People who live on dry land have plenty of strange experiences, but when you move onto the ocean, things can get even weirder. The sea creatures can be pretty odd, and the houseboat and marina neighbors can be odder still.
If you haven’t lived on the ocean yourself, you might be surprised to learn that bizarre escapades are fairly common. Or is it that living on the water makes people love to spin yarns? You be the judge when people who have lived on the ocean share tales of their weirdest encounters.
45. Dolphin Tag Involves Wild Special Effects
Ex-Navy. While I was on the USS Pyro AE-24 (let’s just get that out of the way), standing fantail watch late one night along the California coast, I was admiring the faint luminescent algae in our wake when I saw something glowing bright green moving straight toward me through the water VERY FAST! I actually reported it as a possible torpedo, all my brain could dredge up when a glowing bright green oblong shape came racing at my ship. Roving patrol got sent to see if I was intoxicated as the ship hadn’t blown up and I was now reporting two such glowing submerged bogies repeatedly launching themselves at the back of the ship. Roving patrol confirmed my sobriety and what I was seeing. Soon every hand that was awake was on the fantail admiring the sight. Though we never got proof, we were pretty sure it was two dolphins playing tag with the ship. It actually looked that they were swimming between the screws and the hull, which would explain their high speed of approach, which agitated the luminescent algae to a bright vivid green around them.
44. What A Ship Looks Like Post-Pirates
Doing a Navy deployment in the Gulf of Aden, we get a call because a merchant’s vessel had seen a big-ish (100+ foot long) fishing vessel that appeared to be adrift.
We move closer. The vessel isn’t responding to any hails or transmitting any AIS signature.
Boarding team strap on body armor and rifles to go check it out. We board the ship. Bullet holes everywhere with metric tons of dried blood. Looked like some horror show. Handprints and everything.
All of the electronics had been stripped from the ship, as well as any log books.
We take a bunch of pictures and have our medical guys take samples of all the blood to send off to intel world.
Never did get word on what the story with that ship was, as we had no need to know and it’s hard getting info out of the intel black hole without a need-to-know.
43. Snorkeling Next To A 40-Foot Drop
I was in the Navy and was on a detachment to Okinawa for a week. A friend and I went snorkeling at a beach close to Kadena Air force base. It was amazingly beautiful with all of the coral and wildlife in the water. Then we decided to do it at night. I remember swishing around my dive light like it was a lightsaber; I was trying to see anything and everything. We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary but snorkeling near a 40 drop-off in the darkness with only a dive light and a small knife was sort of terrifying.
42. Watching A Storm Approach At 100 Knots With Nowhere To Go
I used to work on fishing boats in the Bering Sea as a fisheries biologist. I would be out on boats anywhere from two days to two months. The longest trip I ever had on a boat was 72 days from the time we left port until the time we came back to port.
The creepiest thing I ever saw was basically a hurricane that had formed over several days and was headed right for us. We were out where it was relatively calm and in those conditions, you can’t see any land around you and you just look at the horizon and realize you are over 200 miles from land and are really on your own. We could see the storm on radar about 75 miles away and watching the way that it was moving, seeing the winds and rain from the far away was eery. As it approached, you could see more and more details about how the wind and rain were moving and see the waves increasing in size and strength. We kept fishing though because we were too far from anywhere to hide in an inlet or anything, so we rode out the storm at sea. Seas got to about 30′ with 100-knot winds, probably the scariest thing I’ve been through at sea.
41. The Sunfish Was Like, ‘Not My Circus’
I was sea kayaking off Nova Scotia and the seas had gotten a large swell of over one meter. You would lose sight of other kayaks as they bobbed into the wave trough. There was no place to land for a campground for the night, so we were forced to paddle until we got to a cove that we had marked on the map.
So we carefully made our way along the coast. It was white knuckle, and no one wants to do a rescue if someone capsized. I didn’t drink any water for two to three hours, I was so focused.
