Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Whales to You....'Till We Meet Again....

It's over.  It's really, really over.  The last trips of our regular whale and wildlife watching trips are over.  October is full of more unsettled weather here in the Northwest and the beautiful sunny warm days disappear suddenly.  Now it's the soft grey of winter...and yes, rain.  Many days there is a bit of a break and luckily it's usually around the trip hours!  So, with the exception of the very last day...no need for the really waterproof gear.

T is for Transient orca
We have many days with Transient orcas hunting in the Salish Sea.  We often leave the dock without a definite whale report and then, magically with more eyes scanning the water, we enjoy the company of whales!
Transient female and youngster

Up for air!

This late season brings many Bald eagle sightings as they return from the rivers where salmon spaun and die, providing a wonderful feast.

Coming in for a landing!
The brids have changed to their winter outfits.  Here's a Heerman's gull sporting the bright orange beak and classy "shades of grey" feathers.  It's encouraging to see so many seabirds on the Salish Sea waters.

Even the Harbor seals we see look as if they are enjoying a comfy spot to settle for "a long winter nap."

My last look at whales this year ends with T-20 and T-21 cruising the Canadian side of Haro Strait on a grey and windy day.  See the tell tale notch on the top of this male's massive fin?  This pair is probably a sister and brother born in the 1960's.  It's my first look at them this season...and most likely my last.  2012 days on the water have come to a close!   It's been a fabulous whale watching season and my brain is full of snapshots of incredible memories of days spent with all the incredible wildlife that call the Salish Sea "home."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Whoo-Hooo! Crew Trip 2012!

Captain Ivan at the helm of the Western Explorer in B.C.

 I've experienced many ways of bringing a whale watch season to a close.  The first company I worked for bought us all dinner at a local restaurant together and a good company logo vest or jacket. The next variation on that theme was a bar-b-que dinner at a local rented hall, all planned and provided by the company owner. All a very nice way of honoring good employees and having a little fun together.

 But, never have I ever experienced (or heard of) an end of the season celebration like this one!  Crew Trip 2012...by car and by boat, to a foreign country, via Georgia Strait and 2 ferries, to a guest house on...yes...another island...to spend two fantastic days on the water searching for...what else?  Whales!  Dolphins!  Bear! (and...sea lions, seals, porpoise, eagles, seabirds, rapids and narrows!)

Katie, Nan and Pete arriving Quadra Island

Packing Katie's car carefully!

Quadra Island ferry from Campbell River arrives Qualthalski Cove

Day One:  The advance crew heads out on the Sunday ferry from Friday Harbor to Sidney, B.C.  Then it's up island to Campbell River....just in time to catch the 4:30 ferry to Quadra Island.  We find our guest house a 10 minute drive from the ferry landing and right next door to Heriot Bay and marina.

Heron House...a little "Harry Potter" type place.

Step through the gate and down the path!

Fixing dinner in the well equipped kitchen is easy...we move in all the food for the next two days and it's already time for Happy Hour!

Heron House kitchen / dining space

View from dining and living areas

The Happy Hour raft....at certain times, in certain weather!

Katie and Queen Nan warm up with hot somethings 
Day Two:  Monday dawns, yes, rainy.  Grey, cloudy and soggy outside, but we check the timing for max. current at Surge Narrows and head out for a hike and a picnic on a cliff above the rapids.

Nan is pretty wet at end of 4.4km hike.
This forest trail is spectacular with dense greenery from forest floor to high above in the canopy of old growth and very very tall trees!
Up, up...UP!
The then it's back to the house and Nancy claims first shower in the "Tree Shower" outdoors on the lower level.
Giant cedar provides space for the best outdoor shower I've ever seen!

View through the cedar bough shower "door"....to the beach!
2012 Western Prince Crew....missing only Julie and Craig (sadly)!  So, do we enjoy our jobs?

Nancy spies Ivan and Chris zooming in toward Heriot Bay in the Western Explorer!  They made it..after eight hours zooming up Georgia Strait from Friday Harbor!  The rest of the crew arrives by second van shortly afterward.  All present and accounted for....just in time for Happy Hour!  After a fabulous dinner of Nancy's stew we fall asleep...too tired to even pick up the ukeleles this night.

Day Three:  Waterways 'n Wildlife!  Dressing for this day requires time and organization.  Five layers on the top, two on the bottom, then the Mustang suits, wool hats, goggles, gloves and yes, a final layer of rain jackets and pants...just in case.  The sky is actually blue today and there is...ahhhh...sun!

Five minutes, literally....off the dock Ivan leans forward and says: "Oh, and Orca on the 12 o'clock!"  ??  How can that be?  But it is!  We have two fantastic hours to follow the T-18's, a family group of four Transient orca whales as they cruise around the bottom of Quadra Island and begin up Discovery Passage past Cape Mudge and Campbell River.

Captain Ivan

Captain Nancy scans
Traci ....the camera is not far away!

