As I was writing this, Kim called to see how it went this morning. She said she checked the blog first thing, but as I explained to her, there’s no flash on the camera phone so I could not blog photos live. We chatted a bit about this and that. I miss her! Sure could get used to having her around on a permanent basis. Well, maybe someday!Here comes the haul…
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.
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 interior is decorated with containers full of Sanibel booty – sea shells! I like the syrup pitcher and salt and pepper shakers full of shells the best. The seating is comfortable.
You can watch the chefs hustling and bustling around to create your meal.
A peek out the window at the newly improved Tahitian Gardens breezy porches.
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!
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.
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.
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.
When I got to Gary’s house, Chris and Kim were already there. We all hung out for a while, shooting the breeze and pouring over a couple of shelling “bibles” of Gary’s. One of them is called The Sanibel Kaleidescope: A View of Seashell Variations in Color, Pattern, and Structure by Harlan E. Wittkopf, and the other is Living Shells of the Caribbean and Florida Keys by Robert E. Lipe and R. Tucker Abbot.
We also sat around for a good 45 minutes debating which restaurant we would grace with our presence that evening. A decision was made, and so was a call to Anne and Al to communicate place/time.
At some point, a passel of us trooped out to the back deck for a smoke, and there was a beautiful bald eagle sitting in the dead tree just beyond Gary’s backyard. We all made a mad rush for our cameras, and he was quite accommodating.
Soon, Kim needed to leave to go get her stuff and get dressed for dinner. She, Anne, and Al would meet us at the restaurant, called The Hungry Heron. Christene declared her intention to become a horse conch herder when she grows up.
Above, the king’s crowns have emerged from their bleach bath and a good scrubbing with an old toothbrush. They were FILTHY, inside and out, but most of them cleaned up really nicely!
Other shells, still soaking in the dishpan. You can see above that I picked up a couple of decent sized whelks in good shape, among other things. You may be wondering why there’s one lonely king’s crown in there, separated from his brethren. Well, he had lots of greenish mossy stuff on the inside, so he needed a little more time in the bleach bath. Below is the other end of the dishpan.
It occurred to me while I was rinsing and rinsing and rinsing the mud from the king’s crowns that the last time I had a king’s crown from the mud flats, some little winged creatures hatched out of it after about two weeks and started dive bombing me all over my house. I could not figure out where they were coming from until one night I happened to turn the king’s crown over, and it was CRAWLING with these bugs! Well, I raced to put it outside, and forgot that the house alarm was set. I set off the alarm when I opened the door to the lanai! It was an “I Love Lucy” type of comedy at my house that night. So anyway, I got to thinking that despite my best efforts to get all the mud (and therefore, any pre-hatchling type things) out of them, I’d best bundle them into the freezer for a couple of weeks, just to be safe. So I’ve put them in a Ziploc and they are now chillin’ out.
OK, that’s the true end of the adventure. Man, I’m TIRED! I think I’ll hit the hay soon. Thanks for reading!
Above, the Lighthouse is all done up for the holidays, with bows and everything. Below, Kim finds a beautiful live whelk. Back in he went.
By this time, it was about 2:00 PM. We’d been tramping the beaches all day, since 7:00 AM. We were DONE! Kim drove me back to where I’d ditched my car, and there was a the inevitable transfer of gear and clothing. It had been spitting on us on and off since we left Jerry’s. It was now drizzling in earnest. We said our goodbyes for now. She will still be on the island next week when Anne, Al, Chris and Jon arrive for festivities and fun. Can’t wait!
Here we are at the pier. We found some small, satisfying stuff here at the Lighthouse Beach. Also more dead fishies
I don’t know why Kim changed clothes. She only got wet again. By this time, I was in sneakers and socks, and playing chicken with the waves, trying to scoop stuff with my net-on-a-stick. Kim was in flip flops, and despite rolling up the jeans, the waves nailed her a few times.
After Dixie Beach, we lit out for the little beach down at the end of Bailey. Here’s one of the many starfish Kim found. Some were rejects because they were sort a chewed up, or else looked like they had freezer burn.
Was surprised to see construction at the Causeway on a Saturday. This machine was picking up a large cylindrical object that appeared to be made of metal, and dropping it repeatedly upon some huge chunks of concrete. Where there were enough smaller pieces, the backhoe picked ’em up. You could feel the thudding under your feet.
At Jerry’s, Kim had the blackened salmon sandwich, and I had my “usual” – the “Sanibel Boat”. It’s half a pineapple that’s been hollowed out (they give you the chunks they removed) and filled in with FRESH seafood salad. You get other fruits on the plate, and cottage cheese too (which I never eat). Also a little loaf of wheat-ish looking bread. We both slugged down mass quantities of iced tea as well.
After Jerry’s, we decided to hit the bay side of the island a bit, so we lit out for Dixie Beach.
There wasn’t a whole lot going on at Dixie beach. The tide was very high, so there was really no beach to walk on. We made several forays down to the water via the rocks, but there wasn’t really anything to see except for these lovely mangrove roots, above. The sky was starting to look a bit threatening, too.
