Sunday, August 26, 2012

In The Middle of The Night

I overslept this morning. I woke up at 5:44, not at 5:16, as I should have, since I need to leave for work at 6:15 at the latest. I woke with a start, not to the sound of my alarm. I'm not sure what woke me up, the cats, a train, but I seem to have woken up while standing, pounding at my alarms to turn them off, though there was no sound. I assumed I had turned them off (two on the alarm clock, one on my phone) in my sleep.

Disoriented, I grabbed my towel, glanced at the window to make sure it was still dark (dark is good if I'm running late, helps orient me to what time it is, compared to how light it is when I leave for work), and raced into the shower. I turned the radio on in the shower as I furiously shampooed my hair, and was a wee bit unnerved that the the BBC was still on NPR, it should have been playing Weekend Edition. Hmmm. I started thinking as I washed my face. It was dark out, but REALLY dark, not that predawn darkness. Is it really that dark in the mornings now?

Slowly, I started to put the pieces together. When I got out of the shower, I looked out the bathroom window to double check how dark it was. Super dark. No predawn birds singing. Nothing. I dried off quickly, and walked into my room with a feeling of dread. I looked at the clock. No, it wasn't 5:44. I had woken up, furiously late for work, at 12:44 in the morning. I ran a comb through my hair, climbed into bed, turned off the light, and was back asleep within a minute.

When I did wake up right on time at 5:16, my hair was absolutly insane. I loaded it up with hair stuff, hoping to tame it, so now I have slightly sticky helmet hair for the day. Plus it reminded me why I can't get away with showering at night. My hair is just too oily. The rest of my morning went quite well. I didn't need to shower, so I had plenty of time to pack my lunch, give my cat her pills, and wander aimlessly through the house, cracking up at myself.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Quite a day

Monday was an amazingly challenging day. Almost a comedy of errors.

A crew came down with a backhoe to dig out some rocks around the ramps. This is great, it'll mean that we can land the boat at higher river levels, and stay open longer when the water's rising. It was nice to have company. My boss came down soon after to talk to the crew about what he wanted and where. About 10 minutes before the boss came down, the low water line, the cable that runs underwater, snapped. I had landed a bit harder than usual, but nothing unusual. It was bizarre. I noticed it before I took off again, thank goodness, so I pulled the cable out of the fairleads, where it runs through rollers attached to the boat. From there on out, my landings were TERRIBLE! There was a north wind, plus the current at the east landing always pushes the boat north. The combination was awful. I'd come in for a landing, and as I'm slowing down and trying to feather the boat in, and the wind would shove the tail of the boat about 20 feet into the trees. At one point, I actually had to climb onto the top of the cabin to toss the tree limbs into the water. It was so stressful.

I was grateful that my boss showed up to help me with the situation. First he spent about a half hour with me helping me land, and while I was gnashing my teeth in frustration at the landings, he told me that he probably couldn't land much better than I already was, it was just a challenging day. That actually helped.

Finally he started fixing the cable. Since there wasn't a spare cable in the shops, pulled the cable out with the truck, and set up to re-string it. We were lucky that the cable snapped far up near the end. There was enough cable left to string it across the river and attach it to the other side. To string the cable, we let out every bit of spare line we had, so that the cable would make it across the river and also be loose, so we could attach it.

Before the cable is attached to the other side, we have it attached to the tow hitch of a pickup. The cable was too tight, so the boss had me make a trip across the river, as the cable loosened up quite a bit when I was in the middle of the river. I landed on the other side, let the cars off, and was ready to head back to the boss, when the boat wouldn't go. The downstream motor wouldn't work--at all. And it made a freaky noise. One of the guys on the backhoe crew came down to help, and the cable had gotten wrapped around the propeller. Ugh! If it's tangled bad, you have to unstring the cable and start all over. I handed the backhoe guy, Chuck, the pike pole (9 ft pole with a hook on the end), and he manually turned the prop, slowly releasing the cable. Great!

I headed back across the river, let off cars, picked up cars, while meantime, the boss had hooked the cable to the landing securely. When I landed back on the other side, with the intention of walking up the hill and tightening the cable, suddenly the cable got caught in the prop...again! I was so ticked off! It's a good 10-15 minute operation of frustration to get it untangled. We untangled the cable again, laying the cable across a catwalk so it would stay fully out of the water, and I went to get the boss.

