I love the bonus dolphin pic! That was one of the most moving parts of the trip for me. When we started the loop on January 15, 2022, I don’t know if Maggie and I were clinically depressed, but we were as down as we have been in our whole lives. We were starting to break out of it, but cutting down through Alabama with record low temperatures and near flood conditions, we were frazzled and lonely, and running on empty. Enter the dolphin encounter. Here’s what I said in the book:
Still running at ten or eleven miles per hour, our wake was absolutely huge. Our pressure wave on the bow was tiny as it always was. I noticed the dolphins coming in, and I opened the cabin door at the back of the boat and ran out to our cockpit. I peeked around the corner of the cabin toward the bow, irrationally wanting to avoid scaring off the huge mammals. That’s where I knew we’d encounter dolphins. And then…
I waited for a minute, and then two. Finally, I came to grips with reality. The shape of our boat or the temperature of the water or the color of the hull, or something, was wrong, and we’d not see dolphins that day, or maybe ever. In my childish disappointment, I turned around in a huff away from the bow just in time to see a dolphin, suspended in the air, almost hit me in the face less than two feet away.
It did a half-pirouette and fell back into the water just below the waves. I could then see the silver shadow just beneath the surface, slicing back and forth, surfing our wake! Like so many times before, I’d been looking in precisely the worst direction to see what was happening.
I exploded with involuntary laughter. The raw joy of the moment was indescribable. I enjoyed the show for five long minutes, and then ran inside and took the wheel so Maggie could experience the same thing. I knew Maggie, so I could read her joy by the way she stood, the shape of the shoulders, the excitement in the movements. Even a quick glance at her back told me what she was experiencing.
The dolphins leapt, spun, surfed, and twirled a mere ten feet behind the boat. Little did I know that this was the warm-up act.
We slowly dialed in the speed and let the dolphins fall in. A full pod of them came in to play with us. Three adults would leap in unison close enough to touch, their noses passing mere inches behind the back of the boat as they disappeared into the turbulence. When they leapt, we saw their blow holes and facial features clearly as they angled one way and twisted to the other.
My feelings were strangely similar to the love I experienced watching my fully grown daughter surfing our wake a year ago on a cheap kneeboard behind our pontoon. The welcome joy and nostalgia piled up moment by moment.
Over the next half hour, the dolphins stayed with us. Maggie and I swapped back and forth to share the love and joy of the moment. The three bigger mammals stayed close, just a foot or two behind the swim platform. Four or five mid-sized ones moved back and forth between the various contours of the waves, jets, and bubbles that made up Currently’s wake. Ten or fifteen feet back on the smaller waves skimmed the youngsters of the pod, popping out a foot or two with tentative jumps only seconds apart.
The whole encounter moved me more than I expected it to. I don’t know what I imagined or what was real, but looking into the eyes of those beautiful beasts touched my soul in ways that absolutely floored me. I started to film, hesitated, then put down my phone and allowed the joy to slowly seep in.
When it was all done, I sat dumbfounded, Maggie in the back and me at the helm with tears freely streaming down my face. I wiped them off, embarrassed with the show of emotion. The welcome feelings were strange to me. How can I describe them to you?
I just melted. The tension and cold from the past three weeks just thawed and slid away. The Covid isolation and injury from the past two years just cracked and dissolved away to nothing.
That was the high point of my loop. Margaret, I can’t thank you enough for you and the rest of the Prags giving me the opportunity to tell this story to this audience. We need to talk about mental heath more in programming. We need to break more, and laugh more, and disengage more, and dream more. This story is my attempt to do all of these things, and tell the story to a community and profession I love deeply.