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Science, history and mythology abound with stories of dolphins helping man. Below is one of those stories. It really happened.
It has been previously published, numerous times, both on the internet and the printed press, for example: in France by "Loisirs Nautiques" magazine along with expert opinions from scientists, historians, and academic authorities on mythology, and in Canada by "L'ESCALE" magazine.

As indicated at the bottom of this page, this story, Saved by Two Dolphins, is copyrighted and may not be reproduced.


Saved by Two Dolphins

narrated by Robert Krouch
adapted in English by Victoria Krouch, Ph.D.

dolphins

During one of many single-handed cruises I had one of the strangest and most astonishing adventures of my life. Accustomed to sailing solo, I had just left the coast of Tunisia. Cape Bon was far behind me and I was en route to the small Italian island of Favignana, close to Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mediterranean sea is calm and still. I cross a few Sicilian sailboats and we exchange signals of friendship in the distance. The continuous noise of the engine becomes a little tiring. It is torrid. It is then that I have a preposterous idea, a thoughtless idea, one of the inspirations that so many times during my life were the start of some adventure that I did not always wish to have to live, but I had to accept to live.I decide to bring "Vagabond" to a stop to swim in the inviting waters of the sea. At the same time I will also take advantage of the pause to check my engine.

I very seldom ever dive into the water when sailing alone. I have never forgotten the adventure of the French sailor, Alain Gerbault, who tells the story of how, after deciding to just take a short swim in the Atlantic, almost missed being able to return to his boat, the "Firecrest". A little breeze had started when he was in the water. His vessel was moving away, and he had some problems getting back aboard. I never forgot that adventure, so I am really never inclined to jump off the sailboat to swim when I am sailing alone. Today, however, I decide to swim like Alain Gerbault did, but I am going to be more careful than he was. I am going to put a long safety line in the water next to my ladder, which I should set out so that I can have both available to me when I want to return to the ship. I stop the engine and go down below to recheck it. The small confined compartment for my engine room is sweltering. My body soon becomes covered with sweat and the oppressive air becomes hard to breathe. I am glad to leave the engine room and get back to my sun drenched deck.

When I come back from the engine room, it is really the classic picture with the blue sky and no clouds. The sea is an azure blue just like a reflection in a mirror. Between the sky and the sea, is my sailboat, the "Vagabond". I have only one thought and that is to dive into the attractive water and that is exactly what I do immediately without thinking. The contact with the fresh water is delicious. I feel happy to be swimming next to my boat.

At that moment I was so happy to dive into the water after leaving the hot atmosphere of the engine room that I dove directly from the cockpit, above the lifelines of the deck and I forgot to put my ladder into the water. But what is more serious is that in my precipitation I also forgot to put the safety line down so now I have no way to get on board. I find out, and I am afraid of the discovery, that I missed all of my safety rules and now I have to pay for my mistake. It is a catastrophe!

The freeboard of "Vagabond" is high. Without help it is impossible to get back aboard. With all possible energy I will never be able to put my hand on the lowest point of the deck. The fishermen have disappeared behind the horizon and I am completely alone with nothing else anywhere in sight. I am on the verge of absolutely panicking. I say to myself that it is so stupid that without thinking, after escaping death in the Atlantic in conditions much more dramatic, to find myself in such a tragic situation. It is sad that today with the beautiful weather and the sea calm and perfect, I am in this dreadful position.

My only hopes are that the wind stays away, or that a ship or a fishing boat comes by before night. My situation is certainly precarious. I don't know what instinct of protection pushes me to stay close to the hull because that absolutely doesn't change anything at all. If a shark decides to attack, the shark will find me even if I am practically glued to the hull. Despite all, the feeling of being against my hull, of feeling bond to it, to touch and even to hit it makes me more comfortable and reassured. It's a little bit like a child, who on the knees of his mother, feels much better, comforted, and ceases to cry. Unfortunately I am not on the deck of "Vagabond" and contact with the hull is rather viscous and cold. I am scared.

Nevertheless, I try several times to climb back on board. I inflate my lungs to the maximum of their capacity and I strike the water furiously with my legs and with my feet trying to take my body out of the water. At the same time I extend my arms to the highest point possible but I am still not able to reach the deck. All of my efforts are in vain. I get tired quickly trying to get out of the water. I swim on my back. I am not really swimming, but I am on my back in the water trying to get some rest and slowly drifting away from "Vagabond". I close my eyes.

All of a sudden I feel a swell under me. The strong current beneath me feels like a whirlpool. I am scared. Instinctively I turn back on my stomach to swim and to get closer to touch "Vagabond", my shelter. It is then that I see two long gray ominous spindle-shapes circling beneath me. Two big sharks are there right under! I am without life. I try to make fewer moves and I think that if I appear glued to the hull, they won't see me. I forget that my legs are not against the hull, they are hanging, vertically like two lures specially prepared for the two sharks. I am terrorized. I am waiting for the fatal moment that will put a final stop to my adventures, but nothing happens. I have no notion of the time spent. Probably a few seconds, possibly minutes, but all of this seems to have lasted for hours. I am tired and now I am resigned to accept my destiny.

It's really impossible to do anything. Despite of my persistent anguish, I have a look under me. They are still there. But something troubles me. Something in the shape of their bodies and in their movements seems a little bizarre. Being so exhausted and so scared, at that time my mental faculties are very close to zero. I can't figure out what is so unusual. I continue to observe them and I see that they are going away behind me. They go away from the hull. I don't see them any more. All of a sudden, a couple of fathoms behind me I hear them. Yes, I hear them. I don't see them because they are on the other side of "Vagabond", but I hear them blowing. Then I understand and I start to live again. That blowing, I know the sound very well. I hear it again. Immediately I understand that next to me I have two dolphins that come to have a closer look at me. I am momentarily filled with joy and excitement.

Suddenly, a rough and viscous contact brings me to the bitter reality. The two dolphins are back close to me. Their presence makes me feel good. I am optimistic again. I have special company. They are dolphins. For sailors, this is good company.

Today there are only two but they give me back courage and the desire to live. As they don't look belligerent, I swim a little away from the hull to get closer to them. And then one after another they get close to me. Slowly they nudge my legs. Then they disappear at full speed. They make a quick half turn and come back to me. When they are close to me, they slow down and they almost stop when they push my legs with their nose again and again with a repetitive up and down movement. These types of maneuvers last at least ten minutes. All of their moves are done in the same identical way. When they return, they come back slowly and they push my legs. After a dozen of or so of these maneuvers they come back towards me and they stay under me. And they seem to wait. They are almost motionless but they move their nose from bottom to top regularly and this really intrigues me.

It is then that a strange idea comes to my mind. My growing obsession is so extraordinary that I dare not to think of it very seriously. I think my imagination is really fertile. I think that I'm alive but I'm dreaming of my encounter with the dolphins. I think that I should go back to reality.

But my two friends are still there. They start again two or three times to go away and to come back and then to stay under me. Then they come back to the surface and they breathe They look at me and I feel positive that our looks are meeting. I think that they are talking to me. But, what are they saying? There is an exchange, even if I do not understand the nature of that exchange. But it is good and it makes me forget a little about my precarious situation.

That extraordinary idea that came to my mind comes back. What if in reality that idea was not so far fetched? If actually those two companions would want to make me understand that they want to take me ashore? I have nothing to loose, to try. But I hesitate because I think that maybe on my way they are going to abandon me and then I will find myself alone in the middle of the sea. At that time I would have made a bigger mistake in leaving my boat, even if I were still in the water in either case. No, my imagination one more time is going to lead me in the wrong direction to a new adventure, which I don't want to experience.

The dolphins just went away for a few moments, but I think that they are definitely gone for good. The anguish comes back. I am scared again. It is at that instant that I hear them again a few yards behind me. They dive and they come towards me. They swim very close to me. One of them, the bigger one, probably the male, comes to a stop under me, directly under me.

Without knowing why, almost without any consciousness of doing it, my legs move. That is when, without expecting it, I feel a strong surprising jolt and a shocking sensation of intense pain. I suddenly find myself straddling the dolphin and in the next moment instantaneously propelled into the air. I drop back to the water. I fall back on my back and that hurts me, but I am excited with the activity. I am convinced that my companions have made themselves understood. They want either to carry me away, or to put me on board, or to play ball with my body. They circle again under me and they seem to wait for to be in a special position either to send me into the air or to be riding on them. I have to think about that and I have to think quickly. I have to make a decision quickly because they might be tired of waiting and they might leave me.

Of the three possibilities, I entirely eliminate the one of the ball game. I am not a ball or some object for them to toss around and I do not intend to become one. Of the two remaining possibilities, I choose to be put back on board. So I will try to make them understand that I don't want to navigate on their back, but that I am willing to be sent in the air another time. I prepare myself but this time looking to see which one is going to come under me. I would prefer not to be sent into the air in as spirited a manner as before. This time I see the female. She comes close and truly her moves are more than soft and gentle.

I am on her back and we are moving. But I don't want to take a chance to be moved too far from the boat and I leave her quite rapidly. She comes back to me to give me a little bump with her nose, which put me under water. I swim back towards the "Vagabond" to stay alongside the hull like before and I wait.

That new position must intrigue them because they go away for a few minutes and they don't come back immediately under me. They just make a few maneuvers back and forth before getting closer. Then we start again practicing our choreography several times. I think they understood that I prefer to be sent up out of the water rather than ride on their back. They don't restrain themselves in their eagerness to toss me up out of the water. Doing that they put me each time a little bit further away from "Vagabond". But I continue to accept their playfulness; trying to get myself closer to the "Vagabond" each time they send me up into the air. After being sent into the air maybe a half dozen times, I am finally a little closer to the "Vagabond", hoping that they will send me high enough to catch the top rail, the next time.

And astonishingly, It's a miracle! After about a dozen attempts to tease me with either being saved or completely tired out, the dolphins send me high enough to be able to grab the top rail with my hand. I hang on to the top rail with all of the energy that I still have. With fingers scratched and burned, some blood comes on my face, but I hold well. With more efforts, I am able to put one leg on the deck and then to balance my body onto the deck where I lie down without moving in complete exhaustion.

Not for long because my two companions, my friends, my savers, make a lot of noise around the boat. They spring out of the water. They go along the hull full speed. They turn back. They jump and frolic. They make a lot of noise blowing and even making noise with their voice. I have never seen such a spectacle. It is extraordinary. Those two mammals seem to be showing me how happy and how satisfied they are to have put me back to life on my boat.

I get up and sit on the deck with my legs hanging overboard. I look at them and at what a show they are displaying. Then they come just facing me. Side by side they look at me and they don't move. Their look is really touching because I really feel that they want to communicate with me. I guess they must also feel that in my look there is all the desire that I have to tell them how happy I am, and how much I am grateful to them. That exchange of looks is so compelling to me that I don't resist. I cannot resist. I don't care about my bloody hands and my pains. This time I hang the ladder to the rail and a safety line. Then I return to the water to be with these two charming mammals.

They come close to me and I can touch them. I can caress them. They are really motionless. The sky is very blue. The sea is very beautiful. That moment is perfect. We are three living beings sharing the same love for life and for love. But now we must part. We have to follow our own destiny. I must leave my two savers. I know that I will never see them again and I am sad. They saved my life. Were they really trying to save my life or was it only a game? Perhaps it was just a game, like life is.

I would like to have a joyful separation. I caress their bodies for the last time and move away from them. I stop swimming. I position my legs and I wait. They come both of them close to me, then the male, slowly, with softness, comes under me. All of a sudden with a fantastic push he sends me in the air. I splash back into the water and certainly fill them with joy. This is our farewell.

I climb back aboard. I start the engine and head for the island of Favignana. I will never forget the rescue encounter with my friends, the two dolphins.

Saved by Two Dolphins©2007-2009Victoria Krouch and Robert Krouch. All writings and illustrations are protected and registered by INPI in France.

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