Captain Larry Hartmann has watched thousands of bottlenose dolphins ride the bow of his 30-foot boat, but until Friday he had never seen the mammals develop such a close bond with one of his passengers.
The accompanying footage shows several dolphins swimming to the outstretched hand of Taylor Carty and looking her in the eye, and taking turns rolling over, as if craving to have their bellies rubbed.
“We’ve all see bottlenose dolphins riding the bow and at times jumping and twirling, but I have never seen them doing the backstroke like this,” said Hartmann, whose vessel Discovery runs from Dana Wharf Whale Watching in Dana Point, California. “It was so far off the charts. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Carty is an exercise rider for thoroughbred race horses in Kentucky, so she has a way with animals, and it wasn’t long before she earned the nickname “dolphin whisperer.”
“She started talking to them the way she talks to horses,” Hartmann said. “All four of the passengers were freaking out. When the dolphins turned over like that, it seemed clear that they wanted to be rubbed.”
While the footage may seem lengthy and repetitive to some, it’s remarkable that this interaction—with so many intimate approaches—lasted so long.
“It went on for more than an hour,” said Hartmann, who operates Captain Larry Adventures. “I filmed for 17 minutes and stopped only because I realized I was going to have to edit all the footage.”
Hartmann said that despite whatever impressions people might have, there was no touching involved, and that Carty was straddling the bow pulpit, in “an uncomfortable manner,” but was not in danger of falling overboard.
Hartmann said the captain of the Dana Pride, which also runs from Dana Wharf, was first to find the pod of perhaps 40 offshore bottlenose dolphins.
The Discovery, which carries up to six passengers, is a new arrival in Dana Point and caters to clients who don’t mind paying more to avoid crowds on the larger whale-watching boats.
While passengers on smaller boats sometimes enjoy more intimate encounters, nobody should expect anything this intimate.
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