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A perfect day!

After a stretch without seeing resident orcas, J-pod returned last night! As we left the dock there were reports of two different groups in our range. Part of J-pod was on the west side of San Juan, while the other members were traveling down Rosario Strait. We headed down through Cattle Pass, sighting several harbor seals and some brilliant bald eagles along the way, and the made our way up the west side of San Juan Island. The weather started to break and sunny skies finally spilled over our decks! After a couple of rainy trips, we couldn’t be happier. Our orca encounter was magnificent, and as we made our way back south, we spotted the rest of J-pod racing their way back to meet up with their family on the other side. A perfect day!

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Super Pod, all three resident pods!

Today we hit the jackpot and saw all three resident pods: J, K, and L! Our tour started south around Cattle Point, where along the way we spotted harbor seals and porpoise. Reports poured in that the action was happening back up north, so we changed course towards Trial Island, BC where we got a great show and some amazing photos! (Check 0ut our newest facebook album called “May 29, 2012” for a look at some of our favorite snapshots!)

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An afternoon with J-Pod

Today was one of those trips that makes all of us here at San Juan Excursions jump up and down! As we headed out at noon, reports indicated orcas in the far outer limits of our range – not the brightest news, but enough to keep us determined! As we always do, we encouraged our passengers to think those “good whale thoughts” – and when the day results like it did today, we know that those thoughts hold a lot of power!

They headed south from the Vancouver area and we met up with J-pod at East Point on Saturna Island. As all members of the pod rolled by, the excitement on the boat was tangible, but the show wasn’t over yet! J-pod rewarded us with spectacular surface behaviors: breaches, tail lobs, cartwheels, and waving at us by slapping their impressive pec fins! We got some great photos of the day, and headed back to port with smiles running the length of the Odyssey.

Steller seas lions were also spotted at East Point, and harbor seals dotted the surface along our trip. Another amazing day on the water!


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Sunny Saturday!

We have been spoiled with amazing sunny May weather on our last several tours; this Saturday’s tour was no different, and with one of our biggest trips so far this season, we got out to soak up as much as we could and enjoy it! Taking off through San Juan Channel we were accompanied by several harbor porpoise as we may our way towards Cattle Pass, catching sight of a great bald eagle in its enormous nest just north of Cattle Point (make sure to check out our newest facebook photo album “The Great Bald Eagle” with several of our fantastic pictures from the day). We continued on past Whale Rocks where we sighted two Steller sea lions, one lounging and one in the water. The day was also full of many harbor seal sightings, as well as a fantastic Minke whale sighting which served as the highlight of the tour. We shut down the Odyssey’s engines and stayed with the Minke for quite a while, and just when we thought it had moved on, the Odyssey caught up with it again for a second round of viewing. A day packed with wildlife and a blue sky the whole way!

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A beautiful Mother’s Day cruise!

The San Juans certainly delivered for Mother’s Day Sunday! We left the harbor with nothing but brilliant blue sky and unprecedented May sunshine and started our course south towards Cattle Pass. Our decks were full as we spotted the bright white head of a bald eagle perched on Whale Rock, as well as both a California and Steller sea lion lounging side by side on the same channel marker at Salmon Bank. Many great photos of the two sun bathing, with friendly cormorants standing guard! A beautiful sunny day on the water, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who sailed with us!

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The 2012 season is off to a great start with Orcas and other marine life

We departed Friday Harbor at 12:00pm and with the unseasonably warm weather, knew we were going to have a nice day on the water. The conditions were perfect with no wind, warm weather and a very nice group aboard the Odyssey. We headed northwest toward Haro Strait and were excited to get our first glimpses of the residents in the 2012 season. We were fortunate to watch about a dozen members of J and K Pods in beautiful synchronized breathing and diving patterns resting the whole time. After our time with the whales we saw harbor seals on Sentinel Rock, bald eagles on Spieden Island as well as its other imported wildlife. We witnessed about a dozen Stellar sea lions in the water as we made our way back to Friday Harbor. What a wonderful day in April that will not soon be forgotten.

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July 6th! The return of L-pod!

The return of L Pod (and at least one member of K Pod) to the Salish Sea!!! A beautiful, sunny day as we cruised to Rosario Strait, navigating through the heart of the San Juan Islands. Reports of heavy fog were sent out from the other boats that were already with the whales. However, once we got on scene, the fog lifted and the viewing conditions were spectacular! The whales were in a resting pattern, grouped up into tight formation. When resting, Orca whales all come up together for a breath, then dive back down simultaneously as well. This is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Three large groups were traveling south down Rosario Strait towards Deception Pass. After reviewing some of the photos we took aboard the Odyssey, we were able to identify K 21, Cappuccino. Word on the street is that a new baby calf was born into K Pod the night before our sighting! What great news! As we started heading back to Friday Harbor, the whales started to wake up, and we got to see at least three breaches, including a double breach by two members at the same time! What a great day on the water!

Captain Pete

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Amazing T18 Orcas and Steller sighting!

