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  • Meagan Butler

All Aboard the Vomit Voyage {Whale Watching in Iceland}

When Carly (or was it Katie) suggested that we take a whale-watching excursion in Iceland, I was less than thrilled.

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my debilitating phobia: Emetophobia. It is a real thing, and it is all about puking. I hate it. I hate hearing someone barf; I hate thinking about barfing; I hate knowing that someone in my vicinity might have a stomach virus, and I hate that even alcohol-induced vomit makes me lose my ever-loving mind. Whether it is: you puking, me puking, or even someone on the television puking, I want none of it. 

When this whale-watching cruise was mentioned, my mind went to one thing: sea-sickness. Nevermind the fact that I might get to be on a boat in the middle of the North Atlantic seeing Orcas, all I cared about was the probability of someone getting sick around me. I’ve been on boats before where people were sending their lunches overboard, and I was expected to calmly snorkel around the rum-chum in the water. It’s just not my thing.

When traveling with friends, the best rule of thumb is to do things that other people want to do. Why? When it comes time to do something I want to do, my friends are more likely to oblige because I did something that they wanted to do. It’s a win for everyone. This concept of fair trade is why I was dressed in rubber blue-waiters (which are NOT waterproof by the way) and three layers of warm clothing, ready to embark on our adventure.

Katie, Carly, Meg, and Erin. See how we are smiling? That is because we haven’t gotten on the boat yet.

We left Ólafsvík, on the vessel, Láki II at what seemed like the crack of dawn. In reality, it was 9:30 am, but because of the late sun, it felt like it was much earlier than it actually was. It was cold, overcast, and the weather called for freezing rain. A perfect combination for a whale cruise, right? The water looked frigid, and the white caps didn’t help to ease my mind that this cruise was going to be smooth sailing.

Meg and Katie all bundled up and ready to see some whales!

After getting on the boat, everyone headed for the front. Within minutes we were bouncing around. The tour guide said that the best spot to be for sea-sickness is the back of the boat looking at the horizon. Katie and I took one look at each other and walked as gracefully as we could to the back of the lurching vessel. Neither of us felt sick, but it was the chance of sickness that prompted us to move. Brave Carly and Erin kept watch at the front of the boat, and Katie and I stared at the shrinking land behind us, holding onto the metal railing with death-grips. No more than five full minutes at sea, people were sick. The cacophony of vomiters rang loudly over the roaring engine and the constant beating of the boat slapping the icy water.  It was terrible, and we were only ten minutes into a three-hour excursion.

Death-grip. Here I think I am questioning if the guy next to me is going to chuck.

It took everything in me to look out at the ocean. The sick bags were everywhere, and people were passed out in chairs under the deck of the boat, waking only to retch and then fall back asleep. For someone like me, the conditions were less than favorable. After a while, it started to rain and the temperature felt even colder. We bounced around the North Atlantic for a good hour before the boat turned around to head back toward land. We didn’t see one whale. Not one friggin’ whale.

Heading toward land, I didn’t care that it was frigid outside. I manned my position at the back of the boat, getting sprayed with icy cold ocean water with each sea swell. I wasn’t sick, and I wasn’t planning on being sick. The girls, freezing, headed under cover. Katie decided to join them. I contemplated my current state. I was wet, and I was uncomfortable, but to get inside to the safe and warm area, I’d have to pass five pukers. That meant I was staying put.

I stayed at the back of the boat getting soaked with a deluge of salt water each time the boat hit a white-capped swell. When we were about ten minutes from land, we spotted some white-beaked dolphins and circled the boat for about fifteen minutes while the dolphins bounced back and forth between the different sides. My hands, paralyzed with the chill, couldn’t manage to get my camera out of my bag quickly enough to catch a shot of the little fellas, so I just enjoyed their swimming around me. Honestly, hardly anyone even ventured out from the inside of the boat to see the dolphins because the rocking boat only increased the vomit factor. Me? I just kept thinking: cute dolphins…GET ME OFF THIS BOAT!

Once we finally got back to land and docked, people rushed to get off the boat. I am sure many of them were glad to get to the stable ground. I was happy to be away from all of the puke-bags.

Verdict: would I do it all again? Nope. The boat was a really nice vessel, and the company Laki Tours was really a great company. It wasn’t the tour’s fault that we didn’t see any whales. I am aware that spotting animals is never a guarantee. I am perfectly fine with that, and I understand that conditions on the water can make the difference between a pleasant and an unpleasant boat ride. I just know that a crowded boat excursion isn’t for me. Next time, I’ll stick to the land!


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