My blogs usually take place from the platform of our whale watching vessel, the M/V Seahawk. Today, however, history was made: My guests and I "got whaled" from kayaks!
Taking people kayaking compared to cruising on the whale watch boat is a completely different perspective. We are lower to the water, propelling ourselves along our path using nearly silent paddle strokes as opposed to the noisy diesel engine, typically in much smaller and intimate groups, and we are much slower. These factors give us a much different experience and allow us to explore all the little things. It also means that seeing "megafauna" like sea lions and whales is a big deal!
Our three-hour kayak trip began like many others: leaving Roche Harbor and cruising around Pearl Island, witnessing the entertaining family antics of the guests, a quick stop on Posey Island to shift crew around, and off to the awesome kelp bed near Battleship island. Along the way we watched a few harbor seal heads pop up from the amazingly clear water (welcome to Fall!), eye us cautiously, and drop back beneath the surface. Being at eye level with harbor seals really gives us an idea of how subtly graceful they can be in the water. Our journey was also full of gulls on the wing, resting on floating kelp mats, or floating lazily by as they scanned for an easy meal.
After talking a bit about the life cycle and habitat of the abundant Pacific Bull Kelp in this part of the world, we headed South along the outside of Henry Island in the Haro Strait riding an outgoing tide the entire way. Once we decided to turn around, we had the wind pushing us up! The entire way we were scanning the horizon for any whale watching boats, dorsal fins or blows and we finally saw what we were looking for much closer to home than we anticipated.
Just East of McCracken Point, we saw a few whale watching boats (the ol' Seahawk included) hanging out and drifting East near Spieden Island. As we watched, we saw the massive blow of a humpback whale billowing into the air! While far away, the fifteen-foot blow of a humpback whale was clearly visible. We kayaked just North of Posey Island where we had a fantastic view of the leviathan of the deep and we rafted up to watch. As the humpback surfaced, we got a view of its back and its arched Caudal Peduncle (tail muscle) as it began its terminal dive and raised its massive flukes into the air, all shrouded in the mist of its last blow.
Contrary to what "Finding Nemo" fans may believe, none of the water seen pluming into the air as vapor comes from inside a whale's body. The splashguards surrounding each blowhole actually collect several gallons of water on top of the animal as it surfaces to breathe. It is the three-hundred mile per hour exhalation of the massive whale that causes that pooled up water to vaporize into the highly visible plume of steam.
We watched as the possibly thirty-foot humpback came up for another breath before going back down to feed on small fish a few more times before it was out of our view, our cue to make out way back into Roche Harbor. Excited by this Whale of an encounter, we easily paddled through the harbor back to the dock with a great experience under our belts.
Another Whale of a day in the San Juan Islands!
Kayak Guide/Naturalist Mike J