Workamping With an Ocean View

When it comes up in conversation that you’re heading to the coast of Oregon, you’ll be met with a slew of adjectives. “It’s the best/prettiest/nicest coast in the U.S.!” they’ll say. And after visiting it, you’ll likely find yourself thinking the same.
Looking at Seal Rocks RV Cove from the beach

This article comes from an issue of Workamper News magazine. COPYRIGHT by Workamper News. IT IS A VIOLATION OF U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW TO PUBLISH, POST, BROADCAST OR PHOTOCOPY ANY PORTION OF THIS PUBLICATION.

by Jody Anderson Duquette, WKN Executive Director

There are many reasons why people are drawn to the Oregon coast, like the symphony of colors at sunset, fresh seafood, the charm of the small towns still filled with mom-and-pop shops, a chance to see whales breaching in the water, to get engrossed in the history of the lighthouses dotting the coast, the mild temperatures, and of course, Workamping.

It’s a coastal amusement park – complete with interesting sounds, sights, food to eat, and the possibility of getting wet.  There’s no lack of constant amazement. When you gaze at the trunk of a Sitka Spruce or kneel down for a closer look at the rocks along the beach, you are introduced to a microcosm of life – a tiny community of bacteria or fungi thriving on the moisture-rich air and decaying wood, or a remarkable gathering of creatures that seem more like nature’s decorations than living things.

“Ten miles down the road the scenery is somewhat the same, but it’s totally different,” Workamper Andy said. Highway 101 is a fun to drive whether you’re in a car, RV or motorcycle, and it is the portal to beautiful natural areas maintained by the Oregon state park system, the US Forest Service, and property owners. Plus, it’s pretty tough to get lost, so it’s a dream for those who are navigationally-challenged.

The “town” of Seal Rock (blink twice and you might miss it) is nestled between two towns – Waldport to the south and Newport to the north. Newport (the start/end to famous US Highway 20) has about everything you may need – grocery stores including Walmart, small hospital, hardware stores, breweries (be sure to stop at Bier One), RV repair, plethora of restaurants, etc. Waldport is smaller, but more charming. There you’ll find a few restaurants, Rays Food Place (store), laundromat, library, and a Moose Lodge with a rocking game of Bingo on Thursday nights. Both towns have architecturally interesting bridges spanning their bays.

One thing to keep in mind is that you may need to expand your budget a bit (depending on what you’re used to). The coastal towns thrive on the tourism, so be prepared to pay ‘tourist town’ prices when going out to eat and shopping.

There is so much to do within just an hour of Seal Rock, you’re going to need a few months to enjoy it all. That’s why Workamping here makes so much sense!  Additionally, you have to visit the hot-spots along the ocean at least twice – once on a calm day and then on a stormy/windy day, or once at high tide and then again at low tide. It’ll be different each time, especially at the spouting horns.

An ocean view site at Seal Rocks RV Cove

Coastal Weather

“This is the place to be, but you just have to get used to the weather,” Workamper Greg said. This is notably true when referring to the winter months. From October through March, expect things to “be mushy.” The average highs are in the 50s, with lows in the 40s. If you’re used to being buried in the snow during the winter, this will feel like paradise. “What we’ve noticed is people who live here all the time, they’re cold in this weather and we’re thinking it’s great!” Workamper Shawn (who normally spends his winters in Illinois) said.

The majority of the yearly rainfall falls during the winter season; an average of about 70 inches, so bring a raincoat.  Although the forecast looks gloom, the weather can change frequently in the span of the day. “As long as it’s not pouring down, you need to just go ahead and go do that hike because while you’re out there it’s going to stop misting or sprinkling and the sun’s going to come out,” Shawn advised.

With the colder temps mixing with all that moisture, RVers need to be prepared to combat high humidity inside their RVs – whether you’re visiting just for a week or Workamping the whole season. Dehumidifiers will be your friend, and be sure to constantly check inside cabinets and other storage areas, specifically if it is in a slide.

The summer months are mild – offering highs in the low 60s and lows in the upper 40s. With less rainfall and kids out of school, the tourism booms and the RV parks are typically full the whole summer.

The salty air, no matter what season it is, will be your biggest enemy. “Remember, you don’t have a garage. Living here on the coast, everything that’s metal turns to rust,” Greg said. The fog is the biggest culprit, carrying the salt in off the water and placing it in cracks and crevices. But don’t let that scare you away, Greg also said that most people who only stay for one season and then move on don’t really have any problems. Keep your vehicle washed and that will help.

Being right along the ocean can also bring in some high winds, so batten down the hatches if you’re planning to leave the RV for a bit.

blue heron flies along the foamy beach
Blue heron flies along the foamy beach

Seal Rocks RV Cove

We’ve all been to one. An RV park boasts a name like “Lake View Resort,” but you can’t even find a puddle on the property. Not this time. Seal Rocks RV Cove is one of the most aptly named RV parks out there. From the park (or even your RV), you can see rocks, and on those rocks, seals are sunbathing.

Along the coastal hillside, the RV park works with the terrain instead of forcing its will upon it. No two sites are the same, each with different dimensions and views. But there’s not a bad one in the bunch. If you visit their website, www.sealrocksrv.com you can view pictures of each site plus what the view is like from that site.

Not all of the sites in the 44+ space RV park fall under the ocean view category, but unless it’s a packed house, you’re going to be able to see the ocean from most areas of the park. The Workampers are spread out around the park so there are eyes-and-ears on both ends; management works with each Workamper to find an RV site that works for his/her unit.

motorhome setup in an RV site
A Workamper’s RV site at Seal Rocks RV Cove

“The property has been owned by my family for five generations,” Bill Brown, the owner, said. His great grandfather built the beach house that still remains up the hill from the park in 1913.

