“What if we wouldn’t see a whale again this time around?” my mom said.
I didn’t want to think about that, though it was a thought I couldn’t shake.
My parents and brother were in town visiting from Indiana. Last time they came around for a visit, we decided to go to the San Juan Islands for a whale watching tour, and it ended with me drinking myself blind with rum and cokes after being stuck on the boat for five hours and having a bald eagle pointed out to us.
There were zero whale sightings that day. Only crushed spirits and my mother stating that if she wanted to see a bald eagle, she could have just stayed in Indiana.
It was cold and rainy as we started our drive that morning to the marina in Bellingham. I wondered if whales were less likely to jump out of the water in the rain. Maybe they were like me when it was shitty out, and even though they had obligations like coming up for air, instead they were just in the mood to hit snooze for about five more hours.
If we struck out a second time it would be horrible.
My dad bought our tickets with our “bummer cards” from our last go around which gave him a discount, and we grabbed our seats on the ship. My dad was one of the first ones to spring up when they announced the on board meal of lasagna was ready.
I cringed as the kids ran forward in the line, knowing they were going to breath all over the food before I made it up there, but ultimately if the goal wasn’t to make your money back by eating your weight in lasagna in case there wasn’t a whale sighting, why were we even there.
It was the swamp tour in New Orleans all over again with the child factor, and I wondered if there wasn’t a non-kid version of this that we could partake in. But I suppose at the end of the day most adults are poorly behaved as well, the kids were merely a distraction from that in the long run.
After about two hours passed, we were told we were coming up on an area where there were orcas.
We headed outside to check it out, where while it was windy and chilly, the sun was finally blasting down on us in what had turned out to be a pretty decent day.
And then it happened.
It was completely silent, and then I heard the sound of the whales coming up to take a breath as they popped out of the water.
It’s a weird thing to be fixated on. The sound of the whale breathing. But there was something weirdly centering about it. Like we were on the tiny ship in the middle of a vast body of water and these gigantic creatures were lurking all over the place beneath us. I’ll run the risk of sounding like a complete nerd by saying it was magnificent.
This was quickly drown out by the sound of kids screaming and asking where the whales were and if they would pop back up again, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
I was excited to just see a whale at this point.
I sat outside on the deck after we had watched a pod of orcas stroll through the ocean for a while and the boat headed to a different area where we were watching for a humpback whale.
I do always feel like there’s a calming factor for me being on the water. I love it. And seeing the whales makes it even better.
So I sat, feeling the chill of the wind in my hair and keeping my eye out as per captain’s orders for a humpback whale to appear at any moment.
We were the only boat out there. I wondered how he knew. Or if everyone else had given up on the whale that was spotted last.
Then this huge creature appeared out of nowhere.
The child next to me stopped spitting over the railing and yelled, “HEY, MR WHALE! COME BACK!” once it had gone back into the water.
All in all, it was pretty damn cool.
And there was such a sense of relief that we were now at a 50% rate of actually seeing whales when going whale watching.
Not a bad way to end a visit with the family, if I do say so myself.