The trouble with Birds, Manatees (and officials)

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 23 Nov 2015 20:27
Titusville, Florida
We’re back in Titusville after an interesting summer back home as we commenced our double life as boaters and caravaners, albeit static ones at that. Regardless of our lifestyle what was most important for us was spending much more time with our families without feeling like flitting guests. We were also able to catch up with as many friends as possible in-between the frequent family visits. We also enjoyed walks along the beaches at Hayling Island watching a typical UK summer unfold and then wither away as autumn quickly approached. In fact the ‘van’ became quite chilly in the final weeks before flying back to the boat.
The flight with was smooth, relaxing and on-time. The Boeing Dreamliner really is an amazing aircraft, flying higher and faster than other commercial jets. As luck would have it we had a very clear day over the south of England where the Hampshire and Dorset coasts gave up beautiful views to those seated on the left hand side of the aircraft. We managed to capture some nice images for a change.
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L to R – Hayling Island & Portsmouth........ the Western Isle of Wight.......and the vast sweeping curve of Lyme bay with Portland jutting out of the coast – all confirmed by the flight screen display
If the flight was smooth and without problems our arrival at Orlando was the opposite. Especially for the ‘Admiral’, however too much detail will serve no good purpose in a fun blog. We’ll spare anybody reading this the salient points except to mention that our good friend waited patiently for two and a half hours outside Arrivals to collect us. We were not allowed any means of contacting him to explain the ‘red-tape’ hold-up. Once resolved we finally joined our kind hosts later in the evening under our own steam. Thank you both (and for the much needed wee dram!), it was good to see you again and our heartfelt apologies for the inconvenience caused.
Such matters need to be put behind us and thoughts turned to seeing how Ajaya had faired in our absence. This was one of the major worries we had about an extended trip back home. Inside all was well with the ‘Admiral’s hard work before departure paying off. No mildew to scrape off the linings. The interior was just as we had left it. Outside was another matter as the Titusville bird population had been especially busy once the berry season had kicked in a few weeks earlier. The decks were plastered with the debris of their digested remains from many weeks including the bullet hard perfectly round seeds from the local palm tree berries. These smooth ‘musket balls’ look far too large to have comfortably exited a bird’s bottom but there you go, they do, and from there they roll round the deck in the wind and rain like ball bearings blocking up small drain holes and making the surface especially uncomfortable to navigate in bare feet. The whole marina and the surrounding park adjacent to the river is alive with Sea Crows and smaller sparrow-like birds which gather in large numbers, spending the mornings amongst the palm trees gobbling up the berries and the afternoon pelting the decks of the yachts close-by from the elevated heights of spreaders and mast tops. Unfortunately one of the by-products of our newly built hardtop is the noise of these hard seeds landing on the thin plastic outer layer as they presumably exit the birds posterior at some speed. Our days are constantly interrupted by walks to the backstays and halyards to shake the wires to encourage their departure from the rigging. The sparrows quickly fly off but the sea crows are more wily. They are deviously clever birds of a higher social order. At least we were spared being adopted by any Ospreys as an eatery for newly gathered fish which are systematically pulled apart and eaten at the masthead with the unwanted remains left to fall to the decks below.
As if the airborne wildlife isn’t enough of a challenge to our patience we are now located in the Manatees’ favourite corner of the marina where they come to catch water dripping from the leaking taps on the dockside. This in itself isn’t an issue although it’s a Florida felony or whatever they call it to deliberately give them water from the tap. Not sure where a leaking tap stands in the list of misdemeanors – aiding and abetting perhaps? Anyway, ‘Skip’s patience was sorely tested with one particular ‘dog-faced’ mammal last week after he (‘Skip’ that is) had spent a day attempting to clean our greasy kettle barbecue which sits on the aft rail. We had already decided to invest $50 on a new part to keep the thing going for a few more seasons. In the process of applying the ‘Easy-Off’ cleaning liquid to the barbecue bowl and burner assemble he had taken the chrome grill grating (the part onto which we hope to cook lots of fresh fish) onto the dock for safety before another wash through. Given the natural tendency for any item left on a dock to jump into deep murky water he placed the round grill plate into our large green fish bucket. The hose cassette was also in it so that for once the leaking water wouldn’t drip off the dock into a waiting mouth but be collected in the bucket. This procedure keeps the number of fresh water-seeking manatees at the dock to a minimum. It’s a fact that they can detect a source of fresh water from miles away. Unfortunately, the length of yellow hose that was already unwound from the cassette fell into the water and somehow became ‘caught’ under half a ton of Manatee which then ‘panicked’ and thrashed away from the dock pulling the bucket, the hose reel and worst of all the grill plate (valued at $40!!) into ten foot deep murky water. The bucket and hose were easily retrieved but it took ‘Skip’ another hour trawling across the muddy bottom with a large hook on a fishing line to finally recover the valuable grill. Diving with those weighty mammals was not an option - Oh! the joys of living side by side with wildlife!
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Water thieves!
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Naughty little blighters!
Despite these trials and tribulations, which are trifling compared to the madness currently prevailing in this world, we are progressing steadily towards a departure sometime in the next week. The sails are on, new house battery bank, starter battery and propane gas bottle installed and the engines have been run for several hours to check for reliability. We have also purchased what seems like most of the food stocks from the local supermarket. Where the ‘Admiral’ has hidden it all is anybody’s guess. The jobs list still reads twenty plus items but they are not show-stoppers by any means. Lack of paint and varnish in certain areas won’t cause the boat to founder (well a plastic one anyway). One matter we seem to have in common with other cruising friends when comparing notes is not being able to find certain things after leaving the boat for such a long while. These are the numerous items you remove from on-deck such as blocks, pulleys etc. in de-commissioning that are stowed below out of the sun in odd places that seem sensible at the time but somehow make no sense to man nor beast four months later. We’re gradually finding everything but it can be frustrating.
And finally this last week all the hard working boaters in the marina were treated to an early ‘Thanksgiving’ lunch courtesy of the Marina staff and owners. It’s always amazing just how many people we share our lives with in this relatively small space in a corner of Titusville. Once the food was consumed everybody melted away to their respective projects. Thank you Westland Marina.