Archive for May, 2010

Transiet Orca in San Juan Channel

Today we experienced Transient Killer Whales (Orca) in San Juan Channel just inside of Cattle Pass! Wow, just 35 minutes on the boat, we had whales! T40 (the large adult male thought to have been born about 1962) has a unique dorsal fin, the tip has a bend in it. He traveled with 2 other family members. The whales came close to the Odyssey, you could really hear the power in their exhalation. We stayed with them for about an hour! They were slowly making their way north in the channel. We continued on to find a Stellar Sea Lion foraging near Whale Rocks and 30+ Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks there. We slipped over to Long Island, south of Lopez Island, and found 2 bald eagles near the nest there. You could really see how much larger the female eagle was compared to the male sitting on the tree limb across from her. We had a fabulous wildlife day and the weather cooperated, too!

Naturalist Debbi Fincher

Leave a Comment

J Pod and L Pod members, May 28th

This morning we received reports that there were whales in Rosario Strait.  It turned out to be J Pod and members of L Pod, along with some transients.  The residents apparently surprised the transients and scared them off.  No one saw the transients after that.  We were able to find the resident orcas right outside of Cattle Pass, on the south end of San Juan Island.  The wind was blowing unusually hard for this time of year, so the water was a little bit bouncy.  Our guests were great and handled the weather like old pros.  We had a couple of really nice passes on these orcas.  They were very excited, with lots of activity, including breaches, spy hops and tail lobs.  We even saw a couple of cartwheels!  We left the orcas after a nice time with them and went back in to calmer waters.  On the return trip we saw harbor seals, bald eagles and harbor porpoise.  We had a wonderful trip,  everyone was warm and comfortable aboard the “Odyssey”, despite the not so nice weather.

Leave a Comment

A Surprise from members of L Pod, May 27th

We were very excited this morning, as we had heard that J Pod, along with members of L Pod were coming back in from the Pacific Ocean.  As the morning went along, we got word that the whales were close to Vancouver and out of our range.  We thought that we may not be able to see whales today.  So, we set out to search for a different  group that just might be hanging around.  We weren’t 20 minutes off of the dock when we heard that there may be whales on the “West Side” of San Juan Island.  I got on the phone and called the Center for Whale Research and they confirmed the report.  How fortunate for us.  We caught up with these members of L Pod near False Bay, on the south end of San Juan Island.  They were doing alot of long dives, indicating that they were foraging.  After spending time with the orcas, we continued on our journey and ended up circumnavigating the entire island.  What a great day!

Leave a Comment

Reports of many Southern Resident Orcas coming back

Here is the latest news from Friday Harbor.  We just received a report that many Southern Resident Orcas are heading our way!  What great news!!!

Leave a Comment

L Pod back again, May 25

After a brief departure from the area, about 15-20 members of L Pod were back along the south side of San Juan Island.  The weather was a little dreary, but our friends from L Pod made us forget about that.  We watched a nice group of 6-7 orcas travelling south along the shoreline.  They weren’t too active today, mostly going on long dives.  There was a very cute calf travelling with this group.  We hope that the rest of the resident orcas come and join them soon.

Leave a Comment

Change of Plans, May 24th

As we left the dock today, we still had not heard news of any whales in the area.  We set out to look for transients that had been in the area earlier.  We were heading north when we got a call from a fellow captain that we should turn around.  There was a group of transient orcas in Rosario Strait!  We got on scene with the T2s, T120, and T123.  These animals were grouped up nicely and travelling in a tight pack.  We watched them for about 40 minutes before we had to start making our way back to port.  On our way back in Captain Pete thought that he spotted something off the port side of the “Odyssey”.  He slowed the boat and sure enough there was T40, “Captain Hook”  with 2 other whales.  T40 got his nickname because of his dorsal fin that has fell over to one side.  It is always such a good feeling to be the boat that finds the whales!  We watched this group for a little bit before heading back in to Friday Harbor.  Another great tour!

Leave a Comment

Humpbacks! May 22nd

Today we had quite the suprise encounter aboard the “Odyssey”.  There were humpback whales in Haro Strait.  Humpbacks don’t come through this area very often, so we were very excited to get the chance to see these massive animals.  What a fun experience!

