In the Crosshairs of a Seagull

By Tom Neale, 8/11/2005


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You haven’t lived until you’ve had seagull poop in your chardonnay. And it wasn’t just chardonnay; it was very good chardonnay—a lot better than the rot gut stuff I usually buy, because our friends Pam and Rob had bought it. When you’re holding your chilled sweating glass thinking of that next delicious sip and the liquid mysteriously splashes and then clouds up, you know something’s wrong with heaven. But there had been warning, if only for a millisecond. We first heard it coming like the first big splatters of an afternoon tropical rain shower. I remember thinking for the first part of that millisecond, “Wait, last time I looked up, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.” Then came the impact. More than one. Lots of impacts. Big white impacts. The table cloth erupted like the ground beneath a fighter jet on a strafing mission. We felt it even as we heard it. One of the ladies was wearing a white blouse. She was the lucky one. You couldn’t see it as well. The other was wearing a stylish black T-sh*t—uh, I mean T-shirt. No question there. I was wearing my usually torn and dirty shorts and shirt. What the heck, nothing matters with clothes like that. We all did the same thing at the same time. Looked up. It was not a good idea. Yep, still not a cloud in the sky. Just a very big, very happy, very relieved seagull heading out over the bay. The good news was that it wasn’t circling for another run.

After an event like that, you think of a lot of things. The first thing I thought of was whether we were going to eat any more dinner. The buttery kernels on the sweet Deltaville corn didn’t seem to quite look just like they had before. The salad presented a mystery. When you can’t tell whether it’s Feta cheese or well digested fish, the appetite wanes. The only good part was that I’d been a pig and had already eaten all of my share of the shrimp. The benefits of piggishness were more than evident as I looked at all the compromised shrimp on everyone else’s plates. To make matters even better, the white blob that had hit my wine glass had clearly impacted only the outside of the glass. At least that’s what I told myself as a very loud voice inside my head was saying, “there’s NO WAY you’re not going to drink such a fine glass of wine.”

About Grilling

1. A cardinal rule for eating on dock or deck: NEVER FEED THE BIRDS. If you see some misguided soul doing this, tell them that you see some droppings in their hair and that you’re just wondering if they knew it was there.

2. If you use propane to grill on board, store the canisters where leaking gas can not settle into the boat.

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If you’re into boating, and I know you are, you probably know just what I’m talking about, although you might not want to admit it. This has happened to you—I just know it has. Or at least it’s going to happen to you. All we were doing was sitting down at the picnic table on the dock having a nice dinner with some friends. The ladies had wanted to do something special (and also “healthy” if anything “healthy” can be “special”), so they’d cooked some shrimp (instead of the usual chicken) on skewers over the grill. Mel’s salad was another healthy specialty, the only deference to sinful eating being the feta cheese..

You may wonder what you do about dinner after something like this. Mel and Pam wondered whether they’d ever want to eat again. As I was wondering what else we could come up with to eat that night, I saw Preston heading our way. You may remember a few months ago I wrote about “Preston to the Rescue.” Check it out in the past articles section if you didn’t read it. Well, it was “Preston to the Rescue” again. When big bird did its thing, Preston just happened to be heading to the dumpster with the remains of a huge box of KFC. He’d just finished feeding his kids from it (since Momma was getting ready to have another) and for some reason there was a lot left over. In a true and gentlemanly gesture of kindness, Preston said, “Do you all want this? If you don’t it’s going in the dumpster.”

“Yes,” I yelled, sliding off the bench to get it. This is where the true meaning of “blessing in disguise” manifested itself. The box was not merely full of chicken, it was full of extra crusty chicken WINGS. What more out of life can you want when a seagull has just flown over and dumped on your elegant healthy dinner. After dealing with one of the kids who decided he wanted more when he saw that someone else was going to eat it other than the flies in the dumpster (it was OK, he didn’t want a wing), we dug in. There were even some of the good “Colonel’s” biscuits down on the bottom. I was so glad for this blessing that I even forgot to ask if the box had been closed as he had carried it nearby during the attack.

The next morning, we looked over the dock and could see the trail, even after a lot of dew and a midnight rain shower. The stuff had begun to hit the deck about five to ten feet away, like the bird was lining up its targets. The line of approach was distinct as the large white spots streaked to where we’d been sitting and then concentrated in mass profusion. There are several military air bases around this area, and I really think that this was a military seagull. Or at least he’d had some military training or been in some kind of experiment. To hit such a small picnic table from that tremendous height with such precision had to be more than a run of the mill routine dump.

The entire event has inspired a lot of wonder. Two weeks later, the white splotches on the dock are still good as new. I have to wonder if seagull poop wards off barnacles and if you could get them to aim for a bucket. If so, I wonder if Interlux and Petit and all those guys have heard about this.

I’ve also wondered about solutions. There must be some way we humans can eat out on the dock or in the cockpit without having to worry about being shat upon. (And if you’re going to tell me you don’t worry about this, I’m going to tell you that you’d better start.) Of course there are umbrellas. We had one, it just wasn’t up because it wasn’t raining. And there are those tented areas that some fancy marinas (that lets us out) have over sections of their docks. But I’m wondering about bird zappers. I’ve seen those bug zappers with the blue lights that attract bugs and then take them out as the bug zeroes in. With all the great stuff the marine industry is coming up with, you’d think they could come up with something that would work for seagulls. But no, then somebody in Washington DC (where feces of another type is a part of the daily diet) or in Kansas (where they probably don’t have any seagulls) would try to put them on the Endangered Species List. So maybe some of the gurus at Raymarine or Furuno or somebody like that ought to go about doing something useful for real life boating, like making, if not a seagull zapper (that would have my vote) at least a sea gull discourager. Or maybe an early warning system. So you could at least cover up your wine glass.

But as noted above, it wasn’t a total bust. The evening of elegance and healthy food was saved by the Colonel (and Preston). It’s always important in life, especially in boating, to have a positive attitude and be thankful for the good things. We were all so glad that we decided we’d say a blessing for the rest of the meal. I had the honor: “Dear God, we give Thee thanks, that it wasn’t a pelican.”

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale