2023 Summary

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Christmas Eve 2022 in Antarctica

In addition to more adventuring in the Pacific Northwest, this year we continued the “filling in the gaps” tour and visited several places that we either didn’t get to, or couldn’t reach, on our around-the world trip on Dirona. And we’re happy to report that Spitfire the wonder cat reached his 20th birthday this year, and is now working towards 21.

Left: Spitfire the wonder cat turns 20. Right: Chinstrap penguins, Antarctica.

We’ve always been drawn to high-latitude cruising and really wanted to bring Dirona to Antarctica, so we made up for that gap at the end of last year on a fabulous trip aboard the National Geographic Endurance. We traveled well south of the Antarctic Circle, where we celebrated Christmas Eve standing on fast ice, and rang in the New Year at spectacular Iguazu Falls in Argentina. The wildlife in Antarctica is marvelous, particularly the penguins, and the rugged, mountainous scenery and fantastically-shaped icebergs enthralled us.

Left: Icebergs, Antarctica. Right: Iguazu Falls, Argentina

In the late spring, we boarded the Norwegian Jewel for a one-way cruise from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. We had never seen the Inside Passage north of the Canadian border, nor had we visited the Alaskan Inside Passage cities of Ketchikan, Juneau, or Skagway. The cruise gave us the opportunity to fill in those gaps, plus spend some time in Vancouver, as we’d not traveled to Canada since returning to Seattle in 2021. Being early in the season, snow was still very present in Alaska, and with unusually clear weather the mountain scenery there was breathtaking.

Glacier Bay, left, and White Pass Scenic Railway in Alaska.

Barcelona was high on the list of stops for our aborted trip to the Mediterranean in 2020. And we’re big Formula 1 fans, but hadn’t attended a race since the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. So when a last-minute opportunity came together to attend the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, we jumped on the chance to attend the race and spend a few days exploring the world-class city.

Left: Spanish Grand Prix. Right: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.

We’d of course never considered taking Dirona to the North Pole, accessible to the average person only on a spartan Russian nuclear icebreaker until recently. But then we learned about the luxury French cruise ship Le Commandant Charcot, launched in 2021, the most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker in the world and purpose-built to carry passengers to the North Pole in style. We met the ship in Svalbard and marveled as it crushed meters-thick ice to deposit us at the geographic North Pole. It was an absolutely amazing adventure that will be hard to surpass. We got our first sighting of a polar bear in the wild, rare as far north as the pole, when the majestic animal walked right up to the side of the ship.

At the geographic North Pole.

Our initial plan for eventually returning to North America from Europe on Dirona was to travel the “Viking Route” from the Faroe Islands to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland, countries that have long been high on our list of places to visit. We ended up returning to the US via the Azores, but Iceland and Greenland still called to us. We got a small taste of both on the return trip from the North Pole, where we took an afternoon hike in Greenland and spent a night in Reykjavik after disembarking there, and are planning to spend more time in those countries next year.

Left: Hiking in Greenland. Right: Seltun geothermal area, Iceland.

We’ve enjoyed cruising many rivers in Dirona, such as the Hawksebury in Australia, and the Amazon would have been a worthy addition to that list. We filled that gap with a cruise on the Peruvian Amazon over Thanksgiving this year. We loved being out on the river and seeing the diverse Amazonian flora and fauna that we’d normally see only in a zoo.

Squirrel monkey and fishing for Piranha on the Amazon River.

In between these trips, we spent many weekends exploring more of the Pacific Northwest and area. We made several local snowshoe trips and summer hikes, including two exceptional weekends hiking at Whistler in Canada and North Cascades National Park in northern Washington State. At Whistler, gondolas whisk hikers to the summits for alpine hiking without an arduous ascent. North Cascades National Park is known as the American Alps for its dramatic mountain scenery, with jagged snow-covered peaks, alpine lakes, hundreds of the waterfalls, and more than three hundred glaciers. Other local trips included Anacortes, WA to present at Trawler Fest, and Mukilteo, just north of Seattle, with water-view hotels and several good restaurants.

Hiking in North Cascades National Park, left, and Whistler, Canada.

We also made a few long-weekend trips farther afield, some to places we had actually been in Dirona. In Honolulu we revisited many of our favorite haunts, including the Waikiki Yacht Club, where were we are members from our time living there before our 2013 departure for Palmyra. Sagecliffe Resort has sweeping views to the Columbia River, and we hiked down from our room to touch that body of water again for the first time since our 2012 Columbia River cruise. We’d moored Dirona briefly in Hood River on that trip, and returned this year to sample the town’s many restaurants and brewpubs, and take some great hikes. After receiving several recommendations to visit, we spent an excellent weekend in Walla Walla in eastern Washington, attending the Celebrate Merlot wine-tasting event and enjoying the city’s many restaurants. We also returned to Santa Barbara, CA before James attended the MARS conference nearby, and enjoyed a gathering of the Hamilton clan in Victoria, Canada to celebrate James’ uncle Neil’s 70th birthday.

Left: Waikiki Yacht Club, Honolulu. Right: L’Ecole N° 41 winery, Walla Walla

The rugged beauty of Antarctica really appealed to our love of wild, untamed places. We wanted to see more, so returned over the holiday season this year, but not by ship. We instead flew from Cape Town to the modern Echo Camp on the continent. There we flew to the geographic South Pole to ring in the New Year. There aren’t many places in the world you can go to where tens of thousands haven’t preceded you, but those lucky enough to have stood on both poles are a relatively small group. It was another exciting adventure to end the year, and we will post highlights on the web site.

Echo Camp, Antarctica.

Click below to view previous annual summaries:

Polar bear at the North Pole.


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2 comments on “2023 Summary
  1. John says:

    Hi James,

    Any plans in the near future to return to boating? World cruising might not be on the cards but something fast and capable would be amazing locally. Botnia Targa etc.

    Do you miss cruising or is it a case of been there, done that?


    • We love adventuring and the freedom to set schedules and do what we want. Boating really hits that mark well. But I’m enjoying my work as well and the wide open schedule that I love so much and really fits boating doesn’t fit my job well. What we have been doing “instead” is shorter but bigger adventures like the Amazon River Cruise, icebreaker to the North Pole, flying to the South Pole, and the upcoming trip to Greenland. As long as we are adventuring and seeing new things, this seems to be working well. But there will come a time when we want to do more or have it less constrained and, for that world, Boating looms large and we may return. Occasionally we discuss having a local high speed boat for quick trips in the area. Something capable of 40 to 50 kts, with a house and heat so it can be used year around, and preferably a place to keep it under cover would be quite attractive to us.

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