Monday, January 30, 2012

My Island

When you arise in the morning,
(Credit: Capt. Brian Holaway)

think about what a precious privilege it is to be alive 

(Credit:  Capt. Brian Holaway)

to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. - Marcus Aurelius
(Credit:  Capt. Brian Holaway)

You still have time to enter the giveaway for a Shellabration 2012 t-shirt.   Click here  to read the post & enter before  the winner is picked on 2/1/12.

Monday, January 23, 2012

TEB went to Sanibel and all she brought me was this awesome t-shirt.

Oh my goodness ya'll!  I felt so guilty about going to Sanibel today without you - well I just had to get you something.  Okay, at least one person will get something.  The island is gearing up for one big shelling party - Shellabration 2012 honors the  75th anniversary of The Sanibel Shell Fair & Show.  From February 17th through March 4th the Island will be shellabrating from ding to dong (or Darling) If you would like to join in by wearing a Shellabration 2012 t-shirt here's all you have to do:

-leave me a comment sharing which sea shell is your favorite.

-for a 2nd entry, turn a friend on to TEB.  Have them leave a comment telling me you sent them over.

I'll announce the winner of the Shellabration 2012 t-shirt on February 1, 2012.

This is what Blind Pass on Sanibel looks like  before sunrise.  My partner-in-shelling-crime this morning (very early morning) is my cousin  Beach Babe.  She's a farm girl from Ohio so she gets up with the chickens every morning anyhow. She didn't blink an eye when I told her I would pick her up at 3am for the 2 hour ride to Sanibel.  Armed with our flashlights we started our assault on the sandbars of Blind Pass at 5 am.
Beach Babe & I had already walked the entire perimeter when the late-comers started arriving at 6am. 
The headlamps & flashlights  started descending from the Sanibel side of the beach.
Beach Babe gets her first taste of a minus .08 low tide.  The out-going tide is carrying a myriad of shells swiftly past her feet.
The bridge connects Sanibel on the south to Captiva to the north. It's about a 100 yard walk across the bridge to see if they have better shelling on the Turner Beach side.
The beach wakes up.

This sky is the reward of pre-dawn beach combing.

Beautiful calm morning on the Sanibel side of the pass.

I'm standing on the sand bar facing  the jetty on Turner Beach (Captiva side of Blind Pass).  The sand bar crosses the entire pass.

The 8am shellers have shown up.  Some of them actually thought they got a jump on things.  The tide has already turned and is rising.

Armed with tools these shellers leave no part of the  sand bar unexamined.
Sorry Beach Babe... occupato.
But Wait!  There's more!

After we conquered the sand bars, it's on to the shell pile next to the jetty.  

Knees slightly bent - derriere  pointed skyward - Classic Sanibel Stoop.  On February 17th Shellabration 2012 will be on Bowman's Beach at 10 am to set a Guinness World Book of Records for the most shellers doing the Sanibel Stoop at one time.

See ya at the Stoop!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

We die daily. Happy those who daily come to life as well. ~George MacDonald

This is Monday's tide chart for Sanibel Island.  Notice the big dip at 6am.  That is a minus .08 low tide which translated into beachcomber language = Hotdigity dawg! I'm on my way to Sanibel!

I'll set my alarm for 3am.  After I hit the road & drink one of these, I'll be in Sanibel  in 1 1/2 hours.

I'll be there in time to see this.

And find some of these.


Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Revisiting Tigertail

One of my favorite places to go shelling on the planet is Tigertail Beach on Marco Island in South Florida.  Tigertail is not for the casual beachcomber.  There is a 50 yard wide, 3 foot deep lagoon to be crossed to get to the beach.  The good shells are at the north end of the beach which is another 2 mile walk out & 2 miles back.  No concession stands, no potties, no kidding.  My shelling buddy last year was my niece Schweckie.  We had an amazing time &  would have liked to have gone again with Schweckie this year but she's been a little busy being a new mommy. I'm re-posting my visit from last year & am hoping I will have new pictures soon if I can get the tides & the temperature to cooperate.

(Originally posted January 19, 2011)

The shells stretch for miles on Tigertail Beach

As an avid sheller I have a bucket list of places I would like to visit. Some of my shelling dreams like Costa Rica or Belize will require some planning but closer to home I can now cross Marco Island off my bucket list of places to go  shelling. 

The shelling epicenter of Florida is Sanibel Island.  One of the fault lines runs about about 40 miles south to Marco Island.  Tuesday morning about 4am I loaded up the truck and my niece Shweekie & I headed to Tigertail Beach on Marco Island. 

