12 September 2013 | Sailing Southern California
September 10, 2013
I should have seen the signs. Actually, maybe I did. I noticed the flying fish off our portside. Lots and lots of somethings, maybe 100 little somethings, were jumping out of the water. "They must be running from some other big fish." I said to Jay. "Uhhumm.." he nodded distractedly in agreement. We both went back to doing what we were doing, which was, I don't know what. My guess, Jay was navigating and I was dreaming about our journey. That seems to be the rhythm that we had fallen into thus far. Then, as we were discussing nothing much about something, I noticed the spray.
"Whales!" I interrupted our conversation. We weren't too close, but they were there just off our port side and I could see them. Why is it, that just a sighting of a whale, no matter how far away, can spark a primal excitement like no other?
The first time I saw a whale in its natural habitat was when we were sailing from Two Harbors to Avalon. It was another moment when I interrupted the conversation with, "Whales! I think I saw a whale!" (Now, note that this was the very first time ever I had encountered the great species and I was beyond excited. I was terrified.) I pointed out the direction in which I had seen the spray. It seemed to me as if she was traveling in the same direction only a ½ mile ahead of us.
Then, quiet. I stood on the bow watching and waiting to see where I would see her next. And then - pow! She breached on the starboard bow of our boat, with me right there!! A Blue whale in all her glory and me, a small human, trembling in the pulpit. Wow. Is there any other word to describe it? Spiritual would be the next word I would choose. Nothing like it.
I have had many experiences of whale watching since that first time and it never, ever, gets old. Each experience is a wonder in and of itself. Like the time we witnessed a pod of Grays migrating north. We were just outside Channel Islands Marina and the sea was like a lake. Jay and I saw a pod of maybe ten (at least) Grays moving slowly and oh, so gracefully, north. We followed them from a distance as they headed toward Ventura. As we were watching them off our starboard bow, I heard a sound to the port. I looked down to see a Gray had come over to check us out. She breached just next to us and all I could say was, "Jay! Jay! Jay!" By the time he looked over, our Gray had disappeared into the sea leaving only ripples of current to profess its existence.
Or, another time, when we were cruising with our friends, Donna & Mike, and Cindy & Bruce aboard their boat, "Forever Young." It was another day where the sea was like a lake. We were on our way to circumnavigate Anacapa Island when we ran into a pod of Orca Whales. What a sight to see! They were showing off, I am sure. Blowing sprays, spy-hopping and wagging their tales as they dove into the sea. We slowly maneuvered closer, but not too close, and they seemed to welcome our attention as they swam and circled around us for at least an hour. This was yet another special moment in the life of a sailor.
And one other time, we were leaving MDR for Catalina in a dense fog. Several hours later, the fog was lifting so Jay and I took a moment to eat our lunch. Afterward, realizing it had been awhile since we had done a 360 view of our surroundings, I stood up to look. Again, it was another, "Jay! Jay! Turn to port! Turn to Port! Turn!" moment. There, right in front of us was a pod (not one, but a pod!) of Blue whales! Large, magnificent and oh, so close. Fortunately, we were able to move out of their way, or they out of our way. But it was an amazing moment in the sea stories of our journey.
Sea life; mammals, birds, fish; they bring such beauty to our lives. So, as many times as I witness the majesty of whales, I never take them for granted and always feel blessed to have witnessed their grandeur.