notes from the boat
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Whales Up the Wazzoo - 15th October 04
Leaving Los Gatos where we'd spent a great last evening with John and Barbara, we spotted a group of fins and so heading towards them (because it's a boat and we can) we came across a pod of pilot whales! With great excitement, we hailed John and Barbara on the radio and they rushed out in their dinghy to join us.

For the next hour a group of inquisitive pilot whales played around us, diving under the boat, circling the dinghy and providing us with one of the most fabulous experiences of our summer in the Sea of Cortez. We took hundreds of photos of them as they swam around us, literally feet away.

John and Barbara, in their collapsible Port-a-Boat were even closer, inches away they could almost touch the whales who stayed tantalizingly out of reach.

Spouting lazily in the morning sun, their odourous breath lingering, it seemed like the perfect end to our adventures and the realization of a long-time ambition, a close encounter with whales. Little did we know what the rest of the day had in store!

The whales moved slowly north, we reluctantly turned south, waved farewell to John and Barbara and started our day sail to San Evaristo.

Not long after, we had a strike on the fishing rod and Carl's greatest fishing ambition was finally realised (see Part 23, How to Master a Marlin.)

The day became even more unbelievable as we then caught a dorado, a behemoth measuring, 3 feet 11 inches, the largest we'd landed. We happily tossed it back as it was far too big for us to eat and we could see its mate wondering where it was going. Our policy being to throw back fish with friends.

And as if that weren't enough for the day, we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw another group of fins, these ones larger, moving quickly towards us. We slowed the boat and before long were again surrounded by whales, this time killer whales or orcas. The pod consisted of a very large male (we knew this from the size and shape of his fin,) several females and probably, young. The huge male kept his distance, for which we were grateful as we didn't want to antagonize him, while several of the smaller members of the pod came to check us out, literally, one rolling over on its side to get a better look.

The world's largest predator had us surrounded, diving under the boat and swimming like dolphins in the bow wave. It was unbelievable.

The difference between the two pods was interesting. The head of the pilot whale is bulbous and reflects its placid behaviour, contrasting sharply with the more angular and aggressive orca. The lack of camouflage as the bold black and white markings flashed through the water reminded us that this was one creature not to mess with.

The whales went on their way and we spent the night at San Evaristo, rising at 6am the next day and heading back into La Paz. It was the perfect conclusion to our summer in the Sea of Cortez.

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