ENGLEWOOD — Since the ancient Greeks and even into this century, people have reported how dolphins saved them from drowning or warded off sharks from attacking them.
Conner Pressly helped to repay the debt Wednesday.
Pressly, with his parents, operate Riding the Waves out of Skip’s Marina on Ainger Creek in Englewood. The Presslys offer eco-tours of local waters.
They teach customers how to operate individual catamarans powered by 30-horsepower outboards. Pressley then guides them to where they can enjoy the natural sights along the Intracoastal Waterway and other waterways.
Wednesday morning, while heading south in Lemon Bay to Boca Grande with a couple, Pressly noticed a pontoon and two other boaters stopped and staring along the shoreline north of the Palm Island Ferry landings.
Pressly realized they were watching a bottlenose dolphin flipping and thrashing frantically on a small sandbar in the shallows, near the shoreline.
“I was going to call (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), but I realized there was no time,” he said, describing the dolphin as seven feet long. “The tide was going out quickly.” And the water was receding from the sand bar, leaving the stranded high and dry.
Pressly also noticed another dolphin on the other side of the sandbar. He suspects the stranded dolphin picked the wrong route to be with its companion and got stuck
With help from a couple of other boaters, Pressly tried to calm the dolphin, stroking its head gently. But every time, he tried to move to the dolphin’s tail, it would flail about violently.
Pressly had an idea. With a rope, he lassoed the dolphin’s tail.
“I dragged him back, into deeper water,” Pressly said. He unlooped the rope. “He was gone.”
Once in the dolphin was in deeper water, it was joined by the other dolphin. He saw the two surfaced near the ferry landings.
“They starting coming up right next to me,” Pressly said. He suspects the dolphin recognized his boat, but also recognized him because he was wearing a bright orange shirt. “I know he recognized me.”
The dolphin responded to Pressly with high-pitched whistles. Maybe, a dolphin’s way to say “thank you.”