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Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Whale Waves.

Getting my mojo back.

Things are coming together for my surgery two weeks from today, so I decided I could take a day away to decompress.  There was a time when I would head to Disneyland for any much needed R&R, but while I still enjoy the place, it doesn't refill my spirit the way it used to.

For that, I head to the sea.

Not the beach.  Sticky sand has no appeal.  But to board my little yacht friend, the Azure Seas, at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara causes an immediate reduction in my blood pressure and a spike in my happiness.

Today was especially gorgeous.  I could see the islands clearly the entire route along the coast.  I got a parking place right next to the ticket kiosk, bought a ticket for a whale watch, then strolled down to my favorite gift shop, The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea, to pick up odds and ends (lovely ones, of course) for my family room renovation.  The owners of this little shop are delightful conversationalists and I love to visit.

I've been on several whale watches with the crew of the Azure Seas, but have seen whales only once.  Pods of dolphins, herds of sea lions, sea gulls, cormorants and pelicans, but not usually whales.  I don't mind.  I just love being out there.  The little yacht holds only 42 passengers but today there were far fewer.  Santa Barbara businesses are still hurting from first the Thomas Fire and then the hideous mudslides that crashed through Montecito. so they were at fewer than half capacity today.

It was a relaxed, happy party rather than a crowd that left the wharf for a couple of hours - we thought - of scanning the horizon for spouts.

Actually, it took less than half an hour to spot our first, and then they came constantly for over an hour.

Gray whales.

The Azure Seas now has a naturalist on board, a young man who once worked for a whale research facility and shared just the right number of interesting facts.  Not so many as to destroy the blessed quiet of our little voyage but enough to enhance our understanding of the significance of our experience.  We learned...

There are about 26,000 gray whales currently making their way up the coast from Baja to Alaska.

They are shy and cautious, much more so than the hunchback who are more playful and acrobatic.

They usually travel alone, except for the mothers with their calves.

Which is why the rest of our trip was so magical.

We learned that what we were seeing was not one solitary gray whale, but one adult plus one mother/calf pair.  Traveling together.  Which is unusual.

Another thing that was unusual was that while our boat was traveling quietly at only slightly more than an idle and maintaining a parallel to the shoreline, the whales were getting closer and closer.

Finally, and much to the delight of the crew (especially the naturalist) and passengers, this trio "chose" to cruise along with us for a while.

The white "shadows" just under the surface are the whales.

Such a thrill.  They stayed with us for several minutes.  As soon as the captain announced that since the whales were being so cooperative we would stay with  them, they disappeared and didn't rejoin us.

But wow, we had such a moving hour of watching them.

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