An adventure like no other!!!! (Port Angeles)

Port Angeles

Highlights:
Harbor seals on end of Ediz hook
Lots of bird life throughout the trip
Steller sea lions and California sea lions at Race rocks
Transient orcas to the east  T10’s, 11’s, and 37’s

Naturalist Log:

The day began on the rather crisp side this morning, a light had lingered through the night pushing much of the would be fog out of the area. We had our first wildlife as we left the marina and passed a large group of harbor seals hauled out on some log rafts. We got some brief looks and continued out along Ediz hook. The harbor was filled with different types of birds including some common loons and a bunch of common murres. We watched the local coast guard tested out some of their signal flares and then plunged forward into the Salish sea. After rounding the end of the hook we found dozens of seal hauled out right next to the water line of the beach. After the oohs and ahhs died out we continued north then to the west. We continued that way for a bit before turning north east and heading up toward Race rocks. Here we saw dozens of California and Stellar sea lions, barking and growling away at each other. After leaving Race rocks we headed east toward reports of orca whales. When we first arrived the orcas began to slap their tails and fool around with each other!!! We were getting some amazing views and had no idea how much better it was about to get. The orcas took a turn and headed right toward the boat passing right next to us and underneath us!!! It was so amazing!!!! We then continued to parallel view the animals when again they came in and gave and extraordinary pass, turning on their sides to look up at the passengers. It was so amazing to see that many orcas that close into the boat!!!! We then headed south and continued toward Port Angeles at this point, still on the search as we cruised. The sun was out and the world was warming up nicely for the day as we swung by multiple bait balls to investigate, hoping for some more whales. We returned to Port Angeles after a phenomenal day out on the water!!!!
Naturalist-Tyson
Photos-Lee Leddy

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Transient Orcas wow us!

Anacortes
Highlights

-Transient Orcas
-Harbor seals and harbor porpoise
-Steller sea lions
-Bald eagles

What a trip we had from Anacortes today, with a wonderful variety of wildlife to visit with under sunny skies! We saw a common loon and harbor porpoise near Anacortes. Harbor seals were hauled out on Bird Rocks and a mature bald eagle was on the Davidson Rock marker. We traveled into the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we encountered several pods of transient orcas! The T10’s, T36A’s, T37A’s, and T65B’s. Thirteen orcas total for a fun superpod visit! The killer whales were together in a resting line after they had finished off a kill when we arrived. We had awesome looks at all of them and they paid our sister ship the Island Explorer 4 a very close pass and followed that up by passing right next to our boat! We stopped at Whale Rocks to watch dozens of Steller sea lions hauled out before heading home after a fantastic day!

-Michael Colahan

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WAY out west for a triple header out of Anacortes!

Anacortes



Highlights
-Harbor porpoise
-Harbor seals
-Bald eagle
-Gray whale
-Orcas
-Steller sea lions
-California sea lions
-Elephant seals
-Sea Otter
-Minke whale





We got off the dock today with blue skies and flat calm seas! We saw numerous harbor porpoise throughout out entire journey. We spotted some harbor seals hauled out on Bird Rocks. At the Davidson Rock marker, we found a mature bald eagle. We headed west today and Captain Scott found us our first whale of the day! It ended up being a gray whale! He was pretty elusive but we did get a good enough look to ID it as a gray whale! We continued west, and boy, did we go west! We made it past the Race Rocks Lighthouse! We spotted some Dall’s porpoise, but we were on a mission! There were some of our fish eating orcas that were way west of Victoria, Canada, going west! We had to catch them! And when we did, it was amazing! We were greeted by J38 (Cookie) breaching twice! We had some amazing looks at J16 (Slick) and her newest kiddo J50 (Scarlett). J42 (Echo) also passed right off the stern of the boat! We caught some glimpses at J26 (Mike) as we departed scene. We spent some quality time with the orcas, but we had to head home after an extremely long run to catch up to where they were! We were able to spend a few minutes navigating through the Race Rocks Ecological Preserve where we spotted Steller sea lions, California sea lions, at least three elephant seals AND a SEA OTTER! It was one of the rare times we were able to find a sea otter! Awesome! We continued toward home, but we weren’t done yet! We found a minke whale off Iceberg Point on Lopez Island! We had some great looks at this guy, making our trip officially a triple header! We cruised home, a bit late, but no one seemed to notice! We definitely went the extra mile(s) into Canada for a wonderful day on the Salish Sea! 

-Brooke 

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Humpback and five feeding minke whales out of Anacortes!