At one point, I looked over and there was this huge sunfish floating next to me. The water was warm because of a recent tropical storm and this animal was just sitting there in these rough seas.
There was no time to examine it or tell my friends because of the conditions, so I moved on. We had a dodgy landing in a tough campsite and got stuck there for two nights, cutting our trip short.
40. The Stalker Had Whiskers And Flippers
When I was 13 or so, I lived on a floating “house” for a few months. It was a plastic thing my stepdad made to live on and made a place for me to sleep when we (my mom and I) moved onto it. Everything was exposed, industrial plastic sheeting was put up for walls, but nothing was fully closed in.
One night, I woke up. What sounded like slightly wet footsteps were walking around the docks around me. I was horrified. I lived nowhere near people. You had to get to this place by boat and we were meters off of the nearest shores. I wish I could say I was brave and attacked the intruder. Instead, I lay there silently, blankets pulled over my face, hoping it would leave.
I woke up and told my parents the next morning what I heard. My stepdad started laughing, “Yeah, that’s just the sealion that hangs around here sometimes. Don’t worry about it.”
39. Dodging Minefields, Literally
US Navy, Indian Ocean in the late 80s. The USS Sammy Roberts had recently hit a mine there. We’re cruising in (roughly) the same area, and all of a sudden, a lookout sees a mine. The ship shuts engines down. Now we’re drifting, and the ship is eerily quiet without the noise of the engines (gas turbine plant), and we know there are mines out there, and we’re DRIFTING! The brass is trying to figure out how to get us out of the minefield, and we’re all sweating bullets waiting to see if we’re going to blow up. Anybody anywhere near the hull around the waterline is quickly getting the heck AWAY from the hull, which was damned hard for some of us because we went to General Quarters, and our stations were right by the hull in some cases. (Mine being one of them.)
I don’t know how long we drifted until they decided to try to back out, but it seemed hours until it was announced we were clear.
It was the most surreal experience of my life, waiting endless minute after endless minute to see if the next minute was going to kill you.
38. A Foggy Idea Of What Was So Eerie
On deck in a container ship somewhere in between Alaska and Russia, with fog surrounding the ship and the water being deathly still.
It’s a completely natural occurrence but freaky sitting on this massive ship in almost deathly silence with only the low hum of the engine below deck and barely being able to see a few feet in front of the ship. The water being still was freaky as well; it’s just not something I see a lot in the open ocean.
37. It Would Have To Be An Extra Large Ping Pong Ball
I was in a small boat off the coast of British Columbia —the water was perfectly flat, no sound, and eerie luminescent grey mist surrounded the boat in all directions. My companion accurately described it as like being inside a ping pong ball.
36. The Light Came Out Of The Ocean
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 pretty clearly a circle of light—a glowing orb of some sort. It rose quickly and hung in the air 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.
35. A Scene Straight Out Of The Shining
I was deployed on the Truman in 2013-14 for nine months, Persian Gulf. I saw a lot of what others have seen: the glowing algae, dolphins, oil rigs in the distance. Honestly though, being out there on the glass-like water at night or during the day never bothered me. It was too beautiful.
I got creeped out INSIDE the ship. I was walking alone at night, and all of the passageways were lit with red (they had doors that accessed the outside) and it was dead empty at the time and for a moment I just thought to myself, “What the HELL am I doing here?!”
34. The Kind Of Sub That’s Not A Sandwich
I was a Combat Systems Operator in the Royal Australian Navy, and we were off the coast of Australia somewhere heading to do exercises with the Americans. It was nighttime, and I was having a cigarette on the quarter deck and looking out over the ocean.
It was relatively calm—maybe Sea State 2—and there was a half moon that was painting the ocean silver. No land within sight in any direction. Very peaceful.
Anyway, I’m having my smoke and looking at the ocean when suddenly—and silently—a Collins Class submarine emerges from the depths just off the port side aft quarter from the same patch of ocean that I had been staring at.
