Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seals, Ships, Marina Life, Cetaceans

Also fish, harbors, scenery and map fun. Two days on the good ship Kingfisher (actually that's her brand name, but my host and hostess have not agreed on a name for her) in perfect weather. We zipped across the Strait to Friday Harbor, first circling up the west side of San Juan Island and then east through Speiden Channel around the outside of Henry Island, in hopes of seeing orcas, as the Southern Residents were known to be have been in the neighborhood two days before. No orcas. We moored in Friday Harbor Marina at slip H29 (G and H are the guest moorages).

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
The good ship Kingfisher (Click for larger image.)

JL and I walked up into town, first to the Whale Museum, then a sidetrip to locate my motel, then souvenir hunting (scored two very nice bookmarks from the bookstore with, yes, orcas on them), then ice cream sitting on a bench overlooking the ferry dock. Ice cream is an obligatory part of being in the Marina. But it was end-of-season, only about a third of the zillions of flavors were available, and one person doing the scooping-up.

Ferry-watching, September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Also we bought some frozen baitfish to feed to Popeye the harbor seal, who lives in the marina. He was lurking right there by the fish shop on the dock, the better to encourage people to buy him eats.

Feeding Popeye (Click for larger image.)

I've never hung out in a marina before. It is very intimate. When we were cooking our dinner on the stern rail, so were the people in the next boat. Foot traffic constant to and fro, people returning with shopping bags. Before dinner we went back to the store to walk the dog and buy olive oil, which JL had forgotten to pack. People wander up and down the docks examining each other's boats and their accoutrements. Popeye the seal came by. We fed him some of our own baitfish.

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In the morning we retraced our route around the island, except this time we went inside of Henry Island, past Roche Harbor and through Mosquito Channel. There were a bunch of seals hauled out on a small island. These looked to be our only wild marine mammals on this expedition (Popeye doesn't count), so the Captain stopped nearby for a photo opportunity. Once out in Haro Strait there was much shipping channel entertainment, bi-i-ig ships in the morning light. We slowed down for better photos now and again.

The Seals in Mosquito Channel. JL's pic. September 18, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Big Ships, headed for Vancouver (Click for larger image.)
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We angled far to the west, passing close to Victoria. Our program for the day was to catch salmon in Marine Area 5 where the limit is higher and you can keep wild as well as hatchery salmon. When we arrived off Freshwater Bay, a few miles east of the area line, a circus of whalewatch boats were busily surrounding what seemed like A Great Many transient orcas (now called Bigg's Killer Whales, but even the scientists are having trouble remembering), who were hustling on eastward.

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It was a perfectly gorgeous orca sighting, silhouetted against the Olympics and darn near in our own front yard. According to the Center for Whale Research, "We had 21 transients in the Strait of Juan de Fuca! They were members of T60's, T100's, T137's, T99's, T36's, T37, T37A1, and T2B." Jeanne Hyde blogged the encounter from the point of view of the whale-watch boats, and with great visuals. First Mate JL's visuals also pretty great:

JL's transient orcas (Click for larger image.)

We lingered a while heading eastward with the crowd of boats and whales, then continued west until we were across the Marine Area 5 line. Then we fished. The boat seemed happy to be doing its proper job.

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We caught two coho (silver) salmon right away. First Mate JL kept up the log on the back of the fishing license. Then we had a series of misfires, nibbles and catching tiny little fishes. I took a turn driving the boat. Captain JL asked me to please steer us out of the nursery and back into the bigger fish. I was more concerned to stay in our lane, and not run into any passing big ships. But in fact then we caught our two more fish. "We're done," said the captain, and we headed back to Port Angeles.

Host and hostess, JL & JL. September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Thank you to JL & JL for an adventure that in multiple ways greatly expanded my map.

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