Listening To Dolphins

 I’ve been missing the sea more and more and I thought I’d tell you about a trip my family took many years ago.

I rented a small house at Mexico Beach in the Florida panhandle but I towed our 26 foot sailboat down two weeks early. My family, three young children and my wife, spend over a week sailing in the Gulf of Mexico but each night we would return to the isolated tip of Cape San Blas peninsula that encloses the large St Joseph Bay to anchor. Not another boat in sight.

Our small boat was cramped for sleeping but I never heard a complaint and that in itself was a miracle with three young (pre-teen) children on board. During the day we would sail the clear, sparkling blue of the gulf or explore the coastline of the deserted peninsula. Some days we would anchor and snorkel or fish, or we would head out into the blue and enjoy being out of sight of land.

St Joseph Bay is known as a breeding ground for nurse sharks and we would swim among baby sharks without a worry. In the shallow grass beds far up in the bay we would walk in knee deep water picking up bay scallops off the sea grass like eggs in a nest. If I haven’t said before; my wife is an extraordinary cook—even on a two burner alcohol stove top.

Night was my favorite time. We were completely alone at anchor with no lights to disturb our little world. The Milky Way lay across the sky like a belt of diamonds. The water would glow like shooting stars as larger fish streaked by in search of food. But what I enjoyed the most were the dolphins. I think we found a resting place they used to take a break from their endless travels. We would sit in the cockpit in total darkness and listen to these amazing mammals as they would come lazily to the surface beside our boat and to breathe. The dolphins didn’t chatter at night so hearing them blow and feel the mist of their breath was magical for us all. It is a moment one could never forget.

During the day dolphins would ride the bow wave and if we were quite we could hear their chitters and cheeps through the hull of our boat. The kids loved to stand in the pulpit—the bow of the sailboat—and look down on them. The dolphins would turn on their sides and look up at the children and the kids would run back to the cockpit and say, “Dad, they were looking at us!”

Those were days my family will never forget. As my mind turns to the sea again I may post more about sailing far from land or the two years I spent in the Marshall Islands. I hope you enjoyed this little interlude.

I don’t have any digital images of our trips but it is something I must attend to. I do have one shot of my wife, oldest son and me enjoying a day fishing—back when we were all very young.