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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buddy The Pelican


We just sailed in to the anchorage at La Mona after spending three nights at Animas Slot. The Slot is a tiny little cove tucked in behind a large islet that leaves just enough room for one or two boats to tuck in snug between the rocky rugged shores. The day we arrived there was a single small boat in the cove but the next morning it motored away and left us alone in the quite secluded spot.

We spent a couple of days fishing and had pretty good luck. We caught three Yellow Tails, a Grunt and a small tuna. Using our poles with light tackle both days meant a few lost lures, plenty of fish that never made it into the boat and lots of action. Our first day out I saw a three foot Marlin or some type of sail fish and on the second outing a beautiful blue green Dorado came screaming off the rocky point after a small Yellow Tail I had hooked.

On our way up from San Francisquito we once again had tried our luck at some big fish but our luck seemed to have run out. Sadly the only thing we managed to hook was a pelican. Friends have been telling us stories of catching booby birds and the difficulties they have encountered trying to get them set free again and we have had several of the dumb fowl waste their time trying to snag one of our drag line lures but they had always managed to either figure out it wasn’t a good meal or simply continue to miss until they gave up, but the luck ran out for this pelican.
We do most of our big game fishing with a hand line rather than a rod and reel. For us the fishing isn't really sport (though it is still fun and exciting) we simply catch and haul in on our quest for food. Because we don't use a rod and reel we don't have a telltale ziiingggg when a fish is on and often don't realize right away we have caught something. That was the situation when we caught the pelican. By the time we realized we had him he was already dead. We were under full sail cruising at about 6 knots so when he hooked himself on the lure. I am sure he simply couldn’t keep up and quickly drowned as we drug him along behind us.

Maybe we had penance to do. I’m not sure but after our first fishing trip at the cove we seemed to have acquired Buddy. He showed up with the feathered crowd that always materializes when Bill starts cleaning fish. The gulls come in and start to squawk which calls to the pelicans and soon there is a whole cheering section floating around fighting over the bits and pieces he throws off the cleaning table In the past we have had gulls that become very persistent. As soon as we clean a single fish in an anchorage the gulls consider us their local grocer. Then on some occasions a gull or two decided it’s just time for dinner regardless of whether or not we’ve been fishing. They fly in it seems whenever it crossed their minds and land near the boat then begin to squawk. They often stay at it for quite a while until they either get distracted or give up. We can be below and suddenly there is a single gull outside just causing a ruckus. I suppose it must think if it makes enough noise we will relent and toss out something worth eating. But Buddy was different.

Buddy came around with the first fish Bill cleaned and he simply never left. I could soon pick him out of a crowd but mostly he was simply there. He spent all his daylight hours paddling quietly around our boat waiting for any activity. Every time we came on deck there he was always hopeful. When I jumped in the water he would move closer still but just out of reach. If I climbed into the dinghy he would come right up and flap his pelican beak towards anything that moved. If you moved your arm up he would watch you closely and then reach towards your hand. He stood out, young and sort of soft and fluffy and a shade or two darker than all the other pelicans around. He would look you right in the eye as his webbed feet fluttered along. He wound around and around the dinghy and made no attempt to get out of the way when we started the outboard. When we went came in from our second day fishing he was front and center looking for a hand out. Then while we were busy trying to tie up the dink and unload our fishing gear he took a grab for one of the lures attached to our poles so from then off we had to shoo him off and snatch the rods out of his reach.

While the newest batch of fish was being cleaned Buddy stayed close. I threw him the first big piece, head, innards and tail all still attached. He scooped it up in his beak and paddled away trying to protect his find. He paddled around in a tight circle, the huge fish piece in his mouth. One small piece of the innards wrapped around his beak so he couldn’t swallow and so was forced to defend his prize from the other birds. I couldn’t help myself from laughing at him he looked so ridiculous with his neck all scrunched down into his body. Eventually he was able to fling his prize about and get it unwrapped and down his gullet. Whew!

Later I discovered that poor Buddy was not at all discriminating. Well I should have known that I suppose from the fishing lure or from the snorkel and fins he thought might be worth a taste but then I made the mistake of tossing over a tin can. Tin cans go over the side regularly. You fill them with saltwater and drop the over the side. They sink to the bottom and then disappear quickly unlike plastic and even paper. I casually tossed a tropical fruit can over the side only to cringe as Buddy scooped it up and tried to swallow it whole. Luckily he has some taste and determined it wasn’t really to his liking and spit it back out but I learned to be a bit more discerning.
After three days we motored out of the anchorage, careful to get far enough away from buddy before we spooled out our fishing gear. I hope the next boat in carries more fishermen and I will remind myself to let our friends know to look out for Buddy when they make it to Anamas Slot.

“The Pelican, his beak can hold more than his belly can.”


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