After spending one quiet day in Port Townsend, we spent the next whale watching. This was a birthday gift for Alex, but since I hadn’t gone since I was a kid, it was also a gift for me!
We left right from downtown Port Townsend. The area near Seattle is known for its orcas (among other wildlife), and we actually saw some porpoises the day before from a pier in town. There was a nice boathouse nearby, with a ton of crew shells in it – a surprise to me – and we talked to a really eloquent six-year-old about his dog while buying breakfast.
The weather was nasty – squalls of rain throughout the morning. Actually I kinda liked it, except for the stress of not knowing whether it would prevent us from seeing whales. The little boat we were on was filled with elderly couples and wood paneling. They had a good deal for bottomless coffee/hot chocolate. It was cozy.
We saw some crazy gyres of birds around schools of fish – usually a sign that whales are nearby, but we didn’t have any luck. It was still cool to see – just a ton of birds diving around.
Eventually the weather cleared up a little, and we saw what we came for – two orcas just outside the San Juan islands. It’s amazing that you can recognize these orcas by their markings, so we got a whole family history. Orcas are organized into pods, other whales that they travel with which have their own culture. But these two were basically loners, male and female siblings.
They didn’t get too close, but it was a blast to see orcas in the wild. We even got to see some tail slapping (it’s unclear why orcas do this).
Pulling through a narrow inlet on the way to lunch, we got to see a small rock island completely covered in seals and sea lions. The stench was unbearable… but I do like sea lions.
Letting us off for lunch, we wandered around Friday Harbor, a cute tourist town that you can see in a half hour stroll. We had a big brunch before returning to the boat. Our friend on the boat, the coffee/snacks guy, who looked like the prototype of 40-year-old distance runner, had suggested we check out a local mascot: a seal named ‘Popeye’ (so named because he was actually missing one eye). He floated in the marina, near the docks, snacking on anchovies thrown to him by locals and tourists alike.
He looked pretty worn, to be honest – one flipper was crippled, but it was a cool opportunity to see wildlife up close (even if he wasn’t that wild).
The return trip was less eventful than the trip out. There were rumors of various whales in the area. The weather had cleared up, but it didn’t help us find them. I did see a pair of porpoises out the cabin window.
That’s right, we got to sit right up front in the cabin with the captain… an honor I think would have been more exciting if I was 12.
We got back into town relatively early in the day, so we also took a walk around the downtown area (charming Victorian) and along the water to Chetzamoka Park, a garden/park with great views of the water… and lots of swings.
It was a little drizzly, but totally worth it. I’d actually never visited this park again, and it was one of my favorite in town.