On Saturday morning, I checked the weather as I do nearly much as I check Facebook, and cleared us for travel southward. Our float plan would take us out into the Gulf for a 30 mile run, we would enter at Boca Grande, a opening to a large deep bay. Leaving Venice Inlet the 2 and 3 foot waves were abeam and made the ride uncomfortable. When Robin turned the boat southward and I let out a bit of sail to steady the boat we picked up boat speed into the mid sevens; this is perfect, I thought, a downwind run for the day.
The rest of the sail was uneventful. Robin and I made the approach to Boca Grande, putting the breaking waves on the beam, the ride got uncomfortable again, but we knew that it would only last for about 15 minutes, until we reached the safety of Charlotte Harbor.
Robin turned the boat and we joined the ICW for a mile or two, turning off into Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa State Park. Following our electronic trail that we left last June, we ghosted with sometimes less than 1 foot of water under the keel to our anchorage. The anchor set the first time. Everything was going according to plan at this point.
As sailors we try to prepare for every contingency. We play tons of “What if?” games. What if we run aground? What if the batteries go dead? What happens if? And while we try to prepare for everything, we can’t possibly consider or address every option. This was precisely what happened when I noticed what looked like a swarm of bees hovering around our mainsail. Looking around the dodger, the swarm continued to build, I could see bees coming from the nearby land. At first there were 20 or so, then 30, then 100 or maybe more.
The bees were swarming on the main sail at first. There on the luff of the mainsail was what appeared to be a sheet of bees. They looked quite content to huddle together on the flat of the sail out of the wind protected by the fold of sailcloth above them. Lacking any serious bug spray and not wanting to kill the bees, we opted to raise the mainsail hoping that in the breeze the bees would not be able to hang on and would be blown away in the wind.
Robin braved the swarming bees to untie the sail ties, while my hyper-allergic self used the halyard to raise the sail from the safety of the cockpit. Instead of having the bees leave the boat, they quickly gathered at the end of boom, finding the hollow of the boom and likely rejoicing at finding something much like a dead tree hollowed out and suitable for habitation.
I could see this was going to be a problem, I shouted on the VHF to see if I could gather some assistance from the local park rangers at Cayo Costa, no luck. I googled the phone number for the ranger station, no one answered. Thinking all the while that we needed help with this situation before the bees on the boat became even more problematic.
I remembered years ago that my good friend, Pat Franz ’78 from Subiaco had helped the Abbey set up some bee hives. He’d even shared some of the delicious honey from his own hives in Oklahoma. He knows about bees I thought. Using the phone a friend option, I call him up and leave a frantic voice mail pleading for him to call me back. All the while the bees are swarming around the end of the boom while Robin fended them off with a towel tied to a boat hook. In a few minutes, Pat called back. In less than 5 minutes he explained what’s going on with our bee problem. This isn’t a swarm by apiarian standards, but an advance scout team of bees looking for a new home. He said that time is critical in discouraging these docile insects. Should enough of the scouts return to the main hive, they will work to convince more than half the bees to leave their current hive and arrive at our location to start a new hive.
He instructed us to make a mix of Dawn dish soap and water and begin to liberally apply the soapy mix to areas where the bees are swarming. The bees, now discouraged, would begin to leave. Just as he said, the bees left as Robin continued to spray the sails and boom. Soon most of the bees had left Sea Change.
We managed to get all of the bees off the boat and while a few of them were killed by a direct hit of the dawn mixture, by and large, most of the bees escaped and relocated hopefully to a better location than Sea Change.
I chuckle to think of the picture we presented; Me, intermittently poking my head out of the companion way to give instructions or help and Robin climbing around the foredeck armed with a towel, boat hook and spray bottle of dilute Dawn, all the while bees zoomed about trying to find a home.
So the bees have gone and the sail is flaked. The sun is setting and it’s another adventure to record for Sea Change.
Our incident with the honey bees has spawned a swarm of bee puns on Sea Change. it hash’t stopped yet. Just take note that if Michael is found dead in a pile of honey, it couldn’t bee me.