We left Roche Harbor yesterday around 11am. We thought we'd head south along the back side of San Juan Island where we'd seen the orcas the other day. We knew their spot…almost all the way down the island to the southern tip.
We were motoring along as Kevin was trying out a new feature of the radar. It's a radar alert area, and if anything comes within the area ahead of you, it beep beep beeps with a warning signal. You can see the radar panel on the left, below. The alert area is inside that red outline (and the boat is in the center of the innermost circle).
The middle panel is the chart panel, and the pink line is our course as it follows along the shore of San Juan Island, just FYI. We've got a course plotted from Roche Harbor to Anacortes, and the autopilot will take us there while we watch and avoid kelp (and other boats).
Anyway, we're going along, all by ourselves, and a little beep beep beep happens, along with a tiny dot on the radar (about the size of that tiny dot nearest the red zone on the photo above), and then quickly disappears. Not a boat in sight. About 30 seconds later, it happens again. Another tiny dot, then poof. We both think "whales?"
But we were quite a bit more north than where we saw the pod the other day, and there was no cluster of whale watching boats to say "Hey everyone, here are the whales!"
Then all of a sudden on our port side, about 50 yards from us…a HUGE orca comes up for air. Holy shit. Kevin's at the helm and I'm quickly saying "Oh my god, it's RIGHT THERE! Shut it all off." You're not supposed to get very close to the orcas (but they were this close to us!) and if you find you are close, you're supposed to just kill the engine and wait for them to pass. So that's what we did. There were several of them swimming all around us. Amazing.
I didn't manage to get a photo of the closest one, but these photos are taken with my wide-angle fixed lens Fuji x100s, and not my Nikon with the 200mm lens…and they're cropped in a little, but only a little. They were SO CLOSE. Here's a shot Kevin took with his iPhone (you can see my arm there on the left). SO. CLOSE.
We probably saw a dozen or so more (further away) as we continued on down the back side of San Juan. We saw a half dozen whale watching boats hauling ass up to where we'd been, so someone else must have radioed in to alert 'em.
We continued around the bottom of Lopez Island and headed back into Anacortes, feeling pretty psyched about our orca experience for the day.
Oh hi again, Canada:
We arrived back at Cap Sante Marina, washed the salt water off of Airship (and squeegeed the windows all nice), plugged her in and then and ended up joining the Nordic NW team for dinner. Super fun evening with great folks. Today is the last day of the Anacortes Boat Show…if you're nearby, come on down!