the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Merry Yarn of Whale-Watching


Aye matey, ye be wantin’ to hear this here tale, this merry yarn. Twas a year ago when I got my noggin a thinkin’ that since I’m a livin’ the life o’ California, I should get myself on the high seas o’ the Pacific with my feisty wench, Sophia, and see me some whale-watching, as is done around these parts around March.

So, off we join the other sea scumming tourists, land lubbers every one o’ them, on the vessel named “Rip-off” that took off from the Port o’ Redondo. The salty dog chugged its way to the deeper waters, the slowest schooner I’ve ever sighted, the journey as thrillin’ as tradin’ shots of warm grog or pissin’ off the poop deck. Well, me hearties, me tried to amuse himself by feeling the rockin’ of the scurvy, rat-infested ship, imagining a lovin’ moment with me buxom beauty down in the bilge.

“C’mere me beauty,” ye said to Sophia, me eyes gazin’ at her treasure chest, “Me hornpipe is itchin’ to play a tune.”

After she shot me down like a barnacle scraped off o’ rudder, me turned to the slimy captain o’ the vessel and said, ” Ahoy, mate. We’ve been on the seas for three hours and nary a whale. Arr. when will we finally see one?”

“Gar, don’t get your spyglass all filled with the doubloon, mate.” Me promise ye with the cold steel of my hook hand that we’ll see a member of the whale family. As Cap’n of this here good ship, me GUARANTEE that ye see a beauty of a whale, or ye get your coins returned.”

“Guaranteed? Our money returned? That offer is brave of ye. I’ll be expecting my booty if you don’t deliver, ye scallywag.”

“Return ye to the port bow, ye whoreson rat, and fix ye gaze upon the seas. I feel a whale due North.”

I returned to my pretty lass, who was lookin’ as bored as a salted herring.

“Avast, me proud beauty. No need to shiver ye timbers. The honest Cap’n GUARANTEES a whale sighting, or our precious coins are returned as fast as a pin in me britches!”

“Pin in his britches. Pin in his britches.” yelled the parrot on Sophia’s fetchin’ shoulder. “Brwaack, Neilochka’s not fast. Neilochka’s not fast. It takes him ten minutes to take off o’ wench’s brassiere.”

“F***in’ parrot,” me mumbled.

Another hour passed, and me lovely lass began to feel as sick as a scabbard full o’ lice sittin’ in Davy Jones Locker. Cap’n Wastin’ Time finally turned his pirate ship around and set sail back to Port o’ Redondo.

“All is good.” I told me Sophia.

My buxom beauty was in no mood for lovin’. “Ya scurvy cur who ortin’ t’ be keel hauled! This was the worst whale-watching trip ever!”

“At least we will get our booty returned,” ye replied.

Suddenly, the Cap’n lets out a loud roar. “Weight anchor! Hoist the mizzen!! Batten down yer hatches. Thar she blows! Thar she blows!”

Every scurvy rat on deck ran portside to see the spectacle. But it was nothin’ more than a dolphin jumpin’ out of the water and makin’ the sounds of a gin-drinkin’ mate three sheets to the wind.

“Skuttle me, Skipper,” I said, laughin’. “But that’s o’ dolphin, not o’ whale.”

“Sorry, mate. But if ye knew ye science, ye’d know that whales and dolphins are the same family!”

“What about ye GUARANTEE?”

“Read the small print on ye ticket, matey. It says “money back if ye don’t see a member of the whale “family.”

And then the Cap’n laughed a laugh so loud and hearty that it must have woken Blackbeard himself sleepin’ on the zenith of the moon.

“Sucker. Sucker.” said Sophia’s parrot. “Brwaack!”


  1. better safe than sorry

    we don’t live on an ocean, but we can do our whale watching during the summer months, at marineland (it’s like sea world), you’re guaranteed a sighting, but we don’t like to go and support the cause, cuz they’re in tanks, doesn’t seem right to me.
    you realize it’s still only february, maybe you should have waited for march, whale watching season?

  2. plain jane

    And International Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t until September 19!

  3. Rhea

    I’ve never heard ‘hornpipe’ used in such an imaginative context.

  4. Lou P.

    “I’ll be expecting my booty…”

    Indeed! Pirates rule.

