Sunday, April 13, 2014

Little Things Can Save You

From 1993 to 1996 I worked as crew on sailboats. We would sail the new boats from the coast of South Carolina to the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and up and down the eastern seaboard. I also worked on private boats, including traveling the Erie Canal. As is the case with most things I love to do, there was little money to be made but the experiences were, for the most part, wonderful. I sailed with a captain who was also my boyfriend and that made for some marvelous traveling memories.

One trip was delivering a new 30 foot boat from Myrtle Beach, SC to Roadtown on the island of Tortola, BVI. We were about 200 miles offshore and the weather was sunny and glorious. When I came on watch in the morning I discovered that we had a visitor. A tiny brown bird had landed on the boat. Now while sighting birds when offshore is considered good luck, a bird landing onboard is often seen as just the opposite.

I have never been able to find out what kind of bird it was but it looked like a house wren. Something that should not have been so far away from land.

He quickly made himself at home. We provided water for him and crushed some crackers and bread for him. He ate and drank. Instead of staying above deck he came below, inside the boat. The little guy (it could have been a girl, but I'll use he) followed me around like a pet. He was never more than arms length from me, even when I was out on deck at night on watch in the pitch dark. When I would lay down to sleep he would nestle beside me or on my head. (No, he never pooped on me.)

We had our little visitor for three days. On the afternoon of the third I awoke for my watch to find him on the floor of my berth, at the head of my bunk, dead. The captain, the first mate, and I were all deeply saddened.

But his death caused the captain to take action. He suspected that the little bird may have died due to a gas leak from our propane stove. Sure enough, a fitting was loose and the gas was escaping. It was in amounts too little for us to have smelled it. That was repaired but the scary part came later that night. As the captain was doing an engine check he found that a battery cable had worked itself loose and was arcing. He showed me the sparks.

It was then that I realized that the little bird had saved our lives. If the gas had continued to leak the sparks from the engine could have ignited the fumes and blown up the boat.

We gave our tiny savior a regal burial at sea but he'll live forever in my memory. Sometimes it's the little things that can make a big difference in your life.

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