A woman relaxing on an inner tube off Truro got quite a surprise when she was joined by three humpback whales.
“The only thing I was thinking was, ‘Get back in the boat,’ ” said Carina Shane.
Shane, who was visiting from Sweden, was on a friend’s boat about a half-mile offshore last Saturday when she decided to take a dip in the water.
“It was so hot out, so I decided I’d just have to go in,” she said.
She was lounging on the inner tube, talking to her friend back on the boat, when she heard water shooting out of a whale’s blowhole.
“All of a sudden I heard this blow-out, so I turned and it was three of them coming at me, and I panicked,” she said. “I was crazy scared.”
Shane said she had come to Massachusetts on business at the beginning of July and was visiting her friend, who lives in Provincetown, over the weekend. Shane has since returned to Sweden, where she was interviewed by phone Friday.
On Saturday, Shane said, she had seen whales earlier, but none came close, so she thought if she stayed near the boat, she would be safe.
But suddenly, as she floated on the tube, she heard screams from her friend and others on the boat to get out of the water, she recalled.
“Once I was back in the boat, we were laughing about it,” she said. “We were having fun with it because nothing happened.”
It is the kind of story no one would believe, Shane said, except that one of her host’s friends, Lois Petti, who had happened by in her boat, grabbed a camera.
“When I saw the whales come out, I was a little freaked out,” Petti said in a phone interview from her Truro home. “The whales were so close to her.’’
Petti said the whales disappeared soon after Shane got out of the water.
“It was hysterical, in a way,” she said, but also “quite frightening.”
This is the second year Petti has had her boat, and she said she goes fishing every weekend. She said she has seen lots of whales and seals while out on the water, although no great white sharks, which have been reported frequently in recent years off the coast of the Cape.
“I’m not looking forward to seeing any sharks,” she said.
Charles “Stormy” Mayo, senior scientist at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, said humpback whales are the main attraction for whale watchers on the Cape. They are relatively common there but not elsewhere.
“They are a listed endangered species,” he said. “So although they’re common there, they’re not common around the rest of the world.”
Mayo pointed out that it is illegal to swim with whales. “A very strong federal guideline, that’s actually for the whales’ sake, requires people to stand off more than 100 yards away from the animals,” he said.
Mayo said humpback whales average 45 to 50 feet long and can weigh up to 40 tons.
“My view is generally that these are not animals that are likely to run people down or attack,” he said, but people should always be careful when dealing with large animals in their environment.
Mayo also cautioned against taking boats out too far from shore.
“If something weird were to happen, it’s not a good place to be,” he said.Melissa Werthmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.