The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Nancy Erickson
For The LOG 

Local captains give President a tour


Nichole Lawrence | For The LOG

Three captains took the President on his boat tour Tuesday.

Although they've had a good night's sleep following their infamous boat tour with President Barack Obama, the three captains of Major Marine Tours' M/V ViewFinder are still bubbling with excitement.

"Of course we all said 'sure,' " Captain Gary Kirsheman said when he and co-captains Nicole Lawrence and Josh Jackson were made aware of their unique opportunity only 10 short days ago.

But top secret plans by the Secret Service to use the 58-foot monohull to transport the President and his entourage of press and White House staff on a short trip in Resurrection Bay to witness firsthand the effects of climate change had been in the works for weeks, closely guarded by owner Tom Tougas and Port Captain Colby Lawrence.

The large area surrounding the northeast boat launch was crawling with security personnel ear-wired in and ready for anything on Tuesday when the President's motorcade circled the parking lot.

But all that security doesn't necessarily make one feel safe.

"I never felt so – even though we were more safe than ever – never before felt so concerned for my safety," recalled Captain Nicole Lawrence.

Joking with Kirsheman whether he would take a bullet for the President, Lawrence calculated the exact place he should stand.

Following a short speech regarding America's shortage of ice breakers, the POTUS and 20 others scuttled on to the ViewFinder waiting at the bottom of the ramp.

"The moment he got on the boat, the awareness was very obvious there were 20 people plus him," said Kirsheman of the atmosphere surrounding the President. "The attention was just there."

Not wasting any time, President Obama immediately stepped into the pilot house, shook hands with the captains and remarked, "I'll let you do your job," as he stepped outside on to the bow of the boat as brilliant sunshine glistened off the wind-blown waves.

And that's where he remained for the majority of the trip as the ViewFinder plied the crystal-blue waters of Resurrection Bay accompanied by the USCG Cutter Mustang, press boats and of course, those mysterious guys in black with big guns.

Following short stops at Thumb Cove and Emerald Cove to view the Steller sea lions and to appease the gaggle of journalists and photographers from CNN to the New York Times with three-minute photo opps, the seven vessels sped up and headed for Bear Glacier and a narrative by National Park Service Ranger Colleen Kelly on how quickly the ice is receding.

"Gary made an announcement to the POTUS and Park Service narrator Laura Sturtz that they might get a little spray on the bow," said Captain Jackson. The two giggled upon feeling a few drops and then the big one!

"It was pretty bad," said Kirsheman. "They got soaked!"

Taking it all in stride, the President remarked with a big smile on his face as he climbed back inside the wheelhouse, "You got me. I was the stubborn one. You warned me."

"I think he thoroughly enjoyed himself out there," said Jackson. White House staff told Kirsheman they had never seen him so happy and relaxed.

"He was a good customer," he added. "Not the kind who sits inside and looks out the window but the kind who gets outside and says, 'Wow. This is an amazing place.' "

Nancy Erickson | For The LOG

President Obama talks about climate change and the need for ice breakers before taking a tour of Resurrection Bay.

Although mingling with the President and others on board was discouraged in order to give the Commander in Chief the opportunity to take in the breath-taking beauty of the Bay, the crew itched to ask just one little question.

"If I could say just one thing, what would I say?" Kirsheman asked himself – and promptly answered.

"When you finish your last term and get on that helicopter leaving Washington, D.C., a lot of people will be saying 'thank you;' a lot of people like me," Kirsheman fantasized telling the President.

Not everyone agrees with him but he has accomplished some courageous acts, whether its advances in the gay lesbian community or in Cuba, he added.

Following a final sweep of the vessel after all passengers had disembarked, Kirsheman picked up the President's paper coffee cup logo'd with the Presidential seal.

It currently rests upside down in his dish drain, he said.


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