As seen weekly in the Dana Point News/Orange County Register
August 25, 2005
We had a great week out on the water. We saw lots of common dolphins and calves. We also spent some time with rissos dolphins and offshore bottlenose dolphins and we are still seeing an occasional Mola mola and those rare black jellyfish. We also saw a really weird purple striped jellyfish this week. It had one huge red, ten- foot tentacle coming off of it. Never saw one with a tentacle like that before. See photo
Let me tell you about Saturday’s trips. Our first Safari in the morning we located a small pod of dolphins on fairly calm seas.
On the next trip the wind had picked up quite a bit and we searched through the white caps for dolphins but were finding none. Imagine looking through binoculars on a bucking horse and you have an idea what its like getting knocked around by the waves. Two hours into the trip my arms were sore from holding the binoculars and my hope was draining fast. I looked around the boat for inspiration. I found it in a little eight year old from Petaluma California who had never seen dolphins before, not even at Sea World. So I said my prayers and continued the search with a little more enthusiasm – I was doing it for her now.
We were about seven miles out, at turn around time, when I spotted a big pod of common dolphins churning up the ocean. They were about three miles away and heading towards us Yea! But now what? It was 12:05. We should be heading back to the dock for our 1:30 charter. At seven miles out, it would take us nearly an hour to get back in these conditions and we were supposed to be back at 1:00, (we had built a half hour cushion into this trip just to be certain we would not be late for our next trip, which was a private charter. FYI – our private charters often are very limited on time since they have buses bringing them and buses picking them up and places to go immediately after the trip, if we are late they have to pay lots of people extra money to stand by. On top of that, this private charter at 1:30 was a group of VIP’s from a big hotel who have been very important to our business – so being late for this charter was not an option.)
With the dolphins heading towards us I felt we could get in with them and make it back without being late, but we would probably eat up our entire half hour cushion. My first mate Tom saw what I was calculating, looked at his watch, reminded me of the time, and gave me a look like “Don’t do it, Dave”. I decided to go for it. About 5 minutes later the dolphins turned and went the other way and slowed down, unfortunately, now that they weren’t jumping and splashing, I lost them in the whitecaps, I stopped the boat to relocate them, still couldn’t see them, and decided to keep going. I finally relocated them slowly heading away from us. Tom ticked off the distance to the harbor every few minutes, it was now approaching nine miles – our half hour cushion was gone after 15 minutes, fifteen out – fifteen back. We had to go home now or be late for our private charter of VIP’s. The dolphins were less than a mile away. Everyone on the boat could just barely see them now in the distance and they were starting to get excited. Most of the group had now moved to the front of the boat. I looked around at our passengers: several heavyset women in their late fifties were pointing up ahead, a couple of couples in their 40’s were moving towards the bow, an elderly Asian woman and her adult daughter were staring off into space, an attractive couple in their twenty’s were constantly smooching, a Hispanic man with tattoos all over his body was talking to his 8-year old daughter and pointing to the dolphins, along with her mom and older sister, and a few more that I can’t remember now.
It was them or me. They would never understand or be able to appreciate the sacrifice to our business it would be if I showed them the dolphins right now. And after all we only had one child on board: the little girl from Petaluma who had never even seen a dolphin. I looked at her and I looked at Tom. We both new what we had to do, so with a heavy heart, we went for the dolphins.
Every minute we headed for them felt like ten because I knew that every minute we headed away from the dock would mean we would be two minutes late for our next trip.
Ten minutes later as we joined up with the pod, the screams from the front of the boat brought a short lived sense of peace to Tom and I. Tom’s stern face even flashed a smile.
A few minutes later we were heading home. We immediately began tweaking our motors for optimum speed, changing the trim, raising them up and down trying to gain a tenth of a knot, we even put the sails up to try and go faster.
I called the VIP’s who were extremely gracious and understanding. We picked them up a half hour late and their plans would not allow them to stay out the normal two and a half hours – (unfortunately our lateness had shortened their trip by a half hour). Now the pressure was really on. The wind was up to about twenty knots, white caps everywhere – finding dolphins in these conditions with less time than normal was going to be tough – and if we came back empty we would be mud.
Three miles out Tom spotted a blue whale moving quickly up the coast. We had some awesome close encounters with this beautiful giant and headed for home. Had we left on time, our course would not have intersected with this whale. Everyone was happy, our reputation saved. Thank God for blue whales.
Till next week. God bless. Capt. Dave, over and out.