This article is based on the AskReddit question “Sailors, what is the most unexplainable thing you have witnessed out at the sea?”
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
I was manning a .50 cal on my first cruise in the Persian Gulf. I stood one four-hour watch every day, and it was pretty monotonous. We saw plenty of Gulf wildlife – bright purple jellyfish, sea snakes, etc, but one day I saw a bloated cow carcass just floating in the water. We’re a hundred miles from shore so it probably didn’t float out, but the possibility existed.
Until we saw the second one. Then the third. Then the fourth. And the fifth. At about 1000′ intervals, there were bloated cow carcasses forming a perfectly straight line that we followed for a pretty good while because we were also going that direction… had to have been two, three dozen of them. There were some goats and dogs in there too.
Maybe not supernatural or anything, but it was pretty weird. Never seen anything like that before or since.
Sailing off the coast of Florida in a Submarine at periscope depth, we see a small fishing boat go by. The fishing boat slows down and on the emergency frequency channel we hear in a VERY southern twang “is that a submarine? That must be a dang submarine!”
The man immediately strips completely naked and then displays his rear for all of us to see on the periscope. He slaps his butt a few times and then carries on with his day.
During the night after leaving Djibouti we noticed that a radar echo, probably a tanker, was behind us and and was on a collision course. We changed direction almost unnoticeably, 1 every 5-10 minutes in order to not reveal we were aware of its presence. After one hour the echo radar was still straight behind us and getting closer, it was clear it was following us.
So we let the tanker get closer and closer, until it was at 100 meters behind us, then we turned abruptly, esquived, and navigate at full speed in the opposing direction. Since a tanker takes hours to do a complete turn we were safe after that, we never saw it again.
Why would this tanker followed us and wanted to harm us, we had absolutely no idea. At the time there was no pirate in the zone. Maybe it was a ghost tanker.
~250 miles into the Gulf of Mexico on my dad’s boat (44 feet). We’d been out there a couple weeks.
It was about two in the morning, ocean was eerily glassy – nary a wave to be seen. When you’re that far out, and it’s that dark, and the seas are calm, it can be tough to tell when the sky stops and the horizon begins.
The boat was equipped with a light beneath the diving board on the rear (aft) that illuminated maybe a twenty-foot radius beneath and around the boat.
I saw a black shadow beneath me; a silhouette of something large enough to dwarf the boat I stood on. Maybe it was the alcohol, but I don’t recall feeling afraid – just curious. I stared at it while it shifted beneath the light for a solid few minutes. I sorta wished it would surface, but I guess part of me was glad that it didn’t.
It’s not much, and it really could’ve been anything from a whale to a submarine, but it was still the strangest thing I can remember seeing.
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We were sailing south on Lake Michigan with iron ore to Burns Harbor it was around 02:00. A blip on the radar and another and on and on and then right past us without any lights or sound. The thing was the object after calculating it velocity was confirmed to be moving just below 2,500 mph. This was a freaky moment because we couldn’t think of anything that could move that fast on or just above water.
Was snorkeling in Mauritius. Just off the coast where the break is the ocean floor is all of a sudden super far down, which accommodates for coral the size of houses. Makes for a pretty scary sight. I was around 13 at the time and just being in deep water like that was frightening enough, but what I recall seeing has made me so afraid of the ocean that I’ve never gone to the beach since (not that I liked the beach much anyway).
It looked like a human, moving on the ocean floor on all fours, but it was pitch black, like a shadow but a much deeper tone. Perhaps it was just a hallucination out of sheer fear and panic, but it sure was terrifying.
While standing a lookout watch at night on a patrol somewhere in the middle of the Bering Sea, I saw a light appear on the horizon. The light rose until I could tell through the binoculars that it was clearly a circle of light — a glowing orb of some sort. It rose quickly and steadily and hung in the air, motionless from my perspective, for a short period of time, but long enough for me to report the sighting and for folks on the bridge to puzzle over it. Then a few minutes later, it dropped quickly and was gone for good.
