Totally Tubular

I guess “tubular” is how you would describe this seaweed.  I was clearing out my iPhone of tons of photos last night and found these photos that I took earlier this month at Lime Kiln Park in the San Juan Islands.  This seaweed was floating everywhere out there and I was kind of fascinated by it.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

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Action!

We’ve all become pretty accustomed to seeing the small yellow signs that frequently dot Cape Ann saying “Crew”….indicating that a movie is being filmed somewhere in the vicinity.

Yesterday, after seeing a couple of those signs on my ride home through Rockport, I happened upon this scene on Main Street.

I have no idea what they are filming, but it reminded me of back when downtown Rockport was turned into Sitka, Alaska for the Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds film, The Proposal.

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Image from HubPages

Treasures

A couple of summers ago my boys started making a point to place spare change (if there is really such a thing) in a special little spot in a brick chimney in Rockport.  Every once in a while they would happen by and find a nickel or a quarter there, presumably, for the taking.  They would always replace it with something of their own….or, if they didn’t have anything to leave, they would ask me to take them back later in the day to make their “deposit.”   I have no idea if this is a thing or not…but, they both love/d the game.  Thatch has kind of outgrown it, but Finn still loves to play.  The other day he asked me to stop and said he was going to put in the $2 that he had in his pocket.   I told him that was too much and wasn’t as subtle.  I gave him some change…but, when I looked back I saw that he had left one of his dollar bills as well.  He absolutely loves the leaving more than the taking.

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Gloucester Community Safety Day is Happening Now!

Head on down to Harbor Loop in Gloucester to help support our first responders, policemen, firemen, and emergency personnel.  Sponsored by the Gloucester Police Department, Gloucester Fire Department, and the city of Gloucester, this event helps to raise money and awareness of how to keep our kids and community safe. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!  Admission is free, but they happily except donations!

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Whale Ahead!

With lots of phenomenal whale sightings this week, I thought we’d bring you one more.  This gorgeous new whale sculpture has been placed in Rockport’s Millbrook Meadow.  This area of the park is under construction right now, but I will report back with the artist’s name, etc. when I am able.

Millbrook Meadow is one of my very favorite places in Rockport and amazing recent changes by the Millbrook Meadow Conservancy have made this special place even more treasured.

This magical four-acre park is nestled in downtown Rockport, just a stone’s throw from Front Beach. Nearly half of it is Mill Pond — a pristine wonderland of aquatic plants, with turtles, eels, ducks, birds, otters, beavers, and fish.

The Meadow comprises the other half, an open space with a beautiful winding brook, a frog pond and delightful stone bridges. It’s a special place for play and relaxation. And a favorite spot for fairs and seasonal festivals.

Since 1938 volunteers have kept it beautiful for everyone. We are now in the midst of a long overdue, major restoration of this green gem for our community.

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“In Search of Orcas” Day #4

Another trip to the orcas on a much faster zodiac today. After suiting everyone up with matching foul weather gear….even though it was close to 80 degrees today, we took off for our “Adventure Whale Watch.”  We landed all the way up in Canadian waters, but saw a family of orcas, one humpback, tons of seals, and two eagles. The Kestrel was such a fun way to race through the San Juan Islands. With only 20 passengers and high speeds, we sped through the islands for four hours.

The islands are really, truly some of the most special landscape I have ever seen. After returning to Friday Harbor, Thatch and I spent the afternoon driving around the island in our Jeep to visit the Lavender Farm and Alpaca Farm. We also stopped again at Lime Kiln Park to see if we could view whales from land, but didn’t see any.  Thatch dipped his toes in the ocean though and snagged a piece of the super strange seaweed that floats around the Salish Sea.  It’s super tubular and odd….I’ve never seen anything like it (see the photo below).

