Posted by: rachelanne229 | September 2, 2010

things that we love: whales!

Roadtrip Extravaganza Day 7

12 August 2010

Massachusetts

Ahhh, Dee and I awoke in good old Cambridge around 8, and got ready to head down to Provincetown for our whale watch action.  I made her pack a million warm clothes, because the mom in me remembered how frigid the temps were out on previous whale watches, and I wanted to be comfy.  We set out on our 3-hr drive about 9:30, picked up our daily sub from Subway, and gassed up.  To tell the truth, I was a little ticked at myself for picking a whale watch that was THREE hours away.  For crying out loud, we could’ve hopped on a whale watch boat at the New England Aquarium in Boston, and wouldn’t even have had  to drive at all.  But the Dolphin Fleet whale watches were pretty cheap, $36, and took passengers out by Stellwagen Bank, which is a national marine sanctuary.  This place is full of life—very productive, very diverse, and as we had talked about it a lot in my oceanography classes, I wanted to get out there.  Also, I really wanted to see P-town and be on the very tip of the Cape!

Much to our dismay, the 3-hr drive turned into a 4+-hr drive due to traffic heading to P-town.  The next week was “Carnival Week,” and people were flocking to the one-lane road that slowly extends down the tip of Cape Cod.  We patiently waited, often almost stopped, in a massive line of cars.  OK, that’s a blatant lie.  Deidre did a pretty good job of patiently waiting, while I anxiously looked at the clock a thousand times, knowing that we were barely going to get onto our 2 pm boat, since we were supposed to check in at 1:30 at the latest.  Luckily, the drive into P-town was gorgeous.  We slowly filed past huge sand dunes, the likes of which we land-lubbers had never seen before.  The sand was literally touching the sides of the road, and we wondered what this place looked like in the winter.

We pulled into P-town around 1:30, and were blown away by all the goings-on.  People strolled in the street, colorful banners and flags flew, delicious smells floated thru the air, and kids and dogs and transvestites flourished.  But I didn’t care about that too much right then; we had a boat to catch!  The problem was, there was absolutely nowhere to park.  We could forget about parking on the street, and over and over we passed lots that were full to the brim.  Finally we found a lot, and then guy said that for $10, he had a small space if I could squeeze my car in.  He helped me back into a random corner, and Dee and I bounded off in search of the Dolphin Fleet stand, since it was already 1:45.

We hurriedly checked in, and ran down the pier to our boat.  A few minutes later, the passengers were allowed to board, and we excitedly climbed up to the top deck and grabbed a couple seats.  Dee had to pee (of course), so I saved her seat and got chatted up by a nice man from Detroit sitting next to us.  The boat pulled out of the harbor, and a girl about my age, a grad student from Canada, started telling us about the ecology of the area and the different whales we might see.  She passed around some zooplankton and then some baleen, which was obviously VERY COOL!

At this point, the crew made an offer of complimentary Dramamine for those prone to seasickness, which I usually am.  I didn’t feel like going down to the galley, though, so I abstained, and luckily felt great the entire boat ride.

As we bee-bopped out to sea, Dee and I stood at the rail of the boat with the breeze in our hair, and told ourselves that even if we didn’t see any whales, that we would still be satisfied with a nice ride on a boat on a lovely summer day.

whales, we're comin for ya

We also made a $1 bet about whether we’d need all the clothes I demanded we bring.  Dee won, dammit!  We stayed toasty the entire friggin ride with only our sweatshirts.  And then BAM, before we knew what was happening, we spotted a whale not too far off in the distance.  We squeezed and shimmied our way thru the crowds and pressed ourselves against the railing to get a good luck.  In our frenzy, we took about 6 bajillion pictures of this whale flapping its fins against the water.  We exchanged “HOW COOL IS THIS?!” looks and kept snapping away.

