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Kaua’i, Hawaii

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 – Nawiliwili Harbour, Kaua’i, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

We arrive in Nawiliwili harbour at 7AM this morning. I am taking an early snorkel excursion to Poipu Beach, but I have time to grab a cappuccino in the Explorer’s Cafe and some scrambled eggs from the Lido before clearing the ship and finding my snorkel tour group in the terminal building. We are soon off in two 9-passenger vans to the assembly point where we are given fins, a wet suit, and snorkel and mask for those who need it (I always bring my own snorkel and mask)). We are then driven to Poipu Beach, but after some serious discussion by the tour leaders, they decide to cancel the snorkel. The water is too rough and the waves breaking onto the beach are too aggressive for our group to safely enter the water.

My group of snorkelers waiting to enter the water at Poipu

My group of snorkelers waiting to enter the water at Poipu

Actually, I’m relieved, since even before they told everyone about the cancellation, I was concerned about the wave action. In any case, if we had gone in, there would be nothing to see with all the sand being stirred up from the bottom by the big waves.

I peal off my wetsuit and pull on some shorts and a shirt so I’m more comfortable. Apparently this is the first time in four years they have had to cancel a snorkel tour. We help ourselves to the soft drinks and snacks they provide before we are taken on a scenic drive, and then back to the ship to say our goodbyes to the good folks at Sea Fun Kauai. There’s always next time!

My friends and I have dinner in the Lido this evening. Two of us have the Filet Mignon and another has thick-cut roast beef. It was all very good…perhaps one of our best meals on this cruise. Despite being a casual, buffet-style restaurant, the Lido serves excellent food, which is especially appreciated when you want to skip the formal table service available in the other restaurants aboard ship.


Slide show of the South Coast of Kaua’i (2010-2017)

Photo galleries of Kaua’i

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Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i

Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017 – Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

We go ashore to walk along Front Street on Lahaina’s shoreline. The tenders take a long time to move people ashore…in fact, we initially give up on it, but eventually take a number and wait almost an hour to leave the ship. Returning to the ship just before noon presents no problems. We are glad to leave the hot and crowded Lahaina street for the air conditioned ship.

After having our afternoon beer, we have dinner in the main dining room. I have Kauai-Style Poke, which is raw tuna and salmon marinated in sesame, tomatoes, ginger, avocado with a sesame kalbi dressing – very good! My friends find the Macademia Crusted Lamb Leg is also very tasty.

The glitzy production on the main stage tonight is called One World, featuring Eurodam’s singers and dancers. It doesn’t appeal to me much, despite being well-performed with some aerial spinning. The concussion sounds they use finally drive me out of the theatre. Back in my cabin, I pull out my snorkel and mask, and prepare my GoPro camera for underwater use, since tomorrow morning I’m taking a snorkel excursion on Kaua’i.


Slide show of Lahaina (2014-2017)

Maui photo galleries

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Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i

Sunday, Oct 8, 2017 – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I go to the Explorations Cafe this morning for a cappuccino, muesli, and blueberry cake, and then I disembark the ship early. I walk a few blocks to Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, however I really have to screw up my courage to walk through this park, since there are so many homeless people camped out. The shoreline is beautiful, and when I get to Panic Point, I’m rewarded with a beautiful view of the Honolulu boat basin, Waikiki Beach, and Diamond Head in the distance (see above banner image). A local guy tells me the park will be closed this evening at 10PM by the city until further notice while they evict the squatters and clean up the park. I see the eviction signs as I leave the park and head back along Ala Moana Boulevard to the ship, which is only a few blocks away.

My lei floating in Honolulu harbour

My lei floating in Honolulu harbour

I have brunch in the Lido after returning to the ship, and then go for a swim in the Sea View Pool. I buy a dozen beer from the bar on my way back to my cabin, since they are selling some pretty good beer from Alaska 2 for 1, although at $6/bottle, it is still expensive! I toss the lei I received upon landing in Hilo into the harbour. It floats, which tradition tells us means I will return to Hawai’i some day – a pretty sure thing!

