Orca Rams Yacht In String of Scary Boat Attacks

by Taylor Cunningham
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There was another attack in a strange string of encounters that have been happening between boaters and orcas.

Over the past two years, hundreds of people have reported interactions with orcas while sailing around Spain and Portugal. Some of those interactions have been harmless, with the animal simply swimming alongside vessels. But many have been dangerous, which was true for the most recent reported incident.

On October 5, experienced sailors Paul and Norma Russell were cruising around coastal Portuguese towns with two friends while making their way to Sines. As Paul shared with Newsweek, he was already a little anxious about the trip because he had heard a lot of talk about orcas on VHF traffic during the excursion.

“After hearing a steady stream of reports of yachts being damaged in this region, plus seeing evidence of yachts on the hardstanding with rudder damage in virtually every marina since leaving La Coruna [in Spain], we were of course very concerned,” he admitted.

“I wouldn’t say that we were scared—if you’re scared you really shouldn’t be out there,” he continued. “But we certainly had a healthy dose of trepidation and a feeling that it was only a matter of time before we met up with an overly tactile orca of our own.”

Norma, Paul’s wife, said she was sitting on the deck when the what surfaced and began swimming beside her boat. And she remembered feeling an instant sense of dread.

“Oh no, we have got an orca,” she recalled thinking.

The Orca Lifted the Yacht with its Mouth and Dropped in back into the Sea

Paul ordered everyone into the cockpit. That way, if the orca became aggressive and rocked the boat, no one would fall off the side. Then, he turned the vessel 90 degrees and started heading for a beach that was about three miles away.

The animal continued following and surfaced a few times. But it didn’t make immediate contact, so everyone “relaxed a bit.” However, the sense of ease quickly ended when the orca abruptly began ramming the boat.

Paul explained that he kept the engine running. And as he attempted to get to land, the animal continued attacking from both sides and then from the rear. The orca even lifted the back of the boat with its mouth and dropped it back into the water.

The animal continued ramming for another 15 minutes, and then it swam away. Paul said that if they had been in a smaller boat, the situation could have been worse. Luckily, no one was injured.

“At no time did I feel that [the boat] or the crew were in any immediate life-threatening danger, but that doesn’t detract from our general feeling of being subject to the whims of a force much greater than our own,” he added. “The general consensus was that we were strangely glad that it had happened, as it was definitely a…less ordinary experience. But we are in no rush to experience it again anytime soon.”