Paloma Werner and Ralph Mothes are no strangers to whales. Mothes owns the Cape Town Sailing Academy, and Werner has worked there for five years. They've seen the majestic creatures from a distance on many of their sailing expeditions.
But this expedition was different.
Sailing near Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, the couple saw a southern right whale "flapping its tail on the water" about 300 feet away. Then it breached and disappeared under the water. The whale reappeared much closer — about 70 feet away — as it breached again.
"It was awesome," Werner said.
Thinking the whale would dive under the boat, Mothes told Werner to go to the other side to see it emerge from the water.
The next thing she heard was Mothes screaming "Oh, sh**!"
"Then I just saw this huge whale crash onto our yacht," she said.
Mothes took cover behind the steering wheel, and Werner was safe underneath the coach house. Tourists sailing nearby snapped photos of the ordeal.
Shocked, but not injured, the couple began looking around for damage as the whale splashed away. Luckily, the yacht was steel, so it was strong enough to withstand the whale's impact. Only the mast and rigging were damaged.
"In the greater scheme of things, it's minor damage," Werner said, but "it's going to be quite expensive."
Southern Right Whale Leaves Blubber but No Blood
The whale, Werner said, probably didn't know the boat was there because the engine was not running.
"The whale was just enjoying himself, breaching," she said. "It was just a freak accident." The whale left behind a few pieces of blubber but no blood.
"It might have a few scratches and a headache," Werner said.