Friday, 10 June 2016

Hitch Hikers Guide to the Atlantic

A tiny waxing cresent of a moon is setting before midnight on our passage from Ascension Island to Suriname. Then the starlight takes over the darkness of the night.

The Milky Way sparkles, stretching as far as the eye can see and beyond. The stars out here are so bright and so close to the horizon, that at times you feel they must be the lights of an approaching ship. In the darkness we hear our new "friends" arriving.

From a distance you hear their squawking, there are no stealth arrivals here. They mainly land on the solar panels, easy on their webbed feet. They squawk and fight for position, two wanted to perch on the wind generator, another two wanted the spot aft, near our Vesper AIS GPS receiver.

Eventually they sorted out their stations and settled down on what we now call the poop deck. We've seen these birds along the coast of Australia, Africa and now on our way to South America. They soar over the ocean, up and down skimming the waves with minimum effort, wandering thousands of miles from land. We think these are the species Black Noddy or possibly the Sooty Tern.

During our night watches we hear them chatting away to each other in a croaking chirps, see them preening their feathers, squawking when Crystal Blues is slapped by a beam on wave, and finally tucking their heads under one wing and sleeping.

Come dawn they take off, without so much as a thank you. Each night birds return. Are they the same birds each night ? It is a mystery to us. The only sure thing about these hitch hikers is that each morning we have to hose down the poop deck.

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