Category Archives: Beach

BIG pile of sea shells at Blind Pass!

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
BIG pile of sea shells at Blind Pass!
NOTE: if you are looking for Skywatch, please scroll down to the next post!

Strategizing with Tootie via email, text, and finally just a plain old phone call last night. We noted that high tide at Blind Pass (between Sanibel Island and Captiva Island) would be more or less midnight, and low tide would be more or less 4:00 AM. Thus was born the idea of a 2:00 AM Booty Raid. We agreed I’d get to the house around 1:15 AM.

Earlier in the evening, it had been determined that Friday after work, Chris would drive down to hang out with me here in Lehigh, and we could drive out to the beach and la di dah all weekend. So I whiled away some of the time by making sure the guest room was dusted and vacuumed, and that it had clean sheets on the bed, and I also cleaned the guest bath and added fresh towels, etc. Texted Chris to let her know what I was doing and got back a “w00t!”

Got in the car at 12:30 AM. Going over the causeway toward Sanibel Island, I realized that not only was it coming off of high tide, but the sea was just FULLER somehow. I guess that is compliments of Hurricane Ike (God bless and save those poor people in Texas), and I wonder how long it will take to recede. Arrived at Gary’s a wee bit too early, but that’s ok because I got to take the tour of the amazing sea shells they’d found the night before. There’s at least one eye-poppingly huge whelk among their treasures, and I got to see some of the incomplete junonias but the whole one was buried in the bucket somewhere. Tootie had gotten some operculums, which she gave to me, and I went back and forth with Gary a bit on whether or not the plural of “operculum” is really “operculii”. At the very least, it made him giggle, so I think I shall say “operculii” from now on. He accuses me of liking and collecting operculii because I like saying the word. There might be some truth to that. I just remember being thrilled the first time I found one and it suddenly dawned on me what it was! I thought it was way too cool for words to find an operculum.

Finally it was time to go. We all piled into the car and made our way down San-Cap Road to Blind Pass. I looked at the clock on the dashboard as we drove; it said 1:38 AM. The tide was still pretty high, and one section of the parking lot was roped off due to storm erosion. I decided to be on the cocky, confident side and left my mesh bags in the car in favor of a large blue bucket. It’s not a sand pail. It is the size for mopping the floor. I wanted to send a strong signal to The Universe that I was prepared to haul in quite a bit of booty as we raided the coast of Santiva.

The pile was MUCH more vast than it had been on Labor Day. It stretched from the rock jetty all the way back to nearly the start of the Sanibel side of the bridge, and it was very wide. The backside of the pile thinned out but still kept going a fair distance toward the bridge. On the surf side, it was like cliffs that dropped abruptly and steeply toward the sea. The waves were not huge, but they were rougher than normal.

Once again, the order of the day for me seemed to be whelks and figs. If pen shells were worth something on the open market, I could have retired on what could have been picked up there last night. Pen shells, pen shells EVERYWHERE. If you dared to wade in the surf, they would pelt you in the shins when a wave came. The other thing that was present in abundance was live cockles. They were just everywhere. If they showed some initiative (chattering, actually pedding about), they got a rescue. Also found several live mac and cheese, banded tulips and whelks – and one LIVE paper fig! I’ve never seen one of those live before.

There was one spot we kept watching as the tide went out. There was some sort of natural split in the pile, about in the middle I guess – certainly, aligned with about the middle of the bridge – and right after that split, there was a spot where you could see stuff in the surf, but you could not really get to it because of the aforementioned shin-pelting that would result if you tried to stand out there and scoop. Those pen shells REALLY become the secret weapons of the sea. It’s her way of saying, “Oh no, you did NOT just try to plunder my booty!” However, it was possible to scurry down there during a receding wave, snatch something, and scramble back up to the relative safety of the top of the pile before getting “shelled” with missiles again. One such time, Gary was able to scoop up a great prize with his claw – a moon snail/shark eye the size of a doorknob! WTG, Gary!

As the tide went out, it dragged stuff off the pile, revealing other stuff, and then it would fling still more stuff back up onto the pile. Tootie found more OPERCULII for me there at the sea-side edge of the pile, and there was a constant fresh supply of figs – figs, figs, everywhere you looked there were figs and more figs! It’s been like this since Hurricane Fay several weeks ago – abundant supplies of paper figs from the Lighthouse all the way out to Blind Pass. It makes you wonder what could have happened out there on the bottom of the sea to cause SO many of one species to die and send their exoskeletons up to the shore for collection.

Finally, we were pretty much done. My bucket was more than half full. At no time did we see the pile last night in daylight, so there are no photos. I think Tootie might have some on her blog from the day before (and you should go there anyhow and see if she has posted a photo of her junonia!).

We piled back into the car and headed back to the house. I did a pee break and headed for home. Put the bucket right in the kitchen sink and added water and bleach. Stripped off salty clothing, showered, and fell into bed at 5:55 am, first setting the clock for 7:30 am. Was online to work by 8:00 am. Have been working on this report between phone calls most of the day.

I don’t have any photos yet. After the shells are clean and laid out to dry, I will photograph them. I have the feeling I need to go buy more bleach….

Sea Shells – Labor Day Gifts From Gustav

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*


Here’s what the beach looked like in full daylight. It was not the biggest pile I’ve ever seen, nor the most prolific in terms of whole gastropods in tip-top shape, but it was pretty impressive.

