Friday, May 20th’s trip took us out to past Hein Bank area toward Smith Island.
South & East of the SJ. Islands It was there we encountered J-Pod. We
stayed with Granny J-2 who is 100 years old this year. Quite
remarkable. Her son was Ruffles, our favorite Orca that recently did
not return with his pod. RIP Ruffles. He was a dear Orca friend and
is truly missed. “Granny J-2″ Ruffles mom has taken up with
“Speiden”J-8 another of her offspring. Also with Speiden was L-87 who
has adopted J-8 as his surrogate mother after he lost his mom last year.
Close by was Sachi J-19 and our name sake “Eclipse J-41″. Eclipse is
6 years old now and has grown into quite a handsome healthy Orca.
Smith island looked sparkly white in the sun. Along the way out
fishing were common muirs, surf scooters, pigeon guillimots and
rhinoceros aucklets. Such lovely sights. On the return up Rosario
straights we saw a close nest on James island with a Bald Eagle in
it.. Mount Baker was out in all it’s glory. Wild flowers paint the
shores of our delicate outer islands.
Another special day out on the water. As the air felt cool on the
return many enjoyed a hot cup of cocoa with Land o Lakes whip cream !
J &K Pods visited our waters today. There were large schools of pink
salmon coming to the surface out at Salmon bank. Sort of unusual, so
many at once raising to the surface with out whales chasing them.
Flat calm waters, the Orca whales were vocalizing throughout the
boat. We have lots of speakers for the hydrophone, underwater
microphone. We drifted on and off for almost an hour and listened to
the harmonies of the whales.
On the return trip in, we stopped at the Stellar Sea Lions hauled
out on whale rocks. South of the islands.
Lots of seagulls, Oyster catchers were on the rocks. Gulls &
Phalaropes, and rhinoceros, aucklets floating around in and on the
kelp. Lots of seals along the rocks and fishing near their Moms.
We viewed Bald eagles along the Lopez shore line and the north side
of Shaw Island on the way home.
Monday August 8th.
We saw two Humpback whales today doing deep dives , sometimes sighted near our location. There were several Minke whales across Salmon bank.
We saw an immature eagle at Flat Point it had not fledged yet and we could easily see the baby eagle in the nest. As we headed out ,we saw a BIG spout. Big spouts and the huge tail became visible. It was definately a humpback. Oh Joy ! We watched it for several cycles of deep dives.
Out at Whale rocks there were 14 Stellar Sea Lions . It is sort of early for so many. All most all males. We saw a seal flotilla. Mom’s and babies. Maybe 60 or so . We shut the boat down and they came and checked us out.
Also on whale rocks we saw 29 Oyster catchers. Their long red beaks shined in the sun. It is almost time for them to choose a new mate. On many folks life list. Rhinoceros Aucklets and common muirs , just the dad’s and young ones.
Back over to Long Island we looked at the very large bald eagles nest . It must weigh 1500 pounds. 6 or 8 feet deep and 10 feet across.
We have been very fortunate to see many whales each day for over 55
trips. Today the whales were logging (resting) and swimming in a
large group. We keep our distance and observe. Yesterday they were
very vocal and active. The past couple days we have also seen Minke
Today many new seal pups were learning the ropes around the shallow
reefs and heavy currents. They looked like they were having swimming
lessons with Mom. Very sweet.
This week while hosting Discovery Tours they were surprised by
multiple sightings of Orca as we cruised around the “Five Lights by
Sea” trip. A very nice topping for a wonderful history tour.
This mornings trip was set to the north west on a calm sea. We went
through the Wasp islands and headed toward Speiden Island.
Up ahead we ventured into open water in Haro Straights. We carefully
approached the Orca at 400 yards out and we could see all of J-Pod
and 6 k-pod whales. We shut down after our approach at 200 yds. and
could hear the breaths and calls throughout the boat.
At the furthest north point of Stewart Island, Turn Point Lighthouse
quietly waited to sound it’s horn at the fog that never came.
Absolutely quiet and calm we continued to hear the breathing of the
whales. Magical time as we were the only boat out.
We saw J-Pod and seven K-13’s whales which have been swimming
with J-Pod for a week. It is mating time. We were with J-19 and
J-41 Eclipse, J-26 big male and his Mom Slick, north Alden Bank. Mount
Baker was in full display. Amazing scenery. We are so lucky to live
here. Eagles were in the nest on Presidents Channel and the old
“Oceana” community lime kiln looked like a silent castle on the
shore, lost in time. The seas were wonderfully flat, and Patos
Island beacon called to us! As we past the lighthouse the
excitement grew and then we came to the Orca pods. A wonderful day.
We had an absolutely gorgeous whale watching experience today. As we
left the dock, the sun was shining, the seas were calm and we found J-
pod heading north along the west side of San Juan Island. The pod was
a bit spread out at first, stopping to feed in Open Bay for quite a
while (lots of tail-slapping and spy-hops), but then grouped up and
swam at a leisurely pace in a beautiful, synchronized line along
Kellet Bluff. Captain Dan placed us in a perfect spot to see most of
the pod pass by, including a couple of large males, Blackberry (J-27)
with his siblings and Onyx (L-87, who's been traveling with the J's),
as well as Doublestuff (J-34) with his family, Sachi (J-19) with
Eclipse (J-41), and others.
After spending quite a while with the orcas, we headed up to Spieden
Island, where we encountered several adult bald eagles, some soaring
and some perched in shoreline trees, looking so regal with the bright
blue sky behind them! The active nest was easy to see, but the chick
(s) were hunkered down and hiding today.
