17 Boaters And Sailors Reveal The Most Unexplainable Thing They’ve Seen At Sea

image - Flickr / Arthur LEWIS
image – Flickr / Arthur LEWIS

Found on r/AskReddit.

1. It’s like closing your eyes

My father raced a 42′ sailboat from Marion, MA to Bermuda, twice. He said the scariest part of it was just how utterly pitch-black dark it is out there on a cloudy moonless night. They had to reset a breaker or something like that, and had to turn the running lights off at one point; Dad said it was nearly impossible to tell if his eyes were open or closed.

On the other hand, he said seeing the clear night sky full of stars with zero light pollution was absolutely breathtaking. It wasn’t until then that he understood how ancient celestial navigation was possible.


2. Pillars of water

1. Sailing through the Bahamas, you can sometimes get relatively calm spots of water even if the wind is blowing a good 10-15 knots. One night it was that eerie sort of calm, clear and I was at the helm by myself. We sailed through a patch of phosphorescent bacteria and the ocean glittered in such a way that you couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the water began, it felt like I was sailing through space.

2. A guy in Florida gave the boat I was on coordinates for somewhere between the Turks and Caicos banks and Hispaniola, saying there was something “mind-blowing” out there and we had to check it. I guess he told the captain what it was, but he wanted to keep it a surprise. When we reached the coordinates, (which required some motoring,) we found a source of constant bubbling. We didn’t really understand what it was until the captain threw a bucket over the side and filled it up from the bubbling water… and drank out of it. It was a pillar of fresh water coming from some vent in the ocean floor. Bizarre.


3. You’ll never guess…

Was chatting with a Gloucester fisherman once who said he had a friend that ran into something while in the geographic center of the gulf of Mexico. He looked over the side and it was an entire small house just below the surface


4. He was more than 60 miles from shore

I delivered a sailboat from Clearwater Florida to the Big Bend area of Florida. Going straight across puts me about 75 miles offshore at the farthest. It turned out to be flat calm, no breeze at all, so we motored the whole way. Just about at the farthest point offshore, 60 to 75 miles at least, I saw a black dot on the horizon. As we got closer it turned out to be a 12 foot aluminum Jon boat with about a 6 HP outboard motor and 3 guys in it. AT LEAST 60+ MILES FROM SHORE! I wouldn’t trust a boat like that more than about how far I could swim from shore. I went right past them, stopped and asked if they were OK. One of them looked at me like I was crazy. “Of course we are.”

Well…Okay then… good luck…

(Uhhh… dudes… do you know that WE ARE AT LEAST 60+ MILES FROM SHORE?!)


5. A hole in one!

I caught a halibut in the middle of the ocean in Alaska and found a Titleist golf ball in his stomach. That was weird.


6. Some cool things

Off the coast of Cuba I was laying there looking at the stars and suddenly I just see this bright flash. I’ve since decided it was an iridium flare.

In the Bahamas a large glow appeared below the boat for a few seconds. Only thing I can think of was maybe a whale churning up plankton.


7. Whose sub was that?

I was in my 15 foot boat about two miles out in Donegal Bay fishing over a sandbank. Looking back to shore about 300 metres off my stern between me and the shore a periscope came out of the water and went back down in about about a minute and a half. We Irish don’t have any subs in our Navy, so I have no idea who the hell that was.


8. They were just staring

Strange looking blunt-faced dolphins coming up to the bow to just stare at us. These particular dolphins looked like they were from another planet, but after some research they were, in fact, of this planet, lol.


9. Thanks for the cup

I was sailing from Chicago to south haven Michigan at night. We were hit but such a bad storm halfway it blew all the swallows 45 miles out to sea. Because they could see our masthead at nighttime, they all tried to land on it. So every time lighting struck (like every half second for six hours) all you could see was the deck covered in dead birds. Gave my friend a solo cup and told him to start scooping. Very weird stuff!


10. Well…shit…

My wife and I were honeymooning in St Lucia 5 years ago. The resort we stayed at offered a catamaran cruise to the Pitons. It was great, free drinks, great scenery, weather was perfect. The cruise drops us off at some town to check out the sulfur volcano and a waterfall. Time comes to board for the ride back to the resort. I say to my wife: I really want to sit by the cargo net at the bow to get the breeze and spray so we can cool off. Of course she wants to sit somewhere else. We almost break into a mini argument and while that is going on some other couples grab the spots around the net. No big deal, we find a spot a little bit behind where I wanted to be.

About half way back some kind of game fish leaps out of the sea, through the cargo net and literally into the lap of the guy of the couple who wound up were I wanted to sit.

Everyone is kind of amazed at first. Then the guy starts wrestling with whatever kind of fish it was. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, it all happened kind of quick, it was about 3-4 feet long and seemed to be 40-50 lbs.

After about 4-5 seconds, the fish drops back through the net and this guys wife starts screaming. Blood is pouring out of this guys leg. Being pretty much right behind him, I got a good look at the 5 inch gash the fish’s fins must have put in him. I could see that fatty looking substance and I knew things had gone pretty bad. He managed to get his feet diced up too.

The boat had to pull off at the next resort and drop this couple off so he could get immediate medical attention. We could hear the sirens making their way to towards us as we shoved off again.

And, to top it off, we saw him at the airport when we were leaving like 4 days later in a wheelchair. Not the way you want to spend your honeymoon, but I was glad he made it through.

To this day I still think that my wife or I should have been the one in that wheelchair or worse.


11. What the fuck, Singapore

I circumnavigated the globe from the ages of 23-25 on a 43-foot sailboat. One of the freakiest incidents we had on board was when we were leaving Singapore in the middle of the night. Aside from the constant game of frogger dodging freighters, our path was fairly straightforward.

At about 3am, I was alone at the helm, with everybody else asleep down below. Suddenly, I hear a beep from the radar, which had been set to warn about anything within a quarter mile of our vessel. Looking around, I couldn’t find anything obvious within that range, so I put the boat on autopilot and went down below to investigate.

Typically, other ships show up as little blobs, but for some reason, the radar was registering a long, solid line, the length of the screen, directly in front of us. And it was getting closer… fast.

Heart racing, I went back on deck to see what could possibly be registering such a bizarre signature. Eyes slowly adjusting, I looked into the dark, peering as hard as I could to make out something, anything… and then I saw it.

Not more than 100 yards ahead was a 20-foot-high, unlit, rock-solid wall. Right there in the middle of the ocean, looming and, by this point, making its presence known by the sound of waves lapping against it. I was absolutely petrified. Mind you, this was before chart plotters were widely used, and we were navigating with paper charts. I was utterly confused, and supremely terrified.

I called all hands on deck and we stopped the boat dead, pulled down the sails and started the engine. Slowly, painstakingly, we picked our way through what was by that time increasingly apparent: a full-on construction zone. Our charts were only 2 years old, but apparently, Singapore had undergone a monumental land reclamation (or perhaps “newclamation” since it was never there to begin with) project in the meantime.

Even once we found our way out, nobody slept for the rest of the night. To this day the image of magically appearing dark walls in the middle of the ocean haunts my dreams.


12. The most ridiculous bite

So, I recently just finished working with a privately owned research and educational group doing a population survey of the sharks and stingrays in the gulf of mexico.

Anyways, one day we pull in our line and find one of the sharks we caught had died on the line, probably due to the heavy current that day. Which sucks, but happens like once every 2 months so it’s pretty rare.

Using this opportunity, we first did a dissection on the shark for the students, and then put the shark on our line as bait. The shark was only about 2.5ft long, and bigger sharks like bull sharks and hammerheads love small sharks like that.

We put the line out and hung the shark right on this big buoy we use to mark where the line is. We also do this because if a big shark takes the bait, the ball will splash and alert us. It’ll also keep the shark near the surface and unable to dive, which makes pulling them onto the boat for tagging and data acquisition easier.

About a half hour passes, and things are dead still out on the water. No wind, no waves, and no noise. Hot and still and silent. Then, out a nowhere, BOOSH! A huge splash, the ball rockets into the air from underwater and smacks the surface. And then nothing.

We race over, pull in our line, and find nothing. As in, the shark we had hooked was completely gone. The airplane cable we use to attach our bait to the line was snapped clean in half. The steel cable rated at a 7000 lbs break strength was cleanly snapped.

So there’s something out there, just 5 miles off the coast of Florida, big enough to swallow a 2.5ft shark and snap a metal cable in a single bite.


13. A UFO!

Coast Guard here, Ive sailed the Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific.

Coolest things I have seen have been an Oarfish, Sunfish, dead whale that started a shark feeding frenzy, several water spouts, a leatherback turtle the size of a volkswagen, Blue whale, grey whale migration, the milky way through night vision goggles, more drugs than you can imagine and many other things.

Strangest would be a UFO, I shit you not. I was on mid watch 0000-0400 or midnight to 4 am. I was the lookout and noticed this light in the distance, we weren’t by land and the radar didn’t show anything, I watched this light gain and lose altitude and go back and forth for over an hour. I was pretty transfixed by this thing, I wish it could’ve gotten closer.

Scariest would be 60ft waves. We were off the Oregon coast when a big ass storm came down from the gulf of alaska. We were getting tossed around like a rag doll and nobody was allowed to go outside but you could still go to the bridge and such. Well I went up there and saw waves passing us that were 10ft higher than the bridge. I went up one deck to where the lookout was and for as far as the eye could see there were massive waves. That storm fucked our boat up, a lot of stuff got bent or smashed, lost all the gear off the fan tail. It was crazy, made me feel very small.


14. He was awe-struck

Merchant mariner here (works as a mate on cargo freighters). While working on a Greek LNG tanker (Greek officers, Filipino crew) somewhere between Dahej, India and Bonny, Nigeria I hear this weird buzzing sound coming from out on the bridge wing as I’m standing night watch. I go outside, look the antennas and see St Elmo’s Fire lightning.

It wasn’t scary or unexplainable, just awesome in the true sense of the word. I was filled with awe. Take a look at some of the pictures of St Elmo’s fire on the masts of old sailing ships and you’ll see what I mean.

But the best part was that when I put my hand up into the air, towards the wind it fucking started shooting out of my fingertips. I’m standing there, under a cloudless, crystal clear moonless sky with the Milky way above me, face to the wind, both hands in the air with purple-blue-white lightning bolts shooting out of my finger tips.

I truly felt awesome. It remains one of the most unique experiences of my life.


15. Hallucinations sound scary as hell

This was a comment the last time this was asked and it’s really interesting. One night a guy who rowed the Pacific said that these big eels (like forearm thick) with glowing eyes all started swimming around his boat then suddenly stuck their necks directly up, out of the water with their heads turned towards him (like a submarine periscope) and all just watched him. He said he could never figure out whether it was real or a hallucination from tiredness!


16. Water is seriously our enemy

Rogue wave. Sailing in an open ocean race , at night. My friend and I on watch during a light storm. Suddenly the whole boat is gone. All we can see is a eerie green glow from the lights in the cockpit and the navigation station, but they are underneath us. About 4 feet. We hit the end of our life lines, life jackets inflate and a few seconds that seemed like eternity tick by with us getting pulled under. Then the boat suddenly bursts up out of the water. Several more seconds go by that seem like frantic minutes or hours. As the boat drains I am climbing over the lifelines and look to my friend who is now on the other side of the boat (we were sitting right beside each other) now tangled in the aft corner of the lifelines. We get everything under control about the time the watch below realizes that there’s a few thousand gallons of water sloshing around with them.

Someone opened a hatch to get some air and the inside of the boat flooded when we went under. After lots of screaming and yelling the bilges drained the boat pretty quick. Everything was drenched, food, equipment, people. My mate and I sat down and – with our still inflated life jackets just started laughing hysterically and gave each other a big hug.

I’ve been inside burning houses, worked horrible car accidents, jumped out of planes and climbed mountains. That experience was the most adrenaline fueled , fearful, oh shit moment of my life. When I looked down and saw this giant 44 foot boat swallowed by the abyss, a sinking boat glowing under me… knowing I was tied to it… I thought, this is it, this is how you die. 10/10 would do it again though!


17. No one knew what it was

The summer of 2012 I was lucky enough to join a voyage from Bermuda to Haiti on (the fastest tall-ship) The Spirit Of Bermuda. I was on deck on a watch which lasted from 8pm to 12am. I usually volunteered for bow watch, where you look out for debris, other ships, and whatever the instruments don’t catch. The trip was fun, though generally uneventful until this fateful Saturday.

Its 11:30pm and there’s moonlight, some clouds and stars. I could see quite clearly, so as per usual, I volunteered for bow watch so I could skip out on any serious responsibility (I was 17). I’m leaning against the forward mast gazing at the horizon and humming songs to myself. My eyes shift from port to starboard and up and down until they lock on a cloud cruising along the sky. Suddenly the cloud parts and a long blue streak descends all the way down into the horizon. Shooting star right? No. The sky flashed a bright blue as well. Lightning? No. The night was calm as hell and this beam of light – was perfectly straight. I was sitting in blank awe for a couple moments, then I immediately ran for my Watch Officers at the Stern of the ship.

Everyone on watch that night was standing up with their mouths wide open, we all then exchanged glances. I broke the silence and asked what was it. My watch officer, let’s call him Jake, shakes his head and tells me he doesn’t know. Then taps the other officer, telling him to wake up the captain. I went down into the cabin to see if I could steal a peek at the Sonar (only officers could be around the instruments), but nothing was on the scope.

The Captain ended up telling everyone that its no big deal and to carry on. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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