So, here’s the whole haul after they gave up their beachy stink to the bleach bath.  You can see that the majority crop today was lightening whelks.  It’s amazing to me that I found so many paper figs intact, considering how violent the wave action had been during the high surf advisory.
NOTE: a labeled version with the common names of each type of shell can be found on FLICKR by clicking here.
Here’s that big lightening whelk laid out on the tape measure.  I’m really happy with this fella.  Tootie got one even bigger!  Hoping she’ll post a few photos, too.

These are “junk” shells.  Well, not really junk, but there are those shells that you get home and realize that you can’t get the barnacle off after all, or you find a fissure or a chunk missing or whatever.  In my case, the majority of these will end up outside doing erosion control.  My friend Chris uses “junk” shells to create arts and crafts stuff.  She’s quite crafty, that Chris!
OK, so that was the Gustav adventure.  I’m really happy with this haul, and glad that my friends think of alerting me when they see a big pile of lovely gifts from the sea!  Insert clappy smiley guy here.  😀

Pretty night

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The view fom our table

Nice views of the river at the Old Dock Inn
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More crabbage

Recent storms must have tossed these poor, unfortunate souls up onto the beach. There has also been a recent spate of red tide; yes, red tide happens outside of Southwest Florida!
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Beach treasures

There were lots of crab shells on the beach, and cool pebbles and sticks and stuff.
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We’ve reached the.beach

Not a swimming beach, but a good walking beach at low tide in a peaceful setting.
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A walk to the beach

I arrived on Long Island on Wednesday night. I'm currently at the home of Bro No. 2, father of Niece No. 5, who is 3.5 years old.

They live about a quarter of a mile down the road fom the Great South Bay. Yesterday, we decided to take a walk down there. On the way, we passed this cool little veggie garden, contained to prevent deer fom making away with the spoils of summer.
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3 Hr Tour: A Meeting of the Redneck Yacht Club, Part 1

3 Hr Tour (aka, A Meeting of the Redneck Yacht Club)
Sanibel, Captiva, Cayo Costa, North Captiva
Sunday May 4th, 2008 – Part 1

Scenes From Sunday on Sanibel

I know that a lot of you reading might be missing Sanibel and wishing you were here. You’re coming off a long, hard, cold winter, and it might still be a little chilly where you are. So we’re going to kick things off with a little sun, sand and surf for all uh y’all.

Now, we’ll take a walk through the resort. Chris said she wants to try and keep the place a secret, yet she went and posted a pic of the sign out front on her own blog. Far be it for me to give her a reason to have a little cheese with her whine, so I shan’t mention the name of the place in this post. I shall let you figure it out all on your own.

First, a little walking tour up the path from the beach. Chris had picked up a dead crab earlier, and decides that I NEED to know his status…

Here’s Chris walking up that same path, having a bad case of Plumeria Envy:

If you have some plumeria trees and Chris is staying anywhere near you, I strongly advise you to put up a fence around ’em, or chain a vicious dog to ’em at night, or something. I’m just sayin’….

So while we are at the resort, let’s take a peek at the unit. It’s pretty roomy inside. There’s a nice-sized living room outfitted with a TV, love seat and sofa that is supposed to pull out into a king size sleeper.

Unfortunately, the frame on the sleeper part of the sofa seemed to be bent, for it stubbornly insisted upon not unfurling on demand like all good little sleeper sofas are supposed to do. Are you old enough to remember the commercials with 5-year old Bernadette Castro unfurling a Castro Convertible? “So Easy, Even A Child Can Do It”. Did you just hear the jingle in your head? No? Here, I’ll help you –

Who saves you money all the time?
Who’s tops in the convertible line?
Castro Convertible!

All of this by way of saying – we ended up closing the sleeper back up and throwing a sheet and a pillow on the sofa and that’s where I crashed!

Here’s the kitchen, with our lovely model Christene, preparing to make margaritas –

One thing I really appreciate about This Place That Shall Not Be Named is that there is a back door on the unit that comes straight into the bathroom. Out the back door there is a water spigot where you can rinse the sand out of your shells, water shoes, towels or children, and a long shelf for laying them out to dry. All except the children, I mean. Those you can rinse and then bring ’em in the back door to dry ’em off. This way, they don’t have an opportunity to make the floors in the rest of the cottage icky. Yes, this back door thing is a Very Cool Idea – I give it a thumbs up.

Another thing I love is the lush landscaping. Out front of each unit, there’s a lounging patio. You can see from this photo that the vegetation is pretty dense, giving a feeling of seclusion from traffic on the path. The only downside of the vegetation is that it harbors “teeth with wings” aka noseeums. They were out in full force and biting like mad on Sunday evening. If you weren’t in the wind, you were in trouble!

During one of our forays on the beach, we met a dog that shells! I do not remember the name of the dog, but the breed was “puggle”, which I believe is a pug-beagle mix. We were walking by and this dog was bringing shells to his owner, who was lounging in a chaise. Too funny! So I stopped and asked if I could blog the dog, and the owner said “sure!”. Unfortunately, the dog was either becoming shy or getting heat stroke, because as soon as I attempted to take a photo, under the chaise he went. I eventually just took the lousy shot here, but at least you can see he’s got a shell in his mouth (looks like a broken pear whelk to me).

