As many of you know, I sailed a Peterson 44 sailboat named “Rhiannon” around the world for 11 1/2 years from 1982 to 1993. I learned so much from this sojourn. I came back a far different person to the person I was before I departed. I am very grateful for this adventure.
From time to time, I will share with you travel stories from this trip. All these stories will be compiled into a book one day, so stay tuned!
Our across the Atlantic trip departed from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, an African archipelago which belongs to Spain. Our destination was Martinique in the Caribbean.
Gran Canaria is a lovely island and well worth a visit. It is mountainous to the West and North, with the great sand dunes of Maspalomas Beach in the South. This is where most of the island’s resort are located. I recommend a few days in Gran Canaria for the city and night life and then relaxing time on Maspalomas’ Beach. I also recommend a car for ease of touring the island.
Now back to the story…
We had planned for a 22 to 24 trip across the Atlantic. We would head south south west to just off the Cap Verde Islands and then head due west. This would give us a track with the best wind direction and the quickest trip.
The trip actually took us 28 days, as we were becalmed in absolute flat seas for 4 days. It reminds me of a quote, “…miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles.”
Back to the story…
The Pigeon Arrives!
We were about 3 or 4 days out from Gran Canaria heading towards our closest point to Cap Verde Islands when suddenly a pigeon arrived out of nowhere! We are hundreds of miles south of Gran Canaria and a similar distance off the African coast, so the arrival of such a small bird was, indeed, unusual.
And the pigeon stayed…
Upon closer inspection the pigeon had a tag on one of its legs that must have been an ID. We thought that this may very well be a homing pigeon that had been blown off course and found our boat (a small island) in a large sea!
I got on the HAM Radio and checked into our radio network and made contact with a HAM Radio operator in England. I gave them the number on the tag on the pigeon’s leg and he said he would check it out to find the owner.
As you can imagine the leg tag on a small bird would be very small indeed. The pigeon would NOT let us touch him, so we had to be creative to read the information on the tag to identify the pigeon. The cabin top on a Peterson 44 extends above the deck about a foot or so. Into the side portion of the cabin top were placed, evenly spaced, very small and strong port holes. So as the pigeon walked the deck, it did this a lot, it would walk by the portholes. I with binoculars, in the cabin below would wait until the pigeon walked passed the porthole on the deck! Genius right?
It took a while…but i finally got all the identification marks on the tag. This is what I sent to the HAM Radio operator in England!
There are regular HAM Radio schedules occurring around the world for HAM Radio operators to speak to each other, give information, and to make acquaintances. There are also radio schedules for sailing yachts. This is to pass information, but also to have a place for the yachts to gain weather information, give a location, and basically to enrich a long day at sea! So, you can imagine a lot of people listen into these schedules to find out how the sailing yachts far at sea are doing! This is particularly so for armchair sailors. It is sort of a minor, B-level soap opera! 🙂 So imagine to the surprise to the “Rhiannon” crew how many people were checking in on the sailing pigeon, to see how it was doing, what it was doing, and how we were coping. We got a lot of suggestion on ways to serve cooked pigeon!
Back to the story…
A few days later in sending the tag information to the HAM Radio operator in England, we found out where the pigeon was from…Spain! So NOW we knew the pigeon did not speak English! Or understand it! 🙂
The owner also told the HAM Radio operator that the pigeon would jump ship when the boat would be at the closest point to the Cap Verde Islands. We also found out what the pigeon eats…PEAS!
HMMMM! SIDE BAR:
Most sailing yachts have canned, fresh (until it runs out) and dried food on board. We had dried peas. So we had to reconstitute them with moisture. The pigeon would also eat corn.
Back to the story…
While we were reconstituting the peas, we opened a tin of corn, no not creamed! We began to reconstitute a batch of peas each day so that the pigeon would have new peas each day to eat. As we approached our closest point to the Cap Verde Islands, the pigeon would eat more and more. If we gave him some peas and he was not full, he (yes we found out it was a he) would jump up and down until we gave him some more. He ate more and more until on exactly the day that we turned toward Martinique to the west, the pigeon jump up and down several times, flew into the air, circled the boat several times, and headed east north east toward home.
We announced this to the world via HAM Radio and then cleaned our decks of pigeon poop!
SIDE BAR: MORAL of the STORY
When you have too many reconstituted peas, make pea soup!
Enjoy your day, there is a wonderful world out there to enjoy. Take a 5 minute break every two hours to go outside and enjoy being a part of this wonderful world. Make a difference!
Cheers until next time!