Day of the Pacific-Whited Sided Dolphins

We had just finished crossing Cape Caution on our Southbound Inside Passage cruise. The seas had been calm with a low comfortable swell from the Pacific Ocean. The outside air was cool and we spent the morning motoring in and out of fog. I’d was busy most of the morning making bread, preparing for lunch and hanging out on the bridge deck with Jeffrey and one of our passengers. Everyone else was laughing and playing a card game in the galley.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins come over to the David B
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins come over to the David B

Once we were out of the ocean swell and back inside the calm water, Jeffrey asked if I’d drive for a while. I’d done all the engine room checks that day and he too wanted to spend some time down there in the space I call his “Guy Spa.”

“Sure, not a problem,” I said taking the wheel. “Will you be down there long?”

“Not too long. I want to clean the filters in the watermaker, so maybe a half hour or so,” he said.

“Perfect. I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens. I replied.

I checked the chart to make sure I knew where Jeffrey wanted me to go, and then slid on to the stool in front of the wheel. Our passenger, Ian and I chatted for a while and I kept my eyes open for any interesting wildlife that I could point out. There were Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Gullemonts, and Marbled Murrelets, but it was hazy and hard to see if there was any bigger wildlife in the distance.

After a while Ian and I stopped talking and just watched out the windows. A line of white water was off in the distance and hard to make out. There wasn’t a rock there. I checked. I figured it must be a tide rip and I kept watching. Some of the haze began to clear. I picked up my binoculars and looked a the line. It was still too far to see exactly what was going on out there. I set the binoculars down and kept watching the line. Ian asked me if I was seeing something.

“Well, I’m not sure,” I answered. “Do you see that line up there?” I pointed off in the distance.

“Uh, yes, I think I do,” he said with his Australian accent.

“Well I’m hoping that it will turn out to be a group of Dall’s Porpoises. They’re over there, kind of close to shore. Maybe when Jeffrey gets back up here we can go in closer and have a look.” I handed him my binoculars and asked him to keep his eye on the line of white water.

“There, there! I think I saw something jump,” he said and handed the binoculars to me.

I lifted the binoculars to my eyes and focused. They were still a ways off, but we were getting closer. Close enough to see small black-ish shapes coming out of the water.

“How many do you think there are?” Ian asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe 25 or more.” I replied. “They’re too far away.”

We continued to watch the line of what we were thinking we probably porpoises when Jeffrey came up from the engine room.

“How’s it going?” he asked as he stepped up to the bridge deck.

“Great. Are you ready to take the wheel?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure. Is there anything I need to know about? he said moving over towards me.

“Well, yeah. There’s a bunch of splashing sea mammals ahead of us. I think maybe they’re Dalls” I said.

“Where?” Jeffrey said with a hint excitement.

“Over there, They’re kind of far off and maybe close to some rocks,” I explained.

Mother and Calf Pacific White-Sided Dolphins
Mother and Calf Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

Jeffrey glanced over to the line of splashing sea mammals and then over to the chart. “Looks like there’s plenty of space over there. I say we go that way.”

I turned the wheel as Jeffrey called out to the rest of the passengers that we were coming up on some porpoises. The card game ended and everyone rushed out on deck. We cruised towards the porpoises, and almost at the same time a few of them began to break for the line and swim quickly towards the David B.

“They’re coming at us!” I heard shouts from the bow of the boat and I looked just in time to see a couple scythe shaped fins in the water. Then one jumped just a few feet from the boat. I got a good look at that one.

“Hey Jeffrey. I don’t think those are Dall’s porpoises,” I said.

“Yeah, I just saw that too. Looks like they’re Pacific White-Sided Dolphins,” he grinned. “You better go out on deck. I’ll take the wheel.”

I joined everyone outside and explained what we were looking at. As we talked we watched groups of three and four dolphins taking turns riding the bow. My favorites were a mother with her calf. Soon the boat was surrounded by Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. What started out as a group of twenty-five or so, blossomed in to a pod of well over a hundred and fifty. They splashed all around us. It was hard to know where to look. Some of the dolphins would look up at us as they rode the bow. Others would swim off and then circle fast to the back of the boat.

The dolphins played with us for a half hour or so then slowly began to peel off from the David B, much in the same way as they had come to greet us. I went back into the galley and stoked the stove. Even though it was a summer day, it was still chilly on deck and I knew as soon as the dolphins left we’d all be back inside warming ourselves. As I stepped into the galley I stopped and watched the pod angle away from the boat. There were still a few close by. I wished I could thank them for their show, but instead I just smiled and wished them well.