Saturday, April 28, 2012

Up On My Pony On My Boat

We love our Willadine
It’s live music night at Blackbeard’s in Bath.  Dusk is gathering as we walk the block from the town dock to the restaurant.  It’s a beautiful clear night, cool enough for a sweater but comfortable.  As we come around the back of the building, we see some people hanging around in the parking lot.  Then we see the sheriff’s patrol car.  Curious, we walk out into the parking lot by the creek, where we see two women, one in a startling blue and white dress with a full skirt, as if she just stepped off the set of Oklahoma.  She is wearing white high heels and holding the lead of an enormous brown and black mare.  All five of the sheriff’s deputies, for there turns out to be at least two cars of them, are studying the mare and the lady, who is accompanied by another young woman in jeans.

Everyone is just standing around and the music is getting ready to start, so we go up on the deck and sit at the table we reserved for the occasion.  Mark Williams cranks up his acoustic guitar and sings all our favorite oldies.  He opens with James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” (of course) and moves on to some Crosby, Stills and Nash and Allman Brothers.  He’s good and we enjoy our beer, which the waitress says is “dark” but to us is tolerable for a lager, but nothing resembling dark.  The fresh mozzarella is good with balsamic vinegar even if the tomatoes are a bit anemic.  We’re enjoying each other’s company and applauding with the other customers when Mark finishes a song.

Something big enters the parking lot.  It’s a Beaufort County Animal Control truck towing a horse trailer.  The horse is a stray?  The sun is a glowing red ball setting into the trees across the creek.  Blue Dress leads the horse over to the open rear of the trailer.  The horse takes one look at the trailer and comes to an abrupt and stubborn halt.  Mark strums the opening chords of Lyle Lovett’s “If I had a Boat.”  Dress pulls on the bridle.  Horse’s neck stretches but otherwise, nothing moves.  Jeans and Dress stroke Horse’s neck and nose, their faces to close to hers.  You can almost hear the pleading, cajoling tone that the horse is having none of.  A black bucket of oats appears at the horse’s mouth.  Jeans goes into the trailer supplicating with the bucket.  More pulling.

Mark sings, “Me up on my pony on my boat.”  The horse lifts her tail and calmly drops a load of crap in the middle of the parking lot.  It’s getting dark.  The men are milling about shaking their heads, while the women pet and whisper to the horse.  The restaurant owner paces back and forth between the restaurant and the parking lot.  A yellow strap appears and Dress walks very slowly around the rear of the horse with it.  The tension, which was pretty high, ramps up.  It’s getting darker.  Things are getting serious.  The strap is fed through two eyes on either side of the trailer and around the horse’s knees.  They pull.  Horse stands.  Tail flicking.  Does she know they’ve got her now?  Will she rear, break the strap and gallop off into the sunset?  Where did she come from?  In the grass by the dumpster is a saddle and blankets.  What became of the rider?

Movement catches my eye.  The horse takes that first tentative step into the trailer.  The relief among the humans is palpable.  After an interminable hesitation, the back legs step up.  As the door closes, Mark finishes a song and everyone applauds, whether for Mark or the horse, we’re not sure.  Mark takes a break and I put money in the tip jar, shake his hand and explain why we were laughing so hard during “If I Had a Boat.”  He shrugs and goes inside.  Feeling fully entertained, we pay our bill and head back to our boat, sans pony.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Birds on the Pamlico

Sunset on South Creek looking out to the Pamlico River

April 7-8 2012

I want a book.  It will be called something like “A Natural History of the Inner Banks of NC” or something like that.  I’ve been looking for this book for some time now, but haven’t found it.  Instead I scored a used copy of “The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds” at a used bookstore in Asheville for ten dollars!  A bargain!  I took this book to bed and read it.  I scanned the maps for birds that would be found on the coast of NC.  I was delighted to find them organized by type, so that the gull-like birds are all in one place and the “duck-like birds” and the “long-legged wading birds.”

This weekend we discovered some newbies.  Horned Grebes (aka Podiceps auritus) are here nesting and we spotted them bobbing in the middle of the river.  They are cute little speckled brown ducks with white faces noted for their remarkable ability to control their specific gravity (whatever that is) so they can float low or high in the water.  I took a picture of them, but it’s too far away to really see.


Horned Grebe on the Pamlico River, looking out to the Sound.

On the way into South Creek, I saw a very large nest on top of a green marker.  Eric got the binoculars and said there were two bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in it.  Don’t need the book for that one!  I couldn’t look because we were running the crab pot gauntlet.  After I snagged yet another one, we decided Eric would drive through the mess, but we were already well past the nest. 

The book, which was published in 1977, says the eagles are endangered because they eat fish washed up on shore that are contaminated with pesticides.  Wikipedia says the pesticide was DDT and although the species was seriously endangered back in 1977, it was removed from the U.S. federal government's list of endangered species and transferred to the list of threatened species on July 12, 1995, and it was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the Lower 48 States on June 28, 2007.  Happy news for us birdwatchers.

I love listening for the cries of the Herring Gulls and the Laughing Gulls.  Turns out the white-headed ones are the Herring Gulls and they’re actually south of their usual range here but growing more and more common as the years go by.  (Global warming, perhaps?)  They threaten the Laughing Gulls by attacking their nests and eating the eggs.  I love to hear them laughing.  I can’t believe I never knew their name until now.

Can’t wait to get back and see more birds and more sunrises on the water and more sailing and exploring.  Every time we go we think we can’t possibly have more fun and we do!!  Can’t wait to get the kids out there either!

I am entranced by the light on the sail, the colors and the mast
 Special thanks to Gil and Laura of Hodges Street Sails in Oriental for the excellent work on the sails! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Asleep and Awake

31 March 2012

When I was a kid, I remember waking up on summer mornings and leaping out of bed with excitement for the day to come.  Then I grew up and my days got longer and my nights seemed to get shorter and not long enough.  Once the kids came along, sleep became a precious commodity, every sleeping hour to be cherished.

Now, on the boat, I open my eyes and when I see daylight I rejoice.  There is so much to do, places to go, wind, water and sun to be enjoyed.  This weekend we adjusted to some less than ideal weather conditions; went kayaking in the rain and endured a wakeful night at the dock with thunderstorms and thirty knot gusts, feeling like we were sleeping inside a washing machine on the heavy cycle.

And we loved every minute.  We drank champagne at anchor and listened to the hiss of the rain on the water like a silver chain falling on marble.  A big drum showed itself to us and disappeared with a splash.  Our first sunset sail on the river was a great success with Mrs. Pelican offering her regards and the cormorants hanging out on the green marker like slouchy teenagers.

Willadine came out of the water easily with the help of Conway’s truck.  But it just didn’t feel right.  She doesn’t like being out of the water any more than we do.  We’ll be back, Willadine, we’ll be back!

You can’t make this s**t up

16 March 2012

After a leisurely breakfast, we pull anchor in a misty rain and head for home at Potter’s Marina.  Near the mouth of the creek, making the turn, a rainbow appears just ahead.  As I’m admiring it, something surfaces in the water and I think, seamonstersharkroguewave all in a rush and then I hear the hiss of breath.  A dolphin fin appears about ten yards off the port stern and heads leisurely for the boat.  We hold our breath as the light grey torpedo shape glides by.  Several more fins appear farther off.  All we can do is look at each other and shake our heads.  You can’t make this s**t up.  No one would believe it:  Rainbows and dolphins on our last day, our last hour here.  We can’t wait to get back.