The magic of Dolphins

In the grand scheme of things we probably haven’t seen that much wildlife
on this voyage – certainly the sighting of the two humpback whales not
half an hour into the start of race 11 gave promise of the prospect of
great things to come – but no. But that said it has been heart-gladdening
to see the creatures we have.

Squid are the creatures who have visited us in greatest numbers – but sadly
for the squid this seems to have been on a one way ticket during the night
+ we have returned them only subsequently to the sea on discovering their
dessicated corpses stuck to the deck in the light of morning. That’s
excepting the one that splatted against my shoes + the few that were
spotting + returned immediately from whence they came. Most of the others
are completely screamish about this task – me? Just pick them up + chuck
them back – they are very slippery to grab hold of. I reckon on the fear
front it must be even stephens – but the justification must go to the
squid, they are after all are a lot further down the food chain + should
life have got particularly sparse on the victualling front then we do
actually have a recipe for squid stew.

Flying fish have been seen but only one actual landing – again another
catch by me at silly mid-on + prompt return to the sea. I don’t know if it
is just me who is weird but the girlie contingent screaming + jumping
around at the unexpected appearance of uninvited visitors seems, well, a
curious way to respond. The other response that makes me smile is the
liberal use of the plastic dustpan (several have been lost) to assist both
visitors + corpses back from whence they came.

Boobies have called by on a number of occasions. The Skip is slightly
paranoid about these visits as on the previous race one such visitor pecked
-out the equipment at the top of the mast (so understandable response). But
the booby bombing raid on Krzysztof still has the prize for best
retaliation.

There have been some curious sightings – the booby hitching a ride on the
back of a chillaxing sea turtle. A number of other sea turtles all resting
on the surface – one casually waving us farewell with a front flipper.

A ten points in the Eye-Spy book goes to me (am I sailing or just sitting
there on the look-out for creatures?) for the manta ray that flying
carpet-like leaped out of the water did a 360 back-flip + then disappeared
back whence it had come. Seeing such amazing + unexpected behaviour the
first thing I questioned was my sanity – but no I had definitely seen it,
an extremely large floor tile (dark on one side + lighter on the other)
leap out of the water + gymnastically perform a back flip. No photos of
course, the moment was too short + too spell-binding to do anything other
than gorp.

However the star star prize has to go to the dolphins. Dolphins (+ we have
seen several different species – big grey + light ones, little ones,
spangled-star studded ones (the term ‘spotted’ does not really describe
their appearance) – are just something else. Their acrobatics is second to
none, but it is at night when the steaming light is switch off that they
come into their own. Phospholuminescence is just magical. The boat cresting
along on a bow wave of strange green/blue-white light makes sailing at
night (at the risk of going into hyperbole) seem like you are in the world
with spirits. And at night dolphins, boy-racing our boat + surfing the slip
stream, come with their own wake of this phospho-light and sometimes their
whole outline is illuminated in an other-worldly glow. Seeing such
phenomenon (+ with no other explanation) you can understand why myths of
silkies and willies (not not that sort!) and other folk came about in the
minds + folklore of our ancestors.

For me the dolphins definitely have it.

In the daylight world we are a day out from the western end of the Panama
Canal marina. We have been motor/sailing now for the last three days – that
is mostly motoring + a bit of sailing when the wind is in the right
direction. We passed close to the Treasure Island-esque islands off the
west coast of the mainland – sea spray rising high from the swell pounding
the vertiginous cliffs – + we are now into the Gulf of Panama. Right now
the rest of my watch are enduring the largest series of squalls yet to hit
us all voyage – driving ice rain + buffetting freezing air to chill you to
the bone – so I guess I ought to man-up + go up + join them for a soaking
having spent the last hour safely ensconced in the nav station!

Getting back to dry land after nearly 3 weeks at sea is a strange prospect.
Personally I am not rushing.

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