by Pete Green
New guidance for yachts interacting with Orca off the Iberian Coastline: 7th May 2021
Last year, Halcyon Yachts, amongst other yacht delivery companies, experienced several encounters with Killer Whales, or more correctly, Orcas (thought to be juveniles).
Orca encounter during the yacht delivery of a Lagoon Catamaran:
According to Orca Iberia, “The whales were reported touching, pushing and even pivoting the boats, which in some cases resulted in damages at the stern, mainly on the rudders. In total, 45 interactions were recorded from July to November 2020. This happened between the Straits of Gibraltar and north-west Spain (Galicia) including the Portuguese coast”.
The Atlantic Orca Working Group has drawn up new safety protocols. Aimed at yachtsmen coming into unplanned contact with Orcas, particularly off the Atlantic Iberian coastline. These straightforward advice points provide guidance:
- STOP the boat (take down the sails), leave the wheel loose; if sea conditions and other vessels safely allows;
- Contact the authorities (by phone on 112 or by VHF Channel 16);
- Take your hands off the wheel or tiller. Stay away from any part of the boat that may fall or turn unexpectedly;
- Don’t not shout at the animals, do not touch them with anything, do not throw things at them, do not let yourself or your crew be seen over the sides unnecessarily;
- If you have a camera phone or other device, record the animals, especially their dorsal fins, to be able to identify the animals afterward.
- Only after a while, when you do not feel pressure or nudges on the rudder, check that it turns and works;
- Contact the authorities if you need a tow either by phone on 112 or by VHF on Channel 16;
- Make notes of the interaction, record the date/time and your position. Email any information on the incident and photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org;
The following guidance exists if you spot Orcas and you wish to approach the mammals for slightly closer observation.
The advice is to do it smoothly, at a speed no greater than 4 knots. Approach from astern or abeam and at an angle of no less than 30º. During the observation, a parallel course must be maintained. Do not make a sudden course or speed changes. The advice is to maintain an absolute minimum 60m exclusion zone, preferably 300m.
More information is available on the Iberian Orca website: https://www.orcaiberica.org/safety-protocol
With highly qualified and experienced crew, Halcyon Yachts Ltd offers a dedicated international yacht delivery service. For more information or to see details of their recent deliveries please visit: