This is why I do it.
I go out in my little boat, Snoopy, in the summer months and sometimes I come home with a bad back as a result. I drag my camera gear out there and usually come home with some photos of splashes or maybe nothing at all.
But sometimes … I have the best day of my life. One of those days when, in the middle of the action, I realize it is a day I will never forget. It is a day that I will remember on the bad days, when my mind wanders off and I start thinking that the world is full of only bad things. I’ll remember this day and know that the world is full of beautiful and incredible things too.
It’s funny how these days often start out quiet, with brooding clouds, and a feeling that is it is day when absolutely nothing is going to happen.
I took my boat north, through a place called Seymour Narrows, where the current is so strong I can only go through during slack water. (For you non-boaters out there, slack happens when the tide is going to switch directions, so the current is running at it slowest.) That means I have about an hour to go back through the other way, or I have to wait 6 hours for the next slack before I can return.
I was heading up the strait when decision time came. And just then I thought I saw something way up in the distance. Looking through my binoculars, I wasn’t sure, but I thought maybe there was something there. So I decided to continue on and risk spending 6 hours in some harbour and hoping the weather didn’t take a turn for the worse.
What I saw looked a little something like this.
With a smile on my face and hope in my heart I headed up in the general direction of the pacific white-sided dolphins and wondered if they would choose to come and see me. You never know. Sometimes they swim away and sometimes they choose to come. Either way, it is their choice. I don’t hunt them down.
They played around this beacon for awhile and then they were gone. All was quiet. So I found myself a nice little spot for lunch and cut the engine.
A few minutes later I heard something I had never heard before. With no boats anywhere to be seen and surrounded only by wilderness, what was this strange sound? It was like an engine revving up.
And then the dolphin games began!
It turns out the sound was hundreds of dolphins all speeding up under water getting ready for what was the most incredible acrobatic show of marine mammals I have ever seen.
They were all around me, 360 degrees, close to the boat and far from the boat – all jumping in what was probably a mating display. There would be 3 on one side, then 4 on the other side, then a couple in the distance, then a few under the boat, then a few jumping above the bow. I cannot explain in words what this was like.
It was nearly impossible to photograph because the dolphins are incredibly fast and super agile so by the time I saw them jump, raised my camera and got focus, it was usually too late.
But this went on for over an hour, so I did manage to get some photos!
The best way I can explain what was happening is to imagine that all the photos in this post happened at the same time. It was truly remarkable. At one point I saw 10 dolphins in the air at the same moment in time.
This is not something that happens ever day. I am lucky to have a dolphin experience once or twice in a season. After 22 years of boating in BC, this was the most incredible dolphin experience of my life.
I was standing on the deck of my boat laughing and laughing and laughing. At one point I had to put down my camera and sit down, even though the dolphins were still jumping, just to catch my breath. I can remember saying out loud “I’m going to pay for this.”
And I did. Not 2 days later I injured my back again and spent the next 3 weeks unable to leave the RV. In August! Prime boating season. I was a bit upset about that, but I just kept thinking about “dolphin day” and how lucky I was to have that experience in my life.
Since it was so hard to photograph, I took some video footage to share with you too so you can have a better idea of the experience.
If you ever get a chance to come to British Columbia in the summer, I highly recommend you get out on the water and enjoy some of our amazing marine wildlife. Just remember to put down the camera and make sure you watch, listen, and take in the experience.