Resident Orcas Off San Juan Island

Anacortes:

Highlights:
Rhinoceros auklets in Guemes Channel
Harbor seals on rocks near Shark Reef
Bald eagles throughout the entire trip
Resident orcas (members of J and K pods)!!

We had an awesome trip filled with tons of orcas!  We spent time with members of the J14s and K16s off Eagle Point on the westside of San Juan Island.  The weather was great and so were the whales!

La Conner: 

Highlights:
SO many great blue herons
Bald eagles
White pelicans off March Point
Black oystercatchers at Swirl Rocks
Steller sea lion at Whale Rocks
Resident orcas (members of J pod)

What an amazing day on the water!  We left the dock and headed north out of the slough past the train bridge and down Guemes Channel passing the Anacortes waterfront.  We made it over to the westside of San Juan Island where we spent time with members of Jpod resident orcas : L87, J22, J38, J16, J26, J42, J50, J19, J41, and J51.  Great whale time all before heading to lunch in Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island.  After lunch we made our way back toward out dock in La Conner through Deception Pass.  Beautiful.



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Double-Header from Anacortes and Double-Digit Humpbacks from Port Angeles



Anacortes Highlights:
T65A Transient Orcas
Humpback BCZ0180 “Monarch”
Harbor Seals
Harbor Porpoise


Sunny and calm with just a slight ocean swell when out in the Strait. We encountered harbor porpoise in Rosario Strait and then made a slow down near the south end of Lopez Island where we found multiple harbor seals hauled out, pigeon guillemots, and a mature bald eagle perched on Swirl Rocks.  South of Salmon Bank we found a humpback identified as BCZ0180 (Monarch).  Monarch’s breath patterns were a bit unpredictable today, but we saw some gorgeous flukes twice. Next we headed north up Haro Strait into Canada and trekked up to Beaver Point where transient orcas, the T65As, were headed southbound. T65A3 was alone leading the group with her family trailing behind. We went a long way to get them but it was worth it.  We headed home inner island, ending a sunshine filled day and two species under our belt!





Port Angeles Highlights:
Too Many Humpbacks to Count
Sparring Elephant Seals
Sea Otter
Bald Eagle


What a beautiful day awaited us. Blue skies, flat seas and the Olympic Mountains in full view along with Mt Baker in the distance. A few harbor seals popped up alongside us as we idled out of the harbor.Harbor porpoise were spotted breaking the surface of the water as we cruised in the straits. Not long after we spotted our first whale of the day ..a humpback whale named Stitch. He was feeding in the current lines  and staying at the surface  on a regular basis. A lot of direction changes brought him close to our boat and he seemed to want to feed right near us rolling on his side a few times showing  us half flukes . As we watched we could see other whale watch boats in the distance and  they also had 2-3 whales around them and we had 2 more off to our side feeding not far from stitch. We could see at least 8 or more humpback whales. We finally broke away from stitch and headed over to race rocks  with 3 more humpbacks surfacing not far from us. All the whales were feeding near the surface and were not really flaking so identities were kept hidden from us. At Race Rocks  we got great views of the lighthouse and all the harbor seals hauled out on the rocks. Black oystercatchers and pigeon guillemots  speckled the rocks. Ollie the sea otter was wrapped up in kelp and trying to be inconspicuous. We got lucky and had some good looks at the elephant seals as a few males decided to spar it out. We continued on our way heading back across the straits and  found 5 more humpbacks and once again they were feeding close to the surface and made many close passes by the boat. One even rolled on his side bringing up his white pectoral fin close enough we could see the barnacles on it..As the day  continued we  found ourselves having to say goodby to our friends and head for home. We couldn’t have asked for a better day!

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Transient Orcas, Close-Up Humpbacks, and GOATS!

Anacortes Highlights:
T2C Transient Orcas
GOATS!
Harbor Seals
Bald Eagles
We started down Guemes Channel passing harbor porpoise and cormorants, then north up Rosario Strait.  There were plenty of harbor seals on south Peapod and a mature bald eagle on north Peapod.  We continued north and eventually crossed into Canada for our whale sighting today, the transient family the T2C’s that aren’t often spotted here.  We followed them for quite a while, from Java Rocks to Monarch Head where we also found one of the neatest sightings – a huge group of billy goats on the rocks near the water.  After meeting back up with the orcas (complete with a few tail slaps and a spy hop!) we traveled south along the east side of Sucia Island and found more eagles and a California sea lion snoozing on a buoy north of Guemes!
Port Angeles Highlights:
Multiple Humpbacks
Bald Eagle
Elephant Seals


