Our morning tour took is down the road (or route) less traveled – under Deception Pass Bridge and into Saratoga Passage! More frequently known as being our springtime gray whale feeding grounds, we found a group of active transient orcas along the Camano Island shoreline. The group turned out to be the T137’s, T37A1, and T36. Throughout the encounter the were porpoising, tail slapping, spy hopping, and as a grand finale, we saw FIVE breaches from the large male, T137A! On the way home we traveled through Swinomish Channel to complete our circumnavigation of Fidalgo Island, spotting a bald eagle in a tree, black oystercatchers on the rocks, and passing under the Rainbow Bridge in La Conner.
Our afternoon tour was full of non-stop action! Just minutes into the tour, we stopped to watch a feeding Steller sea lion in Guemes Channel. Near Lawson Reef we found a minke whale working on a bait ball within view of Deception Pass Bridge and another Steller sea lion thrashing around a large skate. After a few quick looks at a second minke whale in front of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, we continued out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we encountered a group of transient orcas traveling west a few miles north of Protection Island. The group turned out to be the T46B’s. They seemed to be in a swift travel mode, but we were able to pace them perfectly and travel with them for a while. As we bid farewell to them, we started to see quite a lot of activity in the distance including the dorsal fin of a “mystery whale” (most likely another minke) and several humpback spouts. The winds were building, but we were able to get a few brief looks at the closest of the humpbacks before having to call it a day. We had a great ride home and even got to catch the sunset!
South down the channel. Several gbhs, cormorants, caspian terns, and black oystercatchers as we exited. Harbor seals hauled out on Seal Rocks, also more black oystercatchers on the rocks. Under the bridge. Several bait balls as we transited the south side of Rosario Strait and along the Lopez shoreline. Steller sea lions hauled out on Whale Rocks. Headed in for lunch. Canada geese as we exited Fisherman’s Bay. Headed south out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca again. Toward deception Pass, under the bridge and down to Saratoga Passage. We found some orcas headed south in the middle of the passage. It was the T137s, T36 and T37A1. They were spread out, cruising south down the passage. We had some nice looks as they swam in a rhythmic breathing sequence. We headed back toward homeport after a wonderful day on the perfectly pristine September day.
9:30AMSuperpod of transients and a double header. Wow what a day we had. Sunny and warm with beautiful calm seas as we passed through the harbor and out into the straits. Harbor Seals lazily watched us from the shore and the surf as we went by Ediz hook. We headed out searching for whales and spotted a sea lion swimming along but he quickly disappeared into the depths. Not long into our trip we heard of incoming orcas and there were lots of them. We hoped maybe our residents had returned but they turned out to be the transient orcas. We spotted a groups in the distance and headed that way and soon there were more groups popping up all over. It was a superpod of orcas spread out socializing . we turned off the engines and lowered the hydrophone down and heard the most amazing vocals as they stopped and played near us. We know the T11’s , the T60’s and the T46B’s were in the mix but there were so many others popping up. We watched them roll and spyhop as they moved eastward. It even looked like one group made a kill along the way. As they continued east we decided to check out some humpback whales a little further west of us and found BCZ0180 Monarch feeding and a second unknown humpback feeding nearby. we had some super looks at their flukes as they dove and could even see a third humpback off in the distance. Since we were not far from racetracks we headed over there to check out the lighthouse and all the pinnipeds. We could hear the California sea lions barking way before we got there. The stellar sea lions were making a racket too as they growled at one another and the harbor seals rested in silence. We were even treated to Ollie the sea otter sleeping in the kelp. What an awesome day!!!
To those who have been out with us before the day started off fairly similar to any other day: westbound down Guemes Channel, then south into Rosario Straight. But once we got near by Deception Pass we took a turn and went under the bridge! This is a fairly rare treat for our Anacortes tours and it does not happen all too often. Once we were through the pass, the little bit of fog we were encountering cleared and gave us some beautiful views of the bridge. We continued our journey southbound into Saratoga Passage which lies between Camano and Whidbey Islands. There we were treated to spending time with the T100 transient orca family: T100, T100C, T100D, and T100E. These animals were heading northbound toward Oak Harbor allowing us to spend over an hour with them! We had beautiful weather conditions and were able to spend over an hour with these whales. When it came time to head home we traveled past La Conner up the Swinomish Slough viewing several great blue herons, black oyster catchers and cormorants along the way. What a way to spend the morning!
Leaving the dock under our continued sunny and warm skies, we made our first stop near Bird Rocks where we spotted several harbor seals and a Stellar sea lion hauled out warming themselves on the rocks. We continued south toward the end of Lopez Island doing another slow down past Castle Rock and then continuing out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As we made our way into the Straight we came across the T65A and T37A transient groups of killer whales : T65A, T65A2, T65A3, T65A4 and T65A5, as well as, T37A, T37A2, T37A3 and T37A4. These two groups seemed to just be milling around, continuing to stay in the same general area. We spent some time with these whales and continued on the search for what else the evening might hold in store for us. We pushed further to the east and found the T11s (T11 and T11A) swimming toward Whidbey Island. Beautiful as they surfaced together. Then some other orcas caught my eye, we left the T11s and went to see who else we had in the vicinity. It was the T46Bs (T46B, T46B1, T46B1A, T46B2, T46B3 and T46B4). We had some nice looks as they cruised to the south. We turned and headed toward homeport. We stopped by north Smith Island and sharp-eyed, off-duty crew member, Sam, found us a tufted puffin near the kelp. Then, we started seeing more, and more tufted puffins. My guess is over 10 tufted puffins within a very small area! We cruised home in the beautiful evening light!
