Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Whales and boats

This past summer, my family went up to Michigan and I drove behind my father while he rode his motorcycle. He nearly drove off the road because he was so fascinated with how deeply he could see into the rock quarry that we passed. At that point, I started making a list of things that my dad will stop and stare at. For the most part, they are simple things like quarries . . . and three-legged dogs . . . and biracial couples. He's like a little kid with a parade. "Rebecca, Rebecca, look at that!" he says in hushed, excited tones. I figure I can read the list at his funeral to make people laugh. It's funny because my dad is a powerful person in the world. That he is often so rediculous in his personal life is beautiful because I see that behavior juxtaposed with his (deserved) public status as a mover and a shaker.

Yesterday was a day that my father would have enjoyed. Amy (Jeff's sister), her husband Reece, Jeff and I went over to San Juan Island for the day. We did not go shopping in the cute little shops (although I did buy some knitting needles) but instead drove out to several of the public parks that are on the shoreline. So, we walked up and down the beach at one of them and then played in the driftwood house that some hippies must have spent hours building. Then, we went to Lime Kiln Point.

I have to interject here and say that we do not see Orca Whales on Orcas Island. It's one of life's great ironies. Most Killer Whales in this area follow the salmon runs and the salmon do not run to the interior of the San Juan Islands. They run along the west side of the island that is actually named San Juan. So, although the image of the Orca whale, especially as depicted in Northwest Native American designs, is ubiquitous, the actual whale is not, at least in my experience.

However, we hiked out the very easy path to Lime Kiln Point and sat down at the first available picnic table. We took out some food and looked out at the ocean. Jeff commneted that it seemed like there were a lot of "whale watch" boats out there, so we kept looking. We thought we could see some spurts of water from blowholes in the distance. As we kept watching, we started to see fins, some of them very giant. Then, it was like a parade of 30 or 40 whales, all told. At least two of our resident pods and maybe all three went by. We saw lots of dorsal fins as well as lots of upper bodies. Then, they started slapping the water with their tales and even doing partial breeches. Almost toward the end of the parade, one of them spyhopped, which means it stuck its head up vertical from the water. These are not just behaviors that they do in the show at the Oceanarium! It was wonderful. We spent almost half and hour watching whales that were only 100 or 200 feet from shore. It was perfect. Jeff says he's never seen anything like it in all the time he's lived here. Amy and Reece paid to go on a whale watch boat the day before and they didn't see anything like it then.

This, however, did not make it a day that my dad would love. This was a day anyone would love. But, when we headed back into town, we were early for our ferry, so we sat outside at a little bar that is directly across from the ferry landing. We had pop and crabcakes and watched the marina. I noticed that a little 10 foot boat seemed to be adrift close in to the dock and said so. All four of us looked again and confirmed that it was, indeed, adrift. We then got to spend the next 20 minutes speculating as to what would happen to this small boat that was adrift. It had a little cover that caught the wind, so it was a more exciting drama than you might think. First , we worried it would hit the pilings at the ferry landing (those are the bumpers for the ferry to make sure it's centered as it comes in), then we wondered whether or not the ferry would come while the little boat was blocking its port. This led us to ponder all the possible scenarios for a ferry/small boat encounter in just such a situation. Would the ferry stop in time and send someone out to move it? Would the ferry just crush the small boat? However, the little boat cleared the first ferry landing, then the second group of piling, then the second ferry landing and headed out into the harbor. We discussed how the owner would feel to return to the dock and find his boat missing and what steps he would have to take to get the boat back. What if he didn't know it was missing for days? Then, a sailboat sent out a little Zodiac to catch the little boat and we cheered. At the same time, the dock sent out a formal rescue boat. Jeff says the owner will be fined for the service. It was a drama that moved at exactly the right pace for people that had already seen Orca whales and hippy driftwood. It was also the exact type of simple observation that my father enjoys. He would have loved the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Princess for the kind words. That was a great day on the island, wish I was there. Except I'd still be looking for those darn eagles. Love, dad