Maiden Voyage of the IE5 from Anacortes, Humpbacks in Paradise from Port Angeles!

Thanks to Steve Berentson for capturing this fantastic photo of the Island Explorer 5! 
Anacortes Highlights
Maiden Voyage of the IE5! 
Humpback Whales
Elephant Seals
Sea Otter
Race Rocks

Today marked a momentous occasion – after two long years of design and construction, the beautiful Island Explorer 5’s maiden voyage was a huge success!  We started out down Guemes Channel and then into Rosario Strait where harbor porpoise abounded.  We came across plenty of harbor seals and pigeon guillemots at the south end of Lopez Island, and then came across an eagle’s nest in MacArdle Bay. After that, it was out to the west in record time!  We made our way to Race Rocks and found California sea lions, elephant seals, and A SEA OTTER! Cruised through a couple of times (since we had plenty of time), and then headed toward where the Island Explorer 3 from Port Angeles had found whales earlier. Before we could even get back up to speed, two humpback whales popped up right in front of us! It was BCX1057 and MMY0009. They surfaced simultaneously in a rhythmic breathing sequence. They popped up close to the boat as they resurfaced from their deep dive a couple of times! We could even hear them exhale. It was so exciting!  As we cruised back toward home, we caught a few quick glances of a bonus whale – a minke at Salmon Bank!  We headed in toward Whale Rocks and found several Steller sea lions hauled out and in the water. Two even chased each other into the water! They were running!  We navigated home through the inner islands, why? Because we could! We made it to Race Rocks, spent quality time with whales, had the chance to see animals that previously were quite rare to see on an Anacortes departure, even had enough time to cruise inner island. We were only 15 minutes late! Woohoo!

Look closely…. Can you spot the otter?

Port Angeles Highlights:
Humpback Whales
Harbor Seals
Sea Otter
California Sea Lions
It was a beautiful sunny day from Port Angeles with blue skies and calm seas and good looks at Mount Baker all day.  The day started with three California sea lions hauled out on a buoy just off the tip of Ediz Hook. We also saw a couple of harbor seals swimming nearby. We continued on north after a report of humpbacks in the area and caught up with one humpback about halfway between Port Angeles and Victoria. The whale showed us great looks of the tail and seemed to be showing some feeding behavior. After watching this whale for a while, we turned west and headed toward another report of several more humpbacks a few miles west of Race Rocks. We caught up with at least two more humpbacks, possibly three. There was lots of surface activity and even a couple pectoral slaps! The whales seemed to be socializing and rolling on top of each other!  We also got looks at a few bird species including common murres, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and harlequin ducks. As we departed, we caught up with a pod of harbor porpoises. We then cruised to Race Rocks where we saw more California sea lions, harbor seals, many cormorants, and even our resident sea otter in the kelp! We then made our way back to Port Angeles to continue enjoying the sunshine. 

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She’s here and she’s BEAUTIFUL! After two long years of design and construction, we are beyond thrilled to welcome the newest member of the Island Adventures fleet, the Island Explorer 5! This gorgeous 3-deck catamaran is ready to get out there and find her first whales. Weather looks fantastic through the entire long weekend, so come out and join us for her big debut!

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Orcas for Everyone – And a Sea Otter Too!

Port Angeles Highlights
Transient Orcas
Sea Otter
Steller Sea Lions
Harbor Seals
Bald Eagle
Gorgeous clear blue skies today!  Just off the tip of Ediz Hook we encountered about twenty harbor seals hauled out on the beach enjoying the sunshine, and there were a few swimming nearby as well. We got a report of orcas east of Victoria so we made a b-line north across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At the south tip of Sidney Channel we caught up with two groups of transient orcas headed north at about 4 knots. One of the groups included the T137’s and T124D and calf, T124D1. They were two distinct groups with some distance between them but they seemed to be traveling together. After getting great looks at the killer whales, we headed to Race Rocks where we were treated to some hauled out Steller sea lions, many more harbor seals, Brandt’s cormorants, harlequin ducks, a mature bald eagle, and a great find – a sea otter floating in the kelp!  These animals were nearly wiped out due to the fur trade We then cruised back to the marina, catching a few brief looks at harbor porpoises along the way!


Anacortes Highlights
Transient Orcas
Spieden Island Animals
Bald Eagle
Steller Sea Lions
Harbor Seals
We started the trip heading south down Rosario Strait passing the occasional harbor porpoise on the way.  We even got a great look at Deception Pass Bridge!  Near Beaumont Shoal we found a group of Dall's porpoise.  They didn't seem too interested in us, but that's ok, because we were on the lookout for some LARGER black and white cetaceans - killer whales!  We'd heard reports of them in the area,  and we finally caught up with them on the north side of Sidney Island.   We hung out with the T137's and got some great looks!  After that we headed back past one of our favorites, Spieden Island, where we found groups of mouflon sheep, sika deer, a bald eagle, harbor seals and some steller sea lions.  As we continued home from there, we found plenty of sea birds and another mature bald eagle outside Thatcher Pass on a day marker.  After that we headed back in to Anacortes and had sunny blue skies all day!!!

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A Humpback Close to Home!

La Conner Highlights
Humpback Whale in Rosario
Peregrine Falcon
Steller Sea Lions and Harbor Seals
Bald Eagles

Our fantastic weather continued today for the all-day La Conner tour.  Great blue herons, bald eagles, osprey, black oystercatchers, and all three species of cormorants were all spotted as we exited the channel to the south.  At Deception Pass, we had a fantastic sighting – a peregrine falcon on the hillside!  This is likely one of two peregrine falcons that we’ve been spotting fairly regularly near Deception Pass Bridge in the last few weeks. We also spotted pigeon guillemots in the water and more great blue herons on the shoreline.  We came across several harbor porpoise as we exited the pass towards Rosario Strait, and then made at stop at Whale Rocks to view the Steller sea lions.  We had a nice lunch on Lopez Island at the Lopez Islander Resort, and then continued on north through Upright Channel to Peavine Pass.  After a look at some harbor seals on the rocks off Blakely Island, we turned south down Rosario and found a humpback whale!  The whale had very rhythmic breathing, fluking every once in a while, and as a grand finale, the whale surprised us all and popped up right next to the boat! We passed off to another whale watching boat before we headed back toward La Conner, going under the bridge again and saw another mature bald eagle before cruising home! 

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With this weather, it’s too nice to stay inside! If you missed our whale-watching tours today, don’t despair – you can still get on the water for our 2.5-hour wildlife tour from La Conner tonight at 6:00 PM for just $29. We’ll cruise up to Deception Pass to look for eagles, seals, porpoise, and more – a perfect end to a gorgeous day like this! For more information or to book a reservation, visit www.orcawhales.com or call at 1-800-465-4604. Photo Credit: Patrick McNally

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