Pacific Northwest – Installment 13

After getting a bit of grief recently for never finishing the re-cap of our vacation in the Pacific Northwest in September 2013, I figured it was about time I did that.

My previous vacation post, Installment 12, described a very relaxing day and our wonderful rental home. If you scroll to the very bottom of this post, you’ll find links to Installments 1 through 12.

The day I’m about to describe was the highlight of our visit to the San Juan Islands, an archipelago in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States between the US mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The San Juan Islands are part of the state of Washington.

Map of San Juan Island

While planning the trip, I told Annelies how much I LOVED going whale watching. In fact, I probably said it so much, she got tired of hearing it. She eould easily have agreed to plan a whale watch excursion, but it’s kind of expensive ($85/person). And flying to the US from Europe for a multi-week vacation is already expensive enough. So we didn’t book in advance. But as soon as she agreed that we should try to take one of the tours, I started searching on-line.

Happily, I found Captain Carli’s Whale Watching. I was delighted to discover that his boat, Soulmate, was small (six passengers is its maximum), but had a head (potty). It was docked in Friday Harbor, which was only a short drive from where we were staying.

When I told the others about this small boat, they asked “how small?” They were hesitant upon hearing that it was only 25 feet long, but I told them I’d seen pictures and thought it would be perfect for us.

It was.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our tour wasn’t scheduled until about 3:00 PM, so we decided to visit the San Juan Island National Historical Park’s American Camp, which looked like it would be a good place for a picnic. It’s located at the southern tip of the island.

We really enjoy picnicking while traveling, and have enjoyed some pretty cool spots.

American Camp Picnic


Picnic Rock at American Camp


View from the other side of the hill.


After a lovely, relaxed meal, we headed back to Friday Harbor to meet up with Captain Carli.

Captain Carli’s Soulmate


Crowded competitor’s boat.


Crowded competitor’s boat.


The boat may look small, but it was the perfect size. And Captain Carli was fabulous. He pointed out other wildlife and chatted with us as we headed toward the spot where the whales had last been observed.

It wasn’t long at all before we started seeing Orcas. And more Orcas. At one point, you could see whales in practically every direction. Here are some of the images we managed to capture.

Annelies was very excited, especially after learning that lots of whales had been spotted that morning.


Yves enjoying the ride.


Mike opted to ride in the cabin, out of the sun and wind.














Orcas, with a snow-capped mountain in the background.


Happy ToadMama

Do I look happy? I was thrilled. There’s something magical about whale watching. I will never, ever get tired of doing that.

On the way back to the harbor, the captain detoured to show us an Eagle’s nest. He also showed us some Sea Lions.

Stellar Sea Lions


Stellar Sea Lions

It was a magical day in a fabulous place. The San Juan Islands may not be in a tropical location, but they are magnificent islands to visit.

We left San Juan Island the next morning, headed to Whidbey Island. I’ll tell you all about that in my next post.



TRIP Re-cap


Installment 1: In the Beginning (Friday, August 30 – Monday, Sept 2)

Installment 2: Portland Morning (Tuesday, Sept 3)

Installment 3: Exploring the City of Portland (morning of Tuesday, Sept 3)

Installment 4: Beyond Portland (afternoon of Tuesday, Sept 3)

Installment 5: Olympic Peninsula, Here We Come!

Installment 6: First Rain Forest Hike & Another Gorgeous Beach

Installment 7: Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park

Installment 8: Madison Creek Falls & Lake Crescent

Installment 9: Hoh Rain Forest

Installment 10: Rialto Beach

Installment 11: Getting to San Juan Island

Installment 12: Enjoying San Juan Island

10 Replies to “Pacific Northwest – Installment 13”

    1. Bob, the head was tucked into a little nook at the back of the cabin. Using it probably would have meant sending everyone out onto the back deck!

      The cost of the tour was in line with the other operators and, while a bit high, was worth every single penny. I will never, ever get tired of being on the water surrounded by Orcas.

  1. Awesome! I love orcas but have never been whale watching. I think it is good that you chose the smaller boat as you get a lot more personal service that way.

    I enjoy seeing pictures of the orcas in the wild as their dorsal fins are straight up as opposed to the slumped over like the ones in captivity (sea worlds and zoos make me sad)

    1. Brandy, I enjoyed seeing the Orcas at Sea World in Florida 20 years ago. But that was before our trips to WA and AK. Nothing compares to seeing them in the wild. Captain Christi was amazing. He even did stuff like maneuver the boat so we weren’t shooting pics into the sun. I’ve learned on our various excursions that smaller is better and am glad I could finally convince my friends.

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