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  • Writer's pictureEdward Leonard

Westport Seabirds Pelagic Trip 4 May 2024

Updated: May 17



On the brisk morning of May 4, 2024, a father and his 17-year-old son embarked on a transformative pelagic trip with Westport Seabirds, marking a unique moment of bonding and discovery between generations. The 50-year-old father, Mark, a seasoned birdwatcher with a passion for marine life, had eagerly anticipated this excursion as an opportunity to share his love for nature with his son, Alex. As they boarded the vessel, anticipation mingled with the salty sea breeze, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure.

However, as the boat ventured farther from the shore, both Mark and Alex began to succumb to seasickness, their stomachs churning in protest against the rolling waves. Despite their discomfort, they persevered, determined not to let nausea dampen their spirits or detract from the experience. With grim determination, they clung to the railings, their faces alternating between shades of green and pale, as they scanned the horizon for signs of seabirds.


Despite their queasiness, father and son found moments of joy and wonder amidst the tumultuous seas. Mark's hearty laugh echoed across the deck as Alex, despite his pallor, managed to spot a flock of gulls diving for fish with remarkable accuracy. Their shared sense of camaraderie and mutual support became a lifeline in the midst of the rolling waves, strengthening their bond as they weathered the storm together.


As the day unfolded, Westport Seabirds' knowledgeable guides provided insights into the behaviors and habitats of the seabirds they encountered, enriching the experience with educational depth. Mark and Alex, though occasionally interrupted by bouts of nausea, marveled at the graceful flight of albatrosses, the playful dives of pelicans, and the haunting calls of shearwaters echoing across the waves. The sighting of a majestic Northern Fulmar, with its elegant gliding motion, provided a moment of respite from their discomfort, reminding them of the beauty that awaited beyond their queasy stomachs.

Amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of the open ocean, conversations flowed effortlessly between Mark and Alex, bridging the generational gap with shared wonder and curiosity. They discussed everything from the importance of conservation efforts to the intricacies of seabird migration patterns, each exchange deepening their understanding of the fragile ecosystems that sustain life beneath the waves.


As the sun began to dip below the horizon, casting a golden hue over the water, Mark and Alex reflected on the day's adventures with a sense of gratitude and reverence. For Mark, witnessing his son's perseverance in the face of adversity was a source of immense pride, reaffirming the resilience that ran through their shared bloodline. And for Alex, the pelagic trip had taught him valuable lessons about determination and resilience, instilling within him a newfound respect for the untamed beauty of the sea.


In the end, the pelagic trip with Westport Seabirds had transcended its role as a mere excursion; it had become a rite of passage, a shared journey of discovery and connection that would forever bond father and son in their love for the wild and unpredictable majesty of the ocean.


 

Our actual trip could not be described as rosy as the above. First, in order to get to the boat in time from where we lived we needed to set our alarm for 2am. I grabbed a quick shower then Andy and I grabbed some leftover pizza from Zeeks before heading out in the van for the 2.5 hour drive to Westport.


On past trips, I've stayed at the Westport Inn which was a great option as it was one block away from the number 10 float which the tour departs from. This trip was a last minute surprise though having only been added on the prior Wednesday. All the other trips for the year were fully booked. If interested in this trip, be sure to book early. I believe this year all the trips were fully booked by Feb. Today, I felt lucky to have seen the posting of an added trip in the Tweeters mailing list. So we didn't really have the time to stay over. As it turned out the ride passed quickly. Be sure to go the speedlimit though as I overheard another passenger on the trip describe how she was pulled over just outside of Olympia.


After a short saftey briefing and description of what to expect, we were on our way. The first bird of note was the Brown Pelican. The trip leader commented he had never seen so many Brown Pelicans this early in the season. I love how bulky this bird is as it glides above the water.


It wasn't too long before we hit the chop. Initially, Andy loved it. He grinned from ear to ear as it felt like a roller coaster to him even as the sea spray soaked his sweatpants. Before too long however, I saw that grin fade as the nausea set in. I too started to feel it. The seaspray soaked his sweatpants and water ran down into his shoes. He made his way to me and sat beside me on the bench.


We both grew naseaous and cold. We tried to focus on the birds and were able to see the tufted puffin, sooty shearwater, and black-footed albatross.


I was the first to throw up off the stern. Andy followed. I threw up two more times once off the starbord side and once off the port side. Andy threw up three more times. We made it to the cabin to warm as others enjoyed the birds even as the the boat pitched back and forth as much as at a 45 degree angle.


We gave up on the birds and just tried to hang on. We closed our eyes and tried to rest hoping the trip would pass more quickly. I found myself saying this is it. This would be my last pelagic. However, after reaching port the color returned to Andy's face. We exited the boat and talked excitedly about the experience. I was so proud of him and how he powered through this experience. This was way outside his comfort zone. This was a bounding experience we will always remember.


So maybe I will find myself on a future pelagic, but one thing is for sure I need to figure out a new routine from getting sick because it would really nice to get to see the birds more deeply.










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