Day Five of our road trip was our last full day in Massachusetts. Our odds of returning to their important old state anytime soon were remote. We knew we had to make the day count. That meant leaving Boston. For a while it also meant leaving dry land.
From Boston we headed south, then east to Massachusetts famous, upper-class attachment called Cape Cod. It’s a convenient launchpad into the Atlantic Ocean and a popular getaway for boat owners. For some boat owners, it offers lucrative business opportunities, one of which we’d decided months ago might be an interesting half-day adventure.
Venturing into the ocean is a feat in itself, but our objective wasn’t so simple: we sought the great ocean whale.
Just one visible whale would do. It didn’t even have to be white. We’re by no means obsessed with Moby Dick, or racist about our whale-watching. Any color besides “printer ink” or “imaginary” would be more whale than we’d seen in our lifetimes.
Several different Cape Cod companies offer whale-watching cruises. Your family boards a large boat with dozens of other passengers, spends an hour circumnavigating the Cape, spends another hour or two in the nearest part of the Atlantic Ocean searching for signs of whales, seeks every possible opportunity to gaze upon a real whale in the wild, and spends another hour returning to port. Their cruises are short, fast, and noncommittal compared to your average week-long Alaskan cruise. If you have no real reason to remain out to sea for days, it’s a much more affordable open-water sampling method.
The companies’ teams of zoologists, oceanographers, salty sea captains, and/or connected entrepreneurs know the area, plug away at the research, and do their best to leave no square mile of coastal ocean unwatched when it’s time to spot a whale for paying customers. According to our ship’s captain with Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, all the captains keep communication channels open between each other. In a surprising show of inter-competitor synergy, if one ship locates a prime specimen cavorting near the surface, they send a heads-up to all the other ships in the area for everyone’s benefit. They’re reportedly not prone to hoarding the whales for themselves.
However, Hyannis was forthright in warning us before takeoff that they could not guarantee anyone would see a whale. They’re not in control of the whales; they don’t keep a pod of whales in a Titanic film-set aquarium; and they don’t harpoon them with tracking devices. Even if you don’t see a whale, at least you’re experiencing a nice three or four hours at sea. Cape Cod’s coastline wasn’t without its own special attractions.
My boating experiences are few. I’ve ridden the Belle of Louisville along the Ohio River, the ferry to the Statue of Liberty….uh, Whitewater Canyon at Kings Island…
For us, the cruise itself was novelty enough. Even if the whales shunned us, it was a rare chance to feign nautical aptitude for a day.
Granted, some waterborne sights were more disturbing than others. On the upside, our ship had a concession stand that served cheap lunch and snacks.
My son was ambivalent at first about this proposed expedition, but my wife and I were excited, whale or no whale. Even if one of the worst possible scenarios happened while we were out to sea, I rested safe in the knowledge that the cruise was her idea and not mine. Absolution makes the heart grow carefree.
Either way, danger or doldrums, the incontrovertible fact remains: when a woman this cute asks you to go on a boat ride with her, you say yes.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]