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By: joealaska , 2:33 AM GMT on September 26, 2012

Still have not had a day off since June, but I did take off a half day yesterday and another half day today. Better than nothing. There are periods of very little going on right now, but we still get the rushes. Most of the big boats are southbound. Arctic Fjord left today.

This past weekend we only had a couple of vans. You would have thought no problem. That sir, would be incorrect. Shell had a boat heading north to the fleet, so all the orders started coming in. All at the last minute, all needing to be filled and catching that boat Saturday AM early.

As usual, the Friday boat was late, so our window was pretty tight. We were supposed to see the first container show up around dinner time. So we spent all day pulling what we could, but we always wait for the fresh produce to arrive so we can give that to the customers. This is the same dance we have been dancing the last few weekends but it is hard to get used to. Everyone just goes into marathon mode and kicks ass. The faster we work, the quicker we leave.

But we HAVE to get the product, unload it, put it away, then pull the order. No product, no pull.

We got the call from the freight company unloading the vessel somewhere around 4 PM. Something new. There was a problem with the crane unloading the ship. THAT is not unusual. I thought the wind was the problem, as it was really starting to blow. There are wind alarms that will go off and the crane shuts down for safety reasons. But not this time.

The crane drops down to pick up 40 foot containers, with four locking devices connecting at each corner on top of the container. It then lifts the container off the vessel. But this particular time when the crane swooped down and locked in, it was not a 40 foot container it was grabbing. Rather two 20 foot containers sitting end to end. So as it lifted up, the two containers fell open like a jack knife from the unsupported middle. One of the locks broke, and now there were two containers flopping around against each other. Nobody was hurt, but when everything settled the two containers were stuck in the way of everything coming off the boat. Like our stuff.

Long night was getting longer. We went home not knowing when we could re-start. It was a couple hours.

We went back and it was raining hard and blowing pretty well. I was surprised they got it all straightened out with the wind like it was.

We got it all done eventually, but it was midnight before we left. Now we have a 6 AM delivery set up for every Saturday to one good customer, so these late boats are a killer. That driver was able to go home early, about 11:30.

The Shell orders were all finished, but that strong wind slowed down the loading of product on that outbound vessel on Saturday.

When we headed to work next morning, it was SLEETING.

There are still a lonely whale or two hanging around in the bay.

I am impressed as usual with the solo travels of UK. I thought I was the only one who did that. I am not sure I would have crossed that stream, though. Twelve inches of water puts out a lot of force with any current at all. Having lived in Arizona I have seen plenty of flash floods, usually on the TV news where a vehicle tried to cross a wash that was flooded. You know the rest of the story. Grandma being winched out of car in a torrent by a helicopter. It is why they have THE STUPID MOTORIST LAW, where the motorist is liable for the expense of any rescue (IF they drive around a barrier set up to stop them...).

Obviously UK knew what she was doing, and I am glad she got across. When I suggested she try that cruise I did not know nothing about no creek crossing! Boy that would have been a guilt trip.

I hope she keeps us informed about her ongoing vacation. AND I want to see a picture of her view from her place. Royal Dornoch is on my bucket list of courses to play.

In three weeks I will be on the second day of my vacation. This vacation I have made too many plans for, where normally I wing it. There will always be some changes, gotta keep flexible.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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14. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
6:03 AM GMT on September 28, 2012
joealaska has created a new entry.
13. joealaska
1:06 AM GMT on September 28, 2012
I need pictures of B871.

Thank You.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
12. cholla
8:25 PM GMT on September 27, 2012
UK, I just had to dig out my Bartholomew map 5 to check these hamlets out. Where you had to cross the Loch Brora river.... was it as far up as Kilbraur? Or maybe Carrol? That's beautiful country! I really liked Dunrobin castle, but it's a bit touristy. You should book Orkney next year, taking Betti on a short ferry ride from John O'Groats.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
11. insideuk
7:17 PM GMT on September 27, 2012
My internet is off! Sorry, I can't upload photos or contribute more until it flickers back to life - IF it flickers back to life! All I have is slow 2G data loading on my phone right now.
Hoping it'll be back working tomorrow, but if not I promise to catch you up on Sunday between sorting laundry loads back home.
I took the A897 north from Helmsdale today, up to coast then south on the B871 logging road over the moors. Completely deserted. Loved every minute of it! Saw my first ever Golden Eagle, then my 2nd ever Golden Eagle!

From a distance.

Which is fine by me...

