Faith-based whale watching
We spotted two gray whales, but I had to primarily take them on faith. A whale sighting is based on the whale's spout, tiny glimpses of a fin, the pointing of small children. Captain Gary deputized them as our official spotters, and they certainly did a better job than I did.
A gray whale can hold its breath for up to six minutes. This means that passengers will spend more than five minutes patiently staring at the ocean, hoping that the whale would eventually surface in the random spot we were watching. I consistently mistook buoys, birds, and pieces of garbage for whales. Eventually, I hedged my bets by focusing on finding the whale's "slick", a sign of where the whale's tail has moved quickly under the surface, and also the place where Robert Lowell saw the Quakers drown and heard their cry. I also tried to convince people that the whale's slick was "mostly urine".
There were two rubber nets, strung across the open areas at the bow of our whale watching catamaran. It looked like the best seat on the boat, especially since it was limited to four people and two children. Due to our physical conditioning, we decided that any arrangement that included both me and Eugenio would have a maximum of three. My companions began the journey seated on the net, and I watched them jealously from my perch higher up on the deck. Surely everyone would want to sit on the amazing net, I reasoned. I quietly observed the habits of other passengers, preparing for the moment when I could sneak into the luxury net seating.
Five minutes into the voyage, I learn why the net is not actually appealing. A huge wave splashes Eugenio from under the net, soaking all his clothes, including the gear he wasn't even wearing at the time. Even though some of us spend the majority of the trip actively dragging our feet into the ocean, no one else gets half as wet as Eugenio did from the first wave. By the end of the trip, the net is about as popular as The Net.
We heard that a previous whale watching tour had seen a gray whale and her baby attacked and killed by an orca. Worse, the orca effectively pinned the whales against the whale watching boat before tearing them apart, presumably with small children pointing at the bloodied whales. Fortunately, this did not happen on our trip. Also, while orcas are colloquially known as "killer whales", they are actually dolphins that kill whales. Using that same rationale, my date had a "killer time" with me at junior prom.
Dolphins are not rats
We saw at least ten dolphins on our journey back to the harbor, which was delightful. I was overwhelmed with dolphin-watching excitement, so much that I yelled, "Come back here, you lousy sea rat!" to a dolphin that was swimming away. The first mate was not amused, and eyed me with a mixture of pity and disgust. In hindsight, her disapproval may have been due to how loudly I said "barbed dolphin penis" a few minutes earlier.
The internet tells me that a dolphin penis is not actually barbed, though it does have a severe hook. Experts and zoophiles seem to be divided on whether the appendage is prehensile or not. I liked to think that our favorite dolphin from the trip, Van Ronto (named after the capital of a fictional Canadian province), can indeed grab things with his dolphin dong.
Menage a Trois, Baleine-Style:
Our informational flyer stated that gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California in order to mate. It also said that the whales mate in groups of "at least three whales, of mixed gender", but the document does not elaborate further. Gray whales: the freak-nastiest of all the cetaceans.
I re-applied twice for a two-and-a-half hour boat ride, and my face still felt sunburned afterward. Strangers openly discussed my pale skin and the inevitability of my sunburn. The first mate eyed me with a combination of pity and disgust.
The sea is full of cats
Michele asserted that the ocean is full of cats. Michele adores cats, to the extent that she nearly crashed the car on the drive south trying to look at a cat that was sitting in the cab of a truck. She's right that there are many possible sea felines. There's catfish, tiger sharks, leopard sharks, and sea lions.
When we saw some sea lions hanging out on a buoy, I got excited on Michele's behalf.
"Sea lion: King of the sea," I said.
"It's not the king of the sea," Michele replied.
"King of the beasts. Of the sea. They're dominating that buoy!" I countered.
"Shut up," she said.
When we spotted a seal swimming next to the boat on our way back to the harbor, I remarked that the sighting had "sealed the deal" for our trip. Our first mate eyed me with a mixture of pity and disgust.