From Iceberg point on it was nothing but happy transient orca whales and scared harbor seals as the sun beamed down upon the Island Explorer 3!!!!!
Naturalist log 5-31-15
What a day we had out in the Salish sea today. When I first arrived to the Island explorer 3 there was a thick layer of fog lying outside of the marina and the noise of the boats generator hummed in the back ground. The day had already begun to warm up and a bit of moisture was still clinging to the air, it was uncertain how long it would take for the fog to burn off, if it was going to at all. The sun was hidden above the gray overcast clouds, but a feeling inside told the crew that soon it would be shining down upon them.
At 11 o’clock the IE3 left her slip and Captain Carl began to take her out of Cap Sante and into the mystery and adventure that lay ahead. Before even leaving the marina Captain Carl spotted a black oyster catcher searching for breakfast on the rocky sea floor that was now exposed at low tide. He maneuvered the boat slowly by allowing every one to get some great looks at the bird.
As the boat rounded Cap Sante lookout and made its way down Guemes channel the fog had already begun to burn off. This was a good sign of what was to come. Heading down the channel the IE3 passed many small groups of rhinoceros auklets calmly swimming together awaiting the first bait ball of the day. Cormorants perched on navigational markers posed with their wings wide taking in the ever warming air and drying their recently soaked feathers.
As Captain Carl reached Rosario strait he turned the boat south toward the Straits of Jaun de Fuca. It was at this moment that great views of Mount Baker began to show and even some of the peaks down on the Olympic peninsula were poking through the fog and clouds. The seas were calm as was the air as the IE3 took in great looks of Burrows island lighthouse and the surrounding waters. It was smooth sailing to the south end of Lopez island. Upon reaching the end of the island Captain Carl found the first marine life of the trip. A large group of harbor seals had hauled out on Colville island and were drying off from the mornings festivities!!!!
The IE3 had no time to stop however because just up ahead swam a pod of transient orca whales. As the IE3 approached it was clear that this was a sizable group with multiple full grown male orcas. Dorsal fin after dorsal fin rose into the air followed by exhalations and some very unpredictable orcas. The orcas continued along Lopez and Long island toward Cattle pass where they turned north. It was here the waters began to get rough, as millions of gallons poured from the pass, multiple harbor seals began to pop up in the chop. These seals had luck on their side however as the orcas seemed disinterested in feeding and more interested in getting through the heavy currents.
Captain Carl took the IE3 right through the tide rips and stayed with the whales and as the waters began to calm the whales began to come to life. Near Shark reef the whales began to do head stands bringing their tails straight up into the air and lingering there for what seemed like and eternity but was over in the blink of an eye. Soon tails were slapping the surface and whales were upside down and having an all around good time. When the action slowed down Captain Carl took the IE3 back into the straits to look for more species, however with the orcas northbound and no other whales in sight, he soon turned northward again and headed back to the orcas, not without giving his all to search the banks south of Lopez and San Jaun island of course!!!
The IE3 joined back up with the whales at Upright head and were treated to an amazing show. With glass calm waters and the sun finally peeking out amongst blue skies the tranquility was like nothing ever experienced before!!!! So many dorsal fins rose along the banks of Lopez as the T125’s and T163 and 162 made their way toward Thatcher pass. Soon the whales began to get tricky, pointing one way and then heading another, Captain Carl continued to show his skill and experience as he predicted each surfacing and behavior. Rounding Frost island the whales headed south into Lopez pass and it was time for the IE3 to say goodbye, however the wildlife was far from over!!!!!
As the IE3 exited Thatcher pass Captain Carl found a nice group of harbor seals hauled out on Pointer island. With many great looks at their puppy dog faces the IE3 then continued onward toward her home port. As soon as guests were settled back inside the main cabin Captain Carl spotted more wildlife. This time it was a large California sea lion sleeping on a navigational marker in Bellingham chenille. He rose his head once and gave a wave of his flipper before laying back down and returning to his slumber!!!!
Soon the IE3 was in Guemes channel and returning to port with the sun on her back and blue skies beginning to show all round it was clear that the day was amazing. So much time spent with orcas and so many great views it was a day to never be forgotten and a trip that will forever live on in all of the crew members hearts!!!!