The sun was warm and it was pleasant enough as the boat whizzed across the waves but just as I was just beginning to think that it was going to be a ‘no show’ affair, the keen watchers up front suddenly became agitated, they had spotted the circling sea birds and then, a mile ahead, a tell tale spot of spray shot skywards. It was all rather infectious and we roused ourselves from the warm sun induced stupor and joined the crowds at the rails. A couple of Minke whales were our first sighting. Eventually the throb of the engine stopped and we drifted within yards of a spot where a fin had broken the surface. The boat drifted as we waited while they dived below for a couple of minutes and then resurfaced again for air.
Later we saw Hump Back whales. These grow up top forty foot, and weigh a ton a foot and it’s because their mass is so bulky that you feel the impressive flip of the massive tail as they force the tons of blubber below the surface and push their bodies straight down through the water column. The underside of the tails have pattern that is as individual to each whale as our finger prints are to us. There was something quite moving about having such close contact with the great creatures.
It was a memorable day but I’m still trying to forget one line from the commentary:
“now it’s a cow whale with her calf, the dad’s a bull what do you call a cow that’s just had her baby? de-calfinated.!” ...ouch.
We were heading for Barnstable, but it was the one on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. Driving down to Cape Cod I was quite surprised to see so many familiar British place names. There were big distances between the houses and anything that was recognisable as a town centre. You quickly gained an understanding of how essential the car is to the American way of life.
We drove past trees whose leaves had turned golden and wondered what it would be like to live in the houses with back doors that opened out to the wild forests.
The cars parked outside them were large and amid the scattered toys were motor caravans and trailers with the power boats. Beside the lakes great flat areas had been cleared. It was a place where cranberries were harvested and wild turkeys roamed the bushes. Willows hung low by the highway and telegraph cables looped from pole to pole.
A horse flicked his tail at the flies, bizzie lizzies adorned the occasional garden and we met we meet sun flowers with faces as big as dinner plates. The houses seem old and well cared for, but occasionally there was one that seems to creak and lean with faded blistered paint. A white wooden spire pointed skywards and
"The Open door church of God" seemed in danger of becoming the open roofed one! There was pleasure in driving on country roads punctuated with mail boxes and in following the yellow school bus.
At it’s flashing lights all traffic stopped and the children ran over the grass to home and a welcoming dog with wagging tail.
We rounded a bend where an elderly couple were picking apples from a tree heavy with fruit and as we smelt the tang of salt in the air we realised that we had arrived at Barnstable in mid Cape Cod.
I paid over my dollars for parking and, now accustomed to the automatic gears, slid the big air conditioned rental car in beside the rest of the gleaming gas guzzlers. The place was a hive of activity. Small boats were being launched from trailers that were being backed down a slip. They joined others already bristling with fishing poles. Deep sea sports boats were edging from the marina and beyond the harbour people were carrying picnics towards the sand
We went aboard the big white Whale Watcher boat and joined the hamburger queue. By the time we were squirting the mustard on them, the vessel had backed out and we were speeding confidently backwards out to a narrow marked channel
We were soon passing the low lying landscape and heading around Sandy Neck where the lighthouse was built in 1857.
Beyond it lay a vast bay. It was then, that over the PA. System, we heard that the crew of our boat didn't know where they were going; it was just a question of finding where the whales were. They invited us to help look out for the signs of them, so we scanned the horizon for a sighting of birds or a spout of spray. A pod of dolphins skimmed over the surface riding on the bow wave of our boat. and the on board naturalists gave us an interesting commentary.
Allan Rogers has a
Hyannis Whale Watcher’s Cruise, Barstable :
(Tel. in) US.1-800 287 0374 or 508 362 6088
Report & pictures by Allan Rogers