Today on the “Odyssey” we witnessed a truly amazing act of nature. North of San Juan Island between Patos Island and Eastpoint (Saturna Island, Canada), our wildlife cruise was in the right spot at exactly the right time. Five of the T18 group (transient orcas) were in an amazing display of predator vs. prey with an estimated 2000lb. steller sea lion. As our vessel watched, nearly 45 minutes of circling, diving, and eventually a sheer battle of force played out. We are extremely lucky to witness a moment that many only see on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Our two certified naturalists were able to explain the moment to passengers as well as snap photos of the event. For all of us, Captain included, it was a day on the water that rivals many.

Below are photos documenting the many moments that captivated all of us. It reminds us of the power behind these magnificent animals, and makes us truly thankful for the opportunity to watch them in their natural home.

Another wonderful day on the water, with many more to come…

-Captain Pete

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San Juan Wildlife

Wildlife is part of our everyday life here in the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea. Today a Bald Eagle flew right over our group as we were preparing to board the Odyssey. Anemones, jellies, shrimp, and crabs are often visible right in the marina.
The delight of the guests seeing this ecosystem and wildlife, many for the first time, is inspiring! We headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, toward the south end of Lopez Island, Many Harbor Seals and male Stellar Sea Lions were hauled on Whale Rocks.

There were reports of Orcas heading south down Rosario Channel, against a strong, 10+ foot, flooding tide. J-Pod families were very spread out and many turned back north. The whales were swimming hundreds of feet from each other, on long dives, coming up to breath. Was it energy saving to stay under the surface while they were swimming against that strong current? As fellow Naturalist Heather said; were they staying under longer to communicate about the hunt for salmon, over that long distance the pod was spread apart? We were happy to watch J-26, J-31, and J-39. A nice day on the water.

Caroline Armon, Naturalist, San Juan Excursions

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Rain or Shine….the whales and wildlife are here.

Sunday May 15th, 2011

Liquid sunshine (rain:) couldn’t dampen our spirits today! We got word that orcas were spotted down by Smith Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca when we left the dock today. Captain Pete headed south and thankfully the orcas kept coming North, we met near False Bay! We were excited to see it was J Pod! We travelled along with Princess Angeline
(J17) and her family, daughters:Polaris (J28), Tahlequah (J35) and new son born 2009: Moby (J44), along with new grandbaby Star (J46) born 2009 to Polaris! Quite the family portrait as they would all surface together. We also got a good look at Cookie, (J38) so his mom was probably not too far off, Oreo (J22). We had about 25 J pods in the area, but well spread out on the West side of San Juan Island in Haro Strait as we left the whales today. We also enjoyed some Stellar Sea Lions hauling out on Whale Rocks near Cattle Pass upon our return to Friday Harbor. Just another beautiful day, liquid sunshine and all!

Debbi Fincher

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Spring has finally arrived in the San Juan Islands

65 and sunny – I think spring has finally arrived here in the San Juans!

In San Juan Channel we saw about half a dozen harbor seals hauled out, basking in the sun, as well as two bald eagles perched on the treetops along the shoreline of Lopez Island. We spent some time around the south end of San Juan and Lopez watching the feeding frenzy of gulls, cormorants, auklets and murres, wondering what kind of ‘bait ball’ of fish was just below the surface. We then traveled to Long Island and checked out a massive eagle’s nest, and saw several more bald eagles, this time all juveniles. The highlight of the trip was seeing the gigantic Steller sea lions hauled out on Whale Rocks. There must have been about 20 or so all sprawled out, growling whenever a neighbor got too close. Amongst the crowd of giants, two stood out; one that had been branded by researchers, and another with markings along its body, likely from a run in with a propeller. The ID number of the branded sea lion has been reported to the researchers so that they can track its movement. After hanging out with the Steller’s we headed back up San Juan Channel and passed by a harbor porpoise, which made for a nice end to a beautiful day!

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Awesome J-Pod!!!

May 10, 2011

Starting out north, on a nice, calm, sunny afternoon, no whale reports. Then, then! a rumor of Orcas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, heading in east! So we turned around, headed south and west, and started seeing killer whale fins off of False Bay and San Juan Island, swimming against an ebbing tide.

We noticed a female staying in the same place at the surface for about a half hour, and the 5 family groups spread out. They started to move and gather closer together, actively spy hopping, turning on their backs, tail fluke and pectoral fin slapping the water surface, and a juvenile breached! They slowed down their swimming, made circles and direction changes. We put a hydrophone in the water and heard non stop vocalizations!

As we watched all the active behavior, we noticed a very small calf and wonder if a birth had taken place recently? My guess for the mom is J-31 Tsuchi. We also ID’d J-2 Granny, the big boys- J-27 Blackberry, J-26 Mike, J-30 Riptide, and J-28 Polaris and their families. J-Pod seemed relaxed and hopefully found salmon!

Caroline Armon, Naturalist, San Juan Excursions

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