During another foray, we met up with Dale and Wayne. First time for me! They’re both swell people. Dale had found a nice big horse conch, and Wayne was having good luck just reaching in and pulling murex out of the sand. We split up after a bit, with anticipation of meeting up again early tomorrow morning for the big event. Then Chris and I went back and called in an order for takeout from Doc Ford’s Doc Ford’s which Chris went and picked up while Jon made a salad and I sat on my slack ass reading one of their shelling books.

What we ordered: clam chowder, the infamous beach bread, calamari, and penne with rock shrimp. You can see it all below. That’s Hermie T Crabbe coveting the beach bread. He can have it; as much as people rave about it, I thought it was just average. I would not go out of my way to get some.

After dinner, we cleaned up and since it was still light out, we went ONE more time down to the beach. Tide was coming back in, and the sun had just set, leaving a pretty streak across the western sky.

I was experiencing intermittent signal problems. The signal was much better and stronger on the beach than it was at the cottage, so I thought I’d stay down there a bit and send things that had failed. However, the noseeums, those bloodthirsty menaces, soon drove me indoors. Showers and pajamas ensued. Chris and I messed around on the internet for a while, admiring my live mobile photo blogging handiwork and sending messages to our beloved SaniBuddies, but soon we all turned in to rest up for our big adventure on Monday – The 3 Hour Tour, aka A Meeting of the Redneck Yacht Club.

NEXT TIME: Stay tuned, there’s more! We still have to go to Jensen’s and get the boats, then on to Cayo Costa for shells and Barnacle Phil’s for lunch!

I was going to abandon this idea, but…..

I was driving home from a shopping expedition this afternoon, approaching the I-75 overpass up on Colonial, and I noticed a bunch of construction on the other side of the interstate. Looked like hotels – wanted to confirm that and tuck it away for future reference for when Bro No. 1 comes with the family. He likes to dump the kids here and take himself and wife off to the hotel. I’m ok with that!

Anyhow, I made a right after going under I-75. Fairly new-looking road. I did see three buildings back there. One was the office of a home builder – probably their design center (it was fairly large). Right next to it, a new Candlewood Suites; however it does not have a pool, so I don’t know how Bro would feel about that.

And at the end of the court, a tall, broad building that says “NOVA Southeastern University” on the side of it. Lots of construction vehicles sprinkled around the unfinished parking lot, but the building looks like it’s nearly completed.

So I quickly call my home phone and leave an answering machine message for myself, so I don’t forget to find out what this is all about. Turns out theres a BIG campus of this school in Fort Lauderdale, but there are all these “distance learning centers” sprinkled here in Florida, and as far flung as the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Las Vegas. This is apparently one of those “distance learning centers”.

I found the page where they tell what programs will be offered here; one of them is Mental Health Counseling.

I was seriously thinking I wasn’t going to do this. I loved school; it also damned near killed me, seeing as getting my BA in Psychology coincided with the most difficult years of my career at the Firm, AND with my “other career” singing with the opera company on Long Island. I look back at those days and shake my head. How did I cram it all in? Where did I find the time? AND, I was still an ABC Daytime and HBO Sunday Night junkie back then too – I watched HOURS of TV in addition to writing papers and memorizing performances in other languages! Why did I do that to my life? What was I thinking?

But, you know, the initial supposition that originally led to my going back to school in the first place is still valid. I am not going to be able to retire the way my parents did. I’m eventually going to become obsolete at the Firm. I’ve had a good run, but my years of service are starting to add up to the point where I’m going to be entering that category of folks who are candidates for “early retirement” (translation: here’s some cash, get thee gone).

I’m going to NEED a second career.

My other choice for second career would be horticulturist at Disney. However, I’d have to move to landlocked Orlando – ok, there are worse things, but I’m REALLY enjoying being near the beaches here. You might have noticed. LOL

Well, they aren’t done building it yet, even. I can make the same deal with myself that I made for the BA. Be back in school learning SOMETHING by time I was 40. I went back when I was 39, in fact. So now, I can say, “be back in school for 2nd career by time you are 50”. I’m 47. I have some time.

Awaiting lampage

Colander full of sea shells found on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, including king's crown, paper fig, pear whelk and moon snail.

So, this is the collander full of haul from last Sunday. And for good measure, I rescued all my king’s crowns from the lanai and oiled them too. I figure after being in the freezer for weeks, and then on the lanai for weeks, if something was going to hatch from them, it would have happened by now. The colors popped nicely after oiling, and they didn’t need much blotting; soaked it right up!

Anyway, now that every banded tulip in the house is oiled up, I think the next group will be lightening whelks. I already have a glass cookie jar filled with the bigger ones that I’ve found, so what’s due for a shining are palm-of-your-hand and smaller sized whelks.

I’m never going to leave all the shining for “later” ever again! It’s a domino effect; I can’t fill these lamps and such without the shells looking as purty as they can, so I have to wait until all the shells are shined. *sigh* Never again! Shoot me if I put shells away without them being shined first!

Other stuff

A collection of sea shells found on Sanibel Island; lace murex.

ABOVE: While I was rummaging around for all the tulips, I stumbled across and liberated a cache of lace murex, including the one on the bottom right that looks like toasted coconut. I love the little pink tips on them when they are small-ish like these are.

