Day 49 – Battle of the Boobies

Picture the scene: a slightly crazed-looking naked woman is waving a red
dustpan in your face and yelling all kinds of curses, mostly ending in
"off" and none of them repeatable here. Which of the following would you
think is the most likely interpretation of her intentions?
a) you are most welcome to land there and poop all over my solar
panels
b) let's play fights – your beak against my red dustpan
c) go away and never darken my fore cabin again.

Sigh. I would have thought it was fairly obvious. But Birdbrain here
wasn't getting the message. He just squawked back petulantly, slithered
around a bit on the panels as I tried to scoop him away with the
dustpan, retreated beyond the reach of my arm + domestic implement, and
then went back to preening his feathers. After the first dozen times
this was getting a bit old. I obviously wasn't going to manage to train
him not to land here. I needed a better strategy.

Aha. I had an idea. I would string several strands of rope across the
roof of the cabin, from the cleat on the prow to the small raised
triangle of the sun canopy's support. The rope would be a couple of
inches above the solar panels and would prevent the booby from landing .

I lashed three lines together, with a large loop at the end. After many
failed attempts, I finally managed to lasso the cleat and tied off the
three ends of the line to create a cat's cradle of narrow triangles. As
I worked, the booby tried to kept trying to land on the roof. Another
booby turned up and the two of them squabbled loudly like disagreeable
children. I kept trying to shoo them away but they just weren't taking
the hint.

At last my booby trap was ready. I stood back and admired my handiwork.

The booby circled and landed, totally disregarding my deterrent. His big
webbed feet splayed across the rope, his weight pinning it down to the
solar panel. He pooped triumphantly. I turned away in despair, just in
time to see the other booby land on the roof of the other cabin, and
deposit a copious white puddle across the solar panels there.

Sigh. I swore, and went back to my rowing, trying to listen to "Dreams
From My Father" by Barack Obama, his chocolatey voice all but drowned
out by the squawking, pooping, pestilential vermin sitting on the cabin
behind me.

P.S. Since I first drafted this, a total of 3 boobies have now taken up
residence on my boat. I've taken the dustpan to them times beyond
number, but they just circle and come back again. They jostle noisily
for position on the fore cabin roof, balancing precariously between the
strands of rope. They do everything noisily, in fact. Every large wave
is accompanied by a commentary of discordant squawks, as if they'd never
seen a wave before in their lives. They just never shut up. It's driving
me absolutely nuts. Oh no, as I type this, one of them has just
discovered the cockpit. It is standing on my rowing seat. I hate to
think what stinking state the boat is going to be in by the morning. To
say that I feel intruded upon would be a gross understatement. Errgh, I
can smell their poop from here, inside my cabin. Forget intrusion, more
like violation. It's just not even funny any more.

[photo: my nemesis]

Other Stuff:

Slow progress today. When not taking swipes at boobies with a dustpan
I've been rowing hard, but have made a scant 20 nautical miles. I'm not
sure why progress is so slow – the wind has been fairly brisk and I'm
not aware of any adverse current here. Just one of those things. But at
least the miles have been in the right direction, which may not continue
to be the case as I get closer to the Equator.

Nicole tells me that today I was featured on bing.com's home page. Bing
is the new search engine from Microsoft, launched to compete with
Google, and apparently it's doing rather well. Today's homepage features
an image of a kayaker going over a massive waterfall. The image changes
every day and there are various spots on the image to click — if you
click on the kayak it says, "Some people row boats over waterfalls; Roz
Savage rowed one across the Atlantic. Click here to view videos of her."
and it takes you to a gallery filled with my videos. Cool!

Correction: I mistakenly said that Jason Lewis had a crewmate for his
pedalboat crossing from Hawaii to Tarawa. In fact he pedaled alone for
this stage of his circumnavigation.

A special hello to Sarah, Bill, Jack and Grace! From my big duck pond!!
And also to Anne and Pete – lovely to hear from you!

Quick answers to quick questions:

Q: Have you seen the green flash at sunset yet, or are you too low in
the water?
A: No, I haven't seen it, although I keep looking. Generally I'm too
low, and/or waves are too high, and/or clouds on the horizon get in the
way.

Q: Roz, do you sing, hum or whistle while you row?
A: No, not much. Although I might do when I get tired of audiobooks and
take to music instead. But believe me, 1000 miles from the nearest human
ears is the best place for me to sing. My singing would make the boobies
sound like Mariah Carey!

Weather report:

Position at 2100 HST: 06 32.073N, 175 18.054W
Wind: 10-20 knots E
Seas: 3-9 ft
Weather: sunny with clouds and short squalls

Weather forecast, courtesy of weatherguy.com

As of Thursday, 09 July 2009. Expect widely variable wind speeds and
direction while in close proximity to the ITCZ. NEerly trade winds
continue around the 10-15 kts, but veer to ENE 10kts by tomorrow
morning, then back to NE 10kts by tomorrow night. Periods of lighter
winds. Seas to 2-6ft.

