Archive for April, 2011


Saturday, April 30th, 2011

It was a beautiful, calm day…the kind of day you just want to drive all the way to Vancouver…but it was worth it.
We heard tale of transients past East Point headed toward the coal docks.  We decided to make an attempt.

By the time we made it to the coal docks there was no turning back, eventhough the whales we still headed NW at a steady clip of 7-10 knots.  Finally another boat came into view.  Then we saw huge splashes.  Finally we caught up to the pod, almost.  They were cruising at about 10 knots.  At first we could see what looked to be 5 or 6 dorsal fins.  Then, after a few good surfacings, the rest of the pod came into view.  There were at least 10 whales swimming side by side and another 2 or 3 about 700 yards west of the main pod.  We watched for about 20 minutes as the pods split and then fused again and again.  There were at least two juveniles in the pod (one may have been more of a calf size).  The whales altered their course very little in the time we saw them.  They were cruising at the surface, taking big breaths.  We shut down the engines so we could listen to the exhalations.  It was so calm and there was so little wind that we could hear them even from more than a couple hundred yards away.

Finally, after our epic journey north, we were forced to turn back toward the harbor.  It was an amazing day that no one on board will soon forget.


Naturalist,  San Juan Safaris

A Sunny Start to the Weekend!

Friday, April 29th, 2011

After a few days of overcast skies and strong winds we had a break in the weather!  With calm water and warm sun we headed out for our 1:30pm wildlife watch.  We were lucky enough to encounter some charismatic Bald Eagles right outside the harbor to start things off.  We then cruised up to East Pt. and found four Stellar Sea Lions hauled out on the rocks causing a ruckus.

Entering Haro Strait revealed more calm waters and our first Dall’s Porpoise of the season!  There were a few spread out over a large area, so we proceeded slowly to see where they were  going to pop up.  Out of nowhere a single porpoise cruised up our starboard side and gave everyone on board a good look.  We even noticed that the dorsal fin was curved over to one side.  It was very exciting for everyone!

On the way home we saw lots of Harbor Seals hauled on the rocks, and the same Stellars from before except this time they were in the water patrolling the coast.  It was a beautiful start to the weekend!



Naturalist, San Juan Safaris


Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

What a beautiful day!  Our trip started out sunny and even a little bit warm.  We headed out of the harbor and up past Waldron toward East Point.  A passenger spotted a pair of bald eagles as soon as we were out of the slip and harbor seals were hauled out in full force along out trek up north.  Once we got to East Point we would see and hear a huge group of Stellar Sea Lions.  As we drew in closer we were treated to both Stellars and Harbor seals sharing the rock; although divided on their separate sides.

Finally we turned back into the wind and began a very blustery ride back toward the harbor.  Just as we were admiring the wildlife of  Speiden Island we heard talk of orca whales just outside of Friday Harbor.  We said adios to the deer and headed off in the direction of the rumored whales.  Just north of the harbor entrance we saw blows in the distance.  We could count three separate dorsal fins at the surface at the same time.

We cruised slowly alongside and slightly behind the pod of transients for about fifteen minutes.   They stayed fairly close to shore and kept a distance of several hundred yards,  but even from a distance we could see that there was a calf present.  The passengers were ecstatic.  So was I.  Finally, pressed for time, we were forced to make the turn back toward the harbor.  It was the perfect end to a gorgeous day.

Orca Monday!!

Monday, April 25th, 2011

The season officially started last Saturday with some beautiful days and plentiful Harbor Seals and Stellar Sea lions.  But the real show was today aboard the M/V Sea Lion.  We had reports of J-pod out towards Victoria and heading West into the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  We boarded our passengers a little early and went for it.

The rain was coming down steadily but cleared as we approached Discovery Island.  Pretty soon the whales were up ahead.  Somewhere between 10 and 14 members of J-pod was consistently swimming southwest with short down times.  We watched for a few minutes when a few of them suddenly switched direction and became more active.  A juvenile breached a few times, followed but others tail slapping and rolling on their sides.  We watched the activity for about 30 minutes before we headed towards home.

Before reaching Friday Harbor we encountered some Harbor Seals hauled out, a few Bald Eagles in the trees, and to top it off a Stellar Sea Lion at the surface with a big salmon in its mouth tearing off pieces by shaking its head. Nature at its best!

It is a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood – Friday Harbor

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Photo of Spring Street Landing next to the ferry in Friday Harbor
April 22, 2011 at 4:30 PM

At 5:00 pm it is bright, sunny and warm – probably close to 60 degrees.
Saturday, April 23, tomorrow will be our first daily scheduled tour for the season. Still a few seats left.

Transient Orca Whales have been making a splash in the San Juan’s this past week.

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Hunting transients off of yellow island!  Awesome!  They were very surface active with short dive times, tail slapping, and even a juvenile in the mix.  At least 9, maybe more.  We heard they were close and scooted out for a quick look.  Totally worth it.  What a great afternoon surprise!

Laura, Naturalist

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Today was one of the sunniest, most beautiful days we have had all month, just in time for the official start of our season.  The waters were calm as we headed out of the harbor toward Jones Island.  The seals seemed to be as appreciative of the sun as we were and literally covered every exposed rock we passed by.  Bald eagles were out in abundance and the passengers enjoyed seeing them both in flight as well as resting atop the trees.

We caught a quick glimpse of a shy harbor porpoise and then were treated to a great view of a half-dozen stellar sea lions hauled out on the rocks.  We cruised up around Stewart Island where the more heartier passengers braved the wind and caught a little spray.  Soon we tucked around the corner back into the lee of the islands where we saw more eagles, seals, and an abundance of cormorants and other sea birds.

The orcas managed to elude us today but the rest of the wildlife was fantastic.  All in all it was a great start to the season.  It was great to be back out on the water!

Laura, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris on CBS Seattle Local Guide April 1, 2011

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

It’s about two hours’ drive from Seattle to Anacortes, WA, the Washington State Ferry’s launch to the San Juan Islands. You can park your car and walk aboard, or you can drive on and take your car along with you. Taxis, shuttles, rental cars and bikes are available on the islands. Get to the ferry terminal an hour or more before your ferry’s scheduled departure. Weekends can get popular (and crowded) and you might spend some time waiting for the next ferry ride, as it’s first-come-first serve on the ferry.

Ferry schedules are found at There is WiFi on the ferry, as well as restrooms and concessions. The seagulls like to follow the current of the ferry, so most likely they’ll be buzzing over your head if you’re on the deck outside. If you’re inside, there are large windows and comfortable seating for the ride.

If flying is more your style, Kenmore Air can take you directly from SeaTac Airport to Lopez, Orcas or San Juan Island. San Juan Airlines can fly you from Seattle, Anacortes or Bellingham to the Islands.

From April to September, the Orcas (aka Killer Whales) make their annual migration, and sightings happen almost daily. There are several companies that cater to eager whale watchers, like Western Prince Whale and Wildlife Tours, or San Juan Safaris

San Juan Island

With a population of just over 2,000, Friday Harbor is the county seat of San Juan County, WA, and the major commercial hub of the Islands. There are museums to visit within Friday Harbor, as well as beaches and parks, including Lime Kiln Point State Park, which claims to be the best place in the country to see Orcas from the shore. The southern tip of the island is Cattle Point, a popular hiking spot with a lighthouse and views of Lopez Island. If you want a romantic retreat with jetted tubs and fireplaces, you might consider staying Friday Harbor House at If you are looking for a cabin or camping spot, check out Lakedale Resort for their many accomodation options.