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Old 04-05-2009, 11:44   #1
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Sailing with Dolphins

We had an interesting sail this past week, from the mouth of the Manatee River to G3 off the east side of Egmont Key, accompanied for part of the way by a pod of five Dolphins. Four adults and one that was apparently a juvenile as it was so much smaller than the others, and every once in awhile would start to wander away from the group only to be rounded up by what was evidently it’s mother, and returned to our track.

We often catch glimpses of Dolphins in the Manatee River, and sometimes they will ride our bow-wave for awhile, but we always worry about the possibility that they might be hit due to the number of power boats traveling through the area at high speeds. While I have been assured that, unlike a Manatee that is too slow to get out of harms way, Dolphins are agile enough to avoid power boats, our cruise this past week seems to contradict that.

Three of the Dolphins that accompanied us were all of about the same size and traveled close under our starboard bow in close formation, "surfing" our pressure wave. Of these, the middle animal had only a ragged stump of a dorsal fin only 6 or 8 inches above his back. It looked like it had been quite brutally hacked off and did not appear to be patterned as it might from a shark attack.

From the distance I could not tell if this was a recent injury but it looked healed and, given the vigor of his (or maybe her) swimming, I suspect it was an old wound. What was particularly interesting, however, was that his pals seemed to be assisting him. Occasionally, as he sounded or while under water, his body would suddenly begin to begin to roll to the right or left, I assume because of the absence of the stabilizing influence of his dorsal fin. When this happened, his wing-mates would quickly close with him and seemed to put their noses under his fin and roll him back up-right, either on the right or left side, and then once he stabilized, to again separate by a foot or so, but always within “nose” distance. This went on repeatedly for a good fifteen or twenty minutes, until a high-speed power boat came unnecessarily close, at which point all 5 animals sounded and did not resurface until they were a good 100 yards behind us. At that point they seemed to make for a spot further out in the Bay where I suspect there was school of bait-fish, given the number of sea-birds diving on the sea.

While I do not routinely anthropomorphize “cute” animals, I must say there was something very touching about these Dolphin’s careful behavior, in the manner of “human kindness”, and they do seem remarkably intelligent. With this, it is very disturbing to see ignorant boaters racing through relatively narrow water-ways at high speed, evidently totally oblivious to their surroundings and the harm they might do the man or beast.

FWIW...
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Old 04-05-2009, 12:13   #2
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We've had some memorable encounters with dolphins, too. The funniest was in the ocean off Virginia when a big male came up beside our Hobie Cat and rolled over on his side to "eye" my daughter (15 at the time) and me. Then he went under the boat and did the same thing on the other side. He must not have liked what he saw, because his next action was to drop back to our stern and give a mighty whack on the surface with his tail fin, splashing water all over us. My daughter was thrilled. So was I, actually.

The worst thing I've seen was when motor-sailing north in the lee of Dominica, in the Caribbean. I saw a boat speeding in tight circles up ahead. When I got closer, I saw that it was actually two boats full of SCUBA divers, racing in circles around a pod of very confused dolphins. I couldn't believe it! They sped off as we came up, but I could see that the boats had "Dive Dominica" written on the side.
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Old 04-05-2009, 16:40   #3
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They are incredable animals
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Old 04-05-2009, 19:01   #4
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Here's a picture of a couple of my kids, take on Key Largo a while back. It was a great trip, even it it was raining and 58 in Ft. Lauderdale.

Click here: http://hallmont.com/pics/sailnet%20p...%20876x584.JPG
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Old 05-05-2009, 08:19   #5
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Great Snap Bene!! Good for you!

Cheers,

s/v HyLyte
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Old 05-05-2009, 09:22   #6
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amazing. egmont key seems like such a great area to sail and see dolphins. we see them up in the st. johns river (in NE FL) and yes they definitely like the sailboats as opposed to the motorized versions. cheers.
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Old 08-05-2009, 16:05   #7
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No dolphins, but a week ago we had a pod of Dall's Porpoise playing with us while we were motoring to our favorite anchorage. Those who don't visit North Pacific waters may not be familiar with Dall's Porpoise but they are a really amazing Cetacean. The love to play with boats. They can hit speeds of 30 kts and leave a rooster tail when they swim just below the surface. Which is probably why they soon got bored playing with our slow boat and moved on! Another link for more info on them see Dall's Porpoise | Cetacean Fact Sheet | American Cetacean Society .

Seeing marine mamals is always a treat!
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Old 08-05-2009, 16:12   #8
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In the Sea of Cortez on a flat calm day, my wife noticed what looked like a squall headed our way about a mile to starboard. There were no clouds in the sky and we were motor sailing due to lack of wind, but sure enough, there were serious white caps over there. Once I was on the cabin top readying to reef the main I noticed something was jumping out there. Within a few minutes we were surrounded by dolphins( probably 500 or so of them) they were jumping 6-8 feet out of the water, surfing the bow 10 at a time, doing cartwheels etc for about 40 minutes before they all just as quickly moved on for enthusiasm elsewhere............
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Old 08-05-2009, 16:37   #9
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Kinda like this?

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Old 09-05-2009, 05:55   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
...Within a few minutes we were surrounded by dolphins( probably 500 or so of them) they were jumping 6-8 feet out of the water, surfing the bow 10 at a time, doing cartwheels etc for about 40 minutes before they all just as quickly moved on for enthusiasm elsewhere............
The same thing happened to me on a passage from Virginia to Tortola. Hundreds of dolphins came charging at us, leaping and jumping, churning up the water. Checked us out and left all at once. An amazing sight.
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Old 09-05-2009, 06:28   #11
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In the early spring we were accompanied by a dolphin, the top of his dorsal fin had been shredded by what must have been an outboard's prop. It looked like an old injury and didnt seem to affect his movement much, this was near ft Myers, FL.
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