Ferries, Monkey Wrenches, Friends
This morning we had to sort out what happens Sunday. Jerry & Michelle are very busy and held off our visit until Sunday afternoon the 21st. That’s no problem for us, we went north to Victoria for a few days. That’s proving to be big fun.
How to get from Victoria to Coupeville on Sunday afternoon? I had wanted to take the Anacortes ferry from Sidney through some of the San Juan Islands. It’s a three hour ferry ride that loads at 12:00 on Sunday. Ellen thought it better to retrace our steps returning to Port Angeles, driving to Port Townsend, then taking a ferry to Coupeville. Going via Anacortes would get us to Coupeville about an hour later. “No big deal”, I claimed. Ellen pointed out that the three hour ferry ride would cost more (correct) and we could both save money and arrive earlier going via Port Angeles. Some battles are not worth fighting.
The first ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles on Sunday showed first come first served. All reservations were booked. Oh crap, we’ll have to arrive early to get a slot on the ferry again. A one way ticket to Victoria for us was $134 where a round trip would have been $184. I wanted to know could I get the round trip price going back. I called Black Ball Ferries to see. The woman on the phone said, “Let me see if there are reservations available. There is one opening left on the 10:20 Sunday the 21st.” Because I mentioned round trip pricing, she was a bit confused. “When are you returning to Victoria?” After some back and forth, I made that reservation then asked about changing up my prior one way ticket. “We can do that. Just bring your paperwork when you arrive” Great.
Now what about the Port Townsend to Coupeville ferry? This is a different ferry service. Their website showed reservations available and I booked one. I entered 24 feet for my motorhome length and almost finished the transaction when I read “If your vehicle is longer than the stated length you will be denied entry and will have to wait in standby for the next ferry” Oops, I cancelled that reservation and made another for 28 feet. black Ball had measured our motorhome with the bicycle rack on back as 28 feet. Surprisingly, the fee for the additional 4 feet was the same.
We could not book a reservation getting to Victoria and had to get up (far too early IMO) to make the ferry. Now our ferry “problem” is no problem. We just have to drive from Port Angeles to Port Townsend in an hour and a half; easily doable.
It is important to make ferry reservations a few days ahead of travel dates and more than a few days for Saturday or Sunday travel. Day trippers can fill a ferry on the weekends.
We’re staying over another day, leaving Sunday. I paid for the third evening and with directions to a local market, we left for provisions. Site 12 is vacant and well park there when we return. It has a wonderful view of Victoria across the bay. The supermarket is just a few blocks down Lyall St. Parking I heard an awful and very loud scraping sound. Ellen and I looked at each other; Ellen’s expression “What did you do?”, mine “Oh Shit, this cannot be good”. Outside we saw that I had driven so close to the curb that the exhaust pipe had scraped. There was no damage done, but it sounded like the whole side of the rig had been scraped off! In the market we found drinking water (something we always do though hardly necessary) and steak and squash for the BBQ tomorrow evening.
Driving back we encountered FOG! The FOG grew progressively worse as we approached RV Heaven. Site 12, with that remarkable view is socked in. We can see water 20’ ahead and that’s it. The second thing Ellen said when I parked in site 12 after griping about the fog? “This doesn’t feel level, it goes downhill”, right. I’ll just get out and level the cement pad.
With the fog, should we go whale watching? I called Prince of Whales. They have a boat that went out but have not heard back about conditions. There’s a party of three who want to go out this afternoon. It takes five to send a boat out. If we chose to go they will put the boat out this afternoon, but will delay until 2PM. Is it foggy out in the islands? I won’t know until the skipper returns. OK, we’ll wait until 1PM then call back. We could take a taxi there, it should be quick. “Let me look that up, where are you staying” “Yes, it’s an eight minute drive, should be no problem.” I’ll call back. It’s already noon! Tempus fugit.
Stylish in her Survival Suit
We took a cab to victoria near The Empress. The fog lifted as we drove clearing entirely at the visitors center. We walked to Prince of Whales and signed up for the whale watching “tour”. There would be seven of us, the original three, us, and two more. We got together in the “fitting room” where we were fitted for maritime survival gear. The heavy duty jumpsuit fit over our clothes. It was extremely heavy, warm, and doubles as a floatation device. Clearly it was going to be cold on the water. Once fitted we marched to the waiting Zodiac, close by on the pier. The couple from London sat in the bow. Big mistake, we should have pushed to that seat. We sat 2nd row with the group of three behind us.
Behind “the Brits” & Headed Out
Whale Identification by Fluke
Motoring from the pier was typical, slow going getting out of the harbor. It was new to us and interesting to see the sights. Unusual for a tour like this, there were two “skippers’; one drove the other scouted. The “scout” came forward and did a meet and greet. He was personable with quick banter. Once outside the harbor, we hit the gas. The water wan not glass, but relatively calm. We made good time to our first sighting. There were juvenile humpback whales feeding on masses of krill at the surface. We saw perhaps five as we sat watching their back roll out of the water. They were shallow feeding swimming on their side in a tight circle with no fluke action. It was fun to see this many humpback whales together.
Upper Jaw, Mouth Open, Feeding on its Side
A bit later we pushed on. As we went we saw humpback spouts ahead and beside in the near distance. Each time the whale would surface, breath, and roll back to the surface. No fluke action, shallow feeding. The “scout” pointed out the krill on the surface.
In the shot above, you can see the baleen behind the upper jaw. I have no idea what the knob at the upper left is.
Going a bit further out we left the wind shadow and started beating into the wind and waves. Slosh, up, drop, bam, slosh, up, bam, drop bam. sometimes slosh slosh, sometimes bam, bam bam. Ellen and I stayed dry as the spray flew either side of the Zodiac. Eventually we stopped and spotted a number of humpbacks all around us. All surface feeding. Funny how they swim on their side when feeding. We saw one guy’s tongue as he swept sideways, mouth full open to suck in krill. Here a humpback, there one, over there another; some close most distant. I have a number of “just too late” shots of breaching and a few side-swimming shots. After a while the scout suggested we head off to find Orca. Orca? Sure, let’s go.
“Just Too Late”, A Very Common Occurrence
Just a Little Late This Time!
The driver was careful to go into the swell at an angle and to modulate the drive speed. Still this part of the trip was up, hesitate, WHAM up WHAM, up, sideways slide, spray, WHAM. Sometimes we were spared for five or six rollers before the sequence started again Wham, Wham. For me it was fun for the first twenty minutes. After a while it became a grinding sense of “enough of this, show me a whale”. We stopped and scanned the horizon for orca. Nothing. We went on, wham wham bam wham, stopped, scanned the horizon: nothing. Eventually we turned back. No Orca sighting today. Had we seen a pod, all the wham and bam would have been no problem. Recognizing that, it was ok with me as it was. I do which the driver had spent more time with the whales and turned the boat to allow all of us a better view (not just the Londoners).
On the way back we had a few more opportunities to see humpbacks feeding with an occasional breach before heading to a rock outcropping to see sea lions before returning. Off the open ocean the roller coaster wham bam calmed down. We were pounded for 20 minutes at a stretch.
All in all I was impressed with the number of humpback whales we saw. I was impressed by the boat handling demonstrated, but not by the awareness of what the passengers wanted out of the trip. This tour fell far short of my expectations. It was fun and informative, yes. It could have been much better. Then if we had seen Orca, my critique would be entirely different! My GPS registered a 52 mile “ride” past whale island and up the Straits of Juan de fuca (which I call “the straits of juan de fuca jou” and I’ll never forget the straits that way).
“Get Lucky at the Local” Read a Sign Inside
We ate at “The Local”, good food and good beer, and walked back home along the shore. My knee, the one my bike hit when I fell, has been acting up. It is no fun limping along the shore. Most steps are fine, some hurt a bit, then one will tweak the knee and hurt like hell. We walked slowly back to Li’l Beast.
Walking “home”, Otters on a Pier
We had a fun day; cold on the water, but fun. I found that sneakers are not enough to keep feet warm on the bay and that my knit hat was too loose to wear at speed. I was never cold with that maritime foul weather life saving jump suit. My feet and ears were none too happy though. We’re “home” now and thinking about tomorrow: Butchart gardens and a bakery are on the agenda, perhaps China Town too.
“home” for the Evening
I love being on the water. Being cold is miserable. How will I handle Sweden and Norway in January? Oh boy. I’ll dress warmly.
Ellen took a great video that needs a touch of editing. I’ll post it once we’re home in a week or so.
A bit of research shows that orca sightings in BC are best in August and September and that they go out to sea in November. Resident orca in BC eat salmon exclusively. Transients roam the coast and dine on mammals. Because salmon are not sensitive to orca vocalization, resident orca communicate as they hunt. It would be great to find resident orca “on the hunt”. Here’s another activity for next fall’s trip. The list is growing!