Saturday, October 18, 2008

Into the blue

There is something special about standing in the bow of a boat as it heads out into the ocean. You may be freezing your butt off but the feeling of bravado that it provides is unbelievable. Yes, there can be only one captain on the ship but you sure as hell feel like one when up at the very front of the vessel with nothing but the limitless ocean in front of you. On the day that I landed in San Francisco, I took the Bay Cruise but it was so darn foggy that we actually passed under the Golden Gate Bridge but only got the faintest of faint glimpse of it. Everyone else was safe and snug inside the cabin while I was the only person out on the bow braving the cold and the fog off the Pacific.

Last Saturday, I found myself in a similar situation but this time the day was a very bright and sunny day and lots of people were on the decks. This time I was out on a whale watching trip out of Boston harbour and the ocean was the Atlantic. That of course didn't deter me from doing my Long John Silver thing as I hogged the maximum time at the front of the catamaran we were in, only letting people who gave me the evil eye a chance to come up right to the front. It was a really fast ride, the "Aurora" and she chugged 400 passengers along as if there were only 4. I know it's not much but she is the largest water-going vessel I've ever been on and most definitely the fastest. The wind cut like ice into the face but like old sea-dogs I took it all like a man. 

I kept my eyes peeled for the monsters that I had come to see. I had wanted to be the first to spot that famous spout but a keener pair of eyes beat me to it. A collective rush of excitement ran through the boat as all of us ran to the starboard side. There she was, the first real whale that I had ever seen, a huge 50 footer by the name of "Scratch". And what she seemed to be doing was waving at us tourists with her 15 foot flipper. "Flippering" as the behaviour is known was strange to say the least. She kept slapping the water with her flipper as she floated side-on. She kept up this show for quite some time before plunging back into the deep with the trademark flourish of the tail. We then moved on to a couple of mother-calf pairs who swam gracefully in synchronization far above the capability of what you'd expect from such massive beings. We hung around for almost a hour and saw their mild antics though I was dying to see them to do the whole clear of the water jump that humpbacks are famous for. No such luck for us that day!

I thought of our situation there. There we were in the midst of the vast ocean far away from anything even close to inhabited land. We were in the kingdom of these breathtakingly huge creatures that made the vastness of the oceans their home. Indeed they wouldn't be suited for anything smaller. 400 odd of our species, animals that had colonized and dominated this planet for about 4000 odd years now out here surrounded by never ending waters to experience exactly what our ancestors had set out to conquer thousands of years ago. Away from our cloistered existence and interdependent lives, we were all there to hear even if only for an hour, the call of the wild.

No comments: