One of the residing factors in our move to Simonstown was inspired by Johnny, the Great White Shark. Sure it sounds like a porky (lie), written now, but it honestly was a massive factor in our moving here, that and a dream to live in False Bay someday. Tick one dream.
Shortly after moving we wangled ourselves a small yacht, tick dream two, and since then have been sailing the length a breadth of the bay, even making passes of Seal Island from time to time, always wondering where or even if the sharks were really out here. The recent attack in Fishhoek brought the sharp reality home but again it still felt like it was an isolated and rare occurrence and that the sharks were back out there somewhere.
On Sunday my naive assumption was jolted into reality when sailing back to FBYC in a dead calm. Just off the Clan Stewart wreck we were sitting back casually in late afternoon sun and as I often do, was staring into the water watching the surface dance. I clearly remember thinking how this patch right under my nose was so much darker than the water around and maybe it was kelp on the sea bottom. With an Adrenaline shot that almost thumped my heart out my chest my eyes focused on the dark slow moving shape just inches beneath the surface. I shot up almost tossing myself over the other side screeching in an embarrassing glass shattering pitch, GREAT WHITE, GREAT WHITE !!!!
Instantly our 25 foot glass fiber yacht felt as vulnerable as a deflated lylo as the crew and I fought for the “safest” spot in the centre of the boat. Almost too scared to look I felt a second bolt kick through me as the head re-appeared on the left of the boat while the tail was still plenty visible on the right side. It was gigantic, enormous, massive and huge. But it was also unbelievable, incredible and wonderous. My “manly” testosterone soon diluted the adrenaline and we began taking in the enormity of the moment. The boat’s just a little over 7 meters and as this colossus animal circled us she was only just short of each end, fish tales aside she must have been over 5 meters. No, no, make that 6 meters.
Hanging onto anything stable on board that gave a sense security we shakily fumbled the cell phones to try capture this moment, all the time shrieking, I mean shouting, to each other how huge she was. For a three minute lifetime she circled us, slowly passing under and around us, all the time seemingly clearly looking up through the surface at us headless chickens stumbling about in panic, I’m still certain she smelt the fear right through the bottom of the boat. And then she was gone. Or was she? Every trickle of light on the surface had us jumping and pointing as the wind came back and we gently slipped away towards the club.
As a new boater in these waters I’m not sure if this is a common occurrence but if your not used to it, second to watching your child being born, it has got to be one the greatest experiences in life. As a fellow sailor once pointed out, to see a Great White Shark is to see one of the last remaining, truly wild predators it’s it wild and fenceless environments. While some may not understand this, I feel honored the shark graced us with her presence around our boat. It is a moment I will never forget and hope desperately will not be a solitary one. Tick dream three.
Here’s to gazing over the side, here’s to the Great White Shark!
by Marc Bow
Editor: Well done Marc for a refreshing take on a magnificent and misunderstood creature.