Friday, February 21, 2014
1 BOAT, 2 BOAT; 1 RIVER, 2 RIVER
Last week, after my walk down the birding trail at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, I took the boat back to the Visitors Center and got talking with the driver, and one thing led to another and I found out that: 1) they need boat drivers; and 2) that one can do as little as one 4-hour shift per week as a volunteer.
Wanting to drive a boat, and thinking even I might be able to handle the 1 shift requirement, I talked to various people, and on Wednesday, attended Volunteer Orientation.
The Park has over 300 Volunteers who assist greatly in every aspect of its operation. In fact, some of the first state parks were virtually created by volunteers.
After the general orientation, there are a few more steps for any particular position that a volunteer might want, and so this morning, I had to get up earlier than usual to get over to the park for the 9 o'clock boat run as a trainee ride-along, a Driver In Training, or DIT, so I could drive back the empty boat: usually the first boats of each day come back empty and DITs are only allowed (by law) to drive empty boats. I got there on time, but another trainee was already there, so I had to wait for the 10 am boat and standing around, and the variation in my rising time for the two days kinda wrecked my back.
When my turn came, I rode with Bob, who did something I have never experienced before: at just before the passing point, where off to the left, way high up in a very tall tree, has stood an osprey nest for the last 20-30 years, he pulled over and stopped. The nest is a big thing, pointed out on every trip, but only in passing. Well, the mating pair has just returned and is getting ready to go through the dance and play house for another season, and we all got to take a really good view of it. (We had a full boat, 45 guests.)
Just after we re-started our journey, we also had a fairly rare sighting of one of the wild gators in the brush along the shore. 3rd time I've seen it in a hundred or so trips down the river as a guest.
We finished the run, got to the far end, unloaded and it was already time to head back as a 3rd boat had been added to the run schedule.
Bob turned the controls over to me, and I started by backing out and turning the pontoon boat up-river. This is an awkward vehicle, very heavy but lightly powered, quite suitable for the use and conditions, but slow to respond, requiring anticipation in directing its motion.
I only "crashed" once: bumped into some brush on one side.
About two thirds of the way back, Bob took control again for a difficult narrow second passing, now with three boats running, and stayed on the wheel back to the dock, so I haven't yet had a chance to dock, which is the tricky part I am told, kinda like docking to the ISS.
I helped with the unloading and reloading, but stayed behind as Bob took out the next run and I called it a day, my back aching badly, came home, napped and rested for a bit, then headed out again and over to The Seagrass Resort on the Homosassa River for their First Anniversary celebration, and to take advantage of Captain Jody Hogan's $5 boat ride up to the park and back on the Homosassa River. About half an hour. Nice ride. Gorgeous day. Lots of kayakers on the river. Lots of nice houses on the river. Didn't stop, just turned around at the park headwaters and headed back down river to the resort and docked.
The Seagrass Resort
The Observation Deck at the Wildlife Park as seen from the Homosassa River
A musician had been playing when we left, and another was playing now. I talked to Captain Jody for a minute about diving tours, then stepped onto the outside serving deck and ordered a drink and a burger and listened to the music. Spent about an hour and half.
Gregory Ford wailing on guitar
Headed up to Walmart to get a shirt and pants for my uniform, hit the park office on the way back to get my patches. Also picked up a study and test guide for a Florida Boater Safety ID card I need from the state.