Stowaways and Southern Comfort

We’ve heard from other salty sailor friends of ours about delightful experiences of birds catching a ride on their boats while moving along out in the open ocean. The birds would either come into the cockpit or go down below, eat, drink, perch on a finger, take a seemingly domesticated role, and then as quickly as they arrived, they were off again – rested and revived and ready for the rest of their flight to… wherever. We’ve not seen birds landing on the RK while moving. They usually come and perch while we’re at anchor or in a slip. Pelicans loved our bow, when we chartered in the BVI’s, as a diving perch for their fishing endeavors, and crows loved our spreaders for plopping berry seeds on our decks. Then there were the night herons and seagulls that ravaged their prey on the decks in Florida and City Island. Once we had a monarch butterfly or two catch a ride, assumingly, as we travel through their migration path.

We have also seen a number of different creatures either moving along with us or that we passed along the way. That list includes: dolphin, which I can never write enough about because they’re so magically cool and they love playfully surfing the bow waves. Once we saw a huge leather back turtle, off the coast of Rhode Island or MA area, its head larger than the size of a human’s.  And then there were also huge schools of jellyfish, fish covered in bioluminescence, flying fish (many on deck), large fish jumping out of the water (we think they were marlin), a momma and baby Right Whale, and what was probably a sunfish that we bumped into because they sometimes come to the surface. There’s a viral YouTube video of a couple guys in Rhode Island who saw one on the surface and though it was a “baby wheeeeeel”. Once we heard a “sécurité” or warning over our VHF telling of a floating dead whale in the water somewhere around St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but we never saw it

So in sum, nothing unwanted, except for a dead squid we found on the dashboard by following the ink trail and George the gecko who was living in the mizzen mast. And ,he was small enough to not worry much about… unless there was the possibility of self-reproduction which is a thing in some lizards, from what I grasped in 7th grade science. I’m still on my way to distinguishing such things, like geckos, lizards, versus iguanas, and salamanders. It’s a huge learning curve since squirrel, raccoon, butterflies, bees, and deer were the only outdoor creatures I’d see on a regular basis growing up as a landlubber.

This most recent passage, was the first passage on the RK where we had so many stowaways: different birds hitching a ride for hours at a time. We, had at least 3 this passage, from NYC to VA. These little stowaways provided entertainment and distraction from the usual. Paul had one eating the crumbs left over from a sandwich by his feet in the cockpit. I was sleeping and unfortunately missed that. We were sad to see them go, but we had multiple visits. It must be a migration pattern because other sailing friends had similar experiences. One couple, our friends on s/v Lost Cat had a bird stow away on their boat but not for long.  They have a feline on board their catamaran (when their pet feline moved onto the boat for the first time it went missing for a few days, so Lost Cast had a lost cat on board for a bit) who was very pleased this bird decided to stop by. The laws of nature went to work not long after.

One stowaway thinking, “Please let me into the cockpit with you, I won’t be a bother. I’m small, I eat and poo like a small bird. Wait a minute… I am a small bird!”

“I think this suits me better. I’m far enough away from the Featherless Ones that can’t fly and who swim above the water on this long white tree with no leaves.”

“Is this what mom meant when she said to be careful what you wish for?”

I thought this one could be a white-crowned sparrow, but he was bigger than a sparrow. Do you know what it is?

Since we left NYC, we’ve stopped at Sandy Hook, NJ and Cape May, NJ. The town we dinghy to in Sandy Hook is called Atlantic Highlands. We enjoy stopping there. It’s where we stage for a larger passage going further south and if it were pre-COVID, I would have done at least one yoga session and we would have used their beautiful public library (a fun part of this lifestyle is exploring various town libraries… some real gems out there.) Then, we made it to Cape May where I can walk or bike those splendid, quaint streets for hours. We adore that town and it was super empty. I did go for a massage there. The masseuse took all kinds of precautions and I appreciated the much-needed body work. We missed the gathering of friends in Cape May, this summer. Next year hopefully things will have returned to the old normal. Possible or am I in denial?

Paul thought we could eat pizza and go to church all in one when we saw this place.

I believe this was a huge flock of oystercatchers. Their beaks alone tell their story and the name is apropos. More birds than people this time of year.

The landscaping in Cape May is impressive. They take lots of pride in beautification with gardens, publicly and privately. South Jersey is where we had our first Right Whale sighting. The waters here are still far enough away from the Bay of NY and clean, filled with dolphin in August.

Mums were everywhere. It was just before Halloween.

