San Francisco Bay Area sailors have been thrilled by more than our fair share of humpback whale sightings this year, but Julia Smith, Marianne Armand and Debbie Fehr had a close cetacean encounter of another kind on July 23. When the three friends were sailing in a YRA Series race aboard Fehr’s Meliki on San Francisco Bay south of the Bay Bridge, a bottlenose dolphin apparently thought the Santana 22 would make a great playmate, frolicking off the bow of the Tuna during the last weather leg of the race. "We had just rounded the green daymark off the entrance to Alameda Naval Air Station when we saw it," said Armand, who’s seen in the video riding the port rail. "It stayed with us for 15 minutes." The dolphin’s leaps elicited squeals and laughter from the racers.
video by Julia Smith
Smith said that most of the other Santana sailors also saw it. "We needed to tack but decided to hang with the dolphin. So we got second place in the second race. We got first in the first race, so we won the day, and the dolphin was so amazing to see."
"We’ve been getting calls from all around the country," said Armand. A naturalist told her that there are about 100 bottlenose dolphins on the Northern California coast, but they don’t usually come into San Francisco Bay. The dolphins were apparently drawn north by warm El Niño waters in 2001 and stuck around, mostly in Monterey Bay.
The trio of sailors was interviewed by KPIX News, which also ran more of Smith’s video clips.