Leaving on a Jet Plane

Start of journey from San Juan.
Start of journey from San Juan.
Safe arrival
Safe arrival
Home to whale research scientist in one of the best places to see Orcas - sadly not today though.
Home to whale research scientist Ken Balcomb
Blue Heron on Kelp
Blue Heron on Kelp
Watching take off from our plane (seats 10 people)
Watching take off from our plane (seats 10 people)
View from above
View from above

Well a sea-plane but doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust actively encourage you to take sufficient downtime and to explore the local area so I had planned 2 kayaking trips (self-funded:) for the weekend. One of them involved travelling by sea-plane over to the San Juan Islands an archipelago of 172 named islands nestled between Washington State, USA and Vancouver Island, Canada.

I must admit I was a little nervous especially in light of the 2 very recent fatal accidents involving seaplanes and the fact that my brother-in law who is an aerospace electronics engineer wouldn’t go in one. What was more worrying for me once we were up in the air though was the fact there was a bee right next to the pilot and I was hoping he was not allergic to them!

Thankfully the journey was a breeze starting off by gliding along lake Union near to the houseboats ( where Sleepless in Seattle was filmed) for about 10 minutes before lift off. The flight itself was relatively short at about 45 minutes but the scenery was spectacular, flying over numerous islands with magnificent views of the mountains. We landed on the water at ‘Friday Harbour’ on San Juan island which was to be my base for the night. San Juan is one of only 4 islands (out of the 172) that are served by a ferry and what a beautiful place its main town Friday Harbour was. With a few hours to go until check-in time I wandered around the marina and then visited the Whale Museum which was fascinating particularly to learn about the local orca pods.

Throughout my travels I have been trying to use AirBnB wherever possible to minimise accommodation costs and have had some great experiences along the way. However the AirBnB at Friday Harbour was by the far though the best accommodation yet including the comfiest bed! Aptly named the ‘Churchill Suite’ although a little more expensive than what I’d budgeted for (nowhere is that cheap in Friday Harbour) there were some very thoughtful touches- organic lavender chocolate (harvested on island), lavender toiletries and a great selection of music- Woody Guthrie, John Denver & Bob Dylan. I watched the sobering film Blackfish, a reminder of why aquatic parks need to be closed or their format radically changed so that creatures including whales are no longer kept ( or bred in captivity).

Had a great day out kayaking with Sea-Quest along the Orca Highway although sadly we did not see any (they were around 2 days before) but the numerous birds and other wildlife more than made up for it- a bald eagle, belted kingfishers, rhinoceros auklets. Martine was a great guide and tandem paddle buddy.

My second kayak trip was back over by ferry to the mainland from Anacortes. This time I was in a single kayak and out with a guide and just one other participant. The weather was lot of breezier with choppy seas at times and some current testing my novice skills a little bit more. We circumnavigated around one island and I was thankful when we reached the calmer waters but heading back into the marina was a challenge and our trip was shortened due to the deteriorating weather. Beautiful nonetheless.

Then a 3.5 hour bus journey back to a hotel near Seattle airport and to attempt to dry out my kayak gear ready for an early start to San Francisco the next morning.

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