Gary held the 12 ft. aluminum skiff steady for me.
“Thanks. Do you think we’ll see any dolphins?”
“We might if we get out some distance into the bay. Let’s push off and we’ll putt out a little way and have a look around.”
We glided over the glassy water easily. A couple of hundred yards from the beach, Gary cut the motor and we drifted in the sudden silence.
Now that we were sitting still and the air was no longer whooshing past, I felt the soothing rays of the sun soaking into me. The early morning wisps of mist had lifted from the bay, leaving clear blue sky reflected in a deeper blue sea. I filled my lungs with the fresh, salty air.
“Have a look.” Gary handed me a pair of binoculars. “Look for fins or tops of their bodies breaking the surface. If you see any, we’ll try to get closer without spooking them.”
Moments later, I pointed. “There!” At a slower, quieter speed, Gary angled the boat towards the school’s probable destination, so that eventually our paths would cross.
Hundreds of sleek bodies broke the surface only to curve and dive down immediately and reappear a few yards farther on. Gary cut the motor again and we drifted, a mere speck in the middle of the huge Bay of Conception, closer than we had hoped to a huge school of dolphins, all aiming for the head of the bay.
“Listen to them!” I whisper-shouted. The mewling, whistling, singing, and crying, as they repeatedly broke the surface of the water, was an eerie choir piece. Hauntingly beautiful, it gave me goosebumps in spite of the warm day. Gary’s face mirrored my feelings exactly—somewhere between awe and ecstasy.
Still trying to come to terms with the amazing spectacle we had just experienced, we sat a moment longer watching the last of the dolphins disappear in the distance.
“Uh-oh!” Gary pointed towards the open end of the bay. “Whitecaps.” He started the motor and turned the skiff towards home. Within minutes, the breaking waves had moved much closer and the glassy smooth surface changed to ripples that grew into an uncomfortable lump. I’d heard fishermen talk about the lump in the sea. Now I knew what they were talking about.
“Hang on. It could get bumpy. I’ll take us to the nearest point of land and then we’ll work our way home along the beach.”
I gripped the gunwales of the boat where they began to curve towards the bow. We bucked into the choppy whitecaps that had now overtaken us. In no time, the sleeves of my blue cotton shirt were soaked from the spray. Two-foot waves didn’t seem like much but they followed one after the other so briskly that the small skiff took a pounding. My stomach clenched into a knot of fear as we were tossed in every direction. I tightened my grip against the bouncing of the boat. More waves splashed over the bow, soaking the front of my shirt. I was glad the water was warm. It would have been an ordeal to be splashed with icy water every few seconds. The finer spray wet my face so the drops were running off my chin. I glanced at Gary in the stern of the boat. He was completely dry except for a bit of salt spray in his hair. I could only imagine what I looked like. Drowned rats came to mind.
“We’re almost out of it,” Gary yelled above the engine noise. He saw that I was bearing the brunt of the beating at the front of the boat. I could only nod as I looked over my shoulder at him.
Closer to the beach, we zigzagged to avoid rocks. Beaching the boat here would be difficult. We continued along the shoreline until we rounded a point and entered the mini bay where our own sheltered beach lay.
“Whew! That’s better,” I said.
We pulled the boat ashore and secured it with a line to a huge rock far above the high tide mark.
All the rest of that day we couldn’t get the dolphins out of our heads. To be so close to them was like a small miracle and we had been lucky to be a part of it.