…The whales were pushing off shore, they had just made a sizable kill, and it was clear that they were headed in our direction!!!
Two hours earlier the crew of the Island Explorer 4 had begun their daily ritual of preparing the boat and greeting guests. The sun was already out high in the sky and the day had already started warming up into what would become an amazing day. Blue skies surround the marina, with fluffy white clouds drifting lazily through the air. The guests boarded the boat and with all lines secured the trip was underway.
The Explorer 4 slowly crushed down Guemes channel taking in the sights of the Anacortes waterfront as she went. Workers busily grinding away in the ship yards, the occasional seagull swooping in close to the water to check for fish. The waters that lay ahead sat calmly awaiting for the bow of the Explorer 4 to carve its way into them toward the unknown that lay beyond. Crossing Rosario straight, the guests and crew began searching hard both North and South in hopes that wildlife would appear. Soon the Explorer 4 was passing small groups of rhinoceros auklets and the occasional cormorant out for their morning meals. Glimpses of harbor porpoise danced in the distance and just as soon as they had appeared they had once again vanished into the depths below.
By now the Explorer 4 had made its way into Thatcher pass and was heading north between Lopez island and Blakely island. A Washington state ferry was cruising by just off her port side and radioed over with some good news!!! The ferry had spotted what was believed to be a small group of orcas just off of Frost island. The report said they were not very active and not moving anywhere fast, so with that Captain Beck turned the boat toward the western banks of the channel. Within seconds dorsal fins and spouts began to rise out of the water in the distance!!!! It was orcas and not just any orcas but transient orcas(T49A’s), grouped together tightly just off the shore of Frost island.
When the Explorer 4 arrived on scene the whales were pushing off shore, they had just made a sizable kill, and it was clear they were headed toward the Island Explorer 4!!! T49A1 made an incredibly close pass, showing the entire boat his latest trophy, the remnants of what must have been a sea lion at one point. Following not far behind him the rest of the pod swam by giving all the guests onboard today some amazing looks at the magnificent creature that is the transient orca whale. After the close encounter the whales moved off, not to far but enough so that the entire could once again catch their breath. Circling their lunch the whales picked it apart piece by piece and even shared some with the occasional seagull.
Once lunch time was over it was time to play, at least for the little ones of the group. Typically these whales don’t have many toys in the wild and you will find they make due with logs and bull kelp, however today was different. One of the younger whales discovered a crab pot buoy floating near Blakely island and decided that it would make a most excellent play thing. We watched as the whale tugged the buoy under the water multiple times!!! Up and down the buoy would bob as the curious orca enjoyed itself. Finally it was time to move along and play time was over, you could tell that this lil guy did not want to leave his toy behind as it made some attempts to go back and retrieve it!!! Sadly it was unsuccessful and had to rejoin the pod which was now north bound toward Orcas island and east sound. With this it was time for the Explorer 4 to venture off and search for what else may be in store.
Captain Beck took the boat for a nice cruise through Obstruction pass and around Deer point toward a wildlife refuge known as Peapod rocks, and as expected there was no shortage of wildlife today. Perched high on a sign on south Peapod sat a bald eagle, enjoying the fine day that the San Juan islands were experiencing. Just below that eagle was an immature bald eagle nestled down on the rocky shoreline searching for a quick meal. Again the 4 pressed onward toward north Peapod where it took in many great looks at multiple harbor seals and hundreds of Bonaparte’s gulls surrounding the small rock outcropping.
The search took the Explorer 4 northward evermore, hoping for whatever else could be found. The ship sailed up for some good looks at Barnes and Clark islands (The Sisters) and then turned south again in order to comb the shores of Lummi island. As it cruised down Lummi multiple bald eagles were spotted on different rocks and the occasional harbor seal would raise its head to give the guests on board a look!!!! Circling Viti rocks another amazing look at yet another bald eagle was had by all. and with that the Explorer 4 continued homeward. Rounding Guemes island and into Cap Sante marina. It was a most amazing day to be had by all who were aboard for the ride!!!!!