On Wednesday, I (Elena) started my third week on board the Cap Finistere. The lovely weather in the channel gave us some fantastic views of Guernsey as we were starting our first deck watch whilst sailing between the Channel Islands. Not long after we started our watch, we noticed a few splashes in the mirror-like waters – a small pod of common dolphins! However, unlike most other occasions we have seen them, they did not pay us a closer visit as they were too busy feeding.
Going out on deck on Thursday morning and seeing the heavy fog and streaky white water all around got us a bit down. After all, the chances of spotting anything in weather like that are not great. We were sailing in the Bay’s deepest waters between the shelf and the underwater trenches – usually a fantastic place for spotting wildlife, especially large whales. A few passengers who saw our talk decided to join us on deck. The sun had barely come up when we spotted a pod of around 50 striped dolphins vigorously jumping in and out of the choppy water – they were in a hurry!!! That was a very welcome surprise as we see this species a lot less than the common dolphin and we had started to wonder where they have gone.
About an hour in, we spotted a big splash on the horizon to the back of the ship – it was a large cetacean breaching!! Extremely excited, I took a closer look through my binoculars – a fin whale, easily recognisable because of the asymmetrical colouration of the lower jaw. It wasn’t long until we spotted another animal breaching, this time the splash was to the front of the ship. We locked our eyes to the horizon, waiting for another sighting of the whale. As we were sailing forward, we were getting closer and closer to what was definitely a fin whale, breaching continuously and giving us an amazing show. After a while we found ourselves parallel to the animal and could see it only 50m away. And that’s when we got our best sighting of the season, we witnessed something I have only ever dreamt of seeing, something so spectacular that it made my heart and brain stop for a moment – the second largest animal on earth breached completely out of the water right there and then, 50 m away from us. Lucy and I were jumping for joy, not believing what we just witnessed. This experience left us emotional, ecstatic and inspired and showed everyone on deck what makes us dedicate our time and work to the conservation of these fascinating animals.
Over the weekend, we were once again graced with fantastic sightings – on Friday a playful minke whale paid us a visit in the Channel and breached right in the wake of the ship. Saturday or Santander-day as I like to call it, was very productive with another breaching fin whale spotted on the horizon, numerous striped dolphins and a couple of unidentified beaked whales, all spotted not too far from the Spanish coast as we were travelling to the beautiful Santander.
On Monday we were reminded by a passenger how lucky we are – ‘Not your usual start of the week’ someone said as we were marvelling at the playful and energetic common dolphins jumping around the ship. Tuesday was my last day with Lucy and we went out on deck ready to make the most of the fact we were sailing over the most productive waters in the Bay. Having just turned up on deck, we were greeted by a beautiful breach on the horizon – was it another happy fin whale or our friend from earlier this week? The rest of our watch was filled with tall whale blows until the captain had to close the decks due to a lightning storm. We stuck around for a bit staring at the sky and expecting the next bolt to cut through the heavy dark clouds.
One of our patrons Mark Carwardine wrote in his book that no one ever says ‘I do not remember if I have seen a whale.’ Everyone who has ever witnessed these animals’ beauty and grace will know that is true. Any encounter with a cetacean is truly remarkable and unforgettable. And with this thought, I will have to say goodbye and I am off to enjoy my last week on board the Cap Finistere.
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