot in the shower (literally). Start the litany of "oh my god, oh my f*ck! OH MY GOD!" as I throw on whatever clothes are on the floor. Leave the house at 6:37, having thrown every knitting project on the couch, my iPad, and the fixings for one cup of coffee into my backpack. Drive like a bat out of hell and show up at the boat at 6:54. Run down the ramp, unlocking the gate and boat, and call dispatch at 6:58, to tell them I'm here. Race across the river and unlock the other gate at 7:05. Then try to breathe.

So here I am, actually on time. I had one cup of coffee thanks to the ingenious insulated mug/French press my mom got me that I hadn't used until now. Then I discovered that the boss had forgotten to take the coffee maker with him, and had left coffee, too. And while folgers really isn't the best part of waking up, it's coffee and now I've probably had too much. I had breakfast fixings on the boat, but nothing for lunch. So my sweet mom, who called me while I was driving down here (cause she's got ESP like that), said she'd bring me lunch and coffee. Awwwww.

So now I just look like crap. You might not know this about me--or want to know--but I've got really REALLY oily skin. Makes my hair oily too. In fact, one time, when we were camping--and you're supposed to be grungy--my loving sister commented that my hair was so greasy you could fry chicken in it! (and Sarah, I don't hold it against you, I think it's one of the funniest things I've ever heard, plus it's true.) So here I sit on the boat, over caffeinated, nothing for lunch, but grimy and sleepy and oily. Loooooooovely. I'm so glad it's Friday!

Oh, and yesterday morning? I found a roach in the toilet on the boat. *shudders*

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Case of the Sundays

So Sundays are my Mondays. The start of my four day work week. And because I've just had three days (four days this time, because of the holiday) off, it's usually my most disjointed day on the boat. More things go awry on Sunday than most any other day of the week, at least for me. Nothing horrible, just enough to make me sigh and look forward to Monday (my Tuesday).

I left my coffee cup at home. Not my thermos, which would, in fact, be the end of the world as we know it (and no, I wouldn't feel fine, thank you very much REM). But my coffee mug, which I not only drink my coffee out of, but any further hot drinks I may want. And it was a very wet and cool day, a few mugs of tea would have gone a long way.

I dressed like an idiot. I didn't think about the fact that "steady rain" was forecasted for the afternoon. I wore a long sleeved shirt and a hoodie. And the hoodie basically acted like a sponge to every single raindrop it came across. Thus the desire for hot tea.

The water levels had been super high, then steadily falling, since I last worked. We look at a chart of the water levels at Salem, and since I'd last worked, on Tuesday, water levels went up 5 feet, and then back down 2. The water levels make a big difference in how I land. The currents pull the boat different in different currents. Plus, we adjust where the low water line (that's the underwater cable) is tied to land, and also how loose or tight that line is. It's like driving a totally different boat. I feel like I spent all day yesterday figuring out the landings, and I still, a day later, don't feel like I've nailed them consistently. That drives me crazy. I'm trying to figure out what other things to adjust, or what to adjust more or less, so I can get back to consistent landings.

The grossest part about yesterday? sorry, it's a link not a pic, I'm on the boat and having a hard time uploading. But you shouldn't need to log into facebook to see it. It's a picture of a COCKROACH. ON THE BOAT. So far, I've only found one inside the cabin, but tons outside. I'm sure it's the garbage they're attracted to. The garbage situation here is wonky. We have a very small can in the cabin, and when that's full, we tie up the bag and put it into a much larger bag inside one of the storage areas. Eventually, when that larger bag is full, we get the boss to take it back to the shops and throw it away. Problem is, we don't create all that much garbage, so a bag full of bags of garbage--lots of food waste--is sitting on the boat, a delicacy for roaches. It seriously grosses me out that they like to hang out on the outside of the windows. So when I look up to look for cars, or to watch the landing, I'M LOOKING THROUGH ROACHES. They're not the huge urban roaches, but still, they're roaches. I don't want them at all, cause they're sneaky little buggers and I'm terrified of them hitching a ride home with me, then I'll have roaches in my house!

Since I started writing this blog post this morning, I've gotten my landing mojo back on the east side, still working on the west. And the boss came down, took the garbage, and gave me a thing of nasty chemicals to spray everywhere. He gets it. Its gross. He said he's considering getting a dumpster up on shore, which would be so awesome. We could take the garbage out daily and have it off the boat altogether.

It wasn't an awful day yesterday, just a case of the Sundays.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Slow Week in Ferryland

At the end of every day, we mark the total number of vehicles on a list, which is then totaled and averaged at the end of the month. Patterns pretty quickly emerge: Monday and Tuesday are the slowest days of the week, no matter if it's summer or fall. Traffic starts to pick up Wednesday, with Friday and Saturday being the busiest. In the fall, when the Beavers or Ducks have home games, Saturday traffic can be hectic.

The other pattern that is emerging is simple: bad weather means fewer cars. This week, especially Tuesday, the weather was foul. Huge winds, gusting around 45 miles per hour. Massive rain. If I needed to get from point A to point B, I would opt for dry land rather than the ferry. It's not a problem with the boat, I'll get you across the river no matter the weather, I think it just scares people off.

That being said, on Monday and Tuesday both, I had 28 cars. 28. That's 2.3 cars per hour. It's dreadful. Numbers have been steadily falling since early October. October 1 was when the ferry used to close for the year (though someone else said it was the 31st. not sure), so some people still assume we're closed. Plus, the farmers aren't going back and forth as much. It used to be, I'd get a whole host of regulars, farming people, who'd live on one side and work on the other, on pumpkin farms, wheat fields, blueberry farms. Plus, their machinery would need to be moved back and forth.

Now, it's just a small handful of regulars plus the people who get lost following their GPS. Last week, I had 34 and 31 cars. I thought that was pretty bad. I think 28 is a record. Of course, it was a holiday week plus terrible weather, but still. I think this is the norm for now.

The regulars keep asking if the hours are going to change for the winter. I wish I knew. I've heard so many rumors, reduced hours, closed certain days of the week, closed for the winter, that I just don't know what to believe. I thin it's all under consideration. But bureaucracy moves at a snail's pace. If I made the decisions, I would most likely keep the ferry open 5 days a week, (wednesday through sunday), and reduce the hours to 8 or 10 hours a day. that way you could have one operator do the whole thing, the other operator would work in the shop or something. But honestly, while that sounds good for the boat, it wouldn't be good for me. Either I'd work an insanely long week with only two days off, those days being both weekdays, or even worse, I'd be in the shops. Which ohdeargod I don't want.

I'm nervous about what's going to happen. I don't want to be stuck in the shop for any longer than I have to. My boss likes me, and he likes having me around, and I know he does what he can to keep me happy. So I'm sure he's got a list somewhere of computer related things he can have me do. The toll taker on the WL has a list of stuff she and I can do when both ferries close for high water, things that keep us inside and as clean as possible. Otherwise, in cold wet February weather, we'd be out on the ferries, painting, greasing things, repairing parts. No fun.

This being Thanksgiving eve, I will say that I am more thankful than words can express that I have a job, especially such a well paid one. The other evening, I was sitting in the cabin, watching a movie on my ipad, knitting and drinking tea, and I just started chuckling at the absurdity. I get paid an awful lot of money to sit on a boat and do what I'd do at home for free.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Closed for the day

Last Wednesday, we closed the boat for the whole day. There were enough repairs that needed doing, plus we had welders coming down from Portland, and several projects that needed the boat to stop running anyway, so we did it all at once.

Tuesday evening, the boss told me to walk "all the way" up the hill to flip the sign. Throughout the area, on all the roads that lead to the ferry, there are road signs that tell the hours of the ferry, and at the bottom is a panel that says OPEN, unless it's unlocked and flipped down, in which case it says CLOSED. When the ferry closes for something major (like when the baloney snapped off), it can take several hours to get around to both sides of the ferry, up and down lots of back country roads to flip all 8 signs. There is one sign on either side of the ferry that's very nearby. The boss asked me to flip those Tuesday night. So at 7, when I close the boat, I walk up the hill like I'm going to lock the gate. Walk past the gate, and just keep going. I just looked on a map, and it was less than a quarter mile, but it was basically straight uphill. And I was pretty dumb, and didn't take a flashlight, though I think I vaguely recall the boss telling me to take one. Once I got past the single streetlight down by the boat, it was dark. Dark dark. Dark like when you go camping and you step outside the ring of light from the fire. I can vaguely see the sides of the road, and as I'm walking up the hill, I'm wondering if I'll even see the sign! I do catch sight of it, sort of, and veer towards it. And suddenly I stop. Is the sign in a ditch? It's off the pavement, is it rocks? Does it slope? In other words, am I going to fall flat on my face in pitch black darkness? I think it took me 30 seconds to go about 4 feet. And of course it was flat, no slope, gravel. Couldn't find the right key, cursed loudly, then FINALLY got it all to work and slowly trudged my way down to the boat. The sign on the other side of the river was easy, of course. I drove my car up to it as I left, jumped out, flipped it, and went home.

The boss said to show up at the regular time Wednesday morning, even though the work crews wouldn't be there until at least 8. Ummm, ok. So I showed up at 7 and sat around drinking my coffee for an hour. By that point, I realized I had a pretty nasty cold. I knew that I'd spend most of the day standing around. I don't know how to weld. I can't climb the tower. If they say, turn the right turnbuckle counterclockwise 3 times, I can do that, but I need things spelled out. The plan for me for the day was to "help out," then drive up to the WL ferry and operate that for a few hours, while the operator went to a county training class.

When the boss got to the boat, he told me that the WL operator took the class the day before, and I didn't need to go operate. I was relieved. I haven't operated the WL in months. I'm sure I'd figure it out, but it'd be busy, it navigates very differently, I had a cold, I didn't want to deal. So I didn't have to.

By 10:30, I feel like I'd stood around and inhaled everyone's cigarette smoke, and not done much else. Finally  I told the boss I was heading home. I felt bad. I didn't want everyone to think I was a wimp. I'm sure the guys did anyway. I told the boss that if it was a regular day, I'd have no problem sitting in the cabin and hauling a few cars. But the outside stuff, knowing a huge rain and windstorm was heading our way, yeah, not going to happen.

I'm so glad I left. I looked back on the cctv footage, and in heavy wind and rain, they were still working past 9:30 that night. I'm so glad I wimped out and left!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What a ferry captain brings to work

I bring a pretty full backpack to work every day, plus a large grocery sack full of food on my Mondays. I've seen the backpacks and coolers my coworkers bring, so I know I'm not along in packing the kitchen sink. Cause if you run out of something, it's not like you can take a break and run to the store. So I thought I'd go though my backpack and food bag and show you what I've got.

I have a backpack with about 20 different pockets and pouches. It's actually nice, everything is separated and pretty organized.

In the back pocket, I've got my wallet, iPad, a book, and sometimes a spare knitting project.

2nd pocket has all of my personal stuff. The bottom of that pocket is riddled with things like a pack of Kleenex, ibuprofen, supplies for that time of the month, a makeup bag with nail clippers, tweezers (the light is really good here for eyebrow grooming), dental floss, and band aids. Hand cream, a nail file. Another knitting project or two, and my warm weather gear, which usually consists of a hat, shawl, fingerless gloves and leather gloves. Oh, and hair clips, and a hairbrush. I'm probably forgetting a few things. That's the main pocket.

The front pocket is for the work funky stuff. I have a bandana and two pairs of work gloves there. I'll also shove my reflective vest in there at the end of the week. If stuff gets grimy in that pocket, it won't grime up and infect the rest of my stuff.

Theres a small pouch in the back for my iPod, cell charger, headphones and any other miscellaneous electronics.

The small pouch in front holds two important things: my coast guard license and my chap stick.

Attached to the two clips on front are hair ties, and I usually put my coffee thermos in the front outer pocket. Which, if the pocket isn't tightened down enough, the thermos can fall out if I lean too far forward. Which is how I learned that a thermos can float, and that it's worth a wet foot for good coffee.

