At the SSCA gam in Melbourne and local color

As I sit down to write, it’s just before 06:00 on Friday morning and still dark.  Brenda’s alarm went off a few minutes ago and she is really struggling to wake up.  A painful process, complete with more than a little bit of moaning at the tragedy of it all.  So, why, on board a cruising boat, would two retired folks set an alarm, you ask?  Well, today is a big day.  We will be enjoying the Gam in Melbourne FL with our friends from SSCA, the Seven Seas Cruising Association.  I signed us up to help with check-ins and they want us to be there by 07:30.  These days that seems pretty early.  It wasn’t that long ago when I was at work by that time every morning.   My, how times have changed for the crew of Pandora.  I do have to wonder who will show up that early.  Well, we will be among the first to find out.

Brenda and “early” aren’t two things that are generally described in the same sentence as 06:00 is not easy for Brenda, that’s for sure.  I guess that I have used up a few of my “good will points” with a dark beginning for her day today.

The SSCA is a great group with some 8,000 members that are focused on helping cruisers get the most out of their boats and time aboard.   When you ask one of them when it’s the right time to shove off they chant in unison, “JUST GO!”.  While many members of the group live aboard, there are plenty like us that spend a good portion of their year afloat and yet have a land base too.

Several times a year the group has events like the one that we are attending for the next few days and I am looking forward to it.  There will be experts talking about  topics like weather, safety, cruising destinations and other areas related spending time aboard.

In particular, we will have an opportunity to hear from Christ Parker, the weather router that we use.  As weather, and by extension Chris, whom we have never met, is such a big part of our life on the water.  We are particularly excited about hearing what he has to say.  This event, over the next three days, should be a great time.

Speaking of being in Melbourne, I have enjoyed seeing the local sights as I do in each area that we visit.  In particular, the water clarity is much better here so that you can see about 6-8′, which is a lot better than anything we have seen to date on our trip south.  Of course, when we get to the Bahamas the water will be REALLY CLEAR, but for now every little improvement is good.

Around the town dock, thousands of mullet congregate because the pilings and dock structure give them some cover and shade to hide in.  The fish in the schools run from a few inches to around one foot long.   I got a kick out of seeing so many of them in such a small space.  In this part of the school, these are all about a foot long.  This photo doesn’t really show how many there were but trust me when I say that there were plenty. In Florida, it seems that where there are fish, there are dolphins.  Unfortunately, this is the best shot that I could get as they move along really quickly. It was fun to see them work as a group to “corral” fish into a tight space so that they could dash through the group and snap them up for dinner.   One of these days I will get a good photo of one.  This is a distinct improvement as the last time I posted a “dolphin photo” it was nothing more than a swirl in the water, a sort of “where a dolphin used to be” photo.Also, there enjoying the pickings was a heron, standing about four feet tall.  A regal bird.  I was able to get within ten feet before he had had enough of me and flew off. There are quite a few boats anchored near us here for the GAM and it’s fun to see what sort of craft show up.   I was particularly interested in this boat and the funny boxes “perched” on top of the davits on the stern.   This spot on cruising boats is often occupied by solar panels, an important addition to any boat.  What ever it was, it must be important to take up such prime real estate   They looked a lot like cages to me and I couldn’t imagine what could be inside them.  Perhaps they enjoyed fresh poultry, I imagined, or that they were a member of some sort of satanic cult and needed to keep their sacrificial “offerings”on board.  So, what’s a curious cruiser to do?   How to solve the mystery?   Well, of course, just go say HI, and I did.It turns out that they were pet parrots.  I have seen plenty of boat pets but never parrots.  Having said that, I recall seeing pictures of pirates with a parrot perched on their shoulder so perhaps there is a sort of symmetry to all of this.  So, up I went and introduced myself.  Happily, I was invited aboard Equinox for a tour by Dave and Trish and had my first “aquatic parrot moment”.   I should note that Trish, the true parrot lover in the group, didn’t utter “ahoy matey” even once and if she had an eye patch, in the true pirate tradition, she wasn’t wearing it.  It seems that all parrot owners on the high seas aren’t all blood thirsty savages.  Oh well, another myth settled.Trish introduced me to Lucie (Lucifer when she is bad), a Eclectus and Dante, a Congo African Grey.  It seems that a key benefit to the outside cages, beyond giving their charges an excellent view of the area, is that when they (how can I put this delicately?) poop, it goes in the water instead of on the cabin sole.   Wait a minute.  They poop into the water?  What about avian marine sanitation devices?   I hope that the Environmental Police don’t catch “wind” of this.  Hmm…

So, how do parrots take to sailing?  I learned that Dante does fine but that Lucie suffers from the male de mare and throws up when the going gets rough.  I guess that makes sense, but it seemed pretty funny to me.  The idea of bird puke doesn’t seem that funny but hey, it’s funny in a “potty humor” sort of way.  Trish told me that Lucie does a bit better in the puking department when she sits on the dining table, yes the dining table, on her perch under way and that as the boat sways to the waves, Lucie sways back and forth on her perch staying perfectly still.  Yea, if I were a parrott I’d blow lunch doing that.   Oh, another funny thing is that Lucie, since enduring a traumatic hurricane season in 2004, plucks out her breast feathers so she is in a prepetual state of scruffiness. “OK, OK, I’ll go with you on that ^%$# boat but I am going to pull out all of my feathers if you insist”.   It’s sort of like picking your nails but looks a lot worse.

When the going gets rough they both can hang out in their “down below” cages.   So, cats, dogs, birds?   Which is the best to have on board?   Sounds complicated so I’ll leave it at that.  It would seem, from my tour of Equinox that parrots are not the simplest of all possible boat companions.

Oh yea, one more thing.  As everyone knows, parrots can imitate noises and these two are no exception.   Boating has it’s own set of fun sounds to mimic and these two have picked up some great ones.  How about the beeping that a truck makes when it goes in reverse?  Yea, that’s a good one and the travel lift operators at the marina do a double take when they hear it. Weather alarm on the VHF?  Check.   Some of the sounds that happen on Pandora are best not repeated but I’ll just have to leave it at that.

Switching the subject, have you ever wondered what would happen to that schefflera plant that you have in your living room would look like if it was planted in your lawn?   Me too.  Here’s what happens when one is happy.  Pretty impressive.  So, call me a sheltered New Englander, but I am enjoying seeing new things.  Simple pleasures for simple people.

While Friday’s sunrise was foggy, the first on our trip, we had a terrific sunrise on Thursday morning.    Look at this cloud bank which persisted all day and that evening gave us an amazing light show with dramatic lightening flashes each second for hours.  Happily we were sung at anchor enjoying another great day in paradise.  I wonder if Lucifer and Dante do good thunder too?

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