My friends and I have dinner at Canaletto Italian restaurant aboard ship this evening. I have the Melanzane Ripiene – eggplant roulade as a starter, and Banzino al Fiere – grilled Sea Bass as a main course.My friends share some antipasto and Mozzarella Bufala – buffalo mozzarella with salad for starters, and Costoletto alla Griglia – lamb cutlets and arugula salad. They also have a carafe of Montepulciano D’Abbruzzio.

After dinner, I go to see the main stage show : This is Hawaii – a show troupe from Maui. It is a pretty good modern song and dance showcase of the islands.

Monday, Oct 9, 2017 – Honolulu

Throne Room in the Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii

Throne Room in the Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii

This morning, we walk the few blocks to see the Iolani Palace, which is quite spectacular inside. Last time I cruised to Honolulu, the palace was closed because it was a Sunday, so I”m glad I have lots of time to see it this time. We also walk around in the vicinity, seeing the outside of the State Legislature, the Mission Houses and Kawaiahao Church.

We are beat by the time we return to the ship just before noon. The heat and humidity are building, so I am glad for the air conditioning aboard ship. I’m turning into quite the wimp! My friends and I have a beer before we go to the main dining room for dinner. It is Canadian Thanksgiving today, so we order turkey dinner and pumpkin pie along with our other Canadian table mates from Quadra Island, West Vancouver, and Brandon, Manitoba.

We don’t leave port until late this evening, bound for Maui.

Slide show of Honolulu (2010-2017)

Oahu photo galleries

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Hilo, Hawai’i

Oct 7, 2017 – Hilo, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I luck out this morning, since I’m facing northwest as the Eurodam enters Hilo Bay early this morning. I have a perfect view of Mauna Kea as the Sun lights it up from the top down to sea level. The bonus is a Full Moon shining brightly above the sacred mountain with so many telescopes at the summit. Despite the early hour, I call my friends to come over to my verandah to share in the wonder. I setup my GoPro to capture a 4k time lapse video of the sublime view while I take still photos with my dSLR. The Eurodam slips into the dock and ties up while many are still asleep, however the Sun has risen and the day is warming.

Eurodam arrival in Hilo at sunrise from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

Joy, Joe and John having lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe

Joy, Joe and John having lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe

A mutual friend who lives on the Big Island picks us up at 11AM  just outside the gate to the wharves, and gives us a beautiful lei to welcome us to Hawai’i in the traditional manner. Our first stop is to have lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe. Our table on the patio gives us a wonderful view of the bay while we have a beer and fish and chips while we catch up with each others’ lives.

After lunch, we walk along the shoreline by the Lili’uokalani Gardens and over the foot bridge to have a look at Coconut Island. Since it is Saturday, there are lots of families enjoying picnics and swimming and paddling in the bay. We have a look at the tsunami flood levels marked on a coconut tree, which illustrates just how high the water level has risen in past years within the shallow bay.

We decide to go see the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which is along the coast just outside Hilo. It is quite a hike down to sea level and then back up the hill to the parking lot, however the foliage, spectacular flowers along the walls of the gulley are breathtaking. I remember this spot from my previous visits, however I used the public access to the shoreline, so missed the best parts.

We return to the ship by 4PM and sail out of Hilo Bay at 6PM, on our way to Honolulu tomorrow.

Slide show featuring Hilo, Hawai’i (2009-2017)

Big Island of Hawai’i photo galleries

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Centralia to Victoria

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 23, 2017 – Centralia, WA to Victoria, BC

I’m up at 7:30AM despite being in no hurry today. I find a coffee shop open nearby so I can get my morning cappuccino, and drink it on the Parkside Patio back at the Centralia Square Grand Ballroom and Hotel – a nice start to the day. After finishing my cappuccino, I go downstairs to have breakfast in the Berry Fields Cafe – two eggs in a thick slice of their oat bread and fried. It is yummy! I check out of the hotel and drive over to the Centralia Supercharger for a top-up before driving for two hours through Olympia and up the Olympic Peninsula to Sequim. There are no congestion problems today and I don’t have to pay the toll to cross on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge northbound, thank goodness.

