What an experience!
Yesterday, I set out in my fishing kayak for fun, exercise, and to slay fish. Fun was had, exercise was good, the fishing not-so-much. (Oh, there were victims, just not of the size and frequency I prefer. All were released in healthy condition, to go forth and make baby fish.)
Despite the lack of cooperation from the fish, the day provided one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.
I pedaled away from my home, and bolted across the Intracostal Waterway (ICW). It’s aways a sprint across that thing because I’m in a kayak, and not easy to see by the boats screaming down the ICW at 50+ MPH. No one wants to get hit by a motorboat.
As I rested at a standstill, a dolphin surfaced behind me, exhaling loudly. Trust me, if you’re not ready for it, that sound will scare the crap out of you. I looked over my shoulder and sitting there motionless, just looking at me, was one of the dolphins that frequently ply the waters of the coastal Texas flats. Giving him my standard greeting of, “Well hello, Flipper! How’s your day going?” he (or she, I don’t know) disappeared with a flick of his powerful tail.
Seconds after I started pedaling (yes, my kayak has pedals. I paddle too, but pedaling is far more efficient, and I was headed to a place that’s about a 40 minute ride in a pedal kayak, so efficiency matters) the dolphin surfaced again, only about five feet off the side, and matched my speed perfectly.
He rolled slightly, and I swear looked me right in the eye. Then he dove right underneath the kayak, clearing it by less than a foot. After the moment of shear terror thinking I’m going to get flipped by Flipper was over, he swam three or four circles around my boat then went back to swimming right alongside me.
“He’s following me!” I said, with the glee of an eight-year-old. I sped up, he sped up, I slowed down, he slowed down. When I stopped, he stopped and then swam under and circled me again. Once he did that little half-roll, we made eye contact again, and he flicked his tail at the surface, soaking me with spray; and he disappeared.
“Little bastard did that on purpose!” I said, out loud. Yeah, I talk to myself a lot when I’m out on the water.
I figured he was gone, off to do what dolphins do–which is primarily eat fish and procreate. Fun as they are to watch, they’re no fun if you’re trying to catch fish. They’re really good at fishing, and fish, dumb as they are, know to vacate the area if dolphins are actively feeding.
I pedaled on, and just a few seconds later, there he was again, matching my speed as I cruised alongside the ICW.
Getting ready to make a right turn and head up the Aransas Channel toward Port Aransas, I figured that was where I would lose him for good.
Resting after another sprint across the channel, he popped up, looked me in the eye, and splashed me again with his tail. As I ventured east, he continued to swim beside me. We chased each other up the channel. Sometimes he would speed up, and I’d try to catch him. Seems he knew darn well that he could swim WAY faster than I can pedal, and he’d circle back, gliding right beside me, sometimes only 3 – 4 feet off my starboard side.
It was magnificent. Here I was, pedaling a kayak on a perfect day, literally playing with a dolphin in the wild. It was almost time for me to take a left into my fishing area. My very shallow fishing area (only about a foot deep). There was no way he could go there.
As I drifted to a stop, the dolphin surfaced and also stopped. As I pondered the idea of just continuing up the channel to play with him he swam back and forth under me a few times, looked me in the eye again and dove.
I don’t know how, but it’s like he knew we were done playing. He surfaced again in the middle of the channel about 15 yards away and looked at me one last time. With a couple of loud squeaks, he dove again.
I lingered in that spot for about five minutes but I knew he wouldn’t return.
I have been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in life. From the birth of my children to traveling far-flung corners of the world. I’ve seen some awesome sights. Playing with this dolphin ranks way up the list of incredible moments.
Hopefully I’ll see my new friend again some day. If not, I hope s/he lives a wonderful life, full of fat fish, love, and safety. I’ll never forget those 30 minutes we got to play with each other.