post

Victoria to Seattle

February 15, 2017 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Seattle, WA, USA via Victoria Clipper catamaran ferry

Clipper Navigation calls me this morning to let me know they are advancing the departure date of the sailing from 5PM to 2PM in order to avoid the predicted strong winds. I quickly finish packing and tidy up what I need to at home before calling a taxi at 12:30PM to take me to the ferry terminal downtown. I’m the first passenger there, but the waiting lounge soon fills up. We pre-clear US Immigration in the terminal shortly after 1PM, and we are all aboard about 15 minutes later. I have six window seats all to myself since there are very few passengers on this sailing.

Serving staff and lots of empty seats in the main cabin

Serving staff and lots of empty seats in the main cabin

They announce that tea and coffee are free on this sailing, and beer is on sale for US$3, so I order a Pike Place IPA and a smoked Provolone sandwich as a mid-afternoon snack/dinner. We hit some bigger waves around 3PM for about a half hour or so.

The captain takes us directly across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Dungeness Point near Port Angeles in order to keep our time in rough seas to a minimum. We pass Whidby Island on our left and the Point Wilson lighthouse at Port Worden Historic State Park on our right near Port Townsend. The rain is really streaming down the windows of the boat as we proceed through Puget Sound towards Seattle. I’m seated beside four women from Louisiana, who’s accents are a hoot to listen to.

Route map - Dungeness Bay

Route map – Dungeness Bay

Once we dock at Pier 69, all the passengers with no checked luggage get off first, then the rest of us claim our bags and go through US Immigration and Customs. None of the agents have computer terminals on this end, unlike in Victoria where my passport was scanned. I catch a taxi outside the terminal, and he takes me the 10-15 blocks through rush hour traffic to the Best Western Plus Pioneer Square hotel. I picked this hotel because it is about six short blocks to the King Street Train station where I will show up tomorrow morning to begin my train journey to Tucson, Arizona.

post

Arizona Astronomy in February 2017

Garry's observatory with 20" and 25" telescopes

Garry’s observatory with 20″ and 25″ telescopes

An astronomy buddy of mine who has a home in the rural desert grasslands in southern Arizona invited a few of us from the local astronomy group to come down for a week of observing under dark skies in February 2017. I quickly took him up on his generous offer, since not only does his place have very dark skies, it is also located in a high elevation area in southeastern Arizona. We also get to make use of his very well-equipped observatory at a site that typically has 330 clear days (and nights) per year.

Instead of flying to Phoenix or Tucson, I decided to take the Victoria Clipper catamaran from Victoria to Seattle, overnight in Seattle, and then take the Amtrak train all the way to Tucson. I have never taken an overnight trip on a train before – this trip will take two days with a change of trains in Los Angeles. I’m really looking forward to the experience of slower and gentler travel. I will have a Roomette both ways, so I will be treated like a VIP, having my own bed, small private room, and meals included.

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles has a reputation of being one of the more interesting and scenic train routes in the USA, especially when it travels along the coast north of LA during daylight hours. The Sunset Limited takes me from LA to Tucson and back, but this is mainly during the night, so not much scenery will be visible on this route, just sleeping!

Amtrack route from Seattle to Tucson via LA

Amtrack route from Seattle to Tucson via LA