A few more of our favorite tunes that really say, “summer!” to us are:
Under African Skies by Paul Simon
You & I by Paper Route
Closer Than This by St. Lucia
Décollage by The Thievery Corporation
Your summer will thank you for adding these songs to its playlist!

Nothing says summer like a boat on the open ocean.  So naturally, when my parents arrived in late August for a week, we hit the high seas in the Puget Sound in search for Orcas on a whale watch.  I’ve always been a fiend for Killer Whales.  I had two stuffed Orcas as a kid who were among my favorites, I greedily chose to study them in first grade when we did a whale unit at school, I loved Sea World and Shamu until I saw Blackfish and now I hate Sea World and feel bad for Shamu.  The only Orca-related phenomenon which I was not on the forefront of was Free Willy.  It just never stuck with me.

Fishing Boats Anacortes Puget Sound

Fishing boats line the docks in the Anacortes Harbor

Kelly Laughing Whale Watch

Kelly laughs at one of my hilarious jokes

Family Whale Watch Orcas San Juans

Brian and my Dad discuss something probably important while my Mom hams it up for the camera

Fishing Boat Puget Sound San Juan Islands Olympic Mountains

A fishing boat is framed on calm Puget Sound waters in front of the Olympic Mountains

Kelly poses for a photo with Mom and Brian

Kelly poses for a photo with Mom and Brian

Anyways, we drove up to Anacortes and hopped on a ship headed out to the San Juan Islands, constantly scanning the horizon for the telltale puff of sea spray from a blowhole or a giant splash from a breaching whale.  As we passed Decatur and Lopez Islands and began rounding the outer coast of San Juan Island, we began to see Chinook Salmon as long as our arms launching themselves out of the water, a flopping, silvery feast.  I had my camera at the ready, loaded with a 300mm telephoto lens I accidentally dropped in the Androscoggin River the previous fall on a camping trip (the photos that I took using that lens came out with a beautiful, artistic effect that was somewhat unintentional–many of the photographs lacked contrast and had a desaturated vintage film feel, which turned out lovely in many cases).

Islands San Juan Islands Puget Sound

Two islands loom in the fog

Fishing Boat Anacortes Puget Sound

A fishing vessel skirts the coast near Anacortes, WA

Deserted Island San Juan Islands Puget Sound Birds

A deserted island serves as a sanctuary for migrating birds

Family Whalewatch Orcas Puget Sound San Juans

Mom and Dad and Brian point to whales from our ship

FIshing Boat Anacortes Puget Sound

A fishing ship cuts through the marine layer near Anacortes, WA

San Juan Island Coast Puget Sound

A few lonely houses dot the coastline of San Juan Island

Suddenly, we noticed a cluster of boats up ahead and heard the captain come over the loudspeaker, “We’ve got Orcas!  Off the starboard side.”

Orca Killer Whale Fin Puget Sound San Juan Islands

An Orca’s black fin stands out in stark contrast to the calm waters of the Puget Sound

Orca KIller Whale San Juan Islands Puget Sound

A group of Orcas stops to play

Orca Killer Whale Puget Sound San Juan Islands

Playful Killer Whales slap their tails on the surface of the water

Killer Whale Orca Surface Fin

This large male Orca surfaced about 20 yards from our boat

Orca Killer Whale San Juan Islands Puget Sound Olympic Mountains

An Orca surfaces a few hundred yards away

Sure enough, a pod of about 5 whales surfaced a couple hundred yards away, slapping their tails on the ocean surface, blowing out their breath and diving again.  This display began to appear around us in almost every direction.  At points we could see over a dozen whales surfacing at once in several distinct groups.  Our captain continued to carefully maneuver us through the maze of beasts over the next several hours and once even had to cut the engines when a pod surfaced too close to the boat to safely keep them running.  The matriarch of the pod, an octogenarian cow, lead the group and dove beneath our boat so closely that I had to zoom out with my telephoto lens in order to capture her on my camera.

Orca Killer Whale Puget Sound San Juan Islands

Three Orcas surface simultaneously

Orca Killer Whale Olympic Mountains Puget Sound San Juan Islands

A single orca surfaces in front of the Olympic Mountains

Whale Watch San Juan Islands Puget Sound Olympic Mountains

Fellow whale watchers scour the seas from another boat while the Olympic Mountains line the horizon

Orca Killer Whale Fin Surfacing

A huge male Orca surfaces near our boat

At one point, a massive jellyfish emerged just below the surface of the water next to our boat.  I was able to capture a few images that almost appear as if I’m under water with the creature.

Jellyfish Puget Sound

A jellyfish floats by our boat

Jellyfish Puget Sound

A jellyfish floats by our boat

Jellyfish Puget Sound

A jellyfish floats by our boat

Jellyfish Puget Sound

A jellyfish floats by our boat

Motoring back into the harbor, we stopped by a few deserted islands where we saw dozens of bird species including a rare puffin.  The islands reminded me of remote pacific atolls abandoned after nuclear testing left them uninhabitable.  Meanwhile, Mt. Baker began to emerge from the clouds to the east and the bright white of its glaciers flashed through the gray in bursts.

Abandoned Island Puget Sound

A few abandoned structures sit amid scores of birds on this island in the Puget Sound

Tug Boat Puget Sound Mount Baker

A tug boat motors towards shore where Mount Baker begins to show its high, glacial peak in the late afternoon

Desert Island San Juans Puget Sound

Birds are all that inhabit these desert isles in the Puget Sound near the San Juans

We returned to Seattle to spend the rest of the week with my parents celebrating the birth of Audrey, our brother and sister-in-law’s first daughter.  We were fortunate enough to meet Audrey just an hour after she was born in the house we share with Brian and Aimee, and have loved watching her grow up these past ten months.

Kelly Newborn Baby

Kelly holds Audrey when she’s only a few days old–a tiny bean!

Newborn Audrey refuses to cooperate with our family portrait session

Newborn Audrey refuses to cooperate with our family portrait session

Kitchen Sink Afternoon Dishes

I love the summer afternoon light in our kitchen

Kelly and I love the view from Ella Bailey Park, just a few blocks away from our house.

Kelly and I love the view from Ella Bailey Park, just a few blocks away from our house.

We were fortunate to wrap up a fantastic summer with some of our family, eating delicious food and enjoying beautiful days from the city.  Remembering these great adventures has us geared up and ready to go again this year, and we can’t wait to share with you all the new experiences on our horizon.

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