Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Port Alberni, BC

March 17th, 2014 | Category: Travel,Vancouver Island & Region

Click on images to make them larger.

Leaving the brilliant, windswept wilderness outpost of Flagstaff, I had a good view of the peaks and a few smaller cinder cones to the west.

I touched down in the metropolitan madness of arid Phoenix…

…flew back north over the geological wonderland of Northern Arizona and Utah:

…and touched down again in rainy Seattle.  SEA-TAC is a great airport.  I love the wall of glass, suspended on cables:

Finally, I landed in Victoria, BC, Canada, and drove several hours to Port Alberni, another wilderness outpost.

After getting a night’s rest and putting in a day’s work, I used the remaining light to visit Stamp falls regional park, where there is a roaring waterfall and a fish ladder.

It’s verdant, smells like healthy soil and fresh air, and moss covers everything, as is characteristic of the northwest.

There was this giant, which squirted out of a crevice in a cliff, made a 90-degree turn and shot towards the sky.


Pennsylvania countryside

September 23rd, 2013 | Category: Travel,Uncategorized

Just before taking off for home, I stopped by to visit with my sister in Pennsylvania again, and we got out for a quick walk through the countryside (on a Land Conservancy property near Newtown Square).

Then it was off for another flight across the country.

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A Day Sail on the Gazela

September 14th, 2013 | Category: Gazela,Travel,Uncategorized

On the east coast for business, once again I made sure to roll through Philly to visit with family. For me, “family” includes the Gazela, a ship on which I have been crew for nearly 20 years. I usually don’t get to sail any more, living so far away, but today was special. We conducted a practice sail between the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges.  It was a delightful afternoon, with a fine breeze perfect for sailing, not too much river traffic, and lots of sun.

We motored out into the enormous Delaware, but soon raised some jibs.  That’s the battleship “New Jersey” in the background.

Next we raised the lower and upper main square sails.

In the next image it looks like we’re standing on the yard (large wooden horizontal mast-like wood) at bottom, but that is an illusion.  In actuality, crew stands on the footrope – the unoccupied lower main topsail yard’s footrope, a heavy black line, can be seen at the bottom of this picture.

In unison, we lean forward – throwing our feet back as our bellies form a pivot point on top of the yard – and grab a “flake” (fold) of sail. We haul it up, lean backwards – and, holding on to the sail, which is what prevents us from falling – stand upright, then fold the flake on to the top of the yard. Leaning on the folded flake with our bellies, this operation is performed multiple times until the entire sail has been hauled up and folded, accordion-style, on top of the yard, at which point it’s tied with short ropes named “gaskets.”

Here is a rare image with me actually in it.  We’re furling the jibs – sails attached to the boom, or mast that points from the bow (front) end of the ship. It’s one of my favorite places, because you can watch water part around the bow while the ship moves through the water, and at sea, sometimes there are dolphins or pilot whales (which are like big black dolphins) playing in the bow wave.

The Philadelphia skyline seen from mid-river.  If you enlarge this image you can see a tall ship named “Moshulu” which used to haul grain around the horn.  In fact, it was the last wind-powered ship to commercially travel between Europe and Australia, as well as the orient and the US, and several books were written about it.  Now it doesn’t sail; its rigging is nice-looking but for show only, and it is a fancy restaurant that never moves.  But I love that Philadelphia has this amazing ship.  To its right, which a white hull and saffron superstructure, is the Olympia, the original gunboat of the phrase “gunboat diplomacy.” It is the ship from which Admiral Dewey said the famous line “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley,” which launched the crucial naval battle of the Spanish-American war.  Harder to see in this picture in the Becuna, a decorated WWII submarine.  Across the river in Camden, NJ, and shown in another picture in this post, is the WWII battleship New Jersey.

Since there are so many other historic vessels I should mention that the Gazela may be the oldest wooden sailing vessel afloat in the US, and one of the oldest in the world.  Built in Portugal in1883 (although extensively refitted in 1901), she is still sailed up and down the east coast, not as a pleasure vessel, but as a living school to preserve the skills of the era of sail.

I’ve included a variety of images in the gallery below; click to enlarge.

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Gadget interview

June 26th, 2013 | Category: Arctic,Travel,Uncategorized

I was just interviewed by the blog/zine “medium” about what gadgets I took to the Arctic last year. Here is the link.

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May field work – Gazela side trip

May 21st, 2013 | Category: Travel

While on the east coast working at Hopkins, I took a day to visit my sister and work on the Gazela, on which I have crewed for 20 years or so. Of course, since I no longer live on the east coast, I don’t get many opportunities to visit the ship, so I do what I can, showing up a few times a year and putting in some ship’s work.  There is always something to be done on a ship. It is comforting how some things change very little over time; the ship is much older than me (1883) and with luck, it will be around long after I’m gone.

The ship is going to sail into Atlantic blue water this year, but alas, I won’t be on it.  Maybe next year.

The ship is moored in its usual place on the Delaware at Penn’s landing in Philadelphia. That’s the Ben Franklin bridge in the background.


