I have a super power. At least that’s what I tell myself.
It revealed itself a few years back on a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands. We’d been at sea for days and were making a crossing. It was a long one. There’d be no land in sight for hours. Just blue on blue, a thin line separating sea from sky.
I’d had breakfast, cracked the spine of a new book and dozed for an hour in the midday sun. Now bored, I sat watching Jimmi bait a hook.
As he let out the line, a thought entered my mind. We’d been in the water every day. I’d seen fish. Lots of them. But not THE fish. Smooth grey skin. Cold, clear eyes. I was desperate to see one, just maybe not while I was doing a dog-paddle. And then my inside voice got out.
“If a shark could just swim up to the back of the boat, that’d be great.”
Cut to, twenty minutes later. Fishing hasn’t panned out. A bag of chips is open. Everyone’s thinking cocktails. Time to reel in the hook.
Jimmi picked up the rod and started turning the handle. Somewhere several meters out, the lure lurched forward. It was shiny, made up of sparkling dusters arranged squid-like around the hook. I imagine they caught the sun as they twirled, sending shards of light deep below.
Three, four, five turns. Coming closer to the boat. And then it seemed to catch. Just for a second. My eyes moved down the length of line still visible above the water. Nothing.
My breath caught as the fin broke the surface. Large, round and tipped white, like a mountain top in the winter.
He started again. Six. Seven turns. This time the bump was bigger. The rod bowed and then sprang back. Nobody moved. He spun the reel faster. Maybe we’d land something. Or lose that pricey lure altogether.
We could see it now. Twenty feet off the end of the boat, bobbing at the surface. Visibly torn, but still attached. Eight. Nine turns. And then the tiniest ripple, following behind.
My breath caught as the fin broke the surface. Large, round and tipped white, like a mountain top in the winter. It cut through the water, moving to the left and then the right. Measured.
Jimmi took two steps back, climbing up from the swim grid and dragging the lure forward. The fin followed. Ten. Eleven. Twelve turns. The fin closed the distance. We could see the outline now. Maybe three meters long with long pectoral fins.
Thirteen turns. It struck again, surging forward as if to nose the edge of the boat. One eye searching the surface. Curious.
When the lure cleared the water we waited. Would it jump? Land snapping on our deck? The movie buff in me ran through a dozen scenes. Jaws. Deep Blue Sea. The Meg. Yes, I watched it. I’m not proud. But no. It dove. The fin disappeared and we were left standing there in silence.
The funny thing about sailing is how quickly we disconnect. We rarely have internet. Phones become alarm clocks, sitting forgotten on a shelf below deck. So, when a shark appears off the back of the boat, no one gets a picture.
We spent the next hour comparing notes. Size, colour, every characteristic. Writing it all down. Later that night, in a small town bar we googled. It was an Oceanic Whitetip. A deep water forager who, in contrast to what people believe about the great white, is generally tagged as the deadliest. Think USS Indianapolis…
As we tipped back our beers to cap off this fish story, I repeated what I’d said minutes before it appeared. I summoned that shark. I brought it right up to the edge of our boat. I have a super power. At least that’s what I tell myself.