Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Whale Tale

Yesterday morning we arrived at a sailboat, The Sunderland, for our scheduled whale watching "open bar" booze cruise. However the patrons were a decidely staid lot, consisting mostly of seniors and a few middle aged types like C and I. We concluded that the 8:45 am start time was likely a tad too early for the scads of American college kids down here who were no doubt, feeling too hung, so to speak, to endure a wavy sail boat ride after a night of doing tequila shots whilst hanging upside down at from a ceiling fastened bungee cord at the famous Giggling Marlin.

The Sunderland was a beautiful boat. 135 years old, it was a double masted schooner which had been built in England in 1885 and had sailed around the world 5 times. Unlike the other boats in Cabo San Lucas it does indeed sail, although the wind was too calm to bring us under sail power for our trip.

Thus out into the harbour and after about 20 minutes we saw the telltale spouts of first one, then two and then three humpback whales. Soon after the real show began when either one or two of the whales started to breach. Breaching is the behaviour when whales shoot straight out of the water, fly high into the air and then land with an enormous splash on their backs and then go back down under the surface.

It turned out to be a mother, calf and associatre whale. At some point after they all dove, they passed the boat and suddenly appeared at the aft of the Sunderland probably less than a 100 metres off the deck. For the next hour we were treated to over 20 or more spectacular breaches by the whales, the experience only lessened by the crews insistence on playing yacht rock.

When we first sighted the whales there were only four boats in the area, all keeping a respectful distance from the group.

However as the morning wore on, more and more boats appeared until the area resembled a crowded water regatta site.

It is evident that there is extreme tension in the Cabo area relating to the whale watching business. The big, expensive and evironmentally conscious boats are all owned and operated by gringos who can afford the purchasing costs. They follow the international environmental rules to stay at least 100 metres away the whales, turn motors off (or at least keep them to a minimum) and not harass the whales.

The small Mexican owned "pangas" are another matter. In a country where the minimum wage is $4 a day, the panga owners fight desperately for hard fought tips from the gringos. Thus they chase the whales and get so close they are practically on top of them. Making the situation worse is the endemic corruption in Mexico. The skipper of our boat advised that virtually none of the pangas or other boats harassing the whales had whale watching licenses. One simply had to bribe the Harbour Master and the authorities would turn a blind eye.

When the poor trio of whales had so many boats chasing them across the harbour entrance, you could barely see them, the captain gave up in disgust and said he was turning back to give the whales a rest.

Suffice to say, the whales stopped breaching entirely as soon as the area got crowded.

The captain and first mate, said that if this continued the whales would not return to Cabo and would instead stay out to sea as they had last year, when you had to travel at least 15 miles offshore to see a whale.

They cautioned that the same had happened off the coast of California earlier ending any whale watching in the State.

So as the Mexicans try and cope with the effects of the recession and the collapse of the American tourist market in Cabo, the whale watching business is in effect, eating its own tail.

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