BELOW: There were a few true tulips hiding out among the banded ones. As soon as they have soaked up sufficient oily goodness, they shall join their brethren in the vat of true tulips on the breakfast bar. Also found an angel wing, the first I ever found. I found two others. One is small and sits on the breakfast bar. The other one I gave away to a young kid I met shelling with his mom at the Lighthouse Beach right after TD Alberto in June 2006. That’s a dime down there for scale.

A collection of sea shells found on Sanibel Island, including an angel wing and a few juvenile true tulips.


You know, in those early years of shelling, I had no freakin’ clue what I was doing. Subsequently, I picked up a lot of crap! Well, here’s a vat of some crappy ones. They will make good “filler”. See, only the shells on the perimeter of the lamps will be seen, not what’s behind them. So the crap shells can be the “filler” behind the good stuff.

Shell Shining Operations Center

I sorta got a bee in my bonnet about those lamps I bought at Target (pronounced “Tarzhay”) last week. I want to fill them with shells. I bought some long BBQ skewers to use like chopsticks to manipulate the shells around inside the lamps. And then I shined all the shells that I collected last weekend during the All-Night Shelling Extravaganza. For smooth shells, you can just oil your palms and roll the shell between them. However, I’ve recently discovered the efficiency of a basting brush for shells with a lot of nooks and crannies, such as king’s crowns.

But after I was done, they only filled that there collander you see on the breakfast bar in the photo above. Well, that won’t even fill ONE of the lamps, never mind the matched set.

So then I decided it was high time I shined all the shells I’ve been collecting all these years, so I would have more shells to help fill these lamps. I started with the tulips. I had to go into the closet in my office and pull out the big Rubbermaid bin with all the stuff from 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2005; all those years I vacationed down here before deciding to relocate from NY. The stuff from 2006 and 2007 lives in bins in a kitchen cabinet, since I got that stuff while living here, so I pulled that stuff out too.

So, here are a fair quantity of banded tulips of all variants and sizes, soaking up a bunch of oily goodness.

Some booty from the weekend (SHELLS!)

Got a text message from Gary around 1:30 am on Sunday (actually, it was 2:30 am, since that was when we “sprang ahead”, but I hadn’t changed my clocks yet). Amazed, actually, that I even heard the cell phone announcing the text message, since I was asleep! Lo and behold, the message said, “Get your ass out here” and showed a photo of a flashlight beam illuminating a mountain of shells!

So I drove out to the beach, stopping at 7-11 for coffee. It was windy, it was cold, there were SHELLS like you wouldn’t believe! We shelled for probably 2.5 hours and then went to Jerry’s for breakfast and to get warm. We came back when it was light out, but by that time our defenses were down – we hadn’t really slept, and we’d been cold for a LONG time, so we decided to pack it in. However, we were glad that we went back because I quickly found about 2/3 of a junonia, just rummaging on the surface of the pile.

The Pile at Blind Pass

Above, the pile at Blind Pass. This is to the immediate right of the rock jetty as you face the Gulf. Probably the biggest pile I’ve seen to date in my life!

Above, Gary digs into the pile with his claw. We’re not long for this beach; at this point, we’ve been awake too long and our defenses against the cold are WAY down. I think the initial adrenaline was protecting us somewhat, but when it wore off, we were toast!

The haul is going into a bleach bath (minus the olives; don’t want their shine to wear off). That shiny thing in the center is a dime sitting on top of a moon snail.

Break out the blue towel!

Above, we have the entire haul. Not bad for a couple of hours work. The amount of tulips was amazing, and I was surprised at how very little live stuff was in the pile. It was all basically very clean; I didn’t rinse anything before putting it into my collection bag, as the sea was EXTREMELY rough and I didn’t want to get soaked. When I got it all home and rinsed it in the dishpan, I was surprised at how little sand came back with me.

Ah, what makes me happier than mac-n-cheese? Insert hand-clapping smiley here! These cleaned up really nicely; a little mineral oil went a long way on the slightly chaulky look of some of them.

The pile was kind to me in terms of mac-n-cheese and cones, too. And let’s not forget my first-ever junonia! You can see above, he’s a little dude, and if I turned him over, you’d see a hole. I’m reckoning that’s about 2/3 rds of a junonia. I also found a random piece of one (not pictured).

My haul from The Rocks

Above you can see that as many live tulips that had to be thrown back, there were that many empty ones. Those pear whelks are for my flower pots out on the lanai.

Above, I’ve put down a quarter to show the size of the lone true tulip I found.

Above: Some of the olives are still wonderfully shiny. I was happy to have gotten the two crab carapaces home intact, as they tend to be a bit on the fragile side, in my experience. The alphabet cone is sort of weirdly shaped; has a bulge in one side. As you can see, I found mac n cheese, and you know what that means – it was a good shelling day! Note the tiny, nearly translucent natica near the two little mac n cheese.

Again with the quarter, to show the size of the nutmges and the moon snails. The build-me-up-buttercup was picked up for the express purpose of putting that song into Gary’s head when he sees this. You’re welcome! :-p

"Sad lane" scenery

After breakfast, I got in my car to head back home and prepare for the work week. The tide was still pretty low, low enough to expose this sand bar in the bay. It was already past 10:00 am.

