Splash, splash, splash…..splash, splash, splash… I couldn’t work out what the new sound was when I opened the hatch onto the deck this morning. Part splash, part glug – I wondered if there was a (big) fish in the bilges or something hitting up at the boat from the water.
I knew I had petrels as I had heard them scratching about. They fly into the antennas at night, attracted by the light. A new moon or foggy night is the worst and I wince as I hear the twang of an antenna, followed by the soft thud(s) as the bird bounces down onto the deck or into the footwell. It can’t be much fun and I always pop outside to relaunch them if I am awake, their tiny bodies soft in my hand.
Given the numbers, I like to think that they each pass on stories about their time on board and how the Big Friendly Giant picked them up and put them out to sea again. Happy Socks is a chick magnet, of sorts.
This morning, on looking down into the foot well I saw three little petrels, one tucked into a corner and the other two doing the same in another corner, only one sitting on top of the other. Whether it was for warmth or dominance or love or the beginnings of a bird ladder – I don’t know. As I launched them all into the morning sunshine one at a time I could still hear splashing. I looked down into the liferaft cubby hole as bird #3 took flight and saw a bedraggled, struggling petrel stuck down between the liferaft and edge of its hole. Scooping the little fella up I could see his feathers weren’t taking him anywhere soon, so popped him on a towel and dabbled gently to help him dry, blowing onto his feathers like a human hair dryer of sorts. He was eager to get going so I launched him fifteen minutes later, only to watch him flap madly and fall straight into the water. There he stayed for half an hour, flapping up all his energy in vain, while I heaved in the sea anchor then rowed
back for him. It took a few loops before I got close enough to scoop him onboard in my fishing net and then put him on the towel again. I called him Duracell for his relentless effort and was very glad that after half an hour of drying in the sun, often with wings stretched out, and preening feathers back into proper alignment that Flight #2 worked. I wouldn’t normally interfere with wild animals and the course of nature, but in this instance I felt Happy Socks and I were responsible.
It is a wonderful opportunity for an up close biology lesson, watching how they move about on ‘land’, using wings and chin to grip and pull, and a chance to study their teeny webbed feet, tubed nose (for excreting salt) and feather structure. Less exciting is the morning routine of cleaning petrel poo and regurgitated fish bits from the deck.
In other animal poo news…. A pod of seven dolphins swam by today, doing a few laps of Happy Socks before losing interest. The water was so calm and bright that I thought it would be fun to get in with them to film. At that moment I noticed a trail of dolphin poo. I didn’t swim.
Back to the oars. It is slow going at the moment with easterly components in the wind.
Until next time,
Sarah and Happy Socks
P.S The dolphins asked me to ask you to text SARAH5 to 70500 to donate five squid to the L2L charities on their behalf. Thank you.