Sky conditions: Mostly cloudy with low level clouds. Isolated
rainshowers, squalls, and possible thunderstorms. Wind speeds in these
systems 40-50kts.

ITCZ: The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) has heated up just
south of your present location. Convective clouds have increased
producing squalls and thunderstorms. The axis of the ITCZ is centered on
05 00N between 170W and 180E/W. The northern ITCZ edge is about 06 30N
and the southern edge near 02 00N. As of this morning, winds south of 07
30N to 03 00N were from the NE direction at about 7-22kts. In squalls
and rainshowers winds were 40kts.

Ocean Current: Still looking for the current to become ENE or Eerly
flowing at about 06 00N in the North Equatorial Counter Current. This
current extends to about 01 00N. There are periodic fluctuations in
these dimensions.

Forecast below is for a SWerly course.
Date/Time HST Wind kts Seas (ft)
09/1800-10/0000 NE 10-15 4-6
10/0000-10/1800 ENE 7-12 3-5
10/1800-11/0900 NE 7-12 3-5
11/0900-13/0000 E 2-7 2-4
13/0000-14/1800 ENE-NE 5-10 3-5

  • woodenmask

    If I remember correctly, when Captain Bligh and his men were set adrift, one of the miracles that kept them alive during their months at sea, was managing to bag ONE seabird that came too close.

    Don't know how this relates, except to say that maybe building up all this good karma has backfired on you a bit.

  • Conway Kayak Company

    The bird poop should be a major concern, due to the fact of course that your solar panels are of the upmost vital importance in the electrical system.

    Goodluck at shooing the birds.

    Greg

  • Anonymous

    Could your team send you an mp3 file of bird calls to play, such as a bird of prey, that might put the frightners on the Boobies?

  • Elton P.

    Do those Boobies know what kind of creature they're messing with? Here's an idea – a nice bop on the head, then break out the cooking stove. Boobie stew for supper, then leftover Boobie meat and bean sprouts for breakfast. Probably a nice white meat that tastes very much like chicken. Excellent protein. OM NOM NOM NOM!

  • Anonymous

    If only you had a super-soaker water blaster with you. One shot with that and they'd be off! It would also be quite useful in the poopy cleanup. :)

    Hope they get bored with you quickly and leave you with your sanity.

    SC

  • texino

    Maybe you tie some mono-filament fish line to the boat so that it spans an area slightly above the solar panel. Birds do not care to fly into invisible wire and may stay away. Have you a vary pistol?
    You could shoot and cook the bird in one action. If you have read "James and the Giant Peach" There is a part where sea gulls are employed to pull the large fruit. You might try that. I know it is tough to be mean when you are green Roz, but this is war. Kill one of those suckers and leave it . I doubt if the others will return. I'll research this through my local sea bird and turtle rescue group and find out more.

  • Susan petry

    Roz, you're the only spot of dry land for 100s of miles! those boobies are sitting (or s*itting, as it were) in high cotton!

  • Antonio

    I don't regularly visit BING.COM, glad i did yesterday, now I am a fan forever. I will also stay away from using plastic bags as my one stroke at a time effort to help save the blue ocean.

  • texino

    OK, I have returned. Birds do not care for spikes sticking through the roof. I see where you might rig two or three lines of mono-filament from the eye in the bow to the point where you rig your sun shade. I think the "invisible strands will foil landings. Good luck.

  • KennyB

    A little different subject from your Boobie problem. Since I've been following you I've become quite aware of plastic. I ordered something over the internet and the coumpany was proud to be sending my product in "earth-friendly" air bags. I immediately wrote them and told them that plastic air bags are NOT "earth-friendly". I pointed them toward your web site and the two Blue sites and hopefully they will have some second thoughts about their packaging. Thanks for inspiring me :-)

  • Brent Mashburn

    Seems like throwing buckets of water at the boobies would not only annoy them to maybe make them leave but help to wash off the solar panels too…

  • kai

    How about a heavy object tied to a rope and swung over your head? It would give you the reach to threaten their perch.

  • Joan in Atlanta

    Where's a massive carnivorous fish when you need one?

    I had the same thought as Kai above. Something bolo-like that you could swing above your head and play out in length until you could give them a good thump.

    And of all the things I imagined stowed on your boat somewhere, I never would have guessed you had a dustpan.

    Have you got a hand-mirror that you could use to annoy them with sun refections?

    Boobies are the mother of invention.

  • neurosicyde

    Singing Eh? Maybe Noise warfare is the way to go for the booby problem? Any treaties on fair treatment in a combat situation. It's a high seas turf war you know! But way to fight em in your birthday suit1

  • Eric

    Roz,

    I think Kai above has a good idea. Only instead of swinging some thing at them, hit the little bastards. You don't have to swing hard enough to hurt them – just hard enough to scare them off. Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    Roz and I have just been talking on the phone, and she really is at her wits end to know what to do about those boobies. If she chases them off, they sit on the water looking at her, then promptly fly back on again. They are invading her private space. They smell absolutely awful. They will NOT be scared off. One emailer said that Roz is a saint to put up with this. I imagine that her language is not that of a saint! Rita.

