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Whales on Radar


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!


  1. ciparis ciparis

    I love these posts.

    I’m surprised there isn’t more cross-over between boats and RVs. That stove would look awesome in an Airstream…


    • Thanks Michael! And yes, that stove WOULD look awesome in an Airstream. (It’s a bit more work to keep it lookin’ shiny, though.)

  2. Kyle Kyle

    I have a question, if you don’t mind….

    Have you used the oven enough to compare it to the one in the Airstream? Neither my wife nor I are happy with the Dometic oven in our Airstream and I’ve been looking to find a better one. Force 10 is one brand I’ve been considering.

    Thank you. (And thank you for all your great posts. They’re feeding my wanderlust while waiting to get back on the road.)

    • Hi Kyle,

      I think I have used it enough now, and I think that it’s not noticeably all that much better than the Dometic in our Airstream. That said, we have been pretty happy with our Dometic (I know, weird!). The Force 10 is a little trickier to open and close because it’s designed for a boat (so the door won’t fall open during rough transit), so it has a little locking button on the right of the front handle. It’s not a big deal, just takes a little getting used to when opening and closing the door. This particular Force 10 is not as deep as the Dometic in the Airstream (due to space on the boat) so it’s only got two burners instead of three and isn’t as deep as the Dometic…but that’s not its fault.

      The Force 10 is pretty and shiny and looks much more modern than the Dometic, but it does take a little more effort to keep it looking shiny. 🙂

      Hope this helps! (And I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts!!)

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