Ian Jory has been sailing all his life, but nothing compares to the close encounter with a whale he and his wife experienced off the coast of Palos Verdes earlier this month that left his boat dry docked with a damaged hull.
The couple was returning from Catalina Island on their 31-foot Hunter sailboat when a thick fog settled in. They dropped the sails and were using the motor when Jory at the helm and his wife at the bow spotted what looked like a Blue Whale.
Jory put the boat into neutral and sat there for a few minutes. Then in a flash another whale surfaced out of nowhere.
“All of a sudden there was this big crash and a whale was surfacing from behind on the port bow,” Jory said. “I saw its eye as big as a soccer ball and it was coming up,” Jory said.
As the whale came up it scraped along the hull and actually lifted the sailboat four or five feet out of the water.
“It wasn’t attacking us,” Jory said. “I don’t think it knew we were there because as soon as it hit us it took off sideways, sort of fipped off to the left and off it went.”
Jory estimated the whale to be about 50-feet long, making it probably near about 150 tons. In reality, the whale may have been just as surprised as the couple onboard, who quickly got their life jackets on and assessed the damage. A small trickle of water was coming through, which the water pumps took care of and Jory radioed for help. Lifeguard boats looked under the hull, found no critical fractures and escorted the boat in to make sure they were okay.
Once the boat was hauled out of the water at the King Harbor Marine Center, the damage was clear: two swaths of bottom paint wiped clean and a crack in the bow.
The incident comes nearing the close of what’s been an astonishing whale watching season this year. Operators say conditions this year, with the return of the kelp forests, krill and bait fish, have been some of the best for marine life activity in more than 30 years.
For Jory, it’s just another sailing story with a good punch line.
“I’m sure there’s a blue whale with an exceptionally blue back somewhere,” Jory said. ER