33. An All White Fish Can Symbolize So Many Things
I was working out at sea and I saw this albino fish. It was amazing. I felt like one of those old fishermen who say they’ve seen mermaids and stuff. I turned to my boss and said, “Hey, look at that albino fish!” And he said, “That’s not an albino fish, that’s a sick fish. It’s swimming upside down. That’s its white belly you can see.” …Dreams shattered instantly.
32. After The Autopilot And Before The Wedding
I was on wheel watch alone at around two a.m. when up ahead there was a course change, about 45 degrees to my starboard. I started getting a really funny feeling about the course change and we had been having nav equipment issues the entire trip, so I woke up the captain and told him about my feeling. He said, “Wake me back up if things hit the fan.” So about 15 minutes later, I make my first course correction, about 5 degrees. The ship starts spinning and autopilot goes out. The radar cuts out. Both compasses are spinning in opposite direction, and I am heading toward a rock. I wake the captain up and he quickly gets things under control, as I was still pretty new to the ship. We spent the rest of the night hand steering, using the stars, and novel tech as our guide. No clue what could have caused all of that ruckus. Three years later, I marry a man from Alaska and we move out to his land… on the same point where I spun out three years prior.
31. If A Tree Falls In The Ocean . . .
We were on our trusty little mine-hunter out in the middle of the Arafura Sea (on the top end of Australia). No ships as far as the radar could see.
I was below decks doing something boring. Suddenly the drone of the engine is punctuated by a big bump from near the bow, followed by more bumps traveling towards the stern. I told one of my mates, “I think we just hit something.” The reply was, “Don’t be silly.” was the reply. Understandable really, us being in the middle of frigging nowhere.
Turns out we hit a tree.
Let’s replay that, slowly: in the middle of a really big body of water, with no contacts on the radar, nothing in visual range (we had just traveled two days totally alone) we actually hit a bloody tree just floating there!
To make matters more interesting: the thing managed to bend our prop shaft. With days out from any coastal facilities, our Chief Engineer had to figure out how to straighten the bugger out again using only onboard equipment while keeping the boat traveling. Which he did.
30. Maybe It Sang ‘Baby Shark’ One Too Many Times
I caught a ride on a fishing vessel from Greenland as a teenager and traveled with them for about six weeks. We woke up one morning to a dead shark impaled on the deck railing. No explanation of how it got there or why. Just pushed it back overboard like it hadn’t attempted to ninja the ship during the night while we all slept in our beds. The railing wasn’t even all that sharp.
29. But Was It Wearing A Sock?
Well, one really creepy thing that happened was we caught a human foot while dredging for scallops. It even came with the boot still on.
28. Note To Self: Keep Doors Closed During Hurricanes
In the open ocean, I saw some strange fish and pods of Dolphins hundreds large. I also made the mistake of opening a weather deck door during a storm in the Indian Ocean. I’m lucky not to have been washed away as the waves were crashing over us.
27. Peg Leg Alarm Clock
Back in the day on a fishing boat I worked on, the skipper used to wake me up by poking me with his dirty prosthetic leg.
26. When The Sea’s Dark, I Don’t See Some Stuff On Purpose
Three of us were sailing from San Francisco to San Diego on a 38′ ketch. LaVonne wakes me at midnight for my watch. We’re sitting in the stern chatting for a bit and I happen to look directly down the line of the bowsprit and… WTH? I think I might be seeing something dead ahead blacker than the already black night sky. We’re not in a shipping lane, 25 miles from land, and it is blacker than black sky because there are no stars in it. And whatever it is, it has right angles to it! Somehow we’re on collision course with the one floating thing in all that open water!
I turn tiller slightly and we see a 60-foot cabin cruiser tossing from side to side in a slight sea 200 feet to starboard. It’s absolutely blacked out. No running lights (always on at sea), no interior lights, no sign of life.