The sun doesn’t set until 9:15….which makes for perfect late dinners on the harbor or reading on our deck.  Traveling with a 12 year-old means not finding live music and having a few cocktails to end the day…. but, I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

“In Search of Orcas” Day #3

After a nice night sleep Thatch and I walked through downtown Friday Harbor to Susie’s Mopeds to pick up our little red Scoot Coupe.  After a thorough training and debriefing of the rules of the road we drove off the lot and off to grab a quick coffee, smoothie, and breakfast on the waterfront.  Full bellies and some caffeine down, we set off for our three-hour trip around San Juan Island.  The scoot coupe is super fun to drive and easily did the 25-35 mile speed limit that encompasses most of the island.  We stopped along the way at lots of viewing areas including Cattle Point Light House, Driftwood Beach, False Harbor, Lime Kiln Point Park, and more.  We drove by the beautiful Lavender Farm, Alpaca Farm, and Sculpture Garden because we had a boat to catch….but, we are excited to go to all three of those places in our Jeep tomorrow.

At 1:30 we boarded our second whale watch.  This time with San Juan Excursions on board the Odyssey.  It had just started to rain and was significantly colder than the day before.  In addition, reports were that the group of resident orcas that had magically returned after a two-month absence… just in time for our arrival the day before…. had already left the area again.  None of the boats had reported seeing them….or the transient Bigg’s Orcas that are found on 90% of the trips.  We didn’t have high hopes of seeing whales, but were still keenly aware of how lucky we were to have had such a magnificent trip the day before….so our spirits were high.

On this trip we headed north towards Waldron Island.  It wasn’t long before we saw a dozen or so bald eagles….so cool….and several seals.  Those sightings and the breathtaking scenery that literally surrounds you in the midst of these islands would have been enough to have satisfied us on that trip,  but soon enough we came upon a family of Bigg’s Orcas.  Bigg’s are one of the species that feed upon porpoises and whales….as opposed to the salmon feeding orcas we had seen the day before. The group consisted of a male (the father), a mother, her teenage off-spring, and her newest baby girl.  The baby orca breached a few times and they all traveled between us and the coast for about an hour before we needed to head back.  At times they were so close to the shore it seemed like someone on land could have almost touched them.

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been regretting my decision to bring my better quality camera gear on this trip, but we will anxiously await the naturalists’ photos.  A fantastic bonus of taking a trip through this organization is that they share their photos via email for no charge.

Yesterday I wrote about our sunset trip with those resident orcas that had left the area for so long.  It is not at all lost on me how special it is that those whales returned to the area on Thursday, we were able to secure a spot on a sunset whale watch on Friday seeing SO many of them (after missing an afternoon whale watch due to a canceled ferry….. a whale watch that just so happen didn’t encounter those whales), and that those whales seem to have already disappeared again.    Here is the whale blog report written by one of the naturalists on board the Sea Lion vessel about our sunset cruise with those whales.  We have been following that blog report since May and it was really special to finally experience a trip with them….especially such a special trip!

After some downtime back at our vacation rental, we went downtown and had dinner at the Blue Water Bar and Grill overlooking the insanely cute Friday Harbor.  Thatch had his “go to” Ahi Tuna and I had fish tacos.  Ice cream across the street….where two small cones added up to only $7.50 (when was the last time two ice creams only cost you that?)…wrapped up our night and by 10:00 we were tucked into bed.

“In Search of Orcas” Day #2

“In Search of Orcas Day #2”.  Phew Success…but we’ll get back to that.  After a looong day of travel and exploring on Friday, we slept late on Saturday and then grabbed the best yogurt/granola parfaits, mango smoothies, and coffee at a little coffee bar before driving to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal.  Our Jeep was second in line to board the 11:55 ferry….which, unfortunately, got cancelled at 11:50. Sigh.  Fortunately, they made room for all of those vehicles and passengers on the 2:00 ferry….bumping the 2:00 peeps to the 4:00.  I’m not sure if that happens frequently or not.  Bygones.  The trip from Anacortes to Friday Harbor was beautiful.  It was hard to not look at the islands homes and wonder who lives there…and what their days are like living on the coastlines of the San Juan Islands.

