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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sept 28: Spectacular Sunday

On Sunday, September 28th I had the chance to go out with Legacy Charters, and the weather couldn't have been better. It was sunny, fairly warm, calm - and days like that are at a premium this time of year! And best of all, we left the dock with multiple whale reports.

First we headed up to Spieden Channel where a humpback whale has been hanging out for several days. This is BCY0409, also known as Yogi.

At first it seemed to be doing the "regular" humpback thing, of surfacing several times, then fluking and going down for a longer dive.

I knew this whale was known for being pretty active, but I still wasn't prepared when about two minutes into one of its dives it instead did a full body breach out of the water! My camera wasn't ready, and nor was anyone else's, but I have a perfect image in my mind of turning my head and seeing the whale completely airborn with the sun hitting it perfectly. I'm just sorry I can't share it with you! But he/she remained more active after that, doing a little bit of a surface lunge....

...and then tail-thrashing like crazy!

Here was one huge headstand/tail wave:

We got to see Yogi do one more nice set of surfacings and a dive in front of Spieden Island before moving on....because, after all, this was just the opening act!

Next we cruised down the west side of San Juan Island to where J-Pod (and three K-Pod whales) were hanging out. They had been doing the "west side shuffle" throughout the day, and we ended up meeting up with them off the south end near Salmon Bank. While the morning fog had thankfully mostly burned off by this point, we found ourselves in a thick patch of it as we came upon the whales!

When we arrived on scene, the whales seemed a little undecided as to which direction they were going to go. It was pretty cool to just sit there in such an ephemeral setting with whales basically in all directions, going all different directions! The lighting was spectacular because it was both sunny and foggy at the same time. J22 Oreo and her oldest son J34 Doublestuf came across our bow:

J22 Oreo and J34 Doublestuf

J22 Oreo and J34 Doublestuf
It was also my first good look at K21 Cappuccino in a while!

K21 Cappuccino
Right before we had gotten on scene, the two separate J-Pod groups had met up with each other. After the milling about we saw, it seemed like they finally decided to group up and head north. As always, it was so cool to see so many whales all together!

That's J28 Polaris front and center

J26 Mike

While they were clearly traveling, they were a bit active, too!

J46 Star (left) and J47 Notch (right)

We were so close to Whale Rocks, Captain Spencer just had to take us over to see these charismatic "Grizzlies of the sea" - Steller Sea Lions. I love these guys!

Then as we cruised back north to Snug Harbor, we went right by the orcas again and got one more look.

From left to right J16 Slick, J42 Echo, and J28 Polaris

From left to right J14 Samish, J28 Polaris, and J42 Echo

This time of year, when we don't know how much longer the whales will stick around, every encounter takes on a little extra meaning. These moments will have to tide us "orcaholics" over a mostly whale-less winter. This special afternoon was certainly a memorable one, and will be a fitting grand finale if that's what it ends up being (though I hope I've got another month of whales, of course)!

One more shot from the trip home, showing where I do most of my whale-watching - Lime Kiln Lighthouse. It's always fun to see it from the water-side!

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