November 10, 2011

Laura's stowaways

WHAT A SURPRISE for young Laura Dekker at sea between Australia and Africa: she discovered an infestation of ants on board. She says they came aboard in Darwin, Australia.
   Laura, who is chasing the record for the youngest solo circumnavigator, is probably right about that. You can always tell Ozzie ants. They're the ones who line up, hold hands, and sing Waltzing Matilda when you take down the ensign at sunset. Like most Ozzies they are charming in their way and not at all reticent about expressing their views.
   Interestingly, they all disappeared for several days when Laura's boat hit rough weather. But when the wind and swells died down, "they came crawling out of hiding from every hole and crack imaginable," she wrote in her daily blog. "I find them in the most unusual places, like on my computer keyboard or on my maps ... Argh!"
   Argh, indeed. There is little more disturbing to the human stomach than the sight of hundreds of seasick ants throwing up all over the place. I don't know how she survived.
   And I don't doubt that when those ants recovered from seasickness the first thing they did was to send scouts out searching for the grog locker. I hope that Laura has one, and is willing to share. In the first place, Ozzie ants can be a dangerously surly lot when deprived of alcohol for more than two hours. Secondly, there is not a lot to fear from drunken ants, even if they end up in a riotous brawl, and it's better by far to be shipmates with happy ants than with spiteful ones just waiting to nip you in the billabong when you aren't looking.
   Finally, I must admit to one niggling fear: can Laura's claim to a record be in jeopardy? I mean, she's supposed to be sailing solo — and here she's openly admitting that she has hundreds of stowaways on board. I'm glad I don't have to be the judge of that.

Today's Thought
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
— Old Testament: Proverbs, vi, 6.

Only some of us can learn from other people’s mistakes.
The rest of us have to be the other people.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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