29th October 2013

Our feathered friends and followers


While I sit at the chart table writing this, the sun is shining and the sky
and sea are blue as we sail downwind towards Rio. Looking out the window, I
can see a small dainty white bird. It’s a tern, and the first one I have
seen in a while now. As it fishes and flies alongside the boat, a brown skua
chases along behind it. Skuas are the pirates of the seabird world. They are
large robust birds that chase other birds incessantly, diving and weaving
and pulling tricks in the air until the birds are so tired that they
regurgitate their food to make themselves lighter to get away. Yummy yummy,
this is breakfast for the skua. It is not uncommon for skuas to migrate
together with terns as the terns fish along the way, in turn providing a
food source for the skuas.

We have been followed by plenty of birds during this trip, with blue footed
boobies, and Wilson’s storm petrels as well as quite a few brown skuas and
one rather large (as yet unidentified) black bird that has been nicknamed
the dragon due to it’s large gangly wings. The blue footed boobies are in
the same family as gannets that you may recognise around the british coast.
On land, the boobies are clumsy animals with large blue feet that tend to
trip them, but in the air they are graceful acrobats. They seem to enjoy
eating flying fish and will follow the boat along. As the fish fly out of
the water scared by the boat, the boobies swoop and take up chase. Sometimes
they’ll also plunge from some height into the water after a tasty fish.
Although they are much bigger birds, the boobies are not immune to the
tyrant ways of the skuas though.

Storm petrels are also interesting to watch. They are small black and white
birds that flit between the waves close to the water’s surface, skipping
their feet along the surface. This behavour is thought to be the reason for
their name, petrel deriving from the Christian name Peter, who walked on
water in the bible. Wilson’t storm petrels may be the most numerous seabird
in the world and their population may be as high as 6 million. However, most
people will never see one as they spend most of their time at sea, and only
come ashore by cover of night to breed.

In answer to Barbara’s comment (hi mum!) about how Cliggy escaped Neptune’s
punishment during the line crossing ceremony, Cliggy didn’t escape. No-one
escaped! My crimes were that I thought a turtle was a shark (in my defence
it was a long way away thrashing around at the surface with a triangular
shape sticking out…which turned out to be it’s head), for cooking without
a t-shirt on (I had a bikini on, and it’s HOT in that galley) and for
initiating general t-shirt-less cooking from the rest of the crew. I had to
take my own medicine and also got covered in slops.

Love to family and friends back home. Thinking of you all! A special hug
also to poor Jackie and Dorte stuck in the office with their theses to
write. Thanks for your blog messages Jackie 🙂

Colette (Cliggy)

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3 Responses to 29th October 2013

  1. mike bassett says:

    Hello Elinca, Mike Bassett here, with the Rusthall youth group – had the pleasure of sailing with James on the John Laing a few times and we have just returned from a week in the Solent with them. Got a six foot chart up at the youth club, tracking your voyage and sticking up bits of the blog!
    A few questions from them! Have you caught any fish yet??? Are you putting up weather balloons? How many ships have you seen on this leg of the voyage?
    Happy sailing! Mike

    • For Mike,
      I’m glad you’re well and been back on Laing again – there’s lots about her that i miss on this trip, like her beautiful big equipped workshop and her coffee machine!

      We’ve not caught any fish L:-( We think we may be going to fast but happy to take advice from anybody on the blog or facebook on this, we keep losing our weights/hooks so we think we’re catching things but not holding onto them.

      And no weather balloons but we are a Voluntary Observing Ship for the Met Office and we take twice daily readings of lots of things for them, with highly accurate barographs/ barometers / thermometers that they came and fitted. And then we argue about whether the waves are wind waves or swell!

  2. Katrin says:

    @Cliggy: Cooking in a bikini is new, but sounds more practical than in a bathrobe and with dye on your hair 🙂

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