Monday, December 04, 2006

Survive the Savage Sea: Part Two

Brrrrr. I want to say more than that but I can't cuz I'm too cold. But rather than get into the fact that I am back home in Vancouver and freezing my tanned buns off, I want to go back to last week and continue my rambling about the crossing of the Sea of Cortez. Perhaps the pictures will conjure up the wonderful heat that I was just complaining about a few days ago.

Setting the scene: The 50 foot Jeanneau sailboat Norfinn is sailing Southeast towards Puerto Vallarta, just having take off from Cabo San Lucas at 3AM that morning. As the sun begins to slowly lower itself on the horizon, the crew of four are visited by a frigate* bird who has decided that rather than flying to Puerto Vallarta, it would be much easier to just hitch a ride. I liked this lazy bastard already. I filmed a wee bit of it which you can view here.

The only problem with the bird was the fact that it couldn't sit up there and behave himself. No, the bastard shit on us. This bird did not want to ride politely, instead he decided to lift up his tail and hail a white spray of bird poo down on us below. Well, luckily we are animal lovers and forgiving people so we overlooked this incident which coated the cockpit in a smelly paste. But my dad shook his fist up at the bird and promised that if he shit again, he would be out of there.

Ten minutes later the bird shit again.

My dad got into action. Of course, we weren't exactly sure what the course of action would be since the bird is way up on the mast and we were way below. But my dad seemed to think that if he waved the halyards (ropes on mast) back and forth it might hit and/or scare the bird.

The problem is that it eventually worked (you can view that footage here) and the bird flew away. Then, out of nowhere, a second bird appeared. Do note that during this time, a few birds were swooping in from across the sea, flying past and staring incredulously at the lazy bastard on the mast. But this second bird had the same idea as the first. He wanted a free ride too.

So now we had two birds circling around the boat. Eventually one of them made a try for the mast again, only this time he went for the top. Not a good idea, since that is where the weathervane, GPS and other boaty crap is and can be easily damaged. It didn't matter though because the bird landed and sat there, much to the anger of my father. It was at this point that he turned a little Captain Ahab and made it his life mission to get the bird off the mast again. Nevermind the fact that if he had just let the bird sit there and poop to begin with, everything would be fine.

Soon, the sun went down, a brilliant Pacfic Sunset...

Yet my dad continued his fight into the darkness. This lasted for about an hour, him hooting and hollering at the bird like a madman, waving ropes at it, throwing stuff up it, steering the boat sharply left and right in an attempt to knock the bird off (at the expense of the meal my mum was cooking on the stove), flashing a high-power rescue light in the birds eyes. Nothing worked and he was this close to shooting a flare at it. But apparently shooting flares at birds is illegal.

So my father gave up and relaxed as the night came. Sorta. He did keep shining the flashlight up at him every 10 minutes or so.

We all were on night watch, which meant every 3 hours, two of us had to be awake and on deck looking for ships while the other two slept. I had the watch with my dad from 9-12AM and 3AM-6AM. You would think this would have given us time to bond but it didn't. We kept our mouths shut and enjoyed the silence...maybe that was our own way of bonding.

It was the most eerie, awesome experience to sail at night. For three hours, you would just sit there, watching for other ships, even though there never were any. Instead you would gaze at the stars that filled the sky. Because there was no moon, no city lights, no land for hundreds of miles, there was nothing to prevent the stars from coming through at their brightest. I have been in the Australian Outback under a canopy like this but even that couldn't hold a candle to what I saw that night.

Not to mention the shooting stars. I saw about 20 of them and wished the same wish upon every single one. What did I wish for? Sorry, I'm not telling (it won't come true otherwise).

Aside from the stars, the waves were magical too. The water was lightly lit up with phospheresence, so it sparkled with each splash.

Then an even more magical thing happened. Dolphins began swimming beside the boat. Now, my dad says it was all in my head but I know it wasn't because it was on my side of the boat and it happened a few times. But in the darkness I could make out dark creatures swimming alongside, than occasionally jumping out of the water with a sparkling splash. Come to think of it, since all I saw were dark shapes, I can only assume they were dolphins. At least, I hope they were dolphins.

Did I mention that the darkness, the stars, the waves and sleep-deprivation at 4 AM can also play tricks with your mind?

At 530AM, just before my shift was over, we checked up on the bird in the early morning light. It was still there, having stayed the night.

I suppose the light and promise of a new day also filled my dad with new power, for he started back with his mission to get rid of the bird. This time he came up with what he thought was a genius idea. He would attach a bumper to the halyard and then pull the bumper all the way up to the top and knock scare the bird off. It was his final attempt and, as you can see here, it didn't work. That damn bird was stubborn as hell and a bumper to the bum wasn't going to do it.

My dad gave up, defeated. Though I was tired as hell, I waited till the sun rose before going to bed.

Then I went and passed out until noon, as my mum took over my watch.

When I did get up and go back on deck, the air was suddenly humid and warm, a sign that we were in fact in the Tropics now. The bird was gone, my father said he left a few hours after dawn. That kind of saddened me, he was a great comfort to have up there in those wee hours of the night, but I guess he knew where he was going.

A little while later, we spotted the first scrap of land in over 30 hours and celebrated with hearty "Land Ho!" and a beer.

And then several more beers.

*For the longest time I kept on wanting to call the bird a Blue Footed Boobie, even though it didn't have blue feet and Mike kept saying it was a Frigate. Well, guess what? After doing some investigating I found out that the bird in question is indeed a Boobie (though not blue-footed). Ha...Boobie.


almost famous kiwi said...

Sounds like you've had an amazing trip, I'm glad. Give me a call and I can tell you all about my mums triple bag blood transfusion and Jono going blind from a parasite, just the normal kinda dramatic stuff from me. Love you. call me!

Indiana said...

I like the idea about the morning beers...and the freeloader was ok until he decided to shit on everything.

So how cold is it?

Scorpy said...

I missed my nights at sea...they were so tranquil and the sky so full of stars that I never wanted the morning to roll around ~grin~ I love that sunset is beautiful!

M said...

I can't believe that you just made sailing sound gorgeous to me. I mean, I usually puke at the thought - but that sailing at night thing sounds wonderful ;)

simon said...

great writing and photos...

of course if others read previous posts its easy to work out why the boat is called Norfinn...

Anonymous said...

I love that first sunset photo!

Glad you had a great vacation... sorry it had to end.

Wanderlusting said...

Kiwi - Man, the drama never escapes you does it? I'll give you a call from the parents house when I get over there sometime this week.

Indy - Well it's a few degrees above freezing, but to me I might as well be dipped in liquid nitrogen or something. I can't feel my toes. And being sunkissed and brown in a cold place feels so strange.

Scorpy - Yes, it was really tranquil. I was surprised since I thought it would be really freaky. It was only freaky when I thought I started seeing things.

M - I got used to the pukey after a few days. It was terrible my first night on the boat. And still, if I read while down below, I start to feel ill.

Simon - thanks! Glad you took the trouble to read my crap, most people don't get the whole "Norfinn" thing.

Minijonb - Honestly, I'm so glad to be back. Being with my parents is more stressfull than relaxing so it didn't feel like a vacation. But I did enjoy the journey and I'm glad I went. Just wish I could have brought the weather back with me.