Yesterday Vernon and I headed out to sea for some anchor trials. Past the railroad swing bridge we steamed, waving at the bridge tender. Under the big highway bridge we thumped, past the freighter loading fertilizer. A quarter of an hour later we were poking our bow into a little bay on Bird Island. The chain rattled over the roller and the rope slid snake-like out of its barrel. “There. Look Vernon. The anchor works. One more test completed. What’ll we do now?” I asked. “Guess we might have a beer and discuss the results,” Vernon suggested. “Just one,” I agreed, and the two of us retired to the aft deck.
Bird Island is a bird sanctuary, and so many birds like it that the whole island stinks of bird poop. It’s a bit oppressive if you are down wind, but just seeing so many birds having a good time makes up for it. There are pelicans of course, sandpipers and cormorants. There are gulls, herons, and egrets with black wing tips. Hundreds and hundreds of birds, but the spoonbills are my favorite, with their oddly shaped bills and fantastic pink plumage. The two of us sat there for a while, just watching the birds soar and dive and catch fish.
Now I need to interrupt here, to mention a certain decoration that adorns Danielle’s outboard rudder. A while back I bought a plastic bird made from white PVC pipe at a roadside stand. He looks like an egret, with a long graceful neck and a skinny body, and an orange bill and legs. I screwed his little orange feet to the top of the rudder, and he perches there with his toes curled over the edge like he just landed.
So anyway, Danielle was happily swinging at anchor, and Vernon and I were watching the show and getting a bit sleepy, when around the corner of the island comes this power catamaran. “Tampa Bay Tours” or some such thing was painted in large letters on her hull. She was a good size, and lining her bows were maybe forty tourists come to see the birds with binoculars and cameras and funny hats. The tour boat stood a hundred feet out from us, so we formed part of the scenery. As Danielle swung southwards, Vernon and I could see the tourists pointing and taking pictures of the birds and the two funny old geezers sitting in the funny old boat with their feet up on the rail. And then Danielle would swing northward, and the cabin would hide us from their view. Well, on the second swing northward Vernon realized what was going on. “Hey, know what? Them tourists is pointing at that day-am plastic bird,” Vernon said, “Watch this!” And Vernon grinned. Because just as we swung south into their view, up he jumps as quick as a cat and grabs the bird by the neck and hollers, “Gottcha!! Yee-haw! We’re gonna eat good tonight!” He’s shaking the silly thing back and forth with both hands wringing its neck, and the tourists are standing there with stunned looks on their faces and their mouths open….and Danielle swings north again. “Quick now Paul! Where the hay-els that screw-em-up driver?” So I dashes into the cabin, grabs the screwdriver and starts feverishly undoing the bird’s feet. And just as I get the last screw out, the catamaran swings into view again. Vernon pulls out all the stops. He’s bashing the bird on the rail, and stomping on the deck with his foot for the sound effect. He’s swinging it around by the neck, and making squawking and choking and dying bird noises. I’m coughing and gasping for air myself, what with the beer going up my nose from laughing at Vernon, and all the while I’m dodging the flailing bird and trying hard to stay in my chair, or at least in the boat. The bird-watching tourists are pointing and clenching their fists and grinding their teeth and milling around and hollering….and Danielle swings north again.
Well Vernon and I couldn’t think of an encore, so while the catamaran was out of view, we tied the bird up to the overhead by its little orange feet. Then we ducked in through the aft cabin door. And when we swung south again we snuck out the for’d door, upped anchor and slid off over the shallows the way we came. When we looked back, the catamaran was heading around the opposite end of the island. Gone to report us I guess.
I just gotta have a word with Vernon about taking test work more seriously. Otherwise we’ll never make a buck at this boat manufacturing business.