In 2014 I retired as a nature tour guide and boat captain, after 24 years showing people from all over the world the wonders of Prince William Sound. Before that, I enjoyed an even longer career as an oceanographer and wildlife biologist, working on projects as diverse as plankton ecology and fur seal food habits. It may seem odd that someone with such interesting work would end it early at age 51 to start an uncertain career, but that’s exactly what happened. Finally selling the tour business (Sound Eco Adventures) after the 2013 season was a big life change. Being “retired” still seems strange.
With this blog, I aim to share many of the stories and adventures from those amazing years on the Sound. Continue reading
Early in the month during a tour, all electronics on the boat suddenly shut down. This happened maybe twice over a period of days, but I was so busy running tours and recovering from same that I didn’t take the time to investigate the cause. After all, by just switching the dash switches on and off a few times everything restarted OK.
However, on the following Wednesday morning as I was getting ready to untie the boat from my slip in the harbor with six clients aboard for a 10-hour whale watching tour, the electronics suddenly shut down a third time. I briefly considered running the tour without the electronics, but immediately passed on that foolish thought.
Looking under the steering side dash where all the wiring is located (where a flashlight was needed, even in broad daylight), I discovered that one of the ground wires had been laying across the hot (positive) main terminal from the batteries and its insulation had worn through, causing power to go through the ground wire and had melted off its insulation. The hot ground wire had then melted through positive wires to the electonics, causing shorts in several places.
I informed my passengers that I had to run a new ground wire and at least cover the bare spots in the positive electronics wires with electrical tape. They all understood, and to my relief, none of them became upset. I worked steadily on the wiring for about an hour, and to my prayerful thanks and relief, everything worked properly and we were on our way with but an hour delay.
Thank you Lord for helping me stay calm and focused and for all three of my couples’ mellow acceptance of this snag in their vacation.
Electric Boat Gremlins of July
‘Skeeters are downright scary
When they flock in angry swarms,
But here in Alaska,
that’s just the normal norms.
‘Skeeters, those pesky little bugs,
Will drive a person batty
As they buzz like flying thugs.
These bugs are downright evil
When they aim for your nose;
Sure to rile your senses
Upending ones sweet repose.
‘Skeeters, those wee flying beasts,
It’s our very own blood
That they want to eats,
Leaving itching freckles
Upon our skins
Sure proof of
Their awful eating sins.
If only we are patient
Until fall draws near,
Putting an end to
Our buggy insect fear.
Then ‘skeeters will have gone
To their winter insect graves
And our itching will have stopped,
Our peace of mind well saved.
Spring’s a-comin’ to Alaska,
Or so we’ve been told.
But I don’t know folks,
It still seems a bit cold.
“It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks,“ or so-claims an old saying. And then there’s its even-more fatalistic alternative, “You CAN’T teach an old dog new tricks.” I’ll bet there are other old dogs like me around who DO learn new tricks from time to time. Like the one I discovered last fall while hunkered down, doing my part to lessen the chance of catching Covid-19, or passing it on to others if I unknowingly carried it myself.
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Steller’s Sea Lions (Eumatopias jubatus) are commonly seen in Prince William Sound and are often an objective of sightseeing tours. Tour boats out of Valdez have visited the sea lion haulout at Glacier Island’s Bull Head for many years. Besides that well-known haulout, sea lions can also be found scattered throughout the Sound at less well known locations.
Here is where I’ve seen Steller’s sea lions hauled out in Prince William Sound over the years. Beginning with Esther Rock off the south end of Esther Island, the haulouts are listed as they occur traveling in a clockwise direction.
Being “saved” is the foundation of being a Christian. Essentially, it involves honestly comparing my thoughts and behavior with God’s criteria for how we humans are supposed to live our lives, as described in the Bible. Most people who think of themselves as Christians will admit that they fall short, but then point to a time when they first started believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To put it personally, I admit I don’t consistently do God’s perfect will in my life. Far from it. I then decide to be open to the possibility of needing to change my behavior in some way ( i.e., to repent), and ask for and accept God’s help in doing so. Meanwhile, in my journey through life, I accept God’s ongoing forgiveness for not measuring up perfectly as my life progresses.
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So here I sit, all hunkered down,
My brow all knit into a frown.
I spy the calendar upon my wall.
I blink out loud and nearly fall.
Good Lord, I think, how can it be?
September’s here, and we’re still not free?
The 2000 season was a major turning point that finally brought these recurring rattle problems to a head. I had discovered a hairline crack in the transom (the stern end of the boat) the prior summer, and had closed it off with marine sealant. The crack was just beneath the bottom of the outboard support pod, but I had not considered the possibility that the crack might extend past the bottom of the pod, from where it could allow any water inside the pod to drain into the boat’s bilge.
Foreword: Today’s blog is a fun diversion into fiction — the result of the latest assignment to the Kenai Senior Center writers’ group. Our prompt was, “The phone rang. A glance at the clock showed 2:37. Your assignment: establish time, place, main character and beginning plot.”
Riiiiing! . . . . Riinngg! . . . . Riinngg! . . . . .
Governor Mike Dunleavy slowly rolled over in his bed in the Governor’s Mansion in Juneau, Alaska. His bleary-eyed glance at the bedside clock showed it was 2:37 AM. Alaska’s tall Governor, the tallest in the nation, had just returned from a visit to Washington, DC the day before, where his meeting with President Donald Trump had made national headlines.
Things rarely happen in Alaska that require phoning the Guv in the middle of the night, so he was both curious and annoyed. “What’s important enough to wake me at this unholy hour?” the Governor mumbled to himself as he picked up the phone. “Hello . . . Governor Mike Dunleavy here.”
“Hello, Mike – and this is President Trump. Sorry to bother you at this terrible hour, but something has been bugging me ever since our tremendous meeting and I’ve got to get it off my chest.”
An inescapable part of life is that sometimes things don’t happen as planned. Using knowledge and experience, one may plan for the future, but sooner or later unexpected twists will thwart those plans. Such was the case that began in early August 1995, when I signed the contract with a small Alaskan boat-building company.
Thomas (not his real name) got his start building aluminum boats with Grayling Marine, a longtime Anchorage boat builder, but had been on his own for a couple of years. I saw his boats on the Sound and liked their clean, functional lines. I visited the Anchorage boat show that spring, and I was glad to see that Thomas was there with one of his boats. I talked to him about my dream of upgrading to a bigger boat from the four-passenger Lavro Sea Dory I was using. When I mentioned that the boat needed to be beachable and wheelchair-accessible, his eyes lit up with interest. The clincher for me that Thomas was to build Sound Eco Adventures’ (business name) new boat was that its cost would be quite a bit less than the figure Grayling Marine had quoted me.