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Tyler and Faith McKeen: owners of Blue Kingdom Tours

Tyler and Faith McKeen: owners of Blue Kingdom Tours


How did you start whale watching?

Tyler: I was at the University of Washington in a civil engineering program and a family friend of ours runs a fishing charter business here in Anacortes. I worked here at the marina between classes in the summer. One day I saw them coming back from the fishing day and I went there and I said to myself: I want to become a fishing captain, what should I do? After I got my captain's license, once I felt like I was on the water and getting paid for it, I said to myself: I just don't think I can be an engineer anymore. Then in 2017 I got a job with one of the other whale watching companies here and fell in love with whale watching.

Faith: I don't have a captain's license. I'm one of our naturalists. I have always loved animals and science. So the science side is my world and growing up in Anacortes, I always loved being on the water and exploring. I was along for the ride and I'm happy to join her.

Why race with a Zodiac type boat?

Tyler: There is no perfect boat. The great thing about the Zodiac is that it is very adventurous. It's fast. We can go really far if we need to. There are some really cool little spots you can go into. [that] bigger boats don't like Deception Pass. We pass by there all the time. It's a really fun little place.

You keep talking about adventure. Is this your favorite part of whale watching?

Tyler: We live in such a beautiful area and with whale watching, every day is different. You never know where they're going to be, especially here. There are 172 islands on our side of the border, in the San Juan Archipelago, and there are at least as many more on the Canadian side of the border. And the whales could be behind any of them here and so you never know where you're going to end up. I've been on the water here for over 20 years now and there are still islands I haven't visited or seen.

Faith: I love sharing our passion for what we do with other people [it] is one of the most interesting parts of our job. We get emails all the time from people saying they've always dreamed of seeing orcas or whales. It’s so cool that we can do a little bit to make this dream a reality for people.

Then there is the education part. We are lucky to have grown up here and to have lived in this region. But even growing up here, there's still so much to learn about the area, the islands, the different species that are out there, and so sharing all that knowledge with people is pretty cool.

How does whale watching contribute to conservation efforts?

Tyler: The species of greatest concern around here is the southern resident killer whale. There is this effect called the Sentinel effect, where when whale watching boats are on site with whales, they have been able to slow down other boats that may be dangerously close or going too fast, such as right over their destination.

Faith: Often it's inadvertent. Boaters are not aware that there are whales in the area and we can honk our horns, wave our arms and get their attention to change their behavior to keep these whales safe. It's great that the study [the Sentinel Effect] gives figures on what whale watching companies are doing… It's great to have this data now.




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