A whale-watching tour that was supposed to last just a few hours turned into a smelly, exhausting night at sea near Boston for a vacationing Newmarket family.
“It smelled like vomit and stinky diapers from the babies. There were lots of babies,” said 10-year-old Emma, who got seasick during the ordeal.
Her dad, Craig Bawden, said the family was sitting inside on the main deck of the Cetacea when the boat unexpectedly shuddered and came to a halt Monday afternoon, snagged on a mooring line about 20 kilometres off the coast.
It was the beginning of an ordeal that left all 163 on board stranded until about 5:20 a.m. Tuesday, when divers finally cut the line that had snarled one of the ship’s propellers.
Boston Harbor Cruises said in a statement that its vessel was travelling through a “restricted management” area when the propeller tangled with a line used by the Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port, a facility that receives liquefied natural gas.
Bawden, a retired Canadian Forces officer, said the U.S. Coast Guard arrived quickly and medics were brought aboard the crippled ship.
His 8-year-old son Colter, however, saw the nautical mishap as a grand adventure on the high seas. When the captain apologized to the passengers, Bawden said Colter tugged at his arm and asked, “Dad, Dad, can I go tell him that this is the greatest day of my life?”
“He’s 8 years old and it was the coolest thing ever to sleep overnight on the ocean,” said Bawden.
A support vessel from the company arrived and delivered more food, the snack bar became free and the Coast Guard supplied extra blankets.
Part of the family took blankets and life jackets and bedded down under a set of stairs in what Emma dubbed “Harry Potter style.” (The fictional hero of the J.K. Rowling’s books is forced to live in a small room under a staircase at his aunt and uncle’s house.)
Although Bawden never felt the passengers were in peril, an attempt to bring another vessel alongside the boat in order to evacuate them made him nervous. He was relieved when the idea was abandoned.
“I knew how dangerous it would be. It was apparent to me that the physics of that — two great big boats pitching and rolling back near each other — was not a good possibility.”
By then, the family’s hope of driving partway home to Ontario once they got ashore was gone. They had taken a week-long vacation that also took in New York City and Rhode Island. The cruise came at the tail end of their vacation — or so they thought.
To make matters worse, the boat was snagged at the stern, which Bawden said makes the boat’s movement worse than if snagged at the bow, which handle the waves better.
“This thing was sort of rocked in an unpleasant way the whole time,” said Bawden, who estimated the waves at over a metre high.
He didn’t he get any sleep Monday night but he pointed out he met people he otherwise would not have. “We did make some friends.”
When the passengers finally got to land Tuesday morning, the company gave refunded their tickets and gave them $100 gift cards for use with Boston Harbor Cruises. They are also offering every passenger $500 — a total of $2,000 for the Newmarket family.
The company also helped the family book a hotel room and offered to transport them there with a water taxi.
Emma turned the offer of the water taxi down.
“For the moment, nobody wants any more water sports,” said Bawden.
But the smell and the unending rocking aren’t the family’s only memories — they actually did get to see humpback whales.