Leave a Comment

Transient Orcas on the Westside, May 15th

After getting to see the various members of L Pod the day before, we thought that we would see them again today.  We got a report that there were orcas on the “westside” of  San Juan Island and we assumed that it was L Pod.  It turned out to be Transient orcas, the meat eaters.  When we got on scene with the whales we were just south of Henry Island.  The whales were in a travel mode, cruising right along in a predictable path.  They stopped at the bottom of Henry Island and it looked like they made a kill.  They stayed there until we had to start heading back to Friday Harbor.  Along the way we went by Spieden Island and saw harbor seals, bald eagles and a bald eagle’s nest.   It was a great trip.

Leave a Comment

Residents coming down from the north! May 14th

Another sunny Friday in the San Juan Islands!  We set out today to look for resident orcas that were reportedly coming south from Georgia Strait, up in Canada.  We hoped that they would come down quick enough for us to see them on our tour.  After leaving the dock, we got a report that they were swimming south through Active Pass!  We were going to get to see them.  It was not too long and we were with about 20 members of L Pod.  We had the L 12’s and others.  They were very active, with lots of breaching, tail slapping and even a few spyhops.  It was so nice to see our residents back, even it wasn’t all of them.

Leave a Comment


April 30th, 2010.

Today was a very exciting day in the Salish Sea.  It’s most famous residents, the orcas of J Pod returned from an almost 2 month hiatus.  This time of year is always abuzz with excitement, as to when the residents will return.  Typically seen in all of the months throughout the year, J Pod had not been seen since early March.  Last year they were gone all of April and returned the second week of May.  This year was looking much like last until yesterday.  J Pod returns to the waters of the Salish Sea!!  It is so nice to have our “friends” back.  The waters were rough yesterday, but that didn’t bother the orcas.  Welcome back J Pod!

Comments (2)


 April 23rd started out a little bit chilly and overcast, but a few sunbreaks came out too.  A pretty typical “mixed bag” of weather for early spring in the San Juan Islands.  We had no reports of orcas before leaving the dock, so we headed north in San Juan Channel in search of wildlife.  Our first encounter came at the amazing Spienden Island.  Here we saw one of the islands many residents, the Mouflon Sheep.  These sheep are native to Corsica, halfway around the world.  They were brought here in the 1970s and a resident herd has remained.  They are a beautiful and powerful animal related to the Big Horn Sheep of North America.  Along the southern shore of Spieden Island we also spotted 3 bald eagles.  We had heard from another boat that were also Steller Sea Lions in the area, but we were unsuccessful in spotting them.  We hoped to find them on our return trip.  After Spieden Island we went through little John’s Pass, between Stuart and John’s Island.  It is always fun going through this little body of water.  On the way back to Friday Harbor we stopped at the Cactus Islands to show our guests a very large bald eagle’s nest.  These nests can be as big a Volkswagen Beetle!  Those Steller Sea Lions were still high on our priority list, so we went looking for them.  With a little help from another boat on the water we were able to find them.  There were close to a half of a dozen!  The other vessels left the scene and we were alone with the foraging sea lions.  Our patience paid off when we saw one of the sea lions come to the surface with a large fish in its mouth.  Sea lions have to tear their prey apart into chunks that they can swallow.  When they do this they make a lot of commotion.  This commotion draws other sea lions and also lots of seagulls to pick up the smaller pieces.  We watched one sea lion try to get down a rather large chunk of fish for more than five minutes.  He finally was able to choke it down.  How exciting!

Leave a Comment


On April 22nd we left sunny Friday Harbor in search of the beautiful wildlife that makes the San Juan Islands their home. We had heard that there were some transient orcas in the area, so off we went. We went north in between Orcas and Waldron Islands through President’s Channel. A little more than an hours ride and we caught up to this group of transients. It was a pod of ~5 transient orcas, with one or two juveniles mixed in, hunting harbor porpoises. One of the porpoises was lucky enough to get away, but the other one was not as fortunate and became their lunch. While this macabre retelling may sound terrifying, it was in fact very educational and easy to miss for the untrained eye. Capt. Pete expertly maneuvered the boat in such a way that the guests could watch all of the graceful movements of the orcas without the aid of binoculars and never knewthe reason for all of it. Except of course for the fact that the other naturalist, Russell, and I were giddy with glee for what we were witnessing. All of the elements of the notorious killer whale were there. The power, speed, agility and mystery; combined and within our scope to deliver to our guests on the M/V Odyssey. So, from all of us at San Juan Excursions, thank you and we look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Leave a Comment

back to top


Reservations Line: 800-809-4253

We have not finalized our 2021 trip dates yet: please contact us with your desired trip dates so we can work to accommodate your request.