Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Winter Storm Whale Watch

 Winter Storm Whale Watch

The Admiral was eager to see the Orca whales before we got locked in on our Grandparent duties. We checked out the possible times to go on the Victoria Clipper that we had enjoyed on two other excursions to see the resident Orca pods in the area. September 21 and the 28th were the last two sailings for the year for the whale watch tours. The weather for the 21st had a front coming through with 60% rain and the wind that comes with it. So looking at the long term forecast the 28th looked better. We were surprised when the front on the 21st just had a bit of morning rain and the rest of the day was sunny and nice just a little windy. We went ahead and booked for the 28th the last chance to go. There was s Typhoon hitting the China coast at the time and some of that weather spun off, made it's way all the way across the Pacific and brought the earliest Winter Storm on record to Seattle. Lots of rain and winds from 30-60 mph expected with the higher winds in the Straight of Juan De Fuca. I was sure they would cancel the trip and we would get a refund and just hope to go next spring. Nope, the 70 mile cruise up to San Juan Island and Friday Harbor was on. We got up at 0500 got some coffee/tea down and out the door at 0530 to walk the 5 blocks in wind driven rain to the Victoria Clippers pier. We were aboard by 0615 and headed North with a 30 knot South wind on our Stern.

I love these Water Jet Catamarans, they have a very smooth ride and they are fast. I got this pic off the internet, there were no Blue sky's during our trip.

I jumped up to the observation deck as we neared Deception Pass that runs between  the North end of Whidby Island and the mainland near Anacortes. The vessel has to slow down to no wake speed here since it runs near a Harbor. 

The currents can get very strong through Deception Pass on of the more notorious passes in the San Juan's. Current can run 8 knots or more on either a flood or Ebb tide and since the pass is relatively narrow with some mean looking rocks on both sides prudent planning is a must especially for Sailboats. 

This is Deception Pass Marina and there is a Vessel assist station here due to the dangerous nature of the pass. 

This anchorage is just adjacent to the marina and would be a great spot to stop and wait for slack tide or a Ebb tide before passing Westward through the pass. 

Looks Beautifully Harmless but when you get to here you start seeing some mean looking whirlpools

Just off to the right of the pic above were two Eagles Hunting for some early lunch.

Here you can see the water swirling and the rocks on either side, be careful when you sail through here!

No problem for the two big diesel electrics running the water-jets, The bridge is around 400 feet high so no problem getting the mast under. That road goes over to Whidby Island and is closed on high wind days.  

Just another workday for this 80'+ tug

We dropped off those just riding to Friday Harbor and went South to the Strait of Juan De Fuca in search of the Whales. There is Salmon Bay there where I guess they are known to hunt. Along the way we stopped at this rock to get some pics of the Sea Lions an Seabirds

These lighter colored Sea Lions are Steller sea lions. 

They are pretty majestic.We learned that the darker California male Sea Lions migrate up here to hunt and then return to California to Breed. The Females stay in there breading area year round.  

You would not see this rock at high tide, have to do your homework if you plan to sail these waters. 

The captain spotted these birds feeding on bait fish that had been scared to the surface by something hunting them, he thought it might be a Mink Whale that are baleen and get up to 28' long. They had spotted some mink's on there last trip up here. We just saw the birds. 

Cattle Point, located on Cape San Juan on the southeastern tip of the San Juan Island, overlooks the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  The name was first used on the British Admiralty charts in 1858.  The Hudson’s Bay Company, which had established the Belle Vue Farm in 1853, unloaded cattle and other livestock at a dock there prior to the settlement of the San Juan Islands boundary dispute.  Cattle Point was part of American Camp, the U.S. Army’s encampment, during the “Pig War. http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=7704

The Cattle Point Lighthouse was automated in the late 1950s, one of the first so upgraded in Washington state.  The white tower has had its lantern removed, replaced with a small 250-mm drum lens displayed from a short mast on top of the capped tower.  The exposed optic, flashing white every four seconds, uses photoelectric cells to turn the light on at night and off in the morning.  The electric foghorn, mounted on a cement pad in front of the lighthouse, is activated by an automatic sensor that detects moisture in the air, sounding one two-second blast once every 15 seconds.  Today (2006), both the light and foghorn are powered by solar-cell batteries and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids To Navigation Branch in Seattle.

We saw no whales on this trip. Often you see lots of Whale Watch vessels out to find the whales but on this stormy day we only saw one other tour boat out. The captains talk to each other on the VHF and alert one another when they are spotted so everyone can navigate to see them. Not enough experienced eyes out today.  Wonder what it is like to live year round on a San Juan's Island?

Very protected anchorage at Friday Harbor

The Victoria Clipper Docks near the Ferry Wharfs. 

It was raining like crazy when we got to Friday Harbor so we ducked into this Cafe for reguge and food. The IVY wants to come inside as well. 

Dreaming about making this a new home for Wand'rin Star

Gotta have a Big Porch up here, although they say the San Juan's do not get all the rainfall the mainland gets, but it was raining hard today. 

The weather turned darker and windier on the way home, usually they go on the Westside of Whidby on the way back crossing the Strait of Juan De Fuca but the wind was up and the waves were reported to be in the 5' range so we took the longer trip back on the inside in more protected waters.

We zoomed on. I went up again to take some pics but didn't stay long in the wind and rain.

Either this guy is a local and it is just another day on the water or .....

The weather changes frequently, the fog thickens here.

Looking back a a hole opens up in the clouds and illuminates Deception Pass 

We still looked for whales, some harbor porpoise and harbor seals were seen. 

I wanted to go up one more time but the wind was nuts, I'm guessing the vessel was traveling 30 mph into 30 mph south winds, I had to really hold on to my hat!

As we left the South end of Whidby we began to see these little rainbows as the sun occasionally found a hole to shine through

The Admiral took this as we entered some open water and were speeding over 3' chop, the ride stared to take on a new feel.

The Weather forecasters here are no better than those on the Gulf coast. Forecasting Marine weather more than one to two days out is about all you can expect. It is amazing how many small recreational fishing boats we saw out on this day, the locals just take it all in stride and do not let a little Winter Storm ruin their day. 

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