The night of the sea lions – by Karin (The Mom)

We love the fact that we are sailing in a Mono-hull.

That is, if we don’t think of the speed with which Catamarans sail, or the fact that they hardly roll at sea, or their great view out of the saloon….

Seriously, we DO love sailing in Shang-Du and we especially appreciated her finer Mono-hull qualities when we were anchored at St Cristobal in the Galapagos.

Unlike the very roomy Catamarans, Shang Du does not have a low-access area to the sea. The designers of Cats reasoned (correctly) that those steps will allow sailors to get on and off their boats with relative ease. This ease was not by any means suppose to extend to the sea lions of St Cristobal, but it seems that no-one actually told the sea lions.

True, the sea lions do not target only the Catamarans, but will actually get onto any platform, boat, buoy, rock etc. that will take their weight. They relish the conquest. They move their great bulk as if to melt into the surface and almost immediately close their eyes and fall asleep.

If this was the only thing they did, it wouldn’t be so bad. Actually, they are quite cute. And the first time is such a novelty. A sea lion on your boat makes for great photos.

But it very soon becomes apparent why all the local boats that lie at “sea lion level” are covered in barbed wire and why there are chicken mesh fences to keep them out of public areas.

It is what they leave behind that is the problem. They are huge and their bellies are full of fish. Right? Remember those great access steps? They make great toilets too.

On Shang Du we didn’t skip the sea lions’ attentions completely. Shang Du has a small swimming platform at the back that is very close to sea level. It is the perfect size for one huge sea lion or two small ones. We never had to worry about the fishy deposits, because the platform is made up of slats and the natural rolling of our boat dips it into the sea every so often. There is also a steep climb up onto the boat using a tricky little ladder. So, as long as we kept the seat above it folded down and the area barred, the sea-lions had to stay on the platform and this was perfectly fine by me.

With these restrictions in place, it really was exciting to have our first sea lion visit. They don’t do anything much, but loll around. I watched a smaller one for a long time, fully convinced that it had lost an eye. The eye on the one side was swollen shut as it lopsidedly glared from its remaining orb. It looked so painful and pitiful and much too young to have such a disability. Then, of course, it opened its wound and.. suddenly.. it had two eyes! The girls all laughed at me, but I am quite sure that some of them had their doubts as well. It is amazing how they can close the eye nearest to the sun’s glare.

The novelty of having the sea lions on the swimming platform wore off as soon as the fighting started. Shang Du’s swimming platform turned into prime real estate and it was a great accomplishment for every sea lion to chase off the existing “king-of-the-castle” just to stake their own claim. They do their chasing by loud barking and I’m sure, biting and shoving. It was the barking, however, that was our biggest problem.

Frans and I sleep in the Aft Cabin. That is, the one RIGHT NEXT TO the swimming platform. This meant that we had ringside seats (or beds) to the barking symphony of the “claim-staking” sea lions. They wheeze and bark and cough much too loud to just ignore.

After our first sleepless night, we came up with a somewhat workable strategy. Frans would jump up, run outside and shoot at them with our sea-water nozzle. Despite being completely at home in the sea, the sea lions intensely dislike to be squirted in the face with water. They would immediately stop fighting and all of them would leave. Problem solved for a while.

Even though it was not that obvious to us, it either was the same few sea lions that visited our patch, or they are phenomenal communicators. For, pretty soon, the sea lions only had to see Frans with the nozzle before disappearing under the water. So, as long as Frans jumped up right at the beginning of their fighting, we managed to sleep with minimal interruption.

That is… until the “Night of the sea lions”….

I sleep more lightly than my poor husband, so his cue for midnight action was the pumping of my elbow in his side and some mumbling about the duties of strong husbands.

That specific night I know that I was not properly awake yet when the snarling started. (We’ve had a few noisy nights already, right?). I was really battling to get rid of this sea lion in my dream, when all of a sudden there came a VERY vicious and loud snarling and if that didn’t wake me up, the sight of the furry behind of a sea lion right on our hatch definitely did the thing!! This meant that one of the sea lions did the unthinkable thing and actually jumped the little ladder and climbed over all our obstacles AND landed on our aft cabin hatch, right above my bed.

Frans was able to eradicate the culprit and he felt that there was no harm done. He reckons that it was quite a hefty fella. But It was the end of any chance that I had of peaceful sleep. I kept on thinking that if one made it….others would. They are good communicators, right? Once our nocturnal visitor jumped off the side, he must have realized that some parts of our boat wasn’t so high and that a whole new area of real estate suddenly became available. Ag Nee!!!

I’m sure that I did doze off at some time, but my sleeping was very fitful and in my dreams Shang Du was lined with sea lions on every available surface and they were all grinning at me with one eye swollen shut.

We never did get any other sea lions that ventured past our swimming platform, but I was very ready to leave the anchorage before the word got around.

In looking back, I am extremely grateful that the glass cover was in place over our hatch. Imagine an angry sea lion landing on top of you in bed and then trying to maneuver it out of your boat, pushing it up the steep companionway? Shudder!!




It is even hard to keep the sea lions out of the public areas:


    • Trish on October 19, 2017 at 11:51 am
    • Reply

    Oh my goodness! They are a bit rude!! Wondering when you will reach us? Is have a bit of leave and we are going on a cruise but just 4 days. We want to be here when you come here!!
    Lots of love

    • Ieteke Theron on October 25, 2017 at 9:26 am
    • Reply

    Hi Karin

    Dis so lekker om julle te volg.

    Ek het 2 dae gelede met Julia gewhatsup en sy se,julle moet nou een of ander tyd in ons omgewing wees.

    Waar trek julle nou?
    En gaan julle stop in Perth/Freemantle?
    Sal so lekker wees om julle te sien.


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