Anacortes

Highlights
-Harbor porpoise
-Harbor seals
-River otters
-Humpback whale
-Minke whales

We left the marina today on our search and headed down Guemes Channel to Rosario Strait. We stopped by Bird Rocks and found numerous harbor seals hauled out and a couple river otters running around the top of the rocks. We continued into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Throughout our entire trip today we spotted harbor porpoise. We made our way down toward the Olympic Peninsula where we found a humpback whale! This animal was incredible cooperative, never really going down on a deeper dive. Our humpback had a consistent dive pattern and surfaced about every minute! We also caught a few glimpses of a minke whale who was also in the area! Officially a double header! We hung out with our humpback friend for quite some time as he zigged and zagged, generally trending west. Eventually, we had to head back toward homeport. We cruised over Partridge Bank and found four more minke whales! So, we had to stop and hang out for awhile! They lunged through some incredibly active bait balls! It was awesome to see these guys eating lunch!  We continued home under beautiful blue skies and flat calm waters!

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Fog out West/Humpback and Minkes out East

Port Angeles

Highlights
Major fog bank clears out to the east
Harbor seals
Harbor porpoise
Minke whale
juvenile humpback whale
2 steller sea lions
Dungeness Lighthouse

The fog was thick as we left the dock with very little visibility. We made our way slowly out as the coast guard was also performing drills in the harbor with lots of boats all over. We passed by a few common loons still decked out in breeding plumage.  The fish farm was harvesting salmon as we passed by. We had enough visibility to see harbor seals hauled out on Ediz hook and playing in the water. with a heavy fog to the west we headed east breaking out into better visibility. As we continued eastward  we could see the fog bank behind us  and around the Olympics and it was looking sunnier and bluer skies to the east. The further we went the water conditions improved and we  wound up having a gorgeous day on the water. We passed few harbor porpoise in our travels and the further east we went the more seabirds we saw. Vancouver Island and the San Juans were visible as was Whidby Island ahead of us. Mt Baker remained clear and provided some great photo ops. We checked out  many areas with no luck and many boats were at a loss to find whales. We received a call that some minke whales and a humpback had been found not far from Port Townsend so we continued on.As we passed Protection Island the bird life became more abundant lining up in the currents including common murres and red necked phalaropes .And then there were Minke whales ahead of us and the Humpback whale a little further inland. We saw the minkes dive in the distance but when we reached the spot they were at  there was on quick surfacing and then they were gone as Minkes often do. We waited a bit and then proceeded to the humpback whale meeting up with our sister ship the Island Explorer 3. We found a juvenile humpback whale probably just a yearling by the size of it. He seemed to be on a mission as he was heading due west and at fairly good clip surfacing regularly in a fairly straight line though he deviated a few times and came right over to the boat.With his mode of travel he never brought his flukes up so we could get an ID shot since he never went down on a deep dive. We could actually track him by his footprints at the surface of the water which allowed us to know he was going to pop up right next to the boat one time.. We could see he also had a case of whale lice not  unusual for humpbacks. We spent as much time with him as possible before we had to leave him to his travels and continue ours home. Some sharp eyed passengers spotted 2 steller sea lions swimming along but they disappeared before we could go check them out. Not far beyond that a harbor seal popped up splashing and we waited to see him again but he too proved elusive. The rest of the ride back to the dock was filled with sunshine and glassy waters and we got some great looks at Dungeness lighthouse.The fog bank was still out west as we headed home but we were left to bask the sunshine.
~Naturalist~Lee

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K and L pod Orcas just off the Elwha!!!!!

Port Angeles

~Highlights~
Harbor Seals
Steller Sea Lion
K & L Pod Orcas fishing off the Elwha out into the Straits

