Surrounded by Porpoises

Harbor Porpoise

This is all you ever see of Harbor Porpoise. They don’t make any sound and I’ve never seen one jump out of the water. Photo by Harbor Head Lightstation

You can never count on the weather in November, but you can always count on good boating friends! Again, I had extravagant sailing plans for the weekend but they were for not. But the weekend was not without its pleasant miracle.

Wednesday and Thursday were blustery and the forecast was for steady 8 mph winds for Saturday and Sunday – perfect sailing weather. Midweek I was playing with the idea to sail to James Island. The dock is gone, so I had fantasies of dropping anchor and securing a stern tie to the piling, out of the weather and with the island to myself. I was trying to get my friends to come with me.

Alas, the winds laid down to a steady, but light two to three mph breeze. Too light for good sailing, but great for trolling a fishing pole behind the boat! My friends and I settled on a day sail with some fishing. We never caught any fish, but we weren’t trying very hard either. We all appreciated the calm, warm weather during a month that is not known for either.

At one point in our ‘sail’ we became surrounded by harbor porpoises. They look like dolphins, but are black. Like dolphins, they rely on echolocation at ultrasonic frequencies way above the human hearing level to navigate and for communication. Unlike dolphins, they don’t make any noise at the human hearing level, so they are always completely silent. They also are very warry of any boat and immediately scatter whenever one approaches, so they are often seen at a growing distance.

Sailing Alan Island

My buddy Andy is sailing the boat south of Alan Island.

It was with that context that we were amazed to be surrounded by such a huge pod. There is a sizable, local pod that never leaves Flounder Bay. I see it almost every time I head out of the marina and it’s at least a dozen in population. This day though, it was like harbor purpose Thanksgiving. The friends, neighbors, and in-laws were visiting. There couldn’t have been less than three dozen and maybe as many as six dozen, spreading out for 100 yards on all sizes of the boat. Making no noise other than the ‘fwah!’of them breathing through their blowholes when they surface.

Now, I find it hard to believe that we just happen to be the center of a massive bait ball. I think we actually managed to attract the porpoises somehow. I have no idea how. Maybe it was because we were moving so slow, and our engine was off. Maybe it was the easy-listening music playing in the boat. Maybe it was the baby aboard. But it was an impressive sight, and the rarity of it was not lost on us.

Those moments on the water; totally crazy, incredibly beautiful, rare in their specificity, but frequent in their appearance is what keeps me going. It is those memories that I feed off of during the rest of the work week. It’s a “Yes!” in my soul that confirms I am following my bliss.

Life on the water has taught me to maintain an open, zen-like mind to my plans. The weather trumps all planning, but flexibly makes almost all weather favorable. Seeing the porpoise was a treasure to savor, and sharing it with good friends made it much sweeter. I couldn’t have planned a better weekend.

Related posts:

Beating Windward
Stepping the Mast
One Response to “Surrounded by Porpoises”
  1. We’re always trying to get a closer look at those porpoises and yes, we always see them at a ‘growing distance’. 🙂 Nice! Maybe they are friendlier with fewer boats on the water.

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