A small sailboat isn’t always the easiest platform for observing whales. We certainly worry less about our fuel consumption, but it isn’t easy to keep a steady hand on the camera, especially when the wind and waves get boisterous. The trade-offs for us are huge however; we travel with our whole household and all our familiar comforts (such as they are at sea) and can keep the “operation budget” low, which allows us months of exploring at a time.
“We” refers to Heidi (the wayward member of MERS) and her husband Stephen. We left Alert Bay a year and a half ago and plan to circumnavigate the Pacific, learning as much as we can along the way. It’s a broad goal and definitely subject to detours. So far we’ve only made it as far as southern Mexico, but we left the boat to work on the BC Coast for the summer and I also spent six weeks in Antarctica last year.
Most recently we’ve been sailing south along the coast and trying to gather ID photos of Humpbacks. Most of “BC’s” Humpbacks are known to winter in Hawai’i and Mexico, where they fast while they have their calves. At least some of the humpbacks in Mexico however are resident, finding enough food locally in summer that they don’t migrate north to BC and Alaska where the summer food (including dense schools of herring and krill) is so rich. It poses so many questions: Are they resident every year or only in “good” years? Perhaps it depends on El Niño events which affect this coat a lot. Perhaps it depends if an animal has a calf or not. Maybe some migrate and others don’t and they never change their individual pattern. With these thoughts in mind I shoot photos whenever the conditions allow. Some of the animals have tiny calves that still look floppy and awkward and we don’t approach these. At other times there’s simply too much wind and salt spray to photograph.
As I write we are on day 3 of a 5-day voyage to Huatulco – our last stop in Mexico. As we’ve moved south we’ve seen fewer Humpback Whales and more sea turtles (mostly Green Turtles, but many can’t be ID’d as we sail past) and lots of dolphins; both Spinner and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. Sailing at night is frustrating as we know we pass lots of interesting wildlife without seeing it. The benefit is witnessing the planet’s best natural fireworks display: dolphins glowing in bioluminescence!