HomeOutdoorsNewsOrca pod rams couple’s yacht in hour-long coordinated attack

Orca pod rams couple’s yacht in hour-long coordinated attack

by Caitlin Berard
Orca pod swimming together in Canada
(Photo by Eric Meola via Getty Images)

A calm day of sailing turned terrifying when a pod of orcas set their sights on a couple’s yacht, ramming the vessel for over an hour in a coordinated attack.

Cambridge residents Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell were on the second day of training for a week-long sailing trip in the Strait of Gibraltar, otherwise known as “orca alley.” Despite a relatively rocky sea, everything had gone smoothly to that point – then an orca pod appeared from the deep.

At first, everyone on board was awe-struck by the approaching cetaceans. Witnessing the striking creatures in person was exactly the kind of thing they had been hoping for on their oceanic outing.

As the orcas drew closer, however, it became clear that they weren’t just passing through. The orca pod swam directly toward them and, using their powerful bodies, worked together to repeatedly ram the 46-foot yacht.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw them,” Morris told The Sunday Times. “It’s extremely rare. We were sitting ducks. We were amazingly calm but underneath we were thinking, ‘Oh my god.’ [But] because everyone was calm, it felt okay.”

The situation became even more worrying when they realized the orca pod wasn’t going anywhere. Rather than moving on, they remained near the ship, continuing to ram it for over an hour.

“We were petrified,” Morris said. “It wasn’t until afterward that we talked about being very scared. We got our valuables and our passports and talked about getting the life raft ready. It really didn’t help that conditions were bad before the orcas. The boat was moving around a lot.”

The orca pod didn’t sink the yacht, but the ship suffered major damage

Though the orca pod wreaked such havoc on the yacht that a sinking ship was a distinct possibility, the crew remained calm, allowing the passengers to keep their cool as well.

“We all remained calm because we were aware that if any of us got anxious, it would be infectious,” Bidwell explained. “We were able to do that because the skipper was so calm.”

“Orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase, so ideally we’d have kept still. But that wasn’t possible because of the winds.”

Miraculously, the yacht endured the hour-long orca pod attack. Not without suffering serious damage, though.

When the orca finally moved on to more interesting prey, the crew discovered the boat’s steering system had failed. This forced the couple and crew to return to shore, at which point they realized that the orca pod had whittled the rudder down to the point of uselessness.

Experts remain unsure why orcas (aka killer whales) attack yachts and other boats, despite incidents in the area increasing in recent years. As they often target the rudder, however, it’s possible that they’re attracted to the water pressure created by the boat’s propeller.

Last month, orca pods were reportedly responsible for the sinking of two boats off the coast of Portugal, with many others towed back to shore after the cetaceans wrecked their rudders.