The Waterlogged Warbler
On an overcast day a 20-knot westerly carried Mystique and her crew of the two (Lainie and me) across an open, unsettled sea to Chub Cay. With both main and jib reefed, my 40' catamaran had broad-reached northwest approximately 18 miles from New Providence's West End. But we three were not feeling our best; three days earlier Mystique had lost her two rudders in another strong westerly. So still feeling shell-shocked by the turn of events, we departed in search for more help. By using just sail trim and engine throttles for 4-5 hours, I steered Mystique towards a destination a day's sail away. Around noon, Lainie mentioned to me that she had seen something out of the corner of her eye land on our boat. As I turned around, I noticed a tiny passenger, soaked and chilled, positioned near Mystique's starboard engine hatch. Attracted to our engine's hum and vibration? Warming itself? Resting? Its wet and cold condition told us it desperately needed assistance. Her coat and coloring definitely told me she was not a seabird.
A bird's landing onboard my boat seems at first glance to be insignificant. It may mean nothing more than its wanting a place to perch. But I rarely see a seabird's stopping by simply to say hello Certainly when a land bird stops its flight and/or fright atop a sailing vessel, I take notice. In this case knew something was amiss.
Today (Sunday, April 7, 2018), more than two weeks later, a monthly query at Sunday's Friends Meeting reminded me about the help we unexpectedly gave and received on that fateful day. The Quaker questions asked those in attendance to consider what it takes to ask and to offer assistance. Not only to call for help but to give and receive it. By near the end of our silent worship some individuals had stood and shared their insights and observations about this theme. When I felt compelled to stand up, I briefly described our rescue experience. Near the end of that day's voyage we had had to call for assistance. When help finally arrived, it appeared suddenly from out of nowhere. In many ways help was upon us before we knew it.
I motioned to Lainie to grab her camera to record our new visitor. As the bird hopped and moved closer to Mystique’s shelter, Lainie soon laid out a plate of a few crumbs and water.
It was obvious our soaked visitor couldn’t land on land because there was none around; the three of us were at least 25 miles from any shore thing. There was no land in sight; at the time we were completely surrounded by a watered-horizon.
So this bird must have been blown off its course. So it was obvious she had lost her way and simply stopped onboard Mystique to rest before our vessel passed her by. But she needed more than to hitch a northwest ride.
When Lainie feed her, gave her food and water, the warbler did not, at first, trust her offer. She looked so soaked and exhausted; it at appeared she had come to us simply to recover and survive. When we gave her shelter and love, she recovered. And we thought she would eventually fly away. Instead, she made herself at home. She flew all around our catamaran - checking us inside and out. Don’t we all survey our help before we accept a handout?
Whenever any bird lands on my boat, I take note. Their landing may signal much, but it is often left up to the rescuer to read their intentions. And sometimes this reading is inaccurate. As one of the congregation mentioned that asking for help takes courage. Humans can be a scary lot so wild life is often careful and fearful to ask for their help. Birds may appear for a human handout, but a helping hand isn't always what they need or are looking for.
While a student and teacher I studied Samuel Coleridge's 1797 poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The poem tells about a ship that encounters an albatross. Thinking it a bad omen, one of the mariners shoots it down, but when the weather turns bad, the crew blames the bird and their fellow mariner.
As sunset approached, the wind stiffened and shifted more northerly a mere mile from our destination, it headed Mystique away from where we wanted to go. When I woke the next morning and stepped onto deck, I looked down on the floor and noticed the bird had somehow died.
At first, the tiny bird distracted us. When it moved around our boat, it seemed to gain strength and recover, It flew around outside our boat and maybe seeing no land in sight decided my boat was its best option. She seemed re-energized and recovered for a few hours almost as if she felt at home. When it stood by Lainie; it appeared to befriend her. We had hoped we could carry her close to land, but it was she who carried us.
When I noticed Bird Cay on the chart east of Chub Cay, I imagined the bird wanting us to go there, but it wasn't anywhere we needed to go; uninhabited and remote - far fetched from our intended course. So the bird may have been telling us something different:
- "Stay the course, you will be helped like you rescued me." And we were.
- "By nightfall you too will need outside help."
- "By daybreak you too will be soaked, cold and exhausted from trying to help yourselves."
- "Near the end of your day's voyage you will call for assistance."
- "When help finally arrives, it will appear suddenly from out of nowhere."
- "In many ways help will arrive before you know it."
- "Help won't be what you expect."
Our rescuers, Dave, TJ and Spear, stopped by before they departed Chub Cay. When a bird flew into our midst, it gave us more than we expected.