Done and (almost) Done

Yesterday concluded our final week at sea (and my twenty third revolution around the sun!) We awoke to a splendid sunrise from the south end of Jones Island looking out across San Juan Channel to San Juan Island, our final destination. But before I describe our homecoming, let me recap the week. After many many boat troubles the week before, we set out last Monday with two main broken generators, one measley gas generator and our faithful dinghy. Top speeds reach no more than three knots or so, rendering our choices for anchorage minimal. The first night we stayed in Fisherman’s Bay for creosote log tagging and more water sampling for the Friends of the San Juans. Tuesday, after our break through Cattle Pass we put-putted up the west side of San Juan Island, analyzing data, collecting more conductivity and temperature data from the south end of Haro Strait, and making our way to the infamous Sung Harbor for the night.Wednesday, again, was spent in Haro with the dinghy and a number of fishing boats. We had word that the killer whales were in the south sound so we made plans for Thursday to try and head south to catch them, but were pleasantly surprised to actually hear their vocalizations on our hydrophone mid-strait then caught sight of K and L Pods within a half and hour. We were able to spend an hour or so with the two pods near False Bay, but did not have the capabilities to follow them north-instead we sat on the bow following them with binoculars as they reached Turn Point and headed east. That evening we had Marla Holt on board. She’s beginning her post-doc research on the Southern Residents through NOAA and wanted to get a sense of our projects, equipment, methods, etc. because her project entails determining if killer whales actually call louder or longer to be heard above increased ambient noise levels. Marla accompanied us again on the water on Friday for a long day on the water with J Pod, porpoises, bald eagles and lots of birthday fun for Peggy. J Pod was quite active, foraging near False Bay, then moving slowly north throughout the day. We were able to spot a salmon in one whale’s mouth, as well as a small fish J39 caught…so they DO eat fish! On our way back to Snug Harbor we were pleasantly surprised by the pod’s return south and gave up all scientific goals and sat on the deck taking pictures and marveling as the pod traveled through the glare into the sunset. Upon our return to Snug, we were excited once more by the lucky pass-by of two bald eagles over our boat. That evening we had Peggy’s birthday dinner, manacotti and chocolate cake. Saturday we said our good-byes to both Marla and the beloved sea snake (the towed array) and set off for Jones Island for advisor meetings and a brief jaunt around the island at sunset. That does, of course, bring me to Sunday, the sunrise and our homecoming to Friday Harbor. After the sun broke the horizon we were immediately at work unpacking the boat of food, equipment and personal gear, followed by a deep clean of the cabins, galley, heads, bilges, decks, dinghy, walls, ceilings, closets, nooks, crannies and any other area of space within the 42×29 feet on the boat. Once in Friday Harbor we also spent most of the morning unloading and redistributing food, gear, etc. to our one-week temporary homes at the labs. Yesterday was also my birthday so once the cleaning was finished we all ate pizza on the dock, and I read birtday cards and note from friends and family elsewhere in the world. Exhausted, we unpacked, picked up some groceries, then made deliectible chocolate covered strawberries and bananas to be frozen and consumed after bowling in town and dinner at the Ale House…the only two establishments open of course. Emily, Erin and I had a blast giggling at our silly shoes and despeciable bowling capabilities, a yummy dinner we didn’t have to make, and of course, the chocolate covered treats. To top it off, I even received a call from my parents in Vietnam at the moment, busied by morning traffic, but lucky enough to find a payphone that accepted their calling card! As for now, talking with them makes me excited to finally get home and spend time with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while, but also makes the realization that Beam Reach is nearing it’s end. Our time on the water will be left unmatched by most opportunities I will most likely have in the future and I’m quite thankful for the opportunity to observe killer whales in such a beautiful place! This week will be dedicated to catching up on some much needed sleep, getting back into my running shoes, researching a bit more into my topic and furiously finishing up data analysis and the final paper and presenation. In fact…that’s what I should be working on right now…


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