Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona on February 3, 1973 · Page 39
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Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona · Page 39

Tucson, Arizona
Issue Date:
Saturday, February 3, 1973
Page 39
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a£*bfr ·tez~~1y*w$^"ffi v^4-\r *·* - Sailor von Isser grabbed his camera after the whale made a couple of passes. "He was big, very big," he noted at the time. Somewhere out there Aldine Baby, my sloop, has a friend. The Mend is a whale. They became acquainted during two weeks of single-handing on the Sea of Cortez. We were four hours out of Guardian Angel Island en route to Dog Bay on- Tiberon Island. The knot meter read about two, in light air, but due to tidal current several bearings had confirmed that speed over the bottom was in reverse. It was going to be a long passage. The sound of whales spouting, common enough on the Gulf, was a welcome diversion. On this quiet day two. or three long, black shapes usually could be seen. . Normally, whales intercepted by sailboats simply continue on their way or shyly 66 A few minutes later I noticed the whale had changed course" submerge until a prudent distance is re-established. In the habit of Mexican fishermen, who want no part of whales, we have frequently given way to these mighty leviathans even when the rules of the road didn't require it. Later on, the whale, who was to become our companion, slowly passed at right angles some 100 yards ahead. I watched him with casual in- .terest. I believe I spoke some sort of greeting. After nearly two weeks alone, and this my third single-handed Gulf sojourn, I was no longer self- conscious about talking aloud to myself or to anything else. The whale was soon clear and forgotten. I twiddled the autopilot knob and went back 1x reading. A few. minutes later I noticed the whale had changed course. He was now paralleling us going the opposite way. I began paying attention. He next surfaced, then sounded 50 yards astern, heading toward v us beneath Aldine Baby's '"gentle wake. I dived for the camera. After a suspenseful wait he reappeared well ahead. I told him out loud to mind that Aldine Baby has a five- foot draft. I had no trouble remembering that many mysterious disappearance on Isng distance races and ocean passages were thought to be the result of collision with whales. While I didn't expect him to .return, for good -measure the outboard was fired up to make clear Aldine Baby was not one of his own kind. But the engine seemed to act like a magnet. He made another wide, leisurely 360, spouted 100 feet astern and homed in on the fantail once more. Though submerged, he left a path of swirls and eddys on the surface. Standing on the rail I looked deep into the A Gray Moby Meets An Ashen Ahab By Anthony von Isser water trying to spot him. He came in view perhaps six or eight feet down and along the port side, moving just faster than the boat. He was big. Very big. Very, very big! Or maybe my boat was just smaller than I thought. I had turned on a tape recorder trying to record the sound' of his blow and thus recorded my own words and feelings of the moment: "Whale, I don't blame you for being attracted to Aldine Baby's smooth, white bottom, "I really wasn't overjoyed with this attention" but hear me well -- she's mine and she's a boat! You can look but you can't touch! (Pause) Please . . . Sir . . . Excellency . . . Your Highness . . ." He finally surfaced too far ahead for a picture or recording. But the next pass was different. It was a plain, old-fashioned buzz job. I couldn't see where he came from but he surfaced and spouted while crossing the bow only six feet ahead! I captured both the photo and the sound, as well as spray from his blow hole complete in all its pungent glory. I told him he'd never make it with Aldine Baby without first inhaling a bucket or two of Listerine. The friendly whale stayed with us about four hours. He seldom came as close as on those first few passes, but there was no doubt we were being squired all the while. I really wasn't overjoyed with this attention. Our fate seemed to hinge entirely upon his judgment and sense of decency. There was little to be done other than run* the motor and raise the keel, neither of which seemed to make any difference to him. When night came we were sailing easily in light air under overcast skies. It was very dark. The sound of spouting whales was all around. By looking deep into the water the phosphorescent outline of whales, porpoises and schools of fish frequently could be seen followed *y luminous streaks' of turbulence. The sea beneath was busy and aglow. It was like looking down from an airplane at night upon a network · of highways. The sight was a wonder, .the feeling spooky. I nervously assumed Aldine Baby's own luminous outline would clearly mark her presence but hoped it wouldn't provoke. It didn't. Our whale had gone his own way, and I was almost sorry. He had been a companion on a lonely sea. No harm had come. It had been a fascinating, unusual experience. Besides, it's nice, in a different sort of way. to feel wanted by a whale. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1973 TUCSON DAILY CITIZEN PAGE 3

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