Manatees and Eagle Rays and Sea Birds, OH MY!

OUR little bay here in Salinas is an awesome place to watch wildlife, and luckily many of the coolest creatures announce themselves, allowing you to get your nose out of your book or computer in time to catch a glimpse.  The spotted eagle rays often give a little splash before hurling themselves several feet into the air, landing with a huge belly-flopping smack.  If you look up at the first splash, you can often catch a glimpse of their trademark spots as they fly through the air.    This morning, I asked Philip why they jumped.  He didn’t know.  So we asked the interwebs, and it didn’t know, either, but suggested that they were avoiding predators (sharks!!) or feeding.  But it did tell us about a woman who died a couple of years ago when a jumping eagle ray hit her in the head while she was boating, which is totally going to give me nightmares in the dinghy for at least two weeks.

I think the internet is totally wrong about rays jumping; I think they jump for joy.

Or to avoid the mantees, which are just big sea cows, but perhaps look like a shark to a ray.  (I don’t think rays are very smart.) This morning, I heard a snuffling noise from just behind the boat and whipped around, knocking over my coffee cup and spraying coffee all over the cockpit, and started urgently whispering for Philip to turn around, because only a few feet away was massive algae-covered beast!  We ooohed and ahhhed, which was kind of funny, because they really are REALLY UGLY creatures.

The pelicans also announce their presence with a huge sploosh as they dive for fish.  This isn’t news to anyone, but worth mentioning because there are a lot of them here and when they all start diving together around sunset, it’s like the Blitz — Boom! Boom! Boom!

(I just asked Philip how to write a bomb sound.  He said, “You can’t.  Just say boom.  Are you writing about the dog?” referring to this really annoying yappy beast on a nearby boat we constantly “shoot” with our magic finger pistols. And sometimes even our magic grenade launchers.)

Anyhoo, in other animal news, both cats have finally discovered the cat bed I made for them months ago.   Turns out they just didn’t want to snuggle up in a feather-stuffed cardboard box in the sauna-climate of Curacao.  Not stupid, my cats.  Here, however, it’s cold.  No, really, I had to put on a long-sleeved shirt the other morning, because it was so cold. At least 72 or so.  Brrrrrr!

Hahahahaha!  You hate me, don’t you?

Gotcha!

The scrabbling of the cats pulled me out of my afternoon nap yesterday as they chased another lizard — this time inside the boat. Trying to prevent the other day’s carnage, I quickly grabbed the little bugger and threw him overboard, where he happily swam away, underwater. I guess we know how they get on the boat now!
The cats spent an hour searching every corner for the lizard, sure he was still there somewhere. Sorry, guys!

The Internet is Made of Cats! Cats, cats, cats, CATS!

THIS morning, I has a sneeze attack, three or four quick sneezes followed by a quick honk of a nose-blow, and after each round Pika belted out her own meow — atchoo! atchoo! atchoo! honk! meow! — sending Philip and me into hysterics. He said it sounded like the start of Money by Pink Floyd.  Which reminded me that it’s been a while since we updated you on how our two furry friends are coping with boat life (apart from their newfound interest in killing innocent wildlife), a surprisingly popular topic of inquiry from our friends and family.

The short answer: like Philip, they really, really like that we haven’t moved the boat in two months.  Pika spends most of her time sprawled amusingly belly-up on top of the engine box (and what a big belly it’s become; perhaps large enough from stopping her from doing another runner), and whenever Pooks isn’t sleeping he prowls the deck in search of new prey.

Pooks has taken to greeting us whenever we come back to the boat in the dinghy, meeting us on the side deck and emitting a heartbreakingly-cute series of small barks.  He loves visitors, sniffing eagerly at their hands as they reach to give him pets, attempting to board their boats and vigorously defending his boat from visiting dogs.

In the past year, these two intrepid explorers have visited 12 countries and sailed thousands of miles, for the most part bearing the passages with aplomb (despite the occasional honk-fest and peeing the bed on Pika’s part) and loving the fact that their people spend every day with them.   Pika’s managed to avoid falling in the water by staying below most of the time, and Pooks — despite his daring dashes to the end of the bowsprit — hasn’t gone in since his first, icy plunge in Annapolis.  Most amazing is their adaptation — at 12 years of age — to a life that’s proven straining even to the two humans on board.

In honor of our cats’ spirits, here’s a little gallery of the past year and a half of their lives on a sailboat.