1101. Tacking Through Life to Save the Dolphins
“I had a life-changing event when I had a close encounter with three dolphins off the coast of Bimini. I was hanging off the bow of a 65-foot terra cement boat. This was before GPS, so I was being dragged in the water with a snorkel on, looking for The Blockade Runner, the last sailboat that was sunk while trying to get stuff to the South during the Civil War. A dolphin came up within 18 inches of my face mask and looked at me. I thought it was trying to communicate to me. And then there was a second dolphin, maybe about five to eight feet off, and then a third dolphin 20 feet off. A guy on the boat thought they was sharks, and he did a cannon ball off the other side of the boat to scare them away. I know today that what happened was, the one that came closest to me was a female because she had the huge bulge of a baby dolphin in her belly. The second dolphin would have been an aunty who would be there when the dolphin is born. If there are any problems, she would take the baby up to the surface to breathe. The third dolphin would be either a male or female who would be watching for shark attacks. By the way, to know the difference between a shark and a dolphin, if it comes up to the surface and the fin goes back down, that’s a dolphin breathing. If the fin keeps on the surface of the water, that’s a shark, and you should get out of the water as quickly as you can without splashing on the surface because that’s an indication to a shark of a sick or dying thing, and it might come at you. Anyway, I wanted to get to know dolphins more after that, and the next big step for me was to sell some tracks of land I had invested in during my earlier years in real estate. I bought a 51-foot sailboat up above Detroit, sailed it down to the Virgin Islands, got a captain’s license, and tried to make a living by chartering my sailboat for the next four and a half years. I couldn’t really make a living at it, but it was a lot of fun doing it! I could work with scientists some and observe dolphins a lot during that time period. But then I had to come back and work another 10 years in real estate to make enough money to retire at the age of fifty-four, when I sailed off for 11 years on a 38-foot sailboat.”
Penn Clarke, the author of “Dolphins & Penn: Tacking Through Life,” is passionate about dolphins, sailing, and travel. He has studied dolphins since a close encounter with three of them in the Bahamas in 1976. Penn is the founder of the non-profit Dolphin Relief and Research. His volunteer efforts include work with scientists studying the health of dolphins in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts. Tacking through life with its joys and trials is made better by the dolphins Penn encounters while living aboard his sailboats for 15 years, traveling around the world four times, and his numerous side trips.
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