I’ve been married for almost three decades, worn the same hairstyle since I gave up the girl-mullet in the late 80s and have always been a morning person. The same way I know that I will be having a cup of tea minutes after my feet hit the floor each day, I have also accepted the fact that I am not a risk taker.
My yearly vacations, for instance, consist of Florida condos and cruises with schedules and excursions I’ve come to throughly enjoy. While I find doing things that make me feel as if I’m doing something different in a place I’ve never been great, more importantly, I feel safe wrapped in the knowledge that thousand of cruise line passengers before me did this very same dolphin/sea lion encounter and survived. So it’s all good.
That’s why when Rick Stanley of Ocean Quest Adventures offered to take me out on the Atlantic to whale watch I said yes immediately. I’ve gone out with Rick and his merry men before on an iceberg adventure, and while I pushed the envelope on my comfort zone back then stepping into a zodiac, I felt safe, comfortable, and throughly enjoyed myself. Assuming we’d be heading out in a larger sized vessel – seeing as we were out to see whales in all their breeching glory – I was more than eager to set sail.
The evening before we headed out, I received an email that asked for my height, weight and shoe size. What in the heck were they measuring me for? I wondered with a more than a wee bit of apprehension. A wet suit, it turned out. I wouldn’t just be seeing whales, I would be snorkelling with them. While I replied with my dimensions, I told those who knew me best that
I doubted I would go over the side of any boat voluntarily in the middle of the Atlantic. And with whales? It simply wouldn’t happen.
But, as a writer, it was something I wanted to experience, even if it meant watching while others did what my own nerves simply wouldn’t permit.
When I arrived for my morning sailing, I almost didn’t don the wetsuit. But with a photographer on hand, I felt the pressure to perform. I’m sure I can cancel out at the last minute, I thought as Captain Johnny O (John Olivero) got everyone suited up.Huge smile, Captain J.O. oozed confidence, giving me that little boost I needed to strip down and suit up.
It didn’t take us long to spy our first pod of humpbacks and, under Captain’s orders, we geared up and waited for the GO! GO! GO! call that would send us over the side. As there were an even number of guests, we were all paired up with a buddy for safety shortly before we were to hit the water. If I was going to bail, all thoughts of that faded as my buddy, a young woman originally from Chile turned to me with eyes aglow and informed me that this was a lifelong dream. I had to go, so when the call came, over the side I went.
Leap of Faith
While I’d like to say my fear subsided instantly with that first leap of faith, that would be a lie. My heart pounded and I felt waves of panic as the ocean waves bobbed me within sight of a distant humpback’s fluke. My feet floated to the surface and my face dipped down as I adjusted to the buoyancy of my wetsuit and again; panic … but I talked myself off the proverbial ledge as my mind busied itself keeping my ‘buddy’ in sight.
Overcoming my next greatest fear, getting back inside the zodiac using my own strength, gave me my greatest confidence. There’s nothing more empowering that flying up over the side of those pontoons and slamming fins back inside that vessel after being in the ocean with giants of the sea. Good thing too. A small jaunt further; orcas. A pod of them.
We went back in the water again after that to swim once more in the same water as those magnificent creatures. While there were no close encounters, it was most certainly memorable. Fin whales, humpbacks, orcas, puffins and the beauty of nature were breathtaking, mind blowing experiences. But the icing on this very special cake was the fact that I made that first fin-footed step off the boat in the first place.