Thursday, May 9, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Little Bits of Magic

When I think back on all of the things that happened to us during our years on Kintala, this is still one that ranks in the top five. It will forever be the definition of cruising magic.

Little bits of magic

Kintala is on a mooring ball in Marathon for a couple of days. This is a very well spoken of and popular place among the cruising tribe that frequents these parts. It took a beating from Irma, has recovered some, but it will be a while (if ever) before all of the scars are gone. For all of its charms, it has never ranked that high on Deb’s or my list of places we love to be. Though there are far fewer boats than we are used to seeing, it is still a crowded place. The mooring balls are closely spaced. Pulling up to one is like taking a room in a hotel, or pitching a tent in the middle of a parking lot. Still, it is about the only place to stop on the way around the Keys, and this is our fourth time here.

The anchorage at Shark River with a sunset muted by the
haze from the fires burning in Florida
It stands in stark contrast to the anchorage in Little Shark River, which was exactly the kind of place we have come to enjoy. There were only two boats sharing the space with us. It was quiet and dark. Really, really dark. The kind of dark that lets the night sky overwhelm one’s sense of space, size, and time. “The sea is so big, and my boat is so small,” is a common thought for those who take to big water. In Shark River at night the universe becomes the ocean, and the whole of Mother Earth our -  shared - little boat. Indeed, comparing the size of the ocean to a boat, vs the size of the universe to a single planet, our common boat is tiny beyond comprehension.

I like being in places where it seems some wise old spirit lives, offering up nuggets of insight just to see what you dare do with them.

The sail from Marco to Shark River was a pretty good sail all of its own. Kintala touched 7 knots on several occasions, flying every bit of sail available close against a 10 to 20 knot wind for a good part of the day. But, as good as the sailing was, it was a different bit of magic that marked the day. Flitting all around were these tiny little birds. I have no idea if it is migration time for the little fluff balls, or if a week of stiff winds out of the East had blown a bunch of them out over the water. In any case, there were enough of them around to make it impossible not to notice.

Early in the afternoon Kintala was some 20 miles off shore, groups of the little birds occasionally making low passes over the boat. Eventually one landed. In fact he flew aboard and touched down on my leg as I sat in the cockpit. After sizing me up for a minute or two he flew around a bit as if checking the place out, then scooted off over the water once again. A few minutes after that he was back with a friend. They both fluttered hither and yon, hanging off of lines, checking out the inside of the dodger, poking around the piles of sheets scattered here and there.

Then there were four, then six, and ultimately eight, all hitching a ride back closer to shore.

They put on quite a show, landing on feet and arms, heads and legs. They chased bugs, and even brought down several dragon flies that were not all that much smaller than the birds themselves. They drank water out of a cup, fought over bug parts, fluttered around, sat and preened, hopped up on our fingers, and even let us pet them. There were so many of them that we had to move about slowly, looking where we were about to step or sit, for fear of squashing one of our little guests.

Nether of us had ever seen such a thing before.

Eventually they started to flutter off, the last one riding along in the cockpit for a half hour or so all alone, as if glad to have a bit of space for a while. I have no clue what they were up to, or where they were going, but it was a treat to have them stop by and keep us company for a while. I wonder what kind of stories they might share about us, whenever it is that they get where they are going.

The next day we stayed closer to shore, running off the wind in the lee of the land, which kept the swell down to something comfortable. It was another good day of sailing, but just one little bird dropped by, sitting on the deck for a while, then flashing away in a burst of colored frenzy.

So, after five days of sailing spread out over a little more than a week, Kintala is out of the Gulf of Mexico and back in sight of the Atlantic Ocean.

And that feels a bit magical as well.

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