Sarasota

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 www.mote.org

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.

DEAD FISH PORTRAITURE GALLERY

Alian

Sad

Paranoid

Beautiful

Morbid

Mysterious

Sympatique

Grotesque

Strange

Funny

Scary

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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

Our “Ringling Museum of Art” Experience

Our travels bring us to unexpected places of wonder.

After visiting a boat for sale in Marco Island, Florida, we headed towards Sarasota.

It was Monday and “The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art”, the Number One Must See Attraction in this area, has free admission on Mondays. We spend 4-5 hours in the Museum of Art and its gardens,  66 acres of waterfront property.

Outside Gardens, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida

Outside Gardens, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida

The museum, built by John Ringling, opened in 1931. It houses his personal collection of about 14 000 masterpieces, including paintings and sculptures by the Old Masters like Rubens, van Dyck, Velázquez, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, El Greco, Gainsborough and more; European, American and Asian works. It is truly impressive.

European Art, 16th and 17th century

European Art, 16th and 17th century

JUDITH HOLDING THE HEAD OF HOLOFERNES by Francesco del Cairo, Italian, 1607-1664; SN 798, oil on canvas

JUDITH HOLDING THE HEAD OF HOLOFERNES by Francesco del Cairo, Italian, 1607-1664; SN 798, oil on canvas

But for me, the most emotional moment was entering the newest gallery featuring the Coville Collection of 90 photographs of the 20th century and beyond focused on photojournalism.

A quote by Susan Sontag is the first thing you see as you enter the gallery:

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by sharing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

— Susan Sontag

The earliest photograph in the collection dates from 1888: the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; and the latest is of the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

20th Century Documentary Photography

20th Century Documentary Photography

There I found iconic images that I have only seen before in my Art History books. Images by Margaret Bourke White, Edward Steichen, Julia Margaret Cameron, Louis Wickes Hine, Ansel Adams, Andre Kertesz, Edward Weston, and others.

Julia Margaret CameronSir John Herschel, 1913, photogravure

Julia Margaret Cameron
Sir John Herschel, 1913, photogravure

Next, we marveled at the exquisite Ca’d’Zan mansion and its Venetian Gothic architecture. We will have to return to look at the mansion inside as well as at the Museum of Circus. One day is not enough.

The Ca' D'Zan mansion

The Ca’ D’Zan mansion

Our Monday finished with a walk in a park in Sarasota looking for a restroom for Maya. It was dark, about 7:00 p.m., when we entered the Sarasota Art Center as it was still open and there was a restroom for Maya!

And we ended up looking at some more contemporary local art. Surprisingly, the collection impressed me, there were many truly amazing paintings and photographs.

But this was not all! As we were ready to go, people started coming in. It turned out, there was a Flamenco Evening event, free admission, and we decided to stay! In the center of the gallery, surrounded by artworks, two classic-flamenco guitarists, two singers, a guy and a woman, and a male dancer, performed for us and a crowd of older Sarasota citizens, the most wonderful music from Spain. Viktor and Maya were both so impressed, more than by the Ringling Museum.

As the music- the magic- ended, there was vino and cheese, and a wonderful memory.

Te Quiero Verde.

For more information about the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, visit

http://www.ringling.org/

More photos from Sarasota, Ringling Museum of Art

Mira&Maya with Grand Piano&Mirror

Mira&Maya with Grand Piano&Mirror

The Gardens

The Gardens

Maya in front of Ca' d"Zan mansion

Maya in front of Ca’ d”Zan mansion

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

Categories: art and culture, family, Florida, Museum, photography, Sarasota, the city, travel | 4 Comments

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