… on a whale of a time

Sunday is Day of Rest.

JoHn – the Nearly Perfect Husband – and I (and certain deities) are all in on this concept. We look forward – very much so –  to Day of Rest each week.

Here are the rules:

1. We cannot make plans for Day of Rest until it is actually Day of Rest (so, no ‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’ pressure the night before)

2. If we – on the morning of Day of Rest – feel like turning Day of Rest into a day of oodles of activity (e.g., projects, gardens, hikes, brunch with kids (and currently gestating kidlet)), we totally can. Day of Rest could mean Day of Blobbery, but it is not – by any means – a forgone conclusion.

That’s it.

So. Yesterday was Day of Rest.

We woke up early and headed downstairs, did our pre-coffee chores… dogs out, dogs fed, birdbaths filled, birdseed distributed…

Then we settled into coffee on the porch.

I think we both knew a boat ride was in order, at some point during the day, because it’s been a strange summer of weather here in coastal Maine. June – our beloved wooden boat named after Granny and Mac – has been more idle than she’d like to be. We were going to bring her out on Saturday, but clouds and forecasted rain threatened. So, when Day of Rest dawned bright and clear, both JoHn and I were looking forward to being on the water.

Once coffee and breakfast were behind us, we readied ourselves and Belle for the boat (at this point, Blaze isn’t comfortable onboard, so she hangs back with a snack and some Nickleodeon cartoons (she’s a SpongeBob fan).

We made the scheduled 12:00 opening of the swing bridge, and headed out of the Gut (the space between our island and the mainland) and toward open water.

I asked JoHn if he wanted to head over to a certain little cove and he responded that great minds think alike. So, we putted over, Belle happily navigating…

belle happily navigating, wind in her ears

As we turned into Pig Cove (I love its name!), we noticed several small boats, all of which we assumed were tied up on moorings. But, as we got a little closer, it was clear there were people aboard, and the boats weren’t moored at all. The folks quietly watched us as we came in, and it felt a little strange to have everyone eyeing us. Were we breaking some rule? Should we not be here? What did they know that we didn’t?

And then, off to our right, we heard something that sounded like a big puff of air, and saw…


John was all, ‘Whoa!’ and I was all, ‘Whale!’

Now, that’s a still image right up there, but for us – in the moment – that thing was there and then it was gone. Though we have seen a few whales over the years here, we were definitely questioning if we just saw what we just saw.

JoHn wondered if it was a porpoise because it had a dorsal fin (albeit a puny, embarrassing excuse for one).

I was confident(ish) it was a whale, but it was in so close to shore, and so close to us. When we’d seen them in the past,  out in open water, that was pretty much what we saw… a glimpse of their backs, once or twice then gone. I figured it was probably a whale we were seeing, and that I’d know for sure if it came back up.

And then…

Um, yeah.

That was no porpoise.

I looked around, my lips – I was sure – in a perfect ‘o’ shape.

The smiling faces of the boaters who’d been floating there when we arrive kind of confirmed my conclusion. When a whale is hanging around in a certain area, people seem to want to share the awe.

And do you know what?

Every single person – whether on boats or those gathered on the nearby docks and floats – seemed to know their place in all this.

We all just hung back, didn’t make a lot of noise, nor move much but to ensure we weren’t crashing into nearby rocks and ledges (or each other).

And we all did this for over an hour.

Pogies – small bait fish (and fave whale snack) – were jumping all around us the whole time (more so, of course, when the whale was close).

Did I mention ‘close’?

We’d been there no more than ten minutes when I noticed the whale seemed to be heading straight toward us…

Then we couldn’t see it.

We were looking all around, the people nearby were looking all around, when I saw something beneath us, moving very slowly.

This was the photo (same as the one at the beginning of the post) that I shot over the side of our boat, as the whale made its way beneath/beside our boat. it was no more than two feet away from my hand… basically the depth from the rail to the water. I was actually doing the whole pointing down into the water, silently mouthing ‘He’s right here..’ to the boats around me. They were nodding back with silent, ‘We know, idjut.’