So, two things we knew: 1) It was over the water. The nearest land in that direction was so far that the damn thing would have had to have been the size of Connecticut if it had shot up from land. 2) The United States government didn’t have a clue what it was (or, had no interest in telling us).
It was weird. I do not believe it was extraterrestrial or the result of anything supernatural. But it was weird.
My family and I were out sailing in Croatia in a rental boat. There had been some pretty bad weather the week before our arrival, but we had fortunately avoided the storms. However one fateful day when we were casually cruising along the coast, we starting noticing things in the water. We decided to check it out and found large chunks of debris floating around, including a cabin door with a small orange life-west resting on top of it. We were shocked and stuck around the scene for about 30 minutes, listening for sounds and checking out the things we could fish up. After concluding that it looked like it had been in the water for quite some time (we determined at least a month or two) – and after trying to call it over our radio, which turned out to not work (thanks, rental boats!) – we decided to keep moving. But we couldn’t quite shake off the feeling of dread after seeing that. The little orange life vest still haunts me. I’m not entirely sure what else we could have done since we had no way of communication with land and we were hours away from the nearest port. We have no idea what it was, what happened or – well – anything else.
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I was on a 52 ft boat 20 miles off the coast of South Carolina at about 3 am cruising at 25 kts when I was hit in the chest by someone large and alive. It knocked me clear of the helm and was stuck to my shirt. I was on the deck rolling around trying to get it off me in the dark. I got up, took my shirt off and stomped it until it stopped moving.
I went down to the cabin to grab my flashlight and gun. When I got back to the helm I finally was able to see what it was.
A huge bat. It’s wing span was two feet and it was still very much alive. It sat there for a minute and then flew off.
I was bleeding and had to get rabies shots when I got home.
My great grandpa was a Frogman (predecessor to the navy SEALs and EOD) in the US navy during world war 2 and he claimed one day when he was on the deck of a ship before a mission and he claimed that for a moment he saw thousands of hands reaching out of the water. A few hours later while he was on shore, the ship was attacked and lots of sailors on the ship died. He didn’t believe in “visions” and he always said it was because of the stress of running missions non stop for the last month but the rest of my family thinks he saw a few hours into the future.
My father was a subsea engineer. He had numerous tails about finding strange debris on the ocean floor. His most interesting story was from a trench inspection for a new pipe line. He was onboard the submersible as it followed the freshly dug trench and they videoed the site. Suddenly the pilot spotted something, slowed the sub, and shut down all the video equipment. He moved the sub to bring the lights on the skeletal remains of a human that had been clearly wrapped in chains. They hung there for a while in quiet observation then my dad asked the pilot “why did you shut down the video?” He replied “unless you want this entire project to be halted while a criminal investigation into the death of some stranger who likely died over a 100 years ago, best to leave what we have found down here and move on.
I have a good friend who I have been sailing with for years, I have a few stories with each of us but my favorite is the story of how we met from his perspective. “I was sailing off the coast of Washington just minding my own business when I see a mast sailing past me. Assuming I had just drank something that was messing with my head so I pear over to take a look, and I see this fellow standing on the boom leaning against the mast with the deck completely below water he just looks at me and says “this looks worse than it is, but could you give me a lift?” and cracks this silly grin. Anyhow a long story short I gave this nut job and his flooded zodiac lift back to port” so yeah the strangest thing I think I have ever met on the ocean has been myself.
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We saw it in 2008 during a rally off the Baja coast 2-3knot winds barely enough to fill the sails. I watched as a floating coconut dressed like a pirate passed us at about 3 knots against the wind… We jumped in our dingy and caught up to it. Its now sitting in my uncle’s storage, forever a mystery. Who dressed a coconut up like a pirate. why they dressed it up like a pirate? And how was it going so fast?
