Our arrival in Juneau was delayed by about 3 hours due to a combination of a late departure from San Francisco, rough seas and wind, and a temporary problem with one of the ship’s diesel generators (described by the captain as a “bolt” that took about 2 hours to restore). As a result, we had to forgo our planned dockside lunch at a little crab shack we had heard about, but fortunately we did not miss our whale watching tour with Harv & Marv’s Outback Alaska.
Our tour had been scheduled for 3:30, but since we didn’t arrive until 4:00 I called the company and they assured me that they were aware of our late arrival and had made plans for our tour to go on as scheduled. We were very relieved at this, as several of the ship-sponsored tours and most of their earlier tours for other passengers on our ship had to be cancelled. The tour turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, so we’re glad we didn’t miss it.
After a short van ride to the Auke Bay harbor, we met up with Captain Shawn and boarded the M/V Alaskan, a custom-built boat designed specifically for wildlife viewing. Captain Shawn is a 14-year veteran of whale watching tours and has been with the company since 2010. If I remember correctly, he told us that he has a degree in Marine Biology, so he was well-suited for the tour and turned out to be an excellent guide. There ended up being only 4 of us on this vessel designed for 14 passengers, so we had the run of the boat, which was very nice.
We spent about 3 hours cruising the waters of Auke Bay, Lynn Canal, Saginaw Channel and Favorite Channel. We saw a lot of whales, most of which were too far away to properly photograph, but we did get close to a few. Because they are very unpredictable, photographing one is a little like playing Whack-a-Mole. They blow, surface and dive in a very short time, all while they are moving. But it’s an amazing sight to see! We also saw a number of seals Sea Lions, Dall’s Porpoises and bald eagles.
Since sunset in mid-May is around 10:00, we had pretty nice light for most of the tour, although it was starting to get a little dark by the end. We arrived back at the dock a little tired and cold, but overall very happy, and headed back to the ship for a late dinner.
If you are ever in Juneau, I highly recommend Harv & Marv for your whale-watching adventure!