Irrational fears

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Bertie1
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Irrational fears

Post by Bertie1 »

Hey guys,

I have this really irrational fear that I just never seem to be able to get over.. dolphins and whales, especially orcas. Whenever I’m kayaking and I see a pod of dolphins or whales headed my way I make an immediate course for the shore.
I don’t get out, I just try and make sure I can avoid them at all costs, and I’m actively paranoid about orcas even though they’re quite rare where I normally paddle (central outer west coast of Scotland.. ish)

I love sea mammals, and I see all the thousands of stories and clips of kayakers with orcas, but I’m scared even with dolphins if one accidentally hit another or just jumped wrong it would land on me and that would be that.. they are heavy after all (and I solo so not much in the way of support if I get knocked unconscious)

I can play with seals just fine but does anyone have any advice to conquer my fears with at least dolphins? I’d love to have an experience with them but I’m just too scared haha.
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leighv
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by leighv »

The thing is, you already recognise this fear as irrational, so even if people post positive experiences or reassurance of the highly unlikely chance of a dolphin landing on you here, I suspect your fear will remain. The only way to really overcome it, in my opinion, is to confront it - next time you see dolphins, just stop paddling, stay where you are, maintain your breathing, and let them surround you, however hard that may be.
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banzer
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by banzer »

Firstly I don't think that's irrational at all, I think that's a very sensible risk assessment.

So, what is the risk. I'm not aware of any documented cases of a kayaker being seriously hurt by an orca / dolphin. I would have thought an aggressive seal protecting their pups more likely.

https://funoutdoorventures.com/do-dolph ... t=cmp-true

I think the risk would be less than driving on a motorway, or even paddling in unsettled conditions / offshore winds. Which people do all the time.

I think read more about it, watch some videos, understand the behaviour. They are certainly not out to get you. With greater understanding hopefully will come greater acceptance. Plus you've got a pretty special experience that people would actually pay hundreds of pounds for if you could guarantee paddling with dolphins! I've done it once, very envious that you get all these opportunities.

I'm not any sort of psychological counsellor btw so apols if this doesn't help!!
Bertie1
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Bertie1 »

leighv wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2023 10:25 am
The thing is, you already recognise this fear as irrational, so even if people post positive experiences or reassurance of the highly unlikely chance of a dolphin landing on you here, I suspect your fear will remain. The only way to really overcome it, in my opinion, is to confront it - next time you see dolphins, just stop paddling, stay where you are, maintain your breathing, and let them surround you, however hard that may be.
I suppose you are right, I think I don’t really trust my typical sources, where as if people here gave their opinions I’d be willing to put faith into it
Bertie1
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Bertie1 »

banzer wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2023 10:31 am

Plus you've got a pretty special experience that people would actually pay hundreds of pounds for if you could guarantee paddling with dolphins! I've done it once, very envious that you get all these opportunities.
I hadn’t really thought of it that way..
i suppose I shouldn’t take it for granted, I still enjoy dolphins if I’m sailing or fishing, but I see that it’d be a very different experience in a kayak
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Jonny_W »

Not being a sea mammal behaviourist, I’m not sure if I can contribute much, but here goes …

I’ve heard a few stories of dolphins protecting humans from sharks and escorting injured / tired humans back to the shore. I’ve never heard of dolphins landing on a kayaker or knocking them unconscious or even attacking humans.

I think the main interest of dolphins is eating fish or squid. Something like : travel - eat - sleep - eat - explore/play - eat - sex - eat - repeat - eat.

They are supremely adapted to their environment. Much faster and more agile than we could ever be in a kayak. They seem to be able to avoid each other and boats, even at speed. Compared to the bow wave of a boat - on which they can surf, kayakers are probably pretty boring. You probably couldn’t stop yourself getting between an adult and young dolphin - they’ve probably sussed you out before you knew they were there and gone past you three times before you’ve started paddling away.

