This year I continued to make up for lost travel opportunities by taking two cruises with Holland America. I always enjoy being catered to while aboard the ships, the onboard entertainment is first-rate, my 4-star Mariner status gives me extras, and I always treasure relaxing on the sea days. Of course I normally travel to tropical destinations in order to soak up the warm weather.
Panama Canal 21-day cruise
In April I sailed aboard a repositioning cruise on Nieuw Amsterdam from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Vancouver, British Columbia. This is a route I have sailed several times, but the price was attractive and the ship called into some ports I hadn’t experienced before. Grand Turk and Aruba offered the typical Caribbean island experience, and I was able to snorkel over a shipwreck in Aruba – a first for me! A personal thrill was observing the Green Flash from my balcony as the Sun set over the Caribbean. I also observed abundant wildlife along the route – seabirds and sea turtles from the ship, and rainforest birds and flora in Costa Rica.
Despite having visited Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas many times, I found something new to experience in each port. Our day in San Diego allowed me to explore the USS Midway, an historic aircraft carrier which was an easy 10-minute walk from where our ship docked. After sailing north along the west coast, I also got to be a “tourist in my own town” since the ship stopped at Victoria the day before I disembarked in Vancouver.
Hawaii 16-day cruise
Online photo album – sorry, my travelogue has yet to be published.
In October I was aboard Koningsdam on a roundtrip out of Vancouver to Hawai’i, so again, a very convenient cruise for me to take. I celebrated my 71st birthday aboard ship, just like I did last year for my 70th! The route was very similar, however this year we stopped in Astoria, Oregon, which I found interesting, and the scheduled call to Lahaina on Maui was scrubbed in favour of an overnight stay in Honolulu due to that little town being devastated by a recent wildfire. I took advantage of our two days in Honolulu by going on a rain forest walk in the nearby Manoa Valley along with some scenic views of Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamond Head. I visited the Bishop Museum (on my own) the other day.
When we called into Kailua-Kona, I met a friend who lives on the Big Island of Hawai’i, and enjoyed some quiet time away from that tourist town. On sea days, Holland America’s entertainment kept me busy choosing which venue to enjoy next: Rolling Stones Rock Room, BB King’s Jazz & Blues, special events and enrichment talks, and the Main Stage shows. Then there’s the lovely food and drink offerings, especially when I celebrated my birthday in the Tamarind Asian-Fusion restaurant. I always enjoy getting away from the routine back home.
During the summer months also figured into my plans. The Island Star Party at Bright Angel Park in the Cowichan Valley gave me the opportunity to connect with my astronomy buddies, and spend time on the observing field enjoying the night sky and star party activities. The Perseid meteor shower wowed us all that same August weekend. I stayed at a nice guest house in Cowichan Bay since I’m not a camper. I also visited with some high school friends during the summer, meeting up in Chemainus for coffee and conversation.
I have taken several excursions on the ocean in other areas of the world that included whale sightings (most notably in Hawai’i), but despite living in one of the best locations for watching whales, until this year I had never taken a local whale watching excursion. So when Prince of Whales offered a special 6-hour whale watching trip in September on their most comfortable boat specially designed for local photographers, I was all-in! It was a wonderful experience, since we observed (and photographed) Stellar Sea Lions, Humpback Whales, Sea Otter, Harbour Seals, Bigg’s Whales (killer whales), and lots of birds.
2024 Total Solar Eclipse 10-day cruise
An astronomy buddy and I will be cruising from Los Angeles to Mazatlan and back to LA in April 2024 aboard the Discovery Princess to observe the Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) from offshore at Mazatlan, Mexico. This is a mega-ship on a new cruise line for me, however it offers a great way to observe an eclipse in comfort. I’ve observed two other TSEs from cruise ships: in 2012 aboard the Paul Gauguin in the Coral Sea south of New Caledonia, and in 2016 aboard the Volendam from the Makassar Strait in Indonesia. As it turns out, quite a few cruise ships will be under the Moon’s shadow at the appointed time on April 8, 2024 off the Mexican coast close to Mazatlan. Cruise lines rarely turn away from a ready-made captive market!
I upgraded both my Mac Studio desktop computer from an M1 Max to an M2 Ultra, and also upgraded my MacBook Pro 14″ notebook from an M1 Max to an M3 Max. So I’m keeping Apple’s fortunes secure, and having some geeky fun along the way!
Kirk finally gave up his beloved Motorola flip phone, joining the modern era with an iPhone 14, although he’s still grumbling about the new tech, and hasn’t even tried using the camera yet. I live with a tech luddite! We both had mobile plans with Shaw Mobile which was bought by Rogers, so we had to transition our service. Kirk is with Rogers Mobile on an equivalent plan to what he had before, while I decided to go with Public Mobile, a flanker brand of Telus. Both mobile services are working for us, but we aren’t locked into anything should we decide to move to better plans.
I am in the midst of transitioning to two new platforms where my notes are kept and my online galleries of photos – both extensive personal collections of “stuff”. Migrating from a platform or software app can be painful, take a long time, require a lot of effort on my part, and there is no guarantee of success despite careful planning.
