March 10 2016
Link to the whale video is at the end of this posting. Check it out.
In the heart of the Gulf of Panama
This event is rather out of sequence for the blog but since the video is ready I thought I had better post it.
Well six days after we departed the Galapagos Islands bound for Panama, we were motoring along. The wind had died the day before leaving us to rely on the engine. With the lack of wind, by 10 am the heat was already oppressive so I decided to stop the boat and let the crew go for a swim to cool off. I needed to transfer fuel to the day tank anyway, which could only be done with the engine off.
So off went the engine and the four of us dove in all but Janet in the buff. By all accounts it was a spectacular day in the tropics; the sea was smooth as glass with only a slight ground swell rolling under the boat to remind us that we were on the ocean and not a lake. It was amazing as the sea was clear as a pool and the water temperature almost matched the air which was in the low 30s Celsius range. It felt more like a hot tub than the sea. I had tied a life ring to a long rope so we could float away from the boat while still having a connecting to Maiatla.
The girls, Kara and Ashley were a little nervous at first and I guess they had every reason to be so as we were over 300 miles from the nearest land and the water was over two miles deep. If we were to get separated from the boat we would surely all perish as we hadn’t seen another vessel since leaving the Galapagos. There was also the possibility that one of the many varieties of sharks may fin by, so we had to stay alert about what was underneath us. But in truth, I wasn’t worried and have swum on the high seas many times without incident.
The girls soon relaxed and I had broken out the beer. The crew shared a beer as they lazily drifted off while clinging to the life ring. When a beer was finished, they would fill the can full of water and watch it for several minutes as it slowly sank out of sight. It was easy to watch the can well down beyond 100 feet. Anyway as the girls laughed and passed another can around, I climbed back aboard to check to see how the fuel transfer was going. Upon my return topside, I noticed off in the distance several great splashes. As I looked more closely, I saw what was causing all the commotion. It was a pod of dolphins and they were coming our way.
I told everyone and when I did, the girls got nervous and asked if they should get out?
I said “no”, stay in and I will get the video camera.
Well over the next hour we had dolphins shooting all around the boat and there were a couple of mothers with what looked to be newborns. We had what must have been over one hundred bottle nose dolphins checking us out. We could clearly hear the clicks and whistles they use to communicate and navigate. We swam around the boat and the dolphins seemed to follow. It was an incredible encounter and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, an apparition appeared off in the distance. It was dark and at first sight, rather ominous looking. As it grew closer, individuals took shape, and what surprised me was that they looked a bit like dolphins but they were standing upright on their tails. And these guys were two or three times the size of the ones still scooting around us.
It’s funny how your mind can work because my first thought was that the dolphins were forming up in preparation for an attack. Silly, I know but it was just a fleeting thought. As they came even closer, drawn in by the invisible current, I recognized them as Pilot whales and told the crew so. Again they asked if they should get out of the water and again I said “no,”
“It will be aright just stay close to the boat”. The whales were slowly bobbing up and down, taking a short breath when on the surface then sinking back down three of four meters or so before repeating the process. I was stunned when I realized that they were sleeping.
I moved in and swam amongst them with my gopro videoing. Or at least I thought I was. Earlier I thought I was videoing the dolphins but actually had the camera set to take still pictures. As I moved amongst them, they slowly awoke and perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable with me being so close (arm’s reach at times) that they started to move off. I followed for a bit but when I looked back over my shoulder I realized that I was a long way away from the boat, and the current was taking me further. I gave the whales one last look before swimming back. It was an incredible encounter with sea creatures that lasted almost two hours and we had the video and sunburns to prove it. I have had many such encounters in my life time with giant manta rays, elephant seals, whale sharks and big hammerhead and tiger sharks, but this was perhaps the best. I spliced together a short video of the encounter and placed it on YOUTUBE. Check it out by following the link below or go to the YOUTUBE tab at the top of this page and check out our other videos.
Click on the link below and see our video!