Saturday, October 11, 2008

hot sauce, spider webs, and a gallon of coffee

So. I've been out of town.

Having a blast, by the way. Two weeks ago found me in St. Michaels, MD, running some day programs for Eastern Shore kids, which were a lot of fun (if fast!) My crew and I spent nights alternately weathering rain and enjoying brightly starlit skies from Sigsbee's deck after delicious meals cooked over a lead-melting burner. (a welcome backup after a propane tank attachment mix-up. Big Fire make Fast Dinner. And perhaps the most perfect popcorn i've ever tried.) The crew transit back, a trip of several hours, was passed enjoyably, if a bit noisily, thanks to the addition of four bottles of hot sauce and a box of crackers. Yeowza! (technically we only tried three--the fourth was saved to be shared with the captain of another vessel. After watching the reactions of tasters, I'm rather glad I wasn't tempted to try the fourth.)

Last Friday was spent in drink and revelry at the annual Maritime Magic gala, a large party/concert/auction/local restaurant sampler/boozeup to benefit the Living Classrooms Foundation. The music was great, the food was excellent, free, and largely vegetarian, the vendors were friendly, and nobody fell in during my M.O.B. watch. I'd call that a success.

This week found me on a 3-day trip to Kent Island, complete with an entire department-load of insurance agents on a team-building adventure. Also known as a lovely few days on boats, some lovely restaurants, and plenty of lovely beer. They were generally pleasant people, and though we flatly lost the sailboat race against Lady Maryland, no one was hugely surprised and it was a great day on the water in any case.

An odd thing occurred while we were crossing the bay toward Baltimore--in a rather nondescript area of open water we happened to pass through a giant cloud of bugs. I don't know what kind exactly--they looked like largeish flying ants, but with pointier aft ends. They may have been larval wasps or juvenile versions of any number of interesting critters, but needless to say I spent most of this time cowering behind one of my coworkers as the bugs whizzed past. Most of them passed by without even noticing Sigsbee, and the ones that did land on deck were easily shooed off it again. We passed through them in about twenty minutes at 5 knots, so do the math and tell me what the diameter of the bug-cloud was. Seriously. I'm pathetic at math.

Anyway, we got back to the dock and tidied up the boat, and in the process of tying off the gantline a member of my crew happened to look up and see that every line, every lazy jack and halyard was decorated with hundreds of delicate webs--the entire rig was covered in a filigree of arachnoid fibers. We assumed these had something to do with the bug-cloud, but we really have no idea--no one had heard of six-legged or winged insects with the ability to produce a web, and none of them appeared to be ballooning anyway. Some theories we proposed, but later shot down included:

-the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which marks the entrance to Baltimore's Outer Harbor, just doesn't have cargo ships passing under it like it used to get and is overrun with spiderwebs.
-the bugs were being attacked by minute ballooning spiders and we just interrupted, which led to all of the webs appearing to be over four feet long
-we were attacked by something at the dock overnight (this theory was dispelled when we saw the same webs covering the Lady Maryland's lines, and LM anchored out pretty far from land because the water gets too shallow for her)
-our captain is actually a spider and we've just never noticed.

Any ideas?

in any case, my crew has been rather busy lately and, on account of this, have managed to go through three bags of coffee beans in about three weeks. Is that normal for four people?

The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is coming up in a couple of days, and boats from up and down the eastern seaboard have been showing up in droves in the inner harbor. Its been a lot of fun to see. I hope to get a chance to schmooze with their crews.

One more thing. This piece of psychadellic art gave me pause to wonder--it looks hand-painted by a giddy stoner with no concept of life-like colors, patterns, or ratios. I think a new religion or at least emphatic cult should form around this clear proof that God trips on acid.

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