Mac n cheese that’s seen better days

Someone had tossed this old horse conch up above the pile. I put my net down for scale. I’ve taken one of these home before; labored over it, slaved over it to remove all the barnacles, and it ended up that the barnacles were what was holding it together! Needless to say, I passed.

As we were walking back to the access path to go have breakfast, we encountered this poor soul without a home. Bonnie said maybe it was a lightening whelk; this is not a good enough picture to display what we saw when turning it over, but it did look like it had once been in a shell. I hate to think that some tourist ripped it out of it’s shell… but how else would it have become detached?

Beachy Scenes

Above, a bird feeds on whatever it is that shore birds feed upon. Below, Bonnie patrols the shore near The Rocks.

Below, an amazing array of colorful sponges and other vegetation. We both refrained from picking up any more sea urchins, as neither of us has been able to bring ourselves to deal with the ones we picked up several weeks ago. Neither of us has figured out how to properly dry/preserve the various types of sponges without them smelling up a storm. Bleach just takes their color away, and maybe even makes them disintegrate. If anyone knows how, please post a comment!

Look at that wave approaching to crash over The Rocks – no wonder there was a pile!

Amazing true tulip!

Bonnie found this amazingly active true tulip. If you can get over the fact that they are actually slugs with really pretty housing, you can appreciate the beauty of the animal itself.

This critter was so active, it inspired Bonnie to get brave and take some video with her camera. I think she’s going to try to figure out how to post it on YouTube or somewhere (I think PhotoBucket does video, too).

"The Rocks"

Finally, I am introduced to the infamous “The Rocks” place! Tidal pools had formed before them, with more live critters burrowing around. They are covered with vegetation, and looked like they would be slippery, so I refrained from climbing upon them.

Right in front of The Rocks, there was a pretty substantial pile. Upon seeing it, I was immediately regretful that I’d left the rake back in the car. It seemed like all the bigger stuff had slid down the back of the pile, so that’s where we began picking through it. Lacking the rake, I squatted a lot and used the stick end of the net-on-a-stick to move layers aside and find good stuff. There were a LOT of live banded tulips, and quite a few calico clams chattered at me from the depths. If it had an animal in it, I returned it to the tidal pool in front of The Rocks. Yes, Tink’s *~*~* “Second Chance” program was in full force today!

Bonnie and I spread out for a while, attacking different sections of the pile. Here she is, with the sun rising behind her.

Yep, it’s another early morning foray

Made arrangements last night to meet Bonnie at the rendezvous to take advantage of the full moon low tide. There had been wind and waves yesterday, and the published time of low tide at the point was 6:43 AM, so we decided to meet at 6:30 AM. At first, we went to Gulf Pines, but there was absolutely NOTHING going on there (again! That happened to me and Kim, too. Maybe I’m a jinx?), so we headed out to Access 7.

There were lots of live things in the sand; above, some lightening whelks, and below a banded tulip.

Foggy Foray, Continued

The beach was starting to get as foggy as it was inland. At one point I looked at Gary’s head, and there were little beads of water hanging off his hair – and he HADN’T gone swimming! Al said his glasses kept getting fogged up.

A guy we passed on the path, who turned out to be one half of a couple who were night fishing, had told us there were plenty of shells (I did a little dance!), and there were. They were just pen shells, is all! The area to the right of the pier was a complete carnage of pen shells, interspersed with hovering, bloated egg casings that looked for all the world like “extreme” fettuccine.

Quickly, we all fanned out with our flashlights to see what we could see. Some stuff was clearly visible, but a lot of stuff was found by moving the carnage aside with the stick end of the net-on-a-stick to see what lurked underneath. There were a great quantity of open calico clams showing their little orange bodies, which fooled me more than once into thinking I’d found a true tulip. Occassionally, one of them would snap or chatter, and in the deeper water around the pilons of the pier, I saw a few “swimming” by doing their chattering thing. It was sort of like a little water ballet. They are surprisingly graceful, for something that doesn’t have any arms or legs.

I got some nice sized mac n cheese, maybe 3-3.5″, and five true tulips, the largest of which is about the same size. Also found a matching-set venus ray clam, as well as a quantity of figs, whelks, and banded tulips. There were a few live tulips here and there, both banded and true; one that Gary found was a monster dark-specked true, and Al told us about a huge red one that was also live. Both of those got thrown back. Every time I found a live one on the beach, I threw it into the shallows, with the hope that it would escape less scrupulous collectors (or else perish the rest of the way, thereby becoming something for us to find another day).

The people fishing on the pier had this annoying little yappy dog with them, who would periodically break the fog-enshrouded silence with a bit of unnecessary barking. At one point, I had ducked under to the other side, and was poking around the pilons when I heard lots of splashing. I looked up to see a huge net dangling over the side of the pier; something inside was struggling, and I thought the people had finally gotten sick of the yappy dog and decided to dunk it! Turns out they were net fishing and got some HUGE catches. Up they pulled the net and plunked it down on the boards. The fish flailed around, thumping loudly on the pier. I hear net fishing is illegal off that pier…

As the tide started to come back in, other people started to arrive with flashlights. But we were there first! The very last thing I found was the bigger of my true tulips. It was funny, I was searching with my flashlight just where the waves were lapping, and there was a guy coming my way doing the same. We said “good morning” and passed one another, and I found the true just where he’d been looking seconds before. The incoming tide had the effect of moving things around, and it was similar in color to the infernal pen shells, so it probably wasn’t visible when that guy was looking.

