A whale of a time

Spirit of Cardiff, now making good progress south along the US Western Seaboard, is escorted by local widelife…

Spirit of Cardiff, now making good progress south along the US Western Seaboard, is escorted by local widelife? Clive Tully reports:

“It’s funny. We’d said to people up north that we hadn’t seen much in the way of whales. Just a brief and rather distant sighting of a couple of humpbacks in one of the passages between the islands of Kodiak. “It’s too early in the season,” they’d told us. “You’ll see plenty further south.”

But now, heading along the California coast around 150 miles north of San Diego, our luck is about to change. The sea is perfectly flat now, for the first time for ages, and while the air is cool, the sun is out and pleasantly warm.

“There, dead ahead.” As usual, its sharp-eyed Steve who spots the wildlife first. He’s seen the distinctive blows of a small pod of humpback whales moving across our bow two or three hundred yards ahead of us. We stop the boat so as not to stress the whales, and marvel as they move around to our port beam, their distinctive dorsal fins rising and falling from the surface.

Every so often we get a tail, or fluke, come up in the air, and even over the sound of Spirit’s engine ticking over, we can hear a magical trumpeting squeal – something I’ve only ever heard before on TV programmes. The sound of their breathing carries across the water, too – great puffs like the blast of a hot air balloon burner. The encounter lasts for several minutes, and we’re all left breathless at having been so close to these beautiful giants of the deep.

No sooner are we over that wildlife encounter than we get another. A school of porpoises (or at least we think they’re porpoises – we lost our identification chart) comes up to the boat. They spend ages swimming under the bow, then jumping up just in front.

Steve and I are up front leaning over the tube and getting close enough almost to touch them. There are a couple of times when they blow out as they clear the surface, splashing the lens of my camera. It’s the sort of time when you feel you want to jump in the water and swim with them. Except we’ve already seen a shark.

Then as suddenly as they came, they’re gone. The sun turns from yellow to cherry red in bands across its face, sinking below the horizon. Once again we have the ocean to ourselves.”


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