Seals On The Docks…And Boats!

cute seal face

One of the seals on a finger pier across from us checks us out as we walk by.

Thankfully, last weekend’s storm is history. This week’s weather was more typical of fall—cooler with off-and-on rain. But we had enough dry periods to finish waxing the important parts of the boat…important being those places that are most exposed and likely to have more abuse from the winter weather. So we can move our waxing supplies to the storeroom until next year!

With the cooler, unsettled weather, there is less boating activity at the marina, and we’ve started to see more marine life activity, as the critters are more likely to be around when there aren’t as many people roaming the docks.

There is abundant marine life at Anacortes Marina—we see seagulls, herons, loons, cormorants, river otters, harbor seals, and more. Our marina is not far from the east entrance of Juan de Fuca Strait, so our wind and currents are influenced by the Pacific Ocean. Which is probably one of the reasons why we see so much wildlife here.

We see a large number of seals in and around the marina, especially this time of year. The harbor seals in Washington and British Columbia give birth from June to September. Many pups are born on the marina docks every year. The young pups tend to stay close, so typically we see more seal activity in the marina in the fall.

seal and pup after birth

A couple of years ago we watched this seal give birth on a small float a few slips away from us. This photo of the seal and her pup was taken just a few hours after the birth, and if you look closely, you can see some of the afterbirth left on her tail flippers.

We have learned that harbor seals spend half their time in the water and half on land. Many seals around our marina jump up on the docks to sleep, usually at night when the marina is quiet. It seems like they would choose a nearby beach that would be easier for them, as the docks here are over a foot above the water level, so it’s a bit of a leap for them to reach the docks.

seals on finger pier

In the early morning a few years ago, we saw 21 seals on the finger pier across from our slip. Both boats on either side of the finger pier were out, making it a very desirable place for the seals to sleep.

Although the seals are cute and fun to watch, having them on the docks is quite a nuisance. They are messy and smelly…and what they leave behind isn’t so pleasant! The seals group together, and usually will try to find docks that don’t have boats tied up to them. Sometimes seals jump up on the swim steps of boats, which are usually lower to the water than the docks.

seals on boat swim step

Last weekend we spotted these two seals on the swim step of a boat moored behind us. They stayed there most of the day, enjoying a nice place to sleep where they were protected from the strong southerly winds.

We’ve had seals on our swim step from time to time. If we’re sleeping on the boat, it will wake us up, as they land with a thump and rock the boat. We usually go out and ask them to leave. However, when we’re not here, we’ve had friends tell us they have seen seals on our swim step, and we worry about the added weight and potential damage to our swim step. Harbor seals can weigh up to 300 pounds, and two or three of them on a swim step would add considerable weight!

Once we realized that the seals were attracted to our swim step, we looked for a way to keep them off. For the past few years, when our boat is sitting at the dock in the fall/winter, we’ve been tying several fenders on our swim step to discourage the seals. The fenders fill up the space and they don’t have a place to land.

fenders on our swim step

To discourage seals from getting on our swim step, we tie several fenders on it. We put the fenders on in the fall/winter when our boat sits in the slip.

If the fenders are too far apart, sometimes seals jump up anyway and push the fenders out of their way. Our fender system may not prevent all seals from getting on our swim step, but if it discourages some of them, it’s worth the effort. We do think the fenders help, particularly when we’re away from the boat and aren’t around to chase off any seals that get on our swim step.

If you’re interested in knowing more about harbor seals, I found this interesting website that has more information.

If you’d like to watch a short video of a seal being born on a marina dock, check out this short YouTube video that captured a seal birth at Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle earlier this summer.

4 thoughts on “Seals On The Docks…And Boats!

    • Bonnie-Yes, the comments from the video indicated that the pup was fine. They just stopped the video before either mom or pup moved. We’ve watched births just like that here on our docks, and have seen the mom and the pup rest for a while afterward (understandably!)…then, we’ve seen the mom push the pup into the water, then dive in after it and get it started swimming right away. Amazing to watch.

    • Sarah-Thanks for your feedback. It’s definitely seal season here, and I’m sure you remember dodging seals on the docks and the soulful sounds of the pups! But most boats are back from cruising now, so there aren’t as many places for the seals to go.

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