Nearby are the ship guild’s other possessions, the barge “Poplar” which serves as our workshop and chandlery, and the 1902 riveted iron-hulled tug “Jupiter.”

Here is some detail showing how the hull plates are riveted together.  The tug was made long before welding was commercially possible.

Here’s a view of the tug’s wheelhouse, looking aft.  You can see the captain’s berth close by; he has to be ready at a moment’s notice, at any time.

Across the river is Camden, NJ.  It has its problems, but there are numerous interesting things to see there.  Slightly south is the battleship NJ.

Directly across the river is the old RCA-Victor building with its classic stained-glass window of the dog looking into the Victrola:

On this day, I helped to bring down the winter canopy that is always erected over the deck to allow work to continue while the ship overwinters; we struck it down and store the timbers below deck on the Poplar. We also rigged the visitor gangway.  Meanwhile, one of the carpenters worked on the quarterdeck timbers.

The work done for the day, some crew relax amidst the freshly oiled spars sitting about the deck.

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News Article About IBuoy

February 13th, 2013 | Category: Arctic,JHUAPL,Travel


February 12th, 2013 | Category: Travel

Since it is nearby, there’s no excuse for not going… and it was Rachel’s 40th!  We had a special dinner at the exclusive Napa Rose restaurant, which is everything it’s cracked up to be.  Rachel is looking mighty fine, no?

I am a Disney skeptic.  I’ve read all kinds of terrible things about Disney corp, how they treat their employees, and their business practices.  I didn’t grow up idolizing the disney movies, and I’m not a huge fan of mediated entertainment of this order.  I kind of expected the sign over the gate to read “Arbeit macht frei” (It actually reads: “Here you leave the world of today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” ).

I have to admit, the place is much more tasteful than I expected.  The rides are fun/inventive and the grounds beautiful. We had a good time! There are enough pictures of the place on-line that I’m not going to post very many, but I recommend going (when the weather is cool, if possible).  It’s an American institution, after all.

The California screamer roller coaster is the only “serious” ride, I think, in terms of high g-force.  There is a new coaster themed after the movie “Cars” that is pretty exciting, as well. There are some smaller coasters that are also fun – magic mountain, of course, and a kiddie roller coaster themed after Donald Duck which was also fun.  Not all of the most fun rides are scary – the big Ferris wheel is great, as is the gentle jellyfish ride, probably classified as “wild but mild.”  I lkied seeing Rachel enjoy the place and I liked all of the cute kids who were apoplectic with excitement (let’s not talk about the screaming ones with glazed doughnut faces who were having meltdowns).



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Kauai horse ride

September 13th, 2012 | Category: animals,Hawaii,Travel

While “the girls” were all out doing things like getting their toes polished, I went horseback riding with my friend Joe, the groom.  We had a great time!

Because I didn’t get my toes polished,, I looked disheveled and ungraceful at Joe & Sara’s wedding; but I’m used to that by now.

We encountered a paradisaical waterfall and pool and went for a swim.

Joe took a few pictures of me.  Gotta love REI desert-weight convertible pants.; they make a good swimsuit in a pinch.

I look like Sancho Panza.

Here, I ride a unique headless horse.  This horse had very distinct ideas about where and what it was going to do.  They seldom coincided with my ideas; nevertheless, I managed to keep the lid on the situation and it never became an outright rebellion, although constant vigilance was required.  After it was all over I thought we did pretty well.  I can’t wait to ride a horse again!  It is a great way to ride across interesting terrain.





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The Pihea Trail and Waimea Canyon

September 13th, 2012 | Category: Hawaii,Travel

While Rachel and I were in Kauai to attend the wedding of our friends Sara & Joe, we visited Kōkeʻe state park, among other places.  It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Of many spectacular sights, there are two main features: the ridge overlooking the north coast of the island, and the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Looking at the pictures, it looks almost fake.  I felt the same way when I was there – “Is this real?” I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The sweeping panorama overlooks the Kalalau Valley.

The heavily used trail is difficult to negotiate when it rains – which is definitely was doing when we were there.  Judging by the narrowing of the trail, most people turn back long before the end.  The narrow trail turns into a steep mud slalom; requiring some agility and slots of risky dependence upon overhanging trees, it’s not for the faint of heart.  A hiking staff (or two) would have been a big help.  The splorpy volcanic mud was shin-deep in places, and filled with amazing colors. I was concentrating so much on not slipping that I hardly took any pictures at this point.

Looking inward, you have a view of the Alaka’i swamp, quite literally the wettest place on the planet. It is known for amazing birds and other animals; I have been to this spot twice now and not had time to forge into the swamp.  One day I’d like to walk all the way across the island through this area; it would be an epic trek.

Leaving the northern ridge, we spent some time along the ridge of the Waimea canyon, technically in its own park, but basically the same area as the Pihea trail. We took the canyon trail to Waipoo falls, which you see from the top, plunging almost a thousand feet into the gorge.  There are no rails here -nothing to protect you from yourself.  The trail affords numerous opportunities to wind up temporarily airborne before becoming bug splatter at the bottom!  That – and almost constant, breathtaking beauty, wondrous botany, and occasional boar and mountain goat sightings.  We had the place to ourselves.

