With our departure time set at 10AM in order to catch a ride south on the outgoing tide, we were able to enjoy a peaceful morning in Reid Harbor. We woke to an early sunrise and a chorus of birds. The night before, those who stayed up late were rewarded with a magnificent starscape, as the Milky Way stretched across the dark sky of Reid Harbor. We pulled our anchors, and left the tranquility of Stuart Island headed toward Canadian waters.
We were blessed with another day of fantastic weather. Blue skies, sunshine and calm seas greeted us in Speiden Channel. A few wispy clouds flew high overhead, and a light breeze stirred the trees on shore. As we neared Henry Island, we drew in closer to shore in order to take a look at a Cormorant nesting site on the cliffs. Because this area was carved out by glaciers, the channels are very deep and drop off dramatically close to shore allowing us to maneuver easily near the shoreline. Just as we were about to slow down and admire the Cormorants, we were surprised by a pod of Orca whales directly in front of us! We quickly turned offshore to give them space to fish, and then we got to sit back and watch the show.
The Orca were spread out along the west side of San Juan Island and traveling north in small groups. Most likely, these were the Southern Resident Orca whales: probably parts of J pod and possibly L pod traveling with them. At least 30 swam past us! They were all around and it was challenging to stay out of their way, so we cut our motors and drifted along with the ebbing tide. Watching them surface, seeing the black dorsal fins slice through the water and hearing their blows, it was magical! This community of Orcas is currently considered an endangered species; only 78 of them remain. They eat mostly Chinook salmon and are very intelligent and social animals. It was a pleasure to witness them in their home waters, fishing the Haro Straight for salmon and traveling together.
We arrived in Victoria, BC in the early afternoon, cleared customs, and settled into the inner harbor of the City. We are right in the heart of downtown, directly across from the Empress Hotel. The harbor is alive with activity. Canada is celebrating its 150th Birthday and knows how to throw a party! The harbor hosted war canoe races to honor the native peoples of the area. We were able to watch them practice. There is music, art and food vendors, street performers and much more. We had everyone over to Hele Mai for drinks and appetizers. And then, most of the group headed out to dinner together to Il Terrazzo, a neat Italian restaurant a bit off the beaten path.
Now we are back at the docks enjoying a glorious sunset. We are sitting on the top decks of our boats and watching the sky turn from golden and peachy to a brilliant pink and then fade to dusky purple. It is a quarter to 10pm and it is still light out. The city is still bustling with life too, but we’ve had a long day and most of us are heading to bed early tonight. There is still much to see and do here in Victoria, and luckily we have another full day to spend exploring. Life is good.