Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guns, Money and Drugs

As a yacht agent the requests that come in are quite varied. The requests usually come in via email, some times by phone or in person at which point some basic research is involved and then usually a conversation about how to proceed and how much it will cost, then coordinating the goods or services and then following up.

Vessel names are not included for privacy reasons.

We had two main client yachts for the summer, and some other smaller yachts, one even American flagged, just not familiar with the area that used our services. Yacht 1 was a 250+ft yacht flagged in Europe that was cruising north to meet up with the owner and family arriving via their private jet. This was not without issue along the way. There was a mechanical issue with the yacht when it arrived at our dock and the first concern was repairing that and whether that meant it had to go back south to Vancouver or Seattle for this work. Luckily we have a ferry building and repair facility in town so we were able to find out they could be accommodated and started setting up all the pieces to the puzzle to do that. Well then it was decided that the issue could be fixed while the yacht was still in the water, so crisis averted there. But new issues were then cropping up in that the parts had to be flown in from Europe and then the engineers to do the repairs had to be flown in as well as a dive team assembled to do the in water work. Problems solved at a cost of nearly a week more at our dock at a cost of $3/ft/day. $$$$

The list goes on… The bodyguards on board(this kind of surprised me, but when you are an old rich dude you can have bodyguards!) were concerned about bear protection and wanted to bring their guns, but taking their weapons into American waters and such isn’t allowed, so after much research we found that we could rent them guns for the summer! Who knew! So two brand new shot guns were purchased and their associated ammo in time for the yacht’s arrival. Well of course the owner doesn’t want to have to worry about going to an ATM, I mean what billionaire wants to do that! So we were wired 5 figures of money and had that ready in 100s, 50s, 20s, 10s, 5s and 1s. So we happened to have the money and the guns ready for delivery on the same day and yours truly leading the way with cash in hand “Permission to come on board with the guns and money?” Going on board isn’t just as easy as when I was living on the Conch Pearl or Clementia, this included wearing booties or removing your shoes, signing in to the official register, and wearing a guest id tag around your neck. Oh and of course being escorted the entire time. So I sat and watched the money being counted while the boss man gave the run down on the guns. All in a days work!

On to the drugs! And don’t worry not illegal drugs!! So we get a phone call from the captain of Yacht 2 via satellite phone saying that the owner’s wife has lost(or maybe run out?) of her bottle of Prozac and is having a bit of a melt down, is there any way we can get a bottle from town and have it flown to the yacht which is about three hours flight time round trip away. I reply, “Well, we’ve never done that, but I’ll see what we can do.” So after a phone call with a local pharmacy which included lines like, “yes sir, I said this is going to a 150ft yacht” followed by “no I don’t think we will worry about getting her insurance information, they are having us charter a plane to take the bottle directly to the yacht, just go with full price.” So from initial request to the drugs being onboard was about 4 hours. Not bad for our first time!

Other projects included sourcing kosher fine cuts of meat over the weekend. Our usual source in Seattle is closed on the weekend so we had to come up with plan B. This was a project for a boat that was unhappy with their current agent’s performance and wanted our help. So we were able to place the order and to complicate things further the rich guy in this case owned a motor yacht and a sailing yacht so the order would need to be in two boxes because the boats were docked at different marinas. Oh and those two marinas were in the capital city of Juneau, hours away from us. So the boxes were flown from New York City to Juneau but of course with delays along the way! Luckily the courier service we selected in Juneau is friends with the employees at Alaska Air Cargo and was able to get the meat slipped out the back door at nearly 11pm. Then I get a phone call at about 11:30pm of the boxes aren’t labeled! So I instruct the courier to open one box and tell me the contents and I will look at the original order to figure out which one is which. Crisis averted and kosher meat in hand, only a few hours late.

Yacht 3 is a nearly 300ft long yacht cruising with the owner and family. On their to do list for us was a varied list, the highlights include: track down a Pilates chair that had been leapfrogging up the coast following them, secure permits for the yacht and tenders in the national parks and wildlife viewing areas, hire floatplanes out of Juneau to bring their guests out to the yacht, and since it’s raining the owners didn’t want to go to the airport to meet their private jet by boat, so I drove them in the company minibus, three dogs, one infant and all. That was my first time driving on to the ferry to the airport, as well as my first time ever driving on the tarmac of an airport. Oh and of course with the dogs barking in the excitement of it all.

Summer 2013 in review

I spent the summer in Southeast Alaska working for what I originally thought was just one company but it ended up being three! I was originally hired to work for a float plane company and it turns out that the father and son co-owners also own two other companies, a small marina and yacht agency. So my job changed by the hour and the day. Most of my time was spent on the float plane business as a customer service rep, phone calls, emails, bookings and reservations, driving the company mini-bus to pick up cruise ship customers. But I also did bookings for the marina and helped boats tie up and the most varied and often most fun part was the yacht tasks.

