The Saga of Pas de Deux, Chapter 19: Crow Overboard!

We now interrupt our tale of peril and adventure on the high seas for a heartwarming account of survival and salvation.

Just the other day, the crew of Pas de Deux was involved in a daring life-or-death rescue operation of extraordinary heroism. Co-skipper Benn Berbank Green valiantly risked life and limb to save an innocent soul who, alone and adrift on the waters of the Stour, was on the point of a most tragic death by drowning. He was, the reader will be relieved to know, successful in his mission, and now the crew of Pas de Deux can say that its first COB rescue was an unqualified success.

Thames Barge under Sail

“COB?” you ask? Consult your updated sailing textbook and you will find that what was once known as a Man Overboard manoeuvre (MOB) has been most conscientiously renamed a COB, or Crew Overboard manoeuvre. In our case, however, the rescue involved neither man nor crew, but a sweet little crow who, for some reason, had attempted to cross the wide waters of the Stour and failed, plunging to what on any other day would have been a certain death.

Benn was the first to notice her flapping about all sad and lonely in the middle of the bay. Thinking she was a seal, he looked through the binoculars and – lo and behold! – it was no seal, but a bird in peril! Luckily, we had not yet put up the sails, making it a bit easier to motor the boat over to where the helpless avian sat splashing, barely keeping her little black head above the water.

Now, I will admit that, despite being a lover of all things bright and beautiful, I was none too impressed by the prospect of Benn leaning over the side of the boat, hands dangerously close to the whirring propellers, to save anyone, imperiled crows included. It turned out all right in the end, however, and he was able to catch the trembling little bird and bring her to safety inside the cockpit.

Who could regret risking life and limb for this little angel?

After a quick internet search on how to revive a drowning bird, Benn tipped her upside down to empty her lungs of fluids, and I found a towel to wrap her in to keep warm. We were a bit hesitant to bring her inside in case she revived and started making a wreck of the cabin, so we put her in the safest, quietest place we could find in the cockpit, which was right up next to the wheel near the controls. Although at first her recovery seemed highly doubtful, she gradually stopped shaking and started…well, doing what healthy birds do when they’re scared… which was to defecate all over Benn’s shirt.

Benn didn’t mind a bit, however, as he’d already started making plans to train our new corvid friend to ride on his shoulder, tell jokes, and torment our husky, Fuji. His hope was that the little crow would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that she would decide to hang around us forever, giving up her life as a freewheeling bird of the wild for the relative comfort and domesticity of life aboard Pas de Deux. It was difficult at that moment to read Émile’s thoughts on this prospect.* She kept giving both of us sidelong glances, but it was unclear as to whether or not they were out of terror, curiosity, friendship, or the desire to peck our eyes out.

Glamorous Shotley Marina

Émile stayed with us until we reached our destination of choice, Shotley Marina, but the second we entered the marina lock and moored up, she gave a quick caw and darted off, never to be seen again. We had hoped she might at least return for a visit one day, but so far no such luck. It is true, however, that we have recently spotted a little crow near our boat, and Benn swears that s/he is about the size and shape of our sweet little escapee. If that’s the case, she certainly hasn’t made a formal visit, although we remain hopeful that one day Émile will return to take her rightful seat upon Benn’s shoulder, edging Fuji out of the enviable position of First Mate.

How’s that for a human interest story?

* Yes, we named her Émile, knowing full well that it is a boy’s name, but, as the sex of a crow cannot be distinguished by outward characteristics, we couldn’t really say whether or not our new friend was Émile or Émilie, anyway. We could only go by intuition — which told us that, despite the fact that she was clearly a lady, Émile was the name she liked best. Who are we to say it should be otherwise?

And so the sun sets on the story of Émile the Crow.


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