Ressurection and Rejuvination

Swan Lake Ice Breakup Spring 2015
Swan Lake Ice Breakup Spring 2015

It’s springtime again!

Year 15 in this current evolution of my caretaking gig.

The snow has thawed, the ground is very wet, the grass is still brown everywhere with little green shoots trying to push through. The lake ice left early this year, really early. It was out by the second half of March, the earliest I’d seen previously was April 1st. Now the dock is free from it’s icy blockade and I’m ready to move the dock over into Cedar Bay. Anxious in fact. The Lake is up just enough, and everything should slide together easily at this point. Today is Monday, the day after Easter. And on Mondays I do my house checks. There are five properties I work for, five families, five high end estates. I start my morning this Monday like many before it headed up crane Mountain Road, to Bug Creek, to West Swan Shore Route along the Dark Side of Swan Lake.
The Dark Side of the Swan is the West shore. It’s tucked tightly against the mountains and is technically a rain forest. The forest floor is carpeted with dense peat moss, thick enough to lay down on comfortably. Vibrant enough to grow on and over large boulders which have been deposited here eons ago by the glacier that formed this valley.
The spring thaw is evident everywhere I look. Lots of water standing in the roadside ditches and ponds. Lots of ducks drifting about in these waters. beautiful scenes everywhere I look.

The Old Man, Spring Launch 2015
The Old Man, Spring Launch 2015

I love Monday mornings. My duties are laid out before me quite clearly, and they are uncomplicated at the start, and usually remain so. It is a day of hiking, peeking under houses, looking inside cabinets, listening, and smelling. I can generally finish checking all five homes by early afternoon unless I find additional duties to attend to. This leaves the afternoon open to other activities. Such as tending landscaping!

I’m so anxious to get my hands on the landscaping at Cedar Bay. The spring pruning of some bushes, the removal of the deer fencing from around the trees, the raking of the old dead material from the lawns in preparation for the new grass. De-thatching, fertilizing, renewing. Following the the holiday it is an appropriate resurrection. The regeneration of these properties to their summertime level of glory.

The greatest trials I have today are a Robin Redbreast that keeps pooping on the window sills of one home, and an owl that, until my recent efforts had been crapping all over the stone work on another beautiful log home.
For the defecating owl problem I found a product called bird spikes that are exactly that, plastic spikes that screw to the top edge of whatever the bird happens to be landing on that you don’t want it to land on. I also purchased and installed a couple of fake raptors. They now stand perched at the corners of the home keeping watch and intimidating any owls looking to vacate their bowels, I hope.

Dry-docks and Hard Choices



Dry-dock. Here I stand aboard a Russian cargo ship with my new Russian friends who were kind enough to show me around.


Drydock was an interesting time, filled with enjoyable off ship activities. I had discovered a local biker bar that provided occasional off duty entertainment for me with its outdoor parties and a class of patrons that I enjoyed associating with. I couldn’t encourage any of the crew to join me however, and we were a pretty tight group, so most of the time I would hang with a number of them on my off hours.

A nearby baseball diamond was home to the Jacksonville Suns, a minor league US team, this provided the occasional sporting event to attend,  and the day to day work was plentiful and combined with evenings off, this became my routine for a time.

Many of our crew of 21 had been let go upon our arrival and we were down to a smaller number of essential personnel. I’m sure many of the crew wondered from day to day whether their employment would continue.  I didn’t share this concern as the work I had before me appeared endless. The engine room was in disarray with cables and wires providing shore power, water lines providing fresh water. The ship remained home to many of us during this time.  Living aboard a 315′ ship that had been hoisted out of the water on a world war II era floating dry dock was certainly an interesting and new experience for most of us.

One of those who left the boat perhaps a month into our dry-dock time was a nice young red-headed British man. I have known only a few British folk, and if I am allowed to generalize on such a small amount of data, I would say I have generally found the English to be a little whinny. Pleasant, but whinny.  This young man was no different.  He was quick to complain, and first to take off for any fun as soon as it presented itself.  His vocalizations increasingly carried openly negative sentiment towards his position and our living conditions. Everyone had grown tired of his attitude. Though despite his regular complaints he was quite a lot of fun to have around during off hours. This was his first trip to America, and he was enthralled with Americana and thrilled to be spending time in the land of milk and honey. Along these lines he was a fan of monster trucks, a thing apparently hard to come by in his home country with it’s narrow roadways and dense population. Once we reached Jacksonville he began an earnest search for a monster truck of his very own. His search was immediately fruitful, and he quickly found a ridiculously jacked up black ford pickup with giant balloon tires. He purchased this vehicle and enjoyed ownership and use of it for a few long weeks when without warning (or much surprise to most of us) he was given his walking papers and was dismissed in a flurry of unsuccessful pleas to stay.

In yacht work, the crew-members enjoy a certain protection in that if you leave a ship in any place other than where you had joined her, it is the yacht’s responsibility to send you back to your home port. This along with his immigration status meant my British friend was to be shipped back to England directly, and would have to leave his monster truck behind. He spoke of bringing his truck back to his homeland, but I don’t believe he was successful in this effort.  Leaving these yachts generally comes quickly and without prior notice.

As my day to day progressed at a rather routine rate, Carrie had picked up a couple of short trips. One in particular came about when she received a page from a yacht she had been aboard previously who had recently lost their crew as they had walked off collectively and defiantly the previous midnight while in port. Carrie was flown to Boston late the next night and had a terrific adventure accompanying her yacht from Boston and back down the coast, eventually arriving in Savannah, Georgia. We had been keeping in communication and were more determined than ever to share a ship. Towards this end we’d lined up an interview in Savannah. I took a couple days off and picked up Carrie in Georgia where she cordially vacated her position.

While in Savannah, we interviewed for and enjoyed an afternoon with a captain and his wife, eventually I declined the position aboard this particularly beautiful yacht due to my own insecurities with tending the brand new and highly touted Detroit Diesel MTU 2200 engines that had just been installed in this high performance multimillion dollar watercraft. I was still new to diesel engines and the layout of smaller yacht engine rooms and didn’t feel I had enough experience to handle such responsibility at that point despite the confidence placed in me by the captain and by Carrie.  I know better now, I could have handled it just fine. My life might be quite different today had I accepted that duty, and though I have no regrets, it was recognizably a fork in the road for our yachting career.

I returned once again to dry-dock and worked for another few weeks there. Immersing myself in routine and duty.  Carrie continued to find day work as we searched for a yacht to crew as a team.




change of plans

All of a sudden!

It’s springtime in the Flathead. Lots of sun, lots of rain, a bit of snow, and a ton of work to do. This is the busy season and the hard deadline of July 4th looms ever nearer. There are docks to place, buildings to wash, boats to launch, and the ever encroaching forest must be pushed back behind the groomed borders.

I will continue to write as much as I can, but I can already see that a once a week blog will require time I may not always have. In an effort to keep a regular schedule while giving myself adequate pressure to write, I will release a story every other week until I am able to once again step up my performance.

The next episode will come out April 10th, and then every two weeks after, another.

Thank you so much for your interest.

Happy Spring!

Mike P Frey,
A Montana Caretaker