  5. V-Grrrl

    I hope Sophia threw up on the Cap’n. Now his name is Cap’n Chunks and he can take that name to the bank with all his dubloons.

  6. M.A.

    “Sucker. Sucker.” said Sophia’s parrot. “Brwaack!”


    Thank you.

  7. Rick

    C’mon up to Seattle, so nice the whales never leave! Killer whales, mind ya, but nice enough nonetheless.

  8. Pearl

    Ahoy, matey.

    I just felt like saying that.

    Great post, as usual. A real whale of a tale.

  9. Jazz

    Best time to see whales is at 5:00 am on a Zodiac… It’s frigid but worth it.

    Oh, and we get to do it in August.

  10. ms. sizzle

    this is hilarious. oh how i long to be called a “feisty wench” and have someone eye my “treasure chest.” 🙂

    the only time i went whale watching we saw NO whales and i got monumentally sea sick. it sucked!

  11. girl and dog

    Thanks for making me grin so early in the morning!! 😀 I was considering going whale watching down here in Baja, but your story has me re-thinking the plan…

  12. Akaky

    Fell for the old cetacean con, did we?

  13. Churlita

    Have you and Sophia been doing some role playing lately to spice up your marriage in separation?

  14. Eileen Dover

    Oh, matey.

    I’ve always fantasised about being a pirate’s wench. Now I’m fantasising about talking like a pirate all day.

    Now, I’m off to find me some pirate’s booty.

  15. Akaky

    And scuttle is spelled with a c and not with a k. Only a landlubberly hangishore doesnt know that.

  16. kapgar

    And here I thought you were going to say that you asked the cap’n to play your hornpipe after your feisty wench turned you down. That would’ve been an interesting twist.

    We went on a whalewatch during a trip to San Francisco several years ago. We saw jack. The only thing that happened was my camera got soaked so I went below deck to dry it off and wound up getting seasick. That’s about all the excitement I needed.

  17. Akaky

    You know, has it ever occurred to anyone that these daytrips are probably organized by whales so they can look at people? And what a sucker they must feel when the tour guide points out that that the ticket says members of the primate family, and so the poor baleen in town to take in the sights with the wife and kiddies shouldnt feel snookered when the tour guide shows him a boatful of lemurs and chimpanzees, who are much better behaved than humans are anyway, except for the whole feces flinging thing that chimps are into.

  18. Neil

    Akaky, I use the West Coast spelling of skuttle.

  19. Dana

    Aye, aye, Capting Ahab! Cheerly, me hearts! “That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate.” Or maybe that invisible thing. We went on a whaling cruise off of Provincetown (Cape Cod). It was summer, but freezing and windy. Four hours and eighty-some dollars later, all told, we’d seen four porpoises and a single strange giant sunfish called a “mola.” The mola is black and flips half of its diamond-shaped flat body vertically out of the water. It looks just like a shark fin circling the boat. Fun. At least we didn’t throw up, but I can think of so many better ways to spend $80+ for four hours and not throw up.

  20. Ariel

    How curious! You almost sound English! Actually, to me you did as I couldn’t read this post with a Californian accent without howling with laughter! As we say here, nice one mate! And yes, we do use the word ‘mate’ all the time. I think the US equivalent might be ‘buddy’…

  21. EEK

    I’m just impressed that you know so many pirate words.

    That was pretty hilarious.

  22. Lela

    Did you at least kick him in the shin? Did he have a peg leg? You really can’t kick a man with one leg, can you? That’d be bad. Or would it?

  23. Amy K

    This poignant tale puts Melville to shame! 😉

  24. Dagny

    Always read the fine print carefully.

  25. Killer

    amazing yarn ye weaved, matey.

    Did ye ever get a gaze of the bountiful chest?

  26. Dating Dummy

    That was awesome Neil. They should have you write Pirates of the Carribbean 🙂

    I’m surprised you didn’t make him walk the plank just then, ’cause that cap’n was a parrot turd.

  27. peefer

    Well done. That is all. So very well done. Sorry you didn’t see a big one.

  28. Annina

    Was that as hard to write as it was to read?

  29. Jenn

    aw shit. did I miss Talk Like A Pirate Day?

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