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
10. cholla
6:48 PM GMT on September 27, 2012
Yea, UK... we feel like we're riding right along with you on this trip. Dedicate a couple shots of single-malt to both Cholla and Maggie. After a couple of those I certainly wouldn't want to try navigating those "B-four digit" tracks, especially on the 'wrong side of the road' for me!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
9. osdianna
4:07 PM GMT on September 27, 2012
Following along on Google Earth...fascinating journey and one I would take in a heartbeat if I had the money. Very few foreign countries draw me but Scotland and New Zealand are two...oh, and Iceland, as much for the geology as the culture...and in Scotland's case, their very fine single malt, unblended scotch is an added bonus to their rugged terrain. It looks like the lochs are the result of the ice age, as is the terrain from the air. I will have to follow up on that.

Anyway, UK, stay safe and thanks for taking us along!
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8. joealaska
9:26 PM GMT on September 26, 2012
Nice views!

I like the looks of the B873 heading south from the coast, ending up in Altnaharra.

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7. insideuk
6:37 PM GMT on September 26, 2012
The view from my balcony front:

and to the side
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6. insideuk
6:05 PM GMT on September 26, 2012
I wonder what was inside those two containers that were swinging around the dock? I hope it had lots of bubble wrap..

It seems as though northern England and the Scottish border areas got the worst of the rainfall – they are calling it the worst September storm for 30 years. It is actually a spin off weather system from Nadine (daughter of Nadine), her warm tropical air met with our much cooler air and developed into a mega storm system all of its own. Thankfully the wind has died down here now, although it was rather blowy out on the coastal roads today.

Betti was looking slightly dishevelled this morning, she had slept rough with the squirrels and awoke to find bits of pine tree leaves stuck to her face. From the sounds of it Osdianna has shared that experience on her trips in California...

Still, it was time to hit the roads again. Today I was sticking to main roads, a big loop starting from near Golspie on the east coast, straight up the A9 and then on the A99 to Wick. The coastline kept me company all the way, for the most part it was viewed from high up on the cliffs and the sun was playing in the North Sea, splashing pools of bright white light in the dark grey water. Beam me up Scotland.

In places the road falls steeply down into villages situated prettily around sea inlets, with small harbours and very few signs of life. There are a few terrifically steep and sharp hairpin bends in a place called Berriedale, featuring runaway lanes off to the left side with soft sandy landing areas for out of control vehicles. Over to the right was a soft sandy beach but that involved a more significant free fall drop and was not to be advised without the aid of a parachute. I took it steady, it was drizzling on and off and the roads were still receiving rivers of water running off surrounding fields.

As I got closer to Wick the land flattened out considerably, and the road was barely above sea level. This area is very much farming country, lots of cows and many fields full of ready baled giant Shredded Wheat awaiting black shiny plastic shrink wrap for the winter. I stopped at a supermarket in Wick for some essential supplies. And doughnuts.

There was a TV show on last night where they were baking fresh doughnuts – I'd been salivating ever since watching it. Who says TV doesn't influence your buying habits?

Not me. I've got sugar down my bra front to prove it today.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, heading ever further NORTH I was aiming at John O' Groats. This is always referred to here as the most northerly point of the British mainland, charity walkers and cyclists will use it as the start or end point of a marathon trek between here and Lands End in Cornwall, 874 miles distant. It is NOT the most northerly point, that is in fact on Dunnet Head. So I went there too. Ticked that one of my bucket list today!

It was blowing a gale up on that headland, all that is there is a lighthouse. Not a pretty one, just a functional one. Functional is a good way to describe most architecture around the northern highlands. There are a few old world gems that represent the best of when big money was being made and spent. Thurso is the largest town on the north coast by a long chalk and it's main street is a delight in solid stone traditional Scottish architecture. It is very attractive. It could be vastly improved by stopping all the traffic from blocking it up. Once you have been driving the lonely roads around here for a few days it comes as a real culture shock to have to sit at traffic lights and figure out which lane you should be in so you don't miss your next turning. I didn't stop, just had a quick nosey around. The nice bit is in the middle of town, beyond that it's back to weathered pebbledash and unrelenting drab grey walls. One householder had painted a bright (garish) mural of a whale jumping through a rainbow on his gable end, but even that had seen better days – the whales tail had dropped off along with a big lump of plaster behind it. Nothing survives the bashing these buildings get next to the sea, maintenance must be a constant battle. Most seem to have thrown in the towel. Money looks like it is tight in many places here, there are many building plots for sale but not much sign of new construction projects.

