Whale Watching Tour

Spring break of 1990, like every other spring when the girls were young, we went to the Oregon Coast. It was our first year without Karmyn; her college was on a different schedule then our school district.

Whale watching out of Depoe Bay was the adventure we chose to highlight this particular trip. It would be a first for our family.

That morning we ate breakfast in the beachfront condominium while watching turbulent breakers hit the shore. Even though the storm was miles out at sea, its effect was churning the sand and crashing high in the rocks. This, too, was a new experience for us.

The ocean refused to mellow and a three-hour postponement of the charter resulted.

After lunch, we returned to the launch area. The captains conferred and decided the trip was on.

There were several boats between 40 and 50 feet in length at the pier. Our group of four boarded with about 15 other people. The other boats were also at full capacity. The hubby and I insisted that our daughters wear life jackets, as did we. I was shocked that many of the passengers did not.

Depoe Bay has a very narrow entrance. Each boat had to time its departure to best maneuver through the churning surge.

As soon as we left the more tranquil harbor, I knew it was a mistake. I did not know that I would get so sick.

A fishing boat that belonged to the fleet radioed a whale sighting due west. The captains pointed their boats out to sea and the diesel engines droned and whined depending on our position in the swells.

The rolling waves were so deep that we lost sight of the others as we dropped into deep and angry watery canyons. Up and down, up and down, down, down, down, and then up. My lunch was threatening the “up” part, too.

Our youngest, Amanda, turned grey and the hubby took her into the small wheelhouse (?) at the center of the boat where she could sit down. Another man joined them and brought his son, who promptly regurgitated his lunch all over our expensive camera and bag.

I wanted none of that. The hubby said there would be less motion at the back of the boat so I hugged the railing and found my way there. The ride was somewhat more stable, but the diesel fumes from the struggling engine increased my discomfort.

Suddenly, a large cooler stored against the cabin slammed across the deck and knocked the woman next to me off her feet. I was too sick to offer a hand. The captain moved somewhat skillfully across to help her up.

After a brief apology, he chained the offending container with the help of his one crew member. Then, he picked up his thermos coffee cup and began to climb one-handed up the ladder that lead to the bridge. The boat lurched violently and he fell from the fourth rung and landed on the same woman that he had only a moment ago helped to her feet.

In the meantime, middle daughter Jen positioned herself on the narrow walk on the side of the boat and held tight to the railing. In her trusty raincoat, she was having the thrill of her life. She was unfazed by the vomiting people surrounding her. She dodged the majority of it and leaned into the spray from the water smashing against the hull. The young woman standing to her immediate right had been conversing with her by yelling over the engine and the ocean.

“I never get seasick,” the twenty-something woman shouted through the din. Without warning, she turned and lost all the contents of her stomach.

When Jen laughed at her, the conversation ended.

Several times from his higher viewpoint, the captain yelled “whale to starboard” or something like that. Unfortunately, I was not letting go of my rail. Besides, each whale disappeared in the swell before anyone on the deck could ever figure out where it was.

I was deliriously happy when the captain announced we were turning for home.

We rode a little smoother in the swells heading toward land. However, each boat still had to challenge the treacherous and narrow harbor entrance.

Arriving in the calm harbor, I expected to feel better. But, that didn’t happen.

I felt woozy for at least 24 hours. Amanda experienced nausea for two days.

I learned several valuable lessons from this whale-watching charter: (1) some of us cannot sail in rough seas, and (2) seasickness is physically debilitating, and (3) sometimes even sea going veterans don’t always read the ocean correctly.

I am happy to report that a few years ago I gave whale watching another chance with more positive results. This time my two sisters, my daughter Karmyn, and a niece accompanied me.

We used the same charter service and had a wonderful experience. The ocean was beautiful, the sun was shining, and the whales surfaced many times along our boat.

Moreover, because of the blessing of the day, the captains extended our cruise far beyond our allotted time.

PS. Nobody puked.


DesLily said…
whale watching is one of those things i've always wanted to do... well.. to SEE. I envy you that you got to see those great creatures with your own eyes,but not in a "fish tank"!!

(no puking would be my first choice to enjoy the ride lol)
Robin said…
But the first story was oh, so much more fun to read (and I imagine, write...now that so much time has elapsed and the nausea abated). Glad you had redemption the second time around.

The only place I've whale-watched is Sea World. I didn't get seasick ;).
swamp witch said…
I think I'm sea sick. You have a marvelous way with words that had me rocking on the boat and cleaning puke off my camera.
Claudia said…
I really need to suck it up and spend the money here to go on a whale watching excursion!!
Shauna said…
Sounds so cool! My aunt and uncle live in Ridgefield, WA and took my parents out on the ocean to fish. ..I don't know if they saw any whales - but that would be so cool! We were too young to go (I was 14) - but I think I was better off on shore - my cousin and grandmother - DID PUKE. . .UG. . .
Beccy said…
You've given me an idea for a post...a trip on a wooden priate ship in Portugal...I thought I'd blanked out the ordeal forever.
Debs said…
I want to go whale watching. I am glad your second experience was better. :)
ChrisB said…
Whale watching is something I have not yet been able to experience; but I felt sea sick just reading your story so maybe not a good idea!! Glad you finally got to see them in calmer waters now I could cope with mill pond conditions!!
kailani said…
I went on a whale watching tour once in Maui. I have no idea why since I suffer from motion sickness. :-(

However, we saw some awesome sightings and I did survive - somehow.

Glad the second time around worked out better for you!
BarnGoddess said…
hahaha good story!

Jen sounds like fun :) she can come sailing w/ me anytime. I have never been seasick but the rest of my family has been, bad too..its gross. ack!
kate said…
lol I wish I could say that on my whale watching tour nobody puked... it did draw quite an assortment of fish to the surface though! lol
my4kids said…
I've been whale watching all with similar results as your second so glad that you braved it again and had a good experience!
Debbie said…
What an amazing adventure! Certainly memorable.

I'm glad you took the chance to go again AND that it turned out well.
willowtree said…
Sheesh, I make one little comment about you being textually challenged and this is what I get!

You know I love reading this stuff, I don't even care what the post is about, I just like the prose.
Masago said…
Enjoyed the story. I wonder if the whales were amused watching you all?
Kila said…
I really don't know how anyone can handle such rough seas. Have you ever watched Deadliest Catch, about Alaskan Crab fishermen?

To see whales, head to Maui in December to April. ;)

Love your writing. :)
her indoors said…
i envy you you have been whale watching wow. but i would have been like your daughter Jen i just love it, i love the spray, the waves, i even love turbulance when flying!!! a strange girl me!
Peter said…
Hi Pamela, its good that you had a rerun on the whale watching they are magnificent creatures, but not on days like the first trip.

BTW do you still like nectarines?
mjd said…
Your whale-watching tale is written so masterfully. I am glad that you gave it another try with more positive results.

I did not realize that sea sickness could continue for a time after you are on land. That does not seem fair.
tlawwife said…
My family went whale watching in San Diego. Because there weren't very many going we got the long trip for the short trip price. I thought it was boring. The crewmen had some sea sickness spray that everyone used. At first I loved riding in the front and getting wet and all but I have a short attention span and once I had seen a little bit of a whale all of the backs of a whale looked alike. I enjoyed the seals and other animals more. The best part for our family was watching the submarines coming and going. I don't plan on going again.
That first one sounds like a perfectly miserable experience, but I laughed myself silly reading it! Great writing!
Tammy said…
Oh, I guess I shouldn't be reading this post while I eat my cereal...LOL
That makes our Maui dolphin cruise of seasickness sound like a dream! Wow!
I'm so glad your second time was a happy experience- you were brave to try it again!

I'll have to go check out the Disneyland post you mentioned on my blog...and you want to hear another coincidence- I was also on a whale watching boat at Depoe Bay- in 1990! Truly! It was with one of those "old flames" I mentioned in my post! :)
min said…
Great story...a whale of a tale. Sounds like the weather started getting rough and your tiny ship was tossed...
Melissa said…
I get so seasick. It's a shame what with all the beautiful water around me. Ah well, I'll just swim around instead. :)
Susie said…
I've got that sick on the ferry between Port Angeles, WA and Victoria BC. I don't get sick on the cruise ships unless it's really rough.
You're right that it can last long after you're on solid ground.
Whippersnapper said…
Oh, there's nothing like a charming throw-up story to end one's Saturday night!

Sometimes I'm glad I'm a prairie girl...
Amanda said…
It was more like "Amanda was sick for THREE days." It was almost a full three days until I felt back to normal. I hate whales now.
It is great to read another blog from Washington State. I love the Oregon coast and Depoe Bay. I stayed home during the fated fishing trip with my family!
Carla said…
Lovely blog you have here. I too have been whale watching, but luckily did not have to experience turbulent seas. It sounds like quite an adventure.
theotherbear said…
I think whales have an aversion to us. We frequently are in the supposedly perfect place at the right time of year to see whales. We never see them.
Jeanette said…
Gday Pamela. Whale watching was something we wanted to do while in Queensland and when we went to book was told the season didnt start till july 20. gees maybe next year. but not sure now after your experiece. glad you had better weather second time around.
Shelby said…
I've been to Depoe Bay - it is one of the MOST beautiful spots on the map over there..

I didn't go on the whale watching boat trip tho - kinda glad.

BUT I thoroughly enjoyed your retelling of the rough tale.. glad your second adventure was better than the first :)

take care and happy Sunday today :)
coffeypot said…
Pamela, I commented to this post and a remembrance on my site. Drop by if you are in the neighborhood. We’ll share a glass of sweet tea or lemonade.
Kelly - PTT said…
Oh man - what a disaster! I guess we were really lucky when we went whale watching in Boston - ours was a much better experience. I'll post about it soon.
wolfbaby said…
when i was little i would have loved this... as i got older i developed equalibrium problems... darn i know that is spelled wrong sorry... but it sounds so very neat of a trip and wow I would to loved to have gone!!

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