A Bonding Experience

Last weekend, Kelly and I went with a friend of his from Ball State and his fiancee on a pelagic birding trip. We geared up in our warmest, most weather-proof clothes and took to the high seas about 35 miles off shore in a teeny tiny little fishing boat with guides that are experts at finding and identifying pelagic sea birds. For Kelly and Brendan, this was a chance of a lifetime to expand their birding life lists. For Billi and me, it was a labor of love.

Bleary-eyed and with coffee and scones in hand, we set off at 3:45 a.m. for the trip. Kelly and Brendan maintained excited conversation the entire three-and-a-half-hour drive, while Billi and I promptly fell asleep in the back seat. When we arrived on the dock, we were not surprisingly the youngest participants by a margin of at least 30 years. Excited for the trip, we boarded the boat and stored our food, our seasickness preventatives (candied ginger, Pepto Bismol, and Tums), our water, and our extra clothes in the cabin and took our places at the prow of the boat. That was the last time we’d see most of the things we’d brought with us for the entire 10-hours we were at sea.

At first, the 15-foot swells racing toward the boat and the crashing of the hull upon the water were anticipated with glee, and maintaining our precarious balance like bull riders was exhilarating. After a few hours though, the captain stopped the boat to put out some bait to attract more birds, and that's when it all went downhill. The back-and-forth rocking of the boat was more than our empty stomachs could handle, and Kelly, Billi, and I, all of us a sick shade of green, ended up spending the next few hours hanging over the side of the boat--downwind, of course. There's nothing more intimate than loosing your breakfast (again and again) in front of 20 strangers!

Aside from the few hours of green pallor and churning stomachs, we were we were still able to see a lot of great birds, and Kelly and Brendan added about 15 species to their life lists. After we reached the dock at the end, though, we were ready to put a little good food in our stomachs and none too sad to pull away from the rocking boat!

We camped out under the stars that night, tossing our sleeping bags down on the ground next to our campfire, and had a great breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, coffee, and orange juice for only $4 the next morning! Sunday we continued up the coast back towards home, stopping every half-hour or so for a jaunt out to the beach, across a jetty, or into a small town for a home-grown treat, like cheese from the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook ice cream from a sweet shop in Gearheart, or clam chowder at Bill's Tavern in Cannon Beach. It was actually a great weekend shared with good friends, and the seasickness became the joke of the entire trip — once it was over, of course!

Brendan, Billi, Kelly, and me with sunburned faces at Bill's Tavern, feeling much better after a good night's sleep!

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