4/16/2014 – Ballenas Tiburones

We moved a whopping three miles or so to Playa Coyote today to take shelter from the predicted winds from the southern quarter of the compass. There are two boats on moorings up at the populated north end of the bay where all the houses are but we’re all by our lonesomes down here at the south end. Well, not exactly completely alone since there are several hundred Semana Santa campers along the beach in tents of all shapes, sizes and configurations. But that’s not what I want to write about.

I want to write about the whale sharks. But first, interesting twist to the story. As we were entering the outside edge of Bahia Coyote today, a weird thing happened. We were going along at about 3 knots in over 50 feet of flat calm water. All of a sudden, the boat did a little lurch. Felt for all the world like we’d ridden up over something. Something soft. We didn’t rise far, only a couple inches, but we had definitely gone over something. I quickly checked the depth sounder and found that our depth was still over 50 feet. We looked behind us and Lulu noticed an eddy where our bump would have been. My first thought was that we had run over a whale. But, we waited and waited and nothing surfaced which pretty much ruled out marine mammals. My next thought was that it must have been a whale shark. They are very big, don’t breathe air, and have reportedly been seen in Conception Bay for the last several weeks. Hope I didn’t hurt him (or her). It was such a soft hit that I’m sure everyone’s OK. We had been watching the seas ahead of us on our approach and didn’t see anything so I can only hope he was 4 feet or so under water when we hit. BTW, the water is very murky right now.

We got into Coyote and dropped the hook in 25′ of water. By the time we let out plenty of chain and settled in, we were in 10′ of water and way too close to the beach for comfort. And, I suspected it was high tide as well. So, I dragged 120′ of chain and anchor aboard, hand-over-hand, and we relocated. This time I dropped the hook in 27′ but, once again, by the time everything was settled, we were once again too damn close to the beach. So, I dragged 120′ of chain and anchor aboard again, hand-over-hand. I’m giving serious thought to an electric windlass. We relocated to a spot further from shore and dropped the hook in 30′ of water. By the time the hook set and the necessary scope was out, I was looking at retrieving 150′ this time. Fortunately, the hook was well set and we were far enough away from the beach for comfort and privacy (theirs and ours).

While we were letting the boat settle in, a guy in a panga pointed a whale shark out to us. It was swimming between the boat and the shore in probably 12-15 feet of water and not too far away. We were pretty jazzed at that. A little later, we spotted another one and Lulu hopped in the dinghy and rowed over to check it out. She got close enought that it swam rght under the dinghy. We saw several more go by but they were a little farther away. Finally, another one came really close to us and we both jumped in the dink. We managed to get right up to it but it was hard to maintain position because there were several kayaks also paddling around it. The water was too murky to get a decent photo but this thing was huge. He just went on and on. The other boats decided to stay with him but we opted to head back to Siempre Sabado. I’m really torn on this issue. On the one hand, I love seeing these creatures up close. On the other hand, I hate to join the throngs of boats harassing them. Decided that I’m not going to go after them anymore unless there are no other boats around and I can keep a respectful distance. And, we don’t use the outboard, only oars.

Lulu decided that she was going to try to swim with one if it came close enough. I figured her chances were pretty slim as, by now, there were way too many kayaks, boats, and jet-skis chasing the whale sharks to make swimming near one feasible. But I was wrong. We spotted one up at the north end of the bay but the boats had already found it. Sometimes these fish get smart and submerge far enough not to be visible and stay submerged long enough so that they throw their chasers off the scent. That’s what happened this time. I was in the cockpit and Lulu was below. All of a sudden I spotted a whale shark directly between us and the beach. I called Lulu up, quietly as no one else seemed to have seen it yet, and pointed it out. She swam over to try to cross its path while I spotted from the boat. She actually got right up to it and was able to swim alongside it a ways before a kayaker spotted her and joined the fun. The whale shark eventually got away from them but then, on his way back to shore, the kayaker spotted another one, as did I. I directed Lulu to it and, once again she got to swim alongside. She said that this one was incredibly long. Like, she was alongside, stopped to clear her goggles and, when she went back underwater, it was still passing her. She was disappointed that the water was so murky but, after all, the cause of all that murk, plankton, is why these creatures are here in the first place.

She came back aboard and we watched more of them pass by. We completely lost count of how many passed the boat or how often the same ones passed again and again. Pretty freakin’ awesome afternoon.

And, Happy Birthday to brother Rod. Welcome to the 60s, bro’.

Later:

I’m so glad I didn’t post this right after I wrote it. I decided to wait until after the Southbound Evening Net before posting. And then it was time for dinner. Anyway, after dinner, we were sitting out in the cockpit enjoying the cool breeze after the 90 degree day. All of a sudden Lulu said, “He’s right here!” I, of course, said “Who’s right here?” She said, “There’s a whale shark right next to the boat!” I grabbed my camera and looked where she was pointing. There was indeed a whale shark right next to the boat. By the time I got there, he was heading towards the bow. I think he may have swum underneath the keel. Anyway, I got no photos since the water clarity is crap but it was so cool to see one so close. That’s just what we’d been hoping would happen. We watched him for a little bit as it looked like he might circle the boat but we eventually lost sight of him and went on to do other things. Not sure what I was doing a few minutes later but I looked over the side and he was back and RIGHT ALONGSIDE SIEMPRE SABADO! I alerted Lulu and tried to take a photo. You can see him under the dinghy in the photo but it’s very unimpressive. We watched him swim along the side of the boat, partially under it. Then we felt a little nudge. I think he was scratching his back on our hull! Thinking back, we’d both felt similar nudges during dinner but didn’t think too much about them. But just imagine you’re a whale shark with an itchy back. The very first thing you have to do is find something, anything above you that will more or less stay in place while you exert a little pressure against it. Not too many things to pick from but a heavy boat would certainly suffice. And, since we’re the only boat in the anchorage, well…. We waited for him to return but he didn’t. Guess it was time to go home to mama and the kids.

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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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7 Responses to 4/16/2014 – Ballenas Tiburones

  1. Shelly says:

    That does sound pretty freakin’ awesome. What a treat to be that close to the sharks.

  2. What a great thing. I get being torn about getting too close to these incredible animals. We have the same dilemma with Orcas. Good on ya for giving them some space. You were rewarded with a personal visit.

  3. fo4444@aol.com says:

    LOVE this post. About how long were they? Also… just heard about an earthquake near Acapulco. Hope all is well. Adele

    • sryoder says:

      The whale sharks we saw were in the 15 to 30 foot range, maybe even a little bigger. The big one that Lulu swam with was definitely longer than our 28′ boat.

      No repercussions from the Acapulco earthquake up here.

  4. Sandy Holeman says:

    Obviously Whale Sharks don’t bite people, right? What an exciting adventure for you both – especially Lulu to swim alongside one!

    • sryoder says:

      The biggest danger would probably be getting sucked into their huge maws as they take in tons of plankton, and I’m not sure that’s even possible. That, or getting smacked by their tail. They’re very docile.

  5. Marci yoder says:

    This was exciting Thanks.

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