So my tuppence worth is :-

- you could face your fears, learn more about them, focus your energy on identifying what species, location, how many adults & juveniles, what they appear to be doing or what direction they are heading in, etc. Logging this and reporting your findings. There is a Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust (https://hwdt.org/) and Shorewatch ( https://uk.whales.org/whales-dolphins/h ... -scotland/ ) probably other places you can report your sightings too

- if they appear to be eating, it might be worth trying to keep a respectful distance from the food source. How would you know about their food source ? I’m not a sea fisherman either, but : flashes of silver from a shoal of fish; fish jumping; localised rippling of the water surface; fish oil on the surface; bathymetry which is bringing nutrients and fish together (narrows, races, overfalls, currents mixing, etc.).

- carry a VHF radio and PLB on your person, so if anything did happen, you have a Plan B. But you’ve probably more chance of being holed by a floating log than a dolphin-related incident. And I’ve never heard of anyone being holed by a floating log either !

- orcas can be more boisterous (the pod off Spain / Portugal, for example) so maybe a more respectful distance (if that’s even possible) and breathe out to stay calm and don’t make a commotion

- appreciate that the privilege (and risk) is yours and you’ve chosen to go solo into their domain. Take photos, tell stories, help with conservation efforts. Wow !
seawolf856
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by seawolf856 »

I agree with banzer, you are more likely to be interfered with by very inquisitive seals rather than dolphins, porpoise or whales and a seal is certainly big enough to ruin your day if it decides to climb aboard your kayak - as they sometimes do here in North Wales where I paddle. One of my mates has a similar fear to the OP, but he is scared of seals because of the frequency of close encounters - he actually though they were sea lions when he first got followed by them!!
His coping mechanism is to know that if he does get capsized by a seal, there are always people around him to rescue him. Again I am not a psychologist, but one thing I did pick up from the OP is the fact you paddle solo (that in itself fills me with fear), so maybe you could try to avoid paddling alone so that way - at least in your mind, there would be more in the way of support if you "get knocked unconscious".
Mark Graham
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Mark Graham »

I've been lucky enough to have some reasonably close encounters with dolphins and once memorably having a Minke whale surface directly alongside a small group of us - just checking us out I think.
The only emotions I've experienced in these encounters have been thrill and awe, never fear. I've only ever seen an Orca once, from the deck of a bigger boat (Cuma), never from a kayak. If I saw one from my kayak....? That remains one of my ambitions.
Chris Bolton
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Chris Bolton »

I've seen Orca from my kayak in British Columbia. A group of 6 came straight towards us, 3 went one side, 3 the other, but giving us space, maybe 20-30m away. There have never been any reports of Orca touching a kayak there (or so far as I can find out, anywhere else). We just stopped paddling while they passed.

Something to bear in mind is that they have no wish to risk their own health by hitting (to them) unknown surface objects. They hunt what their mothers teach them to hunt and don't experiment. I suspect that reports of cetaceans breaching near boats are when several boats have been following them and they want to warn them off. There was a story of a kayak being breached onto; the paddlers weren't harmed and analysis of the video suggested that the whale hadn't intended to land on the boat and had tried to twist away.

I've also had a basking shark swim past my kayak within touching distance in the Sound of Barra. It then circled round and submerged just enough to pass under my boat and resurfaced the other side. As with the Orca I'd stopped paddling and it came to me.

As a solo paddler moving on a predictable course, your presence won't stress them and they'll carry on with their own business, which includes avoiding you.
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Yellerbelly
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Yellerbelly »

Hi Bertie1,

This is irrational. I used to feel that whales and dolphins where out there with me, looking after me, keeping an eye on me. When I was anxious with the conditions.

