While trolling at sea on a foggy day, a strange, but understandable, scenario plays out occasionally — and it does my heart good. Here’s the scene: We’re trolling through fog hoping to catch bonito, barracuda or maybe yellowtail or thresher shark.
I’m on the bridge keeping a lookout for other boats and using my electronics such as radar to help me keep us all safe. I’m also keeping a sharp eye on the trolling rods, watching for a bite or maybe some seaweed getting caught on the hooks.
Something behind the boat but in the air at the extreme edge of visibility catches my eye and I watch with interest as a small bird such as a sparrow or finch or warbler tries valiantly to catch up with us.
We are only trolling along at 5 to 7 knots and these birds are capable of much greater speeds, except for the one factor that caused this situation.
That bird got lost in the fog and ended up offshore where there is no place to light down and rest up. These little birds are not ones to land on the water, so they search for a place to rest until they run out of strength and end up in the water for keeps.
Today, this particular bird got lucky and spots us. Of course, that little bird really wants nothing to do with a boat full of humans, but we represent the only hope in sight, so the bird spends its last energy to catch up and it perches on the line behind a trolling rod.
That line has a mean vibration, so pretty soon the bird hops up onto the trolling rod. It really looks spent and vulnerable. It looks at us as if saying, “I don’t want to be here, but I‘ve got no choice but to hope for the best in your world.”
People notice, and I explain what just happened and the dire fix that bird is in. Usually, the bird will soon fly from the trolling rod and up onto the bridge, kind of hiding between things to try to be unnoticed while it rests up.
Fortunately, every passenger I’ve ever had when this happens is all for the bird recovering.
The bird may hang with us for hours, but the moment the fog lifts enough to see shore some distance away, or perhaps an oil rig looms within visibility, the bird sees something large and steady and always takes flight and makes a beeline for something other than a boat full of humans.
It is perfectly okay because the boat full of humans all understand that we just helped keep that little bird alive. It feels good and I’m proud of my crew and passengers.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.