Thursday, 6 October 2011

A whale of a time

St Vincent, The Caribbean, 1997.
The Doctor and I go on our first whale-watching trip. This consists of a rickety small boat sailed by a random but genial guy we meet near the beach. He serves us lots of rum punch. We see dolphins. The boat slows down so we can watch them and starts to rock from side to side. I am seasick. Practically on top of the dolphins. We see no whales.

Kaikoura, New Zealand, 2004.
This is meant to be one of the best places in the world to see whales, and we've booked the trip up in advance. But that night, the weather turns bad and strong winds almost decimate our campsite. The whale watching trip is cancelled. We go on a tour of a local vineyard instead. With a flight the next day, we continue our journey to Christchurch. We see no whales.

Fast forward to...Cape Cod, last weekend.

Some friends had regaled us with tales of their wonderful whale watching trip two years ago. They persuaded us to go with them again, for the weekend. It was tempting; I knew the boys would love to see whales (as would I). But The Doctor and I warned them: "We are jinxed. If you're with us, we won't see any whales."

Even so, the boat trip guaranteed a sighting, with the promise of a free trip next time if you failed to see a whale. As we headed out into the blue Atlantic ocean off Provincetown, we still weren't convinced. It seemed to be taking a very long time to get out to where the whales were apparently hanging out today. (I could tell The Doctor was wondering why on earth we had driven six and a half hours to the Cape, then set off on a three hour boat trip with three small children who were already getting bored; plus Littleboy 1 was starting to look rather green around the gills).

But, suddenly, there we were. Finally, we got to see a whale in the wild. And not just one. At least 20 humpback whales, dipping and diving close enough to our boat that we could see shiny black hides, their gaping mouths, not to mention those majestic tails.

The Littleboys were ecstatic; grabbing my camera to take pictures, constantly crying out as they spotted the spouting in the sea that appeared just before the whale did. We had half an hour of whale-spotting, then headed back to land, the boys falling asleep with happy exhaustion. So it really was worth it - even the $25 parking fine when we returned to Provincetown (we hadn't realised the trip would take so long) failed to dampen our spirits.

For bedtime we had one of the Littleboys' favourite stories, The Snail and The Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. I love this book as much as they do - it's beautifully written and illustrated and it resonates with me, as it's really about wanderlust. It's about the tiny sea snail who has an 'itchy foot' and is not content with sticking to a rock with the rest of the snails. She wants to travel the world, and hitches a lift on the tail of the humpback whale. After many adventures they return; the other snails say "How time's flown! And haven't you grown!"

And the whale and the snail

Told their wonderful tale

Of shimmering ice and coral caves

And shooting stars and enormous waves

And how the snail so small and frail

With her looping, curling silvery trail

Saved the life of the humpback whale.

Then the humpback whale

Held out his tail

And on crawled snail after snail after snail

And they sang to the sea as they all set sail

On the tail of the grey blue humpback whale.


The mum of all trades said...

Wow, how amazing to see whales up so close. A fantatsic experience for your little boys

MsCaroline said...

Hurrah! How exciting for the boys! We have done whale-watching tours out of Provincetown many times (in fact, my mother just got back from the Cape) and have never been disappointed. So happy for you all, and glad the run of bad whale luck has ended!

Iota said...

Oh wonderful.

I've been whale-watching from Provincetown. Took hours to get to the whale spot, as you say, and then we waited ages and ages without seeing anything. Eventually saw a couple, but not very close, and only briefly. Then it was time to go back.

I suppose that's sort of half way between your all-or-nothing experiences.

Dubaiunveiled said...

Sounds amazing! And that's one of my absolute favourite books too!

Wylye Girl said...

I went whale watching in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Canada. It was A-MAZ-ING. We saw so many whales, some even swam right up to the boat. It was a fantastic experience

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Wow. What a lovely post. I must get the book. We were lucky enough to see whales, oh no, actually thinking about it, maybe they were dolphins...I'm not sure, but anyway on our honeymoon south of LA. Was spectacular, just walking along the beach and there they were in the ocean, everyone was open mouthed. It was very special.
Well done for not being sea sick too! I have never found my sea legs xx

'Cross the Pond said...

What a great adventure and wonderful post! I've had a little hiatus from reading blogs and just caught up with yours! What an ordeal you've been through. I hope you're settling well into your new place. sorry I missed the drama.

nappy valley girl said...

Mum of all trades - yes, it really was amazing. I keep telling the boys how lucky they are in case they take such trips for granted!

Ms Caroline, Iota - so cool to know that you have been there too. It's nice to share an experience that others have had too.

Dubaiunveiled - it's such a great book. My favourite of hers, I think.

Wylye Girl - just proving the theory that Canada is an amazing country...

CTTF - Dolphins are wonderful too - in fact they are "do" more than whales, even if not as big. We saw some from the beach in Florida last year - beautiful.

Cross the Pond - thanks. Hopefully no more drama for a while!

geekymummy said...

I was very lucky to see the humpbacks in Maui, jumping and breeching. It sounds dumb, but I was amazed at how big they were. Big was about the only adjective I could summon!

So glad you got to experience them, and how wonderful for the kids. And I must get that book.

angelsandurchinsblog said...

Love The Whale and the Snail, and would LOVE to see whales for real. I think I'm almost over my sadness at the killings in Moby Dick. Lucky you!