More boobies

Thursday, April 17, 2003, 7:20 p.m. PST

N. 13 degrees, 20 minutes

W 125 degrees, 51 minutes

Dear friends and family: 

I don't usually like to write every day, but the booby story definitely requires updating.  You'll recall that yesterday we had a brown booby sitting on our inactive wind generator for hours.  Ultimately we pushed him off with a boat hook, restarted the wind generator, and then he was knocked for a loop when he tried to re-land.  (Part of the loop included hitting Craig's head and bouncing into the water).  We think he's OK, but he didn't come back. 

[Sad to say, I got NO pictures of the following. The photo to the right is from yesterday.    I've certainly kicked myself a few times for not getting pictures of today's booby.] 

One of his friends came back, today.  This time it was a masked booby, also known as a blue faced booby, according to our bird book.  The book says "may perch on floating objects for long periods...."  He sure tried!  He and a friend circled the boat dozens of times, and finally he (but not the friend) came in for a landing, successfully attaining a footing on our starboard solar panel (raised into flat table position to catch the midday sun).  Craig pushed him off with a boat cushion.  The bird made a squawk of protest.  A few minutes later he was back on the solar panel again.  This time I pushed him off, and there was another squawk.  The next time, only a few minutes later, he missed the solar panel, and he was on the coaming (seat back), actually standing on the boat cushion previously used to push him off.  This is not a small bird, mind you.  He's bigger than a duck, perhaps as big as a small goose.  He has a long, sharp, powerful looking beak.  Brian picked up the boat cushion, and shoved the bird overboard.  This time there was a lot of squawking, and I think Brian was lucky not to fall victim to the beak.   

About that time, we started to notice some tiny insects.  Of course, out in the middle of the ocean, there should be NO insects.  The next time the bird came back, Brian swung the cushion at him before he landed, and bounced him into the water.  The cushion came back covered with these tiny insects.  OK, time to change tactics.  We got out the deck brush to start a thorough washing of the cockpit.  We then realized that the deck brush might make a better instrument for deflecting incoming boobies.  It had the additional advantage that it could be dipped in the ocean to clean off any accumulated booby bugs.  Most of the time now, Brian was able to stop the booby before he actually landed.  Once, though, the booby landed successfully on the side deck, and another time on top of the dodger (the awning over the entrance to the cabin). 

We were actually having a hilarious time deflecting the incoming booby -- always the same one, with his friend circling around to watch.  He must have made 25 or 30 determined attempts to land.  But as the afternoon wore on, we began to wonder how long it would be until he got the message that we didn't want him on the boat.  Finally, about three hours after this whole performance started, the booby didn't come back anymore.  We hope he got the message, but we think it more likely that his biological clock said it was time to move on to something else.  We're hoping to put enough distance between us and that booby, so that we don't see him again tomorrow morning.  It'll probably be another one. 

We continue to plug along through the northeast trade winds.  It's sticky hot, and the seas are confused.  This means the boat rolls back and forth quite a lot, and every now and then we take some spray into the cockpit.  Not the most comfortable part of the trip, but somehow it's  better than the calm we were experiencing several days ago. 

Coming up next:  the Doldrums!  Stay tuned to this station, and we'll let you know what THAT's like! 

Regards to all 

Craig & Barbara Johnston

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