Two summers ago, on my way back from Catalina Island
to the Port of Los Angeles here on the west coast
, US, I saw two spoutings about 100 yds off my starboard beam. Pretty soon there was a spout no farther than 15 feet from me (just over 10 feet from the gunwale) off my port quarter! I jumped.
It was what I later identified as a pilot whale, which came up to spout on a close parallel course. I saw it submerge, then veer to starboard, and pass under my 5'3" keel
. It continued to circle clock-wise, and came up a second time in the same spot, straight abeam from my shoulder. I was still stunned from the first spouting, but this time I could pay more attention: I made out markings, bumps and other indicia on its hide, and the white splash on the head
on an otherwise quite black body, and heard both the exhalation and the higher-pitched inhalation of its breathing.
A second dive and circle, and it came up a third
time in the same spot, as I was wondering how anyone would believe my story. This time, I was able to actually see the shiny blowhole close up just before it disappeared below the surface.
She then swam off to reunite with her mate, who was still station-keeping 100 yds. to starboard the whole time.
It was exhilarating!
That same summer, I was working to weather
northward preparing to round the Palos Verdes Peninsula on a cold, misty morning, when I noticed I was closed on by a huge school
of what turned out to be Dall's porpoises
; I counted over 60 leaping black and white bodies, from my starboard quarter, moving up the coast. They overtook me, and for five minutes or so I was in the middle of their number. Five or six of them took turns surfing the pressure wall of my bow wave, and I observed over two dozen leap completely out of the water
(typically, in their short leaps, the snout would be touching the water just before the tail cleared; but sometimes, the porpoise would sail into the air some three feet or so above the swell, so as to be completely free of the water momentarily).
They were charging
up the coast with a purpose. I later read that Dall's love speed. It was thrilling to be in their midst, and it's always a bit sad when they tire of my slow hull and tear away to continue their frolic among the waves.