Saturday-- The San Juan Island Cruise
Saturday—The San Juan Island Cruise
Another busy day that started in Seattle, and quickly moved on the road about 90 minutes north to the port of Bellingham. It was at this point that our group of 30 travelers boarded the excursion vessel “Chinook” for a whale watching cruise.
This day was special, because while we watched carefully, we didn’t see ANY whales. Some said they were playing hide and seek with us. Others said the sightings this week had suddenly stopped. Others said the pods of whales had moved about 25 miles west out the straights to the Pacific Ocean, but might just as easily return with the food supply.
Whales go where the food supply is as they fatten up for the long swim to Hawaii and to begin calving there over the winter.
What we DID see was a string of other wildlife, including harbor seals, Stellar Sea Lions, cranes, cormorants, porpoises, a bald eagle’s nest and more. By far, the most common marine mammal in the San Juan Islands are the Harbor Seals. We got up close and snapped lots of photos of these majestic and lazy animals sunning themselves on the rocks.
What we were looking for were Orca whales, Minke whales and river otters… but today, they eluded us.
We enjoyed an on-board meal of lasagna (two types: vegetarian and meaty), brownies, Caesar salad, biscuit breads and our choice of beverage. There was plenty to go around, as we could have seconds or thirds, if our appetite so desired.
We used our binoculars and eyes to continue scanning the shoreline and rocky islands as we sailed about the large islands, exploring some of the same passageways that the earliest French and English sailors had.
The Spanish first laid claim to the entire west coast of the Americas, but the English had vigorously insisted that the trading rights belonged to everyone. When the French traded nails, trinkets and baubles for otter and beaver pelts, they didn’t know the value of them.
However, when they continued west, looking for the Northwest Passage, and arrived in China, they discovered how extremely valuable these pelts were, and the development and mapping of the Northwest Territory and the San Juan Islands was on.
You may be confused by the naming of these islands as San Juan Islands. But it is important to understand the Spanish first named the region after securing it from the first peoples native Americans, and then the French and English added and changed some names. As a result, the region has a mixture of languages and names…and the Salton Sea region is still trying to settle some of these issues.
We arrived at “Friday Harbor” and settled into our suites for the overnight. Some of us walked down to the Whale Museum and for half the price of the senior admission ($6 total for two!), toured the two-story converted house. There were many hands-on exhibits for children and adults, audio recordings of whales, bone skeletons and many maps of the region.
Finally, we gathered for a delicious meal at the Downrigger restaurant and dined on salmon, steak, chicken or vegetarian meals, complete with clam chowder (ANOTHER variety) and chocolate pudding (another variety). Anyone who went away hungry wasn’t feasting on the terrific food.
Tomorrow we gather for another day of touring the islands and whale watching as well. We hope for better luck sighting them, but if the day develops into as nice a sunny day as we had today, it will be well worth the time upon the water again.
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