Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

The dolphin that wouldn’t swim with me (in Tenacatita)

April 12th, 2010 · No Comments · Funny, Life on the Boat, Mexico

“Oh, yeah, Tenacatita is great,” Louis says.  “It’s a beautiful little anchorage and if you swim out from your boat a ways, the dolphins will come swim with you.”

My eyes light up.  “REALLY?!”

“Yes!” Laura smiles.  “We had two bottlenose dolphins come right up to us when we were there.”

A few days later, Matt and I recalled this conversation on our way down the coast.  “Don’t get your hopes up, honey,” he says to me.

“I know, ” I sigh. “But still… swimming with dolphins in the wild… it would be a childhood dream come TRUE for me.”

See, from the time I knew what it was until I was a junior in high school, I wanted to be a marine biologist oceanographer, specializing in cetology, which is the study of whales and dolphins.  I was a little obsessed with all things dolphin. During junior high, my walls were covered with NKOTB posters and there, next to a life-size poster of Joey (he was so hot back then), were posters and cut-outs of dolphins.  I had an entire bookshelf dedicated to dolphin figurines, numerous stuffed dolphin toys, books about dolphins and even a dolphin kite.  At one point, I even figured out how to click my tongue to make what I believed to be “dolphin” sounds.  Once I realized that being a marine biologist would also necessarily include lots of classes on ocean geology and physics and science UGH, and when I realized that unless I worked for a zoo or the Navy, I really wouldn’t make any money, I kind of gave up on the cetologist dream.  BUT – I did not give up on my dreams of swimming with dolphins in the wild or kayaking in the midst of a pod of killer whales.

So, when we arrived in Tenacatita, I was on constant dolphin look-out.  We entered the anchorage, dropped the hook and spent the afternoon hanging around the boat.  Around 3:00pm, I spotted a dorsal fin arching out of the water near the bow of a nearby boat.  The dog on the boat was going crazy, barking and running circles around the deck.  “A dolphin!”  I shout, tearing off my shirt and shorts (bikini on, of course), kicking off my shoes and scrambling down the swim ladder into the water.  In the water, I swim out “a ways” from Syzygy and await my dream encounter.


I wait.  and wait. and wait.  All the while, the dolphin is still swimming lazily around the other boat.

“Go swim to it!”  Matt shouts to me from on deck.

“No!” I shout back.  “I want it to come to me!”  Part of my fantasy, is, after all, that the dolphin will love me and want to play with me as much as I want to play with it.

“Well then, make some noise!” Matt yells.

Self-conscious, I look around to see if anyone is watching suddenly-turned-five-years-old me make a fool of myself.  But, as Matt reminds me, this is my chance…

I duck my head underwater and make humming and oohing sounds.  I snap my fingers and clap my hands and kick my feet on the surface.  There’s no way the dolphin, fifty feet away, can NOT know that I’m here.

Still, no dolphin.

I see the fin again, still lingering near the neighboring boat.

“I guess it’s curious about the dog,” Matt shouts.

“But I’m way more fun than a dog!” I yell.

I continue treading water and moving farther and farther out until I begin to worry I might not have the energy to swim against the current back to the boat.  I had been out there for almost 45 minutes, less than 100 feet away from the dolphin, and the dolphin never came near me.

I repeated this activity at least once (sometimes three times) a day for three days and still the dolphin never came near our boat.  On the 4th day, the dolphin finally came within 10 feet of Syzygy and Matt and I both leapt into the water, talking sweetly to it, making noises and coaxing the dolphin however we could.  The dolphin, though, was totally uninterested in us and though he stayed near the boat, he always remained on the opposite side from us.

That night we had drinks with another cruising couple.  When we mentioned the dolphin, the woman said, “Oh, right.  That’s Nacho.  He’s around here all the time.  He’s a regular.”

“Just him?”  I asked.

“Yeah, we’ve only seen him around.  We haven’t seen any other dolphins… ”

Ah.  So now I knew why he wasn’t interested in playing with me.

The dolphin was depressed.

Dolphins are pod mammals and like to be with their friends. Nacho was sad and lonely and no matter how hard I tried to convince him that *I* was one of *them,* he was too downtrodden to see it.  Now it all made sense.

On our way down to Tenacatita, I had a night shift where a pod of about 30 dolphins swarmed the boat.  We were actually sailing along at about 5 knots and the dolphins took over the bow waves, playing and leaping out of the water, bumping into each other and flicking their tales as they jumped.  You could just see how happy they were.  Those dolphins would have played with me, I know.  But, I don’t think Matt would have been too happy to find me dragging behind the boat at 2 A.M.  *sigh*  One of these days…….

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