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Favorite Funny Stories – The Whale Watching Adventure
Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about many things. Orca whales happen to be one of those things. Years ago when our kids were little, we went on a trip to San Diego where I grew up. We dutifully took them to Sea World so that they could learn more about the beautiful whales that I have been enchanted with for decades.
Living in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years, we had ample time to visit the Orcas in their native habitat. This was something that was no simple feat to accomplish since we lived in the Tacoma area and had to drive several hours just to get to the ferry, which was another 1-1/2 hour ride, plus another 20-30 minute to the far side of the San Juan Island where the Orcas most likely pass when in season.
Sometimes we stayed over on the island camping or for a weekend just so I could have multiple ‘fixes’ of my favorite ocean friends, but much more often, we would simply drive up, ferry across and come back the same long day. The funniest thing about all of this – I have friends who have gone time and again and never seen the Orcas when they did not go with us.
However, in this one thing, I have had the most profound luck. We must have gone to see the Orcas at least a dozen times over the years, maybe twice that. Every single time – they were there. Even if people on the shore or in town said there had been no Orca sightings that day, I would stubbornly insist that we go to our favorite spot – ‘if I traveled there, they would come’.
And it happened – every single time! It is one of the most amazing things of my lifetime to have been so blessed as to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.TOTEM WHALE Northwest Indian pole carving orca killer T-Shirt L, NATURAL, GILDAN
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Preamble to the Adventure
All this said, we have of course taken our children to San Juan Island countless times and seen the whales often. We’ve seen the whales in small numbers and once in multiple pods. Once, we saw the whales so close to shore it was unbelievable as most often they hovered quite a ways out. However, the sea is so still there and it is so quiet that no matter how far out they are, you can hear them breathe as they surface. It is almost a religious experience for me. Most often people spot me standing in awe with tears running down my face while I snap photos or try and video tape them but most often I just stand and watch. It is a special place for me I love to share with people I love. They of course most often have to start the car and threaten to leave me behind to get me to leave!
Patrick is our middle son and he was born severely visually impaired. He can see an object for instance as a man across the street, but he cannot tell who the man is. We have actually lost him a couple times over his lifetime as he walked off with someone with the shape of his dad!
Over the years, we tried our best to do things in such a manner as to help him ‘see’ as much as he possibly could but in the case of seeing the whales, it seemed like every time we had him with us, the whales just had to be out in the strait too far for him to really see them. We never could synchronize him being with us and seeing them ‘up close and personal.’ Even with binoculars, he could not distinguish them clearly.
This bothered me a little bit because darn it – I just wanted him to see as much of the world as possible. One summer though, I came up with this brilliant idea of how we could solve the problem. Much as I am not fond of whale watching tours, simply because so few of them observe the law which is to leave the whales alone and NOT follow them or get too close, I decided in this one case I could break form and do something totally cool for my son.
Our 2 remaining kids were teens by this time and our oldest son was away at college in Alabama playing soccer. It seemed like a good time to ‘bond’ further with our 2 teenagers and do something that we all loved which was enjoying nature. However, I don’t think our 2 teens were too thrilled at all when they found out that the boat mom had booked them on left at 6:00 a.m. from Everett, Washington – which meant we had to leave our house by no later than 4:30 a.m.
After hearing glowing reports on how environmentally bound the Mosquito Fleet was who operated the whale watching tour out of the Seattle environs, I made all the necessary arrangements and one bright and early Saturday morning, we headed north to catch our boat.Whale Watcher: A Global Guide to Watching Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises in the Wild
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Well, granted, there was a lot of grumbling going on – teens do not like waking up at that ungodly hour and doing anything but there we were…all driving along happily to Everett. (Sure) We got to the dock without a glitch and promptly boarded the vessel. While we cruised along, we were treated to a wonderful breakfast and got to watch movies of rescued whales or whales released back into captivity.
Of course, being teens, Katie and Pat both dropped off for a while after their bellies were full and I, left to my devices, seeing Bob was joining them in a nap, took off to explore the boat. As I toured around and read the information posted and in the pamphlets, I became aware of one very important fact. Once we reached our destination in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, everyone and his brother (or sister) was going to be out on the deck of the ship with binoculars and trying to get the best view of the whales! I had also noticed that there was not that much room out there! I asked a few ship personnel if we could ‘secure’ a spot because my son was visually impaired but they told me that everyone could see from ‘everywhere’ – a fact I knew would not be true but I did see their point regarding ‘reserved seating’ and wasn’t going to argue.
