April 22, 2017

Whale Watching in Wild Waters


Captain Mike seemed antsy to board our guests and depart on the day’s safari.  The skies were dark and brooding, but there wasn’t a puff of wind and the channel outside of Friday Harbor was calm.  By the time we left the dock, the wind had cranked up and white caps busted against the bow, blurring the line between sea and surface as sheets of salt spray soaked the aft deck. 

Fortunately another captain in the whale watching fleet had sighted killer whales near Lopez Island and we were barreling to the scene via the protected waters between Shaw, Lopez, Decatur, and Blakely Islands.  As we transited, updated radio reports indicated that the killer whales had traversed the exposed southern mouth of Rosario Strait, and were moving away from us at 10 knots!  The M/V Sea Lion handled the rough ride like a champ though, and soon we were watching whales near the mouth of Deception Pass. 

The orcas were hunting just feet from a rocky island and, as I struggled to hold my binoculars steady, I caught a quick glimpse of the hind flippers of a sea lion.  The predators circled the site, lunging and breaching, and then very quickly the activity stopped.  No one knows if the sea lion lived to see another day.  Sometimes, a lion may escape only to die from its wounds hours later.  We watched the pack of sea wolves prowl the area for several more minutes before cutting back across the boiling strait into calmer interisland waters.

Andrew Munson

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris