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Summer Postcards 2011

Surrounded at Sea

By Vivian B. Ling, Crimson Staff Writer

MONTEREY, Calif.—I plunge my paddle into the water with force. But instead of propelling myself forward, I seem to be developing the perfect method for entangling my paddle in the thick coat of green kelp floating just under the water’s surface. Biting my lip, I wrestle pathetically with the unwieldy piece of plastic.

This is nowhere as easy as my friends make it look. They keep pace far ahead with our intrepid guide, a spunky fifty-year-old who leads her tour with exactly the amount of sass you would expect from someone who quit her corporate job to lead kayak tours. They glide across the waves in front of me, chatting pleasantly about whatever outdoorsy types talk about while they wait for lesser humans to catch up.

When I finally pull my kayak parallel to theirs, our guide points to a dark clump in the water sixty feet away. “Now, what you see over there are sleeping sea otters! I’ll tell you something funny about them: when the male wants to mate with a female, he bites her sharply on the nose!” (For the next two weeks, I will work this fact into every possible conversation.)

We hear a loud splash followed by frantic yelping. “Oh, looks like there’s a male getting a little frisky! All the females are getting the heck out of there! Well, who can blame them? I wouldn’t want to start my morning with a nosebleed either!"

Suddenly, we are surrounded. Having overcome their fear of humans in order to seek refuge from their playground romance, frolicking otters dart in and out of the water around us. Even our guide is awed by the sight. “It’s like Whack-an-Otter!” I say to my friend, who rolls her eyes at me.

Two otters chase each other through the water. A baby drifts alongside her mother, their coats gleaming in the light. Yet another otter floats on her back, balancing a spiky sea urchin across her belly with her paws. I rest my paddle across my lap and look out at the bay that surrounds me, its surface broken every now and then by a jet of dark brown fur.

Vivian B. Ling ’14, a member of the design board, lives in Currier House.

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Summer Postcards 2011