I am a compulsive note-taker, which compensates for my poor memory. My tool of choice since 2009 has been Evernote, a market-leading app that was a very good fit for my need to save stuff to refer to later. However, their success caused the company to lose its way, and with rising subscription fees I grew dissatisfied. I started looking around for alternatives and discovered Bear, a newly-developed app that shows promise. It runs much faster than the bloated Evernote, costs much less to subscribe to, and I can see a migration path that works for me, so I took the plunge. At first, I ran both apps side-by-side, but that’s not practical in the long term, and so I migrated my notes from Evernote to Bear. I’m happy with this new service, which syncs between my Mac, iPad and iPhone using Apple’s iCloud. I closed my account with Evernote at the end of this year.
Photography has been a passion of mine since 1965, when I started shooting black and white 120 negative film with my first camera, a Grace rangefinder. By 1999 I had transitioned to digital cameras, storing my photography on hard drives and archiving to DVD laser disks. Over the years, I have scanned all the important photos taken on film, storing the digital versions on my computer systems. This has resulted in having about 180,000 photographs taking some 1.5 Tb of storage. I have about 7,750 photos in my JoeTourist online galleries.
My photo hosting service Zenfolio has provided good service since 2009, however over the last couple of years I have been concerned about the slow rendering time and other service issues that have affected the reliability of this service. So I reluctantly decided to look for a new photo hosting online service, and eventually decided on Flickr. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to migrate that much media from one platform to another, so I’m starting fresh on Flickr and leaving my legacy photos on Zenfolio.
I traded in my 6-year old Tesla Model S75D on a new 2023 Model S100 Long Range. My fancy new car has gorgeous Ultra Red paint, so my long run of owning white cars is over! It also has yoke steering, lots of new luxury features, and the Full Self Driving option transferred from my 2017. It’s nice having an extra 150 km of range, not that I’ve made use of it on a road trip so far.
More details on my history with automobiles and about this latest acquisition – Automobiles
Kirk and I are both in reasonably good health, despite being seniors. Kirk had two minor surgeries this year, so he’s glad to have that dealt with. I’m on a new treatment for my high cholesterol, caused by Heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH). LEQVIO (inclisiran) is a subcutaneous injection I receive twice a year. My lipid specialist assures me PCSK9 Inhibitors will soon be the preferred treatment for high cholesterol, but in the mean time we’re working with the drug company to get my medical insurance to cover the considerable cost. My test results certainly verify that this treatment is working, since my LDL is now a fraction of what it was, which is very encouraging!
COVID-19 finally found me after I evaded the virus for the last three years. I tested positive on the day I disembarked my Hawaii cruise in Vancouver. My symptoms were mild, and I tested negative after 5 days. Kirk and I are scheduled for our fifth COVID-19 vaccination in January, which gives me the recommended 3-month gap from having recovered from the virus.
Our Jack Russell Terriers Rolly and Tanner continue to keep us busy with three walks each day, however we have noticed they are slowing down a bit this year as they are now both 12 years old. Our Turkish Van cat Mello continues to run the household, but otherwise keeps a pretty low profile. Thankfully, none of our pets have had any health issues this year
We continue to do our best to buy local and eat healthy food. We go to nearby Silver Rill Farm to fetch our favourite corn on the cob (and other local vegetables) during the summer months. Believe it or not, Walmart stocks a good selection of BC-grown produce in their grocery section, and we also shop for some items at Thrifty Foods and Save-On Foods. It is astounding how the price of groceries has climbed into the stratosphere this year!
Observing the Perseid meteor shower was the highlight at the Island Star Party this year. I missed this year’s partial solar eclipse, since I was cruising Hawai’i at the appointed time, so was off track. I have observed and photographed the Moon and some planetary conjunctions during the year. My new Canon RF 2x Extender combined with the Canon RF 100-500 zoom telephoto gives me a 1,000 mm focal length optic to use, which is very handy for taking lunar and planetary photos.
I’m still using the Slooh remote telescope service, so I have access to their superb equipment located at high elevation in both Chile and the Canary Islands. I have observed the night sky from my local astronomy club’s observatory a few times, and regularly attend their Astronomy Cafe, which offers interesting presentations and sharing of our observations, photos, and experiences.
Entertainment and News
I attended a Chris Botti jazz concert staged at my local theatre, which I enjoyed immensely. Other than on cruise ships, I rarely attend live performances, so this experience was special to me, especially since Chris is one of my favourite musicians.
In order to have access to trusted news source, I have subscriptions to both the New York Times and the Postmedia group of newspapers here in Canada. The NY Times offers special deals to their Canadian readers, so I’m currently paying just $2.60/mo for that news source. I use my Postmedia subscription ($40/year) to mainly read The Vancouver Sun and the Montreal Gazette. I also use the Google News clipping service, but going forward, I don’t want to rely on an American company for my news.
I did a major upgrade to my photography gear a couple of years ago, however this year I added the Canon RF 2x Extender, which as mentioned above, gives my Canon RF 100-500 zoom telephoto a 1,000 mm focal length. This added reach is great for capturing both astronomical subjects such as the Moon or planets, as well as birds and animals. I also continue to enjoy flying my two drones. I’m always amazed at the great-looking photos the cameras on these devices produce.
I rarely use my GoPro Hero 8 action camera, but decided it was time to upgrade to their latest model, the Hero 12 Black when a good price came along during the Black Friday sales. I use the GoPro mainly to take time lapse photos and to shoot underwater when I’m snorkelling while travelling. The new stabilization is certainly much improved, as is the photo and video quality.