Whale Lands on Sailboat – Real or Hoax?

Posted: July 22, 2010 in boats, sailboat, sailboats, sailing, yacht, yachting, yachts
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whale crash into sailboat

Whale Crashes into Sailboat

Whale Lands on Sailboat – Real or Hoax?

Whale watching sailors off the South African coast may have gotten more than they bargained for, or did they?  Various media outlets are reporting that a whale breached the surface of the ocean crashing into the sailboat of a couple near Cape Town.  Paloma Werner and her sailing partner say they were watching the huge whale from a distance on Sunday when it slid closer to their 35 foot sailboat then, CRASH!

Werner said she expected the whale to swim under the boat, but the whale had other plans. She claims the whale crashed into the boat, snapping the mast in two, but neither Werner nor Mothes were hurt.

“I just saw this huge whale come out of the water and crash against the mast of our yacht,” Werner said, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corp. report. “He ducked behind the steering wheel and we saw the whale go back into the water and the mast and the rigging all came flying towards us. It was quite a scary experience.”

Southern right whales have small eyes and poor sight and rely on hearing to avoid danger, but it seems pretty unlikely that one wouldn’t notice a yacht.  Werner told the press that this odd whale behavior happened because her boat’s engine was off, so the whale probably couldn’t hear them and took the leap not knowing they were there. Sounds kind of fishy to us – pun intended.

Whale Damaged Sailboat

Whale Damaged Sailboat?

The woman said the whale didn’t appear to be hurt in the accident, but the couple’s boat wasn’t so lucky, she estimates it will cost $13,000, to repair.

The sailing academy which is gaining publicity from the whale photo says a passenger on a nearby boat took the unbelievable photo of the event, just prior to the whale smashing into the boat.  They say the other photos of the boat damage below prove their story.

sailboat damage from whale

Sailboats damage from whale?

sailboats damage from whale

Yacht damage from whale?

We wonder if this is all just a big publicity stunt.

What do you think, does the whale crashing into the boat photo look real, or is it just a good Photoshop job?  Leave your comments below.

Report by Emily of Sailboats and Sailing the World

Real photos of whales with sailboats can be found here, along with tips for sailing near whales: Whales and Sailboats


  1. Beppe says:


    • Liz says:

      Now there’s a video of same. Pretty unbelievable – I mean, VERY believable now! WOW

    • Anonymous says:

      i agree. i mean the boat is facing the land wen the whale “crashes” but in the 2nd picture the boat is facing the water? plus im pretty sure that whale woulda took the boat down with it.

  2. D Henson says:

    Where is the photo credit? Where is the photographer that took the “million dollar” shot? Where are all the other photos showing the boat right after the incident? The only follow up photo shows a freighter in the background meaning some time pasted after the incident occurred. Not sure I’m buying it.

  3. Tim says:

    I think it’s fake. The Sailboat Capt. isn’t even looking at the whale. Also why haven’t we heard from the person who took the picture ?

  4. JImmy says:

    First thing I thought when I saw the picture was that it was a photoshop job, something about it just doesn’t look right!

  5. Linda says:

    I really think the whale would have done a lot more damage to this boat if it had landed on it the way it looks like it would have in the photo. How did it break the mast without partially sinking the boat? I would like to see more proof that this wasn’t a hoax

  6. Mike says:

    This is obviously a hoax. The sunlight is comming from the left yet there is no shadow from the whale on boat. Photoshopped

  7. Terry says:

    a 7k lb boat wouldn’t stand a chance against a 40k lb whale. whale or not, dropping 40k lb’s of anything on the deck of a small (or large for that matter) sailboat would send that boat to the bottom of Davey Jones locker!! Total hoax.

    On mans perspective

    • R. Beach says:

      Only the whale’s head actually made contact with the boat (per video.) So, where do you get 40 tons on deck? In fact, the contact was first with the standing rigging, snapping the mast, all of which deflected the force of the impact. Very localized, transient contact that was deflected, so minimal ‘crush’ damage to the hull (though the cabin roof seems to have broken a bit from the mast & boom landing on it…)
      Obvious question is, if the incident with the whale didn’t do the damage, what did? A mast is no small thing to break…

  8. Diane & Margie says:

    We don’t buy it. Shouldn’t there have been more damage to the boat? And who took the picture? I’d love to hear from these witnesses. “gaining publicity for their sailing academy”, that says it all.

