We have made it here to Ketchikan, where we are docked outside Juneau in Auk Bay. It has been a thrilling and incomparable nine days on the water.
Today Aquila and Navigator enjoyed the show of a lifetime. As we turned up Stephens Passage from Tracy Arm there were more whale sightings; a few blows off deceptions bow and a group of whales sighted to our starboard in the proximity of a whale watching boat. Through our binoculars we see several whales simultaneously blowing, and diving. Staging for bubble feeding? Deception continues our route to Juneau to ensure the fleet has slips for the evening, and stage for fueling and supporting boats as they come in. Aquila and Navigator hang back. They are bringing up the tail of the fleet and have come across something they feel is worth stopping for. They notify us over the radio that they will see us at the docks later.
Aquila has had several remarkable whale sightings on this trip. When they meet us later aboard Deception, where we gathered for a last drink together and to review the check-out procedures, they share their pictures from this latest encounter and we all whoop with excitement. Marybeth looks like she might still have tears in her eyes from the experience, and who wouldn’t?
They share that they found themselves with a number of whales surfacing in their vicinity and had slowed, then idled their engines eventually falling behind the fleet. They had seen bubbles surfacing in the distance a few hundred meters. Convinced they were witnessing bubble feeding – the cooperative feeding behavior that humpbacks are known to engage in just a few rare places in the world – they announced their sighting to the fleet ahead and to let them know that they were content to meet them later at the docks. Marybeth describes to us that, as they were watching for whales to resurface, a flock of birds lifted from their place on the surface of the water further off in the vicinity of the feeding, circling and heading in the direction of Aquila and Navigator. By then the boats had cut their engines, and as they stood on the bow, suddenly bubbles surface adjacent to their starboard side. Karen tries to describe the scale of the bubbles coming up adjacent to the boat and the mix of elation and then panic as close to a six whales surface, jaws agape next to the boat. The bubble feeding had moved from off a few hundred yards, to directly on their starboard side! Whales underneath the boat! A synchronized water ballet of behemoths… accompanied by fish jumping! Birds swooping!
What a finish to this trip.
It seems the past nine days have been filled with one long experience of a lifetime. Perhaps the nicest surprise to the experience has been the opportunity to share it with so many new friends. Rafting our fleet has felt like creating our own neighborhood of friends with backyard barbeques and dessert and music on the back decks.
We’ll miss you all: Jack and Annette who have been sailing on Telita alongside Deception’s crew since Bellingham, and our new friends that joined us in Ketchikan; Bonnie, Jan, Erica and Tracy aboard Navigator, Aquila’s crew Marybeth and Ed, Karen and Bob. Chris, Darcy, Mackenzie, Jackson, Kurt and Zachary aboard Ajax, and of course David and Liz on Eldean. It’s been a joy to share this experience with all of you.
Until next time, Deception standing by.