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Right Whales, Ocean Sunfish and Beluwaves

La baleine noire de l'Atlantique Nord Casper a été vue au large de la Gaspésie. © Guylaine Marchand

Raging winds over the St. Lawrence have been stirring up waves there since August 25. Landbound observers scan the sea, sometimes managing to catch sight of a spout before it quickly dissipates in the stiff breeze. White wave crests can sometimes be mistaken for belugas, a phenomenon referred to in Tadoussac as “beluwaves” much more than “sheep”, as we call whitecaps in French. But prior to the windstorm, observations had been extraordinary…

North Atlantic right whales against the backdrop of Percé Rock

Off Bonaventure Islandin the Gaspé Peninsula, wind gusts catch the attention of a couple of pleasure boaters on August 17. They recognize blue whales, humpbacks, minke whales, and white-sided dolphins, but three black backs leave them puzzled. “I’m not sure what I’m looking at,” comments the captain. “The rostrum looks like a humpback, but not exactly. Their tails are not jagged, and are constantly being lifted out of the water. The fins are strangely squarish, never long and white.” Her crew mate posts a photo on the social networks. A friend identifies the species: North Atlantic right whale.

On the water, recognizing species is not always as straightforward as one might imagine. The North Atlantic right whale has dark skin like that of the humpback. Its smooth tail resembles that of a sperm whale. From a distance, its calluses may resemble the tubercles found on the rostrum of humpbacks. On the other hand, its very broad and squarish fins are particularly diagnostic.

The North Atlantic right whale is endangered, with only about 400 individuals remaining. If you observe a right whale on the water, it is recommended to maintain a distance of 400 metres in order to give the animal plenty of room to carry out its essential activities. If you are interested in learning how to identify whales as well as best practices for navigating in their presence, a free-of-charge training is available online. 

Abundance and diversity in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park

A kayaker lets out a shriek of excitement on August 21. A tail as wide as a billboard has just emerged in front of him. No need to be so close to observe a whale this size! The tail is photographed by an observer from the Marine Environment Discovery Centre in Les Escoumins and forwarded to the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals. The individual is Jaw-Breaker, a female blue whale who is a regular in the Marine Park. In the St. Lawrence, a minority of blue whales (15 to 18%) lift their tail when they dive, and Jaw-Breaker is one of them. Another female is also identified: Crinkle. Crinkle doesn’t show her tail when she dives, but her wrinkly skin makes her easy to recognize.

On August 23, a Marine Communications and Traffic Services worker in Les Escouminsmarvelled at the incredible variety of sightings she could make in a single day from her office window. She identifies one fin whale, nearly a dozen minke whales, twenty or so harbour porpoises and four herds of belugas totalling at least 75 individuals. If she hadn’t had to concentrate on her work, imagine how much more she might have seen!

On August 24, an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) impresses a whale-watching captain off the coast of Les Escoumins. This flat, round fish has two long fins – a dorsal fin and an anal fin – that sometimes stick out of the water. Sometimes they look like shark fins! No need to panic, however: sunfish feed mainly on jellyfish. The presence of ocean sunfish in the St. Lawrence is still poorly documented, and Amphibia-Nature (website in French) has been monitoring the species since 2003 to ensure that the largest bony fish on the planet is protected.

On August 25, our collaborator Renaud Pintiaux is taken aback when he realizes what one grey seal has caught for its latest meal: a thorny skate. Seabirds also want in on the action. For several minutes, the photographer observes the squabbling between the birds and the seal, which devours its prey as quickly as possible.

That same day, opposite Cap de Bon-Désir in Les Bergeronnes, the narwhal is seen once again swimming with belugas. Then the wind picks up and smooths out their wake, leaving but a lasting memory of the observation for those who were lucky enough to be there.

Where are the whale this week?

This map gives an idea of the presence of whales and does not at all represent the actual distribution of whales in the St. Lawrence. Use it for fun!

Marie-Ève Muller

Marie-Ève Muller is responsible for GREMM's communications and spokeperson for the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergencies Response Network (QMMERN). As Editor-in-Chief for Whales Online, she devours research and has an insatiable thirst for the stories of scientists and observers. Drawing from her background in literature and journalism, Marie-Ève strives to put the fragile reality of cetaceans into words and images.

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if you are in the market for new lines for your Sunfish, there are a plethora of options to choose from at the various Sunfish parts suppliers, as well as by calling your local sail shop, or even going down to the nearest hardware store to find some cheap line.

while the hardware store line is probably your cheapest option, the difficulty is usually that any line you find there will most likely not be low-stretch line, and the line could also absorb water when you are sailing – making it heavier and harder to handle.  neither of those things are deal-breakers for a recreational sailor, but your time of the water will probably be improved by getting sailing line instead.

the Sunfish halyard in a Flemish coil for O’Docker

the Sunfish manufacturer, Laser Performance, has some “official” line kits available at Sunfish dealers.  West Coast Sailing has a standard line kit that comes with all the lines you could want and need, all pre-cut to the proper length and with the optimized line type for each line use on the Sunfish.  these “official” line kits are rather expensive, though, and there are some better and cheaper options out there.

there is also the Sunfish “Tune-a-Fish Kit“, which includes the standard lines for your Sunfish, but also a hiking strap, plastic sail clips, and a tiller extension universal… all packaged in a cute little cooler with a Sunfish logo.  the kit comes in at a pretty steep $155, though.

