There was a split second when Ray Boyd saw the whale’s head rise up in front of him. Then, a sensation of flying.
“The next thing I remember was a feeling of being lifted up,” said Boyd, who is convinced his guardian angel was with him when his seven-metre Grady White boat went head to head with a humpback last month.
When Boyd came round, blood was pouring from his head. The boat was still heading straight down the channel away from Craycroft Island, northeast of Campbell River. A small turn in either direction could have sent the boat into walls of solid rock, he said.
“I looked around and the boat was covered in blood. I could feel with my tongue that I had knocked some teeth out,” said Boyd, 58, owner of a Campbell River logging company.
Somehow, Boyd steered back toward Craycroft Island. Among the group gathered there were his two adult sons and — by chance — two paramedics.
That’s when Boyd started to lose consciousness again.
“I told them I had hit a whale. What’s not to believe?” he said.
“I haven’t talked to many people that have run into a whale. The only one I know is Jonah.”
Boyd was rushed to Campbell River, where his wife, Brenda, was waiting, then flown to Victoria General Hospital, where a trauma crew was standing by. He was later moved to Royal Jubilee Hospital.
The major trauma was to his face. In addition to a cut on his head, he had knocked out four top teeth and smashed his jaw.
It is one way to diet, joked Boyd, who is now back at his Campbell River home.
“I’ve lost 10 pounds. My wife has to grind up food for me,” he said. “I’m doing pretty good other than I’ve got no teeth, and that changes your lifestyle.”
Even his boat has come off better than expected, with cracks to the top but the hull intact. Inside, doors are smashed and there is other damage.
“I did more damage to the boat than the whale did,” Boyd said.
Now Boyd, who has spent much of his life on the water, is trying to recall how the accident happened — and whether it could have been avoided.
“It was perfectly flat and calm,” said Boyd, who estimates he was travelling at about 28 knots.
“I’m always watching for thing like the odd logs floating around, but the whale came straight out of the water and started spraying. Before I had a chance to reach the throttle, I felt the impact. I still see the vision in my head.”
It happened so fast that Boyd cannot even confirm it was a humpback.
Humpback whales, which are listed as threatened, started returning to the B.C. coast in 2004 after nearly four decades. They are usually 13 to 15 metres long and weigh up to 40 tonnes.
The baleen whales do not echolocate and have a habit of surfacing unpredictably, said Jackie Hildering of the Marine Education and Research Society.
The group is working on a brochure, Coming to Blows, warning about the danger, listing signs baleen whales might be in the area and detailing how to report a collision.
But Boyd does not know what else he could have done.
“Even if we had seen a whale earlier, it would never have entered my mind it would come up right in front of me,” he said.
Members of MERS have been on the lookout for an injured humpback but have not found it, and Boyd is hoping it escaped — like him — with bruises and gashes.