The jungle reverberates with bird calls not heard in the contiguous 48.

For images from my first trip here, including wildlife, scuba diving and oceanographic flight images, click here and here.


Diving in Kauai

September 10th, 2012 | Category: animals,Hawaii,scuba,Travel

Here are some pictures taken on a recent trip to Kauai.  I always meet such great people when I travel & dive, and this was no exception.  Diving sites were Koloa landing, tunnels beach and some boat diving around Sheraton caverns.

You may notice that the collection is a bit turtle-heavy.  I like turtles.  Deal with it.

Sheraton caverns was by far the most interesting, with lots of life and interesting terrain, but not so far off shore that a long boat ride is required.  Tunnels is a great beach, and near some other interesting things to do on shore, but I found it rather barren for the most part.  This is probably due to the violent wave action that makes this site undiveable in the winter.  The cleaning station in the shallows was fantastic; if you find it, stay there – it’s the coolest thing you’ll find there, I think.  I found the tunnels (rock formations with a lot of swim-throughs) marginally interesting.  I’d probably like them better if I went with just one other diver.  Koloa landing is a good practice/reintroduction site, and a great way to start out a week of diving after not being in the water for a few months.  Although not super awesome like Sheraton caverns, there was a lot of life and it was really easy to get in and out, both in terms of diving and arriving by car.



Here are some Pacific Green sea turtles being cleaned by tangs off of Tunnels beach.

By the way, they are not called green because of their color – which is not really green – but because of their fat, which is green in color (people used to eat a lot of turtles).  Some green turtles are, in fact, green, but this is because of algae.  In true color, they are yellow/brownish-orange.  The color distortion at depth makes them look green in some photos, but this is misleading.  The next two pictures show this effect.

Here is a non-color-corrected image:

…and here is one taken with a flash, to show true color (and algae growth):

These next few images are close to the surface and the color is pretty accurate.  I’ve never seen so many adult turtles in one place.  Like all reef animals that want cleaning, they hang motionless in a slightly head-up position, flippers out.  This body posture is a signal to the cleaners, who come up to do their job.

Some other sights from Tunnels – my diving buddy that day, Carmen M.:

A little whitemouth moray eel found in the shallows.  they are very common in Hawaii.

What it looks like in the tunnels:

A school of bluestriped grunts.  I love to watch when a stationary school of animals rocks gently back and forth in the current.

What you see when you surface at Tunnels reef:


Koloa Landing

This is a rockmover wrasse, but I think of it as the stoned-out-of-its-mind fish:

These nudibranchs (probably Chromodoris vibrata) are mating (I think). They are basically fancy slugs, and they are beautiful and tiny.

Here is another type, the Gold Lace nudibranch.

Here is a rather blurry image of a humuhumunukunukuapuaa (it’s pronounced HOO-moo-HOO-moo-NOO-koo-NOO-koo-AH-poo-AH-ah).

A stonefish.  It’s venomous – very much so, and also common; I’ve found them all over the world.  They are almost impossible to see. Look for the eye, and the mouth to its left.

A flying gurnard.


An injured, sick-looking turtle with a completely algae-encrusted carapace.  If I had seen it in Florida, I would have alerted the turtle hospital, but I don’t know who to speak to about this in Hawaii.  Note the crushed portion of its shell near the left shoulder.

Another green turtle.

A green moray eel, which is really green.

A spotted pufferfish.  these guys are hard to photograph, because they move so rapidly and are shy.



Sheraton Caverns

This area is so named because a) it’s off-coast of a Sheraton and b) there are some lava caves and swim-throughs in the area.  Turtles (yes, more turtles) like to rest in the caverns.  Drowsily perched on the stone blocks, flippers hanging carelessly, they resemble bored people waiting at a bus stop.  Like many reptiles, they don’t have the necessity to constantly respirate like us mammals; the simply stop breathing when water makes it inconvenient.  Lodging themselves in the rocks, they doze off.  It makes me consider the alien lives of other animals.  Can you imagine an existence in which breathing was more like eating – something you needed to do, but could be put off for long periods of time?

It was pretty exciting to drop into the cavern and find it filled with turtles, none of whom seemed particularly concerned with my presence.

Another of my favorite animals is the octopus.  They are very hard to find, specially in daytime; here is one hidden away in its crevice. This one is called the day octopus, for the simple reason that it is a rare type that can be found out and about in daylight hours.  Can you see it?  It is camouflaged not only by color, but by texture; an octopus can change either at will.  It is in the center right, a brown, rough-surfaced object.

Here it is a little more obvious, apparently menacing a banded cleaner shrimp. By this time the octopus has changed color and texture.

Shrimp is definitely on the menu for the day octopus, but either it wasn’t hungry, or it was scared by me, and it retreated into its lair.

Here’s the shoreline during our surface interval:

Back below, some morays: a yellow-margin and a whitemouth, respectively.

A hawkfish;  they are on every coral head.

At the very last minute, while ascending, some white-tipped reef sharks appear.  I didn’t have enough time to go back down after them.

Back on the surface, while the sun sets, some outriggers set out for a brisk row amidst the dashing surf.


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