Red Tide Disaster

After the second day, things insidiously start to change at the beach.

          10:00 a.m. –  the water appears unfamiliar; lost its transparency.

          11:12 a.m. –  a man sitting on a bench behind us coughs discretely. No one pays attention.

          12:30 p.m. – we eat flounder sandwiches I made with the leftover flounder from last evening.

          1:34 p.m. –  we haven’t caught a single flounder.

          2:00 p.m. – a small dead fish appears on the beach. Everyone likes it. We use it as bait.

          2:17 p.m. – a young couple is walking aimlessly along the shore. Both coughing.

          2:22 p.m. – a second dead fish. The kids play with it.

          2:23 p.m. – a third dead fish.

          2:48 p.m. – everyone is coughing.

Soon, we realize that something very peculiar is about to happen and we even suspect, it is already happening! As more and more lifeless fish dreamily swims out of the sea, more and more people start coughing. The beach fills with an endless cough. It feels somehow like a prelude to a symphony.

Rumors of ocean tornadoes and biblical interpretations of apocalyptic events start circulating among coughing vacationers.  Until someone explains with authority the unusual and most inconvenient situation  as a phenomenon called RED TIDE. I know that sometimes the things I am writing about sound fantastical, and often they are, but Red Tide is real, I promise. Here is some scientific facts about it which I found at

A red tide, or harmful algal bloom, is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga (plant-like organism). In Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, often abbreviated as K. brevis. To distinguish K. brevis blooms from red tides caused by other species of algae, researchers in Florida call it “Florida red tide.”

Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die. Wave action can break open K. brevis cells and release these toxins into the air, leading to respiratory irritation. For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness. The red tide toxins can also accumulate in molluscan filter-feeders such as oysters and clams, which can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning in people who consume contaminated shellfish.

Karenia brevis, or Florida red tide, kills fish by producing a potent toxin (called brevetoxin) that affects the central nervous system of the fish. The toxin can also affect birds, mammals and other marine animals.

The next day, the sea is dark, the sky grey and low; there is nothing left of the beach but yesterday memories and dead fish of all kinds lying among pieces of corals and beautiful seashells. No vacationers.

Red Tide Fish Kill

Red Tide Fish Kill

I grab the opportunity to photograph dead fishes of all kinds. It is like snorkeling in the coral reef with colorful fishes swimming about, only we are not underwater, there is no coral reef, and the colorful fishes are rather grayish and miserably inadequate. I also find them beautiful, paranoid, strange, scary, grotesque, sympatiques(fr), curious, morbid, familiar, funny, alien, worried, mysterious, sad. (At the end of this post, you will find my Dead Fish Portraiture Gallery.)

One more day passes by and the fish starts to stink badly. Nobody knows who, when, and how will take care of it.

Ivo tells me: “Let’s clean up the beach ourselves.” And I am all for it. So we volunteer to do it, Ivo and me.

Sharon, the woman who cleans the park, gives us some garbage bags, fourteen I count later, and some latex gloves, and then she leaves. With this scarce equipment, we head to the carnage scene. The smell, should I even mention it? DEAD FISH!

We start filling bags scooping the carcasses by hand, trying to fit as many as possible in the bags, as fourteen bags is not much for the amount of fish we have to collect. Some of them, the sail catfish, have poisonous spikes in the fins, and we have to be careful.

Ivo collecting dead fish

Ivo collecting dead fish

It feels like a fish genocide. Hellish eyes full of terror and sand, teeth crooked, discolored skins, gaping half rotting bodies, sea snakes twisting around gooey scaly corpses, mouths gasping for water. I am not eating sushi any time soon…

This first day we clean a big portion of the beach in front of the park and the campground. And we continue the next day. Ivo does most of the job; when he works nobody can keep up with him, everyone who knows him can confirm this. Finally, the beach is clean, there are more than thirty garbage bags lined up away from the waves waiting to be picked up. Local people and campers passing by all congratulate us and thank us. We feel proud with our work.

We have self-sentenced ourselves to community work usually done by Offender Programs and we feel we have served our time to pay for the overnight stay in the park, sneaking in the campground showers, using the free internet, and some other minor offenses. Our conscious is now cleared. Plus, we are now famous among the locals as “the crazy Canadians who do nasty job for free.” In reality, we do get something out of it. Knowledge and experience. We learn all about the Red Tide phenomenon first hand, and we learn about the local fishes.

All is left now is for the county to send some people here to pick up the bags.

The following day the sherif department calls, and not only they don’t thank us for the initiative and the free work, but they tell Sharon that we didn’t do a proper job, that we filled the bags too much and they are now too heavy to pick up… This brings us down a bit.

Anyway, they send people, collect the bags, and the Red Tide is now history.

New campers arrive in the campground and go to the beach, enjoy the warm weather, the soft sand, the cool waves. But I remember another beach.

No monument here to commemorate the departed. Only black ravens high in the air like demoniacal kites still slowly savour the smell of death.

Only this and nothing more.













Categories: adventure, art and culture, beach, disaster, family, fishing, Florida, motor home, natural phenomenon, Nature, off grid, parks, photography, RV, Sarasota, travel, volunteer, wildlife | 10 Comments

Turtle Beach, Florida

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. 
– Christopher Columbus (who never arrived at his “chosen” destination, which was India, as we all know…)

About a week ago, after visiting the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, we found a peculiar beach! We discovered it, like Columbuses,  and we conquered it!

The conquerers of Turtle Beach

The conquerers of Turtle Beach

Turtle Beach, where log-head turtles the size of a car crawl out of the sea at night to bury their eggs in the sand and hope for the best,  is not far from the more famous and crowded white-sanded Siesta Key Beach (our initially chosen destination, which we somehow diverted from) . Not many people come here, as there are not many hotels around. Instead, there is a campground next to a City Park, and the beach is occupied mostly by the few camp visitors, which makes it very homy and friendly place.

Testing the temperature of the water.

There, we park Baba Ghanoushe in the huge free parking area near the beach, and as we do not see any signs forbidding overnight parking, we decide to stay. A week later, we are still here, on the other side of the campground’s fence.

Sometimes it makes me sad thinking how our old Baba is all alone, like an unpopular outsider, and all other campers are huddling cosily in the campground. But then, she is different, isn’t she, and this is the whole point, being different, living alternatively, outside main stream society, literally outside. It is not an easy thing to do because outside of the campground we don’t get the “full hook-up” that the others pay for: electricity, water, showers and laundry, but hey, we are saving $50 per night, spending quality time in a resort spot for free!

Testing the depth of the water

Our first day on the beach, Tuesday, January 15, is fantastic. We sunbathe, we play in the waves, we fish among languorous herons and pelicans, and we (mostly Viktor) catch ten flounder, which is one of the best tasting fish we ever had.

First, we see other people fishing from the shore and they tell us how it’s done.

They show us how to catch first our bait: tricky tiny mole crabs, scooping sand with hands from the edge of the water as the waves retreat. With a shy mole crab on the hook, we start pulling out fish after fish after fish, every time celebrating with a frantic cheer and dance, which quickly earn us fame among everyone on the beach.

Thanks to the flounders we are catching, we meet Nancy and Pierre who come to inspect our catch.

Ivo with a crown of Flounders

Ivo with a crown of Flounders

Nancy and Pierre are “our people,” from the frozen land up in Canada, where French language is spoken, and this is of course the base for new friendship in a foreign country.

Pierre and Nancy

Pierre and Nancy

These guys are incredible, unique people, and you won’t know what I mean unless you have met them. But you probably have. Remember that skinny 15-year-old guy with long curly hair hitchhiking dressed as a boy-scout from Montreal to Miami in 1967?-it’s Pierre! Or maybe you’ve met him on the road between Canada and Peru in 1975, when he was driving a Westwalia all over Central American like a true hippy. Or if you happened to be somewhere between Sidney and Pakistan in the 1980s, you will certainly remember him driving around in his car. Or maybe a motorcycle passed you on the roads of Guatemala and Costa Rica?-It’s him for sure! And if you are not much of a hippy-type traveller, maybe you have met Nancy, working on a cruise ship in some far away sea? Yes, if you are a politician from New Mexico, and, incrustrated on a tooth (upper second incisor) you have a diamond which for many years shined on the belly button of a belly dancer who fell in love with you  and gave you the diamond as a souvenir, you’ve met Nancy on the cruise ship, mister Diamond Tooth Miller…

Telling stories in the morning with coffee at Pierre and Nancy's campground site, Turtle Beach, FL

Telling stories in the morning with coffee at Pierre and Nancy’s campground site, Turtle Beach, FL

Such are Nancy and Pierre, travelers and story-tellers. Plus, they know exactly what we need, as they’ve already done what we are doing, and that same evening after the beach, as we are stuffing ourselves with pan-fried flounder, Pierre showes up on a bicycle with a flashlight on the  head and smuggles us in the campground, the four of us, to the after-dark hot-water showers, the best showers we had since we left Canada in November.

Coffee time at Pierre and Nancy's camp site

Coffee time at Pierre and Nancy’s camp site

The next day, Wednesday, we spend together on our beach, fishing, sharing stories, cutting hair… Yes, Maya gets a haircut on the beach, again, this time by a professional hairdresser and a first-grade nomad. Nancy, thank you! You are amazing!

Nancy shaping Maya's hair style

Nancy shaping Maya’s hair style

Maya's new look

Maya’s new look

And I get a story which goes something like this:

There was a 37 feet sailboat, ketch-rigged, named Chinook 2 traveling from Portugal to Pakistan in 1981. There was nobody on the boat but the captain and Pierre. And a huge grotesque albino rat. The rat, elusive enigmatic creature, who was creeping about all dark corners of the vessel at night, was slowly but surely gobbling up the food supplies, even the cork of the wine bottles. Every morning, for three months, the captain would declare with certainty: “Today, I’ll catch the rat.” 

The two sailors tried every possible and impossible method known to man to catch the creature, but in vain. They bought special traps from Tunisia. They tried to lure him with cheese in a cage, only to find the cage burglarized and the cheese stolen. Finally, Pierre adopted a stray cat in Crete, choosing a good sized one from the thousands roaming the streets of the island, a fierce ambitious-looking black-and-white cat, and bestowed upon him the difficult task: catch the rat, dead or alive.

For one entire month, the rat was nowhere to be seen. But evidence of his existence could be found each morning on Pierre’s sleeping bag, in his very bed: rat droppings. What was happening at night, nobody knew but the cat.

A month later, as they were approaching Port Said in Egypt, the cat, possessed with insanity,  jumped off the boat, almost falling into the sea, and disappeared forever, running without rest all the way to Al Qababt. 

Thus, the albino rat remained forever deep down in the boat’s belly, emitting feeble ominous noises at night like a melancholic ghost, or a very delicate somnambulist. 

Pierre and the first flounder for the day!

Pierre and the first flounder for the day!

Categories: adventure, family, fishing, Florida, motor home, off grid, parks, RV, Sarasota, travel | Tags: | 6 Comments

Morning. Routines. Our Life in the City Park. Part 3

Our Saint Petersburg mornings in the park are filled with little routines. They begin very early with other people’s little routines which wake us up. You see, we don’t sleep in a campground like any normal tourist family with a motor home, but in a city park next to a swimming pool, the only free place we found where overnight parking is not forbidden. Early swimmers come here around 5:30 and inevitably start splashing and cheering next to our sleeping Baba Ghanouche. She wakes up reluctantly, shakes the morning dew and the little yellow seeds brought by night birds off her back, and gracefully drifts through the quiet purple city towards her daytime spot at Demens Landing Park, about a mile away. This is all the distance she traverses back and forth in a day lately.

Lotus and Hibiscus(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

Lotus and Hibiscus
(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

There I make myself a coffee and watch another sun slowly emerging from the sea. Viktor and Maya are still sleeping or just about to wake up and ask for breakfast. Maya tells me the ending of her dream, she never remembers the beginnings.

A bird made a wish and Jackie turned into a bird. I ate one popcorn, only one, and blew on a dandelion. She became Jackie again. She was crying and she gave me a hug.

Jackie is a new friend but a truly good friend, especially to Maya. We will miss her one day when we leave…

Ivo is already near the piers exercising. Ringo the cat is keeping him company. Soon I join them as well. We believe that physical exercising in the morning is a good way to start the day.

Lotus and HibiscusReincarnated

Lotus and Hibiscus

The January breeze caries smells and sounds of seas and palm leafs. The air is already hot but fresh. Back in Canada, it is snowing for sure…

One would think that besides the occasional jogger or an early dog walker, there is not a living soul in the park. But it isn’t so. Saint Petersburg is invaded by hyperactive skinny squirrels and they proliferate in high concentration here in Demens Landing. The last squirrel census for this park alone came up with a number in the thousands, but since then they have surely multiplied. Squirrels have babies 6 times a year! And with tender dedication they teach their young the same bad manners. Thus, the savage traditions of trash cans scavenging for leftover french fries, of stealing the peanut butter  and jelly sandwiches from absentminded picnickers, of fiercely chasing each other up and down the palm trees emitting peculiar heartbreaking cries, are inevitably passed down the generations.

After we finish jogging and exercising, I find a 20 dollar bill all wet from the night, stuck on the wooden pier. I enjoy finding it, although I am also sadly conscious of the fact that as soon as I find it, I start loosing it, cent by cent, the same way we loose everything else that we ever find, including friends.
Next, we go back to the motor home dodging hysterical squirrels on the way, and prepare for sailing.

Ringo arrives

Ringo arrives

RingoReads about catamarans and drinks coffee

Reads about catamarans and drinks coffee



I can do two pull-ups! It is tough being tough

I can do two pull ups!                                                                                                                                                                                                   This is a good exercise for the arms, chest and back

This one is for the back and shoulders

Hanging with arms spread.                                                                                                                                                                             This one is a good exercise for the back and shoulders

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

Categories: adventure, family, fitness, Florida, morning, motor home, off grid, parks, Saint Petersburg, sport, the city | 2 Comments

The Pineapple Volunteers. Our Life in the City Park. Part 2

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.   -Thoreau

Every Saturday there is a Farmer’s Market in Saint Petersburg, across from our park. White tents appear like mushrooms early in the morning at the big parking lot occupied by cars during week days. Merchants are selling fresh and organic produce, live chickens, fresh cheeses and meats, fresh guacamole, honey, herbs, freshly squeezed pineapple, orange, and sugarcane juice; there is live music, and people are coming from all directions to get whatever their appetite dictates them.

About two weeks ago, out of curiosity and attracted by the music, the smells, and the euphoria of it all, we went to check it out. It was about two in the afternoon and some of the merchants have already started to fold their tables and tents. As we had nothing better to do that day, me and Ivo volunteered to help one of them. Almost a quarter of the market was his territory. He gladly accepted our help, not comprehending at first our offer to “work for free”. It took us and five or six more paid helpers less than two hours to fold all tents and tables, to package all unsold fruits and vegetables, and to load a truck with all the crates, juice machines, and cash registers. At the end, the owner of the business again offered to pay us, and we refused again, telling him that we would rather take whatever damaged unwanted produce he might have. And he gave us a load of fruits and veggies, a mountain of vitamins and fibers,  inviting us to “come again next week”.

And we did. It became our Saturday routine volunteering at the market for about two hours in exchange for tons of produce (lots of leftover pineapples from the fresh pineapple juice machine). We have never before had so much fruits and greens at our table! We are now eating healthier than ever, saving much more money from grocery shopping than if the guy payed us in cash instead.

Moreover, our “work” at the market is voluntary allowing us to preserve our independence. The time and effort which we commit are being remunerated directly with products instead of money which becomes a win-win situation for us and for our employer, as it is products which our employer does not need, but we do. I proudly consider this situation a successful survivalist strategy in urban environment and I can’t wait for next Saturday’s harvest!

The following are pictures and recipes of  our harvest. I will be adding more later on.

Saturday, December 23, 2012 Harvest #1

Saturday, December 22, 2012 Harvest #1

Fruit s for breakfast

Fruit s for breakfast


This is a traditional Bulgarian food-preserve based on eggplants (I love eggplants) and peppers with lots of garlic.

I bake in the oven (or roast on a BBQ) one or two eggplants along with 4-5 green and/or red peppers (I prefer red for sweeter taste). In this version, I added 2-3 zucchinis and I baked everything for about 2 hours, or until well done. After, I peel the skin of all vegetables and remove the seeds from the peppers. Then, I finely chop them. You can puree them, but I prefer the less finer texture of larger pieces.  I add tomato paste or fresh tomatoes. If fresh, I first boil the tomatoes whole in the kyopolu paste for about 5 min., then take them out, peel the skin off and slice them. I boil everything in a deep pan or a pot with vegetable oil for about 20-30 min. and I sometimes add a hot finely sliced jalapeno pepper. Finally, I remove my Kyopolu from the stove and wait 5 min before adding as much crushed garlic as desired (4-5 cloves). If I have parsley lying around, I will definitely mince it and toss it in!



Banana Bread

You know this one, don’t you?

All you need is a few overripe bananas, I put 4 in this one, half a cup brown sugar, 2-3 table spoons vegetable oil, two cups all-purpose flour, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking soda and baking powder, some salt. I also added lots of crushed baking chocolate bark in the bread, as well as on top of it! You could use chocolate chips instead too.

So, you crush and puree the bananas, I do it with a fork, add the sugar, oil, and eggs and beat all this until it forms a liquid paste, then add the flour, soda, salt, crushed chocolate, mix lightly and poor in a pan. I use a flat pan, not the classic banana bread loaf one. Thus, I don’t have to bake it for 90 min, but only for about 45 min. and it is well done and has lots of crunchy parts.


Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Green Salad

Roman salad with tomatoes, fresh green onions and cucumber, oil, salt, lemon juice.

Green Salad

Green Salad


Another traditional Bulgarian meal. Usually it is made in emergency situations, when there is nothing to eat, and something is needed ASAP.

It is scrambled eggs with vegetables. I first steam the veggies, usually peppers, tomatoes, fresh onions, in this case I added asparagus. When the veggies are done and cooked, I add 4-5 eggs and scramble them with the veggies.


Iceberg Salad

With tomatoes and cucumbers, salt, vegetable oil and lemon juice

Iceberg Salad

Iceberg Salad

Categories: family, food, money, off grid, parks, RV, the city, Thoreau | 3 Comments

Maya’s Very Own Post

My mother told me it was a good idea to write in the blog myself, and I think so too, so let’s get this started.

I cry every day, so I made my own calendar where I mark the days I cry with red and the days I don’t cry with green. Yellow, if I cry only a little. I put the seven days of the week and the dates, the holidays and the month. This month so far I have 13 greens, only one full yellow and little red. This calendar helps me to stop crying.

I love drawing pictures of my family and me, and of my favorite videogame, Animal Jam. It is a very cool game. I played it for about three years. My friend Catherine told me about it. Me and Cathy, which is how I call her for short, we are “sisters from another mother”. I miss her very much. We see each other on AJ (Animal Jam).

Maya and Catherine BFF

Maya and Catherine BFF

Anyway, I read this book called La Cité Secrète that my friend Catherine gave me for my birthday. It is in French. In it I learn about Peru, Mach Pichu, the dangerous condor, all kinds of lamas, and the quipu, which is like a book made out of strings. It can indicate numbers and very important things that I forgot; it can even say I love you. And Mach Pichu is an old place with lots of golden treasures. In Quechua language Machu Pichu means Old Great Mountain. Huayna Pichu means New Mountain. Kuntur in Quechua means caution or condor. The condor is very dangerous. I don’t remember why. I know that they are silent and they are extinct.

Another game I like is LPS (Littlest Pet Shops). They are small fake plastic animals. I have houses for them and accessories as well. One of my newest PetShops is a yellow firefly. She is a girl named Catalina. This is a name of a sailboat, but I like it because it is nice. I will never tell anyone how I got her. It’s a secret. She is one of my favorite pet shops. My second favorite is Catherine. I called her Catherine because I miss my good old friend. Cathy is purple bunny. She is very cute. This Christmas I got a brown polar bear PetShop named Cookie. I name them myself. A PetShop can be any color, there are even pink raccoons! So yea, Cookie is a brown polar bear and I am glad to have her because polar bears are almost extinct. I also have a purple Dalmatian. I have forty four PetShops and that is a lot. Some are twins, some are married, some are bullies, some are losers, and I remember all their names. I have boys, but mostly girls PetShops. This is all I have to say about my toys and books.

Catalina, Bone, and Cookie (the brown polar bear)

Catalina, Bone, and Cookie (the brown polar bear)

By the way, I would like you, guys and girls, to meet Bubba- my exploring teddy bear. He is old, very old, I got him right when I was born, and he goes everywhere with me. I cannot sleep without him; I like how he smells. But he is ugly. He also lost most of his leg and can only walk on one foot. He got damaged and repaired many times, and one of his eyes is almost broken. He lost his butt, poor him.

