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.
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.
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.
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.
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.