Three Peas in a Pod

by · October 20, 2009

Two weeks ago ‘Jo, I, and Bosun traveled over to Channel Islands Harbor to sail with Captain Howie and his group, The Socal Potters. It’s a seven hour trip for us to get over there with Dauntless in tow but it’s a trip we’ve made every year for the last four years. In fact, it was the first place and time that we actually launched Dauntless after acquiring her and having to do major repair work. So, it’s kind of like an anniversary every time we go.

We usually stay for 3 or 4 days and the group either sails out to Anacapa Island or up to Ventura, or both. Well, this year the wind just didn’t cooperate. A high pressure system set-up right over us. Temps soared (for the coast anyway) and winds dropped. On Saturday morning the group assembled to head the 11 or 12 miles offshore to Anacapa. There was no wind…..none. Hoping that as we got offshore the breezes would pick up, off we went under motor. Jo and I weren’t planning on going the whole way, anyway, but we were hoping to head out with the group and find some sailing. It wasn’t to be had.

We were trailing behind the main group that was pushing to make time for the trip out to the island. A couple of other boats were in the vicintiy of us. Suddenly we were surrounded by a pod of dolphins. Not 5 or 10, or even 15 or 25, but lots of them. They were everywhere. We circled around to stay in the area. As I turned the boat the dolphins that were riding our bow turned with us. I looked over at Howie’s boat, Sweet Thing II, and the same thing was happening to them. Craig in his P-19 was experiencing the same thing.

We played with these guys for well over an hour, circling around they would jump from our boat to Howie’s, then Craig’s, then back to ours. They’d split up and give us all a group of our own and then all converge into one group again. As they would swim alongside the boat you could literally see them looking at you. You could see them switch their gaze from me in the cockpit to ‘Jo on the bow. It was amazing. I’ve seen it before, but never for such a prolonged time. Their motion through the water was effortless and they could speed away from us at will….but then they’d come back! Occasionally you could even hear their high pitched sonar sounds they make.

The entire episode lasted well over an hour. Eventually we turned for home as the pod started moving on.

Motoring back to the harbor was a time of reflection for me. In my everyday life I sometimes find myself so caught up in things. Like so many of folks out there, recent times at work have involved budget cuts, manpower shortages, and leadership that at times seems so out of touch with reality that it’s hard to believe. Power struggles within the organization disgust me, especially when they lead to decisions the are made for entirely the wrong reasons. I came looking to find a get away from the whole situation and turn my brain off for a while. I knew a good stiff ocean breeze would distract me, at least for the short time that we’d be there.

 I didn’t find that breeze……
What I found was better. That pod of dolphins opened my eyes. My focus has been on such a microcosm that my viewpoint has been skewed. All these people that I have been so frustrated with, the ones that are the "movers and shakers" (at least in their eyes), the ones that make the decisions based on personal motivations rather than the good of all, the ones that abuse their power to attack anyone that challeges their motivations, regardless of the damage it may do…they are only kidding themselves. They are big fish in a very little pond. Yes, in this little town of 50,000 people they have the power to do what they do….but in the overall picture they are little people and inconsequential. There is a great big world out there that moves along whether we know it or not. That pod of dolphins is somewhere out there in the Pacific, right now as I type this. They are hunting for food, giving birth to and raising their young, and playing on someone else’s bow wake. The pod lives on with no ill will towards anything. Their motivations are pure. Acquire what is neccessary to support their own. Period. They don’t destroy their own environment. They don’t seek to acquire perceived wealth or worry about their own self-importance. It makes me think that maybe they look at us (humans) in amazement…of our ingnorance as a race. It made me wish that my world was more like theirs.

We returned to the dock early. Most of the group had gone the whole way out to the island. With no wind, and our four legger (Bosun) aboard, we figured we’d head back, get some lunch, and let him make a pit stop.

As afternoon moved into evening the boats began returning. Everyone arrived back in the harbor and smiles and laughter soon filled the docks. An impromptu dock party began. Someone decided we needed pizza and soon six or seven pizzas were being devoured by the group. The finger dock between Dauntless‘ starboard side and Sweet Thing‘s port side became "The Spot".

People were sitting on the boats, on the dock, in beach chairs, or just milling around the group. Open pizza boxes covered the concrete dock. Multiple conversations could be heard at any one time, all interspersed with laughter and joy.


Pizza boxes on the ground, chips and salsa on the cabin tops, drinks for everyone……soon crews from other boats nearby, not even associated with our group  began to mosey over. They were welcomed with open arms and joined in on the the feeding frenzy.

As darkness set in, Bosun indicated it was time for a walk. He and I took a little stroll up the dock and through the park like surroundings of the harbor area. The whole time we were walking my mind was thinking about the dolphins. We walked for about 20 minutes before returning to the docks. The tide was out making the docks quite a bit lower than the walkway above. As we came down the gangway to the dock I could see the whole scene from above. All the crews were there in the dim rays provided by the dock lights. There were so many conversations going on that it was difficult to pick out just one from a distance. Someone had turned some music on in the background. Every body was eating, laughing, and moving about. One second there would be a group by Dauntless‘ bow and Sweet Thing‘s stern, then as the laughter continued the group mingled around and reformed on Sweet Thing‘s bow and Dauntless‘ stern. Then everyone momentarily got on the same conversation and an uproarious laughter was heard before they broke up into indiscernable conversation and reformed their groups again.

Right then it hit me: I’d seen this before—I’d found my Pod 😉

Thanks gang I needed that.

Casting off

—Sean Mulligan

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