  9. rick says:

    what is so amazing is that the helm isnt even looking at the whale….photoshop??

  10. Demetrius says:

    I’ve downloaded a better image from their web site, and upon closer inspection, the whale IS casting a shadow on the boat and water. The helm’s lack of reaction and focus on the incoming whale is somewhat suspicious, but his attentions could have been drawn elsewhere at the time (as most of us know, piloting the helm is a busy job).

    Additional media reporting indicates Biologists boarded the INTREPID and retrieved samples of blubber left behind by the whale, which would also seem to lend credence to the story.

    Lastly, I’ve emailed Ralph and Paloma directly requesting details on the owner of the image, to help ensure proper public attribution. I will update this forum if a response is received.

  11. Terry says:

    And the whale is coming in on port to windward of another boat on port. If i had to judge this one, I’d say the whale has to pay for damages.

  12. Demetrius says:

    Not a hoax.

    Corroborating video:

    Also, the sailors attribute the photo to a tourist, and first saw the still frame image in a local Capetown paper.

    When directly queried on whether the image was a “photoshopped” job, they dispelled the allegation, again vouching for the series of events, which were corroborated by several witnesses, photographers, and at least one videographer.

    The video really leaves nothing to doubt.


  13. BW says:

    I’m sorry…but if I took a photo that cool – I would want credit for it. I don’t think the bystander just gave that up for nothing. Definitely a hoax.

    • Demetrius says:

      …and I’m sure the bystander was properly compensated at a competitive rate. The newspaper probably owns full rights to the image now.

  14. Cathy says:

    Looks fake. This is a right whale which can be as large as 65 tons. If this whale were 40 tons it would be a lot bigger than this relative to the yacht.

  15. Sambro says:

    You mean that joke of a video is “proof”? The “whale” (or tiny black spot on a shaky video) dives and then a microsecond later pops up 200 meters away. School kids make better special effects with home PCs nowadays.

    It’s probably true the whale did destroy the boat (although I’m not convinced of that either). But the other crap is just people making money with quick photoshops. The video apparently took a day longer to fabricate than the photo.

    • Demetrius says:

      Wow, that’s a pretty cynical view. I’m not real sure what else you would expect under the circumstances…Jacques Cousteau in HD with second-by-second commentary? In French??

      Facts and Evidence: Forensic samples of whale blubber on the boat, two witnesses actually on the INTREPID, a boat-full of other witnesses, still-frame images, AND a time-series video of the entire event. Oh, and let’s not forget a Government investigation into the matter to determine if the mariners were harassing the whale!

      All just an elaborate hoax with dozens of willing participants? I think not.

      • Demetrius says:

        And what about the WHALE?

        I mean, how would they ever convince the WHALE to play his part so convincingly??


  16. Pompano Nic says:

    The sail boat was steel hulled..so the whale has a nice bruise

  17. Dan says:

    I can’t help but think that the photo and video are a hoax. With regards to the video, why on earth would the boat with the camera operator race away from the “stricken” sailboat and not towards it to lend assistance or to check for injuries as fellow mariners would surely do? I happen to be a photographer and know full well what can be created in terms of digitally altered images and video. For me the evidence lies not in the poor quality video or photo, but in the illogical reaction of the boat with the camera toting tourists, which inexplicably did not respond to the “accident” as would be expected, likely because there simply was no emergency when the visual materials were created. Then there’s the matter of who took the photo and video; why have we not heard from them and why have their original images not been made available to public and expert scrutiny? There’s nothing to hide if it’s all real.

  18. Etienne says:

    I don’t think it a fake. The video clearly showed the boat getting demasted in calm seas. (btw, great white sharks also jump clear of out of the water in Table Bay – maybe next time!) It looked to me like a whale breached and landed on a a boat while, followed by the unsuspecting helmsman cleaning his fowl weather gear. What is as clear as day is that an idoit can take a picture, another one video, and NOT go the rescue or offer help. I disagree with the nay sayers.

  19. Ivan D says:

    Wow, now that is the shot of the century. It looks pretty unbelievable until you see the video.

    What’s really unbelievable is that the photographer and videotaper didn’t try to help.

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