Then something unexpected and wonderful happened.
We got a phone call from someone who had no idea we were headed toward Monterey who had, as it happened, just been in the area the week before and had, as it happened, been told by a local that a wild sea otter, but one habituated to humans, was just hanging out at a local dock where people could stop by. As it happened, this dock was 20 minutes away from where we were. We practically swerved off the road, in hopes the otter was still hanging around the dock, and in hopes we could reach the dock before dark.
It was, and we did. And it was amazing.
The otter was perfectly happy and healthy (well, at least as far as we could tell), and as you could see, didn't seem at all perturbed to have people standing around looking at it.
Or taking its picture. Or even...
...stroking its fur, and I know, I know, don't touch a wild animal, but I can't say I regret it. It was amazing. It kind of rolled over and did the "scratch right there" thing that the dogs do. My hand was rather gray afterwards, but boy was it incredible to touch that fur.
Did you know that sea otters have the densest fur of any animal? On some parts of their body, it has 1 million hairs per square inch.
I can also tell you now from first-hand experience that they have the cutest ears and strangely small front paws that look a little like catchers' mitts, and that when they flex their toes, their back webbed feet are disproportionately large.
The next day, as it happened, the whale watch was cancelled due to rough weather, so we went back to visit the sea otter who was enjoying a healthy breakfast. I can also tell you now from first-hand experience that sea otters are noisy eaters. Well, see for yourself.