Sunday, December 30, 2007

Summer in December at Naples Pier, Florida

Saturday, December 29th was such a beautiful day that we decided to drive down to Fort Myers Beach and then go on to Naples. I hadn't photographed those piers in a while so it seemed like a great opportunity to do so before the winter sets in.

We decided to take the scenic route through Fort Myers and drove the length of McGregor Blvd, hereafter to be known by me as "Race Track Road." Wow, those Fort Myers folks are in a hurry! McGregor is well-known for the tall Royal Palms that line the boulevard. They are quite beautiful.

After grabbing a deli sandwich at Publix, we continued on toward Fort Myers Beach via San Carlos Blvd. We did not get far before coming to a dead stop in a dreadful line of traffic that clearly stretched to Fort Myers Beach (FMB). FMB is famous for its traffic congestion, and here we were on New Year's weekend with clear skies and temperatures in the mid 80's thinking we were going to drive to FMB at 2:30 in the afternoon. CRAZY!

I turned around and headed back to I-75. Half-an-hour later we were in Naples looking for a parking spot near the pier on 12th Street South. Parking was very tight and I'd never seen so many people at Naples beach. But within 5 minutes we found a spot within 3 blocks of the pier. I stuffed the meter with quarters and we dragged our gear out onto the beach. It was beautiful, as Naples always is.

Coconut palms, sea grapes, well-irrigated lawns and landscapes, and a very upscale, relaxed crowd make Naples beach a pure pleasure. But I still locked my car.We sat on the beach for a little while, just to relax before walking to the pier.

The pier stretches 700 feet into the Gulf, and has been sitting there in one form or another for over 100 years. Today it was very crowded. I got some great photos, many of which you can see on my web page about Naples, Florida beaches. I created a slide show about half way down that page. Also, I'm working on an article about southwest Florida piers which will appear on the VISITFLORIDA website, which I also blog for. I'll post a blog here when that article appears.

I measured the water temperature near the Naples Pier and found it to be 74 degrees, which is about 6 to 8 degrees warmer than the Gulf near St. Petersburg--which accounts for why there were so many people swimming at the beach in Naples.

As we sat on the beach in the warm December air with coconut palms as a backdrop, I couldn't help but observe that there were probably about 200 million Americans who would eagerly give a months pay to trade places with us;-)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Surfing Venice, Florida

Here's a a short video I made down in Venice, FL during a recent cold front swell. Nice little waves (and a few big ones) and lots of longboarders enjoying them. Enjoy.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Surf's Up on the Gulf Coast

Wow! We just had a major cold front come through, bringing with it a tornado and a pretty nice swell in the Gulf. I took a drive down to Venice today and scored some decent video of some nice surfing. The longboarders were out in force and were really the only ones catching any waves.

I did get a chance to check out stand-up paddle surfing. It's pretty cool. How is it different from regular surfing? Well, the board is typically very long--maybe 10 to 12 feet, and is thicker and much wider than a regular longboard to provide better flotation and stability--so you can balance better. AND, instead of laying down and paddling with your hands, you actually stand up and paddle with a paddle similar to a canoe paddle (only longer and with a different design). Below is a video capture picture of a stand-up paddle surfer in action.

After I used up the battery in my camcorder, I drove down to the Venice Fishing Pier to gather some info for an article I'm working on for the site. As usual, I ended up hanging out on the beach longer than I'd intended and found myself looking at a beautiful sunset. So here's a little photo of the sun setting behind the pier. Nice, eh?
Venice Beach Fishing Pier Florida Sunset

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Charities, Form 990, and IRS Penalties

Charities just should not have to pay penalties to the IRS, unless they really do something wrong. Sorry for the off-topic post, but one of the things you'll find about the people who live on the coast is that they tend to be involved in charitable organizations that support the wildlife and coastal environment. The Surfrider Foundation is a good example, or the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary; Friends of Barefoot beach, the Egmont Key Alliance, etc. Hundreds of them, if not thousands.

As a CPA (my day job), I run into charities all the time that are being assessed huge late filing penalties from the IRS because they didn't know they were supposed to file a tax return (Form 990). Most small organizations like this operate on a shoestring budget and are overwhelmed just trying to do good works. Most of them also cannot afford representation by a CPA or attorney.

But they need to know that unless they deliberately failed to comply with IRS filing requirements for charities, they should not have to pay the penalties. A logical, truthful, well-composed letter that uses the provisions in the Internal Revenue Code to have penalties removed for "reasonable cause" is usually all that is required.

I've had nearly a dozen years experience writing penalty abatement letters for my nonprofit clients and now I've written a 37 page IRS Penalty Relief Manual for nonprofits. If you are a nonprofit looking for penalty relief but think you can't afford a CPA to represent you or write a letter for you, this manual will teach you everything you need to know to do it yourself. Then you can get back to doing good.

Now I'm going back to the beach!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Disc Dosinias on Fort Myers Beach

A few weeks ago I was down on Fort Myers Beach, toward the south end, and found tens of thousands of beautiful white clam shells washed up on the beach. Most of them still had both halves connected. I wondered why so many dead clams in one spot? Could they have died from red tide offshore and then washed up with the currents? Perhaps it was a purely natural life-cycle event and no evil organism is to blame. Who knows?

These were small, delicate, white clams called Disc Dosinia (Dosinia discus). It is the first time I've seen these clams, although my reference books say they are common. Perhaps I've seen them before, just not in the thousands.

I have seen mass strandings of Fighting Conchs on Lover's Key and on Clearwater Beach, but I suspect that some mating ritual is involved with that. Below is a photo of the beached Fighting Conchs (Strombus alatus) on Clearwater Beach in 2005.

I couldn't help but pick up the little Dosinia clams; they were so clean and fresh looking. No wear and tear at all. It's always nice to find fresh shells on the beach that aren't worn down by the sand and surf.

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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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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

BeachHunter in Sarasota Magazine!

Not long ago I received a phone call from Pam Daniel, the Editor of Sarasota Magazine. She thought my activities as "BeachHunter" were interesting and wanted to write an article about me. So we talked for a while and I explained how I got started writing about beaches and how BeachHunter evolved and the website grew and developed. Pam also loves Sarasota beaches and it was an enjoyable conversation. As I told her, I could talk about beaches all day.

It always makes me a bit nervous when someone is writing an article about me, but right away I was comfortable talking to Pam. The article is great, and accurately represents everything I told her and everything we talked about.

I've never really written about how I got started doing this, and now I don't have to. Pam Daniel has done a better job of it than I could. So if you are interested in learning how I got started as BeachHunter, I highly recommend that you either pick up a copy of the December 2007 issue of Sarasota Magazine, or visit their website at or just click on the title of this blog and it will take you directly to the article.

Here is a direct link to the article about BeachHunter in Sarasota Magazine.

The article is called "In Sarasota its all about the beach."

Let me know what you think!