But now I began to panic a bit (oh what a surprise). I was thinking to myself ‘self – after all this planning – not to mention the money – we are going to get out there and Pat is not going to be any better off than before. He’s going to be straining and straining to see and now he’s going to have to do it over all these people’s heads!’
Necessity as they say is the mother of invention – and what a mother my Patrick has! Was it any surprise that I set about trying to assure that my son was going to by golly get the BEST view in the place? There was NO WAY that Patrick was not going to see the whales this time up close and very personal.
I hurried back to my sleeping family and shook Patrick awake. I told him my plan and he looked at me quite skeptically – that’s the thanks you get for coming up with a master plan! He said something like ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea, mom? Did you ASK anyone about it?’ To which I answered ‘Of course I did – they said first come, first serve out on the forward deck – so that’s what we’re going to do?’ Still the skepticism!
We waited a while as the ship buzzed along through the Puget Sound and when I heard them announce that we were coming up on Deception Pass, in my mind on the map, I saw ‘close – almost there’. I bolted from my seat, grabbing Patrick’s arm and pulling him up with me and dragging him to the door that opened onto the front deck of the boat. As the door slammed shut behind us, Pat says ‘Good grief, mom – it’s like FREEZING out here! Are you nuts? Let’s go back inside and wait.’
‘No’ I doggedly insisted. ‘If we don’t get a seat right now, we’re going to be missing out on everything once we get there. It’s not that much further after all (I’ve always been great with a map) and we should just hunker down out here and keep our seats.’ As I turned, to further qualify my opinion, there were 2 young people huddled against the railing. Proudly I said ‘See – they’re out here so why shouldn’t we be grabbing our place?’ Of course I realized 5 minutes later that they were TOTALLY making out. They could have cared less if they’d been underwater or in a blizzard – they were hot enough for the whole boat! I of course guided Patrick to the opposite side of the boat – he is visually impaired but he isn’t deaf!
Reluctantly, Patrick hunkered down with me on the right side of the boat – is that called the prow or the bow – the front part? Anyhow, we are hunkered down sitting on the wooden seats minding our own business when all of a sudden, we broke free of the inner sound I guess and whipped out into the open part of the sound at Deception Pass. I now know why they call it Deception Pass – because it definitely is deceiving! One minute, we were riding along albeit with the wind whipping us with its cold fists and bouncing along pretty well on the swells and the next, we were in ice cold hell!
As we turned out into the patch known as Deception Pass, the wind kicked up about 20 knots and all of a sudden, the waves weren’t swells – they were all out WAVES crashing over the front of the boat. I tried to create an air of total confidence as I gripped white knuckles onto the railing holding on for dear life and smiled over at Patrick through frozen teeth….’This isn’t so bad – should be there any minute now’……as yet another wave crashed over us soaking us to the skin.
He is looking at me like I have 5 heads – ha – I’ve seen this look before! It was on the lake in the boat at Lake Crescent! He thinks I’m insane (again) and he is going to die. He is holding onto the railing with a death grip and just glaring at me by this time. The 2 lovebirds have decided they can’t handle being thrown over the railing into the sea so have literally skidded to the door, thrown it open and have dived inside….leaving me and my visually impaired, trusting son on the deck to fend for ourselves!
We both tried at one point to get up and follow the lovebirds, but by now, the deck had become so treacherous that we were slipping and sliding around like crazy – we could not get a foot in front of us to get to the door. The boat was pitching up and down, right and left and by now, we are both petrified and afraid of drowning – being swept over the side into the swirling sea. We apparently both just instinctively make the decision that we were staying put NO MATTER WHAT! If someone came out and threw us a rope, we might consider trying to get back inside, but we are doomed now without a steadying prayer to get back inside – so on we ride.
