May 11, 2010

The Farthest North We've Ever Been

Today was a great day; sunny and calm with a strong flood current pushing us north. With no reports of Orcas we headed north to East Point on Saturna Island to seek out Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions. When we flew passed three magnificent Steller Sea Lions swimming in the water, without any time for our passengers to take a look, I went into the wheelhouse to check in with the captain. Transient Orcas had been found even further north off of Mayne Island in the Strait of Georgia. We were deep into the Gulf Islands.

The passengers had been happy and content with the sunny warmth. There were 3 groups on board for a total of 7 people and they were enjoying the ride regardless of whether we saw whales or not. This is the third time this has happened this week. We left the dock with no report and about halfway through the trip, just in time for us to catch up with them, we've gotten the call. In fact, one time this week, we left the dock and discovered them off of Yellow Island. Its great when we're the boat to discover them because we get the congratulations and pure idolatry of all the other boats.

We were lucky to be headed north with a 3 knot flood current. Instead of our usual 17 knots, we were booking at about 20 knots. Even on our way home we were blessed with a slack tide; much better than bucking a 3 knot flood. On the way home we went through Active Pass, an absolutely gorgeous and sometimes torrential stretch of water between Mayne and Galiano islands. All 7 of us were sitting out on the bow doing impressions of Steller Sea Lions bathing in the sun. Eventually it got too cold (we couldn't quite do a convincing impression of all that blubber) and we went back into the heated cabin.

I encouraged the customers to see Popeye, our resident harbor seal, as soon as we got back since the seafood shop closes at 5pm. I warned them, "If you stand there watching Popeye and don't feed her, she WILL splash you." And of course, at the end of our trip, people were hungry and wanted to do an impression of a harbor seal eating a salmon. I do believe that all 7 passengers went to Downriggers, the seafood restaurant above our office. It has a wide selection, a romantic view of the harbor and a great cocktail menu. Right before we arrived on the scene to see the orcas, they had apparently made a kill. Passengers often ask how much they eat. The answer is that they eat about 3% of their body weight per day.
I prefer the answer though that much like humans they eat as often as they possibly can.