There were also several harbor seals along the shore, including some
VERY round females, as pupping season has just begun. Also, we had
great views of some exotic game on Spieden: European Fallow Deer and
Moufflon Sheep. The rams were displaying their enormous curved horns
to the females nearby. To top off the day, Deb spotted a few very
small Canada Geese goslings with their parents on a shoreline bluff –
A few harbor porpoises appeared on our way home – icing on the cake!
Our guests seemed very happy with the trip – lots of interest and
questions about our wildlife, which is always a treat for the
Today was a sighting of J-Pod Orca north of Salmon bank. Each trip
is unique. We passed by Lopez and San Juan islands. Out to Cattle
pass. Started up toward South Beach and up and around. Near Eagle
Point here came the Orca. We were surprised by young male whales
initially. We moved further off shore.
Ahead by False bay more small family groups travelling along. As we
travelled many of the whales went on a deep dive off shore . Out in
those waters it can be 1100+ feet. They dispersed in different
directions. Then it was a whale here and a whale there. They were
definitely fishing. Popping up in the glassy waters of Haro Straights.
When the people were satisfied with a nice whale watch we headed up
the coast of San Juan. Little did they know they would get a home
tour as well . We went through Mosquito pass and saw Roche Harbor up
close. Looked at the Lime Kilns almost hidden with all the development.
There was a crow dogging a Bald Eagle. It kept diving, diving,
diving, until it chased the eagle off away from it’s nest. The water
was calm and sky was blue on the way home. Lots of activity on
Speiden Island and then headed east to Orcas through the Wasp Islands.
Today we headed north to see J-Pod. They came through our territory
last evening and went up to the Frazier River through Active Pass
north of Salt Spring island. The whales can travel 80 to 100 miles a
day looking for Salmon. They are very muscular ,strong swimmers. They
can go 20 knots when porpoising along.
We departed the Orcas Landing as we cruised past Westsound we looked
at Turtle head and Turtle back we shared a little local lore.
Passing Bell Island just before Pole Pass, we saw a Stellar Sea lion
with a very large octopus. Quite a wrestling match. The Sea Lion
slammed the octopus back and forth. It was a big one. Harbor seals
came over and tried to get some titbits.
We had a group of local school children onboard and this was quite
an exciting sight.
As we continued out toward Flat top we saw a large ship on the
horizon. We timed it’s vector and crossed in front of it, toward
Up to boiling reef north Saturna Is.we saw at least a hundred harbor
seals hauled out. Then we had a call from a Vancouver buddy boat .
They said there is a lead whale way up ahead. Then all of a sudden
“Thar she blows !” It was J-8 Speiden, an 82 year old female.
We got into a rhythm off to the side at 200 yards. Soon we could
see J-2, 100 year old Granny, “Ruffles” Mom. Then J-26 Mike her great
grandson. Next was J-19 Sachi and J- 41 Eclipse, nominated after our
company, for donations we gave to the Center of Whale Research early on.
As we drifted along, they were travelling about 5 to 6 knots. In the
afternoon light they passed us by , near the Java islands. We watched
them disappear to the south. We crossed the straights back toward to
Flat top and passed Jones island.
Heading back toward Orcas it was another adventure aboard the Orcas
Express. Everyone had said they had a fantastic trip.
The day was absolutely perfect. We hosted the “Harbor Lights
Lighthouse” group today. They came from all across the country for
our tour. In between a tour of Washington Lighthouses and a Cruise
Ship to Alaska. We saw five lighthouses and had nice cruising weather.
J-Pod and part of L-Pod also came through today . They came in last
evening and traveled up to the Frazier River. Today the group came
through Rosario Straights and went south bound. Tomorrow should be a
great day for whale watching and the weather looks favorable.
With the beautiful weather, we headed east down Harney Channel. Hung
a right between Lopez and Shaw islands. At Sandy Point there was an
eagle on a tree. As we went across toward Griffin Bay the Harbor
Porpoise greeted us. We were heading on the way to Salmon Bank. As we
passed by Whale rocks there was a fantastic Harbor seal haul out and
several Stellar Sea Lions.
Over to Goose Island the Cormorants were using their newly rebuilt
nests, refreshed for the season. At Cattle Point Light house we were
fortunate to initially see a mother and a calf Minke swimming side by
side out in the distance.
Then a Minke whale lunge feeding and another one. We got into a
rhythm and had some great sightings. Cruising over to the Salmon Bank
buoy. We saw a California Sea lion on one side and a Stellar Sea lion
on the other. Today they decided to share the buoy . Yesterday they
were fighting over it. Check out the image sent to us on our face
book page from a visitor yesterday.
Back across the entrance of San Juan channel there was another Minke
Whale. They are often called stinky Minke's when they exhale they
smell of a very strong of fishy odor.
Heading inside the channel toward Lopez's Long Island, we saw an
occupied nest that is very large. 8×10 foot nest. The largest one in
the area. Quite a sight. We slowed down by Canoe Island and the warm
sun was warm and pleasant as we headed back toward the landing.
Another great day. For you boat lovers we saw the 143 foot
"Westport" vessel named "Alliance" Wow ! Probably heading to Alaska
or points north for the summer.
A note about the resident Orca whales…We have heard people are
catching allot of salmon out on the ocean side of Vancouver Island.
Beyond the entrance of the Straights of Juan de Fuca. That is where
the whales are. They need food. They eat 100 to 300 pounds of salmon
per whale, per day. With all the high water in the rivers, the salmon
are late in coming in from the Ocean. So we are having an unusual
start to the season. The transients Orca have moved on as well for
the time being.
We heard about some spotted down in Hood Canal. One or two here and
there. There are lots of seals down sound.