Underway Sailing

What Alarm Clocks are Made Of

There’s nothing like being woken up to the sound of screaming birds having a town hall meeting at 5am outside my window. I don’t know why these seagulls needed to have a town hall meeting this morning. They had the same meeting yesterday and the 150 mornings before that. All the same things were said. No actions were taken and the schedule was set for tomorrow – same time, same bat channel.

It’s not quite like that on that water thankfully, unless you’re at the dock in Gibsons.

I don’t know if you have ever heard a seagull whine, but it can be remarkably irritating. It’s this cawing sound at a high pitch and it gets louder with each breath. Like an infant crying, these birds can raise their voices loudly enough to make me want have a serious conversation with them involving noise pollution and the “I’m bigger than you, so be quiet” argument.

Hearing a seagull in the distance as I trot off to work, skipping gaily down the street singing David Bowie songs or listening to the distant, muffled screeching from the unfortunate bird, while sitting in the comfort of my car, is not entirely bad. For some reason, however, they have taken up residence outside of my window every Spring, Summer and Fall, for the last 4 years or however long I have lived here. The sound of which (I consider them whiches), has been consistently annoying in varying degrees.

There have been many irritating sounds outside my window insofar as I recall during my my adulthood. As I reflect on all the worst sounds outside of my window at different locations in the world, I suppose I would rank them like this:

  1. Car bomb, 100 metres away (no one died). 9:00am. Point Saint-Charles, Montreal
  2. Car horns, 4 at a time. 7am. Nation, Paris
  3. Pimps threatening sex workers in the alleyway. 25 metres away. 6:30am. East Van
  4. Seagulls every morning for most of the year. 75 metres away. 5am. Kitsilano
  5. Intoxicated senior citizens singing “Cecelia” by Simon & Garfunkel on adjacent boat. 1:30am. Silva Bay
  6. Cars, city buses and trucks (lorries). 10 metres. 6am-8pm daily. London
  7. Intoxicated UBC students shouting their way up the street. 25 metres. 3am. Kitsilano
  8. Confused roosters. 10 metres. 5am, 5:30am, 6am, 6:30am, 6:37am. Heidelberg

 

The seagulls have concluded their town hall meeting and there are a few stragglers discussing points of order raised in today’s meeting, before they make their way down to the nearest fishing boat and discuss loudly who was invited and whether or not that this might be a good time to get some food. I have no evidence that this is the subject of their conversations. It just seems that the setup every morning is of a single speaker on one roof and a number of the board members, standing in a row on another roof. The speaker introduces each point and the board members either raise objections or keep listening. The speaker then goes through all the points on the agenda (there is a long list) with objections being noted until some board members get unexpectedly fed up and start exiting. The speaker, left to themselves, tends to wait and see if anyone is coming back and occasionally tries to raise some more points. The only one present at the meeting, at this point, is me and though I have, to date, kept my composure, I am sometimes tempted to shout obscenities and with my head and torso halfway out the window, gesticulate wildly. As much as this would give me short lived pleasure, it may not have the desired result save to notify my neighbours that I am barking mad. This may turn out to be of benefit as we never say hello anyway and if I am to have an interesting reputation, it my be better than having no reputation at all.

Often when I am on the docks, I look up at the seagulls screeching and I do gesticulate wildly and shout at them to “Shut Up” in a very loud voice. This sometimes works. Occasionally the speaker will quieten down for a few seconds before resuming the overture. I am not concerned with my reputation at the docks either (see previous paragraph).

The gulls not only conduct their business meetings in my vicinity when I am at home or on the dock, they also conduct their bodily functions wherever and whenever it pleases them, which includes: the deck of my boat, the dock itself, the roof of my car, and passing under the Granville Street bridge, when they unload IN VERY LARGE DOSES. That may be Cormorants however, which I find are an entirely baffling species. They tend to spend very little time in the air and when they are not perched under bridges aiming their feces at unsuspecting boaters, they are flapping their wings underwater in an effort to swim. Occasionally, they surface and if you happen to be in their proximity, they will stay at the surface long enough to take a deep breath and present a look of being absolutely terrified and then dive again. Seagulls on the other hand, have no such fear and have an air of being nearly the top, if arrogant, predator.

There is an eagle’s nest near the Bard on the Beach. It’s been there for a few years. Tourists and residents alike stop and take pictures. There’s even a sign nearby, telling passers-by to keep quiet because of the nest. I don’t know why. Being the top predator, one would think that they can handle a bit of noise. I suppose because eagles are so majestic, that we think of them as needing a bit of peace and quiet as they casually devour a salmon or a small squirrel and then return home to rest on a branch and quietly outstare everything that dares to make eye contact. Now that I think of it, that’s how I tend to react when someone puts their anchor down too close to where I have anchored my boat. What I mean to say is that I stare at them with wide eyes and then give them the frowning of a lifetime. I wonder what would happen if I started screeching at them?