My favourite find of the day was the tiny little 18th Century harbour at Castletown. I flung a right turn off the main road to get a shot of the long sweep of beach at Dunnet Bay and then followed that little lane to find this deserted old FLAGSTONE BUILT harbour. For almost 200 years those flagstones, tightly packed in perfectly straight walls have held back all that mother nature could throw at it. It is simply beautiful. I'll post the photos that show the wall detail behind the tiny little crab pots. The harbour is still used, but only by a couple of very small boats. Just imagine what the place was like all those years back when the boats came here to collect the stone from local quarries to ship across the rest of the world.

I'll bet they never dropped it...
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5. DHaupt
7:17 AM GMT on September 26, 2012
UK, I posted that SCOTSMAN link before I had read all the article. They are talking about YOU:

"Conditions caused further problems for commuters south of the Border with flooding on railways and roads.

Drivers in regions across the UK, including Tayside were warned to take care on flooded roads.

Meanwhile, the Royal Life Saving Society UK urged people to stay away from floodwaters following the second day of heavy downpours across the British Isles.

Di Standley, chief executive of RLSS UK, said: “People are often curious to see rivers at their peak but this can be dangerous. It’s vital not to underestimate the power of floodwater.

“We’re calling on everyone to be proactive and to learn about water safety to protect themselves and their loved ones."
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4. DHaupt
7:03 AM GMT on September 26, 2012
I spotted this article in today's SCOTSMAN.COM

Weather: Scots braced for month%u2019s rain in 24 hours

I think UK and Betti may have been luckier than they know. I'm sure they get flash floods in Scotland. SO, UK: STAY OUT OF CREEK BOTTOMS! Look down upon the heathery world from a high place, but watch out for lightning! Better yet, hide in a haystack in a well grounded tin barn.

I am sitting here reeking of cat food. A neighborhood cat (not really one of ours) has some sort of sore in its mouth that is preventing it from eating normally. Cat, we call him "SHADOW" because he is jet black and sneaky, has been dining chez nous for many years now. his titular owners live across the street and down east of us. The husband has been out of work for some months and their money is tight; a big vet bill is out of the question and they've had to face the possibility that they won't be able to save Shadow. [Sarah, nobody needs to create or invent Death Panels, we've had them all along.]

I have come up with a ploy that seems to be working. I dumped a 5.5 oz.can of Mariner's Catch pate in my VitaMix, added a cup and a half of warm water and cranked up the revs to "cell disrupter" for a few minutes. -- voila! Mariner's Catch Soup. Kitty can lap it up, no chewing even possible, and does so with relish! I've poured about one entire can of food into him since this morning. I'm going to get his "owners" on board as soon as I can catch up with them.

The only disadvantage is that liquified cat food is highly aromatic, especially warm, drawing a motley collection of neighborhood fur people to salivate on our front screen door. And then, I managed to slop a tablespoon down my front, soaking my freshly donned clean undershirt. I've changed, tried to wash my rotundity but, I still pick up faint hints of Eau de Mariner's Catch. It reminds me of some very tired Pacific Snapper that Raley's fobbed off on me last month. Perhaps the stuff penetrates skin.

Anyway, UK, your travel log has been a delight to read and also your photos to view. If you ever make it to the US, you will definitely want to tour the West Coast from Big Sur all the way to Vancouver, BC. There are parts of it that are nearly as desolate and inhabited by weird Steven King types.

Joe, it is good that you simply took some time off. When the boss or the job won't give it to you, you just have to do that. Personally, I would push back a little on customers who wait to the last minute to place orders. -- in a nice way, like: "We will be able to get you a better price or better quality but we need a little more time." etc., etc., etc.

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3. osdianna
4:42 AM GMT on September 26, 2012
Wow...I just read the last two posts from UK, on the last blog. I have been working a lot the past few days and missed them.

All I can say was that was some hairy ride, UK!
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2. osdianna
4:25 AM GMT on September 26, 2012
Lordy, lordy this is a long year for you, Joe. It WILL make you old before your time. I hope you get to take a big wad of money and retire from it...early!

I really enjoy reading about the trips taken...used to do that a lot myself with 4 weeks paid vacation. Throw a sleeping bag in my car and a couple of pounds of trail mix, some bananas and apples, and a map...and hit the road to see how far I could go before I had to turn around. I ate when and where I wanted, parked my car next to retired couples camping in parks (they always made me coffee) and slept in my car or on the open ground in my bedroll. Only hitch was, I didn't leave California; it's a big state with a lot to see. I would go back roads north and south, east and west, hang out in National Parks, on beaches and mountaintops. I didn't spend much money, but I loved the freedom of traveling alone...still do.
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1. Rotty3
3:05 AM GMT on September 26, 2012
Hope you get some badly needed and well deserved rest soon! And a real vacation :)
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