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'We're gonna need a bigger boat': Sailing coach unfazed during encounter with basking shark in Skerries

Kerri-Ann Boylan and her students had a close encounter with a shark on Sunday morning.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

WHILE RETURNING TO shore following sailing lessons on Sunday morning sailing coach Kerri-Ann Boylan and her young students encountered a fin slicing through the water.

The size of the menacing fin meant it could only belong to one type of fish, a shark.

Ironically Sunday’s calm sea conditions meant Kerri-Ann’s students had spent a lot of their lesson swimming in the water.

“We were moving so slowly. I had turned the engine off and was about to tell the kids to jump out and bring their boats in. And then it appeared,” she recounted.

Something big

Kerri-Ann couldn’t see the shark initially because her view was impeded by the boat’s sails but the shrieks of her students made it clear that something big was coming towards them.

“The kids were shouting ‘Shark! Oh my god, it’s a shark!’”

Despite the panic that whirled around her Kerri-Ann had the wherewithal to capture the moment on video.

The Skerries Sailing Club coach spent the summer working in Cape Cod, setting of the iconic shark film Jaws.

While there she had to be prepared to encounter some of the deadliest predators in the ocean, including great white sharks, so she was well equipped to manage the situation in Skerries.

All you ever hear about are basking sharks so I figured it was one of those. I was going to shout ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat’ but I stopped myself.

Second largest fish in the ocean

Kerri-Ann’s intuition was correct as Dr Simon Berrow of the The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group identified the fin as belonging to a basking shark, the second largest fish in the ocean.

Despite their immense size, they can grow over 30 feet long, basking sharks do not attack humans and are not aggressive creatures.

“Basking sharks are harmless plankton feeding fish, Dr Berrow explained.

(Their) slow graceful movements are fascinating and soothing as they slide, serpent like, through the water… Any encounter with a basking shark will remain fixed in your memory.

Dr Berrow, who is also part of the Irish Basking Shark Study Group, was able to identify the shark based on its nose, dorsal fin and caudal fin and its slow swimming speed.

“Its an unusual sighting at this time of year,” he added. “Sharks are still in Irish waters during winter but rarely seen at the surface.”

Not only is it rare at this time of year it was also a rare sight for members of Skerries sailing club.

“Some parents were at the harbour and they spotted the end of it,”  Kerri-Ann added.

“They have been around the club a lot longer than I have and they had never seen a shark that close to the shore before.”

It was just amazing to see. It was probably a once in a life-time experience.

READ: Rare giant squid caught off the coast of Dingle to be brought to Natural History Museum>

READ: ‘She’s a curious little thing’: Meet the first tropical stingray to be born in Ireland>

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Ceimin Burke

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