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We got our answer from Jenni Remillard, Heather Dixon, Steve Farish, Adam Wechter, Laura Lou Clark, James Golden, Gene Tougas, and a number of others.
This from James Golden:
Each Velella velella is composed of a float and a sail according to Ricketts and Calvin – and the orientation of the sail is different on either side of the North American continent. Pacific Velella have their sail on a diagonal from the northwest to southeast. The sail’s orientation in the wind causing it to tack at a 45 degree angle away from the following wind – it will blow offshore in light southerly winds. Stronger southerly or westerly winds will cause the animal to show up on shore. Velella has tentacles and a mouth – likely adapted to feed on plankton in the drift.
Mary says it’s mating time for the little jellies which explains their being beached. I’m sure there’s a reason in there somewhere.
This proves that every time I write a story, it’s to the vast human encyclopedia of the public. Rather intimidating, don’tcha think?