Sunday, August 3, 2014
A long ways to go...
The Resident Orcas were north. Way north. At the far end of our range north, and they were moving further north. No reports on Transients. A report of two humpbacks in Juan de Fuca, heading east. We knew it would be a long trip, but as long as they kept moving east, it was doable.
I let the guests know our options, and they were in favor of seeing humpbacks. My calculations came up with an hour and a half to the whales... figuring a half hour or so with the whales, it would make the 3 hour trip 3 1/2 hours.
Once out of Cattle Pass and heading west, the whales turned south. I altered our course and refigured the time. Yeah, a bit longer. I had the naturalist check with the guests to make sure no one had a tight time conflict - several that had to be back in time for the 6:30 ferry. We were good.
The whales picked up speed and changed their direction to southwest... yeah, moving further away. More calculating... up to 4 hours. And running across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there isn't a lot for the naturalist to talk about. Only water for the guests to see. Oh, sure, you can see the Olympic Mountains; in fact, they were getting closer as we ran further southwest. This wasn't going quite like I planned.
It took me two full hours running flat out to get to the humpbacks. A couple other boats from the San Juans turned back before getting there... I kinda felt we had an "investment." The guests were happy that we made the effort - they enjoyed seeing the two humpbacks. I didn't get a photo, even though there were some good fluke dives - I was occupied at the helm. A half hour with the humpbacks, and I needed to be heading back. The current would be with us, so we could gain some speed. Still, this would turn out to be the longest single trip I've had this season.
Yesterday, I didn't have to wear a jacket on my trip to the Strait of Georgia... today, I brought a jacket, but not a fleece vest. I coulda used the vest, too. It was sunny, but the water in Juan de Fuca is cold.
We did a quick stop at Whale Rocks, where there were about 10 Stellar Sea Lions on the rocks; it was only a couple minutes out of the way, and the Stellars are an impressive sight: at up to 2,000 pounds, they are big.
We made it back to the dock about 3 minutes before the ferry arrived. The ferry would be a while unloading, so our guests had time to leisurely walk to the ferry landing. That was as close as I could have cut it.
I have said this is like playing chess: you make your move, anticipating their move. Sometimes they don't move like you anticipate. On those days, extra time and fuel are handy to have.