  • Thomas

    Hi Roz,

    Just returned from sailing a 38 foot double canoe rigged with crabclaw sails of polytarp material from San Fran CA to Hilo HI. Out looking at the state of plastic on the ocean surface and found an average of 1 piece (>3" across)per 52,500 square feet. Haven't been able to read everything you write but wondering what you are seeing on your current trip? (sorry if it's already in there somewhere and I missed it.) Some of these larger bits are little floating islands with their own ecosystem about. Even so still a plague! How about flourescent light tubes – ever see any of those? –Tube floats! Cheers Thomas

  • Anonymous

    I think Roz is just going to have to suck it up about the birds. What does she expect? This is Nature, it does what it does, no need to work herself up about it. Just be happy it's not great white sharks looking at her from the water!

  • Anonymous

    Roz,
    Sorry to hear about your Boobie woes. However, one thing you do NOT want to do is create shadow lines across your solar panels with rope or sailing lines. If you have a volt meter monitoring your solar panels please give it a look as it is quite possible for sailing lines, sheets, rode, etc. to make a sharp enough shadow to virtually "cut" your voltage path as the solar cells are wired in a series/parallel configuration. Hope this helps. Oh, I'd help the birds overboard with your spare oar—set up handily just for the occasion! Ha! …or, got any rubber bands? Fabricate a sling-shot!
    Cheers!!
    Marty Tryon

  • John Kay

    If you still have some Bag Balm left, try smearing some on the panels. It shouldn't affect their efficiency as much as poop and the birds will slide off it. It should also be fairly resistant to spray.

  • nrgins

    I, too, thought it was funny at first; but now I see the problem.

    OK, how about a bucket? Get some seawater in the bucket and throw it at them. I'd imagine getting wet would be an inconvenience to them. Kinda like getting rid of a cat. Plus, the thrown water would probably clean some of the poop off as well!

    If that doesn't work, then next time you stop you need to get a water pistol. Not only will it scare them away with little effort, but it can be a superb form of recreation, as well! If you have room for one, you could get one of those high-powered "water cannons" for extra-long range. Either way, you can rid your boat of pests and have fun — all at the same time!!

  • nrgins

    You know, this whole boobie thing could be a way to raise money for your trips! Just create a video game in which a cartoon Roz has to get the boobies off the boat — with dust pan, water pistol, tomatoes, whatever — and gets points added for a removed boobie, and gets points subtracted for a pile of poop left behind! (And if they poop in the cockpit, that's extra points subtracted.) I'd but a copy of the game! Sounds like fun!! :-)

  • nrgins

    One more thought. If they're interfering with your health and safety, I don't think it would be wrong to take lethal action, as a last resort. At least, were they to be killed, they'd fall into the ocean and become fish food. So no waste there.

    But a small BB gun might be enough to inflict a little pain — enough to make them stay away.

  • Jonathan Grimaldi

    Roz,

    On your next stop, you should pick up one of those solar powered ovens with the mirrors and such, and some butter. Boobies, I imagine, are a good source of protein, and how refreshing would it be to avenge your fouled solar panels! Nothing tastes better than sweet sweet vengeance in the morning!

    -OR-

    Capture them–with a net, not a dustpan, learn their language, and give them names. They will eventually become your friends and they wont seem as much of an annoyance.

    Hope I've been some help!

  • Jonathan Grimaldi

    OOH!!
    I just thought of something! If I am correct, the inside of your Lara bar wrappers are reflective! Why not make a solar powered oven out of your used Lara Bar Wrappers!!

  • UncaDoug

    All these wonderful suggestions … I've got it!

    A booby trap … you know … the iconic cardboard box (open side down) on the deck, one edge propped up by a tent peg tied to a length of yarn leading to you tucked neatly inside the cabin (laying in wait), Larabar crumbs scatter around and under the box — hither and thither.

    As the boldest boobie bounds unabashedly beneath the box … you yank the yarn … and then … dinner!

  • John Kay

    Try smearing Bag Balm on the panels. The birds will slide off. It shouldn't reduce the panel's efficiency much.

  • Anonymous
  • UncaDoug

    Dear Anonymous – I am going to take liberty to give Roz a hand here. She has enough on her plate. I am sure Roz will agree that the editorial is not surprising considering the source is The Washington Times. Those climate science and economic myths have been debunked time and again at RealClimate.org and at ClimateProgress.org and by countless other accredited experts and authorities.

    Please identify yourself and explain exactly what your fears are, otherwise how can there be an open, intelligent and informative dialogue. What do you fear?

    Roz, please excuse me for stepping in. Hoping to help.

  • DogsDontPurr

    Given all these annoyances, in addition to all the hard work you do with rowing and everything else, do you ever allow yourself slacker days, where you just stay in bed or just enjoy the view?

  • Robert

    have you considered making them pay rent?

  • nrgins

    @Robert: Pay rent? Hell, they ought to do some rowing!