April 29, 2014
An Alaska adventure begins
This week I began work aboard the Wilderness Explorer, a 75-passenger cruise ship owned by Un-Cruise Adventures in Seattle.
Last year was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me and I began to go a little crazy from too much time ashore. I started my first business in 2012, a day-sail charter here in Seattle. It ended up being too challenging to do alone, especially with my lack of marketing experience. Someday I will try again, but this year I want to do something a bit less stressful.
All I want to do this year is go to sea and scrub decks or rustbust for a few months. The glamour of being a captain has definitely worn off. I'm tired of the responsibility, the paperwork and the stress of being in charge of a vessel in situations where one unforeseen hiccup could destroy a million dollar yacht, or worse, get someone killed. Nothing catastrophic ever happened. Nobody died on my watch. Nobody even twisted an ankle. There was no property damage even though the boat was not in the best shape and the engine frequently stalled. But I need more experience to become comfortable with the task of keeping everyone and everything out of harm's way in a somewhat uncontrolled environment. Technically, I'm good at it, but last year it wasn't making me happy. So this year I decided to work as a licensed deckhand on the Wilderness Explorer in Southeast Alaska.
Un-Cruise office staff are unusually thorough in their hiring process. Everyone goes through two or three interviews before being offered a position. One of the most common reviews you'll hear from Un-Cruise passengers is how personable the crew are. After just a few days aboard, I understand. Out of approximately 30 shipmates I have yet to meet one I haven't liked instantly.
And we really do get to know each other. I can't count how many crew or staff meetings I have attended in my life that consisted of cheesy, ineffective exercises to help fellow employees bond. The staff here have found an exercise that really works. We all know that poor communication on a vessel can make or break crew morale and/or the success of a voyage. This simple exercise identifies each crewmember's communication "style profile" and helps people understand how to best approach and respond to one another. I was impressed with the results and would recommend this exercise to any team leader. I can't find a description of the exercise online, but you could email [email protected] and inquire.
For now, we're here in Seattle getting the boat ready for passengers, preparing for our COI and enjoying the hot tub on the foredeck after work. Next week we leave for Ketchikan, where we pick up our first guests. At that time, one of my main jobs will be to drive guests in the RIBs up close to waterfalls and glaciers or ashore for their hikes. There will likely be plenty of deck scrubbing in between. Check back later for updates on my Alaska adventure!