Monday, June 11, 2012

Back in the US and Barra Bees

We spent the past week putting the boat away for the summer -- shutting everything down, removing gear off the deck, securing lines, cleaning out lockers and performing the necessary tasks to prepare her for any more storms that may come through Barra while we're away -- while sweating through the 90-degree heat and humidity. 

Ricky met us at LAX airport on Saturday and we had a nice drive up the coast to my home town of Templeton, where we plan to spend a few days catching up with family and friends.  We finally managed to pry ourselves free of Barra, even if it wasn't exactly as originally intended.  The Barra gods, however, had one more surprise in store for us as a going away present. 

While working down below on Wednesday, we kept finding bees in the cabin which we fanned out the ports only to see them reappear.  I pulled up the floor boards and found a dozen or so in the bilge and realized they were in the mast and crawling out the drain hole at the bottom.  After taping over the hole and escorting the intruders out of the cabin I went on deck and looked up to see several busy little bees flying in and out of the top of the mast.  It seems our little insect friends decided to set up shop on our boat three days before we were set to leave.  Great.

The honey bees in Mexico are a lot more aggressive than their cousins to the north.  They can get pretty mean when agitated.  While we were in La Cruz we saw a swarm attack some friends and talked to others who had to hide in the cabin and call for help to remove a nest from their mainsail.  I knew I had to get these guys off the boat but wasn't sure the best way to do it without a painful result.  I decided to recruit some help.

The next day Millie and Colin stayed back in the hotel room in Barra while I went to the marina office to talk about the bee situation.  One of the dock workers, Arturo, told me stories of bee infestations on other boats in the marina and suggested I spray a line with insecticide and run it up the inside of the mast.  This approach has worked for them in the past and it sounded like a good idea.

So, Arturo came down to the dock with a bug sprayer and I pulled the main halyard down into a bucket.  After a good soaking I ran it back up and watched the show as a stream of bees came flying out the top of the mast.  I decided to get out of sight and went down below.  A noticeable buzz could be heard and as I put my ear against the mast it sounded like an alarm going off inside. 

I went back on deck and sprayed more bug poison directly in to the mast through a halyard opening.  Within a few minutes a cloud of bees surrounded the mast and I watched as the queen emerged, buzzed around the masts on the neighboring boats, and then flew off.  She was much larger than the others and darker in color.  I looked around and suddenly they were everywhere, thousand of bees filled the air.  At that point I decided to get off the dock -- quickly -- and scurried back to the marina office.  Ten minutes later they were gone, with only a few stragglers buzzing around the mast.  Incredibly, I got away without a single sting.

I could only imagine what remained in the mast, and after the internal buzzing stopped I pulled the tape off the drain hole and began pulling out the casualties with a dental pick.  A couple of hours later I had a mound of dead bees in the bilge and an aching back.  After flushing water through the mast and bilge I managed to clear most of the bodies and finally get back to working on the boat.  That was fun.

So, apparently, if you want to go sailing,  it's not enough to be a mechanic, a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a navigator, a rigger, a seamstress, a weatherman, a fireman, and a doctor, you also have to be an exterminator.  Who knew?

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Milz said...

You left out Veterinarian. Mills.

Saeed said...

Bet we'll be getting honey for presents from Mexico :-) Welcome back. Hope to see you very soon.