Monthly Archives: March 2015

Visit La Conner

Photo Courtesy of lovelaconner.com

Photo Courtesy of lovelaconner.com

La Conner is a quaint seaside town located in Skagit County on the Swinomish Channel, which separates the mainland from Fidalgo Island. The town is a great stop for charter guests who want to see the quintessential Pacific Northwest but prefer to get off the beaten path that most visitors to this region see. Guests can moor their vessel with the La Conner Marina for $1.00/foot, and their guest docks have both 30 and 50 amp shore power available. Reservations can be made at the following link: http://www.portofskagit.com/la-conner-marina/guest-moorage-reservations/ .

La Conner was originally settled in 1867, and two years later a trading post was established there, making it an official town. The trading post owner named the town after his wife, Louisa Anne Conner, and it became the county seat of Skagit County in the following years. Currently, La Conner is the artistic hub of Skagit County. Its streets boast art galleries focusing on every medium, and often inspired by local wilflife and scenery. The town was also once home to author Tom Robbins.

Photo Courtesy of willhiteweb.com

Photo Courtesy of willhiteweb.com

Today, visitors to La Conner can enjoy visiting the three museums, strolling through art galleries or along the picturesque Swinomish Channel, and grabbing a bite to eat at one of La Conner’s many waterfront restaurants. You can even enjoy a cold, locally brewed beer at La Conner’s resident microbrewery.

The town also hosts events regularly throughout the year. If you are in the area in the month of April, you can’t miss the world famous Skagit Valley Tulip festival. Visitors come from all over the world to witness the largest tulip fields outside of Holland. Mid-summer visitors might enjoy the La Conner Classic Boat and Car Show, typically held annually at the beginning of August and just a short walk from the marina. With so much to see and do, make sure to schedule a stop in La Conner during your San Juan Islands charter.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Tulip Festival 1

Photo Courtesy of tulipfestival.com

If you are planning to charter a boat during March or April, you may be wondering what there is to do so early in the season. One of the most popular tourist draws to this area during the early spring is the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. The Skagit Valley, located just a couple miles south of Bellingham, is one of the best tulip growing environments in the country. Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the area to stroll through the acres of blooming tulip and daffodil fields or meander through the world class Roozengaarde gardens, all while surrounded by the beauty of the Cascade Mountains and the San Juan Islands.Typically, the flowers start blooming at the beginning of April, however due to this year’s mild winter and spring, the daffodil fields are already in bloom, and the tulips are expected to start blooming in mid-March. The festival includes hundreds of acres of dozens of varieties of tulips and daffodils. Since there are so many varieties, all the fields bloom at different times, ensuring that you’ll be able to enjoy fields with blooming flowers no matter when you visit during the festival. The festival is designed as a driving tour, but guests can also bike it easily.

 

 

Daffodils

Photo Courtesy of tulipfestival.com

The center of the tour is the Roozengaarde gardens, which is a 3 acre show garden that is planted each fall with around 300,000 spring-flowering bulbs. As you walk through the gardens, make sure and note your favorite varieties of flowers, because you can order bulbs right there at the gardens and have them shipped to your home so you can enjoy the beauty of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival long after you’ve left. At the gardens, you can also pick up a bloom map, which will help you to find other fields that are in bloom during your visit. While you’re in the area, make sure to stop in LaConnor to grab a bite to eat, walk through one of their many art studios or museums,or enjoy the views of the Swinomish Channel.

 

Tulip Festival 2

Photo Courtesy of tulipfestival.com

 

 

 

 

 

Transient Vs. Resident Orcas

Photo credit Destination360 San Juan Islands Whale Watching http://www.destination360.com/north-america/us/washington/san-juan-islands/whale-watching

One of the biggest draws for tourists to the San Juan Islands are the orca whales (Orcinus orca) that frequent local waters. Most people are familiar with the appearance of orcas: their tall, triangular dorsal fins, grey saddle patches, and white eye spots are obviously identifiable characteristics. These charismatic marine mammals are not only entertaining to watch, but there is much more to them than meets the eye. Did you know that, worldwide, all orca whales are the same species, but there are unique subgroups within the species, similar to the different races that make up the human species?

Photo Courtesy of destination360.com

Photo Courtesy of destination360.com

The two distinct groups of orcas that you may encounter while cruising in the San Juans are the residents and transients. Resident orca whales frequent coastal waterways from spring until fall, and tend to live in matriarchal multifamily groups. Their most distinguishing characteristic is their fish-based diet, made up primarily of Chinook salmon. Residents also tend to be much more vocal than the transients. They are the ones you are most likely to hear over the Lime Kiln hydrophone. Transients live in smaller groups, mostly consisting of a single matriline. Their home range tends to be much larger than that of the residents, and they only sporadically visit inland waters. Transients hunt mammals, and as a result they are quieter which allows them to sneak up on their prey. Prey species in the Salish Sea, including harbor seals, can tell the difference between the vocalizations of residents and transients; they don’t react when residents are nearby but will show avoidance behavior (such as hauling out) when they hear transients.

Photo courtesy of movieposterskey.com

Photo courtesy of movieposterskey.com

Each individual group of orcas, whether they are transients or residents, have their own vocalization patterns that scientists call dialects. One pod cannot understand a different pod’s dialect, making the dialects very similar to human languages. Each pod also uses unique hunting techniques that they pass down from mother to offspring. This teaching and learning behavior is the closest thing to human culture that has been observed in the animal kingdom.

The orcas are certainly a favorite sight around the San Juan Islands. If you see a cluster of boats that are all stopped and pointing in the same direction, you’ve likely stumbled in to a fantastic whale watching opportunity. Also take a look at the map below, which shows the best places around the San Juans to spot the residents. Just remember to be whale wise when observing them, and share your pictures on our Facebook page!

Map courtesy of sanjuansafaris.com

Map courtesy of sanjuansafaris.com