Whale hello there! I’ve been chugging away at my New Jersey Bucket List, just trying to earn my stripes as a Jersey Girl and my next big check, my white whale so to speak, was peeping some big booty big ole humpbacks. My affinity for sea mammals begins and ends with my obsession with the cult classic, Free Willy. Ever since 1993, I’ve made it my life goal to become besties with a killer whale, set him free from greedy waterpark captivity, only to call him with my harmonica anytime I want to grab onto his fin for a quick ride or just talk through my hardships while I pet his smooth rubbery back. As it turns out, my life is not scored by Michael Jackson, and orcas don’t make great pets. So, I had to settle for taking a spin on The Royal Miss Belmar to feast my eyes on what guido and guidette whales are cruising around the Jersey Shore.
I had been casually slipping whale watching into conversation for a solid year, hoping someone would think that sounded like a krill-iant time. I had no takers and I finally decided to seas the opportunity and stop feeling so tide down. My sister (who went whale watching in Cape Cod) confirmed that it wouldn’t be weird to go by myself because everyone is looking at the water anyway and not the loser with a fanny pack full of snacks. So I decided to take the day off Monday and have myself a breachin’ time. Alright, I’m done with the whale puns…OR AM I? I found the top-rated whale watching tour in my area and when I went to purchase my ticket I saw the options were: general admission for $55, reserved seating for $85 and a “best view of the house” upper deck seating for $125. I wanted to guarantee as best as possible–within budget–that I’d have a banging view for ample pics and vids. After texting with the company (their only form of contact, big yikes) they advised me that there’s still an opportunity to get good seats with general admission but you’d have to arrive early, whereas the reserved seats are all at the front of the boat. I decided to splurge and laid down that extra cold hard cash to get myself those tip top seats. $95 later, I was ready to see some mother-F’in whales on a mother-F’ing boat.
I got to the marina, circled twice looking for a parking spot and finally found one under the bridge at the train tracks…the furthest away. I was *very* excited for this fancy whale watching experience that I paid top dollar for and kicking things off by emerging like a troll from under the bridge, huffing and puffing on a 10 minute walk to the boat ain’t it. A precursor for what was to come. I was met with the crew upon boarding and when I gave them my name, the Captain started to tell me to follow the rest of the general riffraff but then stopped and went, “OH, you’re VIP.” Yes, sir, I most certainly am. I sit VIP or I don’t sit at all. I’ve never felt more elite than that very moment. I sauntered up to the front of the boat behind my whale watch escort and he pointed to the roped off section and told me to take my pick.
I sat down with a healthy distance from the next group, thinking I was being polite, then promptly said F that and scooted as close to the bow of the boat as I could get, remembering that my sister told me that’s the hot zone for prime peeps. Then I sat in the direct sun for 30 minutes and roasted, sliding all over my VIP seat before the trip even blasted off. I’ve never felt like a bigger dirtbag imposter than when the deckhand came around to collect the reserved flags off the seats that I had accidentally been sitting on top of and I pulled it out of my swamp ass and handed it to him sopping wet. At least I managed to face my fears and ask the couple next to me to take this adorbs pic of me on the bow pre-swass, so the image I curated was very shi-shi even if my slippery limbs couldn’t cooperate.
We set sail and the ocean breeze was life changing for my overactive sweat glands. A woman sat down on the bow of the boat and declared that she didn’t show up early enough to get a good seat so she’ll just make her own. Ope, ok. This was my first indication that my expensive reserved seat meant absolutely nothing. That point was hammered home even further when the boat suddenly turned into a zoo of activity. I don’t know what it is about moving vessels or confined spaces that make people feel like they need to get up and jazzercise but it is downright infuriating. As we were on a modestly sized boat, the seating was similar to a row at a concert or the aisle of an airplane. Every time someone wanted to get through I had to shove my knees up into my eyebrows so they could scoot on by. No exaggeration, I spent an hour crunched in the knees to chest position as every passenger on this boat bee-bopped back and forth because they couldn’t possibly just SIT FUCKING STILL IN THE STUPID SEAT THAT THEY PURCHASED. At one point a guy stopped and stood directly in front of me and leaned over the boat, not only obstructing my view of the water, but putting his butthole in my face. That’s when I finally had enough and stood up to stretch out my legs which had been slung over my shoulders like a continental soldier to accommodate the “I just want to feel how the air is on this side of the boat” general admission crowd and stake my spot for prime blowhole views, not to be confused with prime butthole views.
