Having read your YW article on whale encounters, I thought that you (or please pass on to whomever) may want to make note of these encounters as logged by me, each about 400NM east of the Azores heading towards N Spain, wind F3/4, sea slight, sunnyish day, easy sailing, boat speed around 5 knots.
1) June 2004, single handed, 33 ' Wauquiez Gladiateur, light blue antifouled hull:
When I first heard the exhalation of the whale, it was to leeward and sounded quite close. It was close, about forty metres away.
The whale was moving closer and was certainly longer than the boat. Its tail could be seen quite clearly and the bow wave from its head seemed to impart a worrying deliberation to get closer. I felt the boat move, not a lurch, but a gentle movement sideways from the displaced water as the whale moved ahead of the bow to appear on the starboard side almost below the tumblehome. Then we were pushed, not much, but there was contact. You can’t call “starboard” on a whale, so I switched on the engine and the echo-sounder.
Whatever the whale had thought we were, maybe a rival suitor, a predator on its young, we were a threat no more. Our vocal response had changed our sonar signature. The whale moved off.
2) July 2008, single handed, 40 ' Gib 'Sea 402, dark blue antifouled hull.
Suddenly I had company. More than I wanted.
The first whale to exhale and show its presence was no more than thirty metres away on the port side. The second whale was about twenty-five metres away and moving determindly towards us. The third whale was on the starboard side about twenty metres away. There were probably another seven or eight as closely grouped ahead and astern. Morgan Le Fay was in the middle. These were fin whales. Huge leviathans over fifteen metres long. Capable of damage. Capable of capsizing a yacht. Each individual animal was heavier than my yacht. These animals, probably peaceful, can be clumsy in their curiousity. But were they being defensive? Did they know that we were a yacht and meant no harm? Or were we perceived as a threat?
I switched on the engine and the echo-sounder and hoped that they would go away. They did.
My reaction to the first encounter was slight worry, my reaction to the second was of considerable concern.
Hope this helps.
'Morgan Le Fay '
Vice Commodore, OCC