Dylan had recently moved to Charleston from Wisconsin. We were clearing out of the harbor on a saltwater fishing boat, when he spotted dolphins in the distance, pointing at their dorsal fins gracing the surface. I didn't turn my head, didn't think twice about glancing in their direction. But Dylan, he was jazzed. He watched until they swam out of view. I hadn't realized how numb I had become to the presence of dolphins, but working as a kayak guide equated to frequent visitation from the friendly bottlenoses.
Our fishing boat flew into the open sea. I was schooled in the natural history and basics of Charleston's coastal waters through kayak training, but I rarely ventured out of sight of land. And I was by no means a fisherman. I spent the day learning from the crew of macho men who considered me, the lone female on board, to be a good luck charm. The double catches I kept reeling in proved their superstitions to be true.
Some of the guys donned wetsuits and scuba gear in hopes of spearing some sea life. We took turns tracking their bubbles as they submerged, as it was our best indicator that all was well below the surface. I was amazed by the creatures they were catching and the peace that came with no land in sight. As the sun nudged toward the horizon, we started the cleanup process. We sat down to escape the roar of the wind as the boat sped off back toward to harbor.
The day was already more epic than a typical day as a Charleston local. I was content with the water, the waves, and the colors of the sunset colliding. Then I saw it: a dorsal fin in the distance. I was reaching over to poke Dylan and calmly apologize for neglecting to be excited about dolphins earlier, but screamed gibberish instead as more than twenty fins popped up to the surface. My pointing toward the horizon shifted into a scramble for everyone to get a good view of the parade.
The captain looked at us like a bunch of loons. "A bunch of...holy..."
The captain reeled the wheel all the way left, careening the boat as we turned sharply in the direction of the pod that had grown to more like forty dolphins.
"I'm going in." Dylan had already stripped off his shirt, throwing supplies out of his path as he searched for scuba goggles.
But he was set. We kept shouting directions to the captain as he maneuvered the boat closer tot he pod. As the vessel cruised into the midst of the pod, the dolphins jumped, twisted, and dove. This was Plant Earth material. We'd lost track of how many there could be. We were surrounded.
We heard a cannonball splash. Dylan was in the water. I let out a middle school girl shriek, unable to decide if it was dangerous or too good to be true. I threw my trucker hat to the side, slipped off my sandals, and bombed into the water. Dolphins everywhere!!
The pod was moving quickly- we were awful swimmers in comparison. We decided to climb aboard again, yelling, "Follow them!" As we caught back up, I laid down on the deck and reached my hands down towards the crashing waves. The bottlenoses carved through the water in rhythm with the bow of the boat. The boat bobbed up and down as it cut through the waves, teasing us as our hands stayed just out of reach of their glossy fins.
We had no idea where they were headed, but we knew we were witnessing a scene few ever experience. Eventually the pod broke up and moved out and away from the boat. But we were smitten. Serious dolphin lovers all over again.
I grabbed my hat and sat back down. Dylan popped his head up and grinned. "We see them all the time, huh?"
"Not like that we don't!"
Leah Andersen is a chaser of words and adventure. She recently moved from Charleston to Buena Vista, CO where she spends her time climbing mountains, rafting rivers, and selling gear to outdoor types who do the same. She loves the Lord and being on the water (whether she is steering a raft on the Arkansas River or paddling a surfboard in the Atlantic Ocean). She smells like frankincense and can be commonly found singing off key. She makes a mean Guacamole, and is ready to share some of her adventures and thoughts on life with you.