It’s 9:30 at night and I’ve got my back to the setting sun. I sit in the corner of the cockpit and watch the ocean roll and swarm downwind.
I’m listening to a creepy podcast. I downloaded tens of hours worth before setting sail on this 1000 mile voyage. There’s nothing that passes a night watch like an addictive podcast.
I spent the first night listening to Serial and then Someone Knows Something on the second. I often see Shearwaters circling the boat at night like flitting wraiths around the boat. Spirits. They’re comically loud at night on land but they’re silent at sea.
So I’m listening to Unexplained. It’s a podcast about mysteries and read by an engaging British guy with a sense for anticipation.
It’s almost the end of the podcast and I’m a little on edge. Not frightened, just vaguely creepers out by the ghostly topic.
So when something explodes right behind me, I jump so far out of my seat that I pull a muscle and scream with shock.
I whip around an there, just a few metres off the boat is an enormous whale and a cascade of spray. The vast creature dives gently and lazes its way under the bow. It’s as long as the boat and so huge I can’t help but jabber away incoherently, trying to get the skipper out of bed. Eventually I manage to form the word ‘whale’.
You see, this is what they do. They spot you in the distance. They gauge your state of relaxed calm, assess the intrepid motion of the boat mid-ocean and check out which way you’re looking. Then they sidle up behind you and WHOOSH. They exhale approximately half a ton of air.
This is sailing with Cetaceans.
Whales are far less common visitors than dolphins and therefore retain, in my eyes anyway, an air of absolute awe. I love them. I feel completely overwhelmed and honoured to be visited by an ocean giant.
Dolphins, I feel sometimes, get just as much if not more, pleasure out of our encounters than I do.
They rock up guns blazing, ready with their freshly rehearsed performance. They surround the boat and suddenly you’re in the middle of a full scale pelagic Cirque du Soleil. They dance and dive and play and then suddenly they’re gone as quickly as they arrived.
The dolphins in the video were far more relaxed than some I have had the pleasure of sailing with. But they brought me untold happiness on a frustrating day offshore.
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