Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our hearts are with you.
Take a moment to pray for peace, comfort,
healing & restoration for the 46 families that
lost loved ones &  the millions affected
by Hurricane Sandy.

Early morning full moon over Blind Pass on 10.29.12

Jackets - check.

Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches - check.

230 lumen's LED flashlight - check.

My alarm went off (well cathedral bells went bong - bong - bong - bong from my iPhone) at 3am crazy early Monday morning.  The truck had been packed the night before so it was just a matter of brushing my teeth, grabbing a coffee for the road and pointing the truck south for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Sanibel.  Winds from the storm, a full moon  & a 6 am low tide were too much to resist.  The Weather Channel had forecast the winds to die down overnight from 25-30 mph to 10-15 mph.  That weatherman was a tad too optimistic. As Pookie & I drove across the Sanibel Causeway we were awestruck at the sight of the magnificent full moon reflecting across Pine Island Sound.  We both pretended not to hear the howl of the wind as it whipped it's way across the bridge and bounced off the side of our vehicle.  

Pulling into the dark parking lot on Turner Beach is always a surreal experience.  It is eerily quiet except for the sound of waves hitting the jetty rocks.   Every shape is weird and distorted.  Parking closest to the jetty, we took a few minutes to get our eyes accustomed to the dark beach under the brilliant glow of the full moon.  There was a smattering of shells next to the rocks of the jetty.  The winds had blown the sand perfectly flat and totally void of the huge shell piles we had come to expect at Blind Pass especially after a storm. The waves were pounding the beach with all the energy 8-12 foot waves could muster.  As the sun began it's pink ascent into the eastern Sanibel sky, I poured myself a cup of steaming hot green tea & drank that and the sunrise in.  Oh how I love to find the shell goodies but the sights of the full moon, rising pink sun, pelicans soaring, sounds of the wind and the waves all make the trip worth while too.

Looking  east across Blind Pass to the sun rising over Sanibel

The recently dredged pass would usually have a wide path of beach exposed at low tide but the storm surge foiled our shelling plans today.

I got a text tip from a Shell Sistah that Gulfside City Park had some live action.  The beach was lined with pen shells from the stormy surf but if you looked close enough there was a treasure here and there.
We ran into a Shell Brotha on Blind Pass who took us to the very north end of Captiva.  We walked down  a dirt road to a secret shelling location but alas the flats were under water from the storm surge but I did see a white pelican.  We then made it to the private beach at the very northern tip of Captiva Island.  No seashells but Pookie found this old 45 caliber ammo shell in the sand. Good times I say!

The water by the Sanibel Lighthouse fishing pier was a grungy brown. This photo has not been tweaked.  That is the color of the  usually aqua blue water.  Lake Okeechobee in the middle of the state of Florida dumped it's overflow into the Caloosahatchee River which flows into Pine Island Sound.

We started before sunrise and made our way from the most northern tip of Captiva to the most southern end of Sanibel. Pookie enjoying a walk on Lighthouse Beach before we head home. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Go With the Flow

Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida

Swimming holes and "mudding" are not just a redneck endeavor in the city of North Port.   At the spa of Warm Mineral Springs those two things have nothing to do with rope swings or four-wheel drive monster trucks and more to do with mud baths and water yoga. You are already forgiven if you don't recognize the name "North Port". Located in the southern most part of Sarasota County, North Port is ranked #7 for the fastest growing city in Florida.  Warm Mineral Springs is an annexed portion of the city that is home to an ancient artisan spring that boasts of healing properties akin to the fountain of youth. 

The spring has long been a popular tourist attraction especially with Eastern Europeans who have made the area surrounding Warm Mineral Springs and North Port their new home. This ain't no Wet & Wild attraction. There is a gift store, organic cafe, & Spa in the complex but the spring is for the most part in it's natural state.  The slight smell of sulfur in the air lets you know that this is a mineral spring - no chlorine here. The big bowl of a spring is surrounded by towering palm trees and ancient oaks.  

Put your towel and beach bag on one of the purple Adirondack chairs that ring the spring to claim your spot.  The official bathing uniform seems to be some sort of hat, comfortable bathing suit (no fashion show here), and a water noodle for flotation assistance. Entering the water takes the finesse of an I-75 on-ramp because there is an official traffic flow.  The spring flows clock-wise therefore the outer ring of people floating and water-walking are going with the current.  The inner circle where the depth reaches 225 feet is for free floating. The spring is one big unsinkable community bobbing along, laughing, and chatting in their Eastern European mother tongues as the current carries them round and round. 

The spring is open seven days a week from 9-5.  The admission for a day pass  is $20/adults & $15/students.  Sarasota County residents get a $5 discount.  The spring is clearest early in the day before the bottom gets stirred up by the water walkers and aqua Zumba classes. 

