Dolphin

Transatlantic: Day 19 [Day 40]

Today is July 26, 2018 and the most magnificent thing happened: Dolphins.

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The winds returned and we began sailing rather quickly, fast enough that we were comfortable under full sail without much effort and yet the seas hadn’t built yet so we were moving along at a relatively flat attitude. Out of nowhere I begin hearing the sounds of dolphins as they jump out of the water to survey the world above the waters edge. They approach the cockpit where I stand up and begin filming them. They seem to like this and we have found that if we do not make a big to-do over their presence at this point, they will then just swim along to somewhere else. If we do this big to-do, they will then move up to the bow and begin bow riding us!

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To make this moment even more special, we were moving along under full sail at speeds over 6 knots! The dolphins in the past seemed to get bored with us and basically float along in front of the boat as if offering to give us a tow if we threw them a line simply because they felt sorry for how slow we were moving. These dolphins got to have fun bow riding us! We were moving and they were kicking!

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Dolphins are one of the most awesome parts of blue water cruising. It doesn’t matter the weather, the conditions, or your energy level; when dolphins come around, all you want to do is watch them play and stare in awe at the awesome display of grace and agility that a dolphin embodies.

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As the sun began to get low on the horizon (and the dolphins probably got a bit tired) they departed us and we were once again all alone out in the middle of the ocean. The closest mammals in this part of the world came to pay us a visit and check in on us, but now they have gone back to their world as we skim the surface of an alien world where we are merely visitors who have already sent in our mark from far away (plastics).

Sunsets out in the ocean are always beautiful, and one of my favorite parts about being out at sea. The clouds block out the sun but the rays come peering through in splendid form, reminding you that you are an insignificant observer in this incomprehensibly large universe.

How to make Dolphins Bow Ride

Dolphins are incredibly intelligent animals. Often, you hear people compare their intelligence to that of Humans, but I feel that dolphins are intelligent enough to be insulted by such a comparison. 

They are social animals and they seek out special ways to entertain themselves. This often means that you will see dolphins playing around your yacht as you sail, and most famously: bow riding. 

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When you are sailing along at a good speed, dolphins will swim up and jump around just ahead of your yacht. You will be cutting through the waves and they will be jumping around inches from your hull. 

Thankfully, this epic display of marine mammal swimming prowess is not an uncommon sight, and dolphins seem to seek you out as a source of entertainment. Since they are intelligent and are doing this for their entertainment as well, it seems that bow riding is a two way street which requires input from the crew of the yacht to make happen.

We have found that dolphins will only bow ride if certain events occur. If any of these events fail to occur, then they will simply swim by and go on to other waters. 

First, the dolphins will spot your yacht in the distance and swim twoards it from the stern. As they approach, they will begin jumping out of the water as if you get your attention. 

Second, they will come up next to your cockpit and display their presence with amazing jumps from the water.  This is when input from the humans on the yacht becomes relevant for the game to proceed. If the humans fail to comply, the dolphins will swim on. If the humans comply, the dolphins will then proceed to bow ride.

The humans on the boat need to point loudly and shout with excitement and joy at the presence of the dolphins. It greatly helps if more crew emerge from the cabin and come out into the cockpit. This seems to excite the dolphins and more will begin to emerge from the depths. 

Third, at least one human needs to walk forward to the bow, but the more people that walk forward, the more likely the dolphins are to bow ride. 

Fourth, as the humans walk forward, the dolphins will also begin to move towards the bow of the yacht. When you are forward of the mast, the dolphins will then begin swimming inches from the bow and jumping around in the waves as your yacht cuts through them. 

Speed helps in motivating the dolphins, but if you are slow moving, the dolphins will still hang around for a while, just in a much more sedate manner. It seems that the faster you are sailing, the more the dolphins find joy in bow riding. 

Fifth, just because the dolphins began bow riding doesn’t mean they will stay around for long. To keep them there it helps to shout with joy and excitement at the different tricks the dolphins display. Cheers seem to motivate them more and will cause them to jump higher, faster, and in synchronized groups. 

Innevitably, the dolphins will tire and will move on to new waters. Your little island of a boat will once again be alone in the ocean, that is until more dolphins descend upon you. 

We have found that if you fail to carry out any of these steps, the dolphins will simply pass by and move on without putting on much of any show. Dolphins are amazing creatures, and it seems that bowriding is as much a form of entertainment for them as it is for us, so if you want to be entertained by them, you must offer some form of entertainment in return! 

Dolphins

Seeing dolphins never gets old! Cruising in the Chesapeake, we would often see pods of dolphins. As soon as we went offshore, the number of dolphin sightings decreased dramatically. Then we cruised down the ICW and saw dolphins at least a few times per week! Once we left the ICW at Florida to head to the Bahamas, the dolphin sightings dwindled away to nothing. 

We had given up on seeing dolphins as they seemed to only be living in the intracoastal waters of the United States, and not out in the open waters where you would imagine them to be! We didn’t see any dolphins around Bermuda and we figured that our dolphin days were over.

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This all changed when we got really far out to sea. Hundreds of miles from any landmass, we were descended upon by a massive pod of Spotted Atlantic Dolphins.

We were just sitting around in the cockpit waiting for the impressive sunset that would occur shortly when all of these dolphins began swimming and jumping around our boat. For so long, seeing dolphins was a treat for us, but it seemed that out here, seeing humans was a treat for them! 

Day 18 Azores

I derive so much pleasure from clean sheets. This morning I boiled water in the teapot for a hot shower and it was the most soothing experience to feel it sliding down my hair. My body tingled as I scrubbed and rinsed. I've never before realized how luxurious a hot shower can be. Just wait until I don't have to pump and hold the nozzle in my hand. The shower made me feel productive. I changed all the bedding and when I spread my clean body across the fresh scented sheets, I could have been on a king sized canopy bed in a palace. Luxury.

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Two days ago, a very dull afternoon was coming to a close and a couple of miracles happened. An enormous pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins came arching toward the the cockpit and then swept up to the bow of the boat. We scampered up to meet them with our cameras and they displayed themselves in perfectly synchronized groups of 2 to 4. Their slick bodies shot through the water next to us at our same speed and were visible below the surface. They brought with them exclamations of pure joy that rose out of me with each perfect jump. The second miracle was the sunset. As the dolphins gave up their game and turned north, we continued to see them silhouetted against the yellow sunset that served as that night's show.  And we were the only two humans in the audience. There is so much wonder in this world when you clear out all the people that block the view.