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.