Sat. Aug. 22, 2015:
Seattle to Friday Harbour, San Juan Islands:
Despite the early bed time, and the west coast time zone, the 6:15am wake-up felt awful. I honestly thought that when Brent kissed my forehead, that he was saying goodbye because he was off to a meeting at work- not waking me up so we can catch a ferry to the San Juan Islands. It was a slow walk to the ferry terminal as we were lugging all our bags. Not helping matters were my legs, my thighs were “dead, dead, DEAD” if I may quote myself. We got to the terminal right on time, however there was a bottleneck because two ferries were boarding at once. Good thing we had gone ahead of time to get our tickets, and also not shown up the recommended 45 minutes before boarding- 5 minutes was all we needed.
This was our first outing on the water, we were psyched about the distant possibility of seeing a whale (or some other aquatic life). In the harbor we had seen a jellyfish. The brochure was giving me a sense of hope. We sucked it up and sat on the upper open deck. We sat there, faciong backwards staring at the Seattle skyline. Periodically we would glare at the stragglers running late. About 10 minutes in and we started to rethink our plan. Rather than give up and go inside we layered up. The trouble was again my legs, this time it was because I was wearing cropped pants. My calves were uncovered and I had no way of covering them without looking ridiculous. I pulled my hood up close over my face and tried not to think about it. I also deeply regretted bringing my t-shirt thick sweater instead of any other sweater.
I started to come apart at the seams quickly. I’d be sitting there shivering, and periodically I would mistake kelp for sealife. The shimmering of the waves was also playing tricks on my eyes. All I could do was sit there and stare at the receding ocean, trying my best not to think of how cold I was. We saw some porpoises (confirmed by people with binoculars) and seals. At one point someone noticed Brent’s hat and commented that because we are Canadians we must be used to the cold. Hah, not a chance I thought. Eventually the sun came up. Whenever the boat slowed down it was really quite warm, but then as soon as we got going the winds picked up and it got cold again. Somewhere in all this we finished off the Oreos, I was very sad when I reached in to get one and was grasping at nothing. It had been helping distract me. In the end, with all the shivering and cold, I wound up with a terrible sunburn on my face.
We stayed on the same boat after we arrived at Friday Harbour. We had booked a whale watching tour. I only found relief from the cold when we got nearer to where the orcas had been spotted, the boat finally slowed down to a comfortable speed. On the way we had a few more false sightings. Eventually the boat stopped and everyone rushed to one side, for seemingly no reason. There was nothing there. Then a few of us rushed to the other side, still nothing. Brent called me back, there were orcas! I ran back and stopped short. What the hell was everyone looking at? There were just a few boats off in the distance. I stared and stared and saw nothing. What was everyone seeing that I was missing?
Then off in the distance near the boats I saw a tiny little black triangle. And then another. I was starting to rethink this whole whale-watching business. All this commotion and excitement over a few black triangles? Had the world gone mad? There was one boat really close to the pod, turns out it was a research crew. We had to stay further away as per regulations.
Eventually we did get a little bit closer and then things finally got interesting. You could see a little more than triangles. And the orcas became more active. They were surfacing for air and spraying water in the air. Then for a while nothing happened. They had gone under and the suspense was killing me. Would we still see them again? They resurfaced further along the course, assuaging my fears. We followed the pod up the coast.
Soon the orcas encountered a group of kayakers who had moved to the side, hugging the coast, to let the orcas pass. The whale at the front of the group did a little spyhop to assess the situation. It was hilarious to watch as the orcas passed around the kayakers. This seemed to have warmed the pod up. Soon we saw a few more spyhops, a few tail slaps and even a sideways roll (“breach” if you want to get technical). It was clear now that this was a rather large group, and in it there was even a baby. They were growing on me, they were so cute. We had also inadvertently become part of a convoy of other whale-watching boats, the research boat and fisheries and wildlife boats (making sure no one gets too close). The only other sealife we saw were a few salmon jumping out of the water.
On the boatride back I sat downstairs on the covered deck, where I promptly fell asleep. I was so tired and my face was so sunburnt. I did not put on sunscreen because the last thing I wanted was sunscreen in eyes coupled with being freezing cold. The mango Fanta was delicious and made me feel better. It tasted like Starbursts.
When we checked into the hotel it turned out the island was really busy and it was a good thing we had booked in advance. We walked to the liquor store across the street. I only found one good drink, a cooler called Steeltown. We dropped off our drinks at the hotel and walked to the Whale Museum. On the way we passed a sign for the restaurant The Bluff. I had found it earlier when looking for restaurant recommendations but we could not find it on the map. The Whale Museum was pretty awesome. They had a lot of whale bones and a ton of information about the orcas we had seen when whale-watching. We also found out the best spots to whale-watch from the island. That cemented our plans for the next day: we would go to two parks known as good whale-watching spots. The one thing I did not expect to see at the Whale Museum was preserved specimens. They had a dolphin brain, a whale brain, a human brain and additionally a porpoise fetus.
Before heading to lunch, we followed a sign I had seen earlier to the marina. We were on a mission to find the friendly harbour seal who resides in the marina. We passed a fresh fish stand and I could not resist going in and browsing. I ended up buying a small baguette and some crab dip for later. While I was in there Brent had seen the seal surface but had lost track of it among the boats. We walked to the end of the marina in hopes of getting a better view. From there we saw the seal back by the fish shop! He had never left! From there it was hard to see him, so we walked to one of the docks on the side. We saw him briefly but he disappeared. As we were leaving I noticed a dock leading under the main one, back to the fish shop. There was a sink where people could clean off freshly caught fish and sure enough the seal was hanging around there. In total there were 3 seals playing in the water. Brent said hi to one, and the seal snorted, slapped the water and swam away.
We had a late lunch/early dinner at The Bluff. The restaurant lived up to its name, it was indeed on a bluff and overlooking the marina and the other islands could be seen off in the distance. It took us a while to decide on what to order, but finally we settled on: salmon tacos and chips with salsa for Brent. I opted for the clam and salmon chowder and crabcakes. The chowder and the tacos may very well be the best I’ve ever had. I had ordered a caipirinha, the special summer cocktail. Only after continuing to look at the menu did I notice that they had a rosé wine from Washington State. We ended up getting a second round of drinks so it all worked out in the end.
The grocery store selection was subpar. There were no wacky flavours of Oreos and Brent vetoed coconut Chips Ahoy. When looking up the highest rated beers for Washington State, Mike’s Hard Cherry Lemonade had appeared on the list so we grabbed one of those in addition to M&Ms and Keebler cookies. As we walked back we snacked on a white chocolate Reese cup. It was not a good combination, it was off-balanced and you need the stronger flavour of regular chocolate to make it work. We also realized that given the amount of drinks back at the hotel, chips might be a good idea. The selection at the pharmacy sucked, Brent tried the convenience store across the street. He brought back spicy nacho Doritos and double-ridge Ruffles.
I was so tired and sunbaked. All I could do was sit in the Jacuzzi tub, eating cookies and drinking the cherry lemonade. The one downside to a Jacuzzi bath versus a regular is that when eating cookies, the crumbs circulate instead of sinking to the bottom. After a while I started getting really annoyed. The jets were uneven, they were higher on one side of the tub. The tap was also crooked. I had to get out of there. The Keebler cookies were not good, they were a crappy version of rainbow Chips Ahoy. The crab dip was more dip than crab. Pretty soon I had eaten all the crab pieces and was left with a sour cream dip and a baguette. As if that were not enough, the spicy Doritos just tasted like regular Doritos. Netflix made everything better. Except my sunburn, my face was so red and tight.