My first thought is somebody might be down, heart attack, whatever… but better wake the skipper and ask him. Woke Bill, he got up, looked at it for about three or four minutes. And I started getting the vibe. Something was wrong here.
He said, “No, let’s get out of here,” and went back to bed. Told me the next day he made it for a possible drug offloading.
25. You Can’t Outswim Lightening
I went diving in the Keys one night and a lightning storm struck up while I was under. It was beautiful, but for obvious reasons we had to get out of the water ASAP. One of my favorite memories though.
24. Unintentional House Boat
In Port-au-Prince after the earthquake, I saw an entire house float past the ship. Completely undamaged and intact. It was strange to know that a family could still be inside.
23. This Is Only A Drill, Right?
Currently in the Navy. I’ve been deployed about 12 months total in the past two years. Creepiest thing in terms of actual fear was when we were doing a practice General Quarters drill (battle stations) and a Russian Jet flew over us almost prompting an actual General Quarters.
22. The Ever-Enlarging Oil Rig
My first time going to an oil rig was crazy. Of course, it was at night during a storm but they obviously won’t turn back to shore so it keeps going and the rig just keeps getting bigger and bigger. They look exactly like when you’re heading into a small town from the top of a mountain overpass.
21. Acting The Fool In A Cruise Ship Emergency
I was on a cruise ship seven years ago. It was an older ship (15 years old or so) and we went through a really rough storm, people puked everywhere, general hysteria. Then the power went out, more hysteria. Captain has a quick meeting with the senior officers and it’s decided it’s best to have everyone at muster stations till we get help. We were basically adrift at this point. So he announces that it’s not a drill and everyone should get their life jackets and gather. We are supposed to assist anyone who needs medical attention first and suddenly there’s this whole bunch of people faking medical emergencies. Fake fainting to fake heart attacks. I am a very calm person and even calmer in an emergency but we ran out of wheelchairs, heck we ran out of crew. I am paging for any medical professionals to help out, normal people are getting upset because there are not enough people to answer their questions, chaos bordering on pandemonium, and suddenly the power comes back on. Every idiot who had fainted or was having chest pains is suddenly fine and standing in line for the buffet. We only had one real medical emergency and about 30 fakers.
20. Nothing Competes With Nature’s Fireworks
It was the 4th of July, 1993 and we were in transit from Hawaii to San Diego aboard the USS Cape Cod (AD-43), a repair tender. We were being allowed outside the skin of the ship to watch our destroyer escort shoot off some rounds and flares for our very own fireworks display. After the show, many of us remained outside just because we could and the (mostly) full moon came out from behind some clouds and lit up the sky in a gorgeous pastel rainbow.
I’m not a religious person, but I’ve never felt closer to believing in something greater than myself… It was that beautiful, and awe-inspiring.
19. Bedazzled By A British Ship
I was a junior officer on board the Saratoga, and we were doing joint exercises with a British ship, the HMS Newcastle. I was selected to berth onboard the Newcastle for a few days as a kind of cultural exchange. I had a wonderful time! British ships allowed alcohol in the wardroom while underway. British officers were allowed to wear shorts. That ship had a few oriental civilians onboard, working as tailors, shoemakers, etc., similar to what you would see in The Sand Pebbles. And standing deck watch on a destroyer in the Indian Ocean is definitely more pleasant than standing deck watch on an aircraft carrier. On the flying bridge you’re just a few dozen feet above the water… the air is thick with flying fish whirring around you, the ship’s turbine engine allows you to cut and maneuver through the waves like you’re riding a bike, and at night the sky above is adorned with strange (to me, a northern hemisphere boy) southern stars.