These are the Montauk daisy, aka Nippon daisy

Now we’re in Hayes, VA. Haven’t heard of it? No surprise there. It’s a small part of the Chesapeake Bay, which is enormous, off Mobjack Bay. You can get lost in the Chesapeake . You could probably sail your whole lifetime here and not see it all. Hayes and the surrounding towns, are very rural. There are large fields of grass and crops, ranches, farms, marsh, numerous rivers, and not much else, except little enclaves and quaint towns. Our rental car is a necessity as anywhere you need to go is miles away. We’ve enjoyed a few bike rides but even this morning it was difficult to ride through the the sand-paved roads in this quiet, little outlying beach area of homes and cottages we are currently staying. There’s more water than land in this area, but it’s mostly marshy and many of the rivers are narrow and shallow. But we fit well coming into Hayes and the RK is out of the water getting all fixed up. It’s our biannual check-up, if you will. In sailor’s speak it’ s “being on the hard.” So we’re on the hard for our biannual maintenance tasks. We pulled in here, a place we’ve never been before, based on a recommendation by another Amelian (person who also has our boat) and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how so very attentive the staff is at The Severn Yachting Center.

She was a dirty girl. She’s looking much better these days. Shiny, happy, boat, ready to get into the water again.

One way of remembering how to put things back together after dismantling to fix, etc., is taking pictures of the way it is before you undo it. Paul is very amenable to doing much of the work on the boat himself. At this point it is mostly learning but I know one day it’ll be easy-peasy for him.

 

Our new genoa sail came in the day before we left, from Q-Sails in Turkey. We were glad to have been able to pick it up before moving on. We took pictures of how it arrived, just in case it was damaged. Fortunately, it was not. We still haven’t put it up yet, we’re that busy with other projects.

A highlight, other than the staff carefully taking the boat out of the water and painting/cleaning the bottom for us, was to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner by one of the staff. The COVID cases in this area are still under 200 since it all started so we felt safe enough to join and so glad we did. They were really beautiful people and great chefs!

Gail and David after dinner. It was David’s mom’s house with her 6 kids, all adults/young adults. We had a lovely meal and were blessed to share the day with our friends.

Jeanice, her dog Latte on her lap and the painting she is currently working on. It’s called a “rainbow bird.” It was impressive!  David did some fiberglass work on the RK for us – small chips that Algebra (our dinghy’s name-and ode to Little Rascals) made one passage on the stern. David is also a master color technician and was able to do a great job matching the paint. It all looked white to me, but he got that much closer with each mixing. And it was David that invited us to his lovely family’s home on a sprawling 50 acre farm. It was a day filled with beauty, love and laughs.

Jeanice is David’s mom and was our very gracious host. She’s posing here with her little dog Latte and a painting she’s working on. The rainbow bird, it was so very well done. She’s very talented.

Hurricane Isaias ripped one of our solar panels off and we need to get more solar panels and fix the attachment point of the old. Well, need is a strong word. Paul and I would like to get more solar panels. They are so powerful and make creature comforts more accessible – AND IT’S CLEAN energy. Yeah! So we’ll ask if someone in this area could do the canvas work. If not, it’s back to Brunswick, GA. The ideal place to get projects done with it’s comfortable floating docks and sweet neighborhood.

Beautiful sunset in our old temporary abnb neighborhood.

Went to a festival where people were dressed in 18th Century Period Garb. FUN! They had a petting zoo and live music (singing No, Nay Never). Lots of arts, beautiful stuff and specialty foods.

Paul enjoying his book while I beach comb and bring back stuff like a retriever to see if I can add it to my collection. There’s only so much room on a boat… I need a second opinion or I’d bring back things that might morph into new life forms.

This gem of a find was seaweed, but looked like a chunk of antler choral. SO COOL! It couldn’t come back with us. It needed to be in the sea, Paul explained to my child-like enthusiasm.

Writing “Happy Thanksgiving” in the sand and looking for beach treasures. The water was pristine but COLD.

This little spot has a great seafood pub we have enjoyed about 3 times now. We ride our bikes in the area since it has nice, fairly empty paths along the water.

A beautiful sunset in our new neighborhood.

While in VA, we’ve bounced from air b-n-b to air b-n-b and now find ourselves a short walk to the beach along a brush path that’s home to deer, pheasant and wild turkey. We catch them grazing or flying short distances and the deer are everywhere at dusk. As we move south we watch the butter closely for signs of melting. Nothing yet. It’s pretty here, no freezing temps, yet. The area is filled with large ranch properties and colonial period houses and constructions. Where we are staying, is a very cozy cottage and has an extra room that sleeps 3… any takers? We go to the boat nearly every day to get a project done. Any takers (LOL)? The biggest one was Paul re-stuffing the rudder post gland. As this was his first crack at such a project, it took much longer than anticipated but he eventually got it done.

My Captain, Engineer, Mechanic, Plumber, Electrician, Best Friend, bird watcher and Partner and I moving south.

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