Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

Our First Stowaways

March 25th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Famous Firsts, Life on the Boat, Mexico, Passages

On the way down from Ensenada, we didn’t see any whales or dolphins (argh!! wtf?!?!?), but we had these funky little squids wash up on deck.  If I had been thinking quickly, I would have snatched them up and thrown them on a hook to use as fish bait.  Alas, they dried up before my mind started functioning.

Just outside of La Cruz, as we crossed the Sea of Cortez, we were followed by a handful of seagulls.  They would come land in the water beside the boat, then drift back about 100 feet or so before flying and coming to land next to the boat again.  Matt mentioned that they had been doing it for the last half hour.  I took over the watch so he could sleep and kept a close eye on the seagulls.  After all, I didn’t want them to get caught in my fishing ……  HEY.  Wait a minute!  THAT’S what they were doing.  They recognized that little piece of line hanging off the back of the boat was a fishing line!  They would land next to the boat, then drift back just far enough to see if anything had caught, and, if not, they flew up to the boat to drift back again. Sneaky little suckers….       After a while, they realized nothing was gonna happen so all but one of them took off.

The seagull who stayed behind looked a little rough around the edges, his feathers all raggedy and he just seemed out-of-sorts.  So, I wasn’t totally surprised when he flew over and landed on the dodger.  He hung out there for a while until I forgot about him and grabbed the dodger rail, scaring him off.  A few minutes later, he came back and crash-landed right in the cockpit about 3 feet away from Matt.  The poor bird had an embarrassingly hard time trying to gain his footing on our non-skid while the boat pitched back and forth.  Overwhelmed with the effort, the seagull finally squatted down on the cockpit seat, his wing awkwardly stretched out for balance.  I felt sorry for the little guy and tossed him handfuls of crunched up cheezits, pieces of hardened biscuit, crackers, anything I could find I thought he might like.  To our shock (knowing seagulls and all), he barely seemed interested.  At one point he got up to try a cheezit, but slipped on his third step and tumbled right into the cockpit “bathtub.”  Between the wheel and the wires, and the slippery floor the pathetic thing could barely stand upright.  He had only managed to bring one piece of cheezit down with him and we tried to coax him out of the bathtub by putting other goodies right above him on the seat.  He looked up at me, but never tried to get out.  Matt and I kept speculating as to his condition – “He seems tired.”  “He’s definitely not hungry.”  Do seagulls get thirsty?” “Maybe he just wants a ride.”  “Maybe he’s sick.”  “Maybe he’s lost.”  “Maybe he’s lonely.”

Matt took pity on him and was able to – quite easily – reach over and lift him up out of the bathtub.  Back on the constantly tilting cockpit seat, though, the seagull could barely keep his balance long enough to take a single step.  I went down below and grabbed a towel, thinking it might help stabilize him.  I put the towel down and then tried to lure him towards it with biscuit.  He tried to get there, but was sliding all over the place.  Finally, I used a second towel to pick him up and move him.  Once on the towel, he was able to eat a little bit more, but still had a hard time standing up.  We talked sweetly to him, “C’mon, just sit down, or lay down, whatever… it’d be so much easier for you.”  He was using so much energy and looked so disoriented, I began to wonder if seagulls could get seasick.  I think he was able to eat some of the biscuit before he just gave up and started wandering around the cockpit again.  It was almost like he had forgotten he had wings and he thought he had to get back to the same place he had first landed before he could escape.  It was strange that he showed no fear or concern about being around us.  He was more comfortable around us than we were around him!  We kept looking to see if he had any injuries, but other than really really shaky, skinny legs (and isn’t that a normal seagull trait?), we didn’t see anything that looked out of the ordinary.  He wandered around the cockpit for another five minutes and then took off to bob around in the water next to us.  A little while later, he was gone.

Now, if only I could get a dolphin to jump into the boat……..

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