My son, Tyler watches, as I snorkel with the porpoise.
On a windless, overcast June day in 2006 about 30 miles southeast of Placencia, Belize. my two children, my girlfriend Karen and I were returning to The Moorings base marina after a week-long coastal charter cruise when we happened upon a school of porpoise playing a few hundred yards dead ahead from our 40' Leopard catamaran.
The Day I Swam with Porpoise
Jumping off the coast of Belize.
As we faced our last day of our 10-day voyage, I could sense a mood of resignation near the end of a delightful vacation. As I approached this playful frolic, our spirits lifted. I slowed down, then shut off our engines to watch the display. A school of 8-10 seemed in no rush to move anywhere...barely noticing our presence. It became obvious that they were content and interested in swimming near the surface of 65 feet of water. But I was fascinated as I had never observed porpoise simply milling around in the wild.
After about 10 minutes of simply observing them from our bow, I decided because they stayed with us and they were not intimidated by our presence, I would don a mask, snorkel and flippers and join them.
The mother of the school.
Playing near our hulls.
As I plunged into a dark blue abyss, I remember feeling almost immediately overwhelmed by the empty, endless enormity below me. Though the clear water made it wondrous to watch the porpoise as far away as a hundred yards near the surface, the eeriness without any visible sea bottom permeated my being. I realized I had never swum in water so deep. With the infinite depth feeling, I felt mysteriously minuscule in comparison. Probably not unlike an astronaut outside his /her space capsule. And then there was the uncertain sensation of never having had wild sea creatures all around me before in the open sea.
The porpoise family swam near me, but again they seemed barely to acknowledge my presence. It was obvious from how they swirled around the twice as large mother that maybe she was pregnant; they were her definitely her guardians and explained why they were in no hurry.
As I watched, I noticed I had moved closer than ever and all of a sudden one of the guardians sped off into the distance and turned around and raced directly towards me but then abruptly stopped about 30 yards away. The message was pretty clear. I had infringed upon their space so I moved back and away. I watched as they swam away with the realization that I had almost trespassed into their family spatial boundary and they communicated I was no longer welcome. So I swam back to the boat knowing I had experienced something new about the sea and about my own relationship with it. What was obvious was how little I knew about the wild sea life and how small I felt.
Going nowhere slowly
That's me though I look like a sunken log.
After we left the school, the wind finally picked up and we were suddenly making 8 knots on a pretty calm sea.
On the next and second chartered voyage to Belize, two porpoise welcome our catamaran on our first day.