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Flying Fish and Dolphins
by Bob Moore
March 2001

Starboard lookout. Middle of the Atlantic. 5 bells in the afternoon watch. There I was, scanning the same empty horizon for the umteenth time and fanning the breeze with the Port lookout and OD. The most exciting thing seen all afternoon was the mess cook dumping garbage. The sea was like a huge flat lake that afternoon. The ever present swell was no more than a few inches high and the boat was riding like a Caddy--high, smooth, and fast. I asked permission to smoke, and as I was breaking them out the OD let out a whoop. The sea was suddenly alive with flying fish. Hundreds of them. They came out of the water broad on each beam and flew for ages before they disappeared, only to reappear and do it again.

They drew ooh's and aah's from all of us because it appeared that they were deliberately dancing with what to them must have been a really big fish. They had been at it for several minutes when the dolphins arrived to join the party. I guessed that there were 10 or 12 of them and they put on a show for us that Marineland would love to have. We were making about 20 knots, and they were clearly just cruising along in low gear. Our new friends were about evenly divided on each bow, and would duck back and forth just in front of the forefoot.

Now we just watched them silently, each man with his own thoughts. I happened to be looking just aft of the starbord bow plane when one of them decided it was time to jump ship. It came out of the water like a rocket and flew across the capstan to the other side. A few seconds later here it came back again going the other way. The others were content with an exibition of synchronized swimming, but this one was an exhibitionist. It did the back and forth thing two more times, then the whole group moved off to find other entertainment.

I'll tell ya, boys. Life on a smokeboat was never better than that afternoon in the center of the trackless sea.