Exotic Bird Bingo

We’re still sitting here at anchor in the Pebble Beach/ Still Water area. Here’s why we’re still here: I lost one of my hearing aids. Not many people think about this, but having to wear hearing aids while traveling by boat is a pain in the ass. I usually need to wear them in order to be socially acceptable. If I am not wearing them, you’re going to notice me paying special attention to your mouth when you speak, and also many times it’s going to feel like I’m ignoring you because I can’t hear you. Not being able to hear is isolating and bad for your brain. So this loss of one of my digital ears was a significant one.

The stately Snowy Egret, hunting delicately from a raft of kelp.

Fortunately I bought my hearing aids at Costco and they are under warranty. So we Ubered it to Costco, got the replacement on order (free of charge!!), and were told it would be about a week before it would be in. High winds from the north were forecast for the area and our anchorage was completely exposed. We high tailed it around the corner to Still Water Cove/Pebble Beach. We’ve been here in this rolly but beautiful anchorage for 4 days now. It’s not really protected, just better than where we were.

The Brown Pelican. Always puts on a good show.

Because the winds have been so high, we haven’t left the boat very much. Yesterday we watched in horror as a really nice little Catalina 30 dragged anchor through the kelp. We got in the dinghy and motored over to the boat, but there was no owner name or contact info on any windows. I sat in the cockpit and kept track of the boat with our laser range finder, watching it get further and further away. The owners finally came back to the boat in time; a big relief to us. We kind of don’t like to leave Galapagos on her own in high winds, even though we have an excellent 85 pound Mantus anchor. So we’ve been anchorage- bound and you know what that means! We have to find entertainment.

Sometimes I wish we had a video game system on board. I’m serious! I’m thinking something like the Nintendo WII would be so much fun.  I could do some Wii Sports games, or something like that. Maybe a little Mario Cart. It would be pretty fun to do Wii Bowling or Tennis, or especially Boxing on board our boat. Alas, we left that stuff behind at the house. We have to make our own games.

I believe this to be a Great Egret.

We played two games today: Kelp Dodge, and Exotic Bird Bingo. Kelp Dodge is the game we play motoring through this anchorage. There are many big rafts of beautiful kelp here. This kelp is dense and heavy and strong, just like rope. We have a new dinghy engine (A Suzuki 2.5HP Longshaft) and we’re pretty attached to it already. The idea of arms of kelp winding themselves around our tiny propeller gives us the shudders. So we dodge the kelp thusly: the person in the bow of the dinghy uses hand signals to guide the driver through the kelp safely. If you win, you get to keep your engine in good shape, plus you get to see a lot of cool life forms. Points are lost when the engine noticeably bogs down because the driver has run through instead of around the plants. Bonus points are awarded for not hitting the sea otters or scaring them away.

Kelp Dodge is a pretty fun game. It will get you to the other side of the bay safely and improves team work.  But my most favorite boat game is Exotic Bird Bingo. This game takes a keen eye, a steady hand, and a fast shutter speed. Levels of complexity involve being on a moving boat, being in wind,  riding big swells while the driver swerves to avoid kelp, and being able to follow a single bird in the view finder until it does what you’re waiting for. You lose a bingo chip for falling overboard, getting salt spray on the camera,  or dropping the camera.

An Elegant Tern, I believe. Correct me if you know for sure otherwise.

Scoring is done at the computer when the photos are loaded and you see what you have.  When a perfect photo appears on the screen, you shout, ‘bingo!!’ and do a happy dance. Cheating by using the field guides to birds is perfectly acceptable. If you’d like to play, here’s a great species list to get you started. The bird must be identifiable in the photo and not simply part of a larger scene. The bird must be in focus also. This game is similar to Pokemon Go because you want to capture them all, but in the end it’s more educational. I’m pretty happy with how my Bingo card is filling out in this anchorage. Today I learned a new bird: The Willet, a demure little sandpiper type bird, the color of sand.

The little demure Willet.