Sunfish Tune-A-Fish kit

if you are a purely recreational sailor, though, and have found an older Sunfish to start sailing, you might be better off just buying the line individually.  there are the (2) basic control lines – the mainsheet for adjusting sail trim, and the halyard to raise and lower the sail.  a 3rd line to consider is a piece of shock cord, sometimes called a JC strap – to act as a daggerboard retainer.  this shock cord, if long enough, can also be run from the daggerboard up to the tack of the sail (where the 2 booms meet) and back – this will then double as both a daggerboard retainer, and will also help to hold your sail out when sailing downwind in light air.

Intensity Sails has some pretty inexpensive choices for these lines: the mainsheet is Bzzz Line available in 7mm or 8mm diameters ($25) and the halyard is 24 feet of 5mm line ($20).

a final line choice is if you want to switch away from the plastic sail clips to sail ties.  I bought a small pre-cut kit last year and switched my new Sunfish sail to the sail ties. the colored line on the right-hand side is the outhaul line that connects to the boom end-cap.

for the future, though, for probably both the sail ties and maybe even the outhauls, I am planning to buy this spool of 1.8mm line from Intensity Sails.  at 100-ft of line, it’s probably more than a typical sailor might need, but I don’t mind having enough to switch over several sails to the sail ties. the 100-ft spool should be enough for 3 full Sunfish sails.

for more information on Sunfish rigging, check out my list of Sunfish rigging guides.

I also went into detail on how I set up my new Sunfish sail (w/pictures).

2013 Sunfish World Championships
Sunfish Direct Sunfish Sail (Select Your Design)

200 ratings Write a review

Item #: 21695005


This product is not Fulfilled by Ubuy and can take minimum 10 days in delivery. We might cancel the product from the order and refund you if any issue arise with the delivery of this product.

Note: Electronic products sold in US store operate on (110-120) volts, a step-down power converter is required for the smooth device function. It is mandatory to know the wattage of the device in order to choose the appropriate power converter. Recommended power converters Buy Now.

Product Details

  • Traditional 6 panel design, Material: 3.8 oz Dacron
  • Has a "Vision" Window
  • Size: 80.5 sq/ft
  • Nice shape (Not Flat)
  • Comes with a sail bag
Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎No
Manufacturer ‏ : ‎Sunfish Direct
ASIN ‏ : ‎B0182X8TI6


Classic Sunfish sails are recognized all over the world for their bright and fun colored sails. This new Sunfish sail made by Sunfish Direct. This is a recreation sail and is NOT class legal.

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Customer Questions & Answers

  • Question: is this approved for racing is it race ready?

    Answer: This is a recreation sail and is NOT class legal. If you are racing in a NON class sanctioned event then yes it could be used for racing.
  • Question: Will the sail work on a windflite 14'? Also does the sail have the sunfish logo?

    Answer: I am not familiar with a Windfite 14. No, the Sunfish logo is not included on these sails at this time.
  • Question: What size is the sail bag? Will it hold sail when attached to boom and spar?

    Answer: The sail bag is about 18" by 24". It is NOT a spar bag. It is intended to hold the sail once removed from the rig and folded.
  • Question: What are the dimensions of this sunfish sail? I am replacing the sail on an old sunfish and ordered one from another company that did not correspond

    Answer: Hi I have a standard sunfish rig and the sail fitted perfect - the sail is very good quality and really helps performance - not in class if you rac
  • Question: Does the sail come with the plastic clips?

    Answer: No, these sails do not come with sail rings.
  • Question: where is the sunfish logo?

    Answer: No logo The sail is great Used it two seasons now and we sail it a lot⛵️High quality and great color
  • Question: Can you provide the mast and boom as well?

    Answer: I’m not the seller. The sail is all you get, but it’s a quality made item. Try eBay or Craig’s list

Customer Ratings

14 customers ratings

  • 5 Star 85%
  • 4 Star 15%
  • 3 Star 0%
  • 2 Star 0%
  • 1 Star 0%

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Customer Reviews

Da•• ••la

August 20, 2021

Very happy with this sail purchase.

Da•• •• H

July 21, 2020

Great sail

Very well made - also has tell tails and sail sets nicely

Ed•• ••sh

October 8, 2019

We B Gybn now has color!

Old white SA il started to tear and “racing” window clouding up So decided to get new one Now we’re the most colorful Sunfish on Bass River New sail perfect!

Pa•• ••by

August 10, 2019

Easy to install

Easy to install. Good sail. Has window and telltales.

Ma•• ••ew

August 5, 2019

Great sail

Incredible quality. Thank you

Am•• ••er

July 9, 2019

it worked

replacement for a goldfish

ri•• ••ce

June 17, 2019

great sail

the sail boat works so much better with a sail.

T •• ••

October 26, 2018

it fits!

it fits the spars perfectly, didn't have to change a thing.

Am•• ••er

February 20, 2018

Five Stars

I'm sailing away......set on open course for the Virgin Sea......

pr•• ••le

September 26, 2017

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