09/15/17 – M/V Sea Lion – 11 AM Charter

After picking up our charter guests from Rosario Resort on Orcas Island, M/V Sea Lion headed south back down San Juan Channel towards the confluence of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait. Within minutes, a harbor porpoise quickly surfaces off our port, or left, side before disappearing back under the waves. Heading in the direction of a humpback whale report near Middle Bank, Captain Mike made a pit stop at Whale Rocks, a popular haul-out for Stellar sea lions. These giant pinnipeds lounged in the sun as they warmed before heading out to forage. Several males, getting up to 2,400 pounds, barked at one another as they moved about.

Continuing on our cruise, a tall tower of mist was seen off our bow; the humpback was near! As we came into the area we slowed down and was able to catch the fluke-out dive of this 40 foot beauty. As we sat and waited for our new humpback friend to reappear, we were able to get amazing view of the Olympic Mountains as it was a beautiful, sunny day. All of a sudden we heard it! The humpback surfaced right next to our boat! The grey/black body rolled from head to chunky, scarred dorsal fin as the whale arched its back and pulled its 15-foot tail out of the water to go down for a deep water dive as we looked on in awe. Not soon after we were on the move again ourselves, as report of transient orcas were not far from our location.

As we came upon Discovery Island, British Columbia, two black knife-like dorsal fins cut the surface of the water near a cluster of whale watching vessels in the direction of shore. One by one each boat followed along safely at a distance as this male and female travelled through clusters of bull kelp in search for lunch. Transient, or Biggs orcas prey upon other marine mammal such as harbor seals who love to hang out in bull kelp clusters like these. Identified as T10 and her son T10C, these two beauties weaved along the shoreline with quick breaths. A few minutes passed without any signs of the orcas when suddenly T10C’s 6-foot tall dorsal fin began to appear just off our port side! Captain Mike shut down our engine as we excitedly watched as both animals surfaced right next to us. Holding our location, we watch as the two travelled further up the shoreline hoping to come across a snack before we headed out of the area and back towards home.

Travelling back towards San Juan Island, a minke whale surprised us and surfaced off our bow. M/V Sea Lion again was halted as we waited for this small baleen whale to pop up again. A light breeze blew as everyone scanned in every direction before the sickle-like dorsal fin surfaced about two boat lengths away. We started up our engine and headed back to Rosario Resort.

Four species of cetaceans all in one day! With a wonderful group of folks on board celebrating a wedding weekend, and amazing wildlife sighting, it was a great day out on the water!

Courtney, Naturalist, Seattle Orca Whale Watching