“My father and his brother built the RV park and opened it in 1969, hoping to earn some income to pay for maintenance, taxes, upkeep of the property and home,” Bill said.  He took ownership of the park in the 1970s and has remained an active, but not on-site, owner along with his wife, Tina.

“Bill really wants to share his park with people,” Manager Jen said, “He really wants people to see what it has to offer and what Seal Rock has to offer because that’s his heritage. And with his Workampers, he’s sharing it with them as they get to live here and experience what he experienced growing up.”

Jen also thinks the word is out. Last summer was possibly the busiest summer they’ve ever had, and she said (in November) that August 2018 was almost fully booked already.

It’s no surprise. Seal Rocks is not your typical “commercial RV park” and in a good way. It has a very natural feel since the staff has left a lot of the natural landscape and trees/plants. The large shrubs create privacy. Sites are level with gravel and grass; full hookups (30/50 amp). No laundry room, but there’s a small bathhouse with a ladies and a mens side, each with one shower stall and two bathroom stalls. There are tent sites, an overflow parking area, and a new dog-run is in progress.

Not only can you see the ocean, but you can easily get to it. Carefully cross the highway and you’ll find a short path right down to the beach. Tidepools in less than 10 minutes, and they’re some of the best tidepools on the coast.

While the beauty of the area can be boasted about for paragraphs, the real success of Seal Rocks lies with the people who own and run it.

“We owe the park’s success to previous managers, Ray and Myna Johnson, John Soltau, the off-site general manager, and the many Workampers and team members who stayed with us for years and solved the problems, did the repairs, ran the office, rented spaces, recruited hosts, and offered our guests such an amazing positive experience that they have kept keep coming back,” Bill said.

After speaking with the longer-term Workampers here, you can tell the heart of this park is Bill and Tina. “He’s the best boss you could ask for,” Manager Jeff said. “If something comes up, he says ‘How can we fix this and make that person happy.’”

Their genuine care for others is even reflected in their Workamper agreement: “As for your job duties here, what Tina and I require and insist is that you have fun – fun working and fun playing. Here at Seal Rocks, you have escaped the ‘real world, the rat race.’ We do not want this to be like, or feel like, the world and jobs in which you have spent most of your live(s). It’s a part-time job here and we need to keep it in its place. We want you to have a life and hobbies and interests outside of the park operation. Neither you nor we are here to get rich, so let’s just focus on having a good time.”

Management

As many experienced Workampers can note, management can make or break an experience. Although Jen and Jeff are still fairly new to their manager roles, they are bringing positive changes and have developed a team work environment.

“Jen and Jeff are rare,” Andy said, “They have a heart and they really work.”

“Jeff and Jen are a fresh set of eyes. The ideas that they’re brining into it now are moving the park a bit more into the future now,” Workamper John said.

Workamper man on a tractor spreading dirt
Manager Workamper Jeff smoothing out the roadway with the tractor

Similar to Bill, these managers are very people-focused and want the guests and Workampers to feel taken care of. They do training as well as getting in on the daily work in the park. They are open about wanting to be the ones to handle any issues that arise.

Jeff and Jen are also responsible for recruiting and interviewing potential Workampers. They start by getting a resume and then have maybe 2-3 phone interviews in which their questions are answered along with making sure the applicant understands the nature of the park and the area. 

Their recruiting has gone well so far. “All of our Workampers we have are just really nice; we’ve got a really good team. We’re real happy with them all,” Jen said. “And they’re all self-starters,” Jeff added.

Workamping at Seal Rocks

Seal Rocks RV Cove has been hiring Workampers since 1995. You’ll be hard pressed to find an issue of this magazine that doesn’t include their help wanted ad.

Two female Workampers in front of RV park office
Workampers Mel & Susan help operate the RV park office

“Workampers bring valuable experience and ideas from their travels and other jobs, a kind of cross fertilization that helps us improve the guest experience,” Bill said.

Typically they look for couples, but they are open to hiring solos as long as they can find one for office duties and one for maintenance, or one solo who can do both to insure their departments are covered. Workampers work 20 hours per couple/solo per week in the summer and 15 hours per couple/solo per week in the winter for their FHU RV site (which includes electricity used, cable & Wifi).

Due to the summers being busier, there may be opportunity to work extra hours for an hourly wage that’s higher than the state minimum. Other perks include an end-of-season bonus, staff meals and get-togethers, and flexible scheduling. Workampers are also welcome to get a part-time job elsewhere and management will work the schedule around it. Couples can have the same days off if they want.

Workamper John working on the landscaping

The work done is what you’ll typically find an any RV park. “Just be willing to work with other people. Take a little pride in your job. I think anybody that has got that, will fit in very well here,” John said.

Maintenance duties include daily cleaning of the bathhouse, making sure a site is clean after a guest leaves, painting, trimming trees and bushes, and general upkeep.

It’s very import for the Workampers in the office to have strong computer skills since they use CG Manager software. “Seems to be a really easy thing to pick up,” Workamper Susan said. “We have a great system in place and an opening/closing checklist.” Other typical duties include answering the phone, inputting reservations, answering guest questions, and checking people in/out.

While looking from the outside in, Seal Rocks may not look any different than any other Workamping job, but when you’re there, you can feel that it’s something special. 


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