Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thumper fish and other “goings-on.”

Deb and I spent last night on the boat. It was just our third night on the water. Somewhat to my surprise there was literally no one else on the docks beside us, which was both kind of fun and the polar opposite of our life in the city. As usual I got there first and started working on leaks, this time with complete (though I suspect temporary) success. Nomad is a dry boat at the moment. (Water system that is. The outside of the hull is wet and the bar is stocked with Rum ‘n Coke.)

After dinner I strung up the Bimini extension we discovered in the “parts” bag. It really works well, covering the cabin from the front edge of the cockpit Bimini all the way to the mast. That means we can leave the companionway and aft hatch open even if it rains. Then we headed off to the showers so I could wash off the leak repair dirt and sweat. Walking back to the boat cooled off and cleaned up I couldn’t help but be pleased at how good little Nomad looked sitting on the water with all of her portholes glowing with light, Bimini strung just so, fenders hanging straight and all her dock lines neat and taunt. She really is a pretty little boat.

After some reading while rocking gently at the dock, (sailing stories of course) it was time to call it a day. I still haven’t figured out a graceful way of getting into a V berth. For now I crawl in headfirst, (keep your head down, the foot end is kind of thin in the vertical room department) then do a kind of U-turn to get my head pointed aft. Its kind of awkward since the foot end, being the same shape as the bow, is narrow as well as low. With a partner already settled in it gets to be a Chinese body puzzle. (Not, mind you, necessarily a bad thing.)

I don’t think we were tucked in the V berth for more than a couple of minutes before something started thumping the boat. (Stop your snickering, I mean from the outside.) At first it sounded like it was up on deck and we both assumed some kind of bird was pecking at bugs. Spiders love sailboats. I have never seen so many eight-legged little critters running around before and, in spite of my inherent “shudder factor” around spiders, I am getting kind of used to them. Oh I’ll still jump if one falls out of the Bimini cover and lands on my arm, (yep – ugly, black, fuzzy looking thing that jumped even further than I did) but brushing away cobwebs barehanded is now a normal practice. So my first guess was that a spider eating bird was having some hors d'oeuvres, banging the deck with its beak every time it snagged some arachnid munchies.

We tried to spot what kind of bird it might be but saw nothing on the deck. The “thumper” went away so we settled back in with a bird mystery. Just about asleep the thumping started again, this time clearly below the waterline and in fact, almost directly below where I was laying. Not a bird but some kind of “thumper fish.” And it was banging away at the hull with some enthusiasm. When I put my hand on the boat next to my berth I could feel the vibes with each “thump.” I don’t know what kind of fish it was nor have I any idea what it was up to, but it was sure making a racket. It did whatever it was doing for quite a while before swimming off to do whatever thumper fish do in the middle of the night. (That assumes it was even a fish. It sounded like I imagine it would sound if one were to slap the bottom of the boat with a raw fishtail. But maybe it was a turtle, or a duck?)

On a boat one is much more a part of the surroundings than in a house or car. It’s more like being in a tent or on a bike, involved in anything that is going on nearby. That’s part of the reason I like it, but it will take a while to sort out all the new “goings on.” We will get to do some of that this weekend as it will be the first full weekend we spend on the lake free to sail whenever we want.

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