18. The Mystery Of The Man Overboard
So my dad was a sailor in the early 1970s. He said he was on a ship where an assistant engineer went overboard and died. Now, there was some suggestion that the engineer might have jumped himself as a way of committing suicide—he was known to be going through a bad divorce at the time and had seemed depressed… but there are two little details that kind of seemed out of place:
First, when they found him, his body was floating, which it shouldn’t have been if he had drowned. Second, the seaman who’d heard the engineer go overboard had also heard the engineer scream before he heard the splash.
So was it suicide? Or was the engineer pushed or attacked somehow—and then thrown in the water to make it look like an accident?
17. He Still Had Bad Breath, Too
I caught a man after he’d drank all of our Listerine once, on a lay barge (a pipe laying barge) in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lay barges are where you’ll see the lowest of the low.
16. What’s Weird Is You Stop Noticing What’s Weird
I spent two years living aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea, sometimes spending three months without touching port and just offloading to other larger boats. If there was something peculiar or paranormal, nobody would have known it happened. Everything is constantly swaying and rumbling, and everyone on board is too busy working 16-hour shifts to notice.
15. Way Too Close For Comfort
Have you ever been out to sea under sail? It’s a surreal experience. A lot of times the ship barely makes any noise moving through the water.
I had just gotten off of watch and it was about 0400. I’d been out to sea for a few months and was feeling down. I had been fighting with my wife, and my daughter barely knew who I was. I was sitting on the deck enjoying a smoke, and I had that call of the void experience.
I could just jump over the side right now. No one would see me, no one would hear me, just a quiet lonely death at sea. My wife wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore, my life insurance is quite good. My daughter wouldn’t be wondering when her dad would and wouldn’t be home. It would just be so much simpler.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a suicidal person. I’ve struggled with depression before, and will again, but at that moment in time, the draw to surrender myself to the silent depths was eminently powerful.
I felt fine 15 minutes later, and feel fine now, but I still shiver when I think about that night, alone on a ship, moving silently through the Atlantic.
14. The Sea Can Make The The Toughest Guys Sad
I’m ex-Navy. I was cruising at night in the Indian Ocean in big-ish seas (stars were out but the water was rough because of a distant storm) and no moon. I was on the stern having a smoke (this was the 90s). A guy commits suicide by making a solid run to aft and jumping off the fantail into the dark. We called man overboard and I saw the guy’s head bobbing in the waves for a few minutes but we lost him in the dark during the turn. In his jump, he cleared the screws. We could’ve saved him if we could see him. They deployed motor whaleboats and stayed in the area for a while looking for him.
13. One Deck, Two Types Of Weather
I got the rare opportunity to go to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia once. And on our way back, the ocean is just SO vast, I could see where it was raining across the horizon and where it wasn’t. Scary and amazing all at once.
12. This Does Not Feel Like A Life Raft
I was a Construction Mechanic for the Seabees in San Diego. We were working on a ship-to-shore materials transport exercise with the merchant marines and we’d constructed a small raft out of four modular pontoon sections which we’d tied to the ship. I was maintaining some floodlights on the raft one night when a storm came up out of nowhere and started throwing the raft about. Eventually, as it got dark, we decided to cut loose from the ship before the storm punched our raft through the hull of the ship.
I was on that raft with about ten other people, and all night long the seas tossed us around. Eventually, we drifted so far from the ship we couldn’t see its lights anymore. We thought we were gonna capsize.
Nobody really talked much, and I made it my job to stay focused on keeping the floodlight-plant running. I felt like if we lose the lights we’ll be doomed, and it’s my duty to make sure we have light, even though the light didn’t extend much further than the edges of the raft. Just a raft with a noisy light plant, and blackness as far as the eyes can see, and a lot of us getting tossed around and thrown overboard (two people got tossed overboard and scooped up right away). That night was scary… Felt like it would never end. The next morning they found us about five miles from the ship.
11. The Case Of The Disappearing Dhow
Ex-Navy, was on a CG. On deployment, we were driving around one night and noticed a dhow (sailboat) off in the distance that we wanted to investigate. Someone on the bridge has some fancy NVGs and is looking at the dhow… and it looks as if they are throwing stuff over the side with someone watching us back.
