Sep 022011

Ruth’s work with volunteers atthe Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce Visitors’ Information Center earned us a certificate for a whale watching tour that we used last week. The San Juan Cruises boat is the one that previously made daily trips from the Fairhaven Cruise Terminal to Victoria, B.C. and back. When we took that trip a couple of years ago, we saw some whales on the homeward leg. This time we got to see two pods of resident Orcas.

It took two and a half hours to get to our destination, off the northern tip of San Juan Island. Captain Grant broke up the time by describing the history and features of the islands we passed. Abundant coffee, tea, soda, beer, wine and snacks kept everyone happy. When we found the whales, the captain identified the members of Pod K and L, giving their names, relationships, and ages. Some are very old; some were born this year.

Getting good pictures was difficult. One reason is that the whales are not publicity seekers. They make no effort to help picture-takers by coming to the surface consistently at the same points. Another reason is they don’t stay up long enough for photographers to focus.

Outside the cabin on a narrow walkway, we found a vantage point with a railing against which we were able to hold our cameras somewhat steady. We considered ourselves lucky to get this picture even though the focus is not sharp.

These tours are important business. There were three other tour boats in the area, a few fishing boats and several individual recreational ones. Captains of fishing boats radio to other boats – including tour boats – the location of the pods. Adult whales eat about 250 pounds of salmon per day and fishermen follow the whales to find the salmon.

After about 90 minutes of looking for and watching the whales, we had a two-hour break in Friday Harbor, which was crowded with tourists.

Meanwhile, the hard-working crew – one young man and two young women – were preparing food for the trip back. Being small eaters on a diet, we chose only salmon and salad. Others piled their plates high with rolls, rice, chicken and salmon. (What prompts people to select chicken rather than salmon?) Dessert, including brownies and cheesecake, came later.

We decided this was one of the best days we’ve had since moving here eight years ago. Well worth the $89 other people paid.

San Juan Cruises, Fairhaven Cruise Terminal. 1-800-443-4552

Whale watching trips are available daily until after Labor Day, then Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until September 25, 2011. The season starts again in mid-May 2012.


ak & rah


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