K22 Sekiu

L55’s

L82 Kasatka

L55 Nuggett

L72 Racer

L72 Racer

L105 Fluke

K35 Sonata

K16 Opus

L84 Nyssa

L88 Wavewalker

L88 Wavewalker

What a day it was looking to be. You could feel it would get hot with blue skies and no wind. The Straits were calm as could be. With great excitement we  got off the docks and out into the harbor. We checked out the sights  in the harbor and headed for open water. We found a few harbor seals  hauled out on Ediz Hook and many more just in the surf. We watched them for a few minutes  and then we were off again heading westward.  Not far past Ediz Hook a steller sea lion popped up giving us some great looks as he had apparently just finished off his breakfast.We headed slightly offshore  checking out race rocks from afar and Hurricane Ridge as we passed the Elwha River.  And just like that  we had whales!!!!!!!. Orcas to be exact. They were spread out over many miles in small little groups as far as we could see. We couldn’t ever remember seeing the resident orcas this far south on our side of the border so and in such numbers with everyone fishing. Our greatest hopes are that the Elwha  is coming through and providing the much needed fish for our resident orcas. It was an exciting day  and we started checking out groups of whales as we went to  see who was there. We could see huge male dorsal fins  way off in the distance fishing the currents and popping up all over. We even had a few startle us as they popped up right near us. We saw K25 Scoter and  the K13’s in one area and as we continued on we past K34 Cali. L91 Muncher and her son L122 Magic were fishing. We saw a lot of the big males wildly giving chase after fish amazing us with their speed even having one breach  three times. Moving on we ran into a few of the K12’s including K22 Sekiu and K37 Ripple. Part of the L55’s were grouped up in a resting mode so we got to watch them as the surfaced with synchronized breathing patterns. It was very interesting as most of the orcas were spread out far and wide  in small little groups of ones and twos making  family ID’s a little harder as we didn’t always see the whole family near each other.We had a breathtaking pass by mother and son duo L72 Racer and L105 Fluke as they came right to us  under the boat and resurfaced right on the other side before continuing west.We headed south and west to check out more orcas finding  K16 Opus with her son K35 Sonata. Some more large males fishing caught our eye even closer to shore so we proceeded inward finding L84 Nyssa and L88 Wavewalker not far from one another. We watched Wavewalker chase fish right next to the boat diving and circling. What a gorgeous boy he is. There were so many other whales we never got to identify as they were everywhere even though we spent all our time  watching them and checking out group after group. we finally said our good byes after  some amazing time spent with the orcas and there was nothing but smiles all around.We can only hope that seeing them so close to the Elwha is a sign of great things to come down the road . Only time will tell.
~Naturalist~ Lee

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Minke Madness from Anacortes!

Anacortes

Highlights
-Harbor seal
-Great blue heron
-Harbor porpoise
-Steller sea lions
-Curious minke
-Feeding minkes
-Harbor seals

We departed the Cap Sante Marina this morning right away had a harbor seal hauled out and a great blue heron perched on rocks, side by side. The fog cleared as we pushed west! We put out a good search pattern and headed through the inner islands. We spotted numerous harbor porpoise throughout our journey today. At Whale Rocks, we found several Steller sea lions hauled out enjoying the sunshine. We searched Salmon Bank and found what turned out to be an incredible cooperative and curious minke whale! This whale cruised the entire length of the boat at close range, then circled back around! We had some great looks at this animal underwater! We could even see his white stripes on his pec fins! Eventually, we headed off in search of other animals and we found a feeding frenzy of minke whales! There were three that all surfaced within about 200 yards of each other! One of them even lunged through a bait ball right at us! It was awesome! We had some great looks at these animals at Partridge Bank. We checked out Minor Island where we found hundreds of harbor seals hauled out. We cruised north up Rosario Strait, continuing on our search toward homeport. What a great day in the Strait of Juan de Fuca!

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Transients at Trial Island

Port Angeles

Highlights
Harbor seals at Ediz Hook
 Race rocks Lighthouse
California and Steller Sea Lions
Bald eagle
Transient Orcas

With a cloudy start to the day we headed out checking out the boat transport vessel loading a boat in the harbor. the coast guard helicopter was sitting on the pad as we passed by.Bird life abounded in the harbor including a common loon. Harbor seals were hauled out on the edge of the beach at Ediz Hook  while others played in the surf. As we headed out there was no word of whales so we headed west hoping to find humpbacks and possibly orcas. The sea swells  made for a roller coaster ride but everyone was on the lookout. A few harbor porpoise were spotted by passengers as they searched for whales.we had some great looks at Hurricane Ridge as we passed the Elwha Valley. Onward we pushed  with no whales in sight when a call came through about orcas at Trial  Island. We made a u turn and headed  that way with a stop through  Race Rocks ecological preserve. The light house was  beautiful with nice reflections on the water. We smelled and heard the occupants  of race rocks before we saw them. California sea lions barking up a storm while massive steller sea lions lounged around or growled for favorite positions on the rocks. Some of the lower ledges were occupied by the tiny (in comparison) harbor seals. A lone mature bald eagle stood sentinel on on of the ledges. We continued on getting close up looks at Victoria and all the cruise liners coming and going. We arrived on scene to find a lot of our Canadian friends waiting for the orcas to surface. We spread out and waited  and waited. It started looking like they had given us the slip as transient orcas  have been known to do. We widened the search pattern and eventually one of the boats found them . hey seemed to be in a slow sleepy traveling mode surfacing close together. We settled in to watch them finding that even in this slower pace they still made good distances and kept us guessing the whole time. The sun had come out meanwhile and we enjoyed  the afternoon warmth as we watched  these  orcas going about their business. From the pictures we got it appears that they were the T109A family with T109A the 26 year old matriarch. T109A2 her 11 year old daughter seemed to have a young calf at her side.Three other siblings  of unknown sexes would be in there also. T1093 born in 2009, T1094 born in 2012 and T109A5 born in 2015 which may or may not have been the calf at T109A2’s side. After  a long trip to find these marvelous animals we spent  the rest of our time enjoying them even though we would get back a little late it was well worth the time.There were lots of birds  all around so our birdwatchers on board were kept busy during the orcas down times. The return trip was gorgeous as the waters had flattened out and had a beautiful glassy look to them and we got to enjoy the great scenery as we headed back to the Olympics.
Naturalist-Lee

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Orcas on our trip out of Anacortes!