I stop at the Sequim Supercharger, not that I need a charge, but I want to try it out and see where it is located for when I might need it on future trips. It is at a Holiday Inn Express, and I’m in need of another cappuccino, so I drive by the Supercharger and go downtown. I find a coffee bar which makes a decent cappuccino, and they also have apple strudel, so that will be lunch! After topping up my charge, i drive the short distance to Port Angeles. I’m three hours early, so I waste an hour parked downtown, and then check into the Coho ferry parking lot to wait to depart for home. Canadian Customs and Immigration don’t have pre clearance like the Americans do, so there are no formalities before driving onto the 5:20PM ferry. Before arriving in Victoria, I switch my iPhone back to using my Rogers SIM. After our arrival, I drive off the ferry and am directed to the slowest line clearing Canadian Customs and Immigration, but eventually I’m free to drive the few blocks to my home. The eclipse trip is over!

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Newberg to Centralia

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 22, 2017 – Newberg, OR to Centralia, WA

I am up by 7:30AM this morning and see the Sun rising through the smoke from local wild fires near Newberg. I pack, put my things in the car, and after grabbing some breakfast at the hotel, drive down to the nearby Woodburn Supercharger for a 15 minute charge. While I’m recharging, I find a Starbuck’s and have cappuccino while waiting for my Tesla Model S to charge to 90%. The drive north on I-5 to Centralia isn’t as smooth as I thought it would be the day after the eclipse. It appears the extra visitors to the area are still causing volume delays along the way at each interchange just like yesterday, but I arrive in Centralia only about 10 minutes later than estimated.

Joe enjoying a glass of Prosecco while I wait for my room to be made ready

Joe enjoying a glass of Prosecco while I wait for my room to be made ready

I park across the street from the Centralia Grand Ballroom and Hotel in the afternoon heat of the historic district. The front desk informs me my room isn’t ready since I’m a couple of hours early, so I go for lunch at the Berry Fields Cafe located in the same building. They serve me a huge Cobb Salad with a big wedge of bread and an endless glass of iced tea. When I check back at the hotel desk after lunch, they tell me my room is almost ready, and pour me a chilled Prosecco sparkling Italian wine while I wait. I find a seat in their lovely guest lounge area, and about 10 minutes later I am taken to my room – up the main staircase.

There are no elevators in this three story historic building, but the rooms all have individually-controlled heat pumps. I really appreciate the cool room, since this afternoon the outside temperature is past 30ºC. I take the rest of my stuff up to the room and move my car to the free parking lot behind the hotel.

After cooling down in my room for awhile, I take my camera and explore this historic district of Centralia in the late afternoon, taking a couple of photos of the train station and the historic Fox Theater. On the way back to the hotel, I stop at The Station Coffee Bar for a nicely-made cappuccino. This coffee place is huge, with a performance space and an upstairs. I sip my cappuccino in my room while editing more photos. I can’t face eating any dinner after having such a big lunch. I also take quite a few photos of this historic hotel – the Grand Ballroom is indeed grand, and the shared bathrooms and polished wooden floors the hallways remind me of hotels my parents and I used to stay at in the 1950s and early 60s. Thankfully, my room has a toilet and shower, and there is a sink is in the room, just like the old days.

Centralia Square Grand Ballroom & Hotel - links to Centralia slide show

Centralia Square Grand Ballroom & Hotel

When I booked this historic hotel, I had a feeling it would appeal to me, and it certainly does! It started life in the 1920s as a very grand Elk’s Hall, but was sold in 1985 and became an antiques mall with the restaurant on the main level. In 2013 a young Centralia couple bought the building with the goal of restoring the ball room and other event rooms, and making the hotel rooms once again available to the public. They have done a wonderful job of restoring the old building, with the view of hosting weddings and other events in addition to hotel guests. I hate to think how much it has cost them to bring the building to the point it is today!

I’m going to try to promote the hotel and this historic city, since driving to Centralia is an easy trip for those who live in Victoria, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of BC, as well as from anywhere in Western Washington or Oregon. The bonus for Tesla owners is that there is a Supercharger in Centralia with outlet stores adjacent, and it is just a five minute drive to the hotel and the city’s historic district.

