Giving Directions At Sea
Think of the Boat As A
Forget about starboard and port, the nautical lingo you
learned reading Moby Dick. Birders think of the boat as a clock with 12 o'clock
at the front ( usually ponted) end and 6 o'clock at the back. Facing the front
of the boat 3 o'clock is the middle of the right side and 9 o'clock the middle
of the left.
Birders tend to get excited, so if you and your friend are
standing on the left side and he yells, " I have a bird at 3 flying right",
translate that to 9.
Each time you move from one side of the boat to
the other side, try to remind yourself if you are on the 9 or 3 side.
Distance Where Is The
The best way to express
the distance from the boat is by reference to the horizon. (where the water
meets the sky). A flying bird can be above the horizon or below the horizon. A
sitting bird can be described as half - way, or 3/4 of the way to the
If you are on the top deck and the person describing the location
of the bird is on the lower deck there is a discrepancy. The higher you are the
further the horizon.
There are few landmarks at sea. One wave looks pretty much
like another. To give directions to a bird use the following:
- What point on the clock
- Is the bird flying or sitting on the water.
- If flying is it going right or left
- Distance to the horizon
"Sooty Shearwater 4 o'clock, flying right, half
way to the horizon"
"Greater Shearwater 3 o'clock flying left
3/4 to the horizon."
To follow the directions of another person,
first look where they are looking. Then place your binoculars as close to the
location described as possible and scan a bit in both directions.
You won't see every bird on your first pelagic trip. You
probably won't see every bird on your 100th pelagic trip, but you will get
better at following and giving directions with practice. If you miss a bird,
forget your frustration and get ready for the next one.
A good way to
learn is on the way out of the harbor, work with a friend to practice giving
directions to a gull.