We headed south this morning down Rosario straight and made a swing in to Castle rock. While we went through we got some great looks at a bald eagle on Castle rock and another perched on a snag on Lopez island. After that we powered up for the long haul and trekked out toward Victoria. We scoured the seas as we went but found nothing and pressed on. We had reports of whales at Beecher and it definitely paid off to make the run. When we got to Beecher bay we met up with the T60A’s and they gave us some great looks. When we first arrived they were playing in some bull kelp and even spy hopped a few times for us. We followed them up into Beecher bay before time ran out and it was time to head out. On our way east we made a stop at race rocks for looks at some steller sea lions, California sea lions, harbor seals, and Olly the otter. Olly put on a show for us as he cleaned himself and splashed around in the water. After that we powered up and continued on when out of no where captain Scott spotted a humpback whale. We stopped and spent a little time with the whale and got a couple of fluke shots before having to press onward. We then continued to the dock getting lots of great views as we went.
9:30 AM Tour
Triple header!!!!!!! We started out our trip watching a large group of harbor seals on Ediz Hook then we headed north across the straits. A report had come in of whales near Vancouver Island and when we arrived there was a small gray whale slowly heading east along the shore. We watched this little guy for awhile but he was elusive and not showing much of himself so we moved on to our next whale not far away which turned out to be a humpback whale. We got some really nice looks as he fluked occasionally but even so he was a whale that has been seen before but is not in our catalogs. He showed signs of being attacked as a calf by transient orcas as he had lots of rake marks on his flukes. Off to our third set of whales this time a family of transient orcas traveling along the shore in what appeared to be a hunting mode browsing through the kelp. That is until they came to a huge bed of kelp where we thought they might have had a seal but it turns out they just stopped to play in the kelp for at least forty minutes sphyhopping and rolling on their sides. It was an incredible sight to see. It was hard to pull ourselves away when it came time to head back to port but we did so reluctantly knowing we had witnessed a family of orcas just simply enjoying themselves.
3:00 PM Tour
Doubleheader!!! Our friendly harbor seals on Ediz hook greeted us as we made our way out into the Salish Sea.They lined the beach and played in the surf. The wind had kicked up a bit and whitecaps appeared but the ride was smooth. A harbor porpoise sighting gave us some excitement as we thought it was possibly orcas from the description but alas it was just harbor porpoise. We ventured over to the Canadian waters where we found our same humpback from the morning trip feeding. He fluked quite a bit and had many direction changes. While we waited for him to resurface a California sea lion suddenly appeared next to the boat and just as quickly disappeared.We looked for a second humpback that was reported but we never found him and then we searched for some orcas that were further west with no luck. Another report of orcas found to the east of us had us heading back from where we came. We came across a pod of about 10 animals that were spread out and just started porpoising when we got there heading east. They kept this up for a bit and then suddenly just stopped seemingly to catch their breath. it appeared we had at least two families of orcas one whom we could identify as the T11’s. We enjoyed their company as the sun started setting and we finally had to part ways and head for home.
We headed south this morning down Rosario Strait and made a swing in to Castle Rock. While we went through we got some great looks at a bald eagle on Castle rock and another perched on a snag on Lopez island. After that we powered up for the long haul and trekked out toward Victoria. We scoured the seas as we went but found nothing and pressed on. We had reports of whales at Beecher and it definitely paid off to make the run. When we got to Beecher bay we met up with the T60A’s and they gave us some great looks. When we first arrived they were playing in some bull kelp and even spy hopped a few times for us. We followed them up into Beecher bay before time ran out and it was time to head out. On our way east we made a stop at race rocks for looks at some steller sea lions, California sea lions, harbor seals, and Olly the otter. Olly put on a show for us as he cleaned himself and splashed around in the water. After that we powered up and continued on when out of no where captain Scott spotted a humpback whale. We stopped and spent a little time with the whale and got a couple of fluke shots before having to press onward. We then continued to the dock getting lots of great views as we went.
We headed out with clear blue skies and flat calm water. As we cruised down Rosario strait Captain Carl found us a minke whale that gave us some great looks. After that we continued south toward the Olympic peninsula we got two harbor seals in a very intense fight at Smith bank. They were really at each other’s throats. We continued from there to eastern bank where we joined two humpbacks that were traveling east. We got lots of flukes from them as they traveled west. After that we went toward Dungeness spit and joined the T60’s. We had an amazing show watching them as they traveled taking the occasion deep dive. We were seeing lots of porpoise near the T’s but they seemed uninterested. After that we headed to Colville for some more harbor seals and then returned to anacortes
Fantastic is the only way to describe the weather conditions. Blue skies. mirror like water and warm air all made for the perfect day. We headed north knowing there were reports of transient orcas near Trial Island heading south. Along the way we spotted harbor porpoise and lots of common murres. Mt Baker was outstanding today. Making our way across the straits we eventually caught up the the orcas to find the T60 family of 5 including T60 the mom, her 16 year old son T60C, his younger brother T60D, a nine yearly sibling T60E and their youngest sister at 5 years old T60E. They were traveling west as a family unit for quite a while and then they separated into 2 groups in possibly hunt mode. We stayed with them for along time and as other boats arrived on scene we decided to go look for other animals. We headed east to where our sister ship the IE5 had found 2 humpbacks and had some amazing closeups as the came along side our boat. As we got their they decided they needed to go somewhere out west so they started traveling side by side as we kept pace with them getting some really great looks at their flukes and finding they are not in our ID catalog,one being a solid black fluke the other an all white fluke..Their travels once again took us near to our orca family as they had continued traveling south so we departed the humpbacks to go watch the orcas one more time. Lucky for us they headed west and took us towards home so we were able to get some more quality time with the T60’s and even had some awesome close passes. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.