T-19B....big boy!
T-18 / 19 family females

Nan...totally bundled...but colorful!

Then it's the Pacific Whitesided dolphins that distract us....so many!  They jet over to our boat, follow along riding the wake, charge up to the bow, twist and turn and speed away, only to return!
Whose fin is whose?

Dolphin dancing...

Flying dolphins

Surely this one has a local "name"!?
Up ahead a Humpback cruises Discovery Passage...and luckily...it's time to break out the sandwiches...how about lunch with a humpback?  Ok!
Humpback in the mist

Fluke going up!
A sudden rainstorm hits, we frantically button up the extra rain gear and jet up the passage and into a channel.  More dolphins join us.  We escape the rain, and are instantly distracted by rapids, whirlpools and Steller sea lions busy tossing huge salmon in the air.

Steller surfaces in the rapids

A few big boys hauled out
The day goes on and on...with good laughs, incredible wildlife....including a visit from Dall's porpoise and a glimpse of an enormous Elephant seal and Bald eagles high in trees and in flight overhead.  Eight hours later the adventurers return to shore, sights and sounds of the day brings smiles to everyone.

Back row crew, Alison, Pete and Nan all smiles!

Ivan, Sarah and Pete more smiles!

Waterproof Chris and Nancy!

Color-girl Nan
Day Three:  More of the same!  We are off on a wildlife search at 0900 again.  The day is cloudy and colder.  The wildlife a little thinner....we find dolphins and porpoise again.  We head further north, into Johnstone Strait, but weather determines our turn around spot for the day.  And besides...another Happy Hour and fabulous dinner await our return to Heron Guesthouse.  (Nan's turn for the outdoor tree shower too!)
Sarah....on the edge!  All the better to spot with...

JB, Nancy and Chris....ready for rain....and whatever!
We all have special skills....Pete pulls off pants!

Any dolphins under there?....what's your guess?!

Chris and Happy Appys

End of two great days on the water....2012 WP Crew hits the chairs on shore!

Day Four:  We are up at at 'em by 0500 this day as it's to the ferry dock on this island, off down Vancouver Island to the ferry dock on that island...and aboard the only ferry of the day to our San Juan Island homes.  We arrive at the Sidney dock at 1100 and quickly go through Customs phase #1 before boarding.  Upon arrival on San Juan the Customs agent asks to see our declared "rum."  Ugh.  We lift the trunk hood and begin unpacking EVERYTHING to get to the cooler on the bottom.  He confirms, not Cuban rum. (illegal)  I said it wasn't to start with....but oh well.

All's well that ends well!  And that would be almost the end of season 2012 too....only one week left to go...if we get any customers! (besides ourselves!!)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Puppy, Puppy....Puppy!

Flying Ears
Look who came flying into our life?  It's Sparky the Wonder Dog!  What a little guy, with a big personality.  Driving to Princton, B.C. in late August we are aware that bringing a puppy into our family would change things....but you know, you just really can never remember exactly how big a change that is!

Hello Skipper!  Sparky here!
Skipper, who has been an only dog since Bosun left us in June, is not exactly sure WHAT this new addition is.  It's now been five weeks, and he is usually up for puppy sitting...or running and tumbling.

Pick me, pick ME....ME, ME!

This is Willow, Sparky's mom.

Going home day!

A five hour car trip and ferry ride....and many stops.

Our job now is to expose Sparky to as many new situations as possible....especially those activities that are important to us and that we want him to be a part of...like traveling and boating.  First stop West Marine store for a lifejacket.

Not exactly love at first sight.

Then on with a boating trip to Jones Island for two nights.  One night on a bouy and we dinghy into the dock and the next tied to the dock meeting lots of new people.

Jones Island dock and headed ashore.
Beach Boy Sparky
Then the next weekend it is off to Lopez Island and our Fisher Group get together.  I gasp as Steve points out he is learning the "balance beam" of the boat rails!~  Yipes!

Hum...what's that moving down below?  Water?  What is water???
From Lopez it's off to Victoria for Steve's birthday celebration!  It's Skipper and Sparky at the helm.

Wonder what all these dials do?

A good traveler

But ready to roll whenever the engine stops!

Or nap when the engine cranks up.
Victoria is the big city experience and while strolling the Parliment grounds both dogs are invited by the security guard to chase the geese off the lawns!  Ohhhh, Skipper was ready...but we decline.

Oct. 3rd is birthday #67!  Totem Park by the Museum.
Ready for a walk: Victoria waterfront
 All good things come to an end...and it's almost the end of boating season for us in the Pacific Northwest.   Time to head back to Friday Harbor!

Arrival and packing it all home.

So much for just throwing a few things aboard and off we go or home we come.  Now it's the clothes, the food, the ukeleles, the music, the cameras, the dogs...oh, and the puppy kennel, puppy toys, puppy chews, puppy food,  puppy leash, ....and of course the puppy, puppy...PUPPY!