Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Whale watching off the coast of Eden Australia.

We got up at the break of dawn in Australia to get ready for a whale watching tour. I had a bowl of Cheerios and just as we left our Eagle Heights apartment, I took a Dramamine so it would soak into my system before we got on the boat. Cat-Balou Cruise leaves Eden's port every morning and in season, they guarantee a whale sighting. Before we walked the gang plank, everyone was warned that there were pretty high seas out there which made spotting whales challenging. If anyone wanted to turn back, this was their chance.

Inside, I sketched what I thought was the steering controls.  No one ever touched the steering wheel however, so I assume the catamaran was actually being steered from upstairs. Terry immediately sat up front at the bow and I included her in the sketch. Once we left the harbor, the seas got worse and the boat pitched violently. My drawing hand started to go numb so I slapped it on my calf to try and wake it up. A crew member asked me to go back to the bar to sign some documents. I lost my balance multiple times as I walked the short distance to the stern of the boat. After signing, I couldn't bring Myself to walk back to my seat. I clutched a metal pillar for support. I've heard, that if you start to feel sea sick, you shouldn't stay inside. Instead you should get out and stare at the horizon. I stumbled out a door and stood at a railing. Then my knees gave out and I knelled at the railing as if in prayer. "Dear God, please let this pass." I stayed like that for the longest time. A crew member approached and told me that sniffing eucalyptus oil would settle my stomach. She gave me a napkin soaked in oil and I held it up to my nose. I took a sniff. The sharp smell immediately caused me to wretch, sending Cheerios over the railing into the churning sea. eucalyptus wasn't a cure, it was the cause. Terry had bragged about how good a patch was for avoiding sea sickness. Where was she? I could use that darn patch. I wasn't able to walk up to the bow to find her. My knees no longer worked.

After wrenching I felt better for a while and I stood. I held ceiling beams and imagined myself surfing the high seas. There was no way I could get back inside to my sketch. Eventually my extremities went numb again. All the other passengers had crowded onto the bow of the boat since a whale had been spotted. I stood at the stern with my head out over the railing. I wretched but there was nothing inside me. Then, a few feet from me, a whales eye appeared and he stared at me. Time slowed down. I swear I saw concern in that eye. Every nerve of my body snapped to attention. All my misery passed. The eye submerged followed by the immense length of body, and then the tale fluke. Wow! For the rest of the trip I stood up watching the ocean for another appearance. We basically tracked that one whale the entire trip. Spotting whales in the distance was impossible in the high seas. A Japanese man was as bad off as I was. He kept his eyes closed the entire trip. Developing my sea legs became a game. I let go of the ceiling beams once in a while to see if I could surf the pitching deck without getting thrown overboard.

For much of the trip I was so miserable, I wished I were dead, and then there were moments where I never felt so alive. If I had an opportunity to do it again, I would jump at the chance. Next time there will be no Cheerios, and I'll wear a patch behind my ear. Sea sickness is largely psychological it is a confusion in which fluids in the inner ear send different signals than what the eyes perceive. Since I'm such a visual person, I guess I'm more susceptible. Terry told me that sketching is what caused the sea sickness, but I refuse to believe that.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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