He helped me tighten the cable up, so it wouldn't get tangled in the prop anymore (cause twice is more than enough for one day!), and took a break. I dipped my toes in the water, and downed a quart of water instantly. It was a very very hot day, and I'd been struggling with everything since about 10 am.

Finally, we head over to pick up the boss's truck, which is on the wrong side of the river. Just as I'm coming in to the landing, the cable, the same cable that's given me nothing but heartburn all day, slipped out of the very secure clamps that were holding it to the landing. I literally stomped my feet and yelled in frustration. So did the boss. It was 5:15, I was hot, tired, hungry and frustrated, and the cable needs to be restrung AGAIN. GRRRRRRRRR.

Luckily, we managed to reattach it, much tighter this time, without much extra stress. I sent the boss on his way home, and sat down for a break. And very luckily, about 5 minutes later, my parents pulled onto the boat, with a giant bag of deliciousness from Burgerville. I downed the blackberry lemonade in mere seconds. It was great, and exactly what I needed after a day like that.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Levity and Brevity

Life has been a bit challenging lately, lots of big things, so I felt like I could use a humorous post. Pretty frequently, something will happen on the boat, someone will come across, that's just odd or hilarious, or memorable. I often write up a quick line or two as a Facebook status update, or a tweet (follow me @CapnJennyB). These are all from the last two months: 

Just watched a woman take her dentures out, check them for cleanliness, and put them back in. Reminds me of my grandfather.

A barefoot man wearing nothing but overalls. And maybe 4 teeth.
And of course, the comments turned into all the reasons I was hot for him. SOOOOOO not true. I took a pic, but I think it's too mean to put someone's picture up like that, so I deleted it.

Just took a guy across the river super fast! He's a falconer and his juvenile falcon got free and is heading due west at a fast speed. He was sticking a radio antenna out the window to keep following the bird.
He never came back across, so I don't know if he got his bird.

Knitters!! A guy just came across with the bed of his truck full of bags of freshly shorn suri alpaca and he gave me like 3 lbs of it!! I guess the universe is telling me I need to learn to spin! :)
This sort of blew my mind. I don't think he really understood what he had. Suri alpaca is extremely soft, and the spun yarn is often really expensive. I haven't done anything with it yet, and I don't know if or when I will. It's full of dust, and needs a lot of work.

At some point I need to make a list of all the various tools, machines, and random crap I'm now comfortable operating. Grinders, machetes, weed whacker, outboard motor boat, ferry boat, pressure washer, etc. Some of them are handy. this morning I was using a fire axe.
The fire axe was to hack at the algae I mentioned in my previous post. Sometimes the machete just won't whack through it. The weight behind the fire ax can usually do the trick, it's just super hard to swing. And a bit scary.

In today's case of What The Hell Were They Thinking, two teens put their pool floaties in the river in Albany, intending to float to Salem. That's at least 30 river miles and their single oar looked like an oversized ping pong paddle. They took out at the ferry to call for their parents to rescue them.
When the parents showed up, you could hear them being yelled at for being so stupid. It took me 5 hours to kayak 12 river miles, and that wasn't in a pool floatie, which would slow you down even further. 

My last car of the day and the guy has an angry birds tattoo on his arm.
Just imagine, in 2 years, nobody will have any memory of what the hell angry birds was.

Today is made of stupid with a side of dumbassery.

Today of all days, why are the binoculars missing?? There's a naked guy swimming on the other side of the river! I just watched him strip down.
Evidently, he works for one of the farms near the ferry landing. They have a irrigation pump in the river, and occasionally, he'll have to get in the water and clear the intake. The previous operators were quite familiar with him.

Yesterday was the first time I've ever come home from work and thrown away my shirt and shorts.
I worked a 16 hour day trying to get the WL Ferry back in the water. I was covered in paint, grease, river water, grime, sweat, and who the heck knows what else. It was a very long day.

One tandem bike plus tag-along and heavy bags, the second bike with a trailer of stuff. Parents and their two young kids heading from portland to eugene to baker city. I'm amazingly impressed.
I'm still really impressed when I think about this family. Baker City is on the eastern edge of the state, over a huge chunk of mountains followed by scorching hot desert. 

