Sailing south with the whales

We left Piriapolis on Sunday after a few weeks of sorting Pelagic out following her winter refit. We left with a 10 knot forecast and for the last 48 hours we have had very pleasant motor sailing weather, an ideal way to start a trip on a vessel which we are both trying to learn the layout of.

At lunchtime on Tuesday (still motor sailing on) I was on watch and saw in the distance, two puffs of spray in the distance. I put the helm over to head towards them and once I saw the spouts again I woke Bertie. Coming on deck we glanced around looking again for the spout, finally they surfaced and Bertie was ready with the camera. As we crept slowly up to them we were debating the type, confirming after they had broken the surface a couple of times that they were larger than Minke’s and were in fact Sei whales. A mother and calf. We gently followed them for a while until they headed off at a pace we couldn’t keep up with and resumed our migration south. Throughout the day I have been lucky enough to see whales spouting in the distance, all of them on the horizon though until just before dinner.

Midway through the afternoon the breeze built enough from astern for us to think about sailing properly, we had already poled out the jib but we still required a little help from the engine to keep us moving forward at a reasonable pace. With 10knots of apparent behind us we went into neutral before switching off the donkey. What a relief it is to finally just hear water rushing past the head as you lie in bed.

Whilst on the helm I saw a spout on the horizon ahead of us; I headed up a couple of degrees and waited until a second confirmed it, I called Bertie and she came out of the companionway looking off to starboard into the sun where I had last seen the mist. As we were staring into the distance we suddenly heard a blow from out to our port side, there was the lone Sei whale I had seen in the distance only he was a couple of boatlengths away and looking larger than us! He stayed with us for a short while, occasionally switching which side of us he would pop up on before getting bored of us cruising along at a leisurely 6 knots.

We managed to sail throughout the night, with only one prolonged lull that had us start the engine for a few short minutes. By my dawn watch the breeze had built to 25knots from a little aft of the beam with some little waves to try and catch. It was good fun helming in these conditions before the wind suddenly came forward and a reef was required and our progress slowed. A few hours of this with the wind heading us and easing before in the middle of the afternoon I gave in and switched the engine back on returning us to the monotonous droneƉ

Just as I was about to press send for this, Bertie knocked back the revs thinking she had seen something, I glanced around and once again, fairly close was a Sei whale but unfortunately for us he was heading north and wasn’t in the mood to play.

About David

David Roberts is the skipper of sailing yacht Pelagic, a charter expedition yacht working in Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn areas.
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One Response to Sailing south with the whales

  1. David says:

    After closer studying the books, we now think that it was a Fin whale that was heading north, not a Sei.

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