Out of the corner of my eye, in the distance, I saw an enormous splash. Was it a wave hitting a barely submerged rock? Looking more closely and seeing the splash repeat, I realized it was a whale. A humpback whale was breaching and slapping the water with her pectoral fin. She did it again and again.
David and I were on the Hurst Isle, the boat that would return us to God’s Pocket Resort for another sojourn, this time for one month. Bill Weeks, co-owner of God’s Pocket and our boat captain, offered an explanation: “She’s waving to you, Susan, welcoming you back!” Of course she is, I thought…
We have been here just a few days, caretaking the resort this week. The area has been receiving some much needed rain, coinciding with our arrival. So on that front, things don’t seem much different from when we here for two and a half months over the winter: it is cold and wet! But other things are quite changed. The water, crystal clear to depth in January and February, is murky green due to the algae bloom that happens every year at this time. The large number of otter we saw on the back side of the island are now gone. There are no cormorants on the breakwater, let alone on Cormorant Rock at the mouth of the cove. My favorite great blue heron no longer comes to the cove daily.
But there are other new things. Visitors of the human variety are quite common. Normally, for a small fee, boats can tie up at the dock here, otherwise they can anchor for free between Cormorant Rock and the shore of Hurst Island. At the moment, there are three rather large boats affiliated with the resort tied up to the docks and so not much room for other vessels. We had a family of three Australians anchor their 36 foot sailboat just outside the breakwater who we invited for dinner. Within the next 24 hours we had a motor boat with a retired couple on their way up the BC coast, and another sailboat with four men on it anchor just outside the cove. Two kayakers also paddled up for a chat, hoping our “store” was open. With the resort closed this week and the limited dock space, it was easy to be friendly. But we couldn’t invite everyone ashore, let alone in for dinner!
Bald eagles are present in abundance. On our crab pot-setting adventure yesterday, we saw no fewer than four pair of eagles, some with their juveniles, hunting over the water for fish. David, too, was fishing, hoping to catch rockfish, while I watched the eagles swoop and dive and return to the trees. Sometimes there was a fish in their talons, sometimes not. We humans were lucky yesterday: David caught a 16 inch spiny rockfish and 28 inch lingcod, really the perfect size (any smaller wouldn’t be legal, and any bigger would mean prime breeding age and shouldn’t be taken). Dinner was delicious.
We’ve already had a few unexpected, exciting moments. I was doing dishes with my earbuds and music playing in my ears when we realized that there were schools of fish in the cove, jumping out of the water, to eat shrimp fry and crab larvae treats. We assumed they were herring since they are the only schooling fish we have seen up close. The herring we are familiar with come into the San Francisco Bay every December-March for their annual spawn, and often take over the water in front of our condo.
When we showed the short video of the fish jumping in the God’s Pocket cove to our hosts Bill and Annie, they wondered if the schools were not herring, but juvenile salmon… The herring had just had their spawn further north in the warmer water inlets close to shore, so it didn’t make sense to them that they would be schooling down here in the deeper, colder water. So we think: herring = one kind of cool. But juvenile salmon? = another exponential kind of cool!
Bill and Annie are staying at their cabin across the Christie Pass, slightly northward, on Balaklava Island, and they invited us for dinner tonight to share the Dungeness crab from the pots we set yesterday (that they picked up today). We had a lovely, wine-enriched time with them, and the crab was delicious. I shared with them the very short ditty I made up and have been singing to myself since my arrival:
Looking for a humpie, humpback whale,
Swimming in the ocean, fluking with her tail!
As luck would have it, on our way back across the pass, we saw two humpback whales head into the pass in our direction from the east. We cut the motor on the skiff and waited. While holding my breath in awe, I was able to use my iPhone to video one of the whales surfacing, blowing, and going back under (see my instagram post!). One breath past us, the whale dove deep, ending our enraptured vigil, so we resumed our course towards home. We stopped two more times: we saw the blow of a whale in the distance to the north, and then again, behind us to the west in the pass as we neared God’s Pocket. Those sightings were exciting, but nothing like the close visit we had just enjoyed 25 feet off our bow.
The days are quite long here at this time of year, and we have noticed that we are exceptionally tired. We are shaking off the stresses from our last few months, and even as we arrived here, the grief-inducing terrible news of the last few days. I am grateful that it is very quiet here: it is good for reflection, for nurturing peace, and for doing very little. I am glad to be able to retreat to nature, and to this remote island, even while knowing that doing very little is selfish and doesn’t contribute to the common good.
So, I will make my anger and grief heard. And I encourage my friends and blog followers to do as I will: please reach out to your representatives at all levels of government and let them know how you feel.
PS — Please allow me another shameless plug! My (maternal) aunt, Camilla Trinchieri, has just published her novel Seeking Alice, which I highly recommend. Here is the link to Amazon, where it can be readily procured and enjoyed:https://www.amazon.com/Seeking-Alice-Novel-Excelsior-Editions/dp/1438461283/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466138742&sr=8-1&keywords=seeking+alice. Buy it (from Amazon or your local book seller) and enjoy!
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