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The Whale-Watching Trip From Heck

Riptide, based in Half Moon Bay, offers whale-watching trips. Captain Smitty of the Riptide is the owner and operator of the 40 feet long ship, able to carry 20 whale-watching passengers.

On Saturday, Jan. 30, 1999, 16 passengers showed up. One passenger told Capt. Smitty that some of the fishermen had radioed-in that the waves were 4-5 feet high. Capt. Smitty reassured him that everything was going to be okay. So we left the harbor and from there, the trip went to heck. The waves tossed the small ship about, we were crammed into a tiny cabin with not enough seating, bodies were thrown about and bruised, and folks starting throwing up left and right.

Capt. Smitty and his mate were enjoying themselves up in the spacious cockpit, talking about what jobs they held in the past (I was right underneath and could hear them), and were totally oblivious to what their passengers were going through. Finally, we told Capt. Smitty to turn around.

When we got back, we were informed that there will be no refund (partial or otherwise). Sorry, Capt. Smitty said, when we came here in the morning, there weren’t a lot of wind. We left quickly, glad to be back on land.

On Monday (February 1) I sent an email to Capt. Smitty asking that we get a partial reimbursement (we had only used less than 2/3 of the time and fuel that we paid for). To date, I have not received a reply. Perhaps Riptide should change their name to Ripoff.

So, if you want to go whale watching, I recommend you go to Monterey Bay or Santa Cruz where huge whale-watching boats leave every hour. If you do decide on a small boat, make sure to get a weather report from an independent source. There’s bound to be another greedy skipper like Capt. Smitty out there.

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