Couple of experiences. Crossing Red Wharfe Bay heading for Puffin Island off Anglesey I was feeling unsteady, out on my own. Lumpy conditions. There were 2 or 3 dolphins and one passed along side and diagonally forward of my bow, tilted over on it's side. I guess an eye looking up at me as if to say, "You OK?" I know. Stupid.
One flat calm evening paddling back from Soay across Loch Scavaig to Elgol ,again on my own, the only other sound was a porpoise, maybe, coming up to breath. A sharp exhale and a gasp as it inhaled. Magical. A photo . . . .

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If it is your fate to be the first kayaker to be eaten by a killer whale remember to appreciate what a wonderful creature they are. #Doesn'tHelp#

. . . . Ben
ChrisJK
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by ChrisJK »

I'm not entirely free of a fear of Orcas ! I'm not sure how kayakers are getting on in the straits of Gibraltar where they are chewing boat rudders!
I am fairly wary of seals particularly when on my own, There is a You tube video of a kayaker being slapped probably accidentally by an Octopus.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by TheEcho »

The rudder-chewing orcas move around Spain, Portugal and Biscay following tuna, their favourite food. Tuna are deep water fish, and sailing boats are advised to stay close to the coast within the 15 metre depth contour to avoid the orcas. So kayakers won’t go far enough out to ever encounter them. I’m out on my kayak in Portugal every week but have never seen an orca, although I’ve seen a big sailing boat being towed in having been disabled . Sailing boats have huge rudders - from underwater they look nothing like kayak rudders. Hitting them and getting the boat to spin round seems to be a particular fad taken up by a few pods in the area but not in the rest of the world.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by pathbrae »

ChrisJK wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2023 6:12 pm
I'm not entirely free of a fear of Orcas ! I'm not sure how kayakers are getting on in the straits of Gibraltar where they are chewing boat rudders!
I am fairly wary of seals particularly when on my own, There is a You tube video of a kayaker being slapped probably accidentally by an Octopus.
I always thought the seal had brought is a gift to it's pal in one of these funny boats that great great grandpa had told them to keep away from.
So much sea - so little time to see it.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by mrcharly »

Seals often scare me.

One of my favourite paddling areas has a seal breeding ground, and pups can be seen there all year.
the seals don't like people nearby and have chased me off on numerous occasions.

Good thing they don't swim as fast as I can paddle.
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Yellerbelly
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Yellerbelly »

At least we are not paddling in Australia. #NotHelping# :)


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Mac50L
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Mac50L »

Seals - on a trip a few years ago we had young ones clambering on to our kayaks. I had two getting on my aft deck on my very tippy kayak. Our kayaker with the camera had one clamber on to his fore deck so got a good shot there. The area is visited by kayakers all year so the seals know they are safe. The area the youngsters were playing in is about a tennis court sized relatively shallow play area for the juveniles. The island it is attached to has seals "wall-to-wall". Thirty years ago I counted 8 on that island so the population has grown.

Haida Gwaii trip - I paddled into the kelp at one time as the rather large whale nearby was breaching. Not sure how good their eye sight is vertically above them.

A year or so ago a tour boat (30 foot?) was capsized presumably by a surfacing whale in a known whale area, Kaikoura, New Zealand. The two who drowned were well known kayakers.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by MikeALCC »

Sea lions always do it for me.

Especially when they are swimming along with you, playing with the toggle or hitting the bottom of the boat for fun.

But the size of their teeth, its deffo no fingers in the water!
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Owen »

MikeALCC wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2023 10:02 pm
Sea lions always do it for me.

Their ok, we don't have Sea lions in UK waters only Seals.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by MikeALCC »

Owen wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2023 8:30 am
MikeALCC wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2023 10:02 pm
Sea lions always do it for me.