Tomorrow we will take a costly Uber back into Monterey to Costco to pick up that dratted hearing aid. The weather is looking good, with milder conditions coming in for the next several days and the swells subsiding to a mild roar. We’ll leave this anchorage day after tomorrow. Next stop, San Simeon, unless we change our minds.

More gratuitous photos.

And some that are not birds. 

We learned that the ‘blonde’ sea otters are actually the older wiser sea otters.



12 thoughts on “Exotic Bird Bingo

  1. I love to identify the birds in our marina. We get blue heron, white heron, tricolor heron, geese, swans, cormorants, ducks and terns. My husband always called the terns, fisher birds. I don’t know if ours are elegant terns or another type; but they are very similar to yours.

    So the sea otters turn gray like we do…? Lol (they don’t have the benefit of a great hair dresser)

    • Lucky sea otters, they turn blonde as they age! No hair dresser needed. I love watching the terns. We have them in Commencement Bay, but they are a different species and I’m not sure what those are. They make all kinds of noise though, calling to each other constantly in the sky. These Terns are a little less vocal but watching them dive is pretty incredible.

  2. I LOVE bird Bingo! We’ve done something similar but not official or organized, but clearly we need to up our game!
    Sympathize with the hearing aid dance you’ve gone through. Nicki and I both wear contact lenses, but in my case they’re hard lenses – which means they can pop out at odd and awkward moments if I blink wrong, flinch, get bopped on the head, a line whips across my eye, etc. Not as costly as a hearing aid, but not cheap, either… Blah!

    • We are certainly not official on our boat, but I did score a great deal at the local Public Library book store in San Fransisco on some field guides to the birds of Western North America. I can spend a great deal of time, some might say too much time, comparing one species to another for a good identification.
      I don’t see much in the cruising ‘literature’ on having to use these kinds of special aids to vision and hearing. I once asked on the Women Who Sail FB page if anyone had experience buying hearing aids in Mexico. All I got in response was a few women who said their husband’s should be wearing them but weren’t, so no help there.

  3. That seal picture is amazing! The lighting and colour are just right! Enjoy San Simeon. The area holds a lot of special meaning to me and D.

  4. Best of luck in all that California wind. We sailed in SF Bay on Sunday and enjoyed it a great deal for 5 hours or so, then back to the marina. That’s life here. After San Simeon you might consider Morro Bay and the yacht club for a shower and for shopping. You can make Pt. Conception in a day, probably. However, Port San Louis, an industrial port, is a place to duck in. The next place to anchor safely and find some protection from the wind is Coho Pt. at Pt. Conception. At that point, you can wimp out of the wind and drift down to Santa Barbara, which has an anchorage. Better, shoot across the channel. You probably can find protection from the north winds at the Northwest Anchorage on Santa Rosa, at the pier, which you can find at night by the pair of lights: bull kelp city! Then to the east side of Santa Cruz Island. Don’t miss Little Lady’s cove, just for a few hours of fun. Several other great fun anchorages at Santa Cruz Island.
    Regards, Don

    • Hi Don, sorry it didn’t work out to meet up with you in San Fransisco. I’m afraid that’s been more the rule than the exception on this trip. We do plan on Morro Bay, then Santa Barbara. We understand we can shop for Mexico-appropriate wetsuits there. Thanks for the other tips, which we’ll refer to as we get further down the coast. We do plan to spend some time in the Channel Islands, especially since I never got to see the Farallones. We look forward to poking around there for awhile.

      • Melissa: Tres cool. Santa Barbara will have everything that you need for Mexico, and it is an easy shot to the Channel Islands from there. The wind is over at Pt. Conception. You can set every sail you have and drift south from there.

  5. Great read! Thanks for sharing the bird species list! They are so fun to watch and I’ve yet to pick up a book to identify with. Stay safe. Maybe we’ll see you in Mexico. We didn’t get a chance to chat more than you assisting with our snubber aboard our sailboat Slow Motion in Aquatic Park in September!

    • Hi Lynn! Yes, I do wish we hadn’t been on our way out of the anchorage just when you guys pulled in. But I bet we do see you again along the way. Where are you guys now? How was your time in Aquatic park?

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