Porpoises and dolphins

After our first whale sighting our Puget Sound Express captain, Christopher Hanke, spied dolphins playing in the wake of a nearby boat. He volunteered to see if he might lure them into the wake of our boat and he did just that. Soon we had Pacific white-sided dolphins virtually flying beside and behind the boat.

Porpoises also came along for the fun. They matched the speed of the boat, close to the hull, or nearby in the wake, breaching and leaping as we sped along. This one is either a Dall’s porpoise or a harbor porpoise. Dolphins have sleeker bodies than porpoises and the jaw structure and teeth are different.

I’ve always wanted to see dolphins do this. It was one of my trip highlights.


Puget Sound Express (PSE) guarantees that its customers will see whales on their whale watching tours. Their captain and staff stay in contact with other tour boats and make a real effort to find and follow them.

We kept a respectful distance each time we came upon orcas, or killer whales, on two of our three days of travel. This was a pod of five and the PSE staff identified the group. There are both resident and transient pods in our area.

These whales are actually part of the oceanic dolphin family. They surface briefly to breathe. I have a couple dozen shots of their dorsal fins, all that’s left to view if you don’t catch them quickly as they surface.

San Juans here we come

This is a taste of the area through which we cruised with Puget Sound Express last week. We took a (spendy) three day trip but they also offer shorter day tours.

Ours was a birdwatching and wildlife tour and we did plenty of that, zigging and zagging as our onboard naturalist pointed out birding hotspots or the crew trailed and talked about marine mammals. But I was equally taken with the beautiful small and large islands we threaded through on our voyage.

Early April weather in the Pacific Northwest provides only the vaguest hints of spring. Grey skies and light sprinkles reminded us that it could have been much worse. The islands are sheltered enough that winds were light. No choppy seas!

Bob Boekelheide, our Audubon naturalist, even provided commentary on the geology that formed this gorgeous region.

Spring adventure

I’ve wanted to go back to the San Juan Islands, arguably one of the most beautiful areas of Washington State, since the first time I visited by ferry decades ago. It was there that I fell in love with Washington.

A while back I heard about a San Juan Island cruise offered by Puget Sound Express in partnership with Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society. The three day birdwatching and wildlife cruise sounded spectacular. From Sequim our voyage was just across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The photo above is of the MV Glacier Spirit, the family owned cruiser we traveled on.

Inside was comfortable and warm with snacks, lunch, coffee, and good cheer.

This is a chart of our travels over three days through the San Juans, shown in yellow. Vancouver Island is the large land mass on the upper left; to the far right is northern Washington and the city of Bellingham. The thin pink and red lines show our route as we looked for whales, dolphins, birds, and other sealife through the large and small islands of the San Juan archipelago. I’ll show you what we saw over the coming days.

Theme Day: Wet

You don’t have to look far on the Olympic Peninsula to find today’s theme of “Wet.” The Hoh Rainforest, part of Olympic National Park, is one of the wettest places in the U.S. with an average rainfall of 12-14 feet (3.5 to 4.25 meters). In places, as along this stream, it’s hard to see where the water ends and foliage begins. And if you’re visiting when it’s raining, water is everywhere. It’s impossible to not be wet.

To see other interpretations of today’s City Daily Photo theme, click here.

Creation story

This plaque is set into the pavement at Waterfront Park in Port Angeles. Entitled “Klallam Creation Story,” it is about one of our local Native American tribe and reads as follows:

“The Klallam tell us how the tribes of the region were created at a place on the Elwha River where there are two big holes in the rock called “coiled baskets.” It is there that the creator bathed and blessed the people.”

Art on the town

This is another piece of kinesthetic street art in Port Angeles, part of the city’s “Art on the Town” organized by the Port Angeles Downtown Merchants Association. This one is called “Bernard 2” by Craig Walker of White Salmon, WA, a town in southern Washington on the Columbia River. The top part of this piece rotates in the wind.