There’s always more than what meets the eye. Rid yourself of the electronics and allow your senses to take over. An emulsion of sounds lies in wait.
At first, it’s the roar of the engine, drowning out each and every sound. But soon, the lapping of the waves along the hull fall into rhythm, followed with the screech of an osprey and an abrupt splash! from a pelican diving for its next meal.
If you’re lucky, the pssshtttt from the blowhole of the bottlenose dolphin grabs your attention, followed by dorsal fins, breaching the water, each with its own unique markings.
There truly is nothing like being on the water. Rain or shine, windy or calm. It’s always a breath of fresh air that offers a new lesson each and every time.
“It certainly isn’t a bad job either,” says John Kerner, captain of the Phoenix for Nags Head Dolphin Watch.
An Outer Banks resident since the ’80s, Kerner spent time as United States Coast Guard Master, more than a few years in the restaurant industry, and, in 2008, he finally found his passion when he bought the Nags Head Dolphin Watch. “I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get on the water and make people happy,” he says with a smile.
Kerner and his crew also work closely with the nonprofit Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research to help collect information.
“While out on the water, we provide a class where the kids get to test water temperature, air speeds and have the opportunity to get their hands wet,” he says. “It’s fun for the kids, helpful for research and parents love it, as well.”
Now with a second boat in his fleet, the Miss Bodie Island, guests have the opportunity to cruise the Roanoke sound in one of the 40 foot long covered pontoons for around two hours in the hopes of seeing one of the famous local dolphins known as “Scarlet,” “Onion,” or “Rake.”
“Over the years, we’ve discovered that many of the dolphins will spend the winters in Beaufort, North Carolina, while some of the more transient ones will go out in to the ocean,” he says. “Each summer, somewhere between 80-100 of the same dolphins return to the Roanoke Sound as the warm waters provide a lot of fish for them to feed on.”
The encounter is as unique as it is informative. Guests are given the chance to not only learn the ecology of the area but the history as well — all in one satisfying trip.
“Just remember: If you are ever encounter dolphins while you are underway on your own vessel to maintain you course and speed so that they can hear you,” he says.
“Dolphins end up getting hit when you move the vessel. Stay 50 yards away, do not feed them, and don’t get in the water with them.”