July 13, 2015

Active Orcas

There's a few things you should know about orcas. First: they're fast. They can get up to 30 knots on a good day. And you're all, "But that's not that fast, Erick" and then I'm all, "Well, imagine 8 tons of pure speed and salmon eating muscle traveling through heavy currents traveling at 35 mph (56kph for the rest of the world)" and now I'll give you time to be impressed... Orcas are one of the fastest marine mammals alive and in groups they can travel around 100 miles (161 km) in a day. Second: They still take time to have fun. Today, Capt. Jim, all our wonderful guests, and I on the Kittiwake started out on a glorious sunny day with flat waters all around. A portion of the Southern Resident Killer Whales were reported to be headed north from Stuart Island - fast! The Kittiwake is pretty fast but by the time we got to see them we were in Canada. Canada folks! The Gulf Islands, situated just north of the San Juans, are one of my favorite boating spots just for the amazing scenery, but our appreciation was soon redirected as we scooted out of Active Pass and saw our first orcas. We had caught up with the cookie clan of J pod. With family members nick-named Doublestuff (J-34), Cookie (J-38), and Oreo (J-22) we can see why. Now, the Kittiwake is a quick and nimble boat but these orcas were pushing over 10 knots (11 mph) at points. So we were graced with wonderful looks of dorsal fins streaming through the water like never before, and I believed that this group was so focused on getting as far north as possible today that we would only see just a glimpse of each of their dorsal fins. SPLASH! I was wrong. Doublestuff launched into the air and sent water flying by landing on his side. That apparently signaled to the others to start breaching and tail slapping until their hearts or at least our hearts were content. After that emotional high it was good we had a healthy sailing back to the good ol' U.S. of A. and Friday Harbor.


Stay good y'all from Capt. Jim and myself,


Naturalist Erick

M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris