If there?s a whale breaching on the protected waters of the San Juan Islands, there?s a good chance a passenger on Mystic Sea Charters? 100-foot vessel will see the splashy spectacle. The company?s five- to six-hour tours have an impressive track record when it comes to spotting the gargantuan mammals, introducing tour-goers to different species of whale up to 99% of the time. Onboard the ship, a naturalist divulges facts about ocean life as passengers watch for whales from the heated cabin or from the deck, which has 4-foot railings so guests can hold on if whales start singing and dancing to the hit song ?Rock the Boat.? The company promises that voyagers will see at least one gray, orca, humpback, or minke whale, depending on the season. If not, they?ll receive a follow-up whale-watching tour for free.
For the Hanke family, it seems like Puget Sound Express has always been part of their lives. Raised in the Puget Sound his entire life, Pete Hanke honed his seafaring abilities alongside his father, Pete Sr. Together, the two started leading weeklong sailing adventures across the Pacific Northwest in 1981 and eventually started whale tours. Today, the business still remains a family affair, with grandparents, children, and grandchildren working side by side. Sherri Hanke, Pete?s wife, feels this is the company's biggest feature. "We have three generations of captains, so there is a wealth of knowledge there."
In addition to their family members, Puget Sound Express's crew is well acquainted with the area's 88 resident killer whales, which naturalists can identify based on their markings and slick leather jackets. Tours also pass into the habitats of other wildlife, often spotting humpbacks, sea birds, and bald eagles. The Hankes' most popular voyage tours the San Juan Islands, pausing at the fishing village of Friday Harbor. According to Sherri, this region is well known for its weather. "We refer to it as the Blue Hole, because it is like this circle of sunlight. It could be raining in Seattle and extremely sunny here."
The Hankes take adventure-seekers out on the M.V. Glacier Spirit, a modern, 70-seat vessel with open-air viewing decks and large windows allowing sightseers unencumbered views. Additionally, an on-board hydrophone listens in on whales' vocalizations to see which songs are currently stuck in their heads.
A father-son team, Dickson Flyfishing guides and teaches fly-fishing to all levels of anglers on Olympic Peninsula waters, Puget Sound rivers, and many eastern Washington rivers. Conscious of their environmental impact, they lead eco-rafting trips throughout the year on the Skagit, Sauk, and Queets Rivers, as well as fishing trips for steelhead, cutthroat trout, and salmon with scales made of gold. More adventurous clients can embark on winter fly-fishing trips for tarpon on the flats of the Caribbean or three-day campouts on the Grande Ronde River. Additionally, scenic rafting tours bring visitors up close to wildlife such as eagles. Dickson Flyfishing also runs a virtual fly shop, where they sell their own line of equipment.