I started working for San Juan Cruises as finals week was wrapping up, not really knowing what I was getting into. As a student at Western Washington University, I was looking for a fun summer job so I could stay in Bellingham for summer break. I had never been whale watching before applying, so I was pleasantly surprised that I would be “required” to go on the Deluxe Whale Watching cruise after being hired. I chose to go out on a Saturday and I was not going to let the dreary Washington weather or the choppiness of Bellingham Bay deter me that morning. We headed out, making our way towards San Juan Island for our shore visit to Friday Harbor. Along the way, Captain Jeff entertained us with facts and history about the various islands we passed, pointing out wildlife like harbor seals and porpoises.
I spent the hour and a half visit in Friday Harbor perusing the art galleries and the San Juan Island Farmers Market, which boasted an array of local farmers and artisans. I left with a warm chocolate croissant in hand, and returned to the boat for a much awaited lunch of BBQ chicken and wild salmon, hot, buttery biscuits, rice pilaf, and fudgy brownies for (my second) dessert. By the time we left Friday Harbor, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining; it had turned into a beautiful day for whale watching. As we ate, the captain announced that there had been whale sightings just south of Victoria. We arrived on scene just in time to see a group of Transient orcas moving in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, dorsal fins towering out of the water and blow holes spouting. I had never seen anything so beautiful or captivating.
After sticking with the orcas for some time, the captain gave us a choice—there was a humpback sighting not too far from where we were. The decision was unanimous, and we set off in search of a whale named Split-fin. Split-fin is frequently seen in the waters around the San Juan Islands and has made an appearance every summer since 2006. We were able to watch Split-fin for quite a while, his fluke at least six to seven feet across. As someone who had never seen a whale in real life, I was astounded by the sheer size of this amazing creature. Split-fin would dive for about ten minutes, resurface for a few minutes, and then dive again, flashing his fluke each time.
I spent the majority of the ride back to Bellingham on the outdoor deck, which had been warmed by the sun during our stop to watch Split-fin. As we made our way through Rosario Strait we past several Dall’s porpoises, a handful of sunbathing seals, and two stoic eagles perched atop a buoy. As our cruise came to a close and we entered Bellingham Bay, I was reminded again of how beautiful and unique this part of the world is. The Salish Sea and the San Juan Islands are one of a kind, and this cruise definitely reaffirmed my love for the Pacific Northwest.
This weekend was a reminder that summer isn’t too far away – beautiful sunny weather in the San Juans, the perfect setting for whale watching. Saturday and Sunday were all about humpback whales – we had great sightings both days up north of Patos Island, very close to the Canadian border. We have a few school field trips going out this week, with our next public whale watching tour scheduled for this Saturday. After that, we’ll be running whale watching tours daily through the end of September. We hope to see you aboard sometime soon!
Our 2017 season kicked off with decent weather, but excellent whale sightings! We found a playful, active Humpback on Saturday, just north of Saturna Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands, and Sunday was Orca whales – lots and lots of Orcas (J-Pod) on the west side of San Juan Island. Thanks to Jim Bachman, we have some great photos from Saturday’s cruise. In addition to the Humpback whale, we also saw lots of other wildlife. For more info on our Deluxe Whale Watching tour, visit: https://whales.com/whale-watching/full-day-whale-watching-adventure-cruise/
We had a great day on Friday, having a great time watching members of J-pod (one of the three resident pods of Orca whales) during our whale watching tour, then again in the evening on our cracked crab dinner cruise. We had the bonus of seeing some of the younger members of the pod breaching repeatedly – what an experience! Today (Saturday) we are on our way to the islands with reports of a Humpback or two just outside of Friday Harbor. If you are looking to see whales this year, now’s the perfect time to go.
The season is off to a great start, with lots of sunshine, warm temperatures and great whale sightings. While the season got off to a slow start in early-to-mid May, it’s been excellent the past few weeks, with frequent sightings of transient Orca whales, Humpbacks, and now the resident Orcas (J, K and L pods) are back in the area. Our Deluxe Whale Watching Adventure Cruises are going every day, through the end of September, and we’re just about ready to start a new Half Day Whale Watching Tour on weekends aboard our newest vessel, the Chinook. It’s going to be a fun season – hope you can make it out on the water with us!
What an amazing season this was – the weather was close to perfect with lots of warm sunshine, but this was topped by the number of whale sightings. With the season over we saw whales on just over 95% of our cruises, and there was a great variety of whales to be seen as well. In addition to the three resident pods of Orca whales (J, K and L pods), we saw lots of transient Orcas, Minke whales, Humpback whales (especially in May and September), Gray whales and towards the end of the season we even saw a Fin whale a few times.
This season also saw the resident group grow by 5 – 4 of these babies just received names (Scarlet, Nova, Sonic and Windsong) and a fifth (L-122) was just born a few weeks ago and will be given a name soon.
Thanks to everyone who joined us on a tour this season – we’re already at work getting ready for next summer!
There have been all sorts of whales active in the San Juan Islands over the last few days! Our boats have seen the local Orca pods, transient Orcas, Humpback whales and Minke whales as well. The combination of great wildlife viewing and spectacular sunny days has shown that summer is already here! Passengers have also had some great views of Bald Eagles, otters, seals and sea lions with Mt. Baker in the background. Join us out on the water and see for yourself! We are operating our Deluxe Whale Watching Tour that includes a northwest salmon lunch and a 2-hour port call in Friday Harbor every day.
The Victoria Star has been out on our deluxe whale watching tour of the San Juan Islands on Saturdays and Sundays in May and has encountered a all sorts of whales throughout the islands! Last weekend we had a great show with a humpback whale off of Saturna Island and also found J-Pod off of False Bay on San Juan Island. Our resident Orca had one of their newborn calves with them and its mother was proudly pushing it up out of the water to show it off to our passengers! Sunday’s cruise was capped off with an extremely rare sighting of transient Orca whales inside Bellingham Bay. As the ship was returning to our Fairhaven dock, we were greeted by a group huge male killer whales looking for dinner! Captain Don “San Juan” Wight described them as “Just massive!”. We will continue to be running our deluxe whale tour featuring our Northwest salmon lunch and 2-hour port call in Friday Harbor on the weekends in May and everyday beginning June 1st. Come enjoy a day in the San Juan Islands with us!
We’ve had rainy, gray and windy weather often in the past – it’s always a possibility in the early weeks of May. This year was different though – yesterday we had warm, sunny skies with temperatures in the 70’s. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any whales, but lots of other wildlife including a group of porpoises. Today (Mother’s Day) isn’t quite as warm, but we were fortunately to find a Humpback whale up in the north end of the San Juans. With a sold out boat the pressure was on, but we were pleased to get a good view for our guests today. We’re only running weekends until Memorial Day weekend, so your next chance to go out with us will be next Saturday discover this.