June 25, 2009

Fighting the seagull wars

PEOPLE GO TO GREAT LENGTHS to stop birds perching on their boats. If you’ve ever seen the damage they cause to decks and canvas with their highly potent poop, you’ll understand why.

A dollop of seagull dung dropped from the top of the mast hits the deck with a mighty smack, and breaks up into smaller splats that cover an astonishingly wide area. If you don’t wash it off within a few minutes, the active ingredients in those white splodges with the black centers start gnawing away at your gelcoat or mainsail cover, often turning white gelcoat purple in patches and bleaching the color out of dodgers.

Gulls and other birds love to perch on the top of the mast or stride around on the spreaders with their minds in neutral, just enjoying the view and appreciating the hospitality of the kind boat owner who provided such nice facilities.

The kind owners, in their turn, foaming at the mouth and grinding their teeth, place spikes on top of their masts to prevent birds from alighting there. They string thin nylon lines a few inches above the spreaders, and they try all sorts of tricks to keep birds away from the mainsail cover, including attaching fake owls and snakes that amuse passers-by, but don’t affect the birds’ habits in any way at all. Nothing really works except Old Wotsisname’s method.

OW, who moors down the row from me, lives on board. His doctor warned him that his rages against the seagulls were not good for his heart, so instead of trying to shoot them with ball bearings and a slingshot, OW started to use his brain instead.

He now leaves bowls of food in his cockpit for the seagulls. The food consists of fish paste mixed with cement. The birds find it irresistible, apparently. They haven’t pooped for weeks. The only problem is they’re too heavy to take off and now sit in row on his boom, glaring at him.

OW doesn’t mind that too much. “Better than the alternative,” he says philosophically, glaring back at them.

Today’s Thought
A bird appears a thoughtless thing,
No doubt he has his little cares,
And very hard he often fares,
The which so patiently he bears.
—Charles Lamb, Crumbs to the Birds

There was an old lady of Worcester
Who was often annoyed by a rorcester.
She cut off his head
Until he was dead,
And now he don’t crow like he yorcester.

No comments: