Thar She Blows

This is the money shot! As the whale goes down she arches her back and her tail comes out of the sea. Water pours off while her body straightens then disappears from sight.


Helaine and I went whale watching this afternoon. We’d been before, in Alaska. A trip in shirtsleeves under sunny skies sounded very appealing.

IMG_3184_5769We headed out Newport Bay and into the open Pacific. Seas were light. Santa Catalina and San Nicholas Island were both visible in light haze.

Finding whales is part instinct, part deduction and part luck. Our ship was aimed where whales were seen headed a few hours ago.

IMG_3237_5822It didn’t take long. No one shouted, “Thar she blows,” but that’s what happened. A quarter mile off the bow a cloud of mist was thrown up from the sea.

From the bridge the captain started talking about the whale, but she was still invisible to me. All I could see was that blow!

She began to rise. A blue whale, she was around 100 feet long. The whale leveled off with a few inches of her back above the water line, then began to dive.

IMG_3274_5859_1This is the money shot! As the whale goes down she arches her back and her tail comes out of the sea. Water pours off while her body straightens then disappears from sight.

The whale stayed submerged 13 minutes then blew again well in front of the boat. I knew it was the same whale because of a distinctive ‘beauty mark’ on her tail.

IMG_3381_5965Next up were dolphins, dozens of them swimming near and often in front of our boat. We stayed far from the whales, but that’s not possible with dolphins. They sought us out.

What a great trip. One more thing to do to keep out-of-town guests entertained… and us too.

Where I Take Visiting Friends

I like Thalia Street Beach in Laguna Beach because there’s not much of it. Twisting stairs lead down from the street. The walk to the high water line can’t be more than thirty feet. I wade in to my calfs. Well, that’s my intent.


Jon and Mary Lyn Wolfert slipped in for a few days. They’re passing through from Alaska.

Tonight they’re Dallas bound. They were on-the-ground making a fuel stop at Cavern City Air Terminal in Carlsbad, NM a few minutes ago.

Their Mooney has been dodging storms, but should be good the rest of the way. The sky will be getting brighter when they land after 5:00 AM local time.

SoCal is a pretty area. Out-of-town guests get taken to see the sights.

I like Thalia Street Beach in Laguna Beach because there’s not much of it. Twisting stairs lead down from the street. The walk to the high water line can’t be more than thirty feet. I wade in to my calfs. Well, that’s my intent.

Perfect weather. Beach jammed. Lifeguard stands, not evident a few months ago, out of storage and in the sand.

Everything about this beach says Southern California!

We left and drove past homes somehow fastened to hillsides. We were heading up. Prices were going up. Views too. Up high you see a lot.

Civilization ended at the top of the hill. We walked into the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. One side faces the Pacific, the other the basin that holds much of Orange County and the mountains that define its border.

More people stop by now that we’re in California. People like coming here. I understand why.

Alaska By Ship And Train

Still working on the photos from Alaska. Crazy, right? You’d think I’d be done by now.

Here are two side projects that sort of turned up.

A friend of Helaine’s has a son who loves trains. For him I compiled my best shots of the White Pass and Yukon Route, a narrow gauge railroad we took from Skagway into British Columbia.

This train is unlike any excursion train you can imagine with some unbelievable views.

My friend Jacob Wycoff lent me a GoPro Hero video camera for the trip. I had so much else going on I hardly got to use it, except for timelapse. This one was taken as we cruised into Glacier Bay.

The camera was mounted above the sliding door to the balcony. The lens is a little too wide for this particular shot, but there’s no way to redo it now.


The Bag That Almost Got Away

We’re at Terminal A, Bradley Airport. Our flight is an hour away. We’re very excited about the Alaskan cruise we board tomorrow.

Getting to this point has been interesting to say the least!

My tablet was in the shop for repairs. No problem. It was due back today and actually made it to my house around 9:30 AM.

I didn’t hear the doorbell!

When Helaine opened the front door an hour later there was a tag saying it would be redelivered Monday. We’ll be in Juneau, Alaska Monday!

I’m going to be a little light on details because rules were bent, but thanks to some well placed Facebook friends my now fully charged tablet is in my bag. Someone contacted the driver who doubled back and walked it up our driveway.

I won’t lie. I’m sure this delivery happened because I’m the guy on TV. It’s something I take advantage of as infrequently as possible. I’ve tried my best to make sure all parties involved understand my gratitude. I am VERY grateful.

