THE BIRD THAT WANTED TO LAND(essay)
31 August 2011 | On the way to Mauritius
So there I was, lying in the hammock with thoughts far, far away. And to my great pleasure I spied a yellow cockatiel-like bird, but bigger, approaching the boat. I was charmed -come! come! . Delightedly, I picked up my video camera to film his landing on the safety rails on deck level. I get him in view, Im focusing, Im following, round and round he flies, Im following, the record button is 'on'. And then... the top of the mast comes into the tiny viewfinder.
Oh my God, terror struck my very core for up there, 60 feet high, is the most delicate of instruments, the wind indicator - an extremely expensive electronic gizmo that tells all sorts of computers around the boat just what the wind is doing - most sailing decisions are based on this information. And I have 2600 miles before I see land again!
And this bird is about to... CRUSH IT. I cant believe my eyes. I run hither, I run yon, I shout, I scream .nothing is dissuading the bird. Attempt one - doesnt land. I grab anything I can find, I throw cushions in the air, my voice becomes hoarse and high. Attempt two, this time from downwind - doesnt land. I am desperate and in those mad moments I suddenly realize an answer to a month long mystery - how I had lost my VHF radio antenna...also up there .. a bird!
I rifle through a locker, get a flare, a flare gun...I return to shouting as the bird makes its third attempt to land - fails. Even the fact I am stark naked doesn't seem to dissuade in the least. Start to load...how the hell does this danged thing work? Im fumbling, I look up, has it happened? No attempt four - magically, thankfully, Im saved. The bird is gone, there are more hospitable hosts around, the wind indicator spins round and round.
PS. Actually the bird was only the third in a day of threats. First, my computer inexplicably wouldn't start for 3 hours...no weather, no mail, no communication no maps; a batten, a piece of fiberglass used to give shape to the jib snapped into two pieces, ripping through the sail...if left unchecked one can lose the entire sail.
Please Sea Gods, a better tomorrow! And I promise to put some clothes on!