My next shift is working arrivals. This is the meat of the job for the dock guys and gals: walking the wood and catching the boats. Each morning, the marina staffers are given responsibility over particular portions of Roche's nearly mile-and-a-half of docks, but that still means a lot of hoofing.
"I've measured it," says Kaiser, who at 21 is one of the veterans I'm shadowing to learn the ropes. "We walk 15 to 20 miles a day."
When I ask him what it takes to be successful out here on the docks, Kaiser ticks it off: "Sunscreen, drinking water and Gold Bond Powder."
Unlike our new Canadian friend from across the watery border, most of the boats arrive at the marina under their own power — some more under control than others. The first thing I asked Kevin when I pulled on the T-shirt was whether it was proper for a dock boy to offer suggestions if it looked like a boater was coming in cockeyed.
"We have to be sensitive to egos," he told me. "We can't have a 19-year-old kid telling a grizzled old Seattle Yacht Club captain what to do."
It's quickly apparent that just having a professional dock boy or girl (or even a poser like me) standing by gives boat drivers a large margin of error. They need only get within debating distance of the dock and toss us a line. We remind them to raise or lower fenders to match the slip, then guide their stern away from the finger ends, walk the boats in and wrap lines around cleats to halt them before they hit the dock or other boats. The skippers all seem pretty relaxed today, but away from the guests, my fellow dock boys offer up the truth.
"Sometimes they mess up, and then they yell at you," says one.
"Or they yell at their wife … that's the worst, a guy stresses out about docking and his wife gets the rap … I mean, it's just a boat, don't go crazy."
Kaiser assures me that the majority of boaters make it in just fine. "I can tell right away how they're going to do by how relaxed they are when they approach the slip," he says. And even when a captain does have a rough time pulling in, as long as his boat or the dock isn't left a scorched wreck at the bottom of the harbor, the marina staff makes sure that it doesn't ruin the whole day. "Once they're tied up," says Kaiser, "it's time to chill and have fun."
Kaiser, upbeat and inquisitive, was born to the job. "I'm a talker by nature," he tells me. "Other than tying up boats and hauling trash, this job is all about walkin' and talkin'." And with that, he sends me off to mingle.
I don't make it far, though, before an elderly couple crabbing down the dock asks me to hunt down a certain nail head "somewhere back there" that's sticking up too high. There must be two million nails in the dock, but I say sure and go to grab a hammer. On the way, though, I stop to admire a cherry 1961 Chris Craft. Up on the bow is a stunning, teeny bikini'd blonde catching rays. She tells me she was named after the boat, Alexa. I don't believe her, but then her mom, Michelle, pops up on deck in an equally miniscule swimsuit and says it's true. They're on their yearly cruise of the islands, says Michelle. "We go with the tides, no schedule, but we always make a stop here at this marina."
"Oh yeah," says Alexa, "my girlfriends and I always want to check out the Roche Harbor marina guys." I stagger away, trying not to faint from holding in my stomach for so long.