Orcas hold a very strong sense of symbolism in British Columbia. According to the Squamish Lilwat interpretation I was able to find online:
“The whale is known to help people in need whether we are helpless or wounded. The whale symbolizes kindness, intelligence and compassion. The Whale or Orca, is known as the guardian of the sea and guardian of travel and also can also be a symbol for unity and goodness. Killer Whales often travel in family groups known as pods and also hunt in packs like the wolf so are referred to as sea wolves. The Whale is a popular symbol for romance as they mate for life. It is because of this nature that they are known for their strong sense of family values and unity in numbers. The Killer Whale is the most admired of all the whales and is used as a powerful crest by many clans. Held in great awe for its power and size, it was believed a Killer Whale could capture a canoe and take it underwater to transform the occupants into Whales. Thus a Whale near the shore was a human transformed and trying to communicate with his family. The Killer Whale’s song is said to be so beautiful that all creation is said to stop and listen to it. It is also said that to be splashed by a killer whale is to ensure great luck and happiness…”
Sailing from Victoria to Pender Island we had a moment. One of those “remember for the rest of your life” moments. There is a business in Coastal British Columbia consisting of taking paying tourists on motor boats to whale watch. These boats literally zip back and forth to find the Orcas. Apparently, they have spotters on nearby hills with powerful binoculars and radios to help them find and zoom in on the Orcas. As we were sailing along we saw at least 20 boats converging on an area adjacent to Stuart Island. We had been sailing all day and as we entered the wind shadow of the island we lost our wind. True to our “as little engine as possible” philosophy we just chilled and watched all the commotion around those poor whales. We all felt these poor gentle creatures were being treated like a spectacle of which they had no control. If you’ve ever snorkelled and heard the sound of a boat propeller nearby you can imagine what these sensitive Orcas experience when 20 boats are zipping about to get the perfect camera shot for the tourists.
Anyways we soon found our wind again and started sailing away. No sooner had we put some distance between ourselves and the whale watching circus when all of a sudden a large 3 ft high dorsal fin pops out of the water so close to our boat on starboard! OH MY GOD!! Then more and more dorsal fins start appearing to our port and starboard. We just could not believe this moment. The Orcas had left the whale watching circus and followed Leela out and away!! The commercial boats still did not know what had happened as they were all still in a circle that was getting further and further as we sailed onwards with our friends the Orcas! At one point Doug who was standing on the side deck watched a huge Orca swim about 6 ft. below the water at the same speed as Leela, just following along. The big white mark they have on their side flank clearly visible just off to our side. What majestic and powerful creatures!
What a moment! We had our own private moment, a blessing if you will, from the Orcas all under sail. They stuck around for quite some time, we could see this was a fairly big pod, upwards of 15 we reckon. Babies, big mamas, all communally swimming along with Leela.
What to make of a moment like this? Gratitude for sure. And awe. And a feeling that Leela has been officially welcomed to the ocean world.