Friday, December 07, 2007

BeachHunter's Great Adventure

Well, Thursday night I discovered that two rehabilitated sea turtles were going to be released back into the wild by Mote Marine Laboratory. The release points were on Longboat Key. So Friday morning I took a drive down toward Longboat Key. The first release was to take place on Lido Beach at 10am. I knew I wouldn't make that one, so I decided on driving to northern Longboat Key for the 11am release of "Kelsey," a juvenile Kemp's Ridley.

As I was approaching the bridge over Anna Maria Sound on Manatee Avenue, a large dump truck traveling in the opposite direction somehow launched a chunk of wood into my lane. I saw it coming straight at my face and managed to duck down behind the steering wheel as it made a very loud and explosive impact. After realizing I was still alive and regaining control of the car, I drove over the bridge and pulled over at the Kingfish boat ramp to survey the damage. I was covered with glass. I had glass in my hair, inside my glasses, all over my clothes. Glass covered the entire interior of the car. After reporting the incident to FHP and my insurance company, I decided to go ahead and see the turtle release.



Kelsey the turtle was found near Fort Desoto Park in St. Petersburg with fishing line around his right front flipper, and the fishing pole still attached. Unfortunately the veterinarians at Mote Marine Laboratory who cared for Kelsey could not save the flipper. After nursing Kelsey back to health for 6 months, he was released into the bay near Moore's Stone crab restaurant. Sea turtles can survive just fine with one flipper missing. It was a quiet release, except for a few news camera crews who were celebrating their good luck at drawing such an easy and pleasant assignment on the island on such a beautiful day.

After seeing the turtle released, I drove over to the Gulf side and took a long walk to Beer Can Island on the north end of Longboat Key. The water was beautiful and the beach was nearly deserted. The pine trees are still being slowly undermined by erosion. Below is a view from Beer Can Island looking across Longboat Pass toward Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.



After leaving Beer Can Island I drove over to Coquina Beach to visit my friend Curtis Mcfee, a long-time lifeguard in the Sarasota / Bradenton area. Curtis always has some interesting stories to tell, and keeps me up-to-date with what's going on at the beach. The water temperature is still 70 degrees and it was a beautiful cloudless day with temps in the mid 80's. I visited with Curtis in the lifeguard tower for an hour or so and then decided to head back to St. Petersburg to get something to eat, wash the glass off my body, and see about getting a new windshield (which is a story in itself).



There's nothing like a few hours at the beach to put life back into perspective.

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