June 18, 2018
Yesterday’s San Juan Island half-day kayak tour started out promising, with a light wind forecast and a large tidal exchange promising good intertidal viewing. I picked up my group of five at our downtown shop location and we headed to our launch location at San Juan County Park. After gearing up and going through setup and a safety talk we were on our way. It was a great group, everyone was chatty and excited about being out and active in the sunshine.
Kayaking on the west side of San Juan Island I’m always excited about the prospect of seeing resident killer whales, but given the past several years I never expect these encounters on a daily basis. As a guide, it’s natural instinct to keep an eye out for all kinds of things from hazards to wildlife. So when a tiny black triangle surfaced on the horizon in front of us, I directed the group into the nearest protected kelp bed along the shoreline and rafted up. We talked about bull kelp for a minute while I scanned for another potential dorsal fin in the distance. I wasn’t disappointed. Soon we were all pointing out killer whales as they came to the surface and made their way right by us. Tucked against the shoreline we were able to witness them as they passed by without causing any disturbance in their behavior.
Among my paddlers was a naturalist for Western Prince. With the afternoon free, she was able to join us for the tour and it happened to be perfect timing! Just when we all thought things couldn’t get any better, we were startled by the unmistakable loud exhale and plume of spray from a humpback whale in front of us! I’ve been a sea kayak guide in the San Juan Islands for 8 years now and I’ve never had an encounter on the west side with resident killer whales AND a humpback in such close proximity to one another. The two of us who are very familiar with the area were extremely excited and the rest of the group caught on that this wasn’t an everyday encounter.
Each day I get in my kayak for work I smile, because honestly there’s no better office in the world. Every time I’m on the water there’s something new to witness and share with people. Yesterday happened to be one of those exceptionally memorable days you know nobody in the group will ever forget! I can’t wait for the next.