Well, yet another reader/recipient of these “Letters from the Village” asked if I had A) abdicated my self-imposed writing responsibilities; B) been captured by aliens and was making new crop circle designs for them on PowerPoint; C) forgotten how to start my computer; D) my dog ate my chapter notes; or E) been slacking. Seeing as how I sadly had no special reason, other than (E), I thought I should write. I was going to plead (D), but I don’t have a dog, and too many of you know that, so I admit it…I have been slacking. But in my defence, it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything.
For the past week, I have been toughing it out on Amélie, and my time onboard usually is pretty busy. Last summer, it became apparent that the bimini that covers the cockpit had taken on another function. You may know that a boat bimini provides shade and acts as a huge umbrella…but because we typically don’t receive any rain here in summer, being the shade provider is its biggest function I suppose. The additional function last summer was to act as un aseo for pesky gulls that apparently thought that sitting on the black bimini and defecating all over it was great fun. When I bought Amélie, I saw that there was a blow-moulded owl on the radar arch, and having the boating chromosome firmly flowing through my veins, I knew that the purpose of the owl was to scare off gulls and other birds that like to leave white deposits on bimini. Apparently, the gulls of Mallorca either are super-smarter than gulls in other countries, or no one bothered to let them know they should be scared of the plastic owl-like thing (which really isn’t all that intimidating anyway).
I spent much of last summer trying to figure out how to keep the gulls from landing on the bimini. Now to be fair, I don’t want to give you the impression that I was having a Tippi Hedren moment or anything. The gulls didn’t show up in large groups, but even one or two gulls with a loose bowel problem and a black bimini do not go well together. I needed to find a way to keep those flying defecators away. One rather festive solution (that I was dead convinced would work a treat) was to buy a water squirt gun. I found one at a children’s novelty store and after filling it with water, proceeded to sit on the aft deck waiting for the first gull to make the mistake of messing with me. I am not sure if the gulls weren’t not all that scared because the gun, in an almost day-glow green and red, looked more like something that Flash Gordon would have used on his exploits. It could have been that or the fact that the range of the water stream was about 2.5 meters and the gulls would sit on the water at a distance of 3 meters and then quickly zoom in to crap all over the bimini as soon as I had to go to the galley to refill the very low capacity squirt gun. Once in a while I would get lucky and actually hit one of the birds as they were in their final dive-bombing formation, but you could almost hear them saying “thanks for the drink James…all this flying and crapping was dehydrating us.” Bastards. One day, after the gun began to leak all over me, I realised I was looking at the problem incorrectly. The squirt gun wasn’t the answer. Actually anything that I could do manually whilst I was onboard was a bad solution as I don’t spend all my time on Amélie. What I needed was some passive gull intiidator…you know, like a plastic owl. Right. The owl was supposed to be the natural enemy of gulls, but my plastic owl was acting more like a gull magnet. What I needed was something like the owl, but far more intimidating.
After some thinking time, I decided to see where I could find a scaled-down replica of the robot on Lost in Space. I figured that with some minor modification, I would be able change the audible warning from “Danger Will Robinson” to something like “All Gulls Who Think that this Boat is a Bathroom Should Bugger Off,” but in a robot-like voice, of course. But when I went online to see what the robot actually looked like in case I had to make one, I realised it looked pretty much like home hoovers made by Dyson, so I abandoned that idea.
It was then I realised that the name of my boat was Amélie, and therefore, what I needed was a garden gnome. (if you are one of the 18 people in the world that did not see the movie Amélie, this won’t make any sense, so either Google it or just work with me a bit here). A garden gnome. That was it. All I had to do was find one.
I looked online for anything that looked like ‘garden-gnomes-r-us’ but kept striking out. I did find a supplier of cutesy garden gnomes, but being a sentimentalist, I wanted one like in the movie. When David and Nancy flew over and surprised me for my birthday, I told them about my garden gnome quest, and about a week after their return to America, I they told me on one of our calls that they had found one and were posting it to me. I couldn’t wait. Those pesky gulls were in for it now, I kept thinking whilst waiting for the package to arrive. Then one day, I checked my buzon (post box) and found a notice from the post office that I had a package there that I needed to collect. I could understand the fact that I needed to go collect my new family addition, as there was no way that the box would have fit into the little buzon, and because I was required to sign for it, the post-office-people couldn’t just leave it in front of my door. The next morning I was standing in front of the post office door when the employees staggered in, each of them probably wondering what was in the post for me that would warrant such a demonstration of eagerness to get a package. After returning home, I gently opened the large package, and there it was; my own garden gnome. Those gulls were so screwed I thought…as I began to figure out how to mount it on the boat.
Okay, the mounting thing instantly proved to be a problem. The owl was blow-moulded out of an olefin compound (sorry…it was plastic) and my new garden gnome was moulded out of resin and almost completely solid…which meant I could not mount it where the owl had been. Buggers. I named my new family member Norm, and put him on the terrace where he could lurk amongst some of the plants and went to the boat to come up with another solution. My next solution was so simple, I was a bit mystified that I hadn’t thought of it sooner.
What I did was take a blank CD and hung it from a string over the radar arch. I suppose I could have used a recorded CD, like something from the Bay City Rollers, but that would have resulted no doubt in a huge fine by some anti-cruelty-to-birds-political-lobby, so I went for the blank CD. Because there is almost always some form of breeze in the harbour of Andratx, the CD, all shiny and sparkly, spins around in the wind, causing sunlight to flash off it like a high-powered laser. I was dead chuffed at this solution at the time. I was a bit less chuffed several days later when I had returned to the boat only to find the CD was gone. No, I didn’t think it was due to an assault by the gulls. More likely it was a wimpy string that broke, and because of this, I made a more impressively mounted version two. That one disappeared after another few days, so when I came out earlier this week, I was committed to making a version three that would be able to scare the shit out of gulls for the rest of the summer. When I connected it to the clever little hanging hook that I made out of a coat hanger, I just knew that the gulls were going to get the surprise of their lives. It was if the light reflecting off the CD tracks was functioning like a Laser-Based-Gull-Destroyer (LBGD) that would both constipated and impotent at the same time, or at least that I what I was hoping the birds would think. I might have been right, as the gulls do come sweeping in out of the suns rays, only to be near blinded by what must look like a LBGD. Now all I have to do is scrub off the remains of guano that appeared between CD attachments. I hope your summer has started well (for those readers in the northern hemisphere. For those south of the equator, well…bundle up).
the old "red sky at night, sailors delight" photo
proud to have the right ensign on Amélie
the barely visible (ineffective) owl on the radar arch
from Lost in Space, or the Dyson workshop?
Norm, lurking on the terrace
looking professorial whilst calculating how to stop the gulls
the barely visible turbo-gull-death-ray on the radar arch
a less-than-thrilled (and probably constipated and impotent) gull
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, James B. Rieley