“You want to go whale watching?” I asked. “On someone else’s boat?”
“Heck, yes!” said Erik, rubbing his hands together. “The season has started; there should be humpbacks in Prony by now. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Fun Daddy was back in town. We only see Erik for a few days every month, and he is always keen to make the most of his time with us.
I looked over the brochure. With Papillon due to get hauled out and checked over in a couple of weeks, we weren’t going to make it down there under our own steam. It would be kind of fun to be purely a passenger for once. And, let’s face it, I’m a sucker for marine mammals.
The day was clear but cold. By six a.m. we had boarded the catamaran, because early is how these New Caledonians roll. The dozen of us scrunched around the table as the captain began his departure talk.
I leaned over to Erik. “My money is on this being 50% about not breaking the toilet.”
Sure enough, after glossing over such important safety information as “don’t fall off”, the captain brought out a Jabsco pump assembly. He gave the crowd a beady-eyed look. “Now,” he said, “I am going to explain the toilet facilities to you.”
I grinned as he laboriously went through the finer points of using marine facilities. This is always our first talk with visitors, too. Marine toilets are finicky beasts, and there is nothing worse than having to take one apart. I can’t imagine having to impress this information on charter guests day after day – a group of people you know full well couldn’t identify a joker valve if you paid them.
After a final dark warning as to the fate of anyone who misused the single toilet aboard, we were off.
|No whales for a few hours; let’s play cards.|
|Sunrise southeast of Noumea|
I’ve never been able to get used to the motion on a catamaran. I know some people love them, and not heeling over has its appeal. But a cat always feels choppy to me, at anchor and underway. Whereas my monohull has a smooth, rolling motion through the waves, a cat makes me feel like I’m a Fremen crossing the sands of Dune. Maybe the random, uneven gait of a catamaran helps it hide from sandworms. But I was armed with my seasickness medication, so the chop was bearable, if less than ideal.
The coast slid by, but the day did not warm up thanks to a cold South wind. As our French compatriots huddled in their fashionable scarves, we sought shelter. The interior was off-limits (except for the strictly-controlled toilet, of course). So we improvised. The girls discovered that the entryway over the port-side hull was delightfully roomy (ie. about 2.5 ft x 4.5 ft). The four of us piled in, and started reading.
As the morning wore on, people would walk past, do a double-take, then pretend they hadn’t seen us. I think they were all secretly jealous that we were so toasty out of the wind. Yes, that must be it.
And, finally: whales. We abandoned our hidey-hole, emerging like a troupe from a clown car, and crowded onto the trampoline with the rest of the whale-watchers. We spent a delightful time watching a juvenile humpback breach, swim, and be whale-like.
|What is Indy looking at?|
|A whale tail,of course|
Full of excitement and fun, everyone flaked out on the trampoline for the return journey. And when it got too cold, back into the clown car.
I was a little wistful as we sailed away, wishing we were on Papillon and could stay in the bay for days on end if we wanted to. But being a passenger for a day was fun, and I know our long, lazy days will come again.