Saturday dawned clear-skied and brilliant blue, a welcome change after Friday night’s hail storm. For the second week in a row, I rose with the early birds, awakening at an hour when most people were still fast asleep. But there was a special reason to get moving with the sun — we were heading to the beach!
We’d heard fearsome tales of the Bay Bridge and its mythical traffic jams, so Rudi wanted to get an especially early jump on the trip. I am not, however, a morning person, so Rudi’s desired start time inched later and later until it was a more reasonable 7 a.m. when we walked out the door.
Suffice it to say, it was a beautiful day for spending at the shore. Bethany Beach, Delaware, is a cute town, reminiscent of some of the beach towns along Route 1 in Connecticut. It isn’t as built up as some of the other beaches in the area, such as Ocean City and Rehoboth, supposedly are, and its boardwalk offers only a small selection of vendors, so it tends to attract more families than singles. Having grown up at family beaches, I felt right at home with little kids scrambling around us.
By one, a little more than two hours of our visit had lapsed, and I was already thinking fondly of the day as one of the nicest days I’d spent at the beach this decade. Sarah, Rudi, and I were just reapplying sun screen when I happened to look up, glancing between bodies at the water off to my right.
“I think,” I announced, trying to keep my cool, “that I just saw either a dolphin or a shark.”
Suddenly, heads across the beach were swiveling toward the water and people were jumping to their feet. The lifeguards starting waving people in to shore.
Sure, enough, there was a pod of dolphins swimming past.
Actually, though, that’s really an exaggeration: What actually happened was that a pod of dolphins paused in their pursuit of a fish lunch to put on a show for Bethany Beach.
They leapt in the air. They slapped the water with their tails.
Generally, they behaved as if they were the 1:15 show at SeaWorld. We responded with applause and cheers — and the dolphins reacted by coming further in to shore until one, at least, was well into the shallows, maybe only 20 feet out from the water’s edge.
Eventually, though, the majority of the group followed their lunch north.
A few stuck around to play and to watch us as the beachgoers returned to their blankets and sandcastles and as the lifeguards began letting people back into the water. Sarah, Rudi, and I stood, transfixed by the sea creatures, watching still.
Regulars of the beach said they’d seen dolphins offshore before, but never so many nor so close to land.
I’d like to think they were welcoming us to the Eastern Shore. And, like the pair we saw late in the day, inviting us to return soon.