June 15, 2018

Afternoon full of whales on M/V Kestrel

Whale watching on M/V Kestrel

Sarah | 06/14/2018 | M/V Kestrel | 02:00pm

M/V Kestrel is our newest vessel in our fleet of four, and she has consistently proven to be an amazing tool over the last couple year of use. Going into her third summer as a part of our fleet I am excited to see how we can continue to use this incredible boat to better our guest experience. We are consistently impressed by the smoothness of the ride and just the sheer distance that we can cover on this boat.

Yesterday’s tour was a great example of the flexibility created by touring the San Juan Islands on such a fast vessel. We left Friday Harbor and headed north through San Juan Channel, stopping to check out bald eagle sitting on a stump on Spieden Island. Pressing on towards Sentinel Rocks to check out some harbor seals hauled out enjoying some of the afternoon sun! We continued towards the west side of San Juan Island into Haro Strait. We were treated to sweeping views across the strait towards the snow-covered, and cloud-blanketed Olympic Mountains, and towards Vancouver Island. Making our way out into the beautiful waters, we came face to face with a beautiful humpback whale cruising north. We watched the whale as it exhaled at the surface and kept on its way. After a great encounter with the huge animal we continued to press south.

Just south of Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island we encountered members of J Pod, some of our Southern Resident killer whale population. We had an absolutely amazing encounter with the J16, J14, J19 and J22 matrilines. It’s pretty amazing to see these whales back in the inland waters after a nine-week absence. These whales are salmon specialists; eighty percent of their diet is focused on the depleted stocks of Chinook salmon in our waters. Since these whales are so picky, it means that their presence, absence, and abundance is totally dictated by the presence, absence, and abundance of the salmon. So far this year we have not had the great numbers of Chinook that we usually expect for this time of year, so we have not seen the Southern Residents as much as we would historically have predicted. This means that any time they spend in land is bittersweet… we have to savor every moment. My favorite encounter of yesterday was with J22 “Oreo” and her son J38 Cookie.” This young male is getting so big, and its always good to see him and his mom…. Not to pick favorites, but those two whales are definitely up there for me!

We capped off the trip with looks at Steller’s sea lions, bald eagles, and harbor porpoises as we cruised up San Juan Channel Back towards Friday Harbor!

J22 Oreo
J22 Oreo Sarah McCullagh