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Total Solar Eclipse Day in Monmouth, OR

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 21, 2017 – Total Solar Eclipse Day in Monmouth, Oregon

My alarm is set for 5:00AM, but I wake up at 4:30AM, so decide to get up and start my journey early down to Monmouth to the line of totality. The traffic on the road is quite heavy but it moves well, so the trip takes me just under an hour. After I arrive in Monmouth, there is a bit of confusion about our meeting point, but after a phone call to check-in with my two observing buddies I meet them on the astroturf field they have picked out for us. We are setting up at 6:45AM, before the staff at Western Oregon University are ready for us, but they are happy to have us there, so we get prime parking spots by the entrance to the field.

Solar Corona & prominences - photo by John McDonald - used with permission

Solar Corona & prominences – photo by John McDonald – used with permission

Six more of my group from Victoria show up at the same location to observe the eclipse together, which is a lot of fun. I take some video of the people on the field as well as our group to capture some of the pre-eclipse excitement. Unfortunately I am so excited during the eclipse, I lose my concentration when totality hits and forget to remove my solar filter from my camera’s telephoto lens, so all my photos of totality are black!

This is perhaps the prettiest Total Solar Eclipse I have ever observed. Viewing through my binoculars, there are spectacular Diamond Rings both as totality starts (C2) and as it ends (C3), and I there is a whole row of Bailey’s Beads, a good number of Solar Prominences, and the Sun’s corona has beautiful plasma streamers flowing off into space in several directions. The planet Venus shows itself near the Sun visually before totality, so I take a wide field photo with my iPhone to capture the moment.

My Observing Report – a technical report of observational details, equipment used, location, fellow observers, and photographs

Gallery of Total Solar Eclipse photos taken by my fellow amateur astronomers (including my own) who are all members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre

2017 Total Solar Eclipse - phases banner

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – phases to totality

After we pack up our gear, our group goes to the Yeasty Beasty cafe in Monmouth for lunch. The cafe have eclipse-themed menus for both beer and entrees. After sharing our experiences and decompressing a bit, I say my goodbyes and start the drive north to my hotel in Newberg. Some of the group follow me north, however the Tesla in-vehicle navigation suddenly routes us off Highway 99W which I took this morning, and takes us over several back roads before joining the highway again at McMinnville Airport. My friends peel off before I reach the highway, since they have an AirB&B rented in this area.

Once I rejoin the highway, I can see why the navigation redirected me over the back roads – the traffic on state highway 99W is at a near stand still. I creep along for the last 10 miles to Newberg, taking two more hours! I’m concerned I won’t have enough battery power in my Tesla Model S to make it, so I turn off the air conditioning and put the car in Econo Mode to save as much power as possible. It is hellishly hot this afternoon, reaching 36ºC on the highway as we all sit there. Needless to say, I’m exhausted by the time I reach my hotel, some three hours after leaving Monmouth, however my car arrives with a comfortable 50% charge level, so in hindsight I had nothing to worry about.

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Lakewood to Newberg

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 20, 2017 – Lakewood, WA to Newburg, OR

Route from Lakewood, WA to Newberg, OR from Tesla in-vehicle navigation

Route from Lakewood, WA to Newberg, OR from Tesla in-vehicle navigation

I am up early and go for breakfast in the hotel’s breakfast room, where I meet a couple from the Netherlands who are travelling with a group of six to see the Total Solar Eclipse. They are planning to travel through the western USA after the eclipse. I pack up and leave the hotel, driving to the nearby Centralia Supercharger by 9AM for a recharge. Locals charging here tell me this Supercharger is never full, but it is full of my fellow eclipse-chasers this morning! After filling up, I join the I-5 freeway south through Portland on state highway 99W to the Best Western Newberg hotel. Traffic is heavy but moving well, considering the Oregon Highways Department is expecting 1.5 million extra visitors will be using the highways for the few days surrounding the eclipse date.

