Sebastian's waterfront has a long and rich history of local fishermen. Bill Tiedge is doing his best to move it forward.
Tiedge launched Crab E Bills Seafood Market in 2011 with a mission of consistently offering superior, sustainable seafood caught by local fishermen and divers. Tucked in the heart of the Sebastian waterfront, fishing boats bob at the docks, while sunlight shimmers off the Indian River. Soon after docking, a bounty of day-boat fish and seafood is delivered to the market's back door.
Housed in a building that has been a waterfront fixture for 90 years, Crab E Bills boasts a wooden beam ceiling, hardwood floors and quirky nautical displays. The gleaming front counter cases shows off a dazzling array of fresh-caught fish lying on pristine beds of ice. Plucked from the sea, the local catch is brought to the market usually within the span of a day or less.
The market prides itself in a wide selection such as snapper, hogfish, grouper, mahi, pompano, kingfish, and amberjack and yellow fin tuna that are teamed with fresh northern fish such as cod, haddock, halibut, and Scottish salmon. There are also succulent sea and bay scallops, oysters, petite spiny Florida lobsters and shrimp such as luscious Royal Reds and Key West Pinks.
Back in the late 19th century a four acre spit of land was a thriving bird rookery in the Indian River Lagoon. Beautiful herons, egrets, spoonbills and pelicans were so plentiful it was hard to fathom that these birds might soon disappear.
However, with the introduction of steamboat and railroad transportation the number of American settlers started to swell in coastal central Florida. Many were plume hunters stalking the local birds for their dramatic colorful plumage coveted by the booming millinery trade. The most fashionable ladies of Manhattan society were in a frenzy over feather hats.
Avid outdoorsman and naturalist Frank Chapman (who became a bird curator of the American Museum of Natural History) spearheaded a public outcry against the bird slaughter. He helped convince President Theodore Roosevelt that poachers were wiping out the populations of exotic birds on Pelican Island. It was a horrid business where hunters killed and skinned the mature birds, left orphaned hatchlings to be devoured by lurking crows. Eliminating two generations at once.
On March 14, 1903, President Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing Pelican Island as America's first National Wildlife Refuge. Never before had the federal government set aside land for wildlife. Roosevelt would go on to establish a network of 55 bird reservations and national game preserves - the forerunner to today's National Wildlife Refuge System.
Scores of restaurants have achieved legendary status by serving succulent stone crab claws. Sweet and tender, the meat resembles lobster in appearance and flavor, only with a richer taste. Eagerly anticipated, the annual harvest occurs from October 15 through May 15.
Stone crabs differ from blue crabs in that only the oversized claws are harvested. When a stone crab is caught, just a single claw may be removed. When returned to the water, the crab is still able defend itself from predators while a new claw is grown. To be harvested, stone crab claws must be at least 2¾ inches in length when measured from the elbow to the tip. Often only a minor twist toward the center of the crab will release the claw. Over its lifespan they can regenerate the claw three to four times.
Stone crabs can be found in holes along oyster reefs, rock jetties and shorelines lined with riprap, but the best spots are usually around bridges where the current is swift, and the bottom filled with rocks and broken concrete. Adult stone crabs feed on oysters, mussels, clams, other crustaceans and worms.
Some recreational fishers collect crabs by hand, using scuba or snorkel gear. In the commercial stone crab fishery, baited traps are put out in long lines of up to 100 in number where individuals traps are buoyed. They are generally checked every few days, and the bounty delivered directly to local markets and restaurants. Many fishermen even cook the claws on the boats to ensure optimal freshness.
In late February Elon Musk announced the first joy ride into space is set to occur in 2018. The founder and CEO of SpaceX is planning to use one of his rockets to transport two paying customers around the moon. The individuals will be launched from historic Launch Pad 39 at the Kennedy Space Center on a Dragon 2 vehicle powered by SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
When space tourism shifts into high gear, research from Florida Institute of Technology aims to be on board in several critical ways. Last year the School of Human-Centered Design, Innovation and Art received a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA ) to develop standards keeping passengers and crew safe from the ground to zero G.
