Dolphin Days

Paddling Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia

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Dolphin Days September 2, 2006
First we saw one Then a few more Then even more
they came close and closer and closer
< Big Boy going back under

A pelican takes off >

Other dolphin encounters can be seen at Cape Henlopen Point and Father's Day

For some local flavored background on the Atlantic Bottle Nose follow this link.

September 2, 2006

Again I was out solo at Cape Henlopen.  This time I was hugging the beach, as I was trying out my daughterís long, skinny, lower volume boat and a wide paddle for the possibility of using them in the Wye race.  The carrying toggle was dragging in the water so I paddled over to a lady on a SOT to ask her if she would mind tucking it under the deck lines for me.  As we exchanged pleasantries we became aware of some movement near the red light house.  It was a dolphin, then a couple of more, and then a whole lot more.  The dolphin were all around us, a couple even swam between our boats.  The lady was new to kayaking and had not been this close to dolphin before.  We were both pretty excited, but she admitted she would have been pretty nervous had we not been together, and Iíd have missed them if I hadnít asked her to fix my bow.  A lucky coincidence.  I wanted to get more pictures.  I had been out here with a friend last weekend and while we had a great time playing the waves and currents we saw no dolphin.  I wanted proof they existed.  Besides I have this nifty new camera that I thought I had all figured out, so I headed out to the point while the lady returned to the beach with a good story to tell.

Around the point was further than I really wanted to take this boat/paddle combination.  The combination did not make for a very steady ride and I did not feel in good control of either.  The water looked relatively calm, so I thought why not.  I knew the tide was getting ready to switch from low to high and that this area can turn really squirrelly in just a few minutes, but the surf wasnít bad and I figured worse case Iíd beach it and walk it around the point.  Iím glad I did because the dolphin put on quite a display for me.  Swimming at me, under me, and behind me.  They were close enough that when they blew I could easily hear them and frequently smell them too.  They were doing flips and tail smacks a little off in the distance.  Not that the pictures show squat.  I'm still getting accustomed to my Pentax Optio and somewhere along the way I hit the zoom button and I donít have much else to show except for close ups of water.  After some time unknowingly taking fruitless pictures and generally enjoying the show, I became aware that from the shore the park rangers were watching us.  Now I admit to paddling after them, but I always maintained a respectable distance and stopped paddling altogether when it was obvious they had circled around and were checking me out.  So I wasnít technically molesting or harassing them.  But since Iíd had enough of twitching in the boat, I thought I would show the rangers good faith and pull away back and head in. 

 Iíve been out surfing many times this month with some fine paddlers.  Iím glad they werenít with me today because I couldnít do much of anything.  Iíve seen Sweet Pea do great with this same boat, but with both of my legs entirely asleep and this wide paddle, I just wanted to get in upright.  Itís too bad because they would have been some of great waves to surf.  In calmer water I was able to get one leg up at a time, still when I finally came in, it felt good to get them both out and just let them dangle in the water.  I swear Iíll learn this camera yet.  And next time I will be back with my boat and my stick paddle. 


From July 29th 2003

I wanted to take my kayak around the Cape Henlopen point Sunday morning; with a high tide and a breeze out of the SW, I was expecting a pleasant trip.  It was a last minute decision to go and I could get no takers for an early morning paddle, so solo it was.  After negotiating my way from the parking lot and down the path, I left the beach just in time to see the Kalmar Nyckel, Delawareís very own tall ship, pull out from the Lewes-Cape May ferry terminal under sail.  What a beautiful site, sails billowing and cutting an impressive profile as it came out of the harbor.  I hoped to it would come my way a bit further than it did but it was still magnificent under sail even from a distance.  Sweet Pea and I have paddled up to it in the past while it was in dock; actually I drifted into it with a thud.  We marveled at it and dreamed of how it might have been to sail it across the Atlantic.  Fully content, I then headed east to the point, a little squirrelly turbulence where the currents converge, but all in all a relatively light chop.  We have been in 6-foot standing waves during the change from low to high tides here and at other times weíve been able to paddle right up to fisherman just a few feet from shore.  Today looked to be a fairly uneventful paddle around the point, at least uneventful from the standpoint of the water.  As I rounded the tip I saw a dorsal fin, and then another.  Dolphins are certainly not that unusual in this area; itís good fishing here, both for surf fisherman and these fun-loving beings.  What unfolded in the next few minutes was different though; not just a few dolphins, but a good-sized pod of them perhaps close to a dozen or so.  As I watched them play, I became aware of another large pod approaching.  Iím just watching and not paddling, my heart was racing with excitement and awe.  These delightful creatures were having fun; they are doing back flips, jumping in the air, and swimming under the boat.  Mommas were swimming with her calves.  Juveniles were frolicking with each other.  Iím very certain that the dolphin sentries were watching me very closely, some were even curious about me and swam close by to give me the eye, and a big dark eye it was.  They had young ones with them and Iím sure they were curious as to my intentions.  Perhaps they have seen kayakers before but were in awe themselves at seeing one made from wood instead of plastic.  I kept my paddle out of the water and tried to keep a respectful distance.  It is however only a little disconcerting to see two or three coming toward you, dive under your boat and then appear on the other side.  One unseen fellow was close enough to surface and blow just behind me.  I could feel the turbulence created from his powerful body.  These animals are legendary in their playfulness, but this was not the movies and nor was it Sea World.  I was cautious not to move in anyway that may be threatening to them, and to let them come to me.  I considered it an honor just to be this close.  The tide was carrying us south slowly along the coast, and with a stroke here and there and I was moving right along with them.  My conniving mind was working overtime.  Perhaps I could just continue on down the coast and call Pam to pick me up in Rehoboth.   Better judgment prevailed and reason took over, Pam would probably still be asleep anyway.  Reluctantly I let them swim away and I turned around and headed back.  The breeze was picking up, 15-knot winds were predicted for late morning, and the bay was developing some chop.  The water was surprisingly cool for this time of year; it has dropped into the upper 60ís.  The ocean swells coming into the bay were moving too fast to get a long ride, but they were fun and it was good to be back in ďbigĒ water.  The pilot boat was coming out and I looked to see if I knew anyone.  I didnít.  How does such a small boat leave such a big wake?  But it provided more surfing action so I didnít ponder the question too long.  Just as I was rounding the point again a third pod appeared.  This one looked like a small group just a couple swimming together; perhaps they belonged to one of the other pods.  I smiled again in delight.  Then just as if they were performing for me, five rolled to the surface, first the nose, then the body and finally the fluke disappeared as they dove back under in perfect sync.  Maybe this really is The Sea World.  I stopped paddling and they continued playing around me.  More surfaced and again I was carefully checked out and presumably deemed of no threat and as they continued on with their water frolics.  There were at least two with one young dolphin each swimming at their side.  Enchanting and mystical, I felt privileged indeed to have had the opportunity to share their world with them.  As I returned to the Cape Henlopen fishing pier, I passed a widely spaced group of paddlers on SOTs from the Parks recreational program heading out.  They were obviously new to paddling, heading out into deep choppy water, spread out over several hundred yards and a few were without a life vest on.  We passed pleasantries, each asking how the other was doing.  ďLovely, simply lovelyĒ I said, I would have liked to have told them more about the dolphins, but thought my new sea friends would have preferred that I didnít.  I would say something to the parks dept about paddling safety and did.  I continued in, beached, loaded up, drove to Haven Road and paddled with some good friends.  A good day, a lovely day actually.  Chris



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Last modified: 07/17/15