o sailor can fail to have at least some sense of excitement whenever marine mammals appear. Whether you sight the characteristic spout of a sperm whale far off on the horizon or watch a pod of dolphins ride your bow wave, it’s always an occasion for wonder, appreciation and, of course, a scramble for the camera! After four summers sailing Alaska, I still reach for the binoculars every time I see a humpback, numerous though they are. I still rush to the bow to watch Dall’s porpoises dart around the boat, and I always smile to see sea otters lazing on their backs. If my husband, Seth, or I spy the tall dorsal fin of an orca, it’s time to luff the sails or — if we’re motoring — throttle back to neutral and watch them till they grow small in the distance. This summer, upon leaving Kodiak for our slow-paced return to Washington state, Seth and I were debating making an overnight passage across Shelikof Strait or breaking the trip into two days. A perfect 15-knot northeasterly had beckoned us on the overnight, but the tiring days in town, doing chores, working and socializing rather more than was good for our livers, meant that in the end we opted to put into an anchorage. We slept soundly, but regretted our decision when morning dawned without a breath of wind and with thick, damp fog. We weighed anchor around 0700 and puttered out of the cove and then west to cross Shelikof Strait, feeling a bit glum. Very slowly, though, the fog began to lift and we could see the hills of Kodiak Island on the beam. Astern, we caught a glimpse of the Canadian yacht that shared our anchorage. She seemed to be coming along on our course.