The cold weather and short days that always come around this time of year has prompted me to dream of endless summer days spent kayaking in the San Juan Islands. I think about the flat water, the smell of sea salt and sunscreen, and the constant feeling of hope that I will be able to provide a kayak trip to vacationers that includes life changing wildlife experiences. Sometimes its an eagle swimming through the water. Sometimes its a salmon jumping out of the water while making its way back to its home rivers. And sometimes its a whale.
I recently read a blog post by the Pacific Whale Watch Association on Humpback whales. The post shared that 2021 set a record for the number of humpback whale calves in the Salish Sea. In a time where I am searching for good news in as many places as possible, this made me smile. It quickly brought me back to a day I spent with five guests on the west side of Henry Island.
We had been kayaking for a couple of days, camping and exploring Stuart Island. The trip was one of those perfect weekends; weather was 75 and sunny, the water was flat, and the tides were pushing us along nicely. We were coming up on a small beach where we were going to get out and stretch our legs. Suddenly, we all heard a “PFFFFFFFF” and I quickly turned to my right. A whale, one that I assumed was too small to be a humpback, had just surfaced for a breathe of air.
As you can imagine, a mix of emotions and thoughts goes through you when you spot a whale in the water with you. My first thought, of course, is: “A SEA MONSTER!!!!”
Fortunately, I did not let that thought escape me (it’s pretty awkward when you, a kayak guide, are caught thinking a whale is a real-life sea monster).
Instead, we ooohed and aahhhed and made our way to shore, turning quickly to see a much larger “sea creature” (the humpback calf’s mom) breathe a minute later.
I asked our one of our guides to share her favorite humpback experience, which happens to be how we got the beautiful photo above. Here is what she said: “Sometimes a sound can trigger a flurry of emotions. We were out paddling and all of a sudden we heard a blow, it’s a pretty distinct sound and immediately we start scanning the surface of the water for a whale. We see a set of tails pop out of the water! The sound of air being forced from the blowhole of a humpback is so exciting and becomes a race for who will spot eyes on it first. I told my paddle partner to keep us on track and I pulled out my camera to try to capture the moment.” -Annie Butler
We look forward to sharing more stories with you over the next few months, and then sharing our time with you in Summer 2022.