It’s hard to believe we’re beginning to think about our migration south after nearly four months of relishing time with loved ones in the Northeast while bopping around to a few new destinations. Our fifth hurricane season living on the boat started with our arrival to the northern most point of New Jersey. We pulled into Sandy Hook, NJ on May 19th, which happens to be my birthday. It was a very memorable day because for one, it wasn’t raining. In fact, it was a glorious sunny day. And whereas I remember my birthday in earlier years, like the entire first half of my life, usually being rainy, I think in midlife I’ve been on a solid sunny streak. Granted that’s because at least two out of the last 3 have been spent in the Bahamas. But I’m taking the streak, no matter the location. Ask me if you should make plans for an outdoor event on May 19th, anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and I may still strongly encourage you to rent a tent, bring it indoors or pick any other day in the month of May.
On this particular birthday morning, we had been out at sea for three days when Paul surprised me with a darling gift all wrapped with forethought and love. I was so touched that he remembered so many days in advance, prepped to be at sea for the day, that I didn’t even need to open it. Just placing it away in a drawer, unopened, as is, would have been enough for me to take out and remind myself of that glorious morning and unexpected surprise. In this sailing life we travel with an acute awareness of the seasons and weather patterns, but knowing days of the week is not a priority nor a daily awareness, like it was during landlubbing life. Paul’s clandestine preparation is incredibly impressive on all sorts of levels, that being one. The gift was rich enough as is, unwrapped. Alas I did eventually open it, after the initial heart melt was sopped up and tear drop dried, the child in me ripped in.
When I finally did rip into the box, I found a necklace from the museum we had visited several days before in Beaufort, NC. A silver whale’s fluke on a chain. Three months later, I’ve rarely taken it off. But the gift giving that day was not over yet.
Not mere hours later after opening my delightful birthday gift, Paul spotted two whales right off the coast as we were rounding the point at Sandy Hook. Yes, real whales. I went out on deck and stood in anticipation, hoping they’d surface again, scanning the horizon and looking in the general direction Paul said they were traveling. Unlike dolphins whale spotting in this part of the Atlantic is a bit more rare. Suddenly, whoosh! I heard them before I saw them, quickly turned my head in that direction right off our beam and there they were, mother and calf. I watched the spray from their blowholes settle, their blowholes close before dipping down again, their wet, silky, black backs then fins curved up and over while I stayed fixed holding my breath as they slid sleekly back into the water. Gone. They had swam even closer to the boat than I could have imagined and I got a great look. It was the sound as much as the sighting that thrilled, since it was so loud thanks to proximity, as if they had microphones held up to their blow holes, whale blows in stereo.
I watched and watched for another surfacing of those stately creatures, but no such luck, yet still feel very blessed to have had that additional birthday gift. I’m guessing they were pilot whales which are the most common in this area of the Atlantic and because they have a dorsal fin, like the ones I saw. We looped around the point, landed in our preferred location and dropped anchor. We then took the dinghy off the aft deck for the first time in months, COVID did not allow us to do much adventuring last winter season, and we were off to town. Not before I donned my whale fluke necklace and matching whale fluke earrings, a previous gift from my dear friend Thania, I was ready. Whale bling donned, filled with the thrill of arriving and having a whale sighting, we went into town to have a birthday meal on the deck at a favorite spot in downtown Atlantic Highlands.
A few days later we made the always epic sail through the East River, to City Island Yacht Club where we ended up taking care of several boat chores, land chores and delighted in visits with friends and family. We got in a few trips to LI, RI and MA as well.
I think of the likelihood of receiving my birthday gift of a whale’s fluke on a chain, the very day that we had a whale sighting, and after three days at sea…. Two events, unrelated, though occurring together and on the day of my birthday. The flukes… a fluke? I think not. In four years of sailing, we’ve had about 4 whale sightings. Three off the Coast of Jersey, one in Georgia. Unlikely to occur on this particular day, at this particular time after receiving this particular gift? In this part of the world, yes. If we were off the Coast of Maui in December, I would say, not a rare sighting at all, you see them breaching every few minutes on some days. The ones migrating past Maui are huge humpbacks. And these Jersey whales were smaller, likely pilot whales like I said. Plus my birthday is in May. And above all, we were not in Maui.
So, I stop and pay attention and understand in a profound sense, this is exactly where we’re supposed to be. A divine alignment of sorts. With so many factors, all truly uncontrollable, because you never know when things just come together… or fall apart where you are standing. In fact there have been times where not only has it felt like the rug was ripped out from under, but that the whole floor, walls, and ceiling went missing. It’s life. As I stopped to reflect and pay attention and contemplate the synchronicity at that very moment, there came a very deep and reassuring peace. Despite the struggles and doubts, life’s trials, tribulations and losses, the only place you could ever dream of finding yourself at any given moment, is where you are in that exact instant. And that’s exactly where you should be.
And when it happens to be one of those less ideal moments in life when your surroundings seem to be melting around you? Hold tight, surround yourself with loving loyal people, wait for the tide to change, and always keep watch on the horizon for fateful flukes.