I [Greg Wilkerson] worked on this vessel as a deckhand in ’88/’89 when it was the passenger ferry that did the early runs to PSNS from the downtown Port Orchard, WA dock. Occasionally, I would work on the Retsil and Thurow as well. I also got to work on the Spirit of ’76 and every once in a while the Eagle. Each one was so different and special in their own ways. And each Captain I worked with while I was there was as unique as their favored vessel.
I learned a lot in those brief years working rain or rain (joking). Scraping rust, sanding, painting and washing just to do it all over again. In hindsight it seems so strange that there I was, as a 14-16 year old, riding my bike down to the dock and checking all the fluids (oil, coolant, fuel) and starting up the engines so they could warm up for the 1st run of the day and being responsible for the safety of the passengers while we were underway; and the counting and tallying of the fares, then going to school and then after school going back down and doing it again for the return passengers from the shipyard. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity and often look back on the experience and smile.
Our son Greg wrote this last November 2014 after I sent him an article about the Carlisle II that was in the Kitsap Sun (our local paper). He is now in his 40’s and has a son that is 15, the same age he was when he began working as a deckhand. That was his first real job and he matured (seemingly) overnight. A tall, thin young boy that he was when be began the job, he left it when we moved to Florida because Jim’s job took us there.
Greg in Florida 1991
He was exposed to the co-workers of his dad where Jim worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and saw them go into work each day ready to put in another shift, and took their fares as they went home tired each night. Most likely, in Greg’s eyes, he was “one of them”. Greg met friendly people, enthusiastic tourists, and became the personable guy he is today.