Sunday, January 14, 2018

Goodbye, Cabrillo Whale Watch

I've loved my time as a Cabrillo Whale Watch Naturalist.  I cried a bit Tuesday night when I left the meeting (early, because I knew I was going to cry) and again yesterday afternoon when I got off the Tradition, my last boat as a naturalist.

Unfortunately, moving to Petaluma this spring is going to be expensive, and I'm not sure I'm going to get any kind of support to complete the move, that means drastic cuts.  My food budget is now $25/ week, and I'm cutting my gas use in half.  I've had to cut my hours volunteering at the aquarium to once a week, and I can no longer drive up the coast to do whale watches (or pay for parking if I'm at Redondo Beach). Hopefully I'll have enough saved up when it's time to move to pay for the moving expenses, security deposit, and the travel up before the move to sign paperwork with housing and the apartment complex.  It's going to be an ugly few months.

The good thing about my last whale watch was that I did get to see a juvenile Pacific Gray Whale.  It was snorkeling (swimming just under the surface and just rising enough to get it's blow hole out of the water) so it was in full stealth mode most of the time, but it did fluke once, to the delight of the passengers.  Unfortunately, I'd put my camera away just before the fluke, and was talking to a group of kids about the whale's behavior when it started it's dive, then I was narrating the dive and forgot about my camera until the flukes had disappeared beneath the water.

So, the only photo I got of this whale was a pretty blurry shot of a low blow (since being near the surface and snorkeling, the blows aren't as powerful)


So, as far as photography goes, the trip was a bust, but as far as talking to people goes, it was pretty great.  Kids ride the Tradition free, and even though it's a shorter trip than some of the whale watches, it's in a great location to see whales and other marine mammals, so it's fun for me to work that boat, because the kids get so excited to see all the animals.

And this was a pretty great trip all in all, because we also saw Pacific White Sided Dolphin, Common Dolphin, and a Coastal Bottlenose, as well as the usual sea lions and several species of birds.

I did get an OK photo of some of the commons swimming in our wake:



and a pretty typical bunch of photos of sea lions on the navigation buoys.



I kinda like this one because it looks like one of the big males is telling the females and pups "no more room on this buoy for you!"

I do have one more whale watch trip planned, not as a naturalist, but as a guest on Harbor Breeze, which I took a Groupon out for a couple months ago, with the idea of seeing the orca around New Year's Day, but the orca haven't come down yet.

This year the Gray migration is also slow and late. We've mostly been seeing a few scattered juveniles coming down. With 21,000 whales on the migration route, we should see more than that!   It's possible that the majority of the whales are taking the outer migration route past the channel islands, or perhaps they've stayed up in the feeding grounds later this year because of the warmer weather. 

Last year the migration was early and very dense, so we were all surprised at this year's numbers so far.  It also looks like a lot of babies are being born on the way down,  4 newborns were sighted at the Gray Whale Census count at Point Vicente. 

You can follow the migration count at the American Cetacean Society of LA County's Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project web page.

Goodbye, Ports O' Call.

Well, it's started.  Everyone is being evicted.  Shops are boarded up.  Ships will have to be relocated.  Only the San Pedro Fish Market will remain as the City of San Pedro starts demolition to make way for a new waterfront construction: The San Pedro Public Market.  The plans came out a couple years ago, one in a long series of plans.  The city isn't the greatest at moving forward, and is much better at evicting businesses and clearing the land than actually doing the building, and this isn't the first project locals have been skeptical of.

The idea here is to replace the old mid-century "faux-New England" style small and colorful shops with industrial modern warehouse designed buildings.  

Ports O'Call has always been packed since I've been here.  During the summer, getting in and getting parking is a nightmare.  With that much traffic (and business) WHY would you want to fix something that isn't broken?

Sure, the new buildings are beautiful.  Could they build them across the street?  Even Long Beach kept their "fisherman's village" when the waterfront and the Pike were developed.  THAT'S what tourists come down to the waterfront to see:  all those lovely little kitschy shops that sell ocean themed gifts, unique dining, and around here, the whale watches and harbor tours.  They don't need to go to the waterfront to buy socks.

Yesterday I took a tour around one end of Ports O'Call. I didn't have time (before my boat left) to do the other end, where the Pan Pacific restaurant is, and some of the other eateries that are operating for a few more months. 


I won't be here when the new Market opens... if they ever do get it open.  Right now I'm keenly feeling the loss of a place so many people value in San Pedro.

While I was there taking photos, there were a number of other people there doing the same.  Some were residents who'd lived their lives in San Pedro.  Some had visited and came back one last time.  All were sad. All spoke about the end of something they'd held lovingly in memory.  Soon, the memory will be all that's left.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Oh, Petaluma! (finally!)


It's no secret I've been struggling with where my life has lead me, and where I was trying to lead my life.  And then I got a phone call.  It was a mistake, they took my name from the wrong list, but that means my name is at the top of the RIGHT list.  What they could tell me was that in the next month or so, I'll be getting my call for the apartment I've been waiting for in Petaluma.

These last few months I've focused on making my life bearable here, and while there's nothing here I won't take with me, I also might have been more financially conservative if I'd thought the move would come so close on the heels of the new year.

It's not immediate. When I get the call, it'll be another 60 days to transfer my housing voucher, complete my application and move in.  So 3-4 months.  And in that time, I need to finish saving up my security deposit and have money to travel up there to do the paperwork once, maybe twice, before the actual move.

On my meager Social Security check, it's not an easy feat. 

So I've had to give up some stuff.  I'm planning on cutting in half the amount I spend on gas in a month, which means that I'll be leaving the Whale Watch program.  I want to take The Spirit out one last time, and I have The Indian on Monday, and that'll be it.  Tuesday will be my last meeting. 

Going out on The Spirit is important to me, because I also want to photograph Ports O'Call, since it's being demolished to make way for the new public market.  It's a project that will completely change the face of the waterfront in San Pedro, and one I have a love/hate relationship with.  It's a beautiful project, I just hate to see all the small businesses, including the whale watching boats, be kicked out.

For me this also means I'll have a pretty non-existent "farewell tour" of LA county.  I'd really wanted to see the zoo.  I do have a ticket for Harbor Breezes I bought myself before the holidays, and I'll be using that to do a whale watch out of Long Beach sometime in the next few weeks (it expires the end of February)

There had been some progress with some of my medical stuff, including looking at one of the surgeries that may reduce my hypoglycemia and other gastric and endocrine issues, and now that's all going to have to wait again until I'm up in Petaluma.  But I'm OK with that as well, because the hospital in Petaluma is very highly rated and I've lived with this for a long time, it can wait a bit longer.

So there's a little more dues to pay: no Whale Watch, and I may have to limit my time at the Cabrillo Aquarium somewhat.  Food?  Well, I'm going to have to cut back and be more creative with what I can get.  Entertainment?  Well, I haven't done too much of that anyway, and I guess I'll be waiting for Star Wars to be available on DVD or streaming.  As for the rest, well, I've never done Starbucks (but have moved to cheap decaf bulk tea), and won't be getting my hair cut any time soon.  And I haven't had my nails done since the 80's.  So yeah, things are going to get tight, and I just keep hoping the car holds together long enough to get me there.