The pair were watching a southern right whale off Cape Town, South Africa – when the encounter suddenly went dangerously wrong as breached then crashed down onto their boat, snapping the mast. Fortunately for Werner and partner, the boat was constructed from steel.
Paloma Werner told the BBC:
We were just the wrong boat, in the wrong place at the wrong time. It appeared about 120m away from our boat and then it went under the water again. A few moments later, I saw it resurface just 10m away.
Suddenly I heard my partner shout and when I looked around, I saw the huge thing breaching on to the deck. Instinctively, I took cover as the mast came crashing down. I saw my partner, Ralph, dive for cover behind the yacht’s wheel. Then the whale slid down the side of the boat and back into the water.
As soon as I realised that we were unhurt, we checked to see how much damage had been done. Luckily, we weren’t taking on water so we started the engine and headed for shore. I saw the whale reappear further away. When we got back to land, I realised how lucky we were to have survived.
The whale is believed to have swum away relatively unharmed. Werner noted that they saw bits of whale blubber and barnacles on the deck but no blood in the water.