As we left Friday Harbor’s jetty, Captain Ken prepared us for disappointment. The only resident orca pod which had been in the area recently, had last night been seen heading west, out to sea. However, we still hoped to see some of the transient orca who visit these waters.
The Spirit of Orca moored at Friday Harbor
The Spirit of Orca, Ken’s boat, is one of the smallest offering whale-watching trips out of this pretty waterside town in the San Juan Islands; and we’d chosen it for exactly that reason. We were to be very glad that we had, eventually.
But although Ken took us quite a long way to the north, and although we had a lovely ride and enjoyed being out on the water in the sunshine, we saw no whales that morning. We did see a few bald eagles, and some harbour seals basking on the rocks; but no orca and no humpback whales, which are also often seen here.
BUT on returning to Friday Harbor Ken offered to take us out again in the afternoon, at no extra cost, as he had space on the boat. His suggestion was that we try to find some humpbacks who had been seen that morning west of Victoria, Vancouver Island. We decided to take him up on this kind offer; so after a quick lunch at the Cheesecake Bakery by the boat landing we were back on board.
A second attempt
We were joined by a family of four from St Louis. Once they heard about our failure to find orca in the morning, they agreed to the plan to hunt for humpbacks instead, and off we went.
It was a long ride out to the spot where the humpbacks had been sighted, and in worsening seas; but rather fun despite the splashes.
After about 90 minutes we arrived at the spot, where a handful of other small boats were gathered. It seemed that the larger ones didn’t make it out this far. I surmised that they probably can’t travel fast enough, making me very pleased we’d opted for this smaller boat. And yes, we did see whales!
Two or three were in the vicinity, blowing and diving from time to time. The seas were choppy (one of the other pilots, on Ken’s radio, described it as a ‘washing machine’) so it was hard to take photos. And owing to the long journey out we couldn’t stay as long as we might have liked; but at least we had seen them.
It was a long and rather chilly ride back. On the way, we slowed a couple of times to see bald eagles, including a chick, and the harbour seals again. But it was whales we had really come to see, and we had done so. We were very grateful to Ken for offering that second chance; and very glad we had taken him up on it.
As part of the cost of the trip Ken sends everyone a set of his own best photos from the day; note however that all of these are my own attempts! You can see examples of his images on his website: Whale Tales. I do encourage you to check this out, if only to see what we might have seen, with better luck.
While we were disappointed, naturally, not to see orca, we still had a fabulous time out on the water. And we were so grateful that we got a second chance and at least saw the magnificent humpbacks. I do recommend Spirit of Orca and Captain Ken should you be looking for a whale-watching experience in Friday Harbor.
I’m sharing this mini adventure as a second response to guest host John’s On the Water theme for this week’s Lens Artists Challenge. I enjoy being out on the water so much that it was impossible to choose just one topic this week!
I visited the San Juans in 2017