Les Dauphins

Dolphins were among the first wild creatures we saw on Quest. We left from Milford Haven in the afternoon, and met a large pod of dolphins that same night off the Welsh coast. They came as gasps of breath. I remember Fin, our dog, jumping in surprise. She’d been lying on the cockpit floor, sliding from side to side with Quest rocking in the waves. Our ears pricked up.

Fin and I looked at each other – and then down at the water. A greenish gleam of dolphin skin popped up beside us. It was covered in glowing phosphorescence. We watched the dolphin’s blowhole fill with air, like a belly button which wasn’t closed.

Fin eventually lay back down on the floor. I remember getting a bathmat for her with a sticky base so she’d stop sliding. She lay on that bath mat for the next two years – until the day she flew home.

We saw dolphins at different points in the Atlantic. A pod of grey dolphins which mirrored the sky rounding westerly Finisterre. A few times in the middle of the Atlantic, they came to bow ride with us. But less on this side in the Caribbean.

We’d heard of a dolphin pod hanging around Bonaire. Indeed, Shona had swum with them during the cruisers’ dinghy drift in December. When I heard the news. Not jealous. Not jealous at all!

We were lucky not to miss them. In the middle of a busy school morning; Lu doing Hong Kong as a Geography case study. Delph 20 minutes away from starting French class. And she takes a while to prepare for French. No joke for this child.

Jack and I had only popped outside to do some chore – and saw them. Cruising past slowly, a pod of ten or so dorsal fins, just off the back of Quest. Before I blinked, I grabbed the masks and snorkels. Let’s go. No time even to get changed.

You should have seen Delph’s face. ‘But I have French class.’

‘Delph, we have never swim with dolphins. Ever.’

‘But I have French.’

We bundled her into the dinghy. Taking Delph to the dentist would have been easier. In the end, Jack had to threaten a lifetime device ban to get her to put her dive mask on. Just a normal Ormerod outing then. At the same time, he manoeuvred the dinghy so the dolphins would come towards us. We waited – and splash. All of us, including Delphine jumped in.

The dolphins came sliding past. We didn’t have much time. The water filled with their clicks and whistles. Their noise became touch. Straight through you. They twisted their bodies in greeting, and carried on. Dived down and were gone.

Amazingly, we climbed back into Edna and got back to Quest in time for the beginning of French class! It felt we’d been gone much longer.

‘Are you glad you dived with them?’ I asked Delph today.

She shrugged, but then she nodded. Wow. For our Delph, most stubborn person on Quest and possibly the Earth, that’s proper glad then. Merci les dauphins 💕

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