If anybody saw me sailing my boat the other day, they might have noticed that I tacked too early. Or maybe I turned too late. I could have sailed off in too many directions. I may have appeared too friendly, as well.
But I wasn't waving at other boaters, I was just busy battling bees.
Technically, they were wasps. They could have been hornets. Who really can tell the difference when you're jumping back as far as you can without leaping into the water, then sort of flailing your arms and swinging your hat?
I might have shouted an order.
"Hey! Get away. Or I'll get my newspaper ..."
Entomologists should be aware that I now have journalistic proof that panic and threats of using the printed word actually can work against illiterate stinging creatures.
I should admit here that their attack didn't come as a surprise to me. I had seen these wasps before. During a string of dead wind days, when I stayed in the boat slip, a steady stream of them had been flying under the canvas cover to my sail toward what I assumed was a nest built in the pleats of the sail cloth.
Each time I saw them, to prevent a nasty confrontation, I attempted peaceful coexistence. But, I learned quickly that, despite living in crude communes, wasps apparently have no communist tendencies. I would be forced to become hostile.
But, I would not wage war on the dock. Dockmates are disturbed enough by one nearby skipper having wasps in his boat. They're really worked up when he stirs up a nest within stinging distance.
So, I went out on the water with my unwanted tenants, where I would make them homeless. I would carefully take off the cover, raise the sail, the nest would drop off, and I would kick it from the deck of the boat into the water. It was a good plan, but the nest stuck. I had to follow through with my newspaper threat.
The wasps or hornets were stunned when I swatted their home into the waves. They flew around the sail, sort of holding a neighborhood association meeting. Then it began to look a little like a strategy session. It didn't take long to turn into sort of an attack.
Fortunately, they sent the cowards to the front lines first. They buzzed me a few times and quickly retreated from my rolled up sports section. They flew a few more missions. One scout wasp hovered in front of my face and stared at me, before returning to report on our encounter.
"He's nuts," the wasp might have said. "He looked at me all bug-eyed ..."
Page 2 of 2 - And, to be completely honest, I was out of control. For the rest of the afternoon, I kept one eye on the water and the other on straggler wasps who had been separated from their unit. Or so I thought.
Back at the dock, I saw that these lingering wasps were going below. They had built a second nest — maybe a vacation home — in the cabin. But, I am prepared.
Much summer is left for military sailing, and I still have both the news pages and the lifestyle section as weapons.