We were an hour in and still hadn’t seen no stinkin whales and our naturalist (a PhD student from Rutgers) had been eerily quiet on the mic. Knowing that they don’t guarantee a whale sighting, but they offer a free trip if none are seen, I didn’t have a GREAT feeling about it. Finally with the NYC skyline in sight, the naturalist got over the loudspeaker and told us to keep our eyes peeled because 80% of the whales they see are in this area. Why humpback whales would kick it near a large city is beyond me, but I’m no expert. More time passed with no whales and she popped on again to say that we’re approaching a busy shipping channel and the whales like to hang here because it’s deep. Again, an area with tons of big-ass boats cruising through doesn’t seem ideal for a 30 ft whale to sunbathe. At this point the jig was up. I knew these fools had no idea what they were talking about or where they could find us some whales. I had been duped. I mean I could’ve cupped my hands to my face and spoke “whale” into the breeze like Dory and attracted more whales than this crack team could find with all their fancy boat equipment and the eyes of 100 amateur passengers searching the waters. They slowed the boat down and started circling a certain area and that’s when the naturalist nervously announced, “Obviously we don’t know where the whales are on any given day,” to which I laughed and replied out loud “NO SHIT.” But they decided to lurk near the shipping channel hoping to catch one, Chris Hansen style. Since they changed direction to go against the wind and try a different angle, they told the left side (my side of course) to be careful of waves. Not two minutes after I snarked the naturalist, I caught a little sea spray to the face. It was enough spritz for me to decide it was time to sit my ass down.
I wiped off my glasses after taking this silly little splish-splash selfie and no sooner did I put my phone back down that I got full on waterboarded by another wave. I was securely in my seat and looked like I got dunked under water. And then another one hit. I paid $95 for a VIP super-soaker seat.
After getting womped about 3 times, and one particularly spicy wave getting past the barrier of my sunglasses and hitting my eye, making it burn so badly I basically went blind, I decided it was time to find a new location. The boat had now been put in neutral and was rocking back and forth quite a bit, so with my one good eye, this disabled drowned rat hobbled over to the bow of the boat and latched onto what I believe was an electrical post. I turned to the couple who snapped my pic and told them “this is not a fun time.” They uncomfortably laughed, probably wondering why a sea urchin in need of an eye patch was speaking to them. It was at this point, drenched and blind that my sea sickness decided to turn up full blast. The bow where I was clinging for dear life was slapping up and down and we still had yet to see anything other than some crusty old balloons floating on the surface of the water. Don’t need binocs for those! As I tried to dry off and also not throw up or fall over, the naturalist continued to urge us to do her job for her and find us a whale. KEEP LOOKING! THEY’RE OUT THERE! It’s as if she wanted to rub it in that I only had one working eyeball.
We start to creep back to shore, already late for our 4pm return time, when finally the lady who made her own seat on the way there pointed out a whale off in the distance. Credit where credit is due, at least she was pulling her weight cause I was 100% over scouring the sea for a spout. We got all up on that whale and stalked it like their “complimentary next trip if you don’t see whales” policy depended on it. This company was not about to lose another cent. I learned that several people on this boat were on their second trip after not seeing any whales on their first so clearly this is much more common than they lead on. Shocker. We rotated around this whale who was lunge feeding and took turns with each side of the boat having a view. In my fake world brain, I was imagining I’d have a front row seat to whales flopping around the boat and I’d leave with amazing pictures. The reality was incredibly underwhelming. I had finally regained vision in both eyes but 20/20 really wasn’t necessary here. Everyone was crowded around each other, pushing to see, while also playing bumper passengers trying to keep balance. My phone almost fell overboard every time I snapped a picture and every picture that I took was of the water with a teeny tiny glimmer of a whale blending in with the waves. You could never tell when it was going to pop up and when it did (usually not where your eyes were) it dipped back down 3 seconds later. I’ve never been more unimpressed with something in my whole life, but that didn’t stop me from taking 100 pictures and videos of nothing, hoping for the miracle money shot that never came.
As the whale got closer to the boat (still not close at all), the naturalist chose that moment in time to share that this year in Plymouth a humpback flopped onto a fishing boat out of no where. She emphasized that whale was a juvenile just like this one and you just never know what could happen as the whales are only focused on getting fed. READ THE ROOM, LADY. While I’m on a boat choking back pukes trying to stay upright, the absolute LAST thing I want to hear is that the whale we’re trying to get closer to could just come aboard and launch us into the bowels of the ocean. Did I laugh at the YouTube video of this incident in Plymouth? SURE DID! But I was cackling because I was safely on land and the possibility of this ever happening to me was almost nonexistent. There is a TIME AND A PLACE for sea monsters can kill us without even trying stories. Gawd.
After we spent far too long watching this whale do virtually nothing but eat fish underwater, we found a second whale to creep all up on. This was one they’d seen before. Whale #91 to be exact. Y’all can’t even name your whales?! Come on. We watched him also do virtually nothing but eat fish underwater for another half hour (now an hour off schedule) and I counted down the minutes until I could get back to my seat for the hour ride back and hopefully eat my Ritz bits snackpack to stop myself from hurling. As someone who went on the Himalayan at the boardwalk last month and QUICKLY learned that I’m way too old for rides without getting motion sickness, I’m not sure why I thought being a first mate for the day would be kewl and not stir up my insides. Ya girl may be called The Salty Ju, but she was not cut out for the boat life.