Kim blindfolded me again and led me out of the sooper sekrit undisclosed location, once again making me promise not to tell. Soon, we were back in the car and heading back to the home of her hosts, where we deposited Noelle for some much-needed rest. Then we went to Bonnie’s to get cleaned up and change our clothes. At some point, Kim called Gary and Tootie to let them know we were headed to Jerry’s for lunch, but got the answering machine. Soon we were off, and I busied myself capturing the holiday ambiance at Jerry’s for blogging posterity.
See that vast expanse of wasteland? No, it’s not the surface of Mars. It’s a mud flat, and yonder’s where we found an amazing amount of king’s crowns in really pristine, if muddy, condition. Below, we find an egret, a couple of little blue herons, and three birds that had beaks like the ibis, but their feathers were not all white. Perhaps they were juveniles? Anyhow, we spent a good hour or more here, and found lots of treasure!
Imgaine my surprise when Kim pulled out a pocket knife and proceeded to prick both our fingers so I could swear a blood oath not to tell the location of our next stop. Then she made me pinky swear, too! Finally, she blindfolded me and got us to our destination. It was hard to keep up with her, seeing as how I couldn’t see. Seemed like she led us through sticker bushes and quicksand, which threatened to remove the dive boots from our very feet! Finally, she removed my blindfold, and I saw that we’d been following the tracks of a racoon, above. A little bit away, there was some shallow water, and I got a glimps of our quarry – king’s crowns! This one is alive; we’d be looking for dead, empty ones.
Here we are at Blind Pass, aka Turner Beach. Noelle was feeling frisky, so she decided to prance on the beach under her own steam instead of riding in the sling snuggled up to Kim. There wasn’t whole lot here to speak of, despite what you see in that “pile”. It was all clams and a bunch of broken up stuff mixed in. At this beach, you really have to be there as they are rolling in, otherwise they just dash themselves against the rocks and self-destruct. Below, the other side of the rock jetty. I did find two turbans on this side, one of them flaming orange! After only about 10 minutes, we were ready to move on to the next location.
Top right, inside the grocery bag, you can glimpse some of the sea urchins I picked up. Below that, sitting on top of the mesh collection bag, are a few mac-n-cheese. Since any day you find mac-n-cheese is a good shelling day (for I have decreed it thus), this was a good shelling day! On the left, assorted treasures.
Below, Kim heads down the path toward the beach at Gulf Pines. We didn’t find anything there; we came, we saw that there was nothing, we moved on to our next destination.
Bonnie found a GINORMOUS shrimp! He got swept in on a wave, but was still quite alive. I think maybe he was 6-8 inches long; Bonnie will correct me if I am wrong. After marveling at him for a bit, we put him back in the water, whereupon he was promptly swept onto the shore again, this time on his back. Had to throw him out FAR to get him to stay there; hope he made it!
Kim found a seahorse! He was dead, poor thing. I think the recent cold front was really a shock to some of these animals. I wouldn’t really know what to do with a dead seahorse. I’ll have to google about it and see what’s what.
Our final critter is Noelle, Kim’s little doggie. She’s just as cute as can be. After prowling Access 7 for a while, Bonnie needed to go take care of some work, so we all left. Bonnie dropped us where Kim’s car was parked. Here, Noelle is just chillin’ on my lap in the car as we motor toward our next destination.
It was sea urchin hell out there today. Everywhere you looked, sea urchins, sea urchins, and more sea urchins! This is the reason Mister Moose got the boot from the bucket. I’ve never successfully transported a sea urchin all the way home in just a net or a bag. They always break into a million bits. So I figured they would have a better chance in something hard-sided, like a bucket. Kim gave me a plastic grocery bag, to keep them segregated from everything else, so I wouldn’t toss heavy things on them. The strategy proved successful; I now have all twenty of the sea urchins I picked up, laid out on the table on the lanai to dry out. Now, getting them cleaned without breaking them will be another matter entirely; stay tuned!
It was pretty cold at first; I was wearing a long sleeved thermal shirt, a sweatshirt, and my red Mickey Mouse jacket, which is lined with sweatshirt material. I was also wearing my new dive boots that I’d bought on the cruise ship; this would be their virgin shelling expedition. I knew the water was cold, and was hoping that they would help to keep my feet a little warmer than Teva sandals would!
This is why you can’t go barefoot on Sanibel beaches. SHELLS! We love them, but they about kill our feet.
Above and below, here’s what had collected at the high tide line. This might look impressive to the uninitiated. However, earlier in the week when the cold front was really coming through, there were six foot seas at the shore, and Kim experienced a major roll-in. I, alas, had to work that day!
I woke up early, and briefly considered going back to sleep, but ended up making coffee and settling in with the laptop to cruise some message boards. I saw a message from my friend Kim, indicating that she and Bonnie were shooting to head out shelling around 6:00 AM, and that I should call them! Well, I went into crazy evacuation mode, getting dressed, gathering up warm clothing and my shelling gear, and heading out the door with a travel mug of coffee. I called Kim’s cell phone at 6:15 AM, and they hadn’t left yet. They waited for me! I got to the rendezvous around 6:45 AM. Above, I’m crossing the causeway to the island; below, we see the baby fingernail moon in the very early dawn.
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.