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Whales Tail

From the BookShelf Writers

The BookShelf Writers consist of four Estero Bay women who have been writing and critiquing together for over five years. For more samples of their work, please visit www.the bookshelfwriters.com

Each issue, this column will feature one of the BookShelf Writers: Debbie Black, Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich, Judy Salamacha and Susan Vasquez.

February 16, 2024

Story and Illustration by Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich

In Mexico, I once saw a mama and her baby whale frolicking very close to shore. A group gathered to watch, and a kayaker paddled close to them. The mom was clearly unhappy about the kayaker, but the guy didn’t seem to care, he kept getting closer. The mom was swimming in tight circles around her baby, frantically slapping the water with her tail, as the kayaker bounced around in the turbulence, taking photos. 

While it was spectacular to watch, we were all very frightened for both the whales and the crazy kayaker. Our yelling did nothing to dissuade the dude, but he finally realized he needed to paddle in. The bystanders and I proceeded to scold him, in both Spanish and English, and ask why he didn’t heed the mom’s clear warnings. After a futile effort to defend himself, he slunk off, dragging his kayak. In all my whale sightings combined, I have never seen so many tail whacks.

Me do loves me some whales, and that was the kind of experience I never imagined witnessing.

I also love whale-watching tours and went on my sixth Morro Bay boat tour Saturday. I gotta say, each trip has been quite exhilarating and different.

This was with Sub Sea Tours (there are other tour companies in town), off the Embarcadero, and we saw many Gray Whales cruising on their way south.

The Whale Trail is a whale superhighway that brings the migrating whales from north of Alaska, through Morro Bay and on to Baja. This time of year is perfect for viewing as their journey is usually between December and February (they return north from February through April).

Whales are here most of the year (Humpbacks in the spring and fall), but not in such abundance, so your better chance of seeing them is in the windows of migration.

On Saturday’s trip, Captain DJ took us about three miles out, and worked diligently to find whales. He explained that in addition to the spouts, you can sometimes find a smooth trail indicating that they’ve just traveled through. 

We were lucky enough to have local naturalist Rouvaishyana (of State Parks fame) on our boat, and he described the evolution of whales, where different species can be found, how they eat, who they eat, and how big they get (as always, specifics don’t stay in my brain, but they’re sure as heck interesting when I hear them!). We learned about the types of birds who travelled with us, and a great deal about Humpbacks, too.

DJ and Rouvaishyana would get just as excited as we did when a whale was spotted. They’d turn the boat into the best position, keeping the required distance. Counting the minutes between the waterspouts, they determined that we were following about four whales, who continued to delight as they gleefully waved their beautiful tails.

Another time when whale-watching, a huge Humpback was meandering straight toward the side of the boat (again with Sub Sea). We all gathered to that side, and he eventually swam right underneath us. So close, we could see his barnacles, bumps, and blow holes. I thought we were gonna tip over, right into his huge mouth, but thankfully, the boat was very stable.

I’ve often tried whale watching when traveling, but, with the exception of Alaska, have yet to see better exhibits than the local ones. So, I decided long ago that from now on, I’ll only go see whales in Morro Bay.

Unless, of course, a mama and her baby are frolicking near the shore!

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