Whales and Sailing on the Gato Verde

After cleaning and getting everything in order while at Friday Harbor we had the rare chance to sleep in the next morning before taking off again. Once we were back on the water we were lucky enough to finish our day with learning a new form of sailing which involved the screecher sail. aptain Todd is great teacher for sailing, and on Monday we were out on the west coast of San Juan Island clinging to the side of the boat in 20 knot winds learning how to deploy the mainsail and the jib. This was a perfect first day back on the boat, because it had a little bit of everything. We started the day with some amazing sailing in 2-4 foot waves; which didn’t agree with everyone on the boat unfortunately. After sailing for a few hours we found the whales, and the wind died enough to allow for the hydrophones to be deployed. Two sets of high quality recordings were made while we were surrounded by the whales, and the the amount of data we have is slowly getting bigger each day. We ended our night in Prevost Harbor, which gave everyone a chance to take a walk and stretch their legs. On the way to Prevost 5 or 6 Dall’s Porpoises began to bow ride on the boat, and they stayed there long enough for us to get some pictures of them underwater. This day was timed perfectly for the birthday of our professor Val, and on top of everything else that happened we celebrated his birthday with a delicious coffee cake after another great dinner.

Tuesday brought another great day on the water. The Captain continued our boating education with a lecture on the tides in the Salish Sea. Tides are very important for navigating any type of boat, however the tides throughout the Salish Sea are especially strong, and they can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. After our tide lecture we managed to find the whales again, and we stayed with them for most of the day. At first they were resting, which means they move slowly in a close group, and they don’t produce many sounds for us to record. This changed by the end of the day when the whales woke up from their nap, and we had a front row seat to watch them breaching, spyhopping, and socializing in general. Seeing the whales foraging and playing was a great way to end the day, and we then headed back to Prevost Harbor for a journal club discussion with an amazing sunset as the background.

Wednesday was definitely one of the best days we have had with the whales so far. We followed 30 or 40 whales, which is almost half of the entire southern resident population, while they were resting, and when they woke up it was amazing. We witnessed close to 30 breaches, countless tail slaps, and the whales continued to “play” for over an hour. I will remember this day forever and we have some great pictures to help share the experience.

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