Unfortunately the pre-trip stories don’t end there!

As we were in the car getting ready to drive off Helaine looked at me. “I don’t remember packing your shaver,” she said.

I didn’t look upon that as tragedy. Does anyone enjoy shaving? We’re going to Alaska. I could grow my beard like the natives.

I opened the garage and headed back inside. As it turns out my shaver wasn’t in the bathroom. It must be packed.

However, as I headed back to the stairs I noticed our soft sided “suiter” sitting there! Somehow we forgot it.

Is this a critical piece of luggage? Hell yeah! Everything that hangs (and that includes the coats we took for the Alaskan chill) is in that bag. Once we were at the airport there wouldn’t have been time to go back and get it.

Close call! Too close!

Seattle is far away. From Bradley it’s also inconvenient. We’re flying via Las Vegas. We don’t land until nearly 3:00 AM EDT.

We’re Heading To Alaska

I weighed a bag early this afternoon. It was 60 pounds! A few minutes later it was 49 pounds. Where did the excess weight go? That question is above my pay grade.

We leave on vacation tomorrow. There have been a few short trips, but this will be our major for the season (I’m holding out hope there’s more to come). We fly to Seattle then hop a ship to Alaska. Very exciting.

This is not your standard warm weather vacation. We’re going where coats are still necessary in July! I’m even taking gloves and earmuffs.

Helaine is the facilitator/organizer. For the past few days the upstairs hallway has been her staging area. I don’t know her method except to say it works!

I weighed a bag early this afternoon. It was 60 pounds! A few minutes later it was 49 pounds. Where did the excess weight go? That question is above my pay grade.

I’ve been joking with friends saying I’m taking my weight in camera gear. Not so far off. I’m bringing six or seven lenses, a camera body, monopod, cables, batteries, memory cards, chargers… you get the idea.

My friend Jacob lent me his GoPro Hero2 video camera. I will write more about this later, but the GoPro is a breakout piece of hardware. It’s around half the size of a pack of cigarettes and shoots broadcast quality HD video.

Because the Hero2 has a very wide angle lens it’s perfect for scenery in the background and you in the foreground. People strap them to surfboards, landing gear on airplanes, parachutes, skis, etc. It’s video otherwise unattainable.

As far as prep is concerned I’ve been a slacker. I went to the mall at dinnertime to get batteries for two watches. That’s my contribution.

Doppler will be staying home watching after things. In a perfect world puppies would be able to cruise the Inside Passage, take a train to the Yukon and whale watch in Juneau. It’s not a perfect world.

We have a lot planned and I intend on keeping you up-to-date via the blog. Of course Internet access is always questionable on board ship. I’ll do my best.

Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to lots of people who’ve cruised to Alaska. Each one said it was the trip of a lifetime. That’s our goal.

Foolish Moves I’ve Stopped Making

I am an impatient driver. I drive too fast. Right turn on red was made for me.

I also take advantage of a little known law: “left turn on red.”

Stop laughing. I’m not kidding. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

In most areas of the United States, it is also legal to make some left turns on red. In all cases, the road being turned onto must be one-way. Making a left-turn on red from a two-way street is legal in only five states: Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington. In Washington, freeway on-ramps are considered one-way streets for the purposes of the left turn on red law.

Pretty cool, huh? And, it makes sense. One way to one way left on red is no more perilous than right on red.

There’s one particular left on red I often make. It’s at the intersection of College Street and South Frontage Road (Rte 34) in New Haven. I’ve been doing it for years to the amazement of passengers, including my own skeptical family. It only saves a few seconds, but who cares? That’s not the point.

I happened to stumble upon an article about left on red tonight. It was serendipity… and being the ‘left on red’ man, I read along.

Left turns on red are prohibited in the states of South Dakota (unless permitted by local ordinance), Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and in the District of Columbia and Guam.


I am so embarrassed! And, I am so relieved to learn about this by reading, as opposed to learning about it from a cop!

Quote In The BU Newspaper

I got an email a week or so ago. It was from a Connecticut resident, now a student at Boston University. Chris wanted to know if I’d answer a few weather questions for an article in the BU daily… and so I did.

Continue reading “Quote In The BU Newspaper”

Why Wilma Scares Me

Just in case you’re counting, Hurricane Wilma is currently 1735 miles southwest of me. That’s ‘as the crow flies’ miles. Because this hurricane is ready to make a sweeping right hand turn, it would have to travel significantly farther.

