A close encounter with Halichoerus grypus

By John Carvell

I have been sea kayaking around New Quay for many years and I never cease to to be amazed at the diversity of marine life one encounters as you hug the towering, beautiful coast line.

I could wax lyrical about bottlenose dolphins unexpectedly diving under the kayak and revealing the true size of these fully grown mammals, but the most memorable encounters have been with local Atlantic grey seal population. In many of the secluded coves they can be seen sunning themselves at low water and I have been alarmed on several occasions when fishing from the kayak as a seal surfaces with an enormous noise, almost like a steam train, just several feet from the vessel.

On one memorable occasion in 2018 there was the largest male seal I have ever encountered seemingly guarding the small cove where I had launched from. I had no other option but to skirt past old Halichoerus grypus, fully expecting the beast to scurry away once I approached, but a kayak is almost silent and he seemed to be transfixed on the shoreline. I would have been less than two metres away by the time he turned around, stared me in the eye with a look of total astonishment and then launched his 200Kg into the gentle surf. The suction from the vortex he created almost capsized the boat, but the modern sit-on-top kayaks are very stable. Serves me right for getting just a bit too close and breaking social distancing rules!

One thought on “A close encounter with Halichoerus grypus”

  1. Graham

    I miss the smell, sound and sight of the sea so much, can’t wait for the 5 mile restriction to be extended far enough to take my kayak out once again too – I live 12 miles away from the coast and complying though hard during the sunny weather we have just enjoyed!

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