This afternoon, I assemble all my observing gear in the back of the hotel and ensure it all works as planned. I find out that my Kestrel weather station I plan to measure the temperature drop during the eclipse with doesn’t have the quick connect plate I need to attach it to the second tripod I brought along. So I get out the hockey tape and tape the weather station mount directly to the ball head on top of the tripod. This jerry-rig works fine, so I’m all ready for tomorrow’s eclipse!

I have dinner at the Chehalem Valley Brewing Company, a local pub which is a short walk from the hotel, and then decide to drive to the Woodburn Supercharger this evening, which isn’t very far from Newberg. I want a good charge so I don’t have to stop to charge tomorrow on eclipse day. That works out fine, since there are empty spaces at the Supercharger and the traffic is light both ways.

Aerovironment L2 and L3 DC charger near my hotel in the back of a local gas station.

Pacific Coast Electric Highway L2 and L3 DC charger near my hotel in the back of a local gas station.

Earlier today when I arrived in Newberg, I found a fast DC charger near my hotel that is part of the Pacific Coast Electric Highway. Before leaving home, I joined the Aerovironment network that is required to make use of this charging network that covers the Washington, Oregon and California secondary highways. I’m also signed up to the Plugshare system, which can be used to pay for charging at these kiosks. It’s always wise to have a Plan B, especially when you expect there might be contention at the Tesla Superchargers!

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Victoria to Lakewood

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 19, 2017 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Lakewood, WA, USA

Slideshow of Victoria's Inner Harbour

Slideshow of Victoria’s Inner Harbour

I show up for the 7:30PM sailing of the Coho ferry a bit early at 5:40PM, but since we have to pre-clear US Customs, there are lots of others showing up early as well, so the parking lot is mostly full. I pre-clear US Customs and Immigration, and the Coho leaves on time at 7:30PM. It is a funky old ship, and very small – only taking just over 100 cars. I am jammed in, as is everyone – so much so, it’s difficult to get out of the car. Once we clear the harbour and get underway, the ship is rolling pretty well, despite it being a calm summer evening. I wouldn’t want to take this route when there are winter storms!

A half hour out of Victoria as we head for Port Angeles, I take out my Rogers SIM from my iPhone and install the Roam Mobility SIM, which flashes up after a few minutes. I fiddle with the cellular settings and soon get the LTE data working. For my 4 days on their daily plan I am allotted 512Mb/day, so I have 2Gb total up front – more than enough data service for this short trip. Total cost is about $20.

Tacoma Narrows bridge at sunset

Tacoma Narrows bridge at sunset

Despite pre-clearing US Customs and Immigration before we left Victoria, all vehicles are stopped before leaving the Port Angeles terminal to be sniffed by a dog and talk to yet another agent. It takes a bit over two hours to drive from Port Angeles, pay a US$6 toll to cross the Tacoma Narrows bridge, arriving just before midnight at the Best Western hotel in Lakewood. I would never have found the hotel in the dark without the in-vehicle navigation, since it is embedded in the outskirts of Tacoma.

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Seattle to Victoria by Victoria Clipper

March 5, 2017 Sunday – Seattle to Victoria on the Victoria Clipper fast ferry

I’m up at 5:30AM, since the Victoria Clipper boards at 7:15AM for an 8AM departure for Victoria. Unfortunately I don’t have time for the included breakfast at the hotel, but grab a coffee in the lobby as I wait for my taxi to Pier 69, where the Victoria Clipper departs from. I have a few minutes before they open the departure area, so I get a cappuccino at the adjacent cafe. I check my big bag through to Victoria and go through pre-clearance where they check my passport against my boarding pass.

Rough seas as the Victoria Clipper passes Port Townsend into Juan de Fuca Strait

Rough seas as the Victoria Clipper passes Port Townsend into Juan de Fuca Strait

I’m soon settled onboard and the Victoria Clipper departs on time. We encounter some wave action as we pass Port Townsend into the open waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, but it smooths out again once we are in open water. There is no Wi-fi aboard, but my US data roaming gives me a good LTE connection for most of the trip, as I work on my photos and blog for most of the time anyway.

After our arrival in Victoria, the Canada Customs agent asks me the usual questions, then welcomes me back home to Canada. There is slush coming down outside as I catch a taxi home.