In school when I was 14 I was sailing on Coniston lake in a 2 man sail boat. I was driving, and it was extremely choppy. We were going way too fast and I knew it was only a matter of time until we sank. The waves were terrifying, and I am not a fan of the water. In fact I refuse to go in a boat in an ocean outright. I was keeping it together for a while, but then I heard what sounded like an explosion, and a shock wave hit our boat, which turned the sail quickly, hitting me on the head. Time felt like it was slowing at this point, and my mate jumped straight off and as I regained my senses I noticed that the boat was tipping a lot. It was about to capsize. I tried my best to turn it back the other way to level it out, but it tipped so much the sail touched the water and scooped it in, flinging me into the air – luckily away from the boat because if I was under it I probably would have been killed. I surfaced and we held onto the edge of the capsized boat until help came about 20 minutes later. The wind was so strong however that the rescue boat almost sank as well and we had to shovel water out of it as we went with paper coffee cups.
Later i found out that a jet plane was doing maneuvers in the valley and due to the poor visibility he went too low towards the lake and accelerated to pull away upwards, causing him to break the sound barrier at low altitude, which was what the explosion sound was.
Lazily sailing on a bright, sunny, SoCal day, light winds, no chop, just wavelets and swells, lost a wooden push broom off the stern of the sailboat.
Saw it go over and start to float away, glanced down at my feet, glanced up and it was GONE. It had instantaneously turned invisible.
It most certainly did NOT sink but, though I thoroughly scanned the only area it could possibly be floating in, as my buddy brought us around in our tracks, it was nowhere to be found. Just. Gone.
It really struck home the importance of MOB (Man Over Board) drills and 1) not taking your eyes off the person for even a fraction of a moment, and 2) physically point at them with your arm extended until they’re rescued. Because floating objects really do disappear that fast.
Sailing in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, doing our best to stay away from the Navy (they were running a “cat and mouse” type exercise at the time). Anyhow, we’re sailing up towards our anchorage for the night, and coming towards us is this orange ball buoy. The strange thing was that the buoy was moving, and was moving against current and wind.
Despite the navy ships that were playing hide and seek with each other in the islands, there wasn’t any around us at that point, nor were there any other boats. My best explanation is that it was attached to an underwater autonomous vehicle or similar.
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I’m don’t sail for a living, but I do spend a lot of time racing and cruising. I was about 20 kilometres off Toronto in Lake Ontario one night when a small thunderstorm popped up, nothing scary just a little lightening in the distance. Suddenly there was this really strange buzzing sound, almost like a small motor but at the same time like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Then at nearly the same time the top quarter of the mast was enveloped in this bright blue wavy haze that looked like fire, this went on for a few seconds and then stopped. Scared the absolute shit out of me, I had no idea what was happening, until later I learned that it was St. Elmo’s Fire. At the time my mind had gone to it being some sort of paranormal activity. It is, however probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, before or since I’ve never seen that shade of blue. I would love to see it again but I probably never will.
Was in the Pacific, about a week east of Japan and on a night watch. A bright green light flashed in the sky, got brighter and bigger, zipped about a bit and disappeared back to nothing. It literally lit the place up, and this was pacific nothingness at probably about 3am.
Havent a clue what it was. Probably something space related, but the zooming about kinda discredits that theory. Maybe some Guam based DARPA thing? Hope it was aliens though. I like to think they passed me some knowledge or something through the light.
I have sailed dinghies at an international level, I am a diver and free diver and I also windsurf, so I’ve spent some time at sea. Some weird things I’ve seen would be a lion’s mane jellyfish which was no word of a lie 40m long in Scotland. Also near the Isle of Arran in school and I’ve seen a small cluster of jellyfish, which were small but they emitted light that changed from green to red in a sort of movement. Also whilst diving at night in one dive, there were over 300 brittle stars and 100 box jellyfish (my friend was collecting these at shore for research and got 100 in one hour), this was in Bonaire.
