by Pete Green
The year 2020 has been an unusual one for all of us. Huge wildfires in Australia, riots around the world for the Black Lives Matter movement, a US President that won’t accept defeat – not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic.
Escaping the craziness and setting sail was more appealing than ever for our yacht delivery skippers and crew this year. To all of our surprise though, things at sea were also not like they used to be.
Three of our skippers experienced encounters with Orcas this year. Whilst we absolutely love seeing marine creatures of all types, these were just a bit too close for comfort. We captured the experiences on film and the story quickly went viral. We were inundated with calls and emails from the media. Numerous interviews were undertaken and people from as far away as New Zealand and Canada were watching our videos on their local news shows.
Here’s what they were saying in the news:
“Scientists baffled by orcas ramming sailing boats near Spain and Portugal” reports the Guardian.
“Out for blood. Rogue pod of orcas attacking boats in revenge for harpoon slaughter by poachers, expert warns” says the Sun.
“Orcas attacking yachts off Spanish coast could be doing so ‘in revenge’ states The Telegraph.
“Have rogue orcas really been attacking boats in the Atlantic” questions the BBC.
“Are whales really a threat to cruisers?” asks Yachting Monthly.
Where did the incidents happen?
The three incidents we were involved in occurred off the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal. This is one of the main areas we sail. We have delivered hundreds of yachts to and from the Mediterranean. Stopping in places such as A Coruna, Baiona and Cascais is very common for us.
Was anybody hurt?
Thankfully no-one has been hurt, but the experience was very frightening for all involved.
Were the killer whales really attacking the yachts?
This question has caused a great deal of debate online. In all three cases the orcas where banging into the yachts and in two cases the yachts completely lost steering as a result. Whether the orcas are doing this to attack or just to play, the outcome is potentially very serious.
Is it still safe to sail this route?
The incidents all occurred in a relatively short space of time (between September and November). We have had many yachts sail this route without incident. The generally accepted view is that it was only one pod of orcas. Orcas can and do cover thousands of miles. It is likely that this pod has now moved well away from the areas in question.
What can be done if your yacht is attacked by an orca?
As a precaution, we have now advised all of our yacht delivery skippers to follow this advice:
- Never steer towards a pod of orcas.
- If orcas come towards you then stop all systems. Turn the engine off, the autohelm, the depth sounder etc.
- Drop the sails and keep the boat speed to a minimum. The lack of movement through the water should make things less interesting for the orcas.
- Stay calm and wait for the orcas to swim away.
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