Sunday, December 20, 2015

Getting to Santiago

Blog Post 2 – Bellevue to Santiago, Chile

December 17

Leaving Bellevue at 1445, we joined the crowded traffic on I-405 headed north early during the holiday season. Patrick’s sister, Julie went with us to bring back our car from Vancouver airport.  With three of us in the car, the new express lanes (free with three) sped up the travel significantly and we arrived at the border in only 2 hours and 30 minutes, even with a stop for coffee in Burlington.  Clearing into Canada was a breeze, with virtually no lines at the border. The coffee stop turned out to be a bad choice since we soon ran into a massive traffic jam of merging traffic trying to go northbound through the Massey tunnel in rainy weather under the Fraser River. Not being aware of the routine, we never seemed to be in the correct lane as the traffic all pushed forward, jockeying for position and an advantage.  We spent more than an hour going only 2 miles. Even so, we arrived at the Fairmont hotel at the airport shortly after 1830.  Checking into very nice rooms and getting rid of the coffee, we then gathered in the Global Lounge for a very well cooked and presented dinner. We indulged in appetizers like duck fat cooked French Fries and crab cakes with a ginger/lime aioli.  Entrees included Sable Fish in a miso/sake broth, grilled prawns on a cauliflower risotto, and grilled organic pork chops.  We capped off the evening with Irish Coffee’s before retiring to get ready  for the long flight the next day.

December 18

We all met for a light breakfast before Julie headed back to Bellevue. Checking out of the hotel about 1000 we walked the short distance to the American Airlines check in area, checked our luggage to Santiago and then cleared security and US Customs, using our Nexus passes to speed up the process. After a wait, we boarded the Boeing 737-800 aircraft and departed close to on-time. Taking off to the east, we had a little turbulence as we climbed through the overcast into clear skies and our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.  The flight time to Dallas is only 3 ½ hours, so the crew predicts an on-time arrival.
As we flew east and south we saw snow blanketing the landscape and a beautiful sunset to the southwest before the twinkle of lights around the snow covered fields became visible.
Landing in Dallas we made our way the American Airlines Admiral’s  Club and were pleasantly surprised to find out we qualified for pre-flight dining in the lounge.  The dining was simple, but we were comfortable.  We began to feel nervous about our seat assignments and headed to the gate where we were told we were being downgraded with no compensation to economy.  We discovered that the airline believed we were on award tickets, not full fare, and after showing our receipt were moved back into business class. We also made some panicked calls to Seabourn, but it was too late for them to intervene.  However, we  sweated bullets until the door was closed, while watching the drama’s unfolding around us with people leaving the aircraft and the gate agent trying to do the best thing for everyone, after he was handed the overbooking problem.

Once we were airborne, the Boeing 787-8 began to reveal it’s advantages. And also some unexpected features.  The screens were too far away for Miriam to reach and the beds do not allow the footrest to come up independent of a recline, so some of the comfort features were lost on us. We were still better off than being back in economy class.

We are now over the Gulf of Mexico approaching the Yucatan Peninsula and are just finishing our main course which we had pre-ordered.  Life is once again good!

December 19, 2015

We did not make up any time overnight and landed in Santiago one hour late. To add insult to injury, there were no gates available so we sat on the tarmac for another 30 minutes before disembarking and joining the throngs clearing immigration.  We fully expected our luggage to already be out, but when we were met by the Seabourn representative we could not find our bags among the priority bags already unloaded. After another 20 minutes our bags finally arrived and we headed out through Customs where we found we could not import some  packaged nuts. However, when the agent looked at them, they let them go.

The drive into the hotel was fine, traffic was light on a Saturday and our room was ready. After a quick shower we called Juan Castro, one of Patrick’s Sloan classmates and we then went to his house for lunch.  We met his wife, two daughters and youngest son.  It had been 29 years since we had seen each other and we spent several hours catching up over a delicious lunch that they had prepared of fresh Southern King Crab, prawns, salads and fresh fruit.

Returning to the hotel,we took a siesta until after 1900.   We then went with Juan to the Manquehue Club, an athletic and social facility.  After a light dinner we headed to the Central Park with Juan and caught the last hour of the annual free Christmas concert.  There were thousands of people of all ages spread on on the grass or in chairs.  The concert ended about 2200 and we returned to the hotel for a decent rest before boarding the ship tomorrow afternoon.

December 20 – Embarkation Day

We began with a delicious breakfast buffet in the hotel’s open air restaurant.  After a walk around the neighborhood we took our luggage down to the lobby and prepared for the drive to Valparaiso.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Southbound for the Holidays

December 16, 2015

Since completing our 3000 nautical mile voyage to SE Alaska our first order of business was to have Spirit hauled out and annual maintenance performed, including fresh bottom paint, replacing the Amartech shaft seal, tuning the propeller and strengthening the rudder shoe after water was found in the keel void.  Spirit is now safely moored at Anacortes Marina and winterized for possible cold weather.

New Amartech Shaft Seal

Reinforced Rudder Shoe and retuned Prop

We have also been preparing for another trip, this time with someone else driving.  In less than 48 hours we drive to Vancouver, BC where we will overnight at the Fairmont Hotel at the airport.  On Friday we board an American Airlines flight to Santiago, Chile.  After an overnight stay we will transfer to Valparaiso, Chile and board the Seabourn Quest for a 24-night voyage though the Chilean Fjords, Patagonia, the Drake Passage, the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Island and finally arriving in Buenos Aires with a stop in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Christmas will be in the Chilean Fjords and we will celebrate the New Year somewhere on the Antarctic peninsula.