To this point it had been idyllic, almost a perfect passage from Isla Mujeres to Charlotte Harbor, Florida. Dolphins played with our bow wake as we sluiced through sun shimmering clear gulfstream waters. We were three days into a four day passage and looking forward to sailing though Boca Grande Channel on the way back to Burnt Store Marina, closing a six year cruising loop to the Western Caribbean as far south as Cartagena, Columbia.
Before we ever spot land, we can always tell when we’re getting close … even without the GPS. We’ll start to see a few sea gulls soaring overhead. Often they’ll come close enough to buzz the boat, out of pure curiosity … what’s this thing bobbing along in the deep blue sea?
But all that was about to change. Shortly after sunrise our last day out, six little birds swooped into our passage. We never determined exactly what kind of birds they were although they looked similar to barn swallows in the Midwest. No land in sight but here were these swooping, soaring, diving bundles of feathers. They provided entertainment for awhile as they teetered and swooped off every lifeline or surface they tried to land – just not stable enough. Later they perfected the landings and rested on the bow pulpit. OK, we were still pretty far out for little birds like these maybe we’ll let them rest. That was our big mistake.
The birds held a war conference while perching precariously on our outboard lift and decided to take over the boat. Like modern day pirates, they plotted their strategy to invade and get rid of the humans living aboard. At first they just sat and observed, doing reconnaissance on our habits and quickly determined that we live in our cockpit.
All was quiet while they contemplated their mass attack. David was in the cockpit while I was below refilling our coffee cups (nothing better than a morning at sea with a fragrant piping hot cup of columbian coffee!). The first round was a daring attack swooping and diving into the cockpit seeking to secure each area from the humans aboard. Taken by surprise, David jumped up waving his arms and making as much noise as he could hoping to scare the creatures away.
Sure enough they soared back in to the blue sky and we sat in the cockpit sipping coffee amused that these birds had the audacity to attack us in our own cockpit.
Soon though they launched phase two. Swooping through the cockpit they seemed a bit like vultures trying to swoop down on their prey … which was a ridiculous thought given their size. But the crew of Winterlude had had enough! It was bad enough that these swooping creatures were coating our teak decks and bimini with undesirable white substances while we graciously let them rest. Now they were invading and we needed a counterattack. I am a big bird fan. But these creatures had suddenly turned into pirates and were foes, not birds!
David grabbed the first thing he could find, which happened to be the fly swatter and began swinging wildly, swatting at them. Ducking, I watched the scenario unfold. Six birds, two unhappy humans. When he swatted two of them into the deep blue sea, we rejoiced that now there were only four. But WAIT — they rose, just like a phoenix soaring and rejoining the fray.
The final invasion was about to begin. One of the birds swooped below taking over the galley. While he sat on the countertop, holding his ground, another swooped though the companionway and forward into the pullman berth or head, we couldn’t see from our vantage point in the cockpit what territory he was claiming.
The humans had a war council. This was unacceptable — we decided that the birds could have the exterior of the boat, but that the cockpit and interior were ours and we would defend it accordingly. As long as they stayed out of our areas, we would leave them alone. But when they dive bombed us in the cockpit they were fair game for extinction.
David, my hero, reclaimed the galley from the invasion and then went looking for the other invader to no avail. He decided he must have flown out a hatch, but as I pointed out, it would be difficult to fly out a hatch with the screens closed. At this point, I had to take things into my own hands. I did a reconnaissance of the area, seeing nothing. Obviously a more in depth search was called for if we were going to find the bad guy. Sure enough, I found him hiding under a pillow on my bed! NOOOO!!!!
At one point, we had an uneasy truce with the birds perched just outside the cockpit — you can barely see the top of the leader’s head over the top of the grill while David lounged in the cockpit reading his book. They would regroup and attack the cockpit again.
As the day wore on, the flyswatter tactic became more deadly and the odds became more in favor of the humans. The rules of engagement still had us defending our space in the cockpit. Eventually all but one of the birds gave up and flew off
Just as the sun set and we sailed in through Boca Grande Channel, the last pirate established his final stronghold – between the main halyard and mainsheet lines as they ran down the deck. This was territory we had conceded to the birds early in the day and the uneasy truce continued.
After dark David went up to investigate but the final invader had died a valiant death, probably exhausted from his day dive bombing our cockpit! So we gave him a not so fond funeral and slid him into Davey Jones Locker.
Whew! Welcome back to the USA! 🙂