I fell in love with a sailboat and I have names for boats in my head: Ship Happens, The Not for Sail, Bubba, Nomad Life, and finally Diado Ghanoush (means Grandpa Ghanoush in Bulgarian). Most of the names are funny. I just can’t wait to get our boat. I love exploring the world! I really want to go to Fiji. It would be a dream-come-true. And I wish to go to China and learn Chinese and martial arts from Master IP. His style is the best. It is called Wing Chung. He is very old but still alive. He thought Bruce Lee IP style and Bruce Lee was able to do three hits per second!!! And I can’t believe that at all…

Ops, I’m sorry I forgot to introduce myself. Well, my name is Maya Georgiev, and I love making new friends and writing in the blog. I make new friends at a playground in Saint Petersburg. There I also develop my muscles by hanging upside-down on the monkey bars and pulling myself up without arms. I am like a wild monkey. I even got big blisters from too much playing at the playground.

At the playground

At the playground

Maya's blisters from too much playing at the playground

Maya’s blisters from too much playing at the playground

I hate showers and I love staying dirty. For me clean is dirty and dirty is clean and my hair is sticking out like a devil’s. It feels nice having short hair and the best thing is that it doesn’t take long to wash, and I don’t even need to brush it or tie it into a ponytail. But the worst thing about having short hair is that everyone thinks I am a boy. They even say I sound like a boy, but I really don’t sound like one.

My favorite color is the blue of the most clearest water.

The languages I know are: Bulgarian, French, and English. The languages I know a few words of are: Spanish, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and Russian (because there are many Bulgarian words in Russian). That’s a lot of languages and I am proud of myself. I can pretty much go around the world and talk to a lot of people.

My favorite action is laughing. I just love laughing at my brother’s funny jokes.

Since we live in Baba Ghanoush, our motor home, there are things I like and don’t like. I love sleeping here in the motor home. It is like sleeping in a cozy quiet bear cave. It just knocks me off… It brings me on a hook (figure of speech that I invented. It’s like if a fish who is sleeping gets caught on a hook without realizing it).

Maya and Viktor in the morning. Rise and shine!

Maya and Viktor in the morning. Rise and shine!

I love eating at the table because we have tasty food and I am always hungry. But I hate eating healthy things, like vegetables, except tomatoes with salt, cucumbers with lemon, corn, and carrots.  I like the most sweet stuff and chocolate.

The next thing I am about to say is: I am very annoying when it comes to milk. All I drink is milk or juice. I hate water, it’s gross and tasteless.

I also hate crying, because when I cry everyone hates me and wants me to go outside in the crazy world.

I used to suck my thumb a lot, all night and all day, I could never stop. But the dentist told me to stop. So we bought fake nails for four dollars and my mom glued one with crazy glue to my thumb. And just like that I stopped sucking it (but the first three days was very hard).

Thank you, and I am sorry if you don’t like reading, and if you think my post is boring, but it took me a long time to compose it. Thank you anyway!

More drawings by Maya:

Maya with long hair. Self portrait

Maya with long hair. Self portrait

Maya with short hair. Self Portrait

Maya with short hair. Self Portrait

Daddy Ivo

Daddy Ivo

Viktor Sleeping

Viktor Sleeping

Mama Mira

Mama Mira

Self Portrait from a photograph

Self Portrait from a photograph

Categories: adventure, family, parks, RV, travel | 13 Comments

Our Life in the City Park. Part 1: Overview

Demens Landing Park St Petersburg Florida.Photo by Bill Cobb,

Demens Landing Park St Petersburg Florida.
Photo by Bill Cobb,

Demens Landing is the name of the city park in Saint Petersburg, Florida where we live since a month now. Baba Ghanoush, our motor home (the name in Bulgarian actually means Granny Ghanoush, I forgot to mention this earlier) showed up one day in late November with all her majestic glory of a barbaric matron, provoking a mixture of admiration and suspicion, and stopped next to the playground, at parking A, which is the park parking, and all citizens are allowed to park there for free “from half an hour before sunrise until 11 p.m.. No overnight parking.” (a sign explains)

The park is located in the hearth of downtown Saint Pete, between the municipal Marina and the Sailing Center (that is why there is also a parking B which is only for boat owners from the marina). The way Baba Ghanoush is parked, she is facing the Gulf of Mexico and all beautiful sunrises to the East, the Municipal Marina to her left (port), the Sailing Center to her right (starboard), and Down Town St Pete with its museums and galleries, cafes and restaurants, and souvenir shops behind her, strewn on Bayshore Drive and Beach Drive. If you walk out of the park and onto Bayshore Drive, you will see the extravagant shape of the Dali Museum building to your left (south) and the Museum of Fine Arts to your right (north). In between is the luxurious Yacht club building, and further north is the pink Renaissance Resort and Golf Club, next to Vinoy park.

We signed up for sailing lessons and for the One Year Unlimited Sailing program at the Sailing Center, which means 6 days of sailing per week, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a 18-feet keel boat, the four of us, for a total of $500, showers included! Unlimited sailing+ unlimited showers, how cool is this! (For us the access to showers is of great importance right now, as we are not in a campground and we are not plugged to water, and so we are not using the shower and toilet in the motor home.)

Since we became members of the Sailing Center, we go out sailing every day, except Mondays, when the Center is closed, and except all those days when the wind is over 20-25 knots and they don’t allow us to take the boat out. (Thanks goodness they don’t allow us, because if you ask Ivo, he would try his skills even in such powerful winds, no matter how rookie we are.)

We come and park in Demens Landing usually before sunrise, around 6 a.m. The kids still sleeping, I make myself a sweet coffee boiling it in a small coffee-pot on the stove, the old-fashion fay, and watch the sunrises, all of them inexplicably anticipated and surprising. We go out, me and Ivo, sometimes only Ivo, sometimes the kids come too, whoever feels like it, and we do some sit-ups, squats, pull-ups and push-ups, as well as 15-20 min jogging. We greet people walking their dogs, jogging, older couples taking a walk: every day the same people. There is the fat bold guy and his trainer exercising near the bench; the very short latino woman doing some  bizarre dance movements while walking fast around listening to her music, suddenly shouting some cheerful words in Spanish; a couple who lives on a boat and their two dogs, one of which thinks is a bird, and probably has hollow bones, as she can jump so high after a Frisbee, she looks like she has been catapulted when you watch from a distance. There is  also a sleepy blue heron and an white egret greeting the sun on the shore or the piers, lots and lots of skinny hyper-exciter squirrels running up and down the palm trees or checking the garbage cans for leftover french fries, and Ringo,the cat, curled up in the middle of the sidewalk, finishing his unfinished slumber. Ringo also lives on a boat at the marina and I don’t know if he takes any drugs or it is just his character, but you can literally walk over him, or if you are a dog, you can bark all you want at him, he doesn’t care; he will not even look at you. He is now OUR CAT, as the park is OUR PARK, the herons are OUR HERONS, the park toilets are OUR TOILETS, and the playground is MAYA’S PLAYGROUND, where she plays for hours, waiting like a spider for little kids to arrive and a chance to play with them.

We also have a place: a small Police Memorial granite statue near the waterfront illuminated at night with benches around that have electrical plugs on them, where we sometimes go to charge and mode our i-phones, or plug our lap tops and write for the blog, because, guess what, we don’t have plenty of electricity in the motor home, as well. This place is OUR OFFICE. I brought from Canada my bread-making machine and one of these days I might bake some bread in the office, then it will become a bakery as well. But we don’t want to abuse the park hospitality too much. We now know all the park staff, we told them who we are and why we are in the park almost every day, and they are all friendly and nice with us, greeting us every time they see us. We offered them to volunteer and help them with the cleaning and maintenance of the park, as we now have a strong feeling of responsibility towards it, but they declined politely. Still, Maya went out yesterday and collected all palm leafs fallen after a windy night, piling them on the corners near the garbage cans.

Our morning rituals over, we gear up and we go sailing for two to four hours in different directions, practicing tacking, jibing, docking, man overboard, anchoring, as well as just going in a straight line towards a fixed point, trying to have a perfect sail’s position to wind. Every time the sea and the wind is different and every time we have a different experience, this is why we don’t want to miss a day of sailing.

After sailing we do all kinds of other activities: studying, reading, going to the public library not far away to use internet, fishing, cooking, playing tennis, taking walks on the beach or in Vinoy park, or around the city, enjoying life. I will write more detailed accounts of our activities later on.

A bird's view perspective of the park with points of interest.

A bird’s view perspective of the park with points of interest.

1- the usual parking spot of Baba Ghanoush

2- our restrooms

3- Maya’s playground

4- our fishing pier

5- our office (this is an older picture and here the Police Memorial is not build yet)

6- the Sailing Center&showers

7- our new friend Jackie’s 60 feet long houseboat

8- Gulf of Mexico- we sail through here

9- the Municipal Marina office

Categories: adventure, family, motor home, off grid, parks, RV, the city, travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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