That dang whale totally pulled a Jaws move on us, gliding by at the whale version of a snail’s pace. We did not question – for even a fraction of a second – that we absolutely needed a bigger boat.

June is 26 feet long.

This whale was nearly twice the length of our boat.

And also? This whale was not the relatively common minke whale, a small baleen whale (the filtering kind, versus the bite-y kind) that we see here on our whale watches (and sometimes from our private boats). Don’t get me wrong, it is very exciting to see a minke whale. But this was not that.


This is the dorsal fin of a humpback whale.

Yep, that’s June’s bum, right there in the foreground

And that hump-y fin sits about 2/3 of the way down the whale’s back. Which means, as we see the embarrassingly stubby dorsal fin, some 30 to 40 feet of the adult humpback whale is ahead of it.

That was a big whale.

We were not the only ones who needed a bigger boat yesterday.

These people probably thought they needed a bigger boat…

And these people also may have wanted a bigger boat…

Apparently, folks tend to enjoy observing humpback whales because they are great performers – breaching and rolling as they do what they do. But, I swear, this particular whale enjoyed the attention a lot.

The boaters, as I said, were very careful to give the whale all the space it needed. Many stayed in the shallower areas closer to the rocky shore – a potentially precarious spot for a boat in an area with strong currents – in deference to the whale. At one point, we couldn’t spot the whale, and it had been under for several minutes. We were all starting to look under our boats, nervously laughing and wondering where it would show up, when…

The whale had snuck under the three boats that were by the shore, surfaced enough to smack its pectoral fin (and get a few folks all wet). Folks on their decks, and/or docks laughed and cheered the flipper slap, and I wondered if the whale was going to take a bow or something, when it showed itself about 30 feet away…


Oh, I know.

We stayed where we were for more than an hour, then – whale still whale-ing – we slowly moved away to explore the inner cove (it was beautiful).

Making our way back toward the open water, we decided to stop for another few minutes before heading home. The whale was on the move far away and past the ledges before heading back in toward the cove.

Suddenly, it rolled and raised it’s pectoral fin…

a solute to cuckold’s light (the station in the background)

With that final wave, John asked if I was ready to head in, and I said I was.

I was all smiles, still not truly believing we’d just experienced what we did. It was one of those, ‘You hope it might happen one day’ experiences… that actually happens.

I actually took very few photos, considering. I just wanted to… be in it. At one point, when the whale rolled right in front of our boat, throwing its flippers ’round and making a heck of a spray, John saw that I hadn’t raised my camera and said, “Dang! That would have been a great picture, I’ll try to warn you next time!” I quickly responded, “No, that’s okay. I actually saw it!”

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?

What a gift to be present in the moment, rather than always documenting it with our phones, our cameras. A funny thing for a photographer to say, I know. But it is so important, to me, to know that my experience behind the lens is not the same as it is when I put the camera – or phone – down. I want to do both, but I also want to know when to choose each.

As we were motoring away, I was feeling great that I spent more time taking it all in, than I did lining up possibly perfect shots. The images wouldn’t be – and aren’t – technically perfect, or ‘tack sharp’… but my memories are. I was a little proud of myself, I’m not ashamed to say. And that was when something – something – whispered in my mind’s ear, to go to the stern of the boat, to raise my camera, get ready. And, right at that very moment…  right then…

I am not kidding.

I had no idea if I’d captured it, but rushed to JoHn (*boat driver) totally unable to make words. I hit the replay button on my camera and shaded the screen from the sun’s rays. He looked at.me, dumbfounded.

“Did you just take that?!”

I nodded.

“He just did that?!”

“Yes!” I finally managed to exclaim.

“That’s crazy!” he laughed.

I laughed too.

We even high-fived (and we never high-five!)


Just amazing.


So what was that… that whisper that sent me to the back of the boat with my camera, at the moment I was thinking of how important it is to be present and mindful and take it all in, not always from behind the lens? Is there some sort of cosmic woo woo reward for such thinking? Angels murmuring gifts and guidance?

I dunno.

I’m pretty much with Van Gogh on so much these days, “I know nothing with any certainty…”.


What if…

Thanks for readin’

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