The Wild Spots of Longboat Key Print E-mail

Florida Today

March 13, 2018

A thin sliver of land nestled between the turquoise waters of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Longboat Key (LBK) is both simple and opulent offering a scenic and delightful destination. Less than 11 miles in length, it boasts the rare combination of beautiful beaches and a bevy of cultural gems in Sarasota just to the south. One of the more refreshing finds is LBK's natural side.Zota Beach

My wife and I arrived on the barrier island for a holiday stay at the Zota Beach Resort. Uber-modern and sleek, it's surrounded by tropical blooms, lush foliage and swaying palm trees. Great egrets and great blue herons fish at the water's edge, while cormorants, ospreys and pelicans wheel overhead then swoop down into the Gulf in search of a meal.

A five minute drive south brings visitors to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. From its humble beginnings in a tiny one-room building in 1955, Mote has evolved into a world-class research center that conducts ocean research on six of the world's seven continents.

All the exhibits are beautifully executed to reflect the natural habitat of its inhabitants. First up you see a fresh water stingray, a scary 27-foot Moray Eel, and the black and white striped Convict Fish who spend their adult lives hidden in coral tunnels. Then you enter the area called "Grass Flats, Reef Fish & Jellies," a bonanza of all sorts of beautiful reef dwellers. A favorite are the upside down jellyfish that produce algae with their tentacles.

Magical Marco Island Print E-mail

Long Island Boating World

March 2018

Off the southern tip of Marco Island sits the mysterious Star Wars-style, igloo-like Cape Romano Dome House. Some locals suggest it was the community home of a secret cult, while others claim the structures had been left behind by extra-terrestrials.Marco CapeRomano

A retired oil producing magnate and inventor, Bob Lee built it in 1981. His idea was a completely self-sufficient and eco-friendly home. For many years the rounded, concrete domes were able to sustain hurricane winds, having taken little damage from a series of powerful storms.

Not anymore. Last September Hurricane Irma caused two of the original six domes to collapse. A Naples, Fla.-based nonprofit Oceans for Youth is seeking to raise funds to load the structures onto barges and sink them further off the coast, creating a unique reef which would be home to thousands of sea creatures.

Irma made its second Florida landfall as a Cat-3 storm at Marco Island, a picture perfect resort community with a five mile sugary white beach. It was turned into a mess-- uprooted trees, downed power lines and debris as far as the eye could see. The good news was that physical damage to the tourism infrastructure was not as bad as it might have been. Within a month or so utilities were back up and running and the county was collecting debris, post-haste. The message trumpeted to visitors: "We're open for business."

Spotting the Rarest Whale in the World Print E-mail

 Delaware County Times

January 15, 2018

Thar she blows!6 RightWhale_FFWCC

Each year from December through March a remarkable event takes place. North Atlantic right whales can be sighted in the warm, calm coastal waters off the Atlantic coast between Jacksonville and Sebastian Inlet, Fla. to give birth and nurse their calves. In the spring they head back home to feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy between Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Reaching lengths of up to 55 feet and weighing from 40 to 70 tons, some of the creatures come within a couple hundred yards of the beach. Mothers can be seen schooling newborn calves, while juvenile whales play nearby. One of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, North Atlantic right whales are mostly black with whitish patches on the head and belly. They have a graceful and deeply notched "fluke," or tail. Two blowholes on the top of its head give a distinctive V-shape to a right whale's spout.

Scientists estimate that there are only 490 right whales in existence, but thanks to a decade's work of volunteer whale watchers, that number is on the rise. Protection and stewardship of these mammoth creatures is essential.

Relaxing is Easy on Longboat Key Print E-mail

Long Island Boating World Magazine

February 2018

We arrived at the Zota Beach Resort two days before Christmas for a holiday stay. The gulf-front getaway is uber-modern and sleek, set in a secluded location surrounded by tropical blooms, lush foliage and swaying palm trees. A local gem in the charming little town of Longboat Key, Zota has been making waves since its opening in late June.Zota 1

What's up with the name? Historians believe that early Spanish explorers manning longboats spotted the white sands on the barrier island from a distance and were reminded of the Sahara Desert, thus "Zara." The native origin of the word Zota is blue waters, so the area became known as Zara Zota-- "the Sahara by the blue waters." Over time the indigenous name evolved to become Sarasota.

Longboat Key (LBK) plays the name game, too. It comes from the vessels manned by Spanish explorers such as Juan Anasco-- a scout for Hernando de Soto in 1539-- who traveled through the north pass of the barrier island. Much later Confederate soldier and carpenter Thomas Mann was awarded a homestead grant of 144 acres on both the north and south ends of the island, settling here in 1891. Mann sold his property around the turn of the century for $500.

LBK offers both a scenic and elegant environment. It boasts the rare combination of beautiful beaches and renowned visual and performing arts culture in Sarasota just to the south. Less than 11 miles in length and no more than a mile across in its widest point, manatees and dolphins play just offshore. Great egrets and great blue herons fish along the beach, while cormorants, ospreys and pelicans wheel overhead, before swooping down into the turquoise Gulf in search of a meal.

Easy Going Pass-a-Grille Print E-mail

Florida Today

January 7, 2018

“See you at Sunset!” It's a frequent greeting in Pass-a-Grille. Folks gather at the Paradise Grille to watch the glowing red-orange sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico horizon. One lucky guest is chosen to ring a ceremonial ship's bell, exactly 15 times. Over the past two decades, seven thousand people from around the world have rung the bell and signed their names and remembrances in the guest books, now on their 20th volume.Pass 6

Call it a perfect snapshot of the sleepy little Keys-type community populated as much by pelicans as people. Occupying the narrow southern tail of St. Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille is nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Ciega Bay. The quirky beach town is a mere thirty one blocks long and one block wide.

Each morning wiry kids with spinning rods in their hands line the seawall on the east side of the town. On gusty days its broad sugary white beaches play host to kite boarders. Kayakers and paddle boarders navigate the Gulf waters most afternoons. Loggerhead sea turtles nest here during the summer.

History says Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez landed at Pass-a-Grille in 1528. The town is named for the 18th century "grilleurs" who would stop on the beaches here to smoke their day’s catch in order to preserve it for the trip home. It is mostly a residential community of well-preserved clapboard cottages, cozy inns, and an occasional waterfront mansion. Old Florida palms line the streets, which offer a collection of off-beat shops, art galleries, and waterfront restaurants.

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