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Taking Kids to Maine - Part 2  
by Ron Cloer


Whale watching seemed completely alien and exciting to a family from the heartland of America.  So armed with “sea bands” (for motion sickness) we decided to take on this adventure.  Although the weather in Bar Harbor was 65 with a light mist, we were full of anticipation.  The woman at the ticket counter said that we needed to dress warmly because it got colder out on the water.  I was somewhat skeptical about this because I’d been sailing in Florida and noticed no temperature changes.  But since we were bringing young ones along I listened to her advice, grabbed coats and sweatshirts from the car.  I’m SO glad we did.  When we got out on the open ocean the temperature dropped 20 degrees, seriously.  Thankfully this boat had a large indoor area with tables and chairs, completely out of the wind and weather.  Directly above the enclosed area was a viewing deck that had zero protection for those more tolerant of the cold.  We found a cozy place inside and enjoyed the views of Bar Harbor from the water. 

After some time the captain announced that the “usual” place that the boat visited to see whales was empty, no whales anywhere.  Apparently the whales didn’t realize that we were coming.  Since there was a promise to see whales or your money back the captain announced that we would venture out further, 60 to 80 miles.  So our 3 hour tour became an all day excursion.  (Yes, I was thinking about Gilligan’s Island when he made that announcement.  Thankfully the weather didn’t get rough and the tiny ship wasn’t tossed… ) On the way out we sat around talked, munched on snacks and hoped that we would see whales.  Finally the captain said that he spotted a whale on the starboard side and instantly the warm enclosed area emptied.  But the whales were far away and difficult to see.  As rookies to whale watching Mallory, my 6 year old daughter and I questioned if we were looking at a wave or a whale.  I held a quiet hope that this wouldn’t be the only experience that my kids could enjoy.

It wasn’t too long before the captain was announcing whale sighting all around the boat.  Using a clock reference he billowed, “whale at 3 o’clock”, “whale at 7 o’clock”, “whale at 11 o’clock”.  It was like a bingo parlor with everyone intent on each announcement.  At first everyone was rushing from one sighting to the next moving in lynch mob like unison.  But the sightings became so common that everyone stayed in the same area and treated it more like spectators at a tennis match.  After some instruction we learned that whale tails are unique, which I didn’t know before this trip.  Amazingly the captain and environmental person could actually discern the identities of whales by looking at their tail.  I don’t remember the name but some whale that hadn’t been seen since the seventies was sighted.  The environmental dude was thrilled.  We were just happy to see a whale not necessarily a specific hermit-like whale that had been eluding our giddy guide.

Quickly into our adventure my daughter Mallory became extremely interested in whales.  Known for worrying more than a 6 year old should Mallory was concerned about being seasick.  But the size, beauty and wonder of whales was winning her over.  She raced with me from one place on the deck to the next with her little camera always ready to shoot.  Over and over again she got the better shot because I was manually focusing my camera and missing the good shot.  But sweet, excited Mallory with her cheap disposable camera was catching the image.  She’d ask me if I got a good picture and I’d say, “Maybe, did you?” 
“YEAH, I got it.” 
 
Big fancy grown up guy with expensive camera – 0

6 year old kid with a disposable camera – 1

While all of us were amazed and intrigued, Mallory was the one who fully embraced this experience.  My memory of whale watching includes some wonderful pictures of whales around our boat but it also includes a tightly bundled little girl with a red nose, camera ready and an infectious smile.