Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariners” or “Boobie Go Home” – March 5 - 12, 2013

WARNING: This post may not be appropriate for small children and bird lovers.
About dusk, on March 5, we were sailing briskly along on our way from La Cruz to Bahia Tenacatita.  Bryce was on watch.  We had successfully rounded Cabo Corrientes, and had just put a reef in each sail for the night, as the winds had risen steadily over the previous hour to between 17 and 20 knots.  Molly was below heating up dinner.  All was well in our little watery world.
A brown boobie approached Abracadabra.  Birds often fly near as we are sailing, and Bryce didn’t think much of this bird’s approach until it swooped down and clipped the backstay with its wing!  The bird staggered through the air, and almost ran into Bryce, who yelled “Holy crap, that bird almost hit me!” (or something to that effect).

The bird circled around, and approached again.  Bryce waved his arms in an attempt to create a visual reference, hoping to keep the bird from again running into the boat.  Molly came out of the cabin to find the Captain hopping up and down, flapping his arms and yelling something eloquent, such as “Shoo Bird!”  The bird did fly away from Abracadabra, but then returned, approaching from the port side.  This time it flew into Abracadabra’s rigging – lodging its head between the shrouds at the lower port spreader. 
To explain this bird’s location to non-sailors:  Shrouds and spreaders are part of the “rigging” that, in very simple terms, acts to stabilize the tall, otherwise wobbly, mast which rises about 48 feet above the deck.  Shrouds are metal cables that run from the top of the mast to the deck of the boat – one on the port side, and one on the starboard.  On Abracadabra these shrouds are connected to the mast in two places by metal braces called spreaders which extend perpendicular from the mast.  The first set of spreaders is about 15 feet above Abracadabra’s deck.  As the shrouds rise from the first spreader to the second, they create a little metal “v” – and that’s where the bird’s head was stuck.

At first we laughed, thinking this looked a lot like a curious little boy getting his head stuck between stair rails.  And then we realized that the stupid bird was well and truly stuck.  It was hanging -- and slowly strangling itself on the spreader!  We watched for a moment, horrified, hoping that the bird could save itself.  It spread its wings, and was able to remain aloft which released some of the pressure on its neck, but it couldn’t get enough lift to rise up and free its head from the “v” of the shrouds.  Its yellow feet (this was not a blue-footed boobie) flapped through the air, trying to get onto the shroud to leverage its head out of the vice it was in.  But it’s legs were too short.  It became rather gruesome to watch.
Struggling Boobie

Bryce grabbed the boat hook, and duct-taped a rod onto it.  He couldn’t reach the bird.  He sat on the boom, and still couldn’t reach the bird.  Finally, he stood on the boom and could reach the bird, but to no avail.  The bird was too heavy to lift with this jury-rigged contraption.  All the stick was doing was causing the poor, trapped bird additional aggravation.  Remember that this is happening on a moving platform in the middle of a lot of water.  Molly began to think it was time to give up on the bird.  Better a dead boobie than an overboard Captain.    

On more than one occasion the bird sagged, and seemed to hang by its neck until dead.  Each time, just as we would decide that all was lost it would revive, spread its wings, and struggle.  But as our recue attempts failed, we began to think the bird was doomed, and we were doomed to have it strangling away all night, and rotting away over our heads during the next several days . . . gruesome on both accounts. 
We each wondered whether a dead boobie in the rigging was like shooting an albatross.  Would we be forever cursed to motor without wind?  Would our water maker break leaving us with “nary a drop to drink”?  Would we be doomed to stop people on their way to weddings to tell them with our boring brown boobie story? 

We broke through this horrible flash-back to middle-school English class and realized that we needed some sort of platform to put under the boobie’s feet.  But what?  “We need a bucket!” the Captain cried.  “Bring me a bucket!”
In an act of selfless sacrifice Abracadabra’s laundress (that would be Molly) donated the largest bucket on board – the laundry bucket – to the cause.  An aside - the laundress unswervingly keeps this bucket separate and apart from the other buckets aboard because they are often filled with yucky boat stuff.
The Captain swiftly attached the bucket to the topping lift (for non-sailors this is a rope that runs up through the mast and out the top, back to the back of the boom, where it is attached to lift the boom) and raised the bucket up to the boobie.  The bird flapped a lot, not understanding our good intentions, but its big yellow feet were finally captured inside the bucket and, as the bucket was lifted tight to the spreader, the bird was able to stand in it.  The bucket was shallow enough to permit the bird to raise its head out of the metal “v” in which it was stuck – and, mercifully, it flew away.

Tah-dah!  The happy crew of Abracadabra began the “we just saved the boobie” dance!!!
And then we realized that the bucket was . . . swinging . . . and swooping . . . wrapping the topping lift around . . . and around . . . the mast and the top of the main sail.  High above us our rescue bucket had become a wildly swinging projectile.  In our excitement to create a rescue vehicle we had forgotten to attach a control line to the bucket!  We realized that, unless it came down on its own, we had no way of bringing the bucket down.  And of course, because this is when this sort of thing always happens, it was getting dark.          

We stood watching the bucket swirl around us in the darkening sky like an inanimate circus performer.  Our hearts sunk.  We were worried and we felt very, very stupid.  Finally, we took the only course of action available to us – we raised the bucket to the top of the mast, to prevent it from fouling up the sails, and sailed on.  The next afternoon we proudly rode into Bahia Tenacatita with our bucket proudly aloft!
Ignominious Bucket

On Friday night we join in the Bahia Tenacatita Mayor’s Raft-up.  The raft-up is a twenty-something year long tradition in Bahia Tenacatita where the “mayor” (we’re not sure how someone becomes “mayor” – but it probably has something to do with agreeing to organize the weekly raft-up) anchors his or her dinghy near the shore, and the crews of the other boats in the bay tie their dinghies to the mayor’s anchor rope.  Food is passed from dinghy to dinghy, and adult beverages are consumed.  Used books are traded.  Stories and swapped.  It’s a floating cocktail party. 
As the various dinghies were gathering Bob from Viva turned to Bryce and asked “So, what’s with the bucket?”  Bryce suggested that because more than one yatista might wonder about the bucket that we save the story for later, when all were gathered.  [Frankly, the story wasn’t yet funny to us – we were pretty humiliated by unsailorly-like bucket stuck to the top of the mast.] 

When it came time to share a story with the group, we told the story of the bucket and the boobie.  It was well received.  Everyone had a very good laugh – and mostly at the boobie’s expense!  Bryce explained that he was waiting for the stability of being at a dock before going up the mast to retrieve the bucket.  And then our friend Dick from Full and By explained that he had climbed boats at anchor on more than one occasion and had no qualms about rising 50 feet off the water tied to a rocking mast to retrieve a laundry bucket.  So, apparently, he’s a little crazy – but all to our advantage! 
On Sunday morning at around 08.30, while the water was relatively calm – Dick arrived with his climbing gear, climbed the mast, and rescued the bucket!  And more importantly for his wife Anne, Dick returned to the deck in one un-squashed piece. 

Great Bucket Rescue

Spiderman on Abracadabra

Laudry Can Now Be Done

And thus the story ends happily.  No boobies, buckets or sailors were harmed.  And we are saved from a lifetime of reliving the fate of the ancient mariner! 

We are departing Bahia Tenacatita this morning for destinations (not much) further south, and will post about (hopefully) less exciting adventures soon.    

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story! As a devoted birder, I was a little worried to read that it might not be appropriate for bird lovers. I love the happy ending for the bird... and for the bucket!