Whale Watching and Puke Dodging on the Atlantic

7:15 a.m.

We are first in line for the whale watch. Fog is thick throughout the Gulf of Maine. We can’t see past the lobster boats 100 yards off the dock. Will we be able to see whales through this fog?

Excitement builds as people begin to line up behind us. I’m sure glad I dressed so smartly with 3 layers of shirts and a coat. It can’t be more than 60 degrees outside.

If you ain't first...

If you ain’t first…

8:30 a.m.

We get first dibs on seats, which means we sit on the exposed top of the boat. The fog has left droplets of ice-cold water on every seat. So I am forced to remove one precious layer to sit on, lest my hindquarters become popsicles. It feels at least 10 degrees colder up here. Realization sets in: I am not wearing nearly enough clothing.

The captain tells us we won’t be seeing puffin today because of the fog, and says if we want to get off and come back another day, we may do that now. I consider his offer silently, and then scold myself.

“Self, you are supposed to be an adventurer today. Adventurers have to go through some uncomfortable situations in order to reach their goals.”

And so I remained in my icy throne.

Shivering Adventurers

Shivering Adventurers

8:45 a.m.

The boat has left the dock. Do they sell blankets on board? I picture my own blanket sitting in our motel room, mocking me. Damn you, blanket. I wish I had you right now.

“Adventurers don’t need blankets,” I remind myself. “You are Ishmael, on the hunt for Moby. You will do what it takes to find your whale. Look around. All of these other adventurers are going through the same cold you are. Buck up.”

9:00 a.m.

I spot a group of porpoise to my left. Our naturalist leader asks us to scream out when we see any wildlife. “PORPOISE!” I scream, my mouth muffled by my zipped jacket.

Only Nick, sitting next to me, hears me through the whipping wind, so we share the porpoise moment ourselves.

9:15 a.m. 

I wonder if I could pay someone for a blanket. The inside cabin below is starting to sound inviting.

“What kind of adventurer are you?” My brain chides. “You will not give up. You will persevere.”

9:20 a.m.

Mutiny begins.

“Where’d you get that pen?” Nick asks me. “I had one just like it that I lost.”

“My dad.” I reply, but in truth, I cannot quite recall where I got it. The wind is too strong for him to hear my confession. I continue to write.

9:30 a.m.

I notice myself squinting.

Could it be?

Yes! The sun has showed her beautiful face to the Gulf of Maine and the frozen passengers of the Whales & Puffins tour boat.

I feel it seeping into my windblown, numb skin. It makes the Atlantic Ocean glitter, as if to tell me, “Your hope will keep me strong.”

Meanwhile, the whales. What are they doing now?

Are they playing a hand of blackjack underneath the boat?

It’s fitting to look for Humpback Whales on Hump Day.

DCIM100GOPRO

9:45 a.m.

The guide starts talking loudly, but I can’t hear her because my hood is covering my ears.

“Er purrfins,” Nick says through his own coat.

I look up and view our first puffin sighting. He’s so far away he looks like a seagull to me.

But there- a closer one floating on the ocean! I can see the white and orange of his beak.

10:00 a.m.

SPLASH!

The naturalists hear something, but say they’re stumped on what it was.

The size and shape of the splash lead them to believe it was a Great White Shark.

During Shark Week.

Nice.

Nick saw the splash, but I didn’t. Still, I was in the presence of a Great White, and that is rad.

10:15 a.m.

POOF.

The sound of a whale’s blowhole in the distance.

The guide says they’re Fin Whales. 

I am shaking and jumping up and down and smiling so hard my mouth hurts.

Two puffs of blowhole air shoot up straight ahead.

The sound is powerful, and it’s loud, and it’s beautiful.

Two shiny gray backs glide out of the water a stone’s throw from where I’m standing on the deck.

These huge beasts are sharing their slice of water with me. I am very thankful Nick chose the left side of the boat.

The Grand Blowhole

The Grand Blowhole

A Fin Whale breaches the surface

A Fin Whale breaches the surface

10:30 a.m.

A curious baby seal swims up to the side of the boat. I can see his flippers and his belly and his doe eyes as he floats by us, checking us out.

Baby Seal Friend

Baby Seal Friend

11:00 a.m.

Time for a break.

I go down a level to get to the bathroom and the wind nearly slaps me off the ship. I feel a quick burst of “rain” hit my face, then find my way into an alcove and ask a woman, “Do you know where the bathroom is?”

“I don’t know, but I just got puked on,” she says.

Little orange specks dot her white sweater.

And then it dawns on me.

That wasn’t water that hit my face.

My stomach drops and I wipe my face with my sleeves. I wasn’t seasick before, but I am certainly feeling some nausea now.

I use yogic breathing to center myself and acknowledge that worse things have happened, and then make my way to the bathroom, and run back upstairs the other way around.

11:30 a.m.

The tour ends with three Humpback Whales swimming slowly next to our boat. They slap the sea with their tails as they dive down for more food. The guide tells us to “look for the tail” when they are about to dive down. 

One Humpback

One Humpback

Two Humpback

Two Humpback

12:00 p.m.

We sit back down in awe and proceed back to shore. Then we make our way to “Jordan’s” restaurant and eat lots of wild blueberry pancakes and hash browns.

IMG_9648

‘Fin’