Wednesday is booby day

Dawn came with a smattering of rain. With over 540 nm run since leaving Vanuatu Temptress is more than half way to our first waypoint north of Sand Cay and almost in Australian territorial waters as well as fast approaching the next time zone UT+10; after lunch tomorrow, Thursday we’ll flog the clocks back an hour. I must stitch some stars on Jeanie Jeeps old “ensign” so it can be hoisted as a courtesy flag along with the yellow Q flag that represents asking for practique or quarantine clearance when we are closer to land.

Boobies, the tropical equivalent of the northern gannet are always value for money to watch their antics and aerobatics. This evening a flock of five youngsters came to play swooping low through the waves off the stern, hovering higher on the draft from the sails and then as dusk began to give way to night trying to roost. Tonight’s target was the top of the mast swaying big circles as Temptress is lifted and lowered by the waves. There might be room for a crow in harbour but certainly not for something as large as a booby but trying is all part of the game. They’d fly close by on the windward side head turned, keeping a beady eye on the rapidly moving masthead then round the front before turning back to make their approach from the leeward side skipping up and away at the last moment. How they avoided a close encounter with the metre high thin VHF aerial or the windex with its swinging indicator is a mystery. Eventually the flock headed off across the waves to find some other amusement.

An hour or two later Kevin was in his bunk and I was reading in the cockpit when there was a loud boing like something hitting the wind generator followed by a thud on the stern. I grabbed a torch but saw nothing untoward. Odd perhaps a misguided flying fish though it would have been huge to make that sort of sound and how did it manage that height, the blades being a couple of metres above the deck? A little while later there was another muffled thud but checking the transom and side decks I could find nothing.

Then a flying fish some 15-20cm long landed in the cockpit behind the wheel with a gentle plop followed by a lot of flapping, I scooped it up and returned it to the ocean so it could fly again; they are an amazing royal blue like the sea with the sun on it, their bellies pale blue grey. Elongated fins enable them to glide great distances but sometimes they propel themselves out of a wave just as Temptress passes and we regularly find their desiccated remains on the side decks.

When Kevin took the ten til one watch he soon discovered what was causing the odd thumps. We had a passenger, one enterprising booby had managed to land on the solar panels under the cover of darkness, presumably colliding unexpectedly with the wind generator vane as he did so. Shades of the escaped green parrot that once used the derrick just below the generator as a perch in Southsea Marina many years ago, fascinated by the turning blades the stupid bird kept edging closer head bobbing in circles as he followed the blades round, narrowly avoiding being decapitated. The other thumps were the booby trying to keep his balance as the smooth panels swayed with the motion of the boat.

Eventually he flew off though not before he had generously decorated the aft cockpit locker lids which the morning light revealed to be spattered in guano. Boobys are amusing but the mess they make is less so, even the jib has acquired a series of blotches that’ll need a downpour to rinse off.

Ships Log Wednesday 7 Sept: Noon position 16 33.81S 158 03.51E 602NM


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