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Tyler and Faith McKeen: Blue Kingdom Tours owners

CDN’s weekly community profile

Tyler and Faith McKeen, owners and operators of Blue Kingdom Tours, pose in front of their zodiac-style boat "Sounder" on June 9 in Anacortes. (Eli Voorhies/Cascadia Daily News)
By Annie Todd Criminal Justice/Enterprise Reporter

Tyler (he/him) and Faith (she/her) McKeen

Age: 31, 30

City: Anacortes

Lived here for: Lifelong

Originally from: Anacortes

Notable: Tyler: Boat captain and rough wave navigator. Faith: Naturalist and pharmacist. They started Blue Kingdom Tours in 2022 and had their first year running whale watching tours in 2023.

How did you get started whale watching?

Tyler: I was in college at the University of Washington in a civil engineering program and a family friend of ours runs a fishing charter company here in Anacortes. I was working here at the marina in between classes in the summertime. One day, I saw them coming back from fishing for the day and I went down there and was like, ‘I want to be a fishing captain, what do I need to do?’ After I got my captain’s license, once I had a taste of being on the water and getting paid for it, I was like, ‘I just don’t think I can be an engineer anymore.’ Then in 2017, I got a job with one of the other whale watch companies here and just fell in love with whale watching.

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

Why run with a Zodiac-style boat?

Tyler: There’s no perfect boat. The great things about the Zodiac are it’s very adventurous. It’s fast. We can go really, really far if we need to. There are really, really cool little spots that we can get into [that] the bigger boats can’t like Deception Pass. We go through there all the time. That’s a really fun little spot.

You keep mentioning adventure. Is that 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 gonna be, especially around here. There’s 172 islands on our side of the border in the San Juan archipelago, and there’s at least that many more on the Canadian side of the border. And the whales can be behind any one of them here and so you never know where you’re gonna end up. I’ve been on the water here for 20-plus years now and there are still islands that I haven’t been to or seen.

Faith: I like getting to share our passion for what we do with other people — [it] is one of the coolest parts of our job. We get emails all the time of people saying they’ve always dreamed of seeing orcas or whales. It’s just so cool that we get to be a small part of making that dream come true for people. 

Then there’s the education part. We’re fortunate to have grown up here and lived in this area. 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 getting to share all that knowledge with people is pretty cool.

How does whale watching help conservation efforts?

Tyler: The species of big concern around here is the Southern Resident killer whale. There’s this effect called the Sentinel effect, where when whale watch boats are on scene with whales, we’re able to slow down other boats that may be kind of dangerously close or going too fast, like right over the top of where they might be heading. 

Faith: A lot of times it’s inadvertent. Personal boaters don’t realize that there’s whales in the area and we can honk our horns, wave our arms and get their attention to change their behavior so we can keep those whales safe. It’s great that the study [the Sentinel Effect] does put the numbers to what whale watch companies are doing … It’s great to have that data now.

“Faces in the Crowd” is published online and in print Fridays. Have a suggestion for a “Faces
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