Sailing from the Yucatn in Mexico to Florida on a 5 night passage. I’m 9 taking my first solo night at the helm. It’s about 2am when I get in the cockpit, I settle in with my thermos. The wonderful sounds of the ocean surround me, dolphins randomly surface next to me and freak me out. Flying fish and squid pelt the boat constantly and one smacks me in the head. This is all expected, normal ocean stuff. We were about 200 miles from any land (probably closest land was Cuba) at this point. Look up and see a bunch of green balls of light moving in a coordinated pattern. This is the not normal part. They form different patterns and shapes, there are maybe 20 of them max. They dance around a bit for like 5 minutes all coordinated like then poof disappear. While they were around the fish and dolphins were silent. I had no idea what to do so I just went back to the helm and made sure we were on the right course.
That morning when I got up the deck of the boat was COATED in squid and flying fish. Like almost no deck visible.
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Tugboater in South Western Canada here.
We towed an upside-down barge after it accidentally flipped (40′ from me while hooked up to our towline.. neat!). It was a box-style barge so understandably it was slow towin’.
The captain told me to have fresh batteries in the navigation lights for the barge and I complied. The first night both forward-facing lights were on but in the morning one was out. They’re light-sensitive so I assumed the morning light turned it off and I didn’t report it.
That night the captain called me to the bridge and asked me to look back at the barge’s nav. lights. Couldn’t see any. I looked at the radar and saw the barge.
He was very upset with me and told me to get another set of lights ready. With full batteries this time!!
It was awkward to board the barge since it wasn’t designed to be boarded upside-down. There are ladders built into the side but they don’t descend to the hull. I had to climb down a big tire from the upper deck.
When I swapped out the lights and while getting back aboard I dropped a light on the tug’s deck. Got flak from the captain so I turned it on to show it wasn’t broken and it lit up and I was relieved.
But it wasn’t turned off so how was I able to switch it from the off position? I checked the other two and they both turned on.
That’s when the chill hit my spine.
I had seen them shining brightly on the first night. They were all switched to the off position when I gathered them from the barge.
I am convinced no human did it. My crew wouldn’t tow an un-lit barge into the night so they weren’t messing with me by turning them off in my sleep. A prankster probably couldn’t access them, plus that never happens. Even to easily-accessible lights on other tows.
I try to convince myself it was seagulls (which ride our barges by the flock) that flipped the switches because the switch is a rubber-encased nub that could look like a worm. But all of them being switched? None being switched back? They’d probably topple the light while tugging at it because it’s not a lightly-flipped switch.. . But I hope
We were sailing with my friend in his small yacht/boat (like 10 meters long). Night fishing he called it, apparently some sorts of fish can be caught with higher probability at night. So obviously we just let the fishing equipment do its job and we’re drinking heavily. Like by 3 am we were drunk, and he was sleeping on the deck.
I needed to pee, so I got closer to one of the sides of the boat and took a glorious one, beautiful sea, calm weather, small waves making this calm water splashy sound when touching the sides of the boat. Suddenly, I see a huge wave coming towards us. I stare at it for couple seconds, because I am drunk and thinking this might be my drunk eyes playing tricks on me. Nope. Huge wave, maybe around 15-20 meters tall. Our boat was tiny compared to it. It was very wide, there was no chance I could navigate the boat and avoid it. I realize nothing can be done and brace myself and scream at my friend to wake up and hold on to something. Although that wouldn’t have helped. The wave was so much taller than our boat.
My friend shows no signs of waking up, so I shake him violently because he is the one who can drive a boat. Nope, just lies there like a brick.
All this happened in about 10-15 seconds, although they felt like hours to me. The huge wave is approaching rapidly, it’s probably about 10 boat lengths from us, so I brace myself and push my friend down the stairs into one of the luggage/equipment compartments of the boat, so that he doesn’t get thrown out of the boat at the impact.
Probably 5 seconds left to the impact, I’m panicking and holding on to a rail with so much strength, if it was someone’s arm I would have crushed it. And… nothing. Around 30 meters away from us the wave sort of collapses. It looks like it just went back to the sea. Flat sea, nothing.
I am still not sure what happened, and my friend didn’t believe me when I told him in the morning. He slept like a baby, and I was sitting there all night with my eyes wide open swearing not to pee into the sea any more because that felt like Poseidon being angry at me.