We intentionally arrived on Marco Island before dawn to go shelling on the beach with our flashlights. It was an early minus 1.10 foot low tide. That is a good thing for those of you that don't know.  What we discovered is that there are 2 beaches  open to the public on Marco Island but parking is limited. You can frequent any beach you like after they open the gates at 8am.  Until the park opens there is no where to park unless you stay in a hotel or risk a pricey parking ticket.

 The nice lady at the 7/11 let me park in their lot.  We walked across the road to the Hilton which is smack dab on the beach. Back in the day I had a knack for sneaking into hotel pools on Clearwater Beach so I have some skills.  No go. No way to sneak through to the beach anywhere. Dang elitist condo owners with their fences.

 We drove to the north end of Marco Island to Tigertail Beach which to my surprise had opened the entrance gate early.  I stopped at the parking meter and paid my $8.00 for the entire days parking and got the first spot in the parking lot.  We loaded up my new beach cart for her maiden voyage and off Shweekie & I went to experience the joys of Marco Island shelling.
I love my new beach cart

 I knew from my online scouting of Tigertail Beach that before you got to the beach there is a little lagoon that has to be crossed.  So we made a final pitstop at the facilities because there are no potties on the beach and headed for the lagoon. After donning our aqua shoes and securing our gear in the beach cart Shweekie got the front of the cart and I got the back and we hoisted that baby over our heads and started the 100 foot slog through the muddy lagoon.  The water was cold and we were laughing. Surely this amount of effort will be rewarded.
Following the buoys will keep you in about 3 feet of water

Perfect way to start a good shelling day with a stunningly beautiful sunrise
The sunrise has the beach glowing pink

So over the lagoon and through the woods to Tigertail Beach we go. It is worth the effort to get out there. The beach is about as good as it gets with pearly white sand and long expanse of beach running north & south. We stood catching our breath and scoping out the terrain to decide which way to go. The vote was unanimous to head north. Of course we immediately started looking down for shells.  There was a smattering of shells here & there but not the shell mountains I had envisioned.
Shweekie attacking her first shell pile of the day

 As Shweekie dug through a piddly shell pile I looked along the surf line.  Lots of common arks & cockles - all pretty shells but where are the goodies? I noticed a couple walking past that were obviously serious shellers - at least they were decked out with the net and bags of people who have shelled before.  They were not looking down but walking fast toward the north  end of the beach. OK, we're following them. And that's where the shells were.  2 miles at the very north of Tigertail is where we finally ended up and we were not disappointed.
Low tide at it's finest

Lots of sand dollars to be found and whelks too.

Using her Susick Sea Shell Sifter - the official sifter of all Shell Sistahs 
The sweet smile of a great shelling day

Sea Stars were everywhere
The prize of the day - Rose Petal Tellin - I found a dozen
It was a long walk out and back - about 4 miles total but Tigertail is all that and a bag of shells.  The walk although long was filled with beautiful scenery full of sea birds of every kind, the lagoon to one side and the beautiful gulf the the other, & and lots of native Florida plant life.  

Shells do grow on trees at Tigertail Beach
The lagoon side  is a bird sanctuary

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver

My last post showed pictures of a before-sunrise beach walk on Boca Grande. This is the other half of my beach walk on the southern tip of Gasparilla State Park which is located on the island of Boca Grande.  Known for it's pristine beaches, historic resorts, & the world's biggest Tarpon tournament, I'm fortunate to have this paradise 15 minutes from where I live.  When I can't drive the 2 hours south to Sanibel Island, Boca Grande is the next best thing.

The Lighthouse is home to a collection of Boca Grande history.  The building to the right is where the park ranger lives - lucky guy!

The port of Boca Grande was established in the 1880's to support the local phosphate industry.  The remains of the port make a great sea bird sanctuary.

I'd live there if I was a bird.  The old phosphate dock  serves a useful re-purpose for the local bird population.

Looking south across the channel is where all the big Tarpon tournaments take place.

My favorite thing about early morning beach walks is the birdsong.  Listening to the beach wake up is an amazing sound.

On the beach I hear an Osprey crying out.  He/she is right above my head.

Ospreys start nesting on Boca Grande in January.  This bird has a prime spot at the edge of the pass.

Built in 1890 the Boca Grande Lighthouse has been restored and sits on one of the 3 public beaches that make up Gasparilla State Park. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sunrise to the East and Moonset to the West on Boca Grande

Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.  

Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in;  Forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;  begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This day is all that is good and fair.

It is too dear, with it's hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Oh the Sanibel Stoop & the Sanibel Shuffle - Can he pack all his loot in his old Army duffle?" - from a poem by M. H. Greenberg

The Sanibel Stoop
(Credit: TMac Ohio from

There's even a name for the bent over posture of the people who you see walking on the beach looking for treasures:  The Sanibel Stoop.

You might have noticed the new button I added on the sidebar promoting Shellabration 2012 happening on Sanibel Island February 26 - March 4.  The height of the Sanibel social shelling season is the Sanibel Shell Show & Fair which will be held March 1st - 3rd this year.  The Shellabration is week long celebration of all things invertebrate & mollusky. There will be special events from one end of the island to the other.  But one special event is seeking to immortalize the iconic stance of bending over on the beach to inspect the shells more closely and pick them up - THE SANIBEL STOOP.

On February 17  at 10 am on Bowman's Beach will be the gathering place for 208 plus shellabrators looking to set a Guinness Book of World Records for the most people doing the Sanibel Stoop in one place at one time.   There is  lots of good info in the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club's December 2011 newsletter rightly named The Junonia. 

 So if you are an amateur shellabrator or a more serious collector with a few shells under your belt (or in your bucket) it's going to be lots of fun.  I finally went to my first Sanibel Shell Show last year. Can you believe I had never been?  Sanibel is a 2 hour drive from my front door.  I pop down to the island a few times a month. (I wish I had a way of tax-deducting my tolls, parking, & gas.)  It's a magical place for beach combers and I am really looking forward to shellabrating with other shell lovers.

(Credit:  Florida Dept. of Tourism)
Shell lovers demonstrating the "Sit & Sift" method of shelling at Blind Pass on Sanibel-Captiva. I recommend a cushion, knee pads, & a hand rake to expedite the process & keep the pain to a bare minimum.

(Credit:  Fotobug on
On Englewood Beach where Sharks teeth are the beach treasure du Jour, it is called the sharks tooth squat.
I collect shell books and this is one of my favorites.  "The Sanibel Shell Guide" by Margaret H. Greenberg (Copyright 1982).  The cover is vintage Sanibel.  The poem is priceless.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee. Montaigne

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans across Florida's Tampa Bay, with a cable-stayed main span and a length of 29,040 feet; exactly 5.5 miles. Its part of I-275 and US 19, which connects St. Petersburg in Pinellas County and Terra Ceia in Manatee County, and passes through Hillsborough County waters. 

We all have highways & by-ways that we travel on a consistant basis.  No need for maps or GPS.  All the landmarks and exits are all too familiar from years of back & forth.  That's how I am with I-75 & I-275 in Florida.  I have navigated them for so many years that I can put myself on auto-pilot and end up wherever I am heading north or south.  These days I travel north to St. Petersburg to the Bay Pines VA Hospital where the Hubbs has all his doctor appointments.  I know exactly how long it will take us to get there at any given time of day barring any unforeseeable circumstances. 

Crossing the Sunshine Skyway is a spectacular drive.  The views of the Skyway Channel & Tampa Bay grow panoramic as your vehicle reaches the 431 feet at the peak of the top span.  There are birds and boats and people fishing and Kite surfers and cruise ships and barges and lets just say you must keep your eyes on the road.   I remember teaching my niece Pookie to drive when she was 16.  The Skyway was our first big highway drive together.  She did fine as I watched her hands turn white from gripping the steering wheel all the way over the top span.  I on the other hand put a good show of support for her  but  was happy I did not have the panic attack I so desperately wanted to have.  

So today, as Hubby & I crossed the Sunshine Skyway I was my usual on-a-mission self to get him to the VA on time. The tide on the Skyway was the lowest I've ever seen and you know how I love low tide.  There were sandbars as far as the eye could see.  Lets see, stop & walk on the sand bar or get Hubby to his nuclear stress test on time?  Ratz! I hate being a responsible adult.  But, 9 hours later on our way home the doggone tide was still way out.  I felt a potty stop was in order at the south side rest area. My sweetheart took a little time out in the truck catching up on emails  while crazy me donned 2 coats & my scarf to walk out on the sand bar in 40 degree blustery winds.  Beach combing is about "the moment".  You have to be ready to grab an opportunity when one presents itself.  I climbed over the rail, down the rocks, and slogged through the muck and it was awesome!

For a beach comber mucky bottom sand uncovered by the low tide is too tempting to pass up.  Who knows what  shells might be out there.

The winter tides are the lowest as seen on Tampa Bay at the Skyway Channel today.

I am about 100 yards out facing the rest stop.  I've never seen the tide out this far.

I found out that this is the destination of quite a few shelling clubs in the area.  Sand bars are a fun place to explore because the majority of what you find is alive.  

There were lots sunray venus clams & lightening whelks. The live shells always stay to make new shells and it is against the law to take live shells.

This family was so fun to watch while they explored the beach.  Some of my best vacation memories are impromptu rest stop exploring with my family.