A few minutes later, we spotted seals on the horizon and a few more whales surfacing further out.  We motored toward the animals and idled here in the water.  Now, I must preface the next few sentences by saying: if you know me, anything about me, you know I am crazy about whales.  They are truly my favorite animal and I love them with my whole heart.  If you asked me if I would rather eat a dozen Reese’s cups or see a whale breaching, I would pick the whale, and that is saying something.  “PSHAWWWWKSHH!” A humpback breached and its tail glistened in the sunlight on the way down.  Dee and I ran to the front of the boat to get a better look and to take another three thousand pictures, and within a few minutes’ time, we counted between 9-14 whales RIGHT NEXT TO US.  We must have entered some awesome feeding ground, and the whales were right on the surface, breaching, and swimming under the boat, mingling with several very active porpoises.  They were blowing repeatedly and we could actually hear some of their grunts and groans.  The sun glistened off their shiny skin, and…we screamed.  This moment was absolutely thrilling.  Whales covered the perimeter of the boat, and no matter where we looked, we could see countless humpbacks coming to the surface and then dropping down again.  The moment was magical and the only thing that interrupted our smiles was our shrieking “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s right there!”

At one point about halfway through this miraculous frenzy of joy, a whale propelled itself straight up and out of the water, and the people on the lower deck could have easily reached out and touched it.  Afterward, it kept sticking the tip of its be-barnacled head out of the water, as if curiously checking us out.  I have a theory that whales, being the charismatic megafauna that they are, are as interested in people as we are in them, and that our shrieks of delight actually amuse them.

Dee and I and the passengers around us stood on the upper deck in amazement, murmuring among ourselves that we couldn’t believe our good fortune.  All too soon, we turned around and headed back for the Cape, leaving Stellwagen Bank and the humpbacks behind.  The grad student guide grabbed the microphone and told us the scientists had recorded a grand total of 27 whales (!!!), more than they had seen on any trip the entire summer.  I guessed we picked a good day for a whale watch!  I don’t know of a better $36 I’ve ever spent.

The ride back to P-town was quiet, but content, and a little windblown.

We were almost in shock at the beauty we had witnessed only an hour before.  In less than an hour, we reached land again, and although we hated for the trip to be over, we hustled off that boat; we wanted food!  It didn’t take us long to find a place called John Dough’s, and we were seated upstairs, in the open-air next to the street.

Dee and I split a Margarita pizza, and then decided to wander the streets of P-town.

hello sweet, sweet pizza

a face only a mother could love:P

exceedingly thirsty

Our first stop was obviously to buy more fudge—rocky road this time.  We also wanted to purchase gifts for each other, mementos that we could cherish forever and use to think back fondly upon our trip.  After weaving in and out of a few shops (about half of which only sold leather;)) and ending up in one that was a combination touristy joint/sex shop, we settled on gifts.  Dee bought me a beautiful pink scarf, and I got her a journal made in Nepal, made of rice paper, or some exotic-sounding fiber like that.  I also got myself a pair of new sunglasses, and Dee found herself an awesome and crazy dress.  And by crazy, I mean it had pom-poms.  This place was cheap as dirt, and we were thoroughly pleased with our purchases.

Oh yeah, and we saw this crazy statue guy!  He followed you with his eyes, but didn’t move another muscle.  Creepy, yet quite ballin’.

stop looking at me

By now, it was about 7 pm, and we knew we had a long drive back to Cambridge, so we found the Blueberry and made our way home, in sort of a tired and contented stupor.  Once in Cambridge, we stopped into Shaw’s to stock up on food for the next day and for our Mt. Washington adventure, and also grabbed “The Time Traveler’s Wife” out of the Redbox.  Finally, about 10:30, we crashed into my apartment and settled in front of the TV with some popcorn and watched about half the movie before we ended up dozing.

By some act of God, we had the energy to get ready for bed, and then we slept hard.  What a day.  27 whales plus seals and porpoises to boot, a pizza in P-town, and falling asleep to a Rachel McAdams movie.  Good thing we slept well, because we needed to rest up for….duh duh duh….SALEM, on Friday the 13th.

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