Dumb idea: landing you canoe in the middle of the ramp (where I land the ferry). Absolutly fucking nuts idea: yelling at the ferry operator when I come across the river to get a car forcing you to move your precious boat. Assholes.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. There are signs stating "Ferry landing not for recreational use," but for the past 50 years, it had been ok to land boats there. Even so, I make a point of being really chill when I tell people to move, so I'm always extra pissed when they yell at me. Especially when they're drunk.

‎"how'd you get this job? It's a mans job." are you freaking kidding me?????
This guy pissed me off so much! He kept trying to talk to me, and he wasn't kidding at all. Finally I just turned and went into the cabin. 

A bike rider just paid me with a dollar bill that was tucked under his skin tight shorts. It was soaking wet. I almost gagged. He's also wearing a helmet that looks like a golf ball.
The dollar was tucked under the inner thigh end of his skin tight shorts. So it was ball sweat money. ick.

my life: running fingers through my hair, pulling out bits of seaweed.

Did the whole world take extra stupid pills today? Someone almost drove into the river at 30 mph. Dude, the road ENDS.
This happens with some frequency. Even though there are about 20 signs saying there's a ferry coming, people come roaring down the road not really looking, and stop with a screech just before the water's edge. It's pretty scary, actually.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Axes, Machetes and Weed Whackers, Oh My!

Every summer, a particular kind of algae (I don't know the name of it) blooms in the Willamette. I know that it's an invasive species, and that there's a heck of a lot of it. It forms these long hairlike tendrils, probably more than 3 feet long. It blooms, then floats downstream. As it floats downstream, a lot of it gets caught on the low water line--the cable that runs across the river underwater.

Because of that, the first trip across the river in the morning is a solid arobic workout. I've got it down to a science now, but the first few days after it started to get bad, it was a mess, and took almost a half hour to cross a river that should take 3 minutes! The good technique is to put the boat in motion, and walk out right away with the machete. As soon as the algae starts coming up where I can reach it, I start whacking at it. It builds up faster than I can whack, and pretty soon there's at least a foot thick ball of algae wrapped around the cable. It's wrapped so tight that it actually stops the boat. It's clogged up a channel where the cable runs through a fairlead so tightly, that even with both engines on full power, I'm stuck. I sit there, stuck, for a few minutes more, whacking like crazy at the giant ball of algae. Then I head into the cabin, back the boat up a bit, then go forward, hoping the momentum breaks the algae off the line. Some mornings, I have to go back and forth several times. A good day is when I can head slowly across, never having to back up. I've had one day like that. My best time is 8 minutes. 8 minutes to cross the river that should take 3 minutes.

When the algae first got bad, the boss didn't like the idea of us using the machetes. Maybe it was cause we're girls? I dunno. I kept telling him we just needed a sharpener, so we could whack through the algae with less force and a sharp blade. It was getting so bad that occasionally, I'd have to grab the fire ax. Seriously. I'd be standing out there on the edge of the boat, using a super heavy ax to whack at algae. I tell ya, my life is crazy.

Before bringing us a sharpener, the boss decided to try a weed whacker. It's a nice idea in theory. You could just stand there, not leaning over, in a much safer position and location, and just let the whacker cut away at the algae. Except the weed whacker took three times as long, and covered everything, including the user, with a thick layer of green algae fur. It just didn't do the job. Finally we got a sharpener and the machete usually works just fine. The other morning though, there was a small tree branch wrapped around the cable, as well as all the algae that had attached to the branch. I will admit, I used the ax for that one.

Once you've gotten across the river, you're not done, at least not for the whole day. Usually once or twice throughout the day, you've got to walk over to where that cable comes out of the water and attaches to the ramps. Right there is where all the rest of the algae that is caught up throughout the day gets shoved to. You've got to go whack it off, then drag all of the algae that's been cut back into the water. Cause drying and dried algae is a really disgusting smell. It smells like something rotting on the beach, and it's full of bugs galore.

So that's my story. Most mornings, even before 7 am, I've been swinging a machete for 10 or 15 minutes. Then later in the day, it's back to the machete and a pitchfork, to move the cut up algae around. But usually I wait until after I've had my coffee for that.