May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend - The Unofficial Start to Summer

Although summer doesn't technically start until the Summer Solstice on June 21st, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning to summer. It sure does feel like summer has reached Friday Harbor! Town was bustling today, people in tank tops, t-shirts, and shorts wandered the streets and the Farmer's Market displayed tasty looking vegetables, baked goods, local-raised meat, garden starters, pesto, and other glorious goods. With the sun shining and the sky clear enough to see Mount Baker as I headed down the hill into town, I had a feeling it was going to be a fantastic day aboard the MV Sea Lion.

With guests aplenty, we boarded the boat and headed south. J Pod was reported to be travelling off of the south end of Lopez island, heading towards the coastline of American Camp on San Juan Island's south end. The tidal flucuations were large today, with a -3 foot low, meaning the water dynamics in narrow Cattle Pass (Cattle Pass also has many underwater ridges) were intense and extremely interesting. Captain Pete stopped the boat and talked about currents, upwelling zones, eddies, and other water dynamics information to a group of spell-bound guests as the boat was swept onward by the current.

After enjoying ourselves (probably a bit too much) in Cattle Pass, we reached members of J Pod around Salmon Bank, which is off the south end of San Juan Island. Members of J Pod were spread out offshore. We saw many tailslaps, a few cartwheels, and even saw what appeared to be J 19 and another orca (maybe J41, her young son Eclipse) either hunting in, or playing in, bull kelp caught in between two currents off the port of the MV Sea Lion. We had some wonderful views of J19, Shachi, during the either fishing or playful behavior in this current line. Orcas have been known to try and wrap bull kelp blades around their dorasl fins. It is thought they enjoy the sensation of the bull kelp rubbing up against their bodies.

On our cruise home we checked out a bald eagle nest on Long Island, saw some harbor seals hauled out on Whale Rocks, and as we were almost back in Friday Harbor, spotted a large male California Sea Lion (which are only in this area during their non-breeding season) hauled out on a buoy right outside of the harbor! What a phenomenal day out on the water!

Ashley, Naturalist

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