Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dolphin cruise

 One of the things I was so beyond excited for about this trip was that we had chartered a private “dolphin cruise.” I did a TON of research and ended up booking with a company almost an hour away that was ranked #1 on TripAdvisor. Little did we know, but in the 10 days between the time we booked and the time we sailed, the owner’s wife left him, took all the reservation info, and their credit card machine. 

So we got up at 6 am the day of our cruise, drove for an hour, and arrived bright and early at 8:30 AM to an empty parking lot. My cell phone (which I never ever use) was back at our beach house, so we spent almost half an hour trying to find a phone we could use and then when we finally got in touch with the company, they said they’d texted us at 7:30 the night before saying that the captain was unavailable until 11:30 that day. I told them that I’d specified email as my contact method and then they said that they didn’t have the kind of info because the owner’s wife had taken it…oh man, it was an awful morning. We ended up killing a couple of hours at a nearby state park  (see the photo below...we were at St. Andrews trying to spot the alligators) and fiiiiinnnaaallly the replacement captain got there and then we waited around some more for the reservation agent to show up and give him the boat keys. In the process she yelled at us a lot when we told her how unhappy we were with their customer service and I was in tears by the time we boarded our boat (which we did go ahead and do since they refused to do a refund).

 Fortunately the captain was way nicer than his employers! We were able to get in the water with the dolphins four or five times (we didn’t get as close as I was dreaming, but they’re wild animals, so you can’t really expect too much…this is what I’m telling myself!).  Neil was within about 4 feet of a couple of them and the rest of us got to see them swimming back and forth under our boat, leaping out of the water near us, etc. We were IN the water at the same time as the dolphins but they didn’t find us sufficiently interesting to swim back in our direction.

My main motivator in booking the 8:30 cruise was so that we'd be home by the time Nathan needed a you can see, he was NOT happy! He screamed throughout almost the entire wonder those dolphins took off!

See that gray spot a bit up and to the right of Neil? Dolphin!

More dolphins...if I recall correctly this was from a pod of about 5 that included a little baby. Super cute.

Isaac watching a dolphin swimming under the boat...

Abigail poised and ready to leap into the water at the first sign of a dolphin (our captain told us we had to get in the water IMMEDIATELY when we spotted a dolphin...which we never actually managed because we have lots of little kids).


I missed all of the giant leaps but I did catch this one! Oh--and I totally forgot to mention that we saw dolphins swimming out on the sandbars twice at both of the other beaches we went to. So amazing and beautiful!

 The captain also fished out a cannonball jellyfish for us—super interesting and very heavy! We had fun passing it around. Much more kid-friendly than the other jellyfish we spotted!  Then he anchored in some shallow water off of a little undeveloped island and we swam in and looked for shells—we found almost a dozen hermit crabs and the kids were in heaven.  This day was definitely their favorite part of the trip! I realized as we were out there that our kids have never been on a boat before--they were just so amazed that we were way out in the Gulf and couldn't stop exclaiming over the boat, the water, the wind, the clouds, and the dolphins. 

 We also snorkeled over a wooden schooner that sunk almost 100 years ago—I was holding Nathan so I didn’t actually swim down to it, but Neil was able to go down and reported lots of beautiful fish, coral, and sea urchins. Hopefully we’ll have some good photos when I finally get the film (weird, right?!) developed from the underwater camera.

And just as we turned around to head back into the harbor, this happened. Peace at last!

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