Brazen Bird Breaks Boredom at Sea

"Cruising Post" from our February 22, 2007, CW Reckonings.

March 15, 2007


By the end of a 28-day passage from The Marquesas, French Polynesia, to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, John and Lisa Caruso and their guest crew, Bob Custer, would have welcomed any diversion aboard their sloop, Andiamo. Crashing waves had turned most of their paperbacks into soggy bricks, and they had long since abandoned hopes of reeling in “The Big One” with their fishing tackle. When a small bird landed on deck one afternoon, the crew greeted the visitor with some fascination; when another bird landed on Bob’s head a few days later, they practically begged it to stay for tea.

Lisa describes the incident:

“[The bird] just sat there getting comfortable in Bob’s hair while Bob kept on reading. Finally, Bob let us know what was going on and we got the camera, after which the bird flew away for a while. Then John wanted to see if this bird was truly cruiser-friendly, [so he] sat in the same spot as Bob. Sure enough, the bird returned and found John’s head with hat comfortable, too. [The bird] was traveling with a partner that wasn’t as comfortable with cruisers. After several tries to land on some remote spot, [the second bird] wouldn’t join in on the fun, so they both took off. It broke up the boredom and lifted everyone spirits.”


The full, unedited text of the Carusos’ email update follows:

We picked up Bob Custer, our crew, in Papeete, Tahiti, for the return trip to points northeast. We were attempting to sail back to the Marquesas and wait for a weather window to leave from Nuku Hiva as it was the island closest to Mexico, thus the shortest passage back.

We planned a route that would take our crew member to our favorite places as he has never been to the South Pacific, before returning to the Americas. Lisa decided that she could try the return passage, so didn’t fly back to meet us, but tagged along for the trip. We left Tahiti a couple of days after picking up Bob which was around the 2nd week in Oct.


Our first stop was the island of Moorea as it was one of the most beautiful places we saw in the Society’s and it was close though not in the right direction toward the Tuamotus. We spent a couple of days exploring by dinghy but at that time of the year there seemed to be more rain and heavy clouds hiding the mountains.

From there we headed out to the Tuamotus aiming for the, Toau atoll, which has mooring balls. We had met the family living there and knew they would welcome our return. While there we were treated to some very special events. We were met as we entered the pass and helped with the mooring ball, then we were invited to come in.

They cooked up lobster and sent it out to the boat for our dinner as they knew we were too tired to socialize. We were there only 3 days but got to snorkel the fish pens, which held several varieties of fish from all over the island, they took the guys out to the pearl baskets as Bob had never seen a pearl farm, and then, opened up a catch of oysters to check on their crop. It was so interesting to see how each oyster produced something different. While out there they spotted some Manta Rays so on the return John and Bob jumped out of the boat to swim with the rays. Every night we got to play Boules which is similar Bocci Ball. The whole family came out for the game as it was exciting to have new players. Bob was very proficient at it and they were very pleased to be his partner. John also, was able to uphold his own, giving them a challenge. It was Lisa’s first time and showed that she has some potential. We walked the reef and watched as their dog caught and killed, a Black tipped reef shark. When we returned, the boar got loose so we watch as the dog corralled the boar, which was very exciting as this pig out weighted us all (together) and the dog, a Rotweiler mix, brought the pig squealing from the bushes, back to the compound, nipping at it’s shank, then hung on to the ear while the pig was retied. The highlight was when it came time to say good-bye, they went out to the fish pen and brought back half a dozen parrot fish and filleted them for us to take on the 5 day journey back to Nuku Hiva. It was very hard to leave the next day but knew that there was more surprises to come for Bob.


We bashed back up to the Marquesas and it was a 6 day trip, burying to bow into the waves as we went. It was probably the toughest part of the whole trip, looking back.

We arrived at Baie Taiohae expecting to see this main anchorage empty due to the late time of the season, but to our surprise there were several boats there and we were greeted by another cruiser who had just come across and his shipmate had returned to South America for a couple of weeks, so he was hanging out and welcomed new cruisers to hang out with. We had several boat parties together and got to meet other cruisers at these get togethers. It was interesting to hear that people had just arrived and were staying there getting ready to move on, not worried about the hurricane season that was starting down there. We spent 3 days, hiking around to get a picture of the boats at anchor, getting the propane tank filled, and some last minute fresh supplies before heading to the other side to wait for a weather window. When we got to the other side we were the only boat there and as this bay, called Baie Anaho, is considered the most beautiful bay in all the Marquesas we stayed a couple of days. While John did a boat project, Lisa and Bob did some shelling and exploring. We had fun exploring and collecting but were anxious to get going, so the next day we headed over to Baie Atiheu, where there is a small village to see if we could get our last baguette of French bread. They didn’t have any, but we did get a dozen apples that were a real treat, for the return. It was the first time we had seen them and they were so sweet. They must have been in season. It was interesting how different the fresh supplies were at this time of the year compared to the fall when we were there last. There were very little greens and the fruits seemed sparse or not ripe. We picked the wild pommelmouse which is a large grapefruit but it wasn’t sweet like before. The bananas didn’t seem to be as abundant either.