Foggy Foray to the Lighthouse Beach

Well, when Tootie & Gary posted about their incredible haul at the Lighthouse Beach early Friday morning, including some large and colorful true tulips and mac n cheese, I determined that I needed to do the same today. And after posting that I intended to get up at 3:00 AM, and talking to Anne about whether or not her ass might wake up to join me, I started to have second thoughts about ending up out there alone, just me and my flashlight, and possibly spending the rest of eternity dismembered and under the boardwalk. So I posted that I thought maybe it wasn’t smart, but set the alarm anyway and went to bed.

When the alarm started nagging me, I hit the snooze twice and finally figured, “Well, I guess I’m gonna do this” and got out of bed to make coffee. Out on the lanai waiting for it to brew, the almost-full moon shone distortedly behind thick fog before the clouds came and completely obliterated it. Back inside, I took my coffee over to the computer, and found that Gary had posted a “WTF?” in response to my concerns of dismemberment, indicating to me that he intended to allow me to wake his ass up early. Yay, game ON!

I got my shit together, got in the car and headed out. Remembering the great hunger Chris and I had experienced on the beach during last weekend’s early morning safari with Kim, I munched a banana on the way. The fog was so thick along Six Mile Cypress, I had to reduce my speed; couldn’t see 10 feet in front of me. There was a LOT less fog as I got closer to the causeway; I seem to have driven out of it. Called Gary as I was approaching the toll booth, probably around 4:30. He sounded sleepy but perked right up. The lights were on in the toll booths, but I could not determine which one was inhabited until the lady leaned out and waved. I called Anne as I was crossing the causeway, who already sounded perky, and said they would get dressed and meet us at Gary’s.

Got to Gary’s and decided not to knock, figuring he might have rolled over and gone back to sleep. So I hung on the front porch having a smoke until he came out, sans Tootie. There were stars visible, and I was amazed that the fog was so thick inland but not on the island. As we were waiting for Anne & Al, we heard two owls calling to each other in the night. They were getting closer and closer. We were greatly afeared that A&A would arrive to find nothing left of us but two piles of bones with a little fuzz on top. Finally, Anne & Al arrived, and we left Tootie slumbering peacefully as we all piled into the car and made our way to the Lighthouse Beach.

The Haul

Here’s the whole dishpan full of haul. At Access 7, we hung a right down the beach toward the place with the leaning tree. There was a spot down that way where there was LOTS of stuff rolling around in the breaker line, constantly churning. Very difficult to get anything specific under these conditions. One must employ the scoop/dump/squat method. You haul your net-on-a-stick into the water and just randomly scoop up whatever comes up. Swish, if you like, to remove really small silt and junk. Then run up to above the tide line and dump your haul on the beach. Squat down to pick through. Rinse and repeat. While scoop/dump/squatting my way down the beach, I met a guy who was doing the same, only with two nets-on-sticks at a time. He told me he’d found TWO alphabet cones thus far that morning!

Found a spot where there was about a 3′ deep by 6′ long section of Nanny that was embedded in the sand at the breaker line. It had the effect of trapping stuff in front of it. In this manner, i was able to see and capture a lot of banded tulips and lightening whelks. The bonus was all that mac and cheese and the turbans and a couple of small but very shiny olives. Now that I’ve perused Gary’s shelling books, I understand that the lighter colors aren’t necessarily old and faded; they might be variants. So I was really happy to capture several peachy colored tulips. I think Kim donated several tulips and murex to me as well. She was busy collecting a quantity of calico scallops for her hostess, who is deep into crafting. She even uses the teeth from sea urchins to construct flower petals!

At some point I was in the “spot” scooping and dumping with Chris, Kim was down toward the access entrance hunting scallops at the high tide line, and here comes Anne and Al strolling down the beach. We chatted them up, all the while scooping, dumping and squatting. This activity would cause my quadriceps to burn later in the day, and my calves to about kill me the next day! Kim came wandering over eventually, and by that time Chris and I had determined that we needed to pee and eat, in that order. We discussed going somewhere “as we were” which was completely unshowered and fairly soaking wet, but in the end we decided to go back to Gary’s for at minimum a change of clothing. We took leave of Anne and Al, and I bequeathed them my net-on-a-stick so they wouldn’t have to buy one this trip. I have a garage full of them; I tend to forget to grab one from the garage, and then when I get to the island I just slap down five bucks and buy a new one. Kim pretty much destroyed Bonnie’s. I guess Bonnie is getting a new net-on-a-stick!

More beach conditions

Here’s the pile o’ Nanny from another angle. This was actually only one spot of heavy concentration. It was not this bad the entire beach over.

Here’s a heartbreaker shot. I should have put something down for scale. I’m going to guess that if this true tulip still had its head, it would have been the entire length of my hand.

