This afternoon the owner/captain of Western Prince, Ivan, took his crew out for a dinner picnic to Sucia Island, a small island that's a state park just north of Orcas Island. On the way, we took in some cool sights, starting with a stop to look at the sandstone cliffs at Monarch Head on Saturna Island, one of the Canadian Gulf Islands. There are some amazing geological formations there, like this weird latticework inside a "hole" in the wall. I'm not sure how something like this forms, but I'm definitely going to look into it and will report back:
I didn't know this, but apparently there is a feral goat population on Saturna. Four of them came along the shoreline to check us out!
I took lots of pictures of the crew, but at this stop had a friend snap a photo of yours truly on the front of the Western Explorer:
We then headed over to check out the intense currents at Boiling Reef just off of East Point (the eastern tip of Saturna Island). There were lots of glaucous-winged gulls, harbor porpoise, and harbor seals feeding in the tide rips, but it was the current action itself that was most amazing. Most of the area reaches depths of about 500 feet, but there is a reef about 800 yards long between Saturna and Patos Islands that stretches up to about 20 feet below the surface. With the big tidal exchanges we get in the area, you can imagine what happens when huge volumes of rushing water hit an underwater obstacle as big as Boiling Reef.....lots and lots of turbulance! There are all sorts of tide rips, counter currents, upwellings, and whirlpools. Where steady upwellings are occurring the water looks glassy calm, like in the distance in the picture below. Where different currents are colliding, you get the wave action as seen in the foreground:
We saw several upwellings start occurring out of nowhere. In the case of the photo below, we were driving and the water was glassy calm for several hundred yards in every direction. All of a sudden, there were several standing waves, then an eruption of waves and turbulance all around us and expanding outward. I have never seen such unpredictable water! I can only imagine what the underwater "ride" would be like for a porpoise, seal, or fish.
There were harbor porpoise in literally every direction you looked, probably taking advantage of the currents to do some good feeding. I didn't have the zoom lens on my camera and they are super fast and hard to photograph, but you can see two in the image below:
We then cruised around the much calmer waters of the Sucia Island group (made up of Sucia and several small associated islands) before docking for our picnic. We drove through the larger bay, Echo Bay, and between the two Finger Islands and Sucia:
Then we pulled up to a dock in Fossil Bay, where we got out and had a picnic dinner of sandwiches from Market Chef, a local Friday Harbor restaurant. Here is the motley crew with dinner on the picnic table on the dock:
Next up - a closer look at Sucia and photos from our walk around the island!