Saturday, June 18, 2016

Not really a trifecta...

Well, we did see Orcas, humpbacks, and Minke whales today.  Just not all in the same trip.

The first trip this morning, in the rain, was with a family who had a private charter.  In five years of doing this, I have never had anyone ask: "Will we see any Minke whales today?"  Really, most people aren't impressed by Minke whales.  They are smaller than humpbacks, and don't have impressive dorsal fins like Orcas.  They are the Rodney Dangerfield of whales.  ;-)

I had no report of Orcas, so I headed south with the hope of finding a Minke; after we saw a lot of seals and a pair of bald eagles.  Then... a Minke!  While we were watching the Minke, I got a report of a pair of humpbacks south of us.  I looked at my watch, figured the distance, and came up with: yeah, we can get to the humpbacks and still get back to our dock in reasonable time.

The family was delighted.  They had 3 small children and they were so excited to see whales.  I have to admit, I had my doubts at first... they were late for their departure time (not uncommon with charters), and the 3 year old screamed like a banshee when they put a life jacket on her.  While I was doing a safety talk (trying to be heard over the screaming), the Dad handed out sea sickness wristbands to everyone.  Yeah, that isn't a good sign.

Turns out, even though we went down into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the water was beautifully smooth.  At the end of the trip, the little screamer looked like a rag doll... "Is she OK?" I asked.  They had given her a couple Dramamine - she was out like a light.

The second trip was a regularly scheduled tour.  By this time, I had a good report for some incoming Orcas - residents.  They hadn't been moving towards us very fast. but by the time we were ready to shove off, they had picked up their pace to 11 knots.  Coming towards us.

By now the rain had mostly let up, but the wind was beginning to pick up.  The water wasn't choppy, yet... but, it was going to be.  We saw another Minke just before getting to Cattle Pass - didn't spend much time, there are Orcas to be seen.  The Orcas had moved from west of Victoria, past Discovery Island, through Beaumont Shoals, and almost to Lime Kiln Lighthouse in the hour it took for us to catch them.  L-Pod, but they were quite spread out.

After some nice viewing, there was a decision to be made: go north over the top of the island, or turn around and go the way we came.  Looking north, it looked like rain... looking south, you could see whitecaps building.  There were more whales south of us, so that is the direction I chose... and hoped everyone would be OK with a little rock 'n rollin'.  We had some more nice viewing, including an up-close-and-personal visit from Cruiser, a large L-Pod male.

The southwest wind had picked up, making for a 2 foot sloppy chop on our way down the southwest side of San Juan Island.  I asked first mate Erick how everyone was doing, and he said they we all enjoying the ride.  When I got through Cattle Pass, and into calmer water, I put the boat in neutral and went down to check on the guests... "Everybody doing OK?"

A big cheer from the guests!  I told them, "We are throwing in this adventure white water ride for no extra charge today!"  Another cheer.  Yep, a very fun group.  We were a little late getting back, and they were all happy to have the extra time with the whales and the waves.

No, I have no photos.  I didn't get the camera out of my pack - either too wet or too busy.  A long day, and I feel like I have been doing sit-ups... the rock 'n roll motion of the boat means you adjust your weight accordingly.  Yeah, I'll be in better shape by the end of the season.

We are still not in our new office (lots of work to be done), so I went to pick Joan up - we took the car today, thanks to the rain.  She wound up staying over an hour late to get a couple booked for a whale plane trip.

It's good to be back, but I'll be ready for some days off.

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