Whales and whales and leaping whales

Graeme and Chris
Sun 21 Jul 2013 18:55
46:28.28N 13:48.88W
Evening of Day 2 out of Terceira, we saw our first whale about 50 astern.  It just surfaced and then dived and disappeared again – no problem.
Morning of Day 3, as we were having our first cup tea, we heard our first ‘whooosh’, like a firework rocket launching.  Chris’s hushed voice called me up from down below.   Behind us were 3 whales, taking it in turns to surface.  They were each at least 20+ metres in length (our boat is 12 metres).  Like the previous evening we thought they would just take a look and go – but no.  For the next 50 minutes they followed us, coming right up to about 10 metres behind the boat and staying with us, one either side of us and one slightly further back in the middle.  They looked like submarines as they surfaced to blow and appeared just as menacing.  After about 10 minutes, knowing that whales can hit/attack yachts,  we became very concerned as they were definitely sticking with us, dropping back to about 50 metres behind and then coming back and surface 10 metres behind before peeling off again.  One came up on our port side, surfacing about 4 metres away and definitely eyeballing us as it rolled to one side.  Not knowing what was going on, I don’t mind admitting that I could feel the fear building.  I’ve been scared witless on a number occasions in my life, but this was the first time I’ve felt completely helpless.  We debated starting the engine to see if that would persuade them to go away but were worried in case the noise would aggravate them so we didn’t.  However, after 30 minutes of being ‘stalked’, we gave starting the engine a try.  Made no difference, they kept with us and seemed to surface more frequently to look at us.  After 50 minutes,  we saw 2 ‘blows’ from other whales about 300 metres away.  Our hearts sank as we thought that another 2 whales were going to come and join the the 3 that were stalking us.  But the 3 that were with us peeled off to join the 2 others.  We held our breath for another 15 minutes as we watched the 5 whales surfacing and blowing about 300 metres away.   They then disappeared and we started to relax but remained on edge for the rest of the day.
Next morning and again Chris called me up as I was preparing breakfast.  This time the sight was probably even more extraordinary.  About 500 metres away, whales were leaping quite literally into the air, acting like dolphins but looking more like missiles being launched from submarines.  How these huge mammals could leap 10metres+ plus into the air just seemed impossible.  Again we held our breath, watching this amazing display with alternating awe and fear.  Being considerably bigger than our boat, if one landed on us it would have been our last show ever.  The show lasted about 5 minutes before they disappeared.  Once again we were nervous wrecks and had little appetite for breakfast but knowing that we had witnessed something quite exceptional and very were privileged to do so.
Since the jumping display, we have had one more whale visit us but thankfully only checking us out for a minute before diving off again. 
We have video of the 3 whales following us and will put a clip on our website once we get access to fast broadband.  The attached small pic doesn’t really show their size or how close they were to the boat:
Whales 1