Thats the backpack. I also carry a canvas grocery bag to work on Sunday, the start of my week, with my food for the week. While I pack lunches and breakfasts, the bottom of the bag is lined with drinks and snacks. So this week, I've got a dozen breakfast burritos, and risotto and soup for my lunches. The bag also has a few apples, packs of almonds, dried fruit, various chocolate things, tea, sugar for tea, those Starbucks instant coffee things, my water bottle, a bowl, coffee cup, silverware. Half and half for the tea and coffee, and one pop per work day. Food variety helps, and knowing I can reach into the bag and find a thing of popcorn to microwave one day and some chocolate covered pretzels the next is nice. Cause down here, where it's all monotonous, food monotony sucks even more.

I don't know what my coworkers eat. I've seen things of cup o noodle in the garbage, I can't imagine eating that stuff in general. Lol. And it certainly wouldn't keep me full or interested for 12 hours!

Sorry I didn't post for so long. I was training all last week as well, a nice guy, easy to get along with. Last week I also had the slowest day I've ever worked: 34 cars. That's less than 3 cars an hour. So far today, it seems like about the same. Ugh.

On Wednesday, the boat will be closed all day. There are a lot of things to repair, so we've got several crews and we're hoping to get it all done. I'm supposed to stay until the bitter end, which sounds crappy, since there's enough stuff to potentially keep us here longer than 12 hours. We'll see. Part of me wants to chicken out and call in sick.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

When Darkness Falls

Daylight Savings started (ended? I can never keep track. Can we just say "happened"?) last night. It was super nice driving to work just before the sun was rising, it was so nice to be able to see where I was going on the back roads. In the summer, I really liked watching what was going on in the fields in the morning and evening, what had been plowed or harvested, how the wheat or corn was growing. For the past month, I was driving to work in the dark, and driving home in the dark. So it was a nice change this morning, to be able to see things.

However. The darkness this evening somehow seemed even darker. I had the boat lights turned on by 4:30, and it was dark dark by about 5. In addition to the darkness, or maybe because of it, traffic was incredibly slow. Between 4 and 7, when I closed, I got 4 cars. The darkness, while I sat there in the cabin, blasting music, knitting, playing on my ipad, felt like it was starting to take over. My imagination ran away with me and it just started feeling flat out creepy out there. It's funny, if I could turn the lights all off on the boat, I could see the stars, see the faint lights from Salem lighting up the outline of the trees. But with the lights on, the boat is lit up like a night game at a baseball field. Everything is bright within the circle of light, and pitch black outside it.


So last week, I got an Ipad. And I'm so so so SOOOOO happy I did. I can connect with my friends online, which makes me feel a lot less alone out there. I can check my email and type a full email a lot easier than on my phone. I've got games, access to the library to borrow ebooks, music, basically everything. I had no idea I'd be quite this happy with a little piece of technology, but holy cow, I really am.

Last week was also a training week, and so is this week. Last week, I spent a few days with M, a young guy, very sarcastic, he was decent to hang out with at least. This week, I get R. I'll be working with him all day tomorrow and a handful of hours on tuesday. R is older. From his photo, he appears to be in his late 40s or early 50s. Don't know anything about him. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but of course I'm apprehensive. It's a tiny space to be stuck with someone else in. Even if it was my mom or sister, I'd still go crazy being stuck in the cabin with them for 8 hours.

Today, something broke on the boat. It's hard to describe, but basically, on the concrete ramp heading down to the boat, a 1/2 inch steel strip got caught up in the boat, and was sticking up, making landings really weird, and could potentially either rip up the bottom of the boat or catch and tangle the low water line. I called the boss, basically to tell him what was going on and to say that he should hopefully have a plan so we could deal with this tomorrow morning. To my surprise, he drove down to the boat about an hour later. He had a grinder, and ground the steel to cut it off, getting rid of the problem. It was nice of him to come, and when I thanked him, expressing my surprise, he said he came down cause it was me. Which meant that, since I so rarely call him with problems--I don't call him to complain about the little stuff, and according to him, that's rare--he didn't mind coming down to help me when there was a slightly larger problem. I think the boss plays favorites and I'm his favorite, but I don't mind, at all. It makes my life easier.

No, I haven't heard from the city about the job. I did get an email from them, a "we're still working on it, you're not out of the running, we'll let you know" email. It's frustrating. I am going to put together a friendly email to send to the boss, to remind him of how much I want the job. We'll see.

This ended up a very random post. Maybe it's the wine. or the fat cat stretched across my arms right now. I think I need to get in bed soon.