We pulled into the breathtaking Port of Friday Harbor (which may just be the cutest little harbor town I have ever had the pleasure of visiting!) at 3:30 and disembarked the ferry. Our home rental was a quick two-minute drive from the terminal and we unloaded our luggage quickly so that we get back down to catch our 5:30 whale watch.  We had, in fact, booked an extra whale watch earlier in the day….just in case.  Actually, I read on the San Juan Safari Facebook page that the resident orcas (as opposed to the transient orcas) hadn’t been seen in the area since May and they had just come back on Thursday.  So, we wanted to seize the moment.

After a quick orientation with the awesome crew, we boarded the Sea Lion and headed south in search of that group.  We learned that there are only 76 of that particular species of resident orcas left in the world.  This type of orca only eats salmon….and the salmon is being both over fished and dying of toxins and pollutions.  We also learned that for the first time in four years there were two successful calf births.  Unfortunately, they also shared that all too often the mothers are having babies but because they have toxins in their bodies…they also have toxins in their milk…so the babies die when nursing.  One mother was seen pushing her deceased calf around the waters for 17 days until the baby broke apart enough that she couldn’t push it any longer. Heartbreaking.

In this part of the Salish Sea there are the resident orcas (that I have just been talking about) and then the transient Bigg’s Orcas…named after Michael Biggs who first came up with a way to keep track of and identify the orcas.   With the resident orcas back in the area, whale watching vessels now have the option to chose which pods to try to find.  Our captain and crew decided to look for the “residents” …..as it is so special they have returned.

After about 45 minutes we saw blows in the distance.  Because these whales are so endangered the rules around viewing them are incredibly strict.  Boats are to keep 300 yards away.   That being the case, our interactions with these special creatures weren’t super close….but they were beyond special.  Of the 76 surviving whales, I’d say that we easily saw 30 of them.  At times we could see blows in every direction.  Some whales were incredibly active….splashing and most likely feeding.  Other whales were simply cruising and would come and go quickly.

Our time with these whales was amazing.  My photos absolutely don’t do our visit justice but it was a trip that Thatcher and I will never forget.

After returning to port, we walked through town and stopped for dinner at the San Juan Brewing Company.  We got back to our rental at 10:00, took a last look out over the harbor, and settled in for the night.

We have another busy day planned tomorrow and we can’t wait to see what it brings!

 

“In Search of Orcas” Day #1

We woke up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning to begin Thatcher’s birthday trip by catching a 6:00 am flight on Alaska Air. With a 6 hour flight to Seattle, a pit stop at the car rental company (where they upgraded us to a sweet Jeep at no cost for the birthday boy), a ferry ride from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island, and then a BEAUTIFUL ride up the length of the island…with some stops at Deception Pass, the Cap Sante Marina, and the seaport town of Anacortes…. our vacation has already been amazing.  I surprised Thatch with a trip to the San Juan Islands north of Seattle as a birthday gift back in May….for lots of different reasons (which you can read about here if you’re so inclined).  We’ve been eagerly anticipating yesterday ever since!  

I am aware that there is a chance that we could actually NOT encounter orcas this week despite looking long and hard for a vacation spot with best likelihood…and while I’ll secretly be devastated….Thatch has already made it all ok by saying, “this vacation has already been so special.” I’ve already seen a side of him that I don’t always get to see at home as we race from rink to rink, lament about homework and laundry, and deal with the day to day blur of activities.  The two of us need this time together.  

So, while the motivation for booking this special trip was to see orca whales, I’m positive there will be many other gifts along the way.

As I type this he’s looking out our balcony to the islands in the distance with binoculars trying to find whales. Tomorrow (or “today” ….as you’re reading it) we’re off for four days in Friday Harbor….where the real games begin.  Fingers crossed. 

 

Spinning

For a variety of reasons, my typical Fiesta spent on my paddle board underneath the Greasy Pole was not to be had this year.  In fact, my time spent at Fiesta was much more fleeting than usual, but I did get down there long enough to get nauseous watching Thatch and Finn brave some rides that made me more than a bit nervous.

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