One of the best things about the Pacific Northwest is being able to go whale watching. So one cloudy day (hey, it you wait for perfect weather in the northwest, you won’t get out much) David, his mother, Sue, and Josh went up to Anacortes, Washington and headed out with Island Adventure Cruises on the Island Explorer III. (I couldn’t go because I was having my own outdoor experience at the Washington Outdoor Women Weekend Workshop.)
The boat was fairly large at 101 feet long and 24 foot wide. It had a range capable of going clear to Ketchican, Alaska without refueling! It was two stories tall and had food and beverages available, but they took a lunch since they weren’t sure if there would be food available. There were 149 other guests on board with them. One of the most interesting aspects of these kinds of excursions is talking to other people and find out their interests and their stories, so they met some very nice people that day.
The boat left at 11:00am and headed north past Cypress, Guemes, Orcas and Lummi Islands. After they cleared Lummi Island, a thick heavy fog set in. The captain was communicating with other boat captains trying to locate whales and he was concerned that with the fog they may not be able to see anything. Then the call came in that a “superpod” of Orcas was spotted south of Pt. Roberts, Washington, in the northern part of Puget Sound.
Orcas are black on top with a white stomach. They weigh between three and 11 tons and are 17-32 feet long. They can live up to 95 years! Orcas are actually part of the dolphin family. Pods are family groups, and there are three pods in the area. A superpod is when all three of the pods are together.
It took about 2 ½ hours to get up to the spot where the whales were reported. As they got closer to the location, they were also getting closer to Canada, so the captain advised them to turn off their cell phones so they wouldn’t get charged international fees. First they spotted two moms with two babies. Then the fog lifted and they started seeing more and more Orcas. Several other boats were also in the area watching the whales breaching (jumping out of the water), frolicking, and playing in the water. Everyone was so excited, clapping and “oohing” and “ahhing”. Boaters have to stay 1000 feet away from the whales, however, it’s hard to control if they come towards you. The captain had to shut the boat down to try to stay the distance. They spent about 20 minutes watching them before they had to head back for the long ride home.
Fortunately, there is also a lot of other wildlife viewing in the Puget Sound, so the ride wasn’t boring. They were thrilled to see harbor seals and stellar sea lions swimming around and peeking up out of the water. Cormorants and loons were drying themselves on rocks. Humpies (pink salmon) were also busy jumping around them.
Whales can usually be seen from April through December, with the peak time being May through September. You don’t always have to be out on a boat to see whales, they can be seen from shore, but you do increase your chances of seeing them from a boat.
Overall, they all reported it was a great experience! Accommodations on the boat were top notch. The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable. David, Josh, and Sue recommend that everyone take the opportunity to go whale watching at least once, and Josh would love to do it over and over. Island Adventure Cruises has a guarantee that if you don’t see whales, you’ll get free tickets to another cruise and they honor their policy. They can be reached at OrcaWhales.com or 1-800-465-4604.