Sailing from Bermuda to Azores – Day 11

Whale breath excitement

We are not far from our destination but there is no good wind to sail there in a straight line. We chased the forecasted wind and decided to sail north until we find more wind to sail to our destination. We have enough fuel to motor the boat but we prefer to sail. Motoring is noisy and smelly (Diesel).

Right now we are sailing gracefully downwind going 4-5 knots, smoothly surfing some small swells. It is slow but tranquil and comfortable. Listening to music, I was enjoying reading a book inside of the boat; suddenly, I heard a heavy breathing sound outside. Being on the boat at sea, I have developed a sensitivity to sounds. It is important to identify different sounds on the boat. When something is not happy (boat maintenance), it squeaks, creaks, groans etc. When things are broken, it cries. Wind, sail, and wave sounds are all important. Having our eyes and ears fully functional, I learned we can prevent some issues ahead and enjoy the journey more peacefully. I had never heard a sound exactly like this before.

Usually, when dolphins are around, I can hear their breathing. When I heard the heavy breathing sound today, I expected to see dolphins, I quickly went to the cockpit. Two boat lengths behind us, a whale popped up to take a breath. I loudly called ‘John’. (He was off watch sleeping.) He immediately came out and turned the generator on. That way, the whales can hear the sound of our boat. From whale’s point of VIEW, a sailboat that is sailing is invisible, as they rely on hearing rather than sight, it is almost impossible for them to recognize our boat. By being at the wrong place at the wrong time, we don’t want to get damaged by the whale when it comes up. At the same time, we don’t want to see the whales get hurt either. Since the whales were behind of our boat, they could damage the rudder which would have been bad. The rudder directs the course of the boat. If it gets damaged, we would have no steering control.

Turning the generator on seemed to work. One whale slightly moved the right side of the boat and went away. There was another whale far behind of us but it turned to the side as well. It was relief but we looked for more whales for a long time but finally turned the generator off. There might be more whales deep down under. Just hoping they stay away from us.

During this sailing trip, John kept saying that he was disappointed by not seeing whales. His wish came true. However, I don’t want to see whales this close again. It was nerve-racking seeing the whales up-close on this open ocean when we are all alone.

PS: It says the whaling industry was once the Azores’ (our destination) second money-earner, that is now part of history.

Kay Chung at N40.55/W39.16 on July 12, 2017 at 20:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time)

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