Sunday, May 3, 2009

First day of work! 5.3.09

Rene & Michael at Beaver Falls in Ketchikan

Okay already! I know I've been WAY behind writing an update. I will admit to being a tad bit lazy but more than that, I usually write while Michael is watching a movie or TV...but the laptop our TV & DVD now so I am getting less time on the machine. It may be time for a laptop special for me! I've been wanting to try a Mac laptop so we'll see... haha!! That's not entirely true. We have been so stinking busy the last couple weeks we just haven't had much down time. We have something going most days of the week - touring the area, memorizing totem pole stories, training on our material, hiking, geocaching, meetings. You name it!!

We spent two days training with 'Art', a hummer driver and local native last week. We also got to 'work' one day, driving the hummers for something called a 'Fam', which is a Familiarization tour for the Cruise lines. We picked up employees from Norwegian Cruise Lines, brought them to the 'barn' (where all of the Hummers and Ducks are stored), fed them breakfast while John the owner gave them information on the two tours, and then took them in the Hummers to their next destination. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had envisioned and we ended up talking about everything else instead of Ketchikan. Oh, I mentioned the 'Ducks' earlier. The owner of the Hummer tour also owns 4 amphibious vehicles and runs a Ketchikan Duck Tour that tours both the city and the harbor. On one of the cruise ship days we didn't work, we jumped onto a Duck Tour and had a great time.

Rene & Michael in the 'Duck' on the Ketchikan Duck Tour

They make it fun, as you can imagine, with lots of music, jokes, & even a whistle that makes a duck quack (that is my new favorite as Michael HATES it!). This is a photo from the harbor looking at the city, and one of the float planes!

The city of Ketchikan & floatplane

The city of Ketchikan and cruise ships from the Ketchikan Duck Tour

This past week we've been continuing our training. We setup a special training with a U.S. Forest Service employee who took us on a nature walk up at Ward lake. Leslie had brought a spotting scope and we spotted several birds - the American Robin, Varied Thrush, Canadian Geese, Loons, Warblers, Sparrows, Golden Crowned Kinglet, Red Breasted Sapsucker, Junko, & even a Bufflehead duck. It was very fun and though I've never been a 'birder', I was just as excited to see the birds as she was! By the end of the 2 1/2 hours, we could hear a bird song and could identify many of them. She also showed us berry bushes and how to identify each, Trees, Bushes, Ferns, Lichen, & Muskegs. It was very informative and we learned a ton. I can't wait until the berries are out! I hope to pick some and make my own Jam, a first for me and I've never had huckleberry or salmonberry jam! We had just enough time to run to our next training, at the Totem Bight State Park. There, Mary told us about the park, all of the totems & clan house. Whew! It was a great day and we learned a ton!

Rene coming through the door at the clan house at Totem Bight State Park

We've also been eating at a different restaurant each day until we've tried each of them. There are about 28 of them and I think we're down to about 10 left. We've found some good, some bad, and some awful. We haven't found that exceptional one yet...but we're still looking!

We have also moved into our permanent digs, leaving behind the nice, comfy apartment and moving into the boat.

F/V Rebel in Ketchikan - Home!

The F/V Rebel is a commercial diving boat that works the winters. Yes, the winters! They dive for Sea Cucumbers & a clam called 'Geoduck' (it's pronounced goey-duck). The boat had been in the yard for the two weeks prior and was splashed on Tuesday. The employee who is staying at the apartment was coming in on Wednesday so we had to be OUT! haha... So on Tuesday we spent the entire day scrubbing, vacuuming, & cleaning the boat to move in. We met John at the boat in the morning and he had pulled everything out from inside and was laughing as he had found 9 sleeping bags! The boat had been out of the water for approx 2 months and John was fixing those little things that went wrong once it went back in the water, specifically, the water pump! Once the new water pump was installed, he had to replace several busted pipes from the freezing weather. By midday, we had water flowing! The living quarters are small but do-able. When you enter the cabin, the head (toilet) and shower is on your left. The shower is right above the toilet so it gets a thorough cleaning when you shower! This is a typical setup for shower facilities on a boat though ours on Ahea Kali is a bit different. There is a table/dinete on the right and the nav station is just in front of that. We have jury-rigged some dowels into a hanging area to hang up our work clothes. The galley has a diesel stove that is rumored to take about 2 hours to heat up so we are using a two burner hotplate instead. Then we sleep downstairs in the V berth. Michael sleeps on one side of the boat, I sleep on the other and all of our clothes are in the bottom bunks. We have two portable heaters going most of the time and they keep the boat nice & warm. There are 7 large windows in the living area which keep the place nice & bright. The sun sets here around 9pm so the light is welcome. In fact, I think I'll be bummed when we go back 'home' where the sun sets earlier! I'm getting used to the extra sunlight and love it!