They are testing the space suit passengers will wear and developing a universal cockpit/flight deck especially for space tourism as well as working with the FAA on designing safety rules for commercial tourism spacecrafts.
In the spring of 2016 the School of Human-Centered Design, Innovation and Art purchased a functional spacesuit for $28,000 from Final Frontier Designs of Brooklyn, N.Y., for use in developing a universal cockpit specifically for space tourism. Florida Tech is one of just three universities nationwide that are testing the functionality of a spacesuit that the pilots and passengers will be wearing when they blast off and later make the journey back to earth.
Longboat Key, the glitzy island just south, grabs all the buzz. That sits fine with Anna Maria Island residents who are more than content to hang out on the seven mile stretch of powdery white sand or kayak alongside a pod of bottle nosed dolphins in the Gulf's teal-colored waters.
Tucked on a slim barrier island 40 miles from Tampa, Anna Maria Island is dominated by palm trees and low slung Crayola-colored beach cottages. The ladle shaped island is actually three small communities-- Anna Maria to the north, Holmes Beach in the middle and Bradenton Beach to the south. It feels like the type of beach town that you visited when you were a kid. No fast food joints or buildings higher than three stories. There are scores of renovated old-timey motels, one grocery store, and no cinema. So go catch a gorgeous sunset.
Legend has it that a Spanish explorer discovered and named the place Ana Maria Cay in honor of the Virgin Mary and her mother Anne. The island’s first homesteader, George Emerson Bean, purchased a tract of land on the north end of the island in 1893. Two decades later Charles Roser-- the man who invented the legendary Fig Newton-- sank his million-dollar windfall into developing the town. Home sites were hacked out of a jungle. Built in 1912, Roser's original clapboard home still stands next to the Siam Garden Resort.
Inspiration for an actor travels down many avenues.
Take Vanessa Kai. A number of years ago she joined a few friends from the Discovery Channel who were filming a segment for "After Dark in New York City." Their mission: bungee jumping 16 stories at 3:00 in the morning off the Manhattan Bridge that crosses the East River. It's illegal, but also an adrenaline seeker's dream.
Kai walked to the bridge's edge, said an expletive. Then jumped. Scanning the twinkling Manhattan skyline, it was a five-second freefall, tied only by her ankles, flying through the darkness toward the river. Once the chord was stretched to its limit she rocketed back skyward toward the bridge. Kai bounced up and down on the elastic cord until the energy of the fall was exhausted and then a "yank 'em up" rope was tossed down. She attached it around her waist and was hoisted back to the bridge by the other jumpers.
"I took a break from acting and found I had fallen into an uninspiring routine,” Kai recalled from her hotel in Vero Beach. “I wanted to create lifelong, lasting memories. When the moment came, I remember looking down and all I saw was a sea of blackness. And I asked myself, ‘Am I really going to do this?’ You know what, pride is a powerful thing. I needed to let go. It was an experience that nurtures you as a human and as an artist. I think it’s important to keep your spirit alive.
Who doesn't love the catchy tunes of this blockbuster musical that debuted nearly seven decades ago?
Cocoa Beach's Surfside Playhouse brings to life one of the most celebrated American musicals in their current production of South Pacific where the sky is a bright canary yellow, the water an idyllic clear blue and love can happen at first glance. It's a sweeping romance with a storyline that tells the story of two couples whose love is tested by the dangers of war and prejudices of their times.
It's adapted from the 19 interconnected stories that James Michener wove into his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific, which in turn inspired Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, South Pacific. It is set on a Pacific island paradise during World War II in 1944.
Hammerstein’s script remains remarkable for its simultaneous simplicity and subtlety. Under the stellar direction of Bryan Bergeron, the Surfside production hits all of the themes, its plot and music addressing two parallel love stories and universal issues like racial prejudice, sexism, war, fear, and uncertainty.
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.