The spring is 1.4 acres of flowing spring water - 9 million gallons a day.

Better Homes & Gardens Magazine (2009) says; "The perfect swimming, wading, and soaking temperature." All the time...today, yesterday, tomorrow, always 87 degrees.

The spring offers free water exercise classes 3 times a day with a paid admission.

All that power noodling can wear one out.

A sun hat is a must have.

No one really swims, they just float.  Just go with the flow.

Check out Warm Mineral Springs on Trip Advisor for more info.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Update on the Red Tide Algae Bloom

The shell trees are doing just fine on Stump Pass.

On Friday afternoon I walked the mile out to the end of Stump Pass to see about the red tide.  It was a beautiful beach day but looks can be deceiving.  I was coughing the red tide hacking cough that tickles the back of your throat. Although there were no new fish washed up on the shore, the wrack line is filled with sun-dried fish of all sorts and sizes.  I also saw a few dead seagulls on the sand.  The highest onshore concentrations of the red tide are at Blind Pass Beach (not Sanibel) on Manasota Key. That's about 3 miles north up the coast from Stump Pass. The clean-up looks good but it ain't over yet.

 For the most current info go to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

Manasota Key is at the southern most boundry of Sarasota County.

In between coughing, I did manage to pick up a few goodies.  Lots of sharks teeth out there.

Oh how I love surprises!! A new friend of mine read the post on Dr. Gary Greenberg & his amazing photography of magnified beach sand.  She found a copy online for me.  Shell Sistahs are the best friends evah!  Thank you Jenny!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour. - William Blake

(Credit:  Malaia Orchids)

Is there any better feeling than bare feet on a sandy beach? While relaxing on a beach chair it is almost an automatic reflex for one to start digging one's toes into the sand.  There is no special technique to this sensory experience that takes no thought or mental prowess but only to mindlessly zone in on the softness of the sand, the occasional sharp stab of a shell, and the coolness of hitting a deeper layer. As an avid shell collector I've always been puzzled by my friends that take a Ziploc baggie of beach sand home. I don't get it? Isn't sand is something to be shaken out of your towels and  washed off your feet at the showers before you leave the beach so you don't have to vacuum the stuff out of the car later on.

Biologist Gary Greenberg has taken a closer look.  After years of observing living cancer and nerve cells through the lens of his microscope in his professional life, he took a closer look at some beach sand mailed to him by a relative trying to entice him to visit the family in Maui under his microscope. The seemingly ordinary contents of that package caught his eye and he realized the magnified sand was like taking a visual walk through a jewel mine. The impact was life-changing resulting in a move to Maui and adding to his resume artist and photographer. 

 Gary's three-dimensional photographs show the wonder of  ordinary beach sand magnified 300 times their size revealing a microscopic wonder world filled with shell fragments, volcanic rocks, and bits of coral. Feast you eyes at some of his pictures and remember that the next time you are digging your toes into the sand.

(Credit:  Dr. Gary Greenberg)
Ordinary beach sand becomes a sparking wonder world when magnified 300 times by Dr. Gary Greenburg's Edge 3-D microscope.

There is a huge appreciation for beach sand and it's display on Pinterest.

Maybe I'll send Dr. Gary Greenberg a canister of Stump Pass
 sand for him to examine.

Red Tide Update - Recent satellite images suggest the bloom extends from offshore of Collier County through and alongshore of Sarasota County, with patches off Manatee and Pinellas Counties - affecting approximately 75 miles of SWFL shoreline. To check your local beach conditions go to Mote Marine Beach Conitions Report.  For the most recent satellite reports  go to Florida Wildlife Commission 's latest updates.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Update on Red Tide Algae Bloom

The current red tide bloom has it's first wave of dead fish lining the shoreline of Manasota Key.

The effects of the algae bloom spotted near Charlotte Harbor on September 30 are washing ashore Sarasota County beaches.  The Mote Beach Conditions Report System has received accounts of dead fish and respiratory irritation from all the beaches it monitors in south Sarasota County. Dead fish are lining the shores on the Englewood beaches of Manasota Key, all killed by a neurotoxin released by the red tide that paralyzes the fish. It kills the small ones first then the larger ones.  Sadly, larger mammals like dolphins, manatees, & even sea birds are affected as well. 

Karenia brevis or "red tide" as it is known by Florida coastal dwellers is actually not red but a muddy yellowish-green color.  The presence of red tide has little to do with the water color and more to do with dead sea life washing up on the shoreline.  Mote Marine in partnership with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will be monitoring the size & location of the bloom by taking water samples with the help of Waldo the robot. The yellow, torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle was deployed  by boat about 2 miles off the coast of  Englewood last Friday. During the next 2 weeks Waldo the underwater robot is programmed to  head southward to an area offshore of Boca Grande Pass and then head  to the last known edge of the bloom collecting data to determine the size, shape, & movement of the bloom.  This information will help Mote scientists gain a better understanding of red tide dynamics.

