One last week at sea to go…

As October weather sets in (and really, who doesn’t just LOVE October) we are all preparing for our final week at sea. Last week was a mixed bag of ups and downs. We had three days with J Pod off the west side of San Juan Island in Haro Strait, two days of which were so balmy if I didn’t know any better I would have guessed it was July…in fact, it was SO warm we were wearing shorts and a few even jumped in for a swim! It was great to be able to collect quality data for each member of the group so at least everyone has something to work with coming into the final weeks of collection and analysis. I’ve been working to understand the distinction of whistles and have had the help of a few experts in the field-bottom line-its challenging for even the best in the field. Go figure I’d get myself into something like that 🙂 To get a better sense of the groups we’re watching I’ve also tried my hand at photo identification-it’s extremely rewarding to see a fin and saddle patch out on the water and recognize it from the computer the day before. Other highlights from the week include motoring at night into a small harbor on the south end of Lopez Island, each of us standing lookout for logs and kelp and bouys and whatnot. Also, a few of us enjoyed taking a hike out to Turn Point on Stuart Island and checking out the lighthouse, the magnificent view from Lover’s Leap (and a Minke sighting!), plus thorough enjoyment of the fall foliage, a little pickup basketball, cute kittens and lots and lots of laughs. While there were many highlights, the boat continues to be a downside to many of our days. The electic motor is excellent for acoustic recordings but it runs for only about an hour on battery power therefore it isn’t safe for us to use it for long before we need to conserve for docking and other such activities. Further, the generator had problems on three of the seven days, first it would only start with extreme difficulty, then it wouldn’t start at all, and finally the starter cord broke so there wasn’t even a chance to start it at all. Luckily on Sunday we had nasty weather which means wind and we were able to sail most of the way from Jones Island back to Friday Harbor-at one point we even had the boat flying at a whopping 9 knots, three or four times faster than any other day that week. The only trouble was that once we tried to bring the boat back to the dock the batteries died and we had no propulsion and the wind was blowing us onto the rocks. Thankfully, our team was able to quickly extend docklines and haul the boat into the dock, fighting wind and lack of maneuverability the whole way. Now that we have all showered and checked in with the “real world” we’re getting ready to head out for one last hoorah…our fingers are crossed for killer whales, sunny skies, wind, and a flawless boat…but really, that’s quite a lot to ask so we’ll be keeping our hopes up for even just one. Plus…next week is Peggy’s birthday, Leslie’s birthday and my birthday…how much more fun could we ask for!?!


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