|The view on the way over the Sanibel Causeway. The rainbow ends right where we are heading.|
|Joan (front), Connie (back left) & Capt. Brian|
|Looking forward to a great shelling day|
As the skiff "Muspa" slipped her way out of McCarthy's Marina on Captiva Island and into the glimmering waters of Pine Island Sound it became apparent that the amazing rainbow I had seen earlier crossing the Sanibel Causeway had been pointing in the right direction. Capt. Brian Holaway of the blog Capt. Brian's Observations on the Water invited me to join him on a shelling trip to Cayo Costa State Park. As a native Floridian I have been around the Gulf of Mexico my entire life but I don't boat or own a boat so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit Cayo Costa which is an island only accessible by boat. Coming along with me are my cousins Connie & Joan. Let me just explain that we Southerners have a quirky habit of adopting any close friend and calling them a cousin. Our parents all went to high school together. As young married's our parents purchased houses directly across the street from each other. I am as close to them as I am to any blood relation. We grew up together on the beaches of Honeymoon Island & Clearwater Beach sunning, shelling, cast netting, camping, & carousing. Who better than to share Cayo Costa with? Good times, I say.
|Cayo Costa State Park has 9 miles of pristine beach & clear, calm water but you can only get there by boat.|
As we travelled north on Pine Island Sound, Capt. Brian pointed out a baby dolphin swimming to our right. Not only does Capt. Brian hold a US Coast Guard Master license but he is a Master Naturalist in coastal systems as well. As we motored along he not only pointed out the local wildlife,trees, & plants but shared with us what landmarks we were seeing on the coastline. He pointed out the famous political cartoonist J.N. "Ding" Darling's fish house turned residence although no longer occupied & also where then President Teddy Roosevelt used to anchor his boat in the early 1900's. We passed the beach where Hurricane Charlie made landfall on August 13, 2004. That was a sober moment for all of us remembering how that storm had devastated our area. The combination of salt air & the waves smacking on the bow of the boat must have shaken loose some memory cells for us girls because the reminiscing commenced. We laughed and teased each other about many an adventure gone wrong. Thankfully we pulled up to Cayo Costa before anything really embarrassing was shared. Capt. Brian anchored us right at the beach & helped us disembark. "Nice office" I quipped to him as he helped me off the boat. He just smiled the smile of a person that loves what they do for a living.
|It was hard to decide which way to go with so many shell & wrack lines.|
|Millions of shells line the beach|
|Nice Sea Star. He's alive so we took a picture & put him/her back in the water to make more little sea stars.|
Cayo Costa State Park is like stepping into a vintage Florida postcard. Miles of shell-lined beach stretched out before us and the only inhabitants had feathers on - not a bathing suit. There were dunes with purple & white morning glories creeping up the sides to explore. The lagoon in the middle of the island was created by a storm from last year & is surrounded with black & white mangroves, palm trees of all sorts, & millions of tiny fiddler crabs. The no-see-um's & skeeters chased me from the lagoon and back to the beach where I proceeded to find a quite a few shells that you don't hardly see on an accessible beach any longer. After a few hours of combing the beach for treasures we got back on board and heading to the other side of the island to eat our picnic lunch.
|Dunes are the low ridges of sand on top of the beach that protect it from storm surge. The roots of the beach morning glory & sea oats help to anchor the sand and prevent beach erosion.|
|It's a totally different environment the farther up into the island you walk (& more bugs too)|
|You know you are a serious sheller when your back is the most tan part of your body.|
|My favorite finds from Cayo Costa:|
(top) Tellinella listeri
(middle) Eurytellina lineata
Rose petal tellin
(bottom) Semele purpurascens
Capt. Brian's boat is a 1981 Fishawk aka a Florida skiff but if they were going to trick-out a mullet boat this would be it. The Muspa is large enough to accommodate 6 people comfortably but the boat is small enough to navigate the shallow waters of Pine Island Sound (which can be 1 1/2 feet in some places) & also get up close to tidal creeks, bayous, & keys. Capt. Brian designed his shade canopy & spray dodger for the ultimate comfort in any kind of weather. When the sun was starting to turn us girls slightly lobster-ish the shade canopy was erected and it kept us out of the sun but did not obstruct the views in the least. Capt. Brian actually camps on his boat and sets his tent up on the bow of his boat under the spray dodger that he had a zip-up door installed to keep the critters out at night. A new floor was put in the skiff in 1999 by the famous Boca Grande wooden boat builder Francis Knight. His boat is reminiscent of the kind of boats that ran on Pine Island Sound 100 years ago.
|(Credit: Capt. Brian Holaway)|
|Connie enjoying her tasty homegrown tomatoes|
|Capt. Brian designed the shade canopy for ultimate comfort & visibility. The spray dodger to the bow keeps you dry & warm in the colder months. Capt. Brian sets his tent up under it when he camps on his boat.|
We finished our tasty lunch that included pickled okra & homegrown tomatoes from Connie's garden. Our Captain offered us ice cold watermelon & fresh mango. What a wonderful way to share a lunch on the water with friends - old & new. So as our tour was winding down Capt. Brian had one more treat in store for us. As a self-professed "
|A Calusa Indian shell mound|
|This would have been the heart of a Calusa village|
|Bursera simaruba or the Gumbo Limbo trees line the top of the shell mound. It's also called the Tourist Tree because it is red & peeling.|
|Manatees looking for a meal off the eel grass|
|Thanks for a great day! (l to r) Connie, Capt. Brian, & Joan|
|No man bag for Capt. Brian - he has a bucket. He retired his 12 year old one for a new shiny one. It's filled with all his essentials. That "EB" sticker is from me designating that Englewood Beach has been in the house.|
|I'm just saying.......|