When we were out of the channel we ran hard, bouncing over the blue-green waters of the sound, and then came to rest at a spot where some gray whales had been sighted earlier in the week. It's amazing that gray whales are still around, since they've been hunted to the brink of extinction more than once. It wasn't until 1946, in fact, as they were about to vanish from the earth, that they were classified as an endangered species. Grays are prolific breeders, though, and they soon grew in number and lost their endangered status. Nobody is certain how many of them migrate along the coast every spring, although some experts put the estimate as high as 20,000. The whales pause to feed on the way, dining on bottom-dwelling crustaceans at a tremendous rate. The point of the gorging is to add some new blubber, from six to twelve inches' worth, to get them through the winter months.