Anacortes

10AM
-Harbor seals
-Harbor porpoise
-Orcas

We left on our trip this morning and had incredibly active harbor porpoise right away. We also spotted some harbor seals hauled out on a dock off Cap Sante. We pushed to the south and we were on the search! At Middle Bank, we came across some orcas! It was our buddies the T60s and T2B! The T60s include: T60, T60C, T60D, T60E and T60F. They were all traveling together then they broke into two groups. T60C and T2B headed to the north and the rest of the T60s headed south. They ended up being spread out at least four miles. We spent time with both groups and had some great looks. We went home a completely different way through the inner islands. It was a beautiful cruise as the sun continued to come out! Another wonderful September day on the Salish Sea!

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SUPERPOD in the Straits & humpbacks too!!!

Port Angeles

Highlights
giant baitball in the harbor
baby harbor seals
Boat transport vessel
J26 Mike and his family the J16’s
L88 Wavewalker
L54’s
L84 Nyssa
K21 Cappuccino
K37 Rainshadow
2 humpbacks…Stitch and  unidentified

bait ball

J26 Mike

J26 Mike

J26 Mike

J26 Mike

J26 Mike

J16 Slick

J16 Slick and J50 Scarlet
J16’s

J16’s

L88 Wavewalker

L88 Wavewalker

L84 Nyssa

Stitch

Stitch

Stitch

The Olympics

 Cloudy and cool with a chance of liquid sunshine, our guests were well prepared and ready to go. Out in the harbor a large boat transport vessel was anchored and we got some great looks. A common loon still with leftover breeding plumage was among the many birds we saw. An enormous baitball had formed and the birds were feeding in force. Glaucous winged and heerman’s gulls. common murres and cormorrants, and rhinocrous auklets were bombarding  this massive grouping of fish in a feeding frenzy.While we watched the birds two adorable harbor seal pups popped up  checking us out with their puppy dog eyes. More harbor seals were swimming  at Ediz Hook point as we rounded it and set out into the straits. With winds out of the southeast we headed to the west where the waters were calm and aimed towards the middle of the straits. We left the rain behind us as we entered into the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains and had some fantastic  views of the mountain range with the cloud coverage and lighting.With race rocks lighthouse behind us and open water ahead of us our first whales were spotted… An orca and a humpback. We checked out the big male orca and discovered it wasnt a transient but one of our resident fisheaters fishing . It turned out to be J26 Mike and we knew his family couldn’t be far off. We enjoyed his fishing antics for awhile then went in search of the J16’s  who weren’t too far away. J16 Slick was there with her daughters J36 Alki  J42 Echo and Slick’s youngest daughter J50 Scarlet along with Alki’s son J52 Sonic. We had a few good spyhops  and a breach as the youngsters played  and even a few caudal peduncle throws. Since the humpback was so close we took out some time to check him out  and though we had some nice fluke shots his identity proved to be  elusive. As other boats started arriving we heard reports of all 3 pods coming in and were excited to see some more of this rare sighting of a superpod. As we continued west we saw large males popping up in the current lines fishing. Some of them turned out to be L88 Wavewalker, K21 Cappuccino , L84 Nyssa and  sprouter K37 Rainshadow. We had one of the large males come right over to us and continue on under the boat coming up on the other side.What a treat that was to see him so close up. We had L54 Ino and her 2 sons L108 Coho and l117 Keta pass  by us. We saw more orcas in the distance and came upon a group of 7 going into a resting mode surfacing together and slowing right down as a few more started to come together  in family groups. We shut down a few times and could hear them breathing in unison. We watched them as they rested   marveling at all the orca dorsals we saw all around us. When  time came to say goodbye we slipped away without disturbing them and headed back to the dock.  Not very far along a humpback popped up heading west so we turned to check him out thinking it was the humpback we had seen earlier and had a pleasant surprise to see our old friend Stitch. With time growing short and a long ride home  we said  our goodbyes once again  and headed home still seeing orca dorsals as we went. Even the rain seemed to have cleared up for us as we had a blue sky around us on the ride home. What an awesome day out in the straits of Juan de Fuca.
Naturalist-lee

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