Orcas!

Christine shot this video on her cellphone.

Christine and I were taking a lunch break from cleaning up our sailboat today when I checked the Orca Network Facebook page.  The resident pods (normally in the San Juan Islands) have been hanging around Seattle for a couple of weeks eating fresh salmon chum, but we never saw them when we were out on the sailboat.  Today was our turn!

The most recent post said they were last spotted off of Alki Beach and were heading north.  Alki is about an hour’s sail south of us, so we got the boat out of our slip and headed south to find them.  I kept an eye on my phone for updates on their location and about the time that someone reported seeing them off of Magnolia we looked over and found them about half a mile away off of our 10 o’clock.  I tacked the boat in their direction and slowed until we were a safe distance away (about 200 meters).  We hove-to (slows the boat down to a crawl) and floated along side until they’d passed.  We then sailed slowly under our main sail, keeping speed with them and going along side the group (always trying to stay the required 100 meters away).  It was magical when we were out there alone, just us an the Orcas, and no sounds but them breathing.  The silence was broken for a few minutes as another sailboat came motoring past and then crowded into them, but eventually he turned off his motor and sailed along with us too.

When the second part of the video was shot it was hard to stay the safe distance away.  The group had split suddenly and most of them went in between our boat and the other one.  As we tried to move away from them (you can hear Christine asking me why I’m sailing away from them at 1:45 in the video) the other part of the pod started to surface on our starboard side.  I slowed the boat even further to let them pass before we headed back.  It was an amazing hour of watching the Orcas.

It’s time to start leaving a decent older digital  camera on the sailboat, this cellphone footage isn’t great (especially from using the digital zoom), but it’s what we’ve got.

5 Comments

  1. We were out moving our sailboat yesterday afternoon, we left Shilshole at about 11:00, and must have gone right past them at some point in time on our way down to Harbor Island. We were taking long tacks all the way across the Sound, and weren”t on the look out for Orcas. When we got in to the new slip the family and friends that met us there were all clamoring to know if we saw them … Now I”ll remember to keep an eye on the Orca Network, and hopefully the next time we”re out will be as fortunate as you.
    [BTW I was having the same thought about keeping the "burner" camera on the boat, yesterday.]

  2. Mom says:

    Wow — very impressive!!! I didn”t realize they travelled in such large groups.

  3. Alan Duffy says:

    Hey, I met you over a year ago, I was moored at your dock. I was the ugly boat, the first one on the dock, the 21 foot luger. We sold that last year and are in the proces of buying a 1977 Catalina 25”. I ran across your website in my research of these boats and am impressed by your adventures. My wife and I are looking forward to fun times in the San Juans. I don”t know if you remember letting us on your boat when you first got it but that is when I fell in love with the catalina 25. I still can”t afford the newer ones so the 1977 will have to do, but it looks like a good boat with a sound hull, fixed keel, good riging, strong motor, and almost new sails.

    http://www.yachtworld.com/core/listing/photoGallery.jsp?slim=quick&currency=USD&units=Feet&seo=0&checked_boats=2532014&boat_id=2532014&back=/core/boats/1977/CATALINA–25”-SLOOP-2532014/EVERETT/WA/United-States&boat_id=2532014

  4. Hollie says:

    What great video! A big dream of mine with sailing is that someday we”ll find a pod and do what you did; stay a safe distance away and get out the binoculars and just soak up the sight. It blows my mind that I live in a city that has days where orcas might be just an hour’’s sail away.

  5. Alex Wetmore says:

    Hollie: Keep an eye out on Orca Network on Facebook. There have been some sightings in the area in the past week (on Saturday it looked like they were down by Vashon, which is a bit long of a sail…Sunday they were up in Saratoga Passage and back to the San Juans).

    Also, we”ve seen Harbor Porpoises (sometimes confused with dolphins, but much smaller) on almost every sail recently. About half of the time they even follow us and play in the turbulence at the back of the boat.

    This really is a beautiful place to live.

Leave a Reply