Lauren Fritz, M/V Seahawk, 07/12/2017, 2:00 pm Tour
What an exciting day on the water! M/V Seahawk pulled off the docks of Roche Harbor on San Juan Island at 2:00 pm, excited to explore the surrounding waters and bask in the sunshine. Once we pulled out of the harbor, Captain Pete let us know that there was a report of a humpback whale nearby! We cruised through John's Pass, one of my favorite passes in the San Juans because of its incredibly scenery and views of Stuart and John's Island, and continued on through Boundary Pass. Our tentative destination was past East Point beyond Patos Island, where this humpback had been reported swimming in a easterly direction.
Sure enough, before too long we were able to spot blows on the horizon! Humpbacks, being such massive animals at 45-50 feet long, create some pretty impressive spouts when they surface to breath. By alternately contracting and relaxing their respiratory muscles to open and close their blowholes, they are able to force air out of their lungs at a rate of 200-300 miles per hour - way faster than the human sneeze! This is what creates the vaporization effect of the spout - the small amount of water that gets trapped on top of their blowhole upon surfacing becomes atomized and appears as that remarkable tower of mist.
We were able to get several good looks at this playful humpback as he continually surfaced and dove, showing us his tail flukes in the humpbacks' characteristic fluke-up dive. Even as we pulled away and made our way back towards San Juan Island, this humpback began to slap his tail on the surface, maybe in a display of playfulness or excitement. What an amazing encounter!
On the way home, we were able to stop by East Point and check out some curious harbor seals as they flopped around on the rocks, lounged in the sun, and searched for food in the nutrient-rich waters of the Boiling Reef area. Lucky for us, a bald eagle chose this exact moment to sweep down and land on top of a nearby rock. He appeared to be surveying us for a moment before he spread his wings and took flight again. The wildlife out here never ceases to amaze me.
We cruised through John's Pass on our way back and enjoyed the views of Spieden and Vancouver Island before we pulled back into Roche Harbor. We were all pretty excited at the beauty of what we were able to see today. Every day is a different adventure!
Come join us on our next whale and wildlife tour with San Juan Outfitters, and experience the beauty of the Salish Sea for yourself.
Lauren Fritz, Naturalist, San Juan Outfitters