By Mick on October 01, 2022

Whale Tale

On a crisp September morning Brock Zearfoss and Spencer Bayston, along with several of our Be an Outlaw members, met up at the Skyline Marina in Anacortes, Washington. This wasn’t just a meet and great appearance at a gas station; we were all there to hop on a whale-watching boat with Outer Island Excursions’ Captain Drew and his crew of 2 naturalists to head out into the Puget Sound in search of Orcas and Whales.

After a brief safety briefing, we cast off from the dock and were on our way. The boat was a 45’ aluminum boat with two big outboard motors. During the Coast Guard certification, they got the boat up to a full 40 knots. Captain Drew didn’t have it up that fast for our group, but we were certainly going fast.

Out into the Puget Sound, we sailed, with the morning sun to our back and the shores of the San Juan islands off our bow. In between Shaw, Lopez, and Orcas Island we went; westward into the Salish Sea. 

The whale-watching boats in the area — though independently owned — work together broadcasting their locations and observations over radio to each other. In a business that guarantees that you will see a whale, it is in their collective best interest to do so.

PXL_20220831_171005434But, there is another reason.

Having a naturalist on board is a requirement for whale-watching vessels in the Salish Sea under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. This helps ensure that the captains of these vessels obey rules in regard to the distance between the boat and the whale pods, and several other requirements. It is also an opportunity.

Several years ago a group of naturalists had tagged an Orca with a radio locator, just as they had for decades. But this time the subdermal transmitter caused an infection, and the Orca ended up dying. So they began to track the whales and Orcas through observation. 

All of the naturalists in the area collaborate to report and track the various pods of whales by keeping detailed notes and pictures of sightings. These pictures are printed out and kept in thick three-ringed binders aboard every ship.

About 30 minutes into our trip the radio chatter begins to pick up, and Captain Drew slows the boat. Both of our naturalists grabbed their binoculars and began to scan the water in front of us. There was a pod of seven Orcas off of our port bow. 


The next hour or so was a game of hide and go seek. The Orcas would rise out of the water and disappear for ten minutes at a time. It was mesmerizing. Set against the sparkling blue waters of the Salish Sea with the peninsula of Victoria, B.C. in the background, it was spectacular.

The area became crowded with other whale-watching boats, so we decided to head into Friday Harbor for some lunch.

Friday Harbor is a bustling little fishing village and home to San Juan Island’s ferry terminal. We secured berthing for a bit and walked up the hill for lunch, and ice cream. With our bellies full we headed back down to the dock to head back into Anacortes.

PXL_20220831_174213067This was the first of this sort of outing we’ve done, and it was such a great time. Being able to get away from the track and just hang out is fun for the drivers, and really provides a unique opportunity for fans to see them out of their firesuits and just being people.

A special thanks to Brock Zearfoss and Spencer Bayston for joining us. And of course, thank you to our members who joined us.

We can’t wait to bring you more of these opportunities.

Published by Mick October 1, 2022