Interviewee: Monica, Victoria and Ginger Place: Homer Alaska aboard the Rainbow Connection
Someday weâ€™ll find it, the Rainbow Connection, and that day is today. 5:30 came awfully early for the AGLP group. We packed our breakfast and lunch last night so we could just wake up this morning and get moving. As we neared the Homer Spit, you could feel the excitement building. Everyone was psyched to go whale watching. At 7:00 we boarded the Rainbow Connection, our whale watching cruise vessel. This ship is owned by Jack & Fran Montgomery, who started their business in 1982 . The Rainbow Connection was new to their fleet in 1990.
I was not prepared for the immense knowledge that came along with the Rainbow Connection. As we went about our trip Ginger, the Queen of the ship, would point out various birds as we went. Ginger has been with the team since 1995. She showed us where the whales were and often identified them for us. She had an excellent camera that she would use to take a photo of the whaleâ€™s fluke. Every whale has a distinct fluke, like a giant fingerprint. She was very interested in learning as much as she could about the whales, such as their migration patterns.
Victoria was the birder of the trio. She would tell us all about the birds we saw. One of the species of birds we saw traveled all the way from New Zealand for their winter. Victoria was born in the U.K. and recently attained a dual citizenship so she could get her license to pilot the ship. She has gone to extensive lengths. In order to get your license you need to document your sea time, take tests, pass a drug screen, become CPR certified, have a full medical evaluation, attain 3 letters of recommendation and be a citizen of the U.S. Because she was not a U.S. citizen she had to become one in order to be eligible for a license. She has an incredible sense of humor, and joined the team in 2008.
Monica was the captain of the ship. She has been a part of the team since 1999. She was hired by Jack & Fran and has done an amazing job building her crew. They have historically had a predominantly female crew. â€œWomen make a really good team. They are easier to get along with and theyâ€™re cleaner (than men). They take less managementâ€ Monica shared.
These three amazing ladies, travel the Kachemak Bay taking travelers on a seven-hour trip. They stay in the bay and travel an hour and half each way, with a three-hour stop in Seldovia, generally looking for otters. They always hope to see whales, but they rarely do in the bay. Ginger mentioned, â€œThe end of July/beginning of August is the best time to see whales. Otters can be seen year round. The birds are best viewed in the summerâ€. I asked Ginger why she was a part of the Rainbow Connection and she replied, â€œBecause we love it! Itâ€™s awesome!â€ Their season begins on Memorial Day and runs until Labor Day. In the off-season the ladies do a variety of things. Ginger usually works from home while Monica is a caretaker on a remote island. There is no running water or electricity. Victoria helps her husband in construction.
The ladies had different opinions on what is the coolest thing theyâ€™ve ever seen. Ginger said, â€œThat would take me an hour to tell youâ€. Victoria replied, â€œWatching the patterns of the birds. Watching them arriving, build their nests, sitting on their nests, raising the babies and all of those transitionsâ€. Their opinions were as diverse as their backgrounds. None of the ladies are from Alaska and all came here kind of on a whim. Gingerâ€™s college roommate wanted to go to Alaska so they each got $500 and drove from the east coast. Monica came from California to become a dental hygienist in Anchorage, but she never made it there. Victoria fascinated me. She was singing in a nightclub in Sri Lanka. She sailed from Sri Lanka to Kenya across the Indian Ocean. She met a guy that had a boat from Valdez, Alaska. He asked her to come work for him, and she did.
Clearly these women are incredibly intelligent and talented. If you happen to be in Homer, Alaska in August youâ€™ll have to come have a ride with them. Youâ€™ll also have to come see Victoria in the production of Les Miserables. She will be a part of the chorus!!! Courtney Cavinder