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Whimsical sunfish encounter recalled

Jan 1, 2003

To the editor: I opened up the most recent issue to find an answer to a puzzle from years ago. We were sailing Wet Chemistry, my Kelly-Peterson 44, up the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, north of Barkley Sound.

It was a lazy, sunny day, and the crew opted to pull into a small, sheltered cove and drop the hook for lunch. Shortly after settling in, the strangest sea critter I ever laid eyes on appeared off the forward rail. Laying flat on its side near the surface and eyeing us as we ate lunch was a sunfish, about 2 feet top to bottom.

If the creature's shape wasn't odd enough, its actions were stranger still. It started charging the boat, breaking the surface several times in flying leaps and zooming towards the hull, making last-minute turns, apparently trying to scare the big intruder away. I don't think I've seen anything so outmatched in size be quite as aggressive. It was one of the most memorable natural experiences in my sailing years. Thanks for the excellent article on sunfish ("Bizarre basker," Issue 120, March/April 2002) and for bringing up the memory.

Jack Herndon lives in Seattle and sails the waters of Puget Sound and the Northwest.