We took off the next day and began to “jump” back across, with blue skies and a warm breeze from the S.W. It looked good and our hopes were high. We wanted to get as far East as we could before we had to turn and head North to go around the high. We knew we couldn’t get dock space in Hawaii so planned to turn and head for San Francisco as soon as we could. Lisa seemed to be o.k. with the sea sickness with the help of sturgeron which we got in Mexico. She was actually able to cook special meals and do some clean-up, but Bob did most of the dish washing. Having the 3rd person made a huge difference. The days seem to melt together and as we kept going we were able to make some good Easterly direction. It looked like maybe we might be able to go to San Diego and maybe even sail back down to Cabo San Lucas. It was hot and humid and we lost several lures trying to catch that “big one” but alas, no luck. Bob was ever hopeful and put the rod out daily, after all what else is there to do? From time to time, waves would splash over the cockpit dousing one of us, usually reading a book, rendering it difficult to keep the pages together for the next person to read. Needless to say we had to toss several out when we arrived. It was VERY warm and humid down below, making sleep difficult at times and cooking was miserable, but we maintained a schedule that allowed each of us to sleep a full 6 hours at night, except John who got to sleep extra in the morning, (until we connected with the SSB net in the morning waking up). After days and days of endless waves and blue sky, we found out that there might be a chance that we could, in fact, sail directly to Mexico! We were elated! That was the first time our spirits had lifted to break the boredom. Then Bob said, “I always wanted to do this and now that I have, I don’t want to do it again!” We all chuckled! Our first sign of getting close was to see birds. We had been having trouble keeping up with the batteries and found out when we got back and were cleaning, that several large birds had hitched a ride on the upper solar panels and left us a present that had rendered the panel useless. We started to get a weather report that said there was a late season hurricane forming off the coast of Central America. We weren’t worried as we were several hundred miles away but one still has to be alert. We decided to tack and head N.W. moving away a little, as many times these late ones will die out. The course was not very comfortable and got us moving further away from Mexico. Then the hurricane began heading N.W. very slowly. We started hearing reports from friends in La Paz that it might we headed our way.


To keep our minds off the danger and have some fun, we had a visitor. Out of the blue came and small bird that looked as though it had been flying for days. It hopped around the stern davits looking for the best possible place to sleep out of the wind. Finally, choosing a spot behind one of davit masts it fell asleep. In the morning it woke up refreshed and took off for parts unknown. A couple of days later while Bob was reading in the cockpit, waiting for dinner to be ready, a Sparrow flew in and landed on his head.

He just sat there getting comfortable in Bob’s hair while Bob kept on reading. Finally, Bob let us know what was going on and we got the camera, after which the bird flew away for a while. Then John wanted to see if this bird was truly cruiser friendly and sat in the same spot as Bob. Sure enough the bird returned and found John’s head with hat, comfortable too. It was actually traveling with a partner who wasn’t as comfortable with cruiser’s and after several tries to land on some remote spot, wouldn’t join in on the fun, so they both took off. It broke up the boredom and lifted everyone spirits.

We finally got word that Sergio, the hurricane, was staying put off the coast of Acapulco and that 2 lows were with it. It seemed to be drawing the winds from the North down to it, giving us a perfect close reach to Cabo! Now, having said that one must know that this was not the easy, perfect ride! We were burying the bow in the waves, bring copious amounts of salt water over the cabin top, which managed to find it’s way into an, otherwise, dry boat. We were hot, tired, sweaty, bored, wet, and now sleeping on wet beds. There was no laundry out there and we just had to wear the same clothes as one could not use the laundry lines outside. Every other wave came over the cockpit drenching everything in it’s way.

After 28 days at sea we made it to Cabo! We had to fuel up as we were very low and there was a “Norther” coming that would make our trip up to La Paz (yes we were going back where we started) even more miserable. We had a 48 hr. window. We were able to get on our way in an hour including fueling up! We did manage to fine tortillas at the little store at the fuel dock so we had tacos for dinner. We arrived the next day and entered the channel to La Paz at sunset. A friend kindly made a reservation for us and was waiting to help us in the slip when we arrived. It was the first marina since we left La Paz, 9 months ago. We were surprised to see that we sailed (and motored) the same track we came down on! What a trip!


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