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.
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!
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.
It’s been an amazing period of whale watching – great, sunny weather combined with lots of Orca and Humpback whale sightings. Thanks to former crew member Eric Creitz, who came aboard our August 12th tour and shared these photos with us.
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.
It’s been a great week of whale watching, with lots of whales seen, and we finally have great summer weather, with sun and temperatures in the low 80’s. A perfect time to be out in the San Juans! This week we’ve seen a great variety of whales, resident and transient Orcas, playful Minke whales, and today a group of very active Humpbacks. While we didn’t see them ourselves, there were even reports of a Fin whale and some Gray whales in the area recently. The photo below was taken by out of our passengers this week (Mary Lou – Nooksack, WA) – thank you for sharing this great photo!
It’s been a spectacular season so far, with lots of great Orca and Humpback whale sightings, with several days that we’ve had multiple sightings. Summer weather has finally arrived as well, so now is really a great time to go out to the islands on a whale watching cruise. Our deluxe and half-day whale watching tours are available, with reservations recommended – you can call 1-800-443-4552 or book online.
Despite the early morning rain (which let up halfway through the day), it was a spectacular day in the San Juans for whale watching. Our first half day whale watching tour aboard the Chinook was successful in finding a group of Southern Resident Orca whales near Vancouver Island, and our deluxe whale watching tour found Humpback and Minke whales.
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.