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Mirissa Whale Watch II: now I know how Ishmael felt

Our second morning of whale-watching started as smoothly as whale-watch number one: we puttered out of the harbor around 7AM on beautiful morning, waving at the fishing boats cutting gracefully through gentle swells on their return from a pre-dawn expedition.

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The crew passed around small plates of fresh fruit for breakfast, and all seemed well with the world.  One of the crew explained that yesterday, whales had been sighted relatively close to shore, but that today, the whales had returned to their more typical path further out, “grazing” in the deep ocean trenches.  There may have been some smug smiling among our family when we realized that we had seen this close-to-shore whale, while the other people on our boat anxiously scanned the horizon, wondering if today would be their lucky day.

Out into the deep waters we went; Mirissa’s cliffs dwindled to a thin line and then vanished altogether and it was just us, plowing through what the crew said were calm seas.  Calm rolling seas. Up and down we went, over swells that probably weren’t very big but weren’t very small, either.  Up and down, up and down, up and down. And then sometimes just for fun, a little side-to-side action when we’d shift direction in search of Moby Dick whales.

Plus? It was hot. Really, really hot. No breeze whatsoever and I had my eight-year-old sprawled across my lap, complaining that he felt “weird.” I popped half a dramamine in his mouth (I am nothing if not prepared), and then gave the other half to Liam, who had ignored our suggestion that perhaps he shouldn’t crouch on the deck reading (the final book in the “Mortal Instruments” series, apparently un-put-down-able) if he wanted to avoid being seasick.

“I am not seasick,” he insisted. “I just feel…weird.”

Apparently others on the boat were also feeling “weird:” I saw three or four people resting their heads on the boat railings, and a woman sitting near us got up with alarming frequency to hang her head off the side of the boat and vomit.  Lovely.

On and on we went, up and down, up and down.  The world looked like this (for full effect, wave your computer screen around as you look):

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Do you see anything? Yeah. Me neither.  The waves, which only a few hours ago had seemed so picturesque now seemed diabolical.  And the slice of fresh mango I’d been served for breakfast was suddenly imitating the movements of the waves.

I tried, people, I tried. I kept my head up, looked out at the horizon, took deep breaths, but I had Caleb moaning in one ear and Liam moaning in the other, and that damn mango would not sit still.  I shoved the children off my lap and heaved myself to the little bathroom at the back of the boat just as the mango made a precipitous exit.

Post-mango, I felt much better, but my children and a handful of other passengers–judging from their pallid skin and hanging heads–were still feeling weird. We’d been on the boat now for about three hours and all we’d seen were a few dolphins, far in the distance.  It was ten o’clock, ten-thirty, eleven o’clock and nothing. Nothing, that is, but sunshine glittering up at us from the water and beating down on the deck.  Most of us huddled under the canvas shade stretched across the deck, which meant we were all squashed together, the last thing on earth (or sea) you want when you’re wrestling with mal de mer.

And mal is what that mer was, let me tell you.  I imagined all the blue whales of the world gathered in some thousand-meter canyon, laughing at our vain attempts to find them.

We’d occasionally veer more quickly in one direction or the other and everyone would perk up–maybe a whale-spout had been sighted….but then, nothing.

So we turned back. Five hours on the water and nothing.  But when we headed back for land, the breeze picked up, the boat stopped rolling, and the mood on board lightened considerably.  Even the Frenchwoman who’d spent the better part of the morning with her head hanging off the side managed a smile.

A little while later, Husband poked me. “We’re going back out,” he whispered. And sure enough: the shore line was behind us again, the boat was rolling again, the breeze had died down.

nooooooo

Yes. The guide explained that the fishermen had reported seeing a blue whale “in that direction,” (waving vaguely at the endless ocean) and so we were off again.  “We want you be satisfied,” he said, “so we will find the whale.”

FUCK THE WHALE. GET ME OFF THE BOAT.

But the only way I was getting off the damn boat was to swim, and given how far we were from land, that wasn’t an option. Plus I’m afraid of sharks.

On we went, heaving through the waves, which had picked up a bit in what was now the afternoon breeze.  The crew handed ’round a snack: one cream cracker and one gingersnap. Well, two gingersnaps.  Bon appetit, eh?

We went lurching in one direction and then another.  No whales. The whales had sensibly all gone out for lunch, which is what we should be doing. Or they were napping. Or they were half-way to freaking China.

The ocean offered us a consolation prize:

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 But no goddamn whales.  We’d now been on the boat for seven hours. Several of us had vomited at least once, others more frequently.

THERE ARE NO GODDAMN WHALES IN THE GODDAMN OCEAN. GIVE UP, YOU AHAB MOTHERFUCKERS.

On we went.  For a little while, a few other whale-watching boats stuck with us, but one by one, they came to their senses and went back to Mirissa, whale-less. But not us, oh no, we had the dedicated crew; we had the persistent crew.

And then–miraculously–came the call: “there she blows.” And indeed, there she blew. A whale. An actual freaking whale:

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Yep. After seven and a half hours on the boat, we saw a whale. Or maybe just a big honking rock. Who knows.

Apparently this whale had her calf swimming alongside her, but I never saw it –the other passengers, frantic in their desire to see a whale, crowded to the side of the boat and blocked my view. Thus you get only this picture of a whale-rock and not some magnificent National Geographic-worthy shot of cetacean maternity.

And while yes, magnificent ocean creature and wow nature is amazing and blahbittyblah, you know what mattered most when we saw this whale (and her ostensible calf)?

WE COULD GET OFF THE DAMN BOAT.

 

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5 Responses to Mirissa Whale Watch II: now I know how Ishmael felt

  1. Arnebya April 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    So what you’re saying is you not be satisfied?
    Arnebya recently posted..Doing Versus Thinking About DoingMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn April 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

      I WAS (sort of) satisfied. But I was satisfied with day one, the vomit-less day. Who knew day #2 would be the day of no return? or very very very late return?

  2. Lynda April 7, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Oh my gosh… that sounds like HELL!! I’m so happy for you that at least you had a successful 1st trip. We went to Sri Lanka last spring break and yes, it was HOT and so humid. We experienced some ‘challenges’ as well. 🙂 We went to Unawatuna and considered doing a day trip to see the whales in Marissa. After reading this, I’m so relieved we didn’t do it! I was close to 8 months pregnant, my husband gets motions sickness easily and we had 5 kids 6 and under with us. Even if we would have seen some whales, I don’t think it would have been worth it!
    Lynda recently posted..The Soundtrack of Our Life in the Middle EastMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn April 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      Well i have to say that this day was pretty awful, but the previous day was stupendous & because we didn’t go so far out (or for so long), there was no visible barfing (from me or anyone else!) I will say that regardless, we are totally hooked on Sri Lanka & can’t wait to go back. But traveling there while 6 months pregnant? Nope! You’re a braver woman than I am…

  3. Andrea March 4, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Oh man, I’m weirdly phobic of puke so I think it’s safe to say I’m taking this off of our list of things to see.
    Great post, a very entertaining read. My heart broke for you when the boat turned around – hard to imagine what that would feel like!

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