So, it’s my last night watch for a while. We’re just a little over 20 NM from the entrance to Savusavu. I’ve literally been on deck for about fifteen minutes. For crying out loud, my eyes are barely open and I haven’t even had enough time to get a little sugar and caffeine going. All of the sudden I hear a couple of thunk sounds and then something that sort of sounded like gurgling. Of course it’s dark up here so I grab my phone and turn it on for some light. I start looking around the cockpit first. It’s not uncommon to have flying fish land on deck or even in the cockpit so, of course, that’s what I’m expecting to find. The only thing making me think it is something else is that I have yet to get a whiff of that awful stench that says a flying fish has arrived.
I scan the port side and find nothing. Then I hear a fluttering sound off to my right. As I look to the starboard side I see a bird sitting on deck looking a bit disheveled. I think he is as shocked to see me as I to see him. His wings are spread out and he sort of looks like a sailor who had just stumbled out of a bar after a night on shore leave.
Of course I had to snap a pick. Now the poor thing has flash vision. LOL! He’s just looking at me like “Who the hell are you and why did you just do that to me?” He starts stumbling across the deck and then I hear another couple of thunks. What the hell? I look just forward of my new friend and another bird has hit the deck. He also looks a bit flustered and even more so once I document his visit with a flash. Now they are both looking at me like a couple of drunk sailors as they stagger along the deck. I can’t help wondering if they had too much Kava tonight or if they are just really bad pilots. Either way I’m pretty sure they both hit the sail. If it was the wind generator I’m sure I’d have seen a lot more feathers flying about and they may not have survived.
I hurry below to get a real flashlight and by the time I return they have found their way off of Dazzler. I searched the water around us but they are gone. I guess I can say we have now officially met our first Fijians. They were White-Tailed Tropicbirds. We’ve seen many of them on the sea. They look absolutely beautiful when they are in flight. Of course that’s before they crash into a mainsail on a boat going five knots. I guess you just never know what will happen during your watch. It’s always an adventure.
I’m getting excited for sunrise although I’m exhausted! Can’t wait to see the amazing sights of Savusavu, Fiji.
We all chase that one thing that seems to always be just out of our reach. No mater how hard we try, it eludes our grasp and becomes our Achilles heel. For me it is Dazzler’s Watch Commander. This is a wonderful 12 volt electronic device that acts like a countdown timer. It can be set for time periods of 3-90 minutes. I obtained and used this device for all the single handed passages I’ve done over the last 10 years. You see it has this really awesome feature that starts emitting a lovely soft beep for about 30 seconds before a 130 decibel alarm cracks through the silence of the night air. Alarm might be too soft of a word. Perhaps siren would be better. You know, the kind on the front of a Fire Truck. Kind of hard to sleep when that goes off. Whether it is accidental or planned, it’s very effective for waking you up from your sleep. I’ve tried egg timers and phone alarms, but they didn’t seem to be loud enough and they were too easy to shut off and ignore. Additionally, it helps remind you on those long passages to stop doing what you are doing and give a good look around and do an electronics check to make sure all is well and everything is where it is supposed to be. You know, like islands, reefs and any other boats.
All that is well and good. You see, being a single hand sailor for so many years I got used to the alarm occasionally going off and it never really bothered me. And besides, who would turn the boat around and look for me if a fell overboard anyway? The thing is, it seems to always go off when you leave the cockpit to go to the head or onto the foredeck to do something there.
Well, it obviously isn’t very considerate for it to go off when you have crew onboard. Especially crew that immediately thinks the worst when it just might accidentally happen to go off….occasionally.
We use this device to alert crew that for some reason the on watch crew member didn’t push the button before the alarm started and something may be wrong. That someone, ME, doesn’t always hear the warning beeps because I might be on deck making an adjustment or more importantly relieving myself from the jug-o-coffee I’ve consumed and I didn’t get to the button in time. The frequency of this device catching me literally with my pants down is uncanny. There I am mid stream writing my name in the ocean and looking at the stars when the blasted alarm decides to go off. I just about zipped my thing up in my pants. What do you do? Do you pinch it off and race back to the cockpit to deactivate the bloody thing or finish your business and then shut it off? I can tell you that option one most definitely IS the right answer.
Once it goes off the awful thought crashes down on you like an avalanche. Do you think she heard it? Oh yeah, and remember to gather up your britches first so you don’t trip and really fall over the side. Besides you can always go finish up after you turn off the alarm. Oh, and remember too, you can’t un-ring the bell or alarm in this case. How does it know at the exact same time I decide to answer the call of nature to bypass the warning beeps and go straight to full alarm? Additionally, why does it always seem to be when Jilly is in the bunk sleeping? I am starting to believe that it is the handy work of a gremlin or Grape Ape having a bit of fun. Perhaps neither as it may just be the dreaded old timers hearing reduction disease.
Picture if you will a sexy creature slumbering peacefully while dreaming of her man rubbing endless supplies of lotion on her back whenever she desires only to have the dream crushed when she is violently awakened by a 130 decibel alarm. You would have thought I had put Floridian fire ants in the bunk with her. When she hears the alarm, she thinks the worst has happened and I am bobbing like a cork somewhere in open water in Dazzler’s wake watching her sailing off into the South Pacific. Although possible, it is more likely an old man with diminishing hearing abilities just didn’t hear the blasted thing. I try to explain that I’m not perfect and it’s just one of my faults. We both have strengths and weaknesses and this seems to be one of my weaknesses. Perhaps twenty minutes is too short a period? Well, any longer than that and your ability to find someone who may have fallen overboard decreases with each passing minute. Even if we do fall over the life lines, our tether attached to the jack-line should keep us attached to Dazzler. Why does she always have to assume that I’ve gone overboard anyway?
I now call this device the Crew Wake Up Angry Device (CWUAD), our safety feature. But, I’m telling you it cuts deep when the love of your life is steaming mad and could probably knockout Mike Tyson because her beach dream of endless back lotion has been abruptly interrupted. I wish I was better at the timing thing with the warning beeps. I don’t want it to go off, it just does. I’d like to thank that little gremlin or whoever it is for making me look bad. Well, actually I’d like to kick its ass! To my sweetheart, I apologize for letting the CWUAD wake you up and interrupt your back lotion therapy session.
We will continue using the CWUAD for passages. In the meantime, I’ll be sleeping in the doghouse every time the blasted thing catches me off guard and wakes up the lovely sleeping soul in the V-berth. Who knew an electronic device could be so evil that it could transform even the sweetest creature into a fire breathing dragon looking to tear up the south end of a northbound tiger (me)? Who knew? I didn’t know, but I do now! It’s a good thing she loves me and thinks I’m so damn cute. Right?
Until the next story from the high seas and bliss in paradise, this is Captain Dan from the doghouse in the South Pacific.
Captain Dan and Jilly
PS It’s a good thing there isn’t a CWUAD in the doghouse. LOL!