Saturday, August 9, 2014
Are there any boats left in Friday Harbor???
My first whale report positioned them WAY north. Further north than we have the time for. Next report put them moving east southeast... too little movement, wrong direction. Then, a report of transient whales just south of Cattle Pass! That is a half hour away for our Friday Harbor boats - looks like another easy day!
Right before boarding guests, the report put the transients moving up San Juan Channel. Really, they are coming to us. By the time we shoved off, the whales were about 12 minutes away. When we got to them, our two boats were the only ones on the scene. Well, our two boats and the NOAA enforcement boat.
We had them to ourselves for about 10 minutes. Just south of Turn Island. Then, the entire town of Friday Harbor must have heard about it. In a matter of minutes there were scads of private boats. To add to the fun, today was the Shaw Classic (sailboat race)... their finish line was right outside Friday Harbor... that added another hundred or so sailboats to the mix.
Just for fun, the whales moved north. Pretty sure you could have seen them from the docks in Friday Harbor. Then, they went into Parks Bay (across the channel from Friday Harbor), and all those boats tried to crowd into an even smaller space. A few of the commercial operators forgot how to play nice... apparently, none of the private boats knew how to. I spent as much of my time dodging other boats as I did positioning us for good viewing.
Yes, the whales were close. This was WAY too much work. Too many "loose cannons" out there. When our guests had about an hour an 20 minutes of whale viewing, I went down from the helm and asked if they'd like to see some other wildlife and some of the beauty of the San Juans. All but one were ready to move on. I really can't hear much from the helm, but what I could hear was this lady whining about all the other boats... not much we can do about that... everybody wants to see the whales.
From a PR perspective, the Friday Harbor Visitors Bureau will be talking about today: the weather was lovely, the water was nice, and the whales were right outside Friday Harbor. And LOTS of people got to see the whales today.
Obviously, there wasn't time to even take my camera out of my backpack. But, the whale viewing really was nice. The T18s, and a really big male... impressive dorsal fin. They took out a seal.
When we left the whales, I took us south. First stop, a seal hangout... this is where we picked up the whales originally. Then, down to Cattle Pass - there were at least 20 Stellar Sea Lions on the rocks! It looked like a Stellar choir: they were in reasonably arranged rows (BIG boys on top). From there, we cruised by an eagles' nest. They were home... or reasonably close. We were the only boat that went south - it was a lovely change of pace from the earlier conditions.
My favorite 3 animals to see here: Orcas, Stellar Sea Lions, and bald eagles. Oh, and other stuff. Like yesterday, the whales were pretty close to our harbor. Nice situation... maybe would have been better with a couple dozen fewer boats trying to crowd their way in... but, like I said: everyone wants to see the whales.
It has truly been an amazing whale watching season so far. We have just over 3 weeks to go - sure hope the whales hang in there. Into August... everyone who works in this area is aware that this is crunch time... the busiest couple weeks of the summer season. Got to keep the attitude upbeat - I can see that even the young staff is getting work weary. Another "fun summer season." ;-)
If you believe all the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors' Bureau brochures, the whales are always right outside Friday Harbor... smiling, dancing, handing out those brochures. This is the second time this season that we have seen whales this close to Friday Harbor. And last time, there weren't as many boats that came pouring out.
'Tis the season.