A whale of a tale or a tale of a whale?
We are now in the anchorage, just outside Marina Nayarit (Marina La Cruz). Carolyn was on deck (port-side, up near the bow) hanging out some wash. I heard an excited, “There’s a whale up here!”
We are anchored in 32 feet of water . . . the boat is nearly 6 feet deep . . . and there are other boats all around us. A whale?
Admittedly, I am somewhat skeptical. “Are you sure . . . did you see it?”
“No . . . .” she answers, with a decidedly punctuated pause. “BUT, I heard it! Come up here!”
Heading for the stairs, I venture a gentle, “Dolphins sorta sound like a whale . . . when they breath . . . if they’re close.”
“It was . . . a whale.”
“Okay.” In forty-one years of marriage, one of the wisest things you can learn is that some arguments just aren’t worth the investment.
Sooooo. . .Up the stairs I go.
Nada! . . . Nothing! Nary a whale in sight! I don’t say a word; in answer to which, Carolyn immediately assumes her Do Not Mess With Me–hands on hips–position.
“It . . . was . . .a whale!”
I think to myself, None of us ever grows up . . .I am convinced of that; but, I don’t say it out loud. Instead, I graciously inquire,”Which way?”
“Over there,” and she points toward the stern–3 o’clock–at a half-way position between us and another anchored boat.
We wait … still surface, small wavelets, morning sun. No bubbles, no disturbances. Hmmm . . . .
“It might have been a dolphin,” I muse.
“It was too loud . . . .” At this point, her chin juts forward and she arches her right eyebrow. (With my wife, an arched eyebrow is somewhat akin to cocking a Colt-45.)
Then a blast of fetid air . . . hot moist . . . LOUD . . . and very close . . . .
“I told you . . . . See!” Again the pointing.
As we watch, it moves away–passing slowly thru the anchorage. No one else seems to notice , just us. She looks at me, beaming the ‘I told you so, but I am still your friend’ look.
Slowly it turns, now headed directly towards our anchored boat in a “T” approach, directly abeam and midships. My mind goes, 32′ feet- minus 6 feet–equals is 26′ feet. How big is it? Don’t know, but this will be very close.’
“Get the camera . . . get the camera . . . .” I dash down into the cabin and back up . . . camera in hand. The tail is just sliding under the water about 30 feet from our boat. Where should I stand? Will he come up on the other side this side . . . how far? I decide to stand at the main mast, so I can shoot off either side of the boat.
If you have never had the chance to take a picture of a whale, let me tell you, they are sneaky. They pretend to be predictable, but then they hold their breath longer than you can, they turn under the water, they get curious and come up early. All of this means that shooting a picture of one is . . . .
“Look, there he is!” Again the finger pointing. A loud exhale. He is right on the stern of the boat . . . click . . . click …when you see the pic below, you will understand. Try to imagine the excitement . . . focusing the camera . . . wait for it . . .look in the wrong place . . .and then turn suddenly like a gun fighter, only to find the whale sinking below the waves . . . laughing and blowing bubbles at your efforts.
I swear to God, it is there . . . right under the . . . behind the solar panel . . .
We could see the whole whale’s shape below the water at the stern. It is small, maybe 25 feet long, with long flukes and a wide tail. What kind of whale is it? Don’t think is is a humpback . . . but similar shape. There is no hump in front of the fin . . . hmm.
“Where do you think he will come up . . . ?”
“There he is!”
All we get is a nice pic of his back and tail as he heads out, after swimming under the boat. Still, it is proof at least that it happened. This is not a whale of a tale but a tale of a whale.
Spiritus, our boat’s name means ‘God’s breath moving on the waters’. Perhaps, ‘Whale’ somehow means “God’s breath moving in the waters’.
For a certain priest-friend who reads our blog . . . “Ruah” … the sound of the Holy Spirit … that great divine breath of creation … or God’s sigh …. may be exactly the same sound a whale makes when he exhales. You may want to think about that.
That night, after sunset, we were laying in the cockpit bed when breaking water and small breaths exploded off one side of the boat.
“Dolphins, listen,” I pointed into the lingering twilight.
She smiled. I did not see it, but I could hear it in her voice. “I know. They don’t sound anything like whales . . . do they?”