Sailors are as obsessed with weather forecasts as pirates are with rum. Saturday morning on our dock, Sailor Jerry, the one with mutton chops not the rum bottle, pointed to the cars parked on the lot and said, “There is no dew this morning. That’s a good harbinger for rain.” I stuck my head out of the cabin, squinted at the clear blue sky, donned sunglasses and pondered the use of such heavy vocabulary so early in the day. The wind was brisk but the harbor was as smooth as a pool table. I focused my senses and tried to figure out how missing dew was connected with precipitation.
I watched the water for a bit and noted an awful lot of fish were jumping and small schools were spooling around the boat. A remembered George’s great Aunt Hetta (who owned a patch of land on a Connecticut lake) telling us that when fish are jumping, rains are coming. She also claimed to be an esteemed member of the Degree of Pocahontas, the Women’s Auxillary of The Improved Order of Red Men. They gather to honor Pocahontas by teaching kindness, charity, and loyalty to one’s nation. When I inquired about her tribe of origin, she scoffed that none of the members were Indians or Italians. I ignored her bigotry and weather forecasting aptitude.
A Cottonrattlemoccasin Snake glided through the water and slipped beneath the dock. I grabbed the gaff hook and assumed a defensive posture. I recalled a video about robot snakes being developed at Carnegie Mellon to do search and rescue. Sometimes science is just stupid, if a snakebot came searching for me, my heart would simply stop. I counted six new spider webs adorning the standing rigging and bimini cover. I squished an exceptionally large spider beneath my foot and figured rain was now guaranteed because killing spiders is bad luck. I wondered whether the cows were lying down and noted my knee felt stiff.
The skies were clear as we sailed upriver propelled by 20 knot gusts and warily eyed an ominous strip of nimbus clouds that darkened the eastern bluffs. The western clouds were wrinkled – a verse about cloud wrinkles and sprinkles came to mind. We heeded the dockside harbinger’s forecast of rain and returned to the harbor to caulk the main hatch and secure the sails.
Sometime before midnight cold rain dripped through the open hatch into our bunk. We snapped to attention, closed the portholes and tumbled back to sleep. Sunday dawned with a thick dew that covered the topsides. NOAA weather radio forecasted clear skies and light breezes.
When the mainsail was raised long silky gossamer strands attached to tiny parachutes drifted from the canvas – baby spiders swinging through the air. The captain laughed that sails are like giant milkweeds only instead of incubating monarch butterflies they are nurseries for spiders. That’s nice – spiders are good omens. We watched the sunset from a cantina on the western shore. During the last gasp of daylight, the Mississippi was transformed into an elegant silver-blue serpentine stretching toward the sea. Was this twilight scene a harbinger for good days to come? Best to go with the flow and find out.