Unlike sea lions, seals are shaped like blobs and don’t do fancy tricks. The big excitement for me, much bigger than watching lazy seals take up rock space, was the reporter who came along with her video camera. While the other passengers were busy making the most of the voyage, either by recording the number of seals we saw along with the location, time and temperature; giggling with their binoculars on an all-girl birthday party; or simply sitting around fighting sea sickness; I kept busy trying to catch the reporter’s eye so she’d feature me in her news clip. I figured you never know—some director might see it and say, “Hey, watch that middle-aged woman study those lazy seals—she’d make a great leading lady in our next epic seagoing movie for baby boomers!”
Despite my attention-getting efforts, the reporter filmed all around me to catch the do-nothing seals and the giggling birthday party girls. But Jim made it into the published news clip—I caught a glimpse of him with his binoculars standing behind the party of girls.[i] (Note to self: next time I’m in public, carry a prop such as binoculars, wear a weird, eye-catching hat, or station myself next to kids.)
Returning back to Mystic after our seal watch, we dried off in front of the large, stone fireplace in the lower level pub area of the Captain Daniel Packer Inne—the very place the National Geographic website said we would feel like a character in Moby Dick. The Inne was built more than 250 years ago in 1758 by Captain Daniel Packer who operated a ferry across Mystic River. Packer liked to entertain his guests, mostly travelers between New York and Boston, with tales of his high sea adventures.[ii]
Although there were some similarities in the maritime décor of the Captain Daniel Packer Inne and the Spouter-Inn of Moby Dick (minus the clubs and spears “tufted with knots of human hair”), the Packer Inne was much more comfortable. The Spouter-Inn, for example, didn’t have their fire going when sailor Ishmael entered. Herman Melville wrote: “It was cold as Iceland—no fire at all—the landlord said he couldn't afford it...We were fain to button up our monkey jackets, and hold to our lips cups of scalding tea with our half frozen fingers.”
Unlike Ishmael, we didn’t meet any shrunken head dealers or whalers with beards “stiff with icicles,” but we did enjoy squeezing next to a female prison guard at a tiny table beside the fireplace. Without a ship to sail, she didn’t try to persuade us to serve as crew on some grueling voyage, but she did regale us with fun prison escape stories—like the time a woman dressed in an orange prison outfit asked a convenience store owner for change to make a phone call—which ultimately led to her recapture.
(If you are interested in learning more about our seals, see my article, "Hey Harbor Seal, Move Over!")
THE ABOVE WAS AN EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK, Mystic Seafarer's Trail, which is available in as an e-book or paperback online (Amazon), at Bank Square Books in Mystic, and at these locations.