Another beautiful day out in the straits even though it was rainy onshore thanks to the rain shadow effect. We headed off to find whales but had to stop at the harbor entrance to admire two male California sea lions basking on the buoy. We had a bald eagle perched on a pole outside the coast guard station allowing us great looks and harbor seals  stared at us from the water wondering what we were looking at. We found our first whale not far off just north of the Elwha River  in the current lines. As we watched it became apparent there were  two humpback whales in a slow sleeping mode just heading west . We stayed with them for a while and then a third humpback appeared not far from our duo. Two of our humpbacks turned out to be one named Boulder and the other one was BCX1193 Zig Zag.The third appeared to be a new whale not in the official ID guides, but nicknamed “Hemlock”. As we continued on with out whales a fourth whale appeared and this humpback was one we know as Nike. We were able to identify them by the underside of their flukes as the raised them out of the water letting everyone see the difference with 3 black flukes and one with quite a bit of white. With Race Rocks not too far off we continued our search for whales and headed to Race Rocks getting beautiful looks at the granite lighthouse. Harbor seals were aplenty today dotting almost all the lower rocky ledges. California sea lions and stellar sea lions  had their favorite spots on the higher rocks. A real great treat was the 5 elephant seals we got to see…two of which were hauled out allowing us to see just how really big they are  being our largest pinniped. A mated pair of bald eagles sat atop the rocks survey their domain. Heading home and always on the lookout  we saw a whale in the distance breach three times but he settled down before we  got  close to him . He was feeding and heading west so we eventually had to part ways  and head back to port. All in all a perfectly fine day to be out on the water.

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Orcas and Humpbacks in the Sun

Anacortes Highlights:
Two Humpback Whales
Transient Orcas (T65A’s)
Bald Eagles
Harbor Porpoise

Another great double-header on the Island Explorer 5!  We had plenty of porpoise, cormorants, and pigeon guillemots in Rosario Strait and a bald eagle near the Lopez Island ferry terminals.  North of Stuart Island we came across two humpback whales including BCX1057 swimming very close to each other and to shore.  After that, there was word of orcas near Turn Point so we headed there and got looks as they traveled along the rocky shoreline.  We found another bald eagle on our inner island route home and sunbathing harbor seals at Pointer Island before returning home!





Port Angeles Highlights:
Humpback Whale BCY0057
Race Rocks
Bald Eagles
Harbor Porpoise

Blue skies all day with views of Mt. Baker and the snowy Olympic Mountain Range. The trip started and ended with glassy calm seas. With no reports yet we first headed to the rockpile and gave it a major sweep. With no whales in sight we coordinated with other boats in the area and did a major search of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Finally a humpback whale was spotted a few miles south of Race Rocks. We got a few good tail shots and then a really close surfacing right off the bow! The whale was ID’d as Niagara BCY0057. Niagara seemed to be in feeding mode because of the long dive times and short surfacings. After this encounter we headed to Race Rocks and saw lots of cool sea life such as harbor seals, Steller and California sea lions, and two bald eagles. After Race Rocks we headed back to the whale and got a couple more tail shots before heading home. Once at the dock, a few guests were lucky enough to see three river otters swimming nearby!




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Orcas and Humpbacks from Both Locations!





Port Angeles Highlights:
Lone Male Transient Orca
Humpback Whale
HUGE Elephant Seals!

It was a beautiful day – cloudy but calm waters greeted us. As we headed out into the straits, about 40 harbor seals were hauled out on the tip of Ediz Hook. Our search for whales brought us into Canadian waters where we were treated to one lone adult male transient orca slowly traveling eastward in a sleepy mode. After watching him for awhile we received a call about a humpback whale not far off so we ventured over to check him out. Calm waters must have put our whale friends in a sleepy mood for the humpback was also in a slow sleep travel mode. We left him to his nap and headed over to Race Rocks where we saw and amazing array of pinnipeds including our small harbor seals, barking California sea lions, and lounging steller sea lions. Our biggest treat was the large amount of massive elephant seals we witnessed!  A pair of bald eagles and lots of pigeon guillemots completed the scene. Harbor porpoise were spotted quickly surfacing through the water during our travels. The day ended with lots of sunshine  and smiles.



Anacortes Highlights:
Transient Orcas
Humpback Whale
Bald Eagles
Steller Sea Lions

More details coming soon!

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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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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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