I never did look at the depth we were in at that time. We were 30 miles-plus offshore. The water had to be 1000 fathoms deep. I jumped into the cold water, I had no clue what was swimming beneath me. And this is an active part of the coast for marine wildlife—big and small.
There is a checklist that we go through as crew when setting out on a journey at sea. On the My Aurora, a Nordhavn 120, everyone has their tasks to do: the flag goes up and the lines are checked. We were going out to sea for four or five days. We had to make sure all fluid levels are good, the hydraulics are checked. We completed a visual inspection of the boat and made sure everything is how it should look.
We had the impression we were headed straight to Mexico. Cabo was our destination. The good thing about the Aurora is that we can carry 18,500 gallons of fuel so the range is not an issue to us. And, because of the window of beautiful weather, we decided to carry on Northward—further toward Dana Point. A six-day trip turned into an eleven-day trip and we were all happy about it.
I was sleeping peacefully in my cabin when awakening suddenly. The RPM dropped and I jumped out of bed, thinking something was wrong. When I radioed Captain Jake, to see if there was a problem, he responded that there was something in the water that we needed to investigate.
It was a spinner dolphin, in distress, caught in a web of nylon line. That poor dolphin was not there for a short time—I can guarantee that. Just looking at his tail, and the thought of how long it must have thrashed around, broke my heart. I swam over to investigate up close. Seeing that line so deeply etched into its flesh, I was certain it was not going to survive another day. The line was wrapped around its tail so tightly that I could not even get the blade of my knife to sever the lines. The only thing we could do was to swim the dolphin back to the boat and pull it up on deck. I struggled with the swim back, pulling the dolphin by the tail, with the knife held in my teeth.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. And, looking into the eye of this poor dolphin, I could see how utterly exhausted it was. It was ready to give up. At that moment, deep emotion swept over all of us. We were determined to save this poor dolphin, whatever it took. There was no way to know how many hours or days this poor creature had been thrashing around. I looked into its eye and said out loud, “We are going to help you!”
As we pulled the animal up onto the boat, we gathered a hose to keep it wet. There was no choice other than to put the dolphin in a bit of a more stressful situation in order to save its life. Once we managed to get the line cut off its tail, we had to push the dolphin back into the water, not knowing if it would survive or not. Four of us gently eased the dolphin back into the sea and it disappeared. Those moments seemed like an eternity as we waited to see any sign of our rescue victim. Then, when we finally saw it surface, thrashing its tail, and dive, all of us were overcome with emotion. Major goosebumps. We were absolutely beside ourselves with happiness and joy.
However, our work was not finished. We then noticed two large sea turtles in the same situation—tangled in a huge web of the same line. These were huge sea turtles; they were at least sixty or seventy-pound each. There was so much line weighing them down, it took four of us to lift them onto the boat.
We were truly grateful that we had such good weather. We would never have seen these poor animals had visibility be anything but clear. Once we freed the turtles, we set them back into the water. They, too, were visibly distressed. I’m not sure they would have lasted much longer either.
We just saved a dolphin’s life. We saved two sea turtles and two stingrays as well. That is five lives that should not have been in distress. The sad thing is that we can not be everywhere to help with situations like this, and that’s why I take my hat off to seashepherd.org and organizations like that. I only wish we could help get the word out so that more people are aware and can help.
Denzil Baynes, a crewmember from Nordhavn 120 "My Aurora" whose documentary Aurora Saves, about a single day in the life of the beautiful superyacht spent making several ocean mammal rescues, wound up earning the judges’ highest marks at the Nordhavn Film Festival, held last October, at Nordhavn Yachts in Dana Point Harbor. To learn more about Nordhavn Yachts, visit norhavnyachts.com. To watch the documentary, Aurora Saves, just search for it, by name, on YouTube.com.