Tag Archives: whales

29 Before 29: Go Whale Watching

11 Jul

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List HereAll Bucket List Adventures Here.

The SeaWolf II

The SeaWolf II

After the festivities of my friend’s wedding in Monterey, I was lucky enough to stay in California an extra couple of days to have a mini-vacation. My mother was able to drive down from Reno to join me for  West coast Mexican food, the world famous aquarium, and the dramatic events that occurred after I left my wallet on the roof of my car at a gas station and drove away. But let’s not dwell on my poor wallet, which I found in the middle of the road an hour later covered in tread marks with my IDs and cards bent inside. No, let’s focus on our whale watching adventure!

We booked a three-hour tour (going to refrain from making the reference) with a whale watching company on the Monterey Fisherman’s wharf. It was an early morning trip, and we did our best to bundle up although we had brought limited warm weather gear since we were visiting California in June.  As we left the harbor, the captain pointed out the birds, sea lions, and otters that populate a jetty. Little did I know, it was to be my favorite part of the trip.

Web-footed friends.

Web-footed friends.

The first hour was nice enough. We grabbed seats on the side of the boat and stared out at the Pacific Ocean as we headed to areas where the whales are. The smell of the sea and the crisp air somehow lulled me into a brief nap. When I awoke, I had the beginnings of seasickness, an insidious nausea creeping its way through me. At this point, though, we had reached an area where a number of dolphins were swimming by. My mother who loves the sea wanted to talk about the majestic animals, about the spray of sea water. I replied as still as a statue that if I moved or spoke, I might vomit.

From the corners of my eye, I saw my fellow tourists fall one by one, leaning over the side of the boat and releasing their breakfasts into the ocean depths. But I had cemented in my mind that I would not be one of them, so I remained frozen. The sea was angry that day, my friends. The wind picked up causing two things. One, the boat rocked back and forth by what felt like 10 feet. I stared out over the side of the boat to see water, horizon, water, horizon. Two, the sea air cut through the three layers I had managed to scrape together causing a numbing chill. We spent an hour chasing down whales as I looked, blank-eyed, straight ahead. I saw a couple of humpbacks as their bumpy backs surfaced one by one. And at long last I saw a tail fin of a whale come up out of the water. I felt satisfied and retreated to the inner cabin of the boat.

There I found a ragged group of tourists, huddling together, shivering and trying not to spew. I wasn’t in a condition to laugh, but thinking of the way that inner circle looked is comical. Tourists who wanted a sightseeing extravaganza who instead got the 18th century immigrant experience. My mother soon followed me into the cabin since she was also feeling cold. Once we got back to the harbor, we found the nearest cafe that had clam chowder and sourdough bread bowls to warm our chilled bones.

Despite this account, I loved it. I could have done without the choppy water and could have used a sunnier day, but being out on the ocean was nice. I’ve been on boats before and never had a problem, although I suppose most of the boats I’ve been on were small motor boats on mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevadas or large ferry boats floating from harbor to harbor. But isn’t there something about sea legs? About acclimating? My mother was absolutely fine and maybe that’s just because she has more boat experience? I’d definitely go again.


27 Before 27: Read Moby Dick

2 Dec

In my 27th year of life, I’m attempting to do 27 new things. Full list here.

Before I read “Moby Dick,” I read “Anna Karenina.” A friend and I decided to read it together, taking on a part a week and discussing it with each other. We were both inspired to read it because of the Keira Knightley movie version that is coming out. I typically enjoy the classics. I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Twain. I was that nerd in high school English that loved every last book we read. But for some reason, I really didn’t like “Anna Karenina.” I tried to. But I just didn’t particularly like any of the characters, and the huge chunks about Russian agrarian society was somewhat tedious.

This is when I started reading “Moby Dick.” When I would finish a part in “Anna Karenina” before my scheduled meeting with my friend, I would start in on “Moby Dick.” And I loved it. It was such a necessary change of pace. Herman Melville’s language is so full of images and smells and sounds. It puts you directly in the Nantucket whaling community. And Queequeg! The tattooed foreigner that Ishmael quickly befriends? Loved him. The scene where they are spooning the morning after they meet, adorable. I found myself rushing through “Anna Karenina” so I could get back to “Moby Dick.”

So at last I finished the Tolstoy torture and could fully dedicate myself to “Moby Dick.” This, of course, coincided with reading the part in the book where Melville goes on and on and on and on about whale anatomy and references to whales in literature. It was long-winded, and I honestly didn’t really read all of it. I skimmed over most of it. I mean there were pages of different scientific names for breeds of whales. Really?

All in all, it’s an amazing book, if you cut out the lists and the explanations. If you did that, it would probably be more of a novella. But it made me laugh, it pulled me in. I missed my subway stop while I was reading the end. So dramatic and exciting. Will I ever read it again, though? Nope. Probably not.

Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure….. Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle , and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?”