10 Oct

October 9, 2018

Day 5

Noon Position: 27 06N 131 53W

Course/Speed: S 6+

Wind: NExN 12 – 17

Sea: NE 8 – 10

Sky: Overcast. No sun shots today.

Bar: 1017+, falling (1015 by 6pm)

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 72

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 71

Percent Relative Humidity: 71

Sail: Both genoas poled out and swung to starboard; wind dead on port quarter.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 153

Avg. Miles/Day: 162

Miles since departure: 809

I should have suspected something right away.

The bird, a drab-colored boobie, began landing protocol at dusk. He circled Mo rapidly thrice and then came in with a flurry at the port lower shroud. This would have been a poorly chosen and uncomfortable perch if he’d made his mark, but instead he crashed bodily into the wire as Mo swung sideways down a sea.

Rendered momentarily flightless by the shock, he fell like a flailing, dirty rag into the main sail cover, which attaches to the boom and opens upward. Wing and tail tips, all that were visible above the cover’s rim, fought around for a bit, and then went still. He’d realized he was in luck. His accidental perch was all sail cloth and as soft as pillows.

I watched the action from the cockpit and was half willing to leave him be except that boobies are messy guests, and the main sail, though on its second circumnavigation, is still mostly white. I let him rest for a moment and then shook him back into the air.

Finally, he settled for his night’s accommodations on the bow. He experimented with the guys and sheets for a time, but in this brisk northerly, none held still long enough to be relaxing. Finally the bird simply sat squat on the anchor locker lid, where he immediately tucked his head and went to sleep.

Now was my opportunity. I crept close and gave him a good look. None of his markings were distinct enough to tell me his species. Moreover, he seemed pretty small and thin for a boobie, and his feathers were all ahoo, and his left wing dragged. It was clear to me his name was Scraggle; all else was a mystery.

By this time, it was almost dark. I switched on the running lights and went below to cook dinner. Luckily for Scraggle, the wind remained constant overnight; no sail changes or even adjustments were needed. He rested without interruption, as did I.

The dragging wing and general sense of dishevel was one clue. Another was that in the morning, I rose before Scraggle even noted it was light out, and I was not up early. When he did pull his head back into the day, he was in no apparent hurry for breakfast either. In a leisurely and curious way he examined the large genoa as it billowed and snapped in the wind. He turned and looked up the mast and took a long gander at the poles. I half expected some commentary on my sail trim when he finally stood and hobbled to the weather rail.

Here, Scraggle perched on the furling line for a time. Then he climbed to the toe rail. Then he examined the life line above him, and it was evident he intended a try for that higher perch when a wave gave Mo a peculiar shove from astern. The bow dipped unexpectedly and Scraggle lost his footing. He fell into the sea, and I watched as he thrashed in Mo’s wake before achieving the air.

One would expect that once in flight, once Scaggle’s wings lifted him skyward and his lungs filled with the freshness of a new day, his stomach would have compelled him to get on the hunt. Not Scraggle. He circled thrice and landed right back where he’d started, on the toe rail near the bow, now facing inward.

Only then did I notice that Scraggle had not left me with the parting gift that is customary of his kind. The deck was utterly clean. Scraggle’s stomach had been empty when he joined us the night before.

Again, his grip was unsure. Within a minute, Mo took another faster wave and lurched; again, Scraggle lost his footing and fell into the sea. This time I did not see him in the water as Mo rushed by. I did not see him bobbing on the surface well astern. I searched and searched but did not see him in the air. I did not see him again.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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