Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boats are for birds

Sailing boats at sea and birds are definitely there for each other. We marvel at how they fly with grace, speed and agility. They wonder about how we use our vertical wings, but never leave the water.

The ocean birds of the sea, the Wandering albatross, the Gannets, the Giant petrels, the Boobies, Sheer waters, Cape petrels and the S\torm petrels are just a few of those birds of a feather, so to speak.

They know when its time to fly, they are travelers like us, and cover thousands of miles as the transit the globe from nesting grounds to breeding grounds.

For them they use the winds like we as well, over 15 knots and they get lift and speed, over 35 knots they know its getting a bit too tough and its time to pack it in for the day, like sailors, there is a time and a place to have fun.

But in their quest to travel, they also have a need for amusement, and for that there is nothing better than a sail boat. Like a 10 year old in Disney land, its all fun, fun fun with boats.

They come in real close when they know its OK, they fly to the mast head and try to touch the mechanical bird perched at the top (our wind direction indicator) even try to bit and attack it, they roll off the wind drafts that the sails create and give them turbulence that hones their maneuvering skills.

It doesn't always go that well for birds and boats though, in recent years we have seen some funny, yet alarming sights. One bird in a venture to do aerobatics on the leeward side of our boat, was caught in a mid upside down barrel roll, and half way through the turn was hit by the back draft from the sails which catapulted him with no grace at all into the sea. Shell shocked we saw him recover from the swim.

On route from New Zealand this year we had a Petrel of medium size who obviously need glasses fly directly into the center of the main sail as we were choofing along at about 9 or 10 knots on a beam reach. The poor little bugger hit the sail and then bounced off onto the aft quarter deck of the
boat, up side down and stunned, he flipped and flapped and then rolled off the edge of the boat into the water, hard to tell if he was all right, but he was floating with a bit of a strange demeanor.

Our South Pacific crossing is nearing and end, with 1400 nautical miles left to travel to Valdivia, Chile we should hopefully be there in 8 or 9 days time.


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