When the producers of Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home were casting for the roles of coastal marine patrollers, they didn't look to the scores of hopeful actors in Hollywood, opting instead to find boating professionals with real experience. Their search led them to Orcas Island Eclipse Charters founders Dan and Denise Wilk, whose extensive knowledge of aquatic wildlife made them a serendipitous choice for sharing the camera with Hollywood's most famous orca.
Aboard their 56-foot vessel, Dan and Denise continue to share the passion that led them to the big screen in the first place. Their enthusiasm shines through to passengers while they guide tours into the habitats of killer whales and harbor seals. Occasionally, expert guides direct passengers to look up from the water to spot deer on nearby land or bald eagles soaring through the sky above. When asked how they happen upon so many natural specimens on their trips, Dan and Denise would tell you they don't leave their tours up to chance, coordinating excursions with a whale-watching service that pinpoints where the underwater mammals are feeding.
For more than 30 years, Coastal Pacific Aviation has taught altitudinal abecedarians the methods of airliner helming. A licensed flight instructor will escort you through a unique 30-minute introductory tutorial to replicate the operational motions of a jumbo jet with greater accuracy than pointing a fan at your face while sprawling on a table Superman-style. Aerial coxswains maintain control of the simulation from beginning to end as they settle into the captain’s chair of a Boeing 747 simulator concordant with the ones used to prime pilots-in-training for the high skies. For a more encyclopedic session, Groupies can add an extra half-hour for an additional $100 fee.
A riding teacher since 1976 and holder of numerous coaching certifications, Brinna Ellis heads up the instruction and training programs offered at Dip ‘N Run Stables. Whether individually or in small groups, fledgling riders are paired with the school’s trusty horses based on character, experience, and how many Kentucky Derby winners they can name. In addition to Brinna’s coaching of students from all walks, including therapeutic horse-riding sessions, the school also offers leasing programs for its horses, as well as show coaching packages.
Go Fusion Fitness couples group workouts with spa services to build both healthy bodies and a communal environment for women. Owner Daphne Guenther hastens heart rates within her clean, sunny studio with intense circuit-training regimens. Participants may take Zumba, circuit bootcamp, hula core, or core blast classes. After their workouts, members can retire to infrared saunas to send toxins fleeing from pores, or enjoy other services such as massage therapy, reflexology sessions, and soothing, detoxifying ionic footbaths for tired feet. All staff members—from instructors to childcare-centre personnel—are women, providing a comfortable haven for ladies to break a sweat.
Julia Chapin Bozzo has been on an equestrian crusade for 20 years. She founded NorthWest Therapeutic Riding Center in 1993, and has overseen its Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) programs since day one, fostering a welcoming, nurturing environment for riders with disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and brain injuries. Adhering to the strict guidelines set forth by PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International), her facility leverages the healing power of horses to enrich the well-being of riders of all ages. Whether they're toddlers or seniors, each participant reaps the physical, mental, emotional, and social rewards of riding with the center’s gentle horses—gaining strength and coordination, interacting with the natural world, and, most importantly, building self-esteem. Thanks to Julia’s efforts and the assistance of certified riding instructors and a 30-strong team of weekly volunteers, the center conducts more than 950 lessons annually, each individually tailored to the rider’s therapeutic goals.
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Since 1962, owner and U.S. Coast Guard–licensed captain Terry Buzzard has gotten to know the San Juan Islands and surrounding miles of water pretty well. Having hauled mail for the Post Office, salvaged wrecks, assisted in oil spill cleanups, and ferried passengers throughout the San Juan Islands, he has built quite a resumé of seafaring. This relationship with water isn't so surprising considering he began boating at the age of 3 when he was allowed to pilot a single-horsepower boat by himself with his trained rescue dog, Rusty.
Regardless of the actual job he's performing, Terry is always drawn to whales. By 1978, this fascination lead him to chartering trips specifically for whale watching, especially toward the schools of orca that made the region their home. Looking back, he's pretty certain his boat was the only one in the area at the time dedicated to the thrill of witnessing some of the world's largest and most beautiful animals. Today, the waters are spotted with various boats filled with passengers snapping pictures of the great aquatic beasts and shouting ululations whenever one smacks its enormous tail against the water, takes a playful leap, or belts a Mariah Carey song.
Terry's boat, the 110-foot Island Caper, provides generous sightlines to all passengers via its spacious outdoor deck and ample indoor viewing areas, and is decked out with a 34-speaker sound system. In business for 50 years, Island Mariner Whale Watching also employs a seaplane to help spot whales and guide tours. With his chief navigator––a 5-year-old airedale terrier also named Rusty––Terry is right out there amid the excitement, ferrying whale watchers and sharing his life-long passion.