Follow by Email

Sunday, August 29, 2010

8/28 Dolphins in Pelican Bay

Other than one power boat we were alone in Pelican Bay the second night of our R&R on Santa Cruz Island. Island Bound sat bouncing lightly on the swell tucked in close to the cliffs. As the sun dropped behind the Santa Cruz Island Bill called me on deck to watch the pelicans dive for their dinner. The bay was alive with thousands of small bait fish rolling and skipping along the surface all around us. The pelicans were lovely to watch as they hit with a splash again and again in search of their dinner. They were wary and would shy off at any noise or movement so we stayed still and quiet in the cockpit. They would fly into the bay, circling then seem to shorten themselves, cock their heads and dive strait down into the darkening water. Off in the distance near the west end of our cove we could see dolphins as they cruised the bait fish too.

Eventually we were forced in by the mosquitoes. A short time later as I lay on our bunk reading Bill called to me again, “dolphins!” They were so close that as I grabbed for a sweater I could hear their clicking and calling coming right through the hull of our home. I hurried up the companionway stairs straining for any other sounds.

As I stepped into the cockpit the waters around us were quiet again. There was no moon in the sky and it had gotten much darker since the pelicans were diving. It was hard to see in the darkness but then off in the distance I could see them moving towards us. I stood silent and still I could hear their breathing and the breaking water as they moved closer to Island Bound. There were several dozen now in the cove with us totally focused on the bait fish around us. They would swim by and then off into the night then come around again for another pass by the boat. The darkness seemed to open up around them as they neared, water rolling off their shiny backs as they fed.

Eventually Bill was driven below by the bugs but I was not ready to give up the moment and so stayed and swatted as I watched. Over a craggy cliff to my east a nearly full moon was slowly rising as I stood quietly in the darkness. The moonlight unfolded until finally there was a huge golden face shining a thick bright streak across the dark waters. The moonlit water now shimmered and glistened off the wet backs of the porpoises as they passed. They would near in a pack, rising and falling along the surface as they fed. Some jumped clear out of the water with a twist. Their soft splashing sounds moving towards me as they neared and then off again.

Finally the night was still. The neighboring boat was completely dark and quiet off to my side. The rising path of the moon that had slowly opened up the world around me stared down as the mosquitoes buzzed my head. The dolphins had moved on and out of our cove. With a sigh I quickly headed down again into the cabin and back to my book.

The next morning we dropped the dink in the water to do a little sight seeing. We could see dolphins in the distance as we headed east around the edge of the bay. I thought we would scare them off with the little outboard motor but instead we were soon joined by a handful off our bow. It was clear they knew we were there as they deliberately slowed to match our speed. We slowed they slowed, we sped up and they quickly moved into our bow wake. They were almost close enough to touch.

Soon there were a dozen or more close in. We could see many others in groups off in every direction in the distance. The ones who first joined us broke off as our engine died. Then as it coughed back to life and we sped up again they swam back into view. After a few minutes sadly (with the outboard acting up again) we decided to head towards home. We slowly dropped back and turned west again back to our cove.

Our days of R&R were more than over due. Lots of time to read and sleep and putter along with our very first dingy and dolphin encounter. The R&R was needed. The dolphins were pure bonus. Kat


  1. That sounds like such a wonderful evening. Last year, we spent a night in Pelican Bay on a Catalina 36, and had bait fish all around us during a red tide. Darts of light and big glowing balls lit up the water beneath us, while stars filled the sky above. A truly magical place. Was suprised to hear you had a mosquito problem. I've never experienced that at the islands.

  2. Sis, What a magical night, Sounds like your R&R was wonderful. Have fun with mom this week.