Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins

By Kelly Osborn

Dolphins!!! I’ve been tossing about what to write here for the past several days, thoughtfully considering which experiences I should share, what angle to take. Between a busy schedule on board and a computer blip, there hasn’t been a good opportunity to post until this afternoon. (Well, there was last evening, but I was dog tired and had a 3 am to 6 am watch coming up…) But then, just as I was about to go below to start putting my ideas down on “paper”, dolphins happened!

My friends and family will understand why a pod of 7-10 dolphins playfully jumping above the surface to get a closer look at us would be THE highlight of my week. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I work with all sorts of wild mammals. However, living in the Midwest limits my exposure somewhat. Dolphins! Someday, I hope to move to a coastal area and get involved in sea mammal rescue and rehabilitation. In the meantime, I’ll get my fix seeing them healthy in the wild on trips like this. I’m one happy gal.

It is Thursday and we’ve been at sea since last Sunday. Leaving Bermuda was uneventful, though I was struck by the powerful, even emotional, memories of my last voyage on the Sea Dragon. In the summer of 2015, I was lucky to join an expedition organized by The Ocean Cleanup (TOC). (If you are reading this and don’t know about this organization, do yourself a big favor and look it up.) On board then was Boyan Slat, other TOC staff, volunteers and donors, as well as a German documentary film crew. Sea Dragon was packed and lively. We had a lot of scientific work to do. The experience – including the friendships made – have etched themselves into my psyche. Trips like this do that to a person. Scenes replayed in my mind and I was taken aback by melancholy as I realized that was a one-time experience. This is another one-time experience, with new scenes and friendships to be made. My husband is along for his first sailing expedition, so this time we can share the memories.

Sail, eat, sleep, repeat…. This trip has us on a 3-hour watch schedule. With only two persons per watch, I’ve gotten more time actually piloting Sea Dragon. The weather and the sea state has been variable, which means I’ve learned a lot more than last trip. Imogen and Tom, my watch partners have been imminently patient with my endless questions, providing guidance as different situations arise. I’ve learned not only that stalling the boat is not a good idea, but understand more how to chase pockets of wind on a fickle night. We’ve manoeuvred around squalls, mostly avoiding them, but occasionally catching the edge and getting a little wet. As a Midwesterner, the fact that you can see a storm coming far enough away to be able to drive around it boggles my mind. I’ve learned about sailing slightly off-course in order to take advantage of good wind, as well as how to make that up by tacking later. I know…all basic stuff to more experienced sailors.

So far, we’ve seen a couple of airplanes, one freighter, several schools of flying fish – including a rather large one that joined us on deck. The brilliant super moon kept us from experiencing the full darkness of the night sky out here, but the most spectacular moonrise I’ve witnessed has made up for it. Last night, the moon’s late rise allowed us to finally see bioluminescent plankton (yes, dad, they really do exist). Still hoping to see a Portuguese man-o-war float past (I just think they are cool). Of course, sighting larger whales would be amazing as well. But dolphins! We saw dolphins!!!