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Bodega Head

Sonoma Coast
Jan. 10, 2006

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We missed the only whale that the watchers spotted this day off Bodega Head, a gray whale that breached only a few hundred yards off the point at 12:24 that afternoon. But it was still a beautiful day for a hike along the bluff.

On the drive back to town, I told the girls about the time we went whale watching accidentally. I was about 12, and my family and I were out in our 19-foot, open-bow ski boat, somewhere off Palos Verdes. It was mid-afternoon and everyone was drowsing about while I was getting a chance at the wheel, far away from anything I could run into. Or so we thought. All that changed when a gray whale surfaced about 50 feet ahead of us and blew out its spout. "Uh, Dad .... I think you better take the wheel!"

We found ourselves in the midst of a pod of several gray whales who were so close we could clearly see the barnacles on their backs. Dad took the wheel and navigated us out of the pod without one of those monsters rising up below us -- an act which would have thrown us all into the sea. Once clear, we followed them for a while from a relatively safe distance.

I never went whale watching again. I figured there was no beating that experience.