Ogunquit, Maine has been one of my family’s favorite vacation spots for as long as I can remember. My mom, my brother, and I usually spend a week at the Meadowmere, a spa hotel within equal walking distance of a glorious white sandy beach and a picturesque working fishing and lobstering harbor. We spend our time swimming in the ocean, shopping the unique boutiques of the village, dining in the numerous world-class restaurants and walking along the Marginal Way. This scenic pathway winds above the rocky cliffs of the Atlantic Ocean, and can be reached from Perkin’s Cove, a twenty-minute walk from our hotel. From Memorial Day until Labor Day the village and beach is filled with other families like our own who have made Ogunquit their vacation tradition. But in May and October the crowds disappear.
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It’s during the low season when the quietness of Ogunquit is what I love most. It is glorious to get up before sunrise and walk to the cove where the lobstermen are preparing their boats for a day out at sea. In the cool morning air I grab a steaming cup of hot coffee and walk the Marginal Way watching the fog lift, revealing stunning views of the open waters.
One particular visit to Ogunquit occupies the most cherished spot in my memories. I don’t recall the month, but it was definitely before or after the crowds. Perkin’s Cove was serene. The beach was quiet, too. And we had the Marginal Way all to ourselves. One afternoon, as we wandered near the docks, we saw a notice that a local fisherman was doing a whale watching tour the next day. At first we were hesitant because the weather was a bit chilly. And I remember my mom convincing her two stubborn kids to bring warm jackets and raincoats before we left. But it is not the cold that I now recall from that day.
The next morning, my mom and my brother and I arrived for our adventure before the sun came up. There were only about eight of us on board; another small family, a couple, and woman from Holland. And, of course, the sea captain who turned out to be a marine biologist who also taught at the University of Maine when he wasn’t fishing.
About forty-five minutes after leaving the harbor there was a gigantic splash just off the bow. An enormous killer whale emerged from beneath the surface of the sea. From that moment forward I was spellbound. The captain proceeded to take the boat around to different areas and educate us deeply about these mammals of the Atlantic. The rest of the day, we saw tails slap and fins surface, and had the privilege of viewing two other species of whales. But, for me, nothing was like the first stunning full-bodied leap of the first whale.
As we headed home near sunset, we witnessed another surprise. Swimming along side of the boat were hundreds of dolphins. Our captain told us they were called Atlantic Dolphins, a black variety with a striking white stripe down the side. I leaned over the side as they raced along beside us, and I longed to reach down and touch their joyous bodies.
That year, we did something on vacation that we had never done before. I am sure I will see whales again in my life, but perhaps never again from so close and with such a knowledgeable guide. And never again for the first time, when the grandeur of that magnificent whale leaping full-length from the sea took my breath away.
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