Beach Conditions Today

Here’s some red algae aka “The Nanny” embedded in the sand. There were some squishy spots, where you would sink down because there was Nanny hiding under there. The Nanny itself smelled tangy – that first day of Nanny smell. The other smells were coming from elsewhere, up at the high tide line…

Here we see that there are still lots of sea urchins left, even after Kim and I collected a bazillion last weekend. I have 20 of these sitting on cardboard on the table out on the lanai. They are drying slowly but surely. I should go out and flip them over tomorrow. Tootie thinks maybe some of them will be stuck to the cardboard… good thing I got 20 of them!

These sea urchins have been there a while, conceivably since last weekend. Notice that the teeth and guts are gone from this one. That doesn’t happen overnight by itself, I’m guessing. It probably dried out but good, and fell inside.

Messages in the Sand

First stop, 7-11 for coffee. Then we drove to the Lighthouse Beach, where we patrolled up and down for maybe 90 minutes or so. Found some small treasures there, including some wentletraps, which made Kim happy.Next up, Access 7. On the beach, Kim started carving messages in the sand (see pics, right). I hope you all like them! No, I do not know what the bright orange thing is in the “o” of “LOVE”, but you can bet that if it was something significant, Kim would have grabbed it!

Illegal maneuvers?

Is it legal to do the “Sanibel Stoop” on Captiva? Here we see Chris, Kim and Tootie all searching with their flashlight for something, anything. Kim actually found TWO fan shells. I found one too, but it was incredibly beat up. Still, first fan shell I ever found. Also found a small whelk, a turban, an apple murex, and a pink auger.

After a while, we all headed back to the car. It was incredibly foggy, and moisture clung thickly to the windows. I wish to report that I kept to the speed limit, made complete stops at the appropriate controlled intersection, and did not put us into a swale or bike path. I, um, had my glasses on.

When we got back to Gary’s, the house kept dripping on us. We basically all put on our PJs, brushed our teeth an hit the sack.

Captiva "cliffs" at Blind Pass, aka Turner Beach

There was a surprise ledge of more than a foot right by the rock jetty, composed nearly entirely of shells. Well, pieces of shells, anyway. This is a rough beach. Things get dashed against the rocks and smashed to bits. The cliff is immediately followed by a sharp slope downward into the water, and the waves were “right there”, so none of us jumped down.

Geeze it’s freakin’ DARK out here!

Circa 1:00 AM, we decided to leave. I took custody of the car keys, and we drove a short distance to Blind Pass. Gary and Tootie keep flashlights in the car for such purposes. We wuz goin’ shell huntin’! To the right, we see the lovely Kim posing next to a sign that explicitly instructs the reader as to the advisability of parking ON the beach. Wisely, I chose to position the vehicle in one of the marked spaces provided.

Sunday afternoon recreation

The causeway beaches were getting full when I crossed. Here we see some of the surviving pine trees; most were taken out by Hurricane Charley a few years back. These are a non-native species to this area, and don’t tend to hold up well to high winds. You can pull in and park your car right on the beaches along the causeway; if you are lucky, you will get one of these trees for shade. On the other side of the road is a rest room and an array of picnic benches, which is currently under renovation and all fenced in. This is a favored spot for wind surf/sailors.

Thursday 12-06-2007: It was good!

Mister Moose poses here with my lunch. I think most if not all of us ordered the mid-sized grilled lobster tail. I had red beans and rice with mine, and also cole slaw. The dipping sauce was butter, BBQ sauce, and Worchestershire sauce. It was YUMMY! I ended up pouring the sauce over my red beans and rice. We also had some exotic drinks. Debbie wanted to know what the heck a “panty ripper” was, but I don’t think she actually ordered it. Linda and I had Kahlua coladas. I actually had two!

Thursday 12-06-2007: Scenes from Lunch

Here’s the view from our table
That boat actually looks use-able
More view from the table

Deb, Barbara, and Linda. Note that Linda has gotten her hair braided; while they were wandering the town, they met up with a woman who does such things. Barbara and Deb each had a few beads put in, too. Note also that Mister Moose is sitting on the table. His adventures on this cruise are chronicled on his very own blog .

Thursday 12-06-2007: Lunch!

Soon, it was time to amble down the beach and meet the rest of the landlubbers for lunch. The place recommended by the tour operator was the Rainbow Grill, on the beach directly across the street from the Rainbow Hotel. The restaurant had a bar inside, and all seating was outside on this floating dock dining room thing. It was covered so there was abundant shade and sea breezes blowing through. I stood outside under a palm tree to wait for them in the shade.

Thursday 12-06-2007: You can be a COMPLETE and UTTER Slackass here!

Many of the places on the beach have these little alcoves out front, little bits of shaded paradise with hammocks and benches and such. You can just dream the day away, not doing or thinking about much in particular. Talk about paradise!

Thursday 12-06-2007: Great minds think alike!

When I got back to the beach side of the island, I started to think that maybe I’d like to come back here sometime, and stay for a couple of days. So I started snapping pics of little places, as a way of remembering what accommodations are located on the beach. Unbeknownst to me, Debbie was busy doing the exact same thing! After she got back from the cruise, she identified a B&B that we’d seen from the boat that has four rooms. Stay tuned; a future vacation plot may be hatching!

Thursday 12-06-2007: Look, I found shells!

