The Pirate Guy wants a parrot. Rather, the Pirate Guy needs a parrot or so he states. What self-respecting pirate doesn’t have a parrot on their shoulder? All the other pirates have parrots, he needs one too. Just one small bird, he says. A pretty bright green one he says, knowing my partiality for anthing bright green. (OK so the green thing worked with the iguana but I’m not buying that line twice).

I fail to be persuaded.

Don’t get me wrong, I love parrots. I’m just not sure where we’d put a parrot cage, parrot seed, and parrot paraphenalia on a 27′ sailboat. And they live way too long. Therefore, no parrot.

Grown pirates shouldn’t pout.

For several years it’s a “discussion”. We are lonely aboard with no pet but we really have no space for a bird, not even a small green one.

Enter Barnacle Bill. One day, while strolling down the tourist drag of Duvall Street in Key West Florida we stop at a window. It’s like we’re being pulled into the store by fate. And there he is, stuck by tape to a fake tree branch. Oh what an ignominious position for such a noble creature.

“We must rescue him!” cried the Pirate Guy.

“Oh yes, he belongs to us!” cried Sailorgirl.

With the exchange of a couple of doubloons Bill was safely untaped and handed over to his new master, a smiling Pirate Guy. Bill was ecstatic, we could tell.

Bill quickly adapted to life aboard. He routinely perched atop the stereo speakers. During passages he kept us company in the cockpit. He loved to help in the galley. All was well, until…

One twilight we sat swinging softly at anchor in the blue sea when we realized a silence had descended. The wind had decreased to a mere whisper, the birds were silent. It was calm, too calm. It was the calm that speaks volumes – the calm that says, “oh you are about to get truly pasted.” Those whispering words in the wind were backed up a black line on the horizon swiftly marching towards us.

“Down below all crew”, cried the Pirate Guy.

“Batten the hatches”, cried Sailorgirl.

Twilight changed rapidly to black ink as the squall descended. We were tossed and thrown about in the deluge but we sat snug below sipping rum. With the passing of the front we peered out into a sodden world. An inch of rain in 20 minutes. We’re left with a soggy cockpit and 20 knots of cold wind but we have survived.

Damn, the dinghy is full of water. Better bail it out in case it rains more.

“Come Bill, duty calls”, cried Sailorgirl. Bill hopped onto my head and together we scampered over the side into a slippery rubber boat. The wind was howling, the dinghy was slapped by waves and I bailed mightily with Bill’s encouragement. At last (it must have taken at least five minutes), the task was done, the dinghy fully afloat. The Pirate Guy waved us in, a full cocktail in hand, rewards for a job well done. Bill and I scampered back up the ladder and then it happened.

A gust lifted Bill and threw him 20 feet away into the waves of the pitching sea!

“Bill, come back”, we cried. The Pirate Guy quickly grabbed our handy flashlight and found Bill rising and falling on the sea and floating quickly south.

“I’ll get him!” cried Sailorgirl. I jumped back in the dinghy and fired up the outboard. “Cast me off, Pirate Guy, and hold my cocktail!”

He flung off the painter and I reved the outboard. I roared away for 20 feet and then the dinghy stopped. Bill was 50 yards off. The engine was reving, I wasn’t moving. Oops, the dinghy was still locked by our theft-proof steel cable. The Pirate Guy unlocked the cable and tossed it to me. I reved off again. But where’s Bill?

Desperately the Pirate Guy raked the churning waves with the flashlight. At last, 100 yards south we spotted his small yellow and green body as it crested a wave.

“Hold on Bill” we cried. With the spotlight showing me the way I scooped him up and spun a U-turn back to safety. Holding tightly I got him aboard where the Pirate Guy was ready with a medicinal shot of rum (for me). After a fresh water bath and some more rum, Bill is back to his old self.

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