How can I be worried about something 1735 miles away? It’s easy – I’ve seen this scenario before. I didn’t live it. It predates me. I’ve studied it because it is the benchmark for New England hurricane grief.

Before you feel my pain, let me talk a little about my parents. They’re ensconced in Boynton Beach, FL. Hurricane Wilma is 640 miles south-southwest of them.

As it stands now, the official Hurricane Center prediction takes Wilma right over… or reasonably close to them. Though the storm will be coming over land, it’s swampy land. There’s warm water and low friction in the Everglades. It’s not perfect for a hurricane but it won’t kill it either.

My folks have hurricane shutters and live in a substantial building. I think they’ll be OK, though I’ll revisit this with them later today.

Here’s the one bit of good news. Hurricane Wilma will be ‘booking’ as she passes through Florida. Coast-to-coast will be 10, maybe 12 hours. The faster Hurricane Wilma moves, the sooner the trouble is over.

Nature adapts to this kind of trouble. Palm trees have decidedly less wind resistance than the deciduous trees we have here in Connecticut.

The Hurricane Center forecasts 110 mph winds at landfall in Florida, dropping to 80 mph by the time the storm reemerges in the Atlantic&#185. Even 80 mph, a small hurricane, is substantial if it passes close by. Most of us have never experienced 80 mph winds… and we’ve all seen plenty of wind damage.

The Hurricane Center used to talk about 80 mph storms as minimal hurricanes. They don’t anymore. That’s a change for the better.

I am anticipating moderate to severe damage on the West Coast of Florida with minimal to scattered moderate damage on the East Coast. There will be a much smaller radius of damage in the east.

Once the storm leaves Florida the guessing game begins. It will really accelerate. This is the part that starts resembling the Hurricane of ’38.

From PBS’ American Experience: Within 24 hours, the storm ripped into the New England shore with enough fury to set off seismographs in Sitka, Alaska. Traveling at a shocking 60 miles per hour — three times faster than most tropical storms — it was astonishingly swift and powerful, with peak wind gusts up to 186 m.p.h. The storm without a name turned into one of the most devastating storms recorded in North America. Over 600 people were killed, most by drowning. Another hundred were never found. Property damage was estimated at $300 million — over 8,000 homes were destroyed, 6,000 boats wrecked or damaged.

Though the storm struck Connecticut’s coast in Fairfield County, the strongest damage was experienced at the opposite end of the state and into Rhode Island.

Here’s what’s most troubling. A storm barreling up the East Coast will leave minimal time for warning. Look at the map. Florida to New Jersey in 24 hours! I couldn’t drive it that quickly.

To get a Hurricane Warning out 24 hours in advance would mean alerting most of the Northeast. An error of a few degrees in course could mean Atlantic City versus Boston.

And where would all these people go? Imagine sending everyone in Coastal New England west on I-95!

This is the worst case scenario. A direct hit to New England would cause as much destruction, and possibly as many deaths, as the unpredicted storm in 1938!

The current projections bring Hurricane Wilma far enough east to spare New England. But there is very little margin for error over a five day forecast. I’m certainly not confident in it. Just a few degrees off…

So now we wait and watch. Like I said, there will be lots of phone calls to Florida tomorrow. I want to make sure my parents have every possible advantage. Then we’ll bring the worries closer to home.

Hurricane Wilma scares me to the bone.

&#185 – The Hurricane Center readily admits, of all the things it does, predicting intensity is the thing it does worst.

Troubling Trend in Retail

Steffie and Helaine found a fashion accessory they were looking for. I have been sworn to secrecy about what it is. It is a hot item, that much I can say.

They found a website that had it and ordered. Payment was made via PayPal. Since the account is in my name, I got the receipt and then the tracking data for the package.

I don’t think either of them knew they were ordering directly from China. The amazing thing is, from the time the item was dropped off at FedEx until we got it in Connecticut was two days!

This is part of a trend that will be as controversial as outsourcing. Because of the efficiency of FedEx (and I’m sure DHL and UPS aren’t far behind) the entire United States distribution chain has been eliminated. There’s no warehouse, no U.S. based store – nothing.

I’m going to have to think this through and decide how I feel. I can see how this is a troubling trend for retailers and those whose livelihood depend on them.

Blogger’s note: I believe it’s the International Date Line that allows the package to arrive in Alaska before it leaves China!