So, if you are heading to a SWFL beach you just might experience the red tide tickle in the back of you throat that causes a hacking cough. You will most likely be greeted by the foul smell of decaying marine life in the air. Most beaches have clean-up crews raking of the dead fish and disposing of them. For anyone with asthma, emphysema, or any type of compromised breathing condition check the links to Mote Marine or Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation to check the conditions before you go. Hopefully, the winds & the currents will take this algae bloom way out into the middle of the Gulf very soon where it can't do any more damage.

(Photo credit:  Mote Marine Laboratory)
Waldo the robot is currently out in the Gulf collecting data on the algae bloom. 

The current status of the red tide bloom from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.  This link is a great resource with up-to-date red tide conditions for the entire state of Florida.

Lemon Bay in Englewood, Florida is a spectacular playground on the water for boats of all kind.  The kayak & SUP community love it's mangroves, abundant wildlife, & easy access.  The view is looking south to Placida across the bay.

Englewood's oldest profession is fishing.  It is said by old-timers that the mullet were so thick in the bay that you didn't need a net,  they would just jump in your boat.

On Englewood Beach looking south towards Stump Pass.

Blind Pass Beach is about 2 miles north of Englewood Beach.  Don't confuse Manasota Key's Blind Pass with Sanibel's Blind Pass.  All is well on Sanibel.  

Not everyone stays off the beach during red tide.  This shark's tooth hunter is obviously not going to let dead fish keep him from the beach.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

September Pictures - Each moment of the year has its own beauty, a picture which was never before and shall never be seen again. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going in.
-John Muir

Here, on the beach, I escape everything worrisome, petty, & mundane.  In the late afternoon, as the waning fall sun begins it's slide, yellow and orange light wash over my "Sanibel-stooping" body as I pick up shark's teeth and shells.  It's actually the Englewood squat because after all I'm not on Sanibel and sadly  I am not on Manasota Key either due to the red tide algae bloom.

  The red tide seems to be waning to the south of Sarasota but on Manasota Key and to the north up to Nokomis Beach there are lots of dead fish washed up on the beach.  The irritation from the airborne algae is still causing beachgoers to hack & sneeze.  Click on the Mote Marine link on my sidebar for the latest conditions on your local Florida beaches.

Sounds of the wind or sounds of the sea
make me happy just to be.
-June Polis

Lose yourself in nature and find peace.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
-Rachel Carson

The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

During the International Coastal Clean-up on Sept. 15, dead bait fish littered the shoreline of Englewood Beach.

The algae bloom commonly called red tide by coastal Floridans is always present some where out in the Gulf or Atlantic waters.  The microscopic single celled algae called Gymnodinium breve (pronounced, "Jim-no-din-ee-um-bre-vay")  just hangs out dormant on the ocean bottom. Why and when the algae multiply  or "bloom" is still undetermined but most scientists agree that excess nutrients - from artificial fertilizers to natural organic decay - play a role because the nutrients allow the algae to live and reproduce. Many scientists also believe ocean currents play an important role in bloom formation by concentrating large amounts of red tide in certain areas. Blooms have been found both far offshore and in coastal bays and estuaries. The last major red tide bloom in Southwest Florida started in early 2005 and did not substantially end until late 2006. It is a natural phenomenon that can wreck havoc on the coastal beach economy. 

The first sign that the red tide has arrived are the masses of small bait fish that wash up on the shoreline.  There is a definite smell to the air but as the larger fish & other marine life wash up and  decay in the hot sun the stench intensifies. The second sign of red tide is the irritation to the back of your throat. As you breathe the nasty stuff it makes you cough a hacking type of a cough.  Just a nasty shame for all involved - animal & mineral.

There is really nothing that can be done.  We Floridians have just learned to wait it out.  Beach crews will bury the decaying marine life and eventually the wind and currents will carry the algae bloom to it's next destination, hopefully far out into the Gulf of Mexico. The current red tide bloom is estimated to be 35 miles long stretching from Sarasota County to Northern Collier County.  The effects of the toxic algae are being felt all over the Englewood barrier islands of Boca Grande, Palm Island, & Manasota Key. Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are monitoring the bloom to track its dimensions and location.  For current conditions on SWFL beaches here's the Mote Marine beach conditions link.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life's At Ease With An Ocean Breeze.....

                Beach Rules

Wake up smiling!

Flip Flops are mandatory.

Feel the breeze * Wear sunscreen * Take long walks

Nap often.

Soak up the sun * Make a splash
* Hang up your towel

Watch the sunrise.

Look for seashells - duh!

Ride the waves * Kick back * Build sand castles
Be grateful for this day!

For more beachy moments & thoughts visit my Pinterest board Pinterest Board - Lead Me To the Beach.