To say that we were a little wet would be putting it mildly…..it seemed like HOURS while we rode out the bucking bronco on the front of this ship from hell. All I could think of was what had I done THIS time with my brilliant plans? And where in the name of heaven and all that was holy was my freaking husband? Had he not possibly noticed that he was on a bucking bronco and that his brilliant wife and poor son were missing? Could he have not sent someone to look for us? And do they not have cameras on these boats? Were they thinking I was looking for a thrill and wanted to see if I could plunge into the frigid waters of Puget Sound with my son in tow? Is anybody in there????
I could imagine Bob and Katie sitting at the window watching the sights go by – sipping hot chocolate while Pat and I were being buffeted by wind and sea and turned into icicles on the bow or the prow or whatever the heck it’s called! I no longer cared! I didn’t care if I ever saw the whales – I didn’t care if I ever saw anything but the safety of the interior of the ship!
It seemed almost as quickly as all those waves came crashing over us, the sea settled down and there we were, drenched like drowned rats sitting in the prow of the ship but we were in the calm water again. Then I heard the message over the loudspeaker. ‘We are coming up on San Juan Island Lime Kiln Park. Please take a seat on the front of the ship and binoculars will be forthcoming.’
Ah – see!!!! It all worked out for the best! I was almost giddy with enthusiasm and jumping up and down except I couldn’t because of the 3 gallons of water in my jeans and in my shoes! Patrick was still glowering at me like I’d made him a date or something and he was shivering badly. ‘See honey – it’s all good – I got us the best seat in the house. You’re going to thank me for this soon!’ Yeah – I’ll bet!!
So everyone piled out of the inside of the boat. My husband and Katie came to stand next to us and looked at us peculiarly. My husband then had the nerve to ask ‘So what the heck – how the hell did you get so wet? Did you guys go swimming?’
‘Yeah sure, Einstein – we jumped off the boat and somehow miraculously pulled ourselves back up after the quick dip. Where the hell
do you THINK we were? Did it occur to you to come looking for us while we were smacking around on the front of this boat?’ Oy vey – I get no respect.
He just gives me the typical puzzled Bob look – whatever! He has no idea what we’ve done until I tell him later on but he rolls his eyes and shakes his head. About this time the boat comes to a stop as they are required to by law as a pod or two are approaching and I am going mad in my zeal to show my son these beautiful creatures! He has come out of his frigid daze and is excitedly looking all over the place and saying ‘Where are they? I can’t see them’ and of course everyone on the ship is looking at him and pointing. ‘They’re right THERE – can’t you see them?’
Well, in actuality they weren’t ‘right there’ and finally I guess they ‘got’ that he could not see a whit as well as any of us could. Sadly – where do you think the whales were? You guessed it – today they were on the SHORE – the rarest of all places to find them – and right at the spot where we usually sat, just south of Lime Kiln Park. GO FIGURE!!! If I could have, I would have thrown myself into the sea!
Pat took it well as he usually did – ‘It’s okay mom – I can see them a little bit – is that them over there?’ (as he points to a boat). We took pictures and folks took movies. It was kind of a letdown after braving the elements to see them so far away and I wanted to scream out over the strait ‘Come closer – please – don’t you know we risked our lives to see you?’ but it just wasn’t meant to be.
The ship hung in the water for a long, long time as I begged the folks to please wait to see if they would swim closer but alas, they didn’t!See all 5 photos
See all 5 photos
See all 5 photos
See all 5 photos
I realized later that it just wasn’t meant to be and after all was said and done, I got a laugh out of Patrick my funny boy after all! We were drenched for the entire trip because we had stupidly not thought to bring extra clothes. After all, we did not think we were going to be getting an ocean shower but live and learn!
Bob was kind enough to take us all to dinner once we got back to the dock in Everett – Pat and I got a few looks in our decidedly damp and crumbled clothes as we entered the restaurant and I was very tempted to ask the waitress to bring us a few hot towels to put in strategic places!
It was worth all the adventure I guess in the long run as it turned out to be yet another of our crazy stories together but in retrospect, we probably should have just kept traveling to ‘our spot’ and waiting to see the whales. Sometimes the harder you try, the less likely you are at succeeding I have found and it definitely was a lesson learned!
Of course, knowing me, it probably would have been something else if not being nearly drowned on the prow of a ship! Sometimes these things just seem to happen to me and a few times, I managed to somehow drag my poor family along with me! Yet, they still love me! I am one grateful girl!
Thought for the day: “Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live.” Author unknown
We Were Here