Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Work News

With all the tour boats in service now that the tourist season is upon us, my working hours returned to a more reasonable level for a few weeks.  With the decrease in "panic mode projects" around the shop I've had the opportunity to participate in some interesting side projects.  Possibly one of the more interesting came recently, when the company was contracted to transport building materials to a remote site for a crew building a new Forest Service cabin.  Among our fleet of unusual boats we have a World War 2 era 140 foot landing craft, M/V Glacier, which turns out to be the perfect vessel for delivering a large load of lumber and concrete.
The trip started by running the boat to the other end of town where we have a yard used for winter storage of our boats, along with a gently sloping gravel beach that is perfect for using a landing craft.  We pulled the boat to the beach, dropped the front ramp, and proceeded to load the supplies on board with a couple heavy duty forklifts.  Once we were loaded, we pulled away and headed north, through Olga and Neva straits, across Salisbury Sound and into Sergius narrows.  Olga and Neva straits are narrow waterways, and Salisbury Sound is open to the Pacific Ocean and can get pretty nasty in bad weather, but all went well until we got to Sergius Narrows.  This stretch of water is full of rocks with only a narrow channel that is clear for navigation, and has high tidal currents making it important to transit at or near slack tide.  Turns out we weren't even close to slack tide, but being on a schedule we pushed on, at one point slowing to just over 1 mph.  The Glacier has a couple of big Detroit Diesel engines for propulsion, so we just chugged along until we got clear of the heavy currents in the narrows.  Once we were beyond the narrow channel I got a chance to drive and found it was actually a bit dull, sitting in a big chair steering with a jog lever that resembles a video game joystick.  The rest of the trip was spent enjoying the beautiful scenery in Peril Strait.  When we arrived at Hanus Bay to anchor for the evening, we found the anchor would not drop in the water, but after some creative engineering and a lot of pounding with heavy hand tools we fixed the problem and settled in.
The next morning the real fun began.  The site crew had arrived by float plane the night before and were stationed at Lake Eva where they would build the dock and cabin.  They informed us the helicopter was on its way.  Yep, all the supplies were getting offloaded and transported to the lake by helicopter.  For the rest of the day we took turns on deck hooking the various loads to the cable on the helicopter and then waiting as it flew up to the lake, dropped off the supplies, and returned for the next load.  The process took a bit longer then expected, turns out the loads were right at the limit of the helicopters lifting ability, so the pilot had to run with half fuel or less to make sure he could get off the deck, and that meant a lot more refueling breaks than we expected.  After the last of the supplies were lifted off, the final excitement of the day came when I took the Zodiac in to shore to drop off the work crew that had made the trip out with us.  Just after I dropped them on the shore, I turned to head back to the Glacier and the outboard motor died.  With a dead motor and only one oar, it was looking like a long trip back out to the boat, and the weather took this moment as it's cue to change from cloudy and misting to heavy rain and wind blowing me back towards shore.  Luckily, as I was paddling away from shore, the crew on the boat was pulling the anchor, and once they saw my dilemma they motored in to meet me and shortened my futile attempt at self-propulsion.  The rest of the trip home was uneventful, but I did get to drive again for a bit to break up the boredom.
Next week I get to take a float plane trip to one of the companies remote lodge locations, so hopefully I'll have some good stories and photos to share.

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