It has been so nice the past two weeks! Everyone said how much Ketchikan has only rained 5 days since we arrived. The locals are complaining it's 'hot'!! I wouldn't go that far. Temps have been in the upper 60's and the sunshine blazing. I brought only long sleeved shirts for work and am regretting it so far.

Yesterday was our first day of work! We didn't have a tour booked so we got to go down to the docks and try to sell a tour. Michael worked at the Ketchikan Visitor's Bureau and I worked around the corner at the 'Quack Shack' where they sell tickets for the Duck Tour. Michael ended up with a 2 hour tour with some folks from Seattle and he had a blast. I didn't do as well and just answered lots of questions. Mostly it was where the Post Office was, the drugstore, a place to buy Alaskan beer. My favorite question by far though was "What is the name of the river we are on?" It took me a minute to understand his question and finally answered with a straight face...."It's not a river, it's the Pacific Ocean". Duh! hahaha...

There are 5 Hummers, all different colors - white, yellow, red, silver, & a pretty pastel blue. Michael is driving the white one

Michael and his white Hummer

and I got yellow - woohoo!

Rene's yellow hummer!

Now Yellow is the owner's wife's winter vehicle so I have to be careful with it! The drivers are very teritorial over their color and on our 'Fam' day, I drove someone else's and they caught me! haha... Oh well...

We have had 4 cruise ships in so far, on 3 separate days. Next week is another slower week with only 5 ships coming in on 3 days but the week after that the craziness begins! On the week of the 10th there are 19 ships and from then on until the week of Sept 20th there are no less than 20 ships a week, most of those weeks the count is greater than 25!!

The town had an Art Walk last Friday called the 'Celebration of the Sea' that was fantastic. There were 18 galleries open with the actual artists at most of them. It appeared as the entire town had come out for the event as the town was hopping with activity. Each of the galleries were packed with people as the refreshments & wine were enjoyed. And the art was absolutely spectacular. We ended the evening at the Ketchikan Coffee Company for open mic night and checked out the local musicians.

OH! How can I forget to tell you about the EAGLES!

Bald Eagle leaving his perch

There are so many bald eagles around and they are just spectacular to watch. The other day as we were leaving the dock, we noticed several all around us. One, two....wait, 5, 9 Holy Cow! There were 14 that were feeding on the bank of the marina, only about 100ft from us! It was incredible.

Bald Eagles on the bank feeding - 8 of them!

We were supposed to go to the Lumberjack show that day and I had purposefully brought a 2nd camera battery and was glad I did as I exhausted one battery before I was done! haha... It was very cool though. We have gotten very good at identifying them and I'm still in awe every time I see them. They are just so beautiful.

After working on Saturday, we still had several hours of daylight so we went to find a couple of the 18 geocaches in the area and stumbled on a magnificent hike near one of the schools. It was a wonderful hike that zig zagged through muskeg, up onto the top of the hill into the Cedar & Hemlock trees, then down to a fabulous smooth rocked beach with cool tide pools. There were only 2 other families on the entire beach and it was a spectacular day! I braved the cold water and rinsed off my feet & hands from the mud (it was an incredibly muddy hike and I was the bright one who wore my Crocs) and it was FREEZING cold! I was only able to get up to my ankles and was sure they were numb from the cold after only a minute. But I felt like such a baby when one of the little girls jumped in with only her swimming suit on! They must have thicker skin here... haha!!

We're scheduled to work 3 days this week and have a day of training in between. I will update as soon as I can! Thanks for your patience...



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