Saving a Seal from Probable Death and Starvation
It was a wonderful sailing day. Big blue skies, warm air
and a breeze that started at 5 knots and built to 15 by the time we
reached Santa Catalina. Same weather pattern for the last month.
Welcome to California sailing.
After a day on a mooring next to the
very busy Two Harbors - Isthmus Cove dock, we needed to escape.
The continual noise and wake of the dinghies and harbour boats was
annoying. Two Harbor's Isthmus Cove is full of moorings - 250 according
to the visitors guide. These are fore and aft moorings and it
feels a little like you are in a drive in theater. Boats are
moored much closer than we are used to. Click on the image at the
left and right to see what I mean.
This method seems the only way to accommodate the hundreds of boating
visitors who come from the near by southern California mega cities.
LA is about 25 miles away.
Isthmus Cove harbor is home to another half
dozen smaller coves, most mined with mooring buoys, but a
few open spaces where a skillful mariner can can drop a hook and be
comfortable. The only caveat is that one just needs to be ready to
help the many boaters who don't have a clue how to anchor but will give
it a try, right on top of you.
we find a nice cove with only one other boat in it - Archangel with
Captain Mike Hill and friend Ken aboard. Mike is surprised when I
ask permission to anchor next to him and inquire about the amount of
anchor line he used and his anchor location. Mike explained
later that the standard is to just to do it and let the chips fall where
Mike is a skilled mariner and
points us to the best spot in the cove. Then he jumps in his
dingy ready to be a tug boat to assist us. You have to like a guy
who has a queen sized bed on his foredeck! We get settled in bow and
stern anchored in what really is a great spot.
A little while later we
notice a seal on the back of Mike's boat. Mike calls over and says
"hey Rae, this seal has a fishing line and hook stuck in his month. How about helping me get it out?"
"Sounds risky" I say - "seals have a good bite and can take
off a finger." But after a few minutes I decide to see what
we can do. Putting some heavy gloves on, I jump in the dingy and
zoom over. You can see the fishing line around her mouth and it seem
obvious that a hook must be holding it.
The seal seems to be moaning and is lethargic but what the hell
do I know about seal behavior? Mike attempts a couple of brute force grabs to hold the seal
so I can cut the line. The seal does not try to escape until Mike
physically grabs her, then she wiggles away. She had ample
opportunity to bite, but did not open her mouth. We don't
think she could.
When she slips away she swims over to Mustang Sally and seems to ask
Sharon for help. If you zoom the picture on the right you may be
able to see the fishing line under her chin.
Mike calls for assistance to the harbor master,
but nobody has any idea what to do. Mike suggest we dingy over to the USC (University of Southern California) research outstation which is in
the next cove and look for someone with sea mammal expertise. Off
we go, but alas there is no one with any seal or mammal expertise.
Mike's boat. The seal has returned to the swim platform. We determine to give it one last try. We plan an attempt
where Mike will grab her by the flippers and neck and pin her to the
transom. We maneuver the dingy so she can not easily slip away and
I prepare to cut the fishing line.
She lets us stoke her and that seems to calm her anxiousness.
She likes firm full handed strokes, fingers seem to bother her.
I stroke her and move my hands slowly toward her head and she seems OK.
She has her chin on the deck and I see an opportunity. I put the
knife in the the hand I have been petting her with and slowly slide my
hand toward her head.
With a quick movement I slide the knife under
the fishing line and cut it on the deck. The seal is startled by
the sudden movement and "snip" sound but she does not flee.
the fish hook out of her mouth would be the next step, but we
decide to let mother nature take care of that. At least now she
can open her mouth.
Maybe we should become marine biologist when we
grow up ;-).