It has been fun reading about the humpback whale sightings in New Rochelle and Long Island Sound. Art and I went whale watching during the summer of 1997—it was an unforgettable experience in more ways than one.

I had just completed seven weeks of radiation; I was tired, worn down and needed a change of pace and scenery. Art suggested we take a leisurely motor trip to Gloucester, Mass., do some sightseeing, have lobster dinners and maybe go on a whale watch trip. That sounded wonderful to me; kind of a shot of adrenaline. Just what we both needed.

After checking in at the hotel, we wandered around for a while. As we gazed at the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, we silently paid tribute to the seamen from Gloucester Harbor, who were lost at sea since the first decade of the 1700s. We also walked down to the docks and made our reservations for the whale watch trip the next morning.

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The day was perfect: bright sun, clear blue skies and just enough of a breeze to keep us comfortable. It would be cooler once we headed out and got underway, but we had jackets, sun glasses, sunscreen and Dramamine—we were ready to sail. The sun shining on the water gave the appearance of a blanket of diamonds, absolutely breathtaking. As we headed out, we passed the slip where the Andrea Gail had docked. She and her crew were lost at sea in 1991 during the “Perfect Storm.”

Moving out into the ocean, our guide/educator explained that there had been many sightings during the past week and hoped we’d be just as lucky. No sooner had he spoken, when there appeared three humpbacks off to the right. They breached the water gracefully and then dove under, displaying their powerful tails.  Three more whales came on the scene. Our guide proudly told us one was a momma, with her calf and another female. He added that a second female always accompanies mom and her baby—kind of a bodyguard or surrogate mother.

Unexpectedly, the second female swam toward our boat. She rose in the air and elegantly entered the water again, swishing her tail. As she came closer, our guide was ecstatic: “She is performing for us!”

He was right! She came up, went down and under the boat, appearing on the other side with a triumphant rise and dive as agile as a ballerina. She was magnificent and she knew it! Again, she repeated her beautifully executed dive and appearance on the opposite side. I swear she was smiling when she looked at us!  Cameras were clicking all over the boat; folks were moving from one side to the other. We knew that we were witnessing a rare performance; a ballet by this splendid creature. I, the fraidy-cat, couldn’t help thinking, “Oh, Lord, what if she decides to rise while under the boat! We’ll capsize!”

But she didn’t and we didn’t. Instead, she took a few more “bows” and swam over to the others. Almost as if it had been choreographed, they rose and entered the water, flicking their tails in an exuberant farewell as they smoothly moved on to entertain another boatload of expectant thrill seekers.

I still get chills when I remember this remarkable day. Until we took this journey, we had been going to Robert Moses State Park on weekends; I’d rest and “listen to the waves,” a healing process of its own. This calm and restful New England vacation added another dimension. On a near-perfect day, watching the elegance, beauty and grace of these ocean dwellers, despite their size, was definitely a major step in the healing process: 

It was calming, it was amazing, it was unsurpassed healing!