Today we were fortunate to have an amazing morning with a group of transient orca whales (T65A’s) only 20 minutes after leaving the dock. We were the first vessel with them, meeting up with them in the waters between Lummi and Eliza Islands. There were 5 adults and a baby – all were quite playful for a while (especially the baby), with tail slaps, flips and a spy hop. After a bit they pointed north and at about 4 kts, went up Hales passage. Combined with beautiful blue sky and plentiful sunshine, it was an incredible start to the day!
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.
The season is going great so far, with lots of great orca and humpback whale sightings. We’ve now done 4 Deluxe whale watching tours, plus several school field trips, and have seen orcas and/or humpbacks on every trip so far, with tours taking us west and north of the San Juan Islands so far. With great sightings so far, and a forecast for sun coming into the weekend, now’s a great time to join us. The Deluxe whale watching tour includes a tour of the San Juan Islands, a shore visit in Friday Harbor and our Northwest salmon & chicken buffet.
One of our passengers, Erich T., sent us some great photos from our whale watching tour this past Sunday. It was a great, sunny day in the San Juans, with lots of whales seen.
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!
It has been an amazing summer filled with great weather and lots and lots of whale sightings. The majority of the time we’ve been seeing the three resident pods of Orca whales (J, K and L pods), with occasional transient Orca and Humpback whale sightings. Add absolutely amazing weather, with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures, and it’s been one of the best seasons in recent years. It’s not over yet though – we still have over a month of tours left. More information can be found at: https://www.whales.com/Cruises/San-Juan-Adventure-Full-Day-Cruise.aspx
It was a great day in the San Juans yesterday, lots of warm sunshine and whales. A former employee, Eric, was onboard and took some great photos which you can view on his blog. We’ve included a few of our faves below.
We have really enjoyed all of the sunshine we’ve received this spring – it’s been absolutely gorgeous just about every day we’ve been out this season. It’s now summer, and this weather is set to continue for the next 7-10 days or so. We’ve seen lots of wildlife on recent tours – Minke whales have been plentiful, and yesterday we saw a group of Orca whales on the west side of San Juan Island. Saturday was the best though – transient Orcas (T-69’s) on the outbound trip to Friday Harbor, and a different group of transient Orcas (T-65’s) on the way back to Bellingham. If you want to join us on a whale watch this summer, more information can be found here: https://www.whales.com/Cruises/San-Juan-Adventure-Full-Day-Cruise.aspx
As we move from weekend whale watching tours to daily tours, we’re encourages by all of the great whale sightings we’ve had so far this season, as well as the amazing weather forecast over the next 7-10 days or so. Although there was some light rain today, it’s supposed to warm up into the weekend, with temps in the lower 80s. Now’s a great time to head out to the San Juan Islands on our whale watching tour and beat the summer crowds, while enjoying some great summertime warmth out on the water.
Here are a few photos from some of our recent tours – the first four of which came from from one of our passengers (First four photos below courtesy of Webb Photos).
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!