J16 Slick and J50 Scarlet

Calf surfaces just behind mother. This is often called eschelon swimming, when the baby is just being pulled in adults slip stream.


This morning, Captain Gabe, our 18 excited guests, and I left the dock with the intention of heading south toward some reported Southern Resident killer whales.


Before we had actually left the harbor, Gabe came down from the helm to let us know that some whales had been spotted up north, moving south. With those being a bit closer, we decided to head for them. Immediately upon arriving on scene, I recognized this group to be the J16s. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that this is my favorite family. A group of 6: 44-year-old J16 Slick, the matriarch, her 4 living offspring, 25-year-old J26 Mike, J36 Alki, 9-year-old J42 Echo, 1.5-year-old J50 Scarlet, and Alki’s 1.5-year-old calf J52 Sonic.


They were moving rather quickly as they rounded Turn Point, and became quite active otherwise. We saw a few breaches out of J42 Echo, and a cartwheel from J26 Mike as we passed Lover's Leap on Stuart Island.


Shortly thereafter, a private boater came speeding in from the direction the whales were headed. The boat did not slow down and was probably going close to 23 kts when Mike surfaced 6 feet off of the boats starboard side. Those of us watching this happen were not happy. This puts the whales in danger, not to mention its against the law to be within 200 yards of them, or going above a certain speed when they’re around. Immediately the whale watching captains in the area tried to radio to the Sheriff who was nearby. The captain of M/V Spirit of Orca decided to instead just approach the Sheriff and let him know what happened. After that, they sped off and hopefully gave that boat a talking to. Although they’ll probably get off with a warning today, they could be liable for up to a $100,000 fine for harassing killer whales if it happens again.


After that excitement died down, we watched the J16s come a bit offshore and head further in to Haro Straight to head down San Juan, a common pattern. Eventually we were passed by the J19s, before calling last looks, checking out some other wildlife, and heading back in to the dock on this wonderful, sunny day.


Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Hawk

San Juan Outfitters