Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Saw Our First Shark!

Sorry, no pic, but it was in water. :)

I was inside starting on dinner when I heard Vlad urgently call my name with that tone that can only mean, "Come quick. There's something really cool out here." So I ran up the companionway stairs and looked over the side, catching a long look at the seven-foot-long nurse shark swimming slowly under our boat. She was a grey black, unmistakeable shadow, cruising through the anchorage with an effortless nonchalance. We considered jumping in the water for a closer look, but she disappeared into the darker, blue water before we could make a final decision. 

To be honest, I'm afraid of sharks, which is neither unusual nor particularly unwise, but I curb that particular phobia with statistics (you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than attacked by a shark, etc.). And a nurse shark is a pretty chill beast. People pet them, for crying out loud. They rarely, if ever, attack humans and even then only under intense provocation.

The next day we were snorkeling in the reef right beside our anchorage in the Cayos Holandes, and we saw another one. Evidently, this area of the San Blas is chock full of nurse sharks and reef sharks, neither of which are very dangerous to humans. We spoke to a cruiser who does a heap of spear fishing on the outer reef, and he said that most of the sharks are nonagressive. Occasionally, a territorial reef shark gets a bad attitude, but he said that they are generally small - between three and five feet - and that he just moves to a different area, making all well in shark world. The only bad boy shark that he has personally seen around here was a 10-foot-long bull shark on the outer reef, and then he got out of the water immediately.

So my shark-o-phobia has subsided quite a bit since I've seen a couple of them just swimming around doing their shark thing and will hopefully recede even further as we see even more of them in the reef. Always excepting the bull shark, of course. One of my former editors wrote a funny/scary piece on bull sharks here.


  1. "They rarely, if ever, attack humans and even then only under intense provocation."

    I'm always worried they are going to take a look at me and think my ugly face is intense provocation :)

    Last week when they upgraded Sandy to a Cat 2, I decided I needed to put another anchor out, so I put together one of my fortresses and dropped it overboard, then dove down to set it manually. While down there, I noticed a 2.5' shark hanging out under my boat. Weird thing was, he paid more attention to my boat than me. I knew he was too small to be a threat to me and I had limited air in the tank so I just went about my business. All during the storm I kept wondering if he was still down there.

  2. I hope I will be able to quell my fear of sharks. I guess it is human nature to be afraid of creatures that come out of the void, uninvited. Like you, I think I will go with statistics in terms of whether I will get in the water or not. Frankly, it's been so long since I've been in sea water that it will take some getting used to. I grew up going to the Gulf of Mexico, playing at the beach, riding the waves, and I never worried about sharks back then. That was before 'Jaws', which, by the way, I refused to see as it gave sharks a bad reputation. Still, it informed an entire culture and made people more worried than they have to be. I figure if I get on the highway every day and drive my car, I'm willing to take some kind of risk. Very cool that you saw a nurse shark!

  3. I have a rule about sharks. 'Do not spend time trying to indentify whther it is a non agressive or agresive shark. Get the hell out of the water'. Very cool to see the shark while you were OUT of the water.

  4. I was wondering how often you see sharks. Not much apparently! That's good news to me. The big ones can be so scary, but eh, the nurse sharks not so much. Still it's awesome to finally see one.

  5. When it comes to sharks, everything is OK, until it isn't.

  6. Awesome, we are suprized at how few sharks we have seen. You should have jumped in with the nurse shark!

  7. Dear Vlad and Attila; i'm a Scuba Diver and have seen plenty of sharks while diving. Unless someone is carrying food (dead fish)to 'lure' them in, they will invariably see us and swim away. They know we are not food and prefer to keep their distance. It's a lucky dive when you can see the shark before it see's you and swims away.

    I am 100% confident you are safe. Except at dusk and night. they feed at dark. (cruisers throw food overboard so sharks might be in your anchorage) please dont swim after dark. note: you might also pull in a fish and find it half eaten - that's also a shark.

    Enjoy your cruise and dont worry about sharks. i think you have a much better chance of being attacked by Pirates, who are then all struck by lightening, than be a shark victim.