I sat down for our journey back, relieved that we were in the final stretch, and my seatmate turned to me and genuinely said, “That was worth getting wet for!” Uhh, no ma’am. Without a doubt it was not. Did she also get salt water in her eyes because there is no shot anyone could’ve been impressed with what we saw. And as if she manifested that same fate into the air just by speaking it, within 1 second of the boat going full speed, I got the dunk tank treatment again. One little girl was standing in front of my seat with her head over the side of the boat LOOKING to catch waves to the dome and this is why kids are beyond stupid. (PS there was not a safety speech or lifejacket in sight on this ride and all of the children on board were running RAMPANT without parental supervision. Almost made me wish one got tossed over the side on a rough wave to teach those parents a lesson. ALMOST.)
Obviously there was no chance I was going to sit underwater for an hour and everyone else had already gotten the memo to get the hell away from that side of the boat. Unfortunately, the combo deal of high speed boat and lack of balance pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t be making any big moves. I was able to essentially run/crawl to the dry half of the bow, lean my body weight into the side and get a two-handed death grip on the edge. Picture “I’m the king of the world” positioning but instead of a majestic cruiseliner gliding slowly through the air, the wind was whipping in my face and I was bruising from the amount my body was slamming into the side trying to stay upright. F-U-N! I somehow managed to “stand” this way for about a half hour. There was no one in sight, as they had all figured out a better way to endure this ride. All of a sudden, the boat went from full speed back to an even more nauseating halt and the naturalist hopped back on the hot mic to tell us they’ve spotted another whale and they want to photograph it for their own records. Oh ok, sure, babes! I guess I’ll just live at sea now while you do research and find another whale to assign an inmate number to. A three hour tour, indeed.
Now that the boat had somewhat stabilized, it was time to try and find a seat since the one I overpaid for I was only able to sit in for about 10 minutes. (In case you somehow forgot I got ripped off hoard.) I went to the inside part of the boat where some of the staff took one look at my about-to-Ralph face and said everything ok? Certainly not, Skipper, thanks for asking! I told them I was feeling a little nauseous and was looking for somewhere to sit. They directed me to the back of the boat, said it was less rocky there and told me to look at the houses on land to feel better. I told them it probably didn’t help that I was sitting in the splash zone and the deckhand goes, I did notice that. SIR, IF YOU NOTICE A PAYING CUSTOMER GETTING BOMBED WITH SALTWATER AND VISIBLY NOT ENJOYING IT DON’T YOU THINK IT WOULD BE NICE TO HELP HER TO ANOTHER SEAT?! Guess not. I thanked these two jabronis for absolutely nothing as they were about as useful as a poopy flavored lollipop and wobbled to the back of the boat, where everyone else had already migrated long before me. I found a seat on the very end and dropped into it, met by an incredibly dirty look from the lady next to me, even though I left ample space in between. Oh, exsqueeze me, is this real estate taken?! God forbid I take your precious buffer away from you for the last 20 minutes of this shitstorm.
My ass hit that plastic seat and I’m about to focus on the shore and take a deep breathe when I’m distracted by the woman two seats down launching into the air and projectile vomiting off the side of the boat like a velociraptor. Not only did I get to see her red puke soar through the air, but I also got to smell it! Then I got to jam my thighs into my brain so she could get by me and probably go upchuck some more. And it was in that very moment, as I tried not to start a chain reaction of vomz, that I decided this blog must be written. The rest of it could be chalked up to a crappy experience, but this horrible day being capped off by moving locations and sitting down in the exact right moment to catch the backsplash of an off-boat gommick?! PURE GOLD. That’s sitcom-quality no good, very bad day right there. There is no other way the experience could’ve ended. After the crew selfishly got their pictures of the whale (that they didn’t even tell us where to look for), they sped us back, making sure to hawk their merch and shove their tip jars in my facehole. Everyone on the beaches waved as we passed by, probably smiling and saying “what a bunch of IDIOTS” under their breathe. But I didn’t care because LAND HO, I finally got off that damn boat from hell. I would’ve kissed the ground if I thought I’d be able to without crashing into it.
This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time my unrealistic high hopes for a mediocre activity gets the best of me. The good news is that I’ll always turn my disappointments into entertainment for the masses (family members that read this blog) and the even better news is it wasn’t me who red wedding retched all over the Royal Miss Belmar. I’m proud of myself for going alone especially because if anyone went with me I would’ve had to tell them to shut the hell up because I was so naush anyway, which probably would’ve been less than enjoyable for them. But at the end of the day, I went whale watching and all I have to show for it are 75 identical mediocre pictures of the ocean, some of which also include my own finger. If I ever get the mermaid urge to go under the sea again, I’ll just stick to a Free Willy 1 & 2 dubz feature, pretend my BFF is a killer whale and call it a day.