Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's cooler than dolphins? Glow-in-the-dark dolphins!!

Big Sur, Night Sky, and Spinner Dolphins Day and Night...

Written in Santa Barbara, CA, and the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. (Because my writing is always more fun to read with a couple of tasty, unfiltered wheat beers in me.)

Sitting now with Rob and Clif at the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company in Santa Barbara, in a busy beer garden, chatting with folks about our travels at a long picnic table. We walked into town from the Santa Barbara Harbor, a definitely luxury to stay at among some beautiful sailboats, exploring the beachfront and made our way, through the hot So Cal sun, to a brewery.

We just completed a 48 hour run down from Monterey, stopping only in Avila Beach for an hour, and then deciding that it wasn't worth staying a night. Not much there in Avila Beach... except RVs, and some dry landscape. Despite making it down to Southern California, the nights have still been chilly on the water, but there was a definite weather change when we came around Point Conception, making our way towards the Los Angeles. The night air had been ever so warmer. We were able to sail about a third of the passage down, sailing downwind at 4-5 knots, sometimes even hitting 6.5 knots above water. The other two-thirds of the trip we motored, because there was very little wind. The "little wind" was an intentional plan around Point Conception, which has some reputation for the weather getting serious at the drop of a hat. Our experience around Point Conception was ethereal.

The morning getting into Avila Beach (San Luis Obispo) we sighted a huge school of Spinner Dolphins a few hundred yards away from the boat. They made there way, as the do, to the bow of the boat, surrounding Sound Discovery with a epic sighting of jumps, spins and the sound of breathing blow holes. There were so many dolphins. Almost 20 surrounded the bow. You could actually see multiple levels of dolphins through the clear, flat water. I grabbed my camera, flung it around my neck, and began snapping photos at rapid-fire while kneeling in the pulpit of the boat, leaning over the bow. It was a sight to see. The Spinner Dolphins were slightly smaller and less interactive than the White-sided Dolphins we saw outside of Campbell River, BC. But still, they were fantastic to watch surf next to our boat, if only for a couple minutes.

I didn't think that anything could make me happier than the close-encounters with these dolphins, until last night. My night watch started at 9pm. Around 10 I started to seeing some green streaks appear next to the boat. The familiar, repetitive sound of the dolphins breathing made me realize we were in for a treat. I woke up Clif, who was dozing off next to me in the cock pit. About eight to twelves Spinner Dolphins had arrived back at our boat, but this time, in complete darkness, outlined in a vibrant phosphorescent green. Clif and I took turns going forward to the bow of the boat, watching the green shapes swim fluidly, directly under the bow. "It's surreal," Clif spoke back to me at in the cockpit.

We woke Rob up just in time to see the dolphins illuminated before they were chased away by another, slightly bigger, mysterious mammal. I was standing on the bow, mesmerized by the clear green glow of the dolphins bodies, when the dolphins immediately diverted and disappeared. A larger marine mammal, with a similar dolphin fluke and dorsal fin, but with a rounded face, almost giving it to look of a Risso's Dolphins (which we sighted in Monterey Bay for the first time). No matter what it was, it definitely scared off all the Spinners. It remained under the bow of the boat for quite some time, leaving a slow, swirly green trail behind him. Clif and Rob stood on the bow, watching him undulate slowly, as if our 6 knot motoring speed was as easy as the flick of a wrist. What a night-watch. I was very much awake and excited for the rest of my shift.

Now in Santa Barbara, we're planning our our next week in So Cal, which includes my 26th birthday Tuesday (hoorah!) and meeting up with my own Dad in San Diego on the 16th. We are planning a visit with Andy Hall in Oxnard and a day exploring Catalina Island before heading farther south.

Until then, we are going to enjoying the sunny beaches of Santa Barbara, welcoming us to the Southern California culture, which I'm pleasantly embracing

Father and son shot.

Spinner Dolphins school around the bow.

Spinner Dolphins under the bow.

Wine break!

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