Their ok, we don't have Sea lions in UK waters only Seals.
True, but we sometimes go on holiday to paddle in places that they do.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by TheEcho »

Great White Sharks, now they are scary beasts (not to denigrate all sharks, most species are lovely and not a threat.) I have read of sea kayaks and surfskis being holed by shark bites in places like South Africa where they have lots of big sharks and crazy people who go out when there are shark warnings, but in these accounts they left the paddler alone despite obviously being able to eat them if they had wanted to. I wonder if splintered bits of kayak in their mouth are enough to put them off their dinner. It’s not like they can get a toothpick out and carefully extract the annoying bit of fibreglass.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Ceegee »

That's where the sea lions and orcas come in handy. Having paddled around Cape Point, if the sea lions are in the water, the great whites aren't hungry. If the orcas are close by, the great whites have made a run for it
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leighv
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by leighv »

TheEcho wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2023 5:50 pm
Great White Sharks, now they are scary beasts (not to denigrate all sharks, most species are lovely and not a threat.) I have read of sea kayaks and surfskis being holed by shark bites in places like South Africa where they have lots of big sharks and crazy people who go out when there are shark warnings, but in these accounts they left the paddler alone despite obviously being able to eat them if they had wanted to. I wonder if splintered bits of kayak in their mouth are enough to put them off their dinner. It’s not like they can get a toothpick out and carefully extract the annoying bit of fibreglass.
South Africa’s shark population has been decimated by orcas.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Sean_soup »

Ceegee wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2023 6:58 pm
If the orcas are close by, the great whites have made a run for it
Heh, I'm not sure how much of a sense of security you should be deriving from the big scary predator being chased away by another big scary predator. Harking back to the OP there's really nothing irrational about a bit of a fear about being in the water around Orcas and on the flipside Great White sharks really don't deserve their evil reputation (the 'Jaws' films have a lot to answer for there).

For anyone who can listen to BBC sounds (you just have to be in the UK I think, or have a VPN that makes it look like you are) - this is one of the best episodes of 'The Infinite Monkey Cage' I think - a very entertaining and interesting listen:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0fwwx9v
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Yellerbelly
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Yellerbelly »

The other marine mammal we've seen off our shores would be a wandering walrus. I remember seeing this BBC film of one getting it's tusks on a sea kayak.



Why did the Norwegians kill the poor thing?

. . . . Ben
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Mac50L »

Talking about other dangerous animals, Paul Caffyn on his paddle round Alaska had no problems with sea creatures but did have a bear take a swipe at his tent one night. So maybe safer on the water in some places?
This link has a couple of pictures that show it is better to be on the water -
https://paulcaffyn.co.nz/around-alaska-1989-1991/
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Ceegee »

leighv wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2023 8:32 pm
South Africa’s shark population has been decimated by orcas.
Yep, they eat their livers (without the fava beans or chianti😉)
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Steve C. G.
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Ceegee
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Ceegee »

Mac50L wrote:
Mon Nov 27, 2023 8:34 pm
...but did have a bear take a swipe at his tent one night.
https://paulcaffyn.co.nz/around-alaska-1989-1991/
If they aren't swiping your tent, they are eating your kayak


Cheers,
Steve C. G.
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Yellerbelly
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Yellerbelly »

Freya the Walrus was killed because people couldn't be trusted to leave her alone by the sounds of it. Some people feel guilty so they raised nearly £20K for a life size statue. Fine. £20K would have paid for a personal security guard in a rich country like Norway. I remember when she had a rest in Whitby ? a volunteer from BDMLR kept the sightseers away.
Maybe more people should be more fearful of large wildlife.


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Re: Irrational fears

Post by Owen »

Talking of Sharks, these ones were all right. They didn't have their teeth in.

Image

A group of five Basking Sharks past us on the south side of Canna. This one came over to have a good look at us. swam around us a few times, between us and under us. Then went back to join the others sharks. A few minutes it came back for another look then went back to the group only to come back again. It did this about five times before they all swam off. It was twice the length of our kayaks and about four or five times as wide. At one time it was so close both of us could have touched it.

Probably not helping the OP's Phobia much, sorry.
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Re: Irrational fears

Post by on the rocks »

Here’s a very enjoyable podcast here on photographing whales, dolphins and other cetaceans from a sea kayak which may help
https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/p ... 0627461321
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