The gannets started it.
We were about three miles off Polperro, heading towards an invisible Rame Head. Low cloud was hiding the cliff-tops, cutting the view with an unnatural straight line. The colours of the day were shades of grey. There was no one but us and a lone fishing boat, some way ahead off Looe Island.
In theory, 090 degrees would place us just south of Rame, but not in this wind, in this tide, in this visibility, at this speed – 020 (if she would head that) to take us well south until we could see it.
We had been watching the gannets since we left Fowey, their brilliant white backs shining, contrasting with the ink black tips of their long narrow wings – not fishing but flying in two and threes, vigilantly, almost lazily.
All at once, everything changed. Action crackled in the air.
Over there, they were diving.
“Dolphin!” Tony, at the helm, pointing towards the shore.
“There’s another . . . . and another . . . . they’re everywhere!”
Sure enough, everywhere you looked, a dark, finned, back would rise easily out the water and slip back, leaving an emptier surface . . . to be replaced by others near and far.
I grabbed the camera, forgot to put it on video record and went forward.
From the pulpit, I watched three dolphins, two of them twisting around each other, shoot under the bow, then another – not breaking the surface – just looking. Out of the corner of my eye, not six feet away, a shiny back had turned and was swimming alongside us. Two more crossed beneath me.
The sea was full of movement. The excitement was contagious, you could put out a hand and feel it. You could smell it.
The dolphins were doing what comes naturally, of course – herding a shoal of (probably) mackerel. Spinning it around, pushing it, playing with it. Lunch in grand style.
In the few minutes it took us to appreciate the moment, they were gone, moving west behind us – all that activity rapidly slipping astern. We quietened down. Time to put the kettle on and talk about it.
Forget our strictly human feelings, we just happened to be there, a bit part in a world that is bigger than us, older than us – one that constantly needs tending.
But . . . to stand at the bow of your own boat in a sea full of dolphins!! Can it get much better than that?