The basis of the job comes from foreign flagged vessels operating in Alaskan waters and a requirement to contract with an agent/agency. A yacht agency does the leg work for a yacht, anything from booking a dock to sourcing food. And beyond Working as a yacht agent meant using a little creativity and lost of resourcefulness. Being new to town I was still learning where all the different stores were and different street names and yet I would have to source different supplies from places I had yet to know existed. More on that in a different post.

Float planes, what strange creatures! I’d never ridden in one before I started working for the company. I’d also only visited Southeast Alaska for a week, so I was really in for a treat! The area averages about 13 feet of rain each year and is a rainforest. Many people ask about snow, thinking that it’s Alaska and it must be some crazy amount, to my surprise as well, under two feet the entire winter. Coming from Vermont where we’ve gotten two feet in one storm I was a bit shocked. I have yet to even see a flake fall there since I left before October 1st. Maybe another winter.

Southeast Alaska, more specifically the Misty Fjords National Monument is a spectacular place. The beautiful landscape will constantly wow you. The wildlife is breathtaking. I was fortunate enough to see a humpback whale after being in the state for days, eagles soared every day on my drive to work, deer munching on grass, mountain goats grazing on the mountain tops, it was fantastic. I was thoroughly spoiled in that my first summer was probably the driest on record so I saw beautiful blue skies weekly and spectacular sunsets.

My accommodations were in a rental house that I shared. The house is a three bedroom, two bath house with garage and a beautiful beach just steps down the road. We were nearly at the end of a dead end road and well outside of town, so it was a nice place to escape from all the excitement of town and tourists. The beauty did come at a price, an hour of commuting each day, but it was a price we were willing to pay. Jon and I shared his truck and we would often catch rides with our housemates. One of our housemates is Jon’s coworker, also a Forest Service employee.

Jon and I also got the opportunity to be tour guides when family friends, Julianne and Ellen, had a day in port on their Alaskan Cruise. I was able to arrange a flight with my company and the three of us ladies went out in the 6 passenger plane for an adventure piloted by Josh. We had a spectacular time! Jon joined us for lunch in town before we headed out to try and find some bears which was unsuccessful. We walked around to view some of the totem poles that are famous in SE Alaska and finished our day with drinks at the Cape Fox Lodge overlooking town and the cruise ships.

I thoroughly enjoyed working and living in Southeast Alaska and Jon and I plan to be back in the Spring of 2014 for another summer.

Winter 2012-Spring 2013

Key West recap

So I have been slacking on my blog and not keeping up with it. No real excuses, just having too much fun.

Last I wrote I was living in Key West in floating accommodations working hard during the week and enjoying playing tourist on the weekends. Jon and I took advantage of being “locals” and getting discounted or free entry to the attractions in town. I think our favorite was Truman’s Little White House, for me the Florida Keys Discovery Center was a close second.

I worked as a painter. This isn’t as simple as it may sound. The marina where we worked is a floating dock system, so to accommodate the tides there are metal pilings that are strategically placed to hold the dock attached to shore and not drift off. These pilings see a bit of wear and tear from boats coming and going as well as their lines to tie up with. So before I could paint I had to remove the rust and corrosion from the metal, then use a special primer and then 4 coats of paint later voila! To remove the rust is a dirty process. I was usually a sight to behold at the end of the day! I used a device called a needle scaler, which has little metal rods that act like little jackhammers so this created flakes of paint and rust and a hefty amount of rust dust, which usually coated me from head to toe. My job also included a bit of strategic planning so as to not get said dust and flakes on fancy expensive yachts.

Our floating accommodations came via a Sea Base friend. Bruce owns three sailboats and he had one that was not the right set up or size for the scout program so it was sitting in a marina in Islamorada unused. Part of the deal working at this marina in Key West is that dockage is free except for two weeks when big events were happening in town, so Bruce got free dockage for his boat and we got a free place to live, win-win! As a thank you to Bruce we cleaned the interior, exterior and scraped the bottom of the boat, replaced a missing custom cushion with the creative hands of Capt. Holley, replaced the refrigerator thermostat with the skilled hands of Capt. Denny, as well as replaced the marine head(toilet) to repair a crack and leak. During the two weeks of the events in town we tied the boat up at the Conch Pearl mooring and went back and forth via dinghy. Luckily for us both weeks had poor weather so not all the boats showed up that had reservations so we were able to bring the boat back in earlier than we anticipated. This was a special treat when my parents were visiting so they could see the boat and Jon and I didn’t have to transit back and forth in the dinghy.

