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Port’s Stice sets sail for retirement waters

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo is getting ready to say “Bon voyage” to a long-standing employee.

But not before she gets one last wish — Viking Fest.

Opal Stice, whose last day will be May 31, said the thing she’s looking forward to most during her last month on the job is working one of the busiest weekends of the year.

“We’ve got Viking Fest coming up and on Saturday we’ll have 9,000 to 10,000 people come down and people come down here to see the boats. It’ll be swamped out on these docks and everybody’s partying,” Stice commented. “I look forward to that day. I even asked to work that day.”

After 10 years checking in guests and pumping fuel at the Port of Poulsbo, Stice said she’s seen a lot. Thousands of boaters, four port managers and even a couple of scary moments. But the long-time Poulsbo resident said it’s really the boaters she’ll miss most.

“These two docks make it fun,” she said, referring to the Port of Poulsbo’s guest moorage side of “E” and “F” docks. “These people, when they leave their places, it takes time to get here and they have time to relax and get rid of their aggravations. By the time they get here, they’re here to party, relax, have fun and enjoy the town.”

Though Stice hasn’t kept an official tally of how many guests she’s checked in during her tenure, Port Manager Ed Erhardt said on average, between 5,000-6,000 boaters visit every year. That means that Stice may have been in contact with 50,000 or more people. Stice said one of the most unusual guests who ever graced the marina was Bill Gates, who came in his 147-foot vessel several years ago.

“The park soon filled up with people coming to look and he had a sign on the boat that said no one could come aboard,” she said. “I’ve never seen another one that big.”

When she first started with the port, Stice explained that her office was in the upland portion of the port’s property where its laundry room and restrooms are now. About four or five years ago, port staff were moved to two houseboats on the port’s “E” dock. Though she said working so much closer to the boaters was a nice change, Stice, who never learned to swim, said she won’t really miss the salt water that surrounded her daily. Although she does laugh retelling the story of riding out the last earthquake in her floating office.

“These poles looked like they were dancing up and down,” she recalled.

Though she didn’t do it often, Stice said a few times she was asked to walk the dock on the permanent moorage side of the marina to check for trouble. The first time, under manager Gary Prout, Stice said she walked past one boat and then did a double take.

“I got past it and thought, ‘That didn’t seem right’ so I went back and here’s this boat sinking,” she remembered.

Thanks to someone witnessing the incident, the boat was saved.

Erhardt, who is in his third year at the port, said Stice was not only a good worker, but someone he learned a lot from. As a new staff member, Erhardt said he found a lot of things that were not documented the way they should have been, so he relied a lot on long-time port workers to help him sort things out.

“Opal was an excellent person to have for research when I came to work here,” Erhardt said. “She gave me a lot of history and really helped me understand a lot of problems with the port. I’ve always looked to her for advice.”

While Stice’s last month on board the port staff ticks down, she’s already imparting her memories and knowledge to her replacement. Al Pinkham, a retired Naval officer from Maine, was hired in March to take over the position. The change over will also bring a different schedule for the office. Starting June 1, Pinkham will work Wednesdays through Sundays so that there is a permanent employee on hand during the port’s busy weekends.

“I had to find that person who had the unique personality to deal with boaters and their feelings and desires for service and Al just fit that,” Erhardt commented. “He’s very enthusiastic, customer-oriented and a good man.”

“He works with the boaters and that’s good, that’s really good because they feel better with someone who’s going to work with them,” Stice added of Pinkham.

And as for Stice, she said she’ll miss her customers when her retirement is final — but not getting up in the morning and not being away from her family all day. Though her youngest son, Richard, works at the port, she said she’s looking forward to time with her other two children, nine grandchildren and nearly seven great-grandchildren who all live in the area.

“I’ve been telling everyone I want to re-learn to love my husband,” Stice said with a laugh. “We’ve been together 47 years, our kids are grown and moved away and we’re raising grandkids and great-grandkids now. I just want to spend more time with my husband and our offspring.”

Sidebox:

Opal Stice retirement party

1-3 p.m. May 19

Port of Poulsbo multi-purpose room

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