Saturday, August 23, 2014
Whales to the north. Way north. Whales to the west. Way west. The north ones are transients, not moving any particular direction. The west whales are residents, J-Pod, also not moving much. Go north with the current and fight it coming back. Go west against the current and enjoy the push coming back. We have two guests on the boat who have a fixed time that they have to be back, to catch a departing seaplane.
What would you do?
I decided to go west. My reasoning: the resident whales generally pick up speed as they come from the west; that would move them towards us. The transients are a loose cannon - they could go any direction. If I need the extra speed coming back, I would rather be running with the current than against it. And - it is J-Pod... there should be at least 20 animals.
As we were heading out of the harbor, I called one of the boats with the whales to the west to find out sea conditions: "As nice as you could hope for."
Yep, that's the way we're going.
We swung by Whale Rocks to see a gaggle of growling Stellar Sea Lions on the rocks, on our way through Cattle Pass. It took us almost an hour and a half to get to the whales (south of Victoria). I was hoping to spend an hour viewing, then haul on back home... thinking it will take less time on the way back.
Remember that "chess" analogy I have used before? This was a good game. Most of the Friday Harbor boats went north. There would be a bunch of Vancouver boats north, a bunch of Victoria boats west. Our timing was good - when we got to the whales, there weren't a lot of boats on them. It was easy to find a spot for good viewing. Happy guests.
There were spy hops and a couple breaches. A "baby breach" (the two year old calf). Lots of synchronized surface activity.
The whales continued to move east - yep, heading towards home for us. After an hour of viewing, we pulled away as they turned more northeast. Nice viewing, and we were getting closer to home as we viewed. Win/Win.
I stayed offshore heading towards Cattle Pass to stay away from the gill-netters. As we neared Salmon Bank, I saw a Minke whale surface nearby... yep, we're going to view a Minke. Unlike most, this Minke came to the surface 4 times in a little over a minute... and there's your Minke show - two whale species for the price of one!
The naturalist asked, "Since we're going faster with the current, can we stop and see some birds and seals on the way back in?"
And just for fun, we saw a couple of Stellar Sea Lions in the water, and some harbor porpoise in San Juan Channel. It was a fine day of wildlife viewing!