Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 59 -- Four-hour Watching Cruise

I set the motel alarm clock last night so I would be sure to get up in time to catch the early Whale Watch Cruise: check-in at 8:30AM. I woke up 9 minutes after the alarm should have sounded. Each alarm clock is different. This one apparently has a volume dial for the buzzer and it can be turned all the way down -- and it was. Who designs these things? Why in the world would someone want to set an alarm to wake them up and set the buzzer to be silent?

When I was washed and dressed I went to get breakfast in the motel front office and found the door locked. I could see that the breakfast items were set out, but no one was answering calls to open the door. Finally roused someone about 15 minutes later.

Drove downtown to one of the lower cost garages and walked the rest of the way to the wharf and got myself signed up for the 9AM cruise that was to last 4-5 hours. This is the longest one offered by any of the companies. It was very foggy at the motel, but blue sky was visible from the waterfront. There were only about 20 people signed up for the cruise, so there was plenty of room on the 70-foot boat that could hold about 60 passengers. And off we went.

The hat and scarf I bought in Flagstaff in anticipation of cold winds at the Grand Canyon sure came in handy. Some of the passengers spent all their time on the stern. (Engine fumes. Ugh.) Some spent a lot of time in the cabin. Some of them were sleeping, probably because they took Dramamine. A few looked like they wish they'd taken Dramamine. I stood practically the whole trip at the rail on the bow. I wanted to be the first to see a whale spouting water and shout, "Whale at 4 o'clock!"

I've been on a whale watch cruise at Cape Cod and another in Oregon. Both times we saw one or two whales -- and in Massachusetts the whale came next to the boat and sprayed us -- but I've never gotten to witness any dramatic whale activities like spy hopping or breaching. This time, with up to 5 hours on the boat, I was hoping to see some action. And plenty of whales. So I watched. And watched.

We saw all kinds of sea birds and more sea lions than you could count. Sea lions look much more athletic in the open water than they do hauled up on the jetty. (Ahrr. Ahrr. Ahrr.) In the harbor we saw a lone otter and around hour three I may have spotted a harbor seal or two. At one point the captain slowed the ship down so we could see a sunfish, a large, strange-looking deep-water fish that sometimes floats on its side near the surface. And some white-sided dolphins rode the bow wave of the ship briefly -- too briefly and quick to be able to get a picture.

And I continued to watch, but we never saw a hint of a whale. (One of the crew wondered whether it might have something to do with the earthquake.) After four hours, the whale-less watching cruise returned to port. I noticed that they had cancelled their 2PM cruise. We must be special because this doesn't happen very often, and this particular company guarantees a whale sighting or the next trip is free. So I left with a card for a free whale watching cruise. No expiration.

It wasn't a waste of time. I love boating, even when the water is a bit rough -- as long as I'm not getting drenched with cold water. I can't remember when I last spent that much time out on a boat. When I lived in Monterey I took sailing lessons in the bay. Private lessons. Just me, the instructor and a 19- or 21-foot boat. (Depending on which was available at the time of my weekly lesson.) Half of my final "exam" was to go out without the instructor (and come back). He recommended that I recruit a friend to accompany me, so I invited a guy named Steve who had no sailing experience. A few weeks after I was officially "certified" I got a group of friends together -- including Steve -- and we chartered a small sail boat for half a day. Since I was the only one who knew anything about sailing, it was all on my shoulders and it was pretty tiring. I haven't sailed since I left Monterey.

Anyway, now I have a reason to return to Monterey sometime -- to collect on the whales they owe me.

Once I was on dry ground again, I visited a nearby history museum for a quick look around. Then I headed off on a nostalgia walk through Cannery Row to Pacific Grove. Thirty years ago I used to spend my Saturdays walking down from the Presidio, along the waterfront to and through Pacific Grove and along the highway back up to the Presidio. I stopped along the way to read and munch on a sandwich. It was a 10-mile walk. I didn't do the whole walk today. I think I walked about two miles -- in one direction.

Much has changed in 30 years, and much has remained the same. Cannery Row is now a major destination with the giant aquarium and big luxury hotels. I spotted an orange building set away from the others and recognized it as a place that used to be called Tia Maria's and was one of the few night life hot spots in the area. (It's now called El Torito.) When I got past the new hotels and ritzy shops, everything started to look familiar. The public path hugs the coast. I saw places where you can walk out onto the rocks -- and where I used to sit and read. I heard a faint "Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap." It was an otter floating on its back in the kelp, cracking a shellfish against a rock on its stomach. Maybe it was the grandchild of one of the otters I used to watch.

I turned around at the "gray building" -- whatever that was -- because I knew I had to walk all the way back. I don't remember how much further the coast walk continues, but I didn't have the time or the stamina to find out.

I'd hoped to drive to Carmel to take a quick look around. But it was getting late and I was too tired. Besides, I'll be coming back to see the whales, right?

Tomorrow will be a long driving day, around or through San Francisco and/or Silicon Valley. I'm debating whether to try to get home in two days (Friday night) instead of three. I think I'll skip Route 1. Gorgeous but slow. And I've already seen so much great scenery. Maybe I'll save it for another trip to Monterey.

Not sure that I'll get all hot and bothered about trying to find a motel room with internet access the next night or two. That means that this may -- or may not -- be the last blog post from the road.


Anonymous said...

Thanks again for letting us share your trip through the blog! See you soon.

On the news tonight is the story about improvements the Oregon Zoo will be making to the orangutan area - and the old underground tunnel that will be used.


Gerry L said...

JCD (and anyone else who has been reading),
And thanks for visiting this blog.

On the Oregon Zoo website is a video about the orangutan project -- with images of the model and lots of footage of Inji.