A tiny ripple glides along the smooth-as-glass water, alerting captain Pete to the fact that he and his passengers are about to have company. Sure enough, within seconds a group of glossy black fins breaks through the sea in a silent, synchronized ballet. A native Washingtonian who has spent his entire life on the water, captain Pete orchestrates San Juan Excursions to grant guests the chance to go head-to-head with nature in moments such as these. As marine naturalists certified by the Whale Museum?s Naturalist Training Program, captain Pete?s crew of passionate guides take to the peaceful waters of the Puget Sound to entertain boatloads of guests with informative facts about area wildlife witnessed during excursions.
The team?s passion for nature informs its low-impact approach to whale and wildlife watching, which is exemplified in the Odyssey, the company's tour boat. Originally a U.S. Navy search-and-rescue vessel forged in 1941, the craft is fueled by biodiesel when possible and maintains a low propeller RPM to minimize the Bono moans it releases into the water column. Though San Juan Excursions specializes in whale watching, it also sends adventurers forth to explore the waters on their own steam during sea-kayak tours.
Landlubbers soak up sun and scenery along Lake Cowichan's sweeping 150-kilometre shoreline from Island Houseboat's decked-out watercrafts. Guests outfitted with a Pleasure Craft Operator Card are eligible to rent a Moon Cruiser, which accommodates up to 10 adults, their pets, and unlimited pirate-slang dictionaries on its spacious deck. The Operator Card is only required of captains who are Canadian citizens, so border skippers may freely join their northern counterparts in choosing among Island Houseboats' seasonal packages, such as a three-day weekend during the low season ($750), Labour Day weekend during midseason ($1,099), or a week-long watery extravaganza during high season ($2,499).
Captain Lenard M. Pearson and his crew greet passing ships in a strange way—they fire a cannon at them. Among the many details of tall ship Thane—a 55-foot gaff-rigged fetch constructed of salvaged building materials—are its working cannons. With a flash of fire, a plume of smoke, and a very loud noise, the captain says hello to neighbouring vessels and makes sure no one on board has fallen asleep.
In addition to the cannon fire, Captain Pearson and his crew find other theatrical ways to engage guests, encouraging them to help out by hauling the sails or riding the bowsprit. Groups may also drag a fishing a line or trap crabs, depending on season. The crew encourages passengers to relax with their picnics and drinks while they take in sights that may range from pods of killer whales to the snow-dusted peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Along with bringing parties up to close to such sights, the captain also shares stories about the area's marine history, geology, and wildlife. Crew members happily provide guests with coolers, ice, glasses, and bottle openers for their drinks, and encourage responsible and respectful imbibing.
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.
Located in Anacortes, the "Gateway to the San Juan Islands", Anacortes Yacht Charters has established itself as the leading charter company with the largest selection of power and sail boats available for charter in the San Juans and Gulf Islands.
Aboard Aura?a 33-foot wooden sloop constructed by master shipbuilders in 1948?groups glide across the waters of Deer Harbor to the San Juan Islands. Search for wildlife such as seals and porpoises as you float through the channel, pass Jones and Crane Islands, and cut across Pole Pass. Sit back and relax while the skipper navigates the boat, or for a more hands-on approach, get to the helm to steer the boat and handle the ropes. Passengers are encouraged to bring along their own snacks and drinks and can even participate in one of the races that occur throughout the summer.