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Welcome to Geezerly Musings!

I recently 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 fascinating 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

My Guardian Angel Al – Part 1

I have a guardian angel I named Al.   I haven’t always been aware of Al, but he has definitely been there for me when I needed him the most. The name comes from my middle name “Albert,” after my Uncle Al, my Mom’s number two brother. I believe that Al has always been with me, but it was only after experiencing close calls while boating in big seas in Prince William Sound that I became more aware of him. With my being an adventurous sort, there have no doubt been times from childhood on when Al intervened on my behalf that I was totally unaware of. However, there were also times when I miraculously evaded calamity that I remember all too well.

The earliest such time was when I was 13, when my Los Angeles Boy Scout troop visited nearby beaches to play in the surf.  It was only years after one such time that I realized that I had probably narrowly escaped drowning. When we arrived at the beach, the surf was a bit rough, but still manageable. Then, not long after we entered the water, a rip current developed — a strong current caused by successive waves piling up more water on the beach than can be drained completely after each wave. The result is a narrow current that flows away from shore and toward the breaking waves.

The scout leader called everyone out of the water, but I was near the rear of the group, struggling to wade shoreward through the thigh-deep water. I had been body surfing LA beaches long enough by then to know how to dive beneath approaching waves to avoid getting tumbled around when the wave broke. However, the rip current complicated things, and I was unable to make enough progress to escape the next wave. As that wave tumbled me about, all I could do is keep my eyes closed and hold my breath until the water calmed enough for me to surface and gulp in more air. I finally found my footing and again struggled shoreward against the receding current. But I was weaker and still fighting to catch my breath when the very next wave again caught me. As I was again being tumbled around like a rag doll, I wondered if I had enough air and strength left to finally make it ashore. The thought that I might be in danger of drowning never occurred to me as much as I just knew I had to keep fighting to reach shore.

When I finally found my footing again I could barely stand, let alone walk. But somehow, by the Grace of God, I was now in calmer water and I was able to slowly make it up the beach to where my Scout friends were recovering on their beach towels. I don’t recall much being said by anyone, and the Scout leaders soon loaded us into their cars and took us home.

Jump ahead a few years to when I was a junior in high school, and my next-door neighbor Roy and I often rode our motor scooters to school. One morning we had left together and were waiting on our scooters at a busy intersection for a stop signal to change to “go.”  As soon as the signal changed, I twisted the scooter’s throttle, but Roy immediately shouted “GERRY!”  I released the throttle as the blur of a car that had run the stoplight sped by a couple feet in front of me. Had I not heeded Roy’s warning yell, that signal-runner may have ended my life right then and there. Another time on my scooter, Al arranged for there to not be any vehicles crossing the intersection through which I had blown right past the stop sign, not even noticing there was a stop sign at all until I was halfway through the intersection.

Then there were a couple times as a young adult when Al was there for me. I lived for a spell in the north San Diego suburb of Del Mar, and one time was when I was driving to town on a winding, two-lane canyon road.  I had driven that road many times, but I was late getting to a meeting and was driving too fast. When rounding a sweeping right curve, my car skidded sideways across the oncoming lane and onto the dirt shoulder on the opposite side of the road. My car was enveloped in a cloud of gravel and dust as it tilted up and nearly rolled. Fortunately, no other vehicles were coming from either direction, and I escaped with no more than jangled nerves, and my car a bent axle.

Then several years later in Seattle, after I had been riding motorcycles a couple years, Al was there for me again. My bike skidded out from under me while rounding a freeway off-ramp at 45 miles-an-hour. It was raining, the first rain we’d had in several days and the roads were slick.  Thankfully, Al had arranged for no other vehicles to be behind me when I went down.  I was wearing a heavy-duty riding suit, which along with the slippery pavement, allowed me to slide to a stop as I watched my motorcycle slide down the road ahead of me.  It happened so fast — in an instant I went from sitting upright on the bike to sitting on the off-ramp pavement, sliding along on my butt at forty-five.  By the grace of God, I escaped with no more than bad bruises and my bike scratched up badly on one side. I sold the motorcycle soon after that, and I haven’t looked back since.

I hope to soon post Part 2 of Al’s exploits on behalf of my charter boat passengers and I while boating on Prince William Sound.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

 

A Dinty Moore Thanksgiving

Part of my adventurous second career operating a water taxi and tour business in Prince William Sound was running deer hunter transport charters out of Whittier in the fall.  With challenging, potentially-dangerous fall weather always a threat, no two trips were alike.  “Weather rules in Alaska,” as the saying goes, and hunters had to accept the possibility of being weathered in or weathered out.  The shorter daylight hours of fall often complicated things as well. More often than not, this forced unplanned changes to the schedule.  Most of my hunter clients were weather-savvy Alaskans, so that was rarely a problem.  Thanksgiving weekend in 1997 proved to be a “good” example of how that scenario can play out. Continue reading

A Calling Evolves

As I have grown older, I have become increasingly aware that my interest in nature is a big part of who I am. At age 81, I’m inspired to continue writing, including finishing projects that I planned for and started years ago, culminating for now with this blog. A big advantage in writing at this age is that I’ve been able to slow down enough to get a clearer view of how the different events and phases of my life have played out. It’s easier to see how they all reinforced and rounded out who I am now. Continue reading

A Paradise Lake Log

It was just over 22 years ago that I house- and critter-sat for my daughter Christine and hubby Jim Crossen at their homestead in the Alaska bush. I had volunteered to take care of their place while Chris and Jim were away on a needed break.  Their place was located on a small lake a half-hour by float plane west of the Parks Highway near Willow. In winter, oversized skis replace the plane’s floats.  This was to be the longest I had ever been alone, away from civilization — 16 days. It turned out to be a very relaxing time that I spent writing and exploring near their cabin. I also split firewood daily, kept their wood stove stoked, and kept their three dogs and assorted chickens, ducks and goats fed and watered.  Here’s my original log, with minor edits for readability. Continue reading

Do Your Sphincters Leak?

As one who has sometimes been plagued with taking myself too seriously, I’ve discovered upon growing older that it helps to laugh at myself and my circumstances whenever possible. One of the things that we “seniors” have to deal with is that our bodies’ various functions start acting up. Things that we’ve taken for granted all of our lives and haven’t even had to give much thought to, now start demanding our frequent attention.

When I started “leaking” a few years ago, first my reaction was nearly always swearing and fretting. Then at some point, I realized things weren’t likely to improve and fretting was just souring my disposition. I began experimenting with words and phrases that tried to make light of the situation. These somehow eventually evolved into the “poem” below. When the occasion demands, I still quote these lines to myself (out loud!), and invariably, the cursing stops and the smiles start.

I’ll end this intro with a gentle warning that, if you are offended by mild bathroom humor, stop reading here.

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The Last Leap

Here’s another breaching whale to pique your curiosity — and to hint at more to come. But this one is special, because it’s the very last breaching whale shot I captured on a Sound Eco Adventures trip, on August 28, 2013. The boat and business were sold the following April.

I had been especially looking forward to this wildlife photography trip, which had been booked the prior January by two couples from Sweden. Continue reading