Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 22, 2011
The sun finally decided to join us in full, with few clouds in sight and very moderate winds. It was a beautiful day. The Orcas were off the northern coast of San Juan Island, their most frequent haunt, so that is where we headed first. It was a small morning group and everyone was up on the top deck enjoying the fine weather. We had an easy trip to the Islands, the seas of Juan de Fuca Strait remaining very calm and the wind barely noticeable. When we arrived there was a large male Orca a little offshore and easy to spot. We watched as he was joined by a female and a few others and determined that they were likely members of the K and J pods. We continued to cruise north, around the Lime Kiln lighthouse and park and were greeted by the rest of the pods. It was a quite large congregation of Orcas moving together with purpose. There were likely close to 30 whales traveling and in such close proximity to one another that it was nearly impossible to gauge their exact numbers. At least 8 or more large males were spotted, moving too quickly to identify. The J-pod males Blackberry (J27) and Mike (J26) were almost definitely among them and also Onyx (L87) who follows the older ladies in the J-pod around having lost his own mother years ago. Some incredible photos were snapped of the large group and everyone on board wore smiles.
The Chain Islands and Trial Island produced a few more photos of both dozing Harbour Seals and also a Bald Eagle, majestically perched upon a rock. Nothing beats sun, whales and Bald Eagles!
By the afternoon the J and K-pods had moved north so we headed to the southern end of San Juan Island and found the L22 subgroup. The two young males were hunting with their mother and after many low surfaces treated us with several good looks, finally high enough to identify them by their white saddle patches. L22 (Spirit) was heading in a mainly westerly direction while L79 (Skana) and L89 (Solstice) did circles and swerved around her, chasing Salmon. The bright sun kept us warm while we watched the Orcas, enjoying the weather and whales alike. By the time we had to head back the afternoon wind was a little chilly, so most of our passengers snuggled down below for hot chocolates and coffees. The few who remained up top worked their way to the front of the boat, getting as much shelter as possible from the spray; however, this did not stop them from whooping and cheering every time a large wave sprayed the back of the boat. It was a most lovely afternoon with fun passengers, my favourite L-pod orcas and finally enough sun to go around.