Everyone told us about the rigs. There are hundreds of them rising up out of the series of shelves that descend from the shoreline to the deep Gulf, a testament to human engineering and a reminder of how dependent we are on fossil fuels (btw, thank goodness for our engine, or "iron spinnaker" as one of neighbors in Kemah called it). We were in heavy rig territory the first few days as we attempted to head southeast as best we could. The oil rigs came up out of the water like alien invaders, like we had stepped into "War of the Worlds," though thankfully I wasn't harassed by any visions of Orson Wells. Some of them even made strange sounds like a deep bellowing horn that rang out over the water.
Despite all the warnings, we never had to deviate course because of a well, though at one point during the first week we found ourselves sans wind and drifting ever closer to one. Again, love that engine! The deep water wells looked more like space stations, perhaps something akin to what Newt Gingrich had envisioned with his whole "let's build a colony on the moon" idea that he proposed a couple of months ago. We did go around what we dubbed the Green Monster, which looked like a giant floating oil refinery complete with a flaming smokestack. I have no idea what that thing was - a ship? an oil well? - but we kept a wide berth.
|The Green Monster!|
Another useful thing we've learned on this passage is that weather reports aren't really all that accurate. I know the jokes about weather men and all, but it seemed as though they'd gotten much better at their craft since I was a kid. That is no longer my tune. No matter what we checked, it was a whole lot of wrong. When we left on Tuesday, the weather forecast called for isolated thunder storms, clearing up the following day. Imagine my surprise then on Wednesday when I emerged from one of my dry heaving / fetal position sessions to a sky full of dark and brooding clouds behind us. Vlad was at the helm wearing his bright yellow foul weather jacket (I call it his bee suit), and he had just picked up some weather news on the VHF. There was a surprise severe weather warning for up to 60 miles off the coast of Galveston. We were 65 miles off the coast. We skirted past storm clouds, through brief moments of pounding rain, and sailed under a yellow sky with thunderheads racing in front of us on a diagonal path northward and a double rainbow arching overhead. Please don't kill me, but I didn't take a picture! Maybe it was the seasickness or the lightning spreading out like many fingers across the sky threatening to destroy all our electronics but I was just too distracted. I only got one blurry shot of Vlad, but as you can tell by that time it was too dark and the boat was moving too much for anything good.
Thursday morning Vlad woke me up as the sun was rising, saying I should come see something. To my delight it was the most ungainly bird I'd ever seen, a white egret with legs as thin as pencils. He must have blown in on the storm, and David said he just showed up while he was on watch, landed on the solar panel and proceeded to sit there for half the day. Here's a photo Vlad took when I first woke up:
The egret stayed with us for about 24 hours, flying away whenever we tacked or rudely did something else that disturbed him. Each time he flew, he'd circle the boat a few times and then land in a sprawl of legs and feathers. Pretty comical really. But I guess we irritated him one too many times because eventually he flew off never to return. Or maybe he remembered that he's actually a shore bird and that the gulls might beat him up out here. Whatever the case, I liked him better than the gulls, who invariably showed up whenever we ate a meal. It didn't matter if we were 300 miles from any form of land or only nibbling on a few pistachios those gulls would pop up out of nowhere the second there was any sign of food. But the birds I really took issue with were the two pelicans that breezed by us when we were getting close to Florida, as if to spite us with how fast they could fly. They went past us, disappearing over the horizon, and then turned around, as if to rub it in our faces, and came back, passing us again without even flapping their wings. They glided faster than we could motor sail. The nerve.
I guess that's the thing with long ocean passages. It's the little things that wind up being compelling. Everything else is just water.