We were on the boat (the slow one) on the Columbia trip, which is 6.5 hours if we don't see anything and don't go all the way to the face of Columbia. It's generally billed as a 7-hour tour, because normally the closest we can get to the glacier is about 8 miles due to ice buildup.
So, we're on the boat, heading back into port. It's been a rather long day, bacause we saw whales, we went all the way around Growler Island to see the puffins and cormorants, and Columbia's forebay had opened up so we could go in next to the face. That's an extra ohh....20 or so miles added to the trip (with the trip around the island) so it was kinda late.
Nina (who was crew chief that day) and I were in the galley as the boat rounded the corner into Port Valdez. It takes about an hour to get back to the Harbor from that point. A lady comes up to the galley and the following conversation ensues.
Lady: I heard someone say that we won't be getting back to the dock until 8, is that true? (normally we get in around 7, 7:30)
Nina: Well, because we saw the whale today and were able to get to the face of Columbia, yes, we're getting in a little later than usual.
Lady: *looking rather apologetic* Well, I only ask because my mother *gestures to a tiny old lady in a wheelchair* is on oxygen and she's almost out. She only has about 20 minutes left.
Me and Nina: *look at each other* Uh oh.
Nina: Let me go tell the captain. Unfortunately, this boat doesn't go very fast, so we won't be able to get to Valdez within 20 minutes. *runs upstairs to talk to Chris*
The lady went back to her mom and her companion, some guy who didn't say much all day. Nina ran up and down the stairs probably at least 10 times, relaying information. Finally, she came to me in the galley and told me that the lady had turned down her mom's oxygen so it would last a little longer, and a paramedic would be waiting at the dock with a new tank. Then she went and sat with the lady and her mom and just talked to them, answered their questions, tried to keep them calm. John (another crew member) came to the galley and I asked him if Nina had told him what was going on.
John: Yeah. *looks horrified*
Me: So, what do you think?
John: I think I'm glad I'm not crew chief today.
Later, Nina told me that while she was talking to the lady, the lady said in front of her mother "Oh, well, if she dies, she dies, I just didn't want it to happen on your guys' boat. Just think of the paperwork."
We got into port and the old lady was fine, a paramedic was there and hooked her up with some new oxygen. But wouldn't you think that if you were taking a several-hours-long trip on the water to a place NO OXYGEN was available that you would make sure that there was absolutely no way for the trip to go over that time? I know no one in our office told her we'd be back in exactly 7 hours. Anything could have happened. I'm just glad we were only an hour away. Poor Cap'n Chris was sweating by the time we docked.