Sunday, February 14, 2016

For The Birds

I got up early(-ish) this morning and spent 45 minutes walking the exterior
decks of the ship to get a little exercise. When I started, I stayed on the
01-deck, which is the boat deck, fo'csle and flight deck. Round and round I
went, until FN NB and FA KL came out to do boat checks on the CB-L. At that
point I went forward on the starboard side fo'csle, aft on the port side and
down the ladder to the portside main deck, back to the fantail, forward up
the starboard main deck, and up the ladder to the fo'csle again.

My powers of observation were not that great. It took me about two laps to
process that there was an enormous amount of bird shit on the very forward
part of the fo'csle, just under the jack staff. Some jack-hat sea gull had
likely perched for a few hours on the jackstaff, and had an entirely merry
time of relieving himself in the same spot. Or maybe it took two birds. I
meant to say something to 1LT to make sure the Deckies scrubbed it off
before it became completely enameled to the deck. 

But it got me to thinking about other bird encounters, or bird-related
encounters. I couldn't stop from giggling when I remembered a fresh water
wash down episode from two patrols ago. I think we had just finished up a
wash down, and I was up on the bridge. Some of the guys were talking about a
bird that had been hanging out for a few days, finding perches where he (or
she???) could. It happens sometime, especially when we're a couple days away
from any type of land, where birds will get exhausted and catch a ride with
us for a few days of rest before heading back on their journey
to...wherever. They're pretty fun to watch, and the only downside is their
unwillingness to not shit everywhere, including sometimes, hilariously, on a
person out on deck. This time, though, BM1 CP was on watch up on the bridge,
and a small object hanging over the side of the bridge wing awning caught
his eye. He cussed a little about someone leaving a damn rag up there, and
went to grab it as something else dragged his immediate attention away from
the "rag." The "rag" was really the poor bird's tail, and the bird squawked
and flapped its wings indignantly at having its tail so rudely pulled. BM1
jumped like he had grabbed a live wire and he may have even squawked back at
the bird a little. The thought crossed my mind that it was the bird just as
his hand closed around feathers, or I would have said something to
him...maybe. It was pretty damn funny.

Other bird encounters are not so amusing. Like the time when I was OPS on
HAMILTON when our helo's blades struck a bird as it was landing, and bend
the blades. The bird was atomized, and the blades were bent. We spent four
days in a hellishly hot Acajutla, El Salvador with no liberty beyond the
phones on the end of the pier while we waited for new blades to be shipped,
and then installed and then tested. It was a long ass four days of surging
up against the tractor trailer tire fenders they had on the pier. Or the
time before that, when I was on my first ship, working with another 378' in
the local area, and they had a bird strike on their helo blades while I was
looking through the binoculars at them. All I saw was a PUFF of feathers,
and then their engines shut down and their rotors stop. Bird strikes are
bad.

I also have a bird dilemma. I currently have four swallow tattoos on my left
torso. Two I got in Panama City, Panama; one I got in Bahrain; and one I got
in Hilo, Hawaii. Swallows are a traditional sailors' tattoo, each bird
indicating 5,000 miles sailed. I could have more swallows, but I like the
idea of getting one more somewhere in the Caribbean to round out where I've
sailed. My dilemma is do I get one at our next port call in a not entirely
exotic port of call that is still in the US, or do I chance it for next
patrol, when we're supposed to get at least one foreign port call in a truly
tropical place? Bird in the hand, or two in the bush? There's a chance that,
if I don't get the tattoo on this patrol, any port calls we make next patrol
may be all GTMO stops, and that would truly defeat my tattoo goals. Like I
said, it's a dilemma. I know I'll probably wait, but it makes me nervous,
and stirs up my superstitions about expectations.

Here's to no more bird shit on the fo'clse.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

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