Jon and I participated in the locals parade for Fantasy Fest with several friends which was a lot of fun. We also took a few days to camp out at the Dry Tortugas/ Fort Jefferson. The weather wasn’t great so we didn’t get to do much snorkeling but we explored every inch of the fort and took all the tours offered. We even saw one of the float planes that operates in Southeast Alaska in the summer and the Florida Keys in the winter time! Jon was of course wearing a SE Alaska Forest Service t-shirt for a photo op with the plane! My parents flew down for a few days to visit and took the ferry out to the fort. This was Jon’s first face to face introduction to my parents and we were also out of cell phone range so we requested that my parents bring the newspaper because the presidential election was going on and Jon was eager to find out the results.


With Christmas on the horizon Jon and I packed up our things and headed north. We made a stop in Tampa to visit some of Jon’s family, then flew to his mom’s in the DC area. We spent about 3 weeks relaxing and touring around DC. Christmas was celebrated with Jon’s family, and New Years was a low key night out to the movies.

We then took the train to Burlington and spent several weeks painting my parent’s condo. We painted the entire first floor, ceiling, walls, doors, trim, baseboards, even radiator covers. We even installed a few new light fixtures. We then took the train back to DC so we could take advantage of a great flight deal to Istanbul, Turkey. We spent about a week in Turkey, mostly Istanbul seeing the sights and walking the city.

After Turkey I flew back to Vermont, and then resumed painting. I finished up a few things at my parents, then moved on to my brother and sister in law’s condo and painted their place as well. I was also researching jobs in Southeast Alaska so that Jon and I could be together for the summer as well as applying to jobs to hopefully return to Antarctica.

I interviewed for and accepted one position to work for a tour company in SE Alaska and then got a phone call while I was out running errands from another company that Jon thought I’d be happier with and quickly accepted the offer and booked my flights to head to the 49th state!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Life aboard the Clementia II

The most commonly asked question of me in the last two months is “What’s next?”
Sadly I am not headed back to Antarctica as I had previously hoped. I have still heard nothing from PAE, one of the subcontractors, about the roughly 15 positions I applied for. So, I have opted for another adventure that would allow my boyfriend, Jon, and I to live together.
A little history… Jon and I met in Antarctica and started dating around Christmas time. We traveled together for two and half weeks after our contracts were up. Jon then returned to his normal job for the US Forest Service in Alaska and I returned to Sea Base for my usual scuba instructor position. I had some time off between seasons at Sea Base and visited Jon in Ketchikan in early May and then saw my parents in Vermont. I applied for about 20 different positions in Antarctica for two subcontractors. I interviewed for 2 positions with Gana A Yoo, which I was not hired for either. PAE still hasn’t contacted me, which has disappointed me greatly. Jon has been hired two positions and we talked for a long time about what to do. Should Jon go back to the Ice without me, how long should I wait to hear from PAE, should we wait and reapply next year in hopes of going back together. We decided wait to go back together.
So we started looking at options for employment and places to live. I had been working my second summer on the Schooner Conch Pearl with Captains Holley and Denny when they approached me and told me about the crew Denny runs in the fall and early winter repairing the docks at the Galleon Marina in downtown Key West. After several phone calls with Jon we agreed to work, Jon as Dock Maintenance and myself as a painter. Now the issue of where to live! Key West is an expensive little city. Again, Holley and Denny to the rescue! They suggested I contact a friend and Sea Base captain that had a boat, the Clementia II, that was sitting unused. So after checking the boat out and coming up with an agreement for living on the boat we were set up! 
Two weeks ago friends of mine, Laura and her boyfriend Capt Luke, helped me sail the Clementia II from Islamorada down to Key West. It took us about 13 hours of time underway. As part of the agreement to work on the docks we get free dockage, which in this town is huge! We will have to move for two big events, Fantasy Fest and Super Boat International Races that happen here in Key West in the fall, but Holley and Denny have very kindly offered their mooring which is about a mile away. So things are falling into place!
Clementia II
Clementia II is a 32 foot West Sail built in 1974. And yes it is for sale! It has sleeping space for 4(a large bed in the v-berth and two single beds in the salon), a head(toilet!) and a galley with refrigeration and a propane stove.
V-berth. Wooden insert connects the two sides to make one big sleeping space

The Head

The Head

Storage- Little closet and lots of drawers

Main Salon looking aft

Main Salon looking forward

Galley Port side

Galley Starboard side

Storage in the main salon

 The only real issue with the boat was the fridge wasn’t working but Denny came over and got it running and we are in the process of getting a new thermostat.
Clementia II at the dock in Key West
More pictures from the Islamorada to Key West trip and of the boat can be found at…

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lobster Mini Season

Well, its that time of year again! We are out at Pelican Shoal for the night. We did a little recon this afternoon and just got back from a night dive. The lobsters are in place now a quick nights sleep and into the water we go.
Wish us luck tomorrow!