The Ghost of Christmas Present or the Father of all Dolphins
Spent the night in Tenecatita anchorage. Beautiful calm anchorage. We are headed to La Cruz for Christmas, so for us this is the start of the Christmas Season.
The story, I am about to relate, is true. I swear it. At least, the facts are as stated.
The stars of the Milky Way are still grand in rural Mexico. The sky is vast and no light mars your vision as you look upward in wonder. Pitch black space, obvious and easy identifiable constellations, the milky soft white of the Galaxy’s plane of the ecliptic.
Add the slow swaying of a sailboat deck in a gentle well-protected anchorage. Life is never better than this.
We had done some work on the engine and it had been eight months or so since we had Spiritus away from her dock’s electrical umbilical. So, like good mariners, we made an offering to the ancient gods. For Aeolus, god of the winds and for Neptune, God of the Deep Seas, we made a libation of two ounces of tequila- after a small sip in their honor–and poured the rest over the bowsprit to fall into the waiting sea.
Calm winds gentle, following seas! A mariner’s prayer.
We were sitting above a sandy bottom at 4 fathoms (24 feet) with 125 feet of chain out on a plow anchor. Gentle conditions, so no snubber was attached to the anchor chain. It was so calm that the boat was more or less directly above the hanging chain so no loud creaking rub on the bob-stay to break our sleep.
At 4:30 a.m. exactly, the oddities began. The chain started sporadically rubbing against the stay at waterline. Grind … grind … pop! Silence. Eerie silence. Wait a few minutes. Repeat.
Carolyn asked me to check the anchor to see if we were drifting. Modern electronic GPS based anchor-alarm says no. But, like most sailors, I have set landmarks. I check against the precision of the computerized alarm. Pop my head up. No wind, no waves. All the boats, that are near Spiritus are essentially in the same places. Hmmmm….?
I walk forward. I hear the rattling of chains. Very dark. Somewhere behind me, I swear to God I could hear heavy breathing. I turn. Nothing. Hairs on back of neck stand on full alert.
Senses, the ones God gave me, are now on-full. Since we have gentle solar anchor lights in both forward dorades, that cast yellow cat’s-eye shadows when we are at anchor, I can see the deck without a flash light to move about safely.
More rattling chains and a hushed breath, almost like someone took a breath and is holding it. Someone other than me, that is.
OK, this is creepifying and not Halloween! It is Christmas!
I reach down in the near darkness and grab the chain to see if I can feel it dragging. Odd. It’s moving in my hand. Dancing. Not dragging. Never have I felt anything like that sense of movement on the chain. Another freaking deep breath to my right. I spun to look. Okay, I am now hypersensitive, I admit it. Nothing. Pitch black. Moon is down. Anchor lights only.
I slowly feel my way to the cap rail where I can see the chain enter the water or, at least, try to see it. I peer over. Holy shit, the chain is bioluminescent. Cool. It is also dancing in wide six foot circles. Definitely not cool.
Then, I see him.
I see the ghostly outline of a giant dolphin. He shoots out from the darkness near the boat appearing, as if by magic, below me. He takes his snout and nuzzles the chain in circles. I hear the rattling chains. The air chills immediately to 88 degrees. I break out in goosebumps.
As if my Christmas story isn’t good enough, reality is even better. We had an 8-10 foot dolphin, maybe a fathom down, under the hull, in the dark clear waters. He/she was aglow in green phosphor. The chain was aglow as well. All of this danced before my eyes in quiet stillness, except for the occasional surface break and deep breath he needed to continue jerking my chain.
This anchorage has a history of boat visitations by a local dolphin named by the boaters ‘Chippy’ . One well-known cruisers’ guide states “his favorite past time is to use the boat’s anchor rode or chain as a backscratcher.” Shawn and Heather’s guide to Pacific Mexico for cruisers.
Our boat has never been visited before.
Was it ‘Chippy’ or was is the Father of all Dolphins?
Merry Christmas from Spiritus with a nod to Charles Dickens, Scrooge, Jacob Marley!