Despite our region’s sluggish start to summer, it’s hard to forget how lucky we are to be surrounded by the beauty of the Puget Sound. It’s a treasured area that the Clipper team has had the pleasure of enjoying for 30 wonderful years, as an iconic part of the Seattle waterfront. In celebration of our 30th anniversary this year, we wanted to give back to the people of Seattle with a special show of appreciation.

In June, we had the pleasure of partnering with Mary’s Place, an organization that supports homeless women, children and families with programs and services to help them restore their lives. We wanted to provide struggling kids and families a day off from homelessness to simply enjoy life, have fun and experience something new. Thirty families were welcomed aboard the San Juan Clipper for a day of whale watching in the Salish Sea. Our orca friends did not disappoint …

Kids from Mary’s place pass the time with some good old-fashioned fun with stickers.

The upper decks of the San Juan Clipper were filled with excited kids and their grateful parents as we ventured out for an unforgettable day on the water. As the San Juan Clipper headed north, the kids enjoyed time with their friends as they and the other passengers chattered about the day ahead. Among the passengers was 13-year-old Willie, who was nervous about seeing the orcas, or as he describes, “killer whales.” Willie shares, “At first I was scared, because I thought they could eat people.” Little did he know that he was about to encounter not violent, dangerous beasts, but the gentle, majestic giants of the Salish Sea.

Willie shares his experience of seeing orca whales for the first time.
Willie, a resident of Mary’s Place, shares his experience of seeing orca whales for the very first time.

Willie’s fears were eased when two Transients orcas appeared off the shoreline of Spieden Island in the San Juans, gracefully gliding through the water. Becoming more comfortable with the whales, Willie, along with some of his friends, started naming the orcas. “I named the whale Jake,” Willie shares. “If I were to go back again, I would be really glad, and I wouldn’t be so scared of sharks or whales knocking over the boat or jellyfish attacking.”

Marys Place 1
The Mary’s Place families took in the beauty and magnificence of the orcas from the top observation deck. None of them had ever seen whales in the wild before.

After a few hours of watching the whales splash and play, the families enjoyed a break for pizza and playtime on land in Friday Harbor before heading back to Seattle. Some picked up kites and flew them from the dock in Friday Harbor before hopping back on board. Others blew bubbles and enjoyed a serene break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

A mother who became homeless after her son’s medical expenses grew too great, enjoys a moment blowing bubbles with her son.

With full tummies and full hearts, the group returned to Seattle with a new perspective on their own backyard. Willie says,” My favorite part was getting to see a new part of Washington that I had never been to before. To the people who gave us this day, thank you very much.”

Check out the segment below to catch the full story that was featured on King 5’s Evening earlier this week!