Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Noon Position: 11 44' N, 116 32' W, SOG 3.5, COG 320, Day's Run 49nm,
Weeks' Run 335! At sunrise this morning I looked down into a glassy sea
of blue stars, tiny glints reflecting the light, slowly receding into
the depths. Here and there an upside down jellyfish swam by - not an
actual Upside Down Jellyfish, which live in mangroves, merely a
jellyfish which was upside down - swimming slowly back to deeper
waters. For all but one day in the past week I have been visited by
dolphins, at dawn, at dusk, just after dark, or some combination of the
three. Alliterative creatures, these dolphins of the doldrums.
Yesterday afternoon I had an exciting hour and a half of sail changes as
I sailed through a rain squall, from drifter to jib back to drifter,
then as the wind went aft I tried adding the jib poled out to windward,
then I dropped the main, then I reset the main, then I struck the jib,
then got the spinnaker out to set, but realized that I would have to
gybe, so struck the drifter, set the jib, gybed, the set the spinnaker
and struck the jib. The spinnaker took advantage of a moments
inattention and light wind to tie itself in a knot around the forestay,
and by the time I got it sorted out I was streaming sweat. I couldn't
swim, so I ended up just sticking my head in a bucket of rainwater I'd
caught that morning a few times then dumping it over my head. Just as
my body temperature was starting to return to something approximating
normal I happened to look astern and in the water, just a few feet off
the windvane, were five green-blue shapes, swimming along in our wake,
with shimmering iridescent blue fins and bright yellow tails. More
Dolphins! (of a different sort - Mahi-Mahi are sometimes called
dolphinfish). I felt a little bit guilty for thinking about trying to
eat these gorgeous creatures of light, but in the end tossed in my
lures. I shouldn't have worried - after a quick initial spurt of
investigation the mahi patiently ignored both my green and purple squid,
despite all the jiggling I could muster to make them look enticing.
Later in the afternoon the breeze shut off again and I struck the
spinnaker and slipped into the water to scrub the bottom, gently easing
in fins first to not spook the fish if they were still around. They
still were - just astern, just behind where one of my lures was slowly
sinking, the mahi were still languidly following me. Another Mahi swam
up from behind and went straight towards my lure, and I realized it
wasn't a Mahi - it was a shark! It took a chomp at it, decided it was
no good to eat, then vanished back to where it came from. It wasn't
much bigger than the mahi, which didn't seem particularly disturbed by
it's presence, and I am much larger than a Mahi, so I stayed in the
water and cleaned the bottom. Still, every time I looked around as I
was scrubbing and caught a bit of movement my heart raced before I
resolved it back into a mahi, patiently circling the hull.
Just around sunset we started sailing again, mahi bunched up tight
against the stern, chasing us now, occasionally breaking the surface
with the tip of a tail, and mammalian dolphins swam up for their daily
check-in. One leapt a few times astern, another slapped the water five
or six times with his tail like some sort of oceanic beaver, and they
passed by, swimming near Odyssey for a few minutes before heading back
to wherever they came from. While they were alongside I heard a faint
questioning whistle from down below and went and listened - the dolphins
were talking! There was a series of who faintly whizzing rising
whistles, repeated probably 10 or 15 times, then they were silent again,
and when I came back on deck they were swimming away. I've never heard
dolphins before - always wondered if there was something wrong with my
ears, or if I was just associating with the wrong dolphins. I'm still
not sure, but some sort of cosmic confluence connected their chirps and
my ears.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps you'll learn "dolphin speak" through "immersion" ;-)