I had packed my blue mesh bag (above) but had forgotten to toss the shell-net-on-a-stick into my suitcase prior to departing home. While in Fort Lauderdale, I bought a child’s version (the stick is shorter, and it’s plastic). So I was all set to do some shelling.
They do not have formal “swales” here in Caye Caulker; they have what look like naturally-carved ditches that run down to the sea to drain off the rain water. Looky what gets trapped in them!

You can see some sea snail shells here, as well as bits of branch coral.

Thursday 12-06-2007: We’re on Caye Caulker!

Pay attention to that ditch in the lower left of the picture above; it’s going to become important in a minute or two…

This is really a sleepy little place. Nothing fancy at all, but that’s how I like it!

Wednesday 12/05/2007: Time to leave

Too soon, the people from the Navigator of the Seas are being called back to return to the launch. We all troop onto the launch, and we sit there for about 15 minutes while the photographer woman walks around showing everyone their photos. I’m pissed off, cause that’s 15 minutes of my time on the island that they took up. And yes, I did note it on the comment card.

Above, there are some unfriendly looking clouds forming.

The road from the island launch back to the ship SUCKED! I noted this on the comment card, too. I also said that Allejandro rocks, and that he should be given a big, fat raise.

the shells from Passion Island, Cozumel

OK, so not a proper picture – I just took it just now, and didn’t even take them out of the bag, which explains the glare. There’s branch coral in there, too. I’ve not really unpacked all the way. It’s one of my most hated chores – that and emptying the dishwasher and folding/putting away the stuff from the dryer.

Wednesday 12/05/2007: More amenities

Above, we have a little playground for the kiddies. That’s a trampoline in the background.

More little tiki places

You can jump up and down on that yellow floaty thing above, and then slide down the little slide.

OK, enough with the amenities, we’re going shelling again. Allejandro told me that sometime bigger shells come to Passion Island, but it was the wrong time of year, and also the locals will go out and get there first before the tourists do. I still had a wonderful, relaxing time wandering up and down the beach in the shallow, calm water.

Wednesday 12/04/2007: Amenities, or ways they part the tourists with their dollars

I think I should mention that Allejandro spent a bit of time with me at lunch. He saw that I was by myself and decided to plop down and have a chat. I’m pretty much fine by myself, as long-time readers know, but that was awfully nice of him, and I found him to be very personable and kind.

Above we have someone selecting a temporary tattoo from a thick binder of them. I do hope she wasn’t contemplating the decorating of her belly…

Above, the massage-on-the-beach tent

Above: Really cool beds just hanging out on the beach!

Above, hammocks swinging in the quasi-shade

Wednesday 12/04/2007: More tiki stuff and lunch

First, I went shelling. I forgot to mention earlier that while in Fort Lauderdale, there were a bazillion surf shops on the strip, and I stopped into one to get a shell-net-on-a-stick. It was a plastic children’s model, so the handle wasn’t as long as my nets at home, but it did the job. I still can’t believe I forgot it; I have like three of them in the garage, and should have grabbed one and stuck it in the big suitcase, but I forgot. I did, however, remember the mesh bag, so all was not lost. Most of what I found on the beach at Passion Island was exceedingly small, but I found enough of it to fill a small jar – small, as in, about the size of a Yankee Candle sampler.

So, above we have the view from my table at the big tiki hut; after patrolling the shore a bit, I decided I was hungry, and gave the food a try.

You don’t have to hang in the big hut – there are smaller tiki umbrellas dotted around that you can go and have a seat at.

Here’s my lunch. Chicken quessadias (did I spell that right?), and all the fixin’s, plus veggies and fruits. Also, rum punch! My idea of a good meal on a beach day!

Since I was doing this excursion alone (despite the hovering presence of Clarke), I imposed a two drink minimum upon myself. If I’d had some of my sistas with me, I might have indulged more, but I felt the need to keep my wits about me in a strange country, sitting next to a strange if goofy man on the bus…

Wednesday 12/05/2007: Passion Island, Cozumel

My attempt at an artsy fartsy shot, totally no composition to speak of. There was this Mayan archway and they made you stop and get your picture taken whether you wanted to or not. It slowed up the line to get onto the beach! I was behind a couple and asked them if they were going to buy the picture and they said no. So we got our pic taken together, thus speeding up the line a bit.

This is the dining facility. The meal and unlimited rum punch or beer was included in the excursion. There’s Clarke waving at me like I was taking HIS picture. He was such a clown!

Inside the big Tiki Hut. I counted the chairs, it could seat about a hundred people at a time.

The food line.

Pool from our hotel window

Many of the hotels are set up with a small, three story or so section out front, on top of which is the pool and a walkway across the highway to get to the beach. The hotel tower is behind this section.

Slim pickin’s on the Ft Lauderdale beach

Not a lot in the way of shells. Tide seemed to be coming in, and I didn’t feel like getting soaking wet. Also, I forgot to put my shell-net-on-a-stick in the back of the car before we left, so I was at a real disadvantage. Water surprisingly warm!

Photo I sent to No. 1 Niece

She called to tell me that she was afraid that the Broadway strike would interfere with us seeing The Little Mermaid over Christmas. Frankly, I hadn’t thought of that; I just assumed they would resolve it by then. But I guess it is a real possibility that we won’t be able to go. She says the website for Disney on Broadway says people can get a refund. Of course, I would reschedule if it came to that, but it would be a bummer!

Anyhow, I’m glad she called, see above.