We got about 50 yards away when the dhow just vanished. So odd.
10. A Bet With Really Bad Odds
We had a guy in my division who jumped off the stern in broad daylight. They found him and recovered him. He told the MAAs that he did it on a $20 bet. They said to him something along the lines of, “If you’d died, how would you collect?” They put him on suicide watch in the brig. He was eventually processed out.
9. A Heck Of A Heckler
We found a dhow that was floating around, seemingly unmanned, not responding to attempts to communicate with them. We send the VBBS team over and there was only one guy on the dhow (normally they have a few more than that) and he is just stoned out of his mind and annoyed that we woke him from his stupor. He spent the next two weeks following us around and screaming “Screw you warship[hull number]!” at us on bridge-to-bridge.
8. Too Vast For Search And Rescue
I remember standing on the deck of the ship I was working on at the time and watching rescue helicopters buzzing around and dropping flares to try and find survivors of a helicopter crash. One of the most surreal evenings of my life. It really brought home to me how vast the ocean is and how small people are by comparison.
7. The Barracuda Also Enjoyed Night Swimming
In Puerto Rico, we decided to go for a night swim just me and my brothers. Totally unarmed and I’m like 11 and my older brothers are 18 and 19. We were just swimming and we lost track of how far out we got. We realized we were about 80 feet away from shore. We went to turn around and then out of nowhere we saw some barracuda between us and the shore. We had to tread water back so slowly to shore it was terrible. Never gone night swimming since.
6. Safe From The Floating Skyscraper? If You Say So
I remember taking the ferry across the Mississippi in Lousiana during a crazy fog. This was also at the same time a rather large ocean liner had somehow squeezed its way upriver.
It was a really eerie sight to see what was basically a water-borne skyscraper suddenly loom into view, towering over you around 30 or so yards away. I knew we were safe but it still felt like we were going to be crushed at any second.
5. Silent But Likely Violent
There’s nothing more unsettling than seeing something in the water next to you that’s been silent and probably there for a while. Even if it’s not dangerous it’s still freaky as hell that you could have been next to it unknowingly for so long.
4. A Lose-Lose Situation
This guy lost money to a bunch of SEALs at a poker game one night while we were in the Persian Gulf. One of the SEALs tells him, “Don’t worry about it, dude. You can get the money back tomorrow night.” The guy in my division thought, “Yeah, we’re miles from the port. He’s not going anywhere.”
That night, the SEAL team went over the side of the ship for their ops and never came back. Dude was angry.
3. Man Goes Overboard After His Hat
We were in port and this guy came back wasted and lost his hat over the side. I guess this was unacceptable so he dove in after it. They fished him out and it was a mess for that idiot.
2. When Diving With Sharks, Schedule The Swim For Noon
Night dives with lots of sharks are terrifying. We dive wrecks that during the day were covered with lazy sand tigers and shy bulls. Same guys are way, way more active at night!
1. Newbie Sailors Almost Kill Everybody
We got broadsided by 50-knot winds in the middle of the ocean and even with the main reefed it buried the rail. I was barking orders to the new crew on trimming or letting out sails to lessen the impact of the wind gusts which were pushing 70 knots. Them being inexperienced lead to them occasionally doing the opposite of what I wanted.
This all came to a head when they tightened up on the sails that I ordered to be let out and we got hit by the hardest gust at that point. The wheel was literally ripped from my hands and the ship listed so far over I was certain that we were capsizing. All gear on the port side of the ship shifted starboard and people fell. The only thing that kept some on board was their harness. It was a terrifying and helpless feeling knowing that I was second in command, at the helm and responsible for the safety of the crew yet completely at the mercy of an unrelenting squall and a merciless ocean.
Thankfully, the ship righted itself and put its bow straight into the wind.