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December 30, 2011, started off as just another routine day, tending the longline fishing gear used by the crew of the Honolulu-based fishing boat Ocean Pearl.  The routine was abruptly changed when the crew and boat were visited by unexpected guests -  two magnificent Humpback whales! 

Captain William Winn, the boat's main officer, shared with Carroll Cox his jaw-dropping and impressive story that will forever be etched in Captain Winn's mind.  Here is his story:

On December 30, at approximately 10 p.m., about 400 miles north of Honolulu, two Humpback whales, a male and female, appeared alongside Captain Winn's fishing boat, the Ocean Pearl.  The boat's lights revealed silhouetted figures swimming just below the surface of the water, alongside the boat.  To Winn and the crew's surprise, the whales surfaced within inches of the boat.    The two whales continued swimming alongside the boat, scratching themselves on the side and bottom as the crew retrieved their fishing gear.   After Captain Winn and the crew recovered their gear and fish, they drifted around the rest of the night while they rested.  During the night the whales continued to scratch and rub themselves against the hull of the boat. Captain Winn believes the whales were using his boat as a scratching post, so to speak, to remove barnacles from their bodies.  When the whales first appeared, they had very large barnacles on them, but as they rubbed and scratched, the barnacles disappeared. 

The morning after the whales appeared, Captain Winn had to remove pieces of rope and net that were entangled in his propeller.  He put on his fins, snorkel and mask, entered the water, and started removing the ropes and net.  Shortly after starting, he was surprised and startled when the female whale swam up, within three feet of him, and made eye contact.   Captain Winn describes the moment as one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in his 34 years of life.  He also said he was equally as nervous, and went on to say that, in his 16 years of working in the various fishing industries of Hawaii, the Pacific, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, he never heard of anything like this happening.

For approximately five days the two whales traveled with the Ocean Pearl, from the fishing grounds, 400 miles north of  Honolulu,  back to Oahu and  right into Honolulu Harbor. Once they reached Honolulu, Captain Winn delayed entering the harbor  to see if the whales would leave the  boat.  However, the whales ended up accompanying the boat right into the harbor and up to the dock where they tied up.  Captain Winn said the whales were on both sides of the boat, still rubbing and scratching, as he attempted to park.  They even pushed the boat around.    The following day the two whales were still hanging out in the harbor, giving crowds that came to see them the sight of a lifetime.

The Ocean Pearl is approximately 65 feet long, and rather flat on the bottom.  Apparently, the whales found it to be a good way to go.

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