Luke grabbed this shot of me yesterday out at “The Street” in AMI. I like it for the perspective and because it shows how beautiful the water and waves around Tampa Bay can be. Normally, I would be riding a shortboard in conditions like this, but with mine in the shop, I decided to give the longboard a try. It can be pretty exciting trying to maneuver a longboard in steep, shallow waves. I got worked a few times, but I also managed to pull into some hollow barrels. I’ve said it already, but what a great season of surfing on the Gulf this winter/spring. Now to get rid of some junk in the trunk…
Just a few hours south of Tampa, Florida is North Captiva Island.
View North Captiva in a larger map
It gets the name from both its captive beauty, and the fact that it served as a prison for female “captives” held for ransom by pirates.
Accessible only by boat or private plan, this half-mile wide island offers roughly 5 miles of pristine white sand beaches to explore, two-thirds of which border a 700-acre state land preserve. Pay to park your car at Pine Island Marina and get ready to leave it all behind.
There is phenomenal tarpon, redfish, snook, and trout fishing in the waters surrounding the island, and there are several charter fishing operations to serve your needs. The abundance of seafood served the Calusa Indians long before it supported a thriving fishing operation, which made use of fish houses to ice down their catch. Those that have fallen out of family ownership now belong to the state of Florida and are considered historical buildings.
A couple of restaurants do serve food, but it is recommended that your bring a sufficient load of supplies. Because there are no cars allowed, golf carts serve as the primary source of transportation.
Of course, a good old rusty bike will do the trick, and there are plenty of other activities including sea kayaking. If you go early in the morning the likelihood of seeing manatees and dolphins are very high.
Whatever you do, just make sure to find some time to discover your subtle side. Captivity awaits!
I’ve lived in Tampa for nearly two years now, and I must confess that during that time I’ve never taken the initiative to go to a Tampa Bay Rays game. So, when I got the invite from a friend it was the only push I needed. It was a good game, and the Rays walloped the Angels 11-1.
I’m always envious of the sports photographers with their huge and expensive lenses. I can’t compete on that level, so instead I took a low res photo from my point-and-shoot and had some fun with it (see below).
To do this yourself with, for instance, a landscape of a city or a mountain range, all you have to do is the following:
How to Create Spheres in Photoshop:
- Start off with a wide panorama such as the above. If you can use one that is full 360 degrees that is even better.
- Under Image Size, uncheck Constrain Proportions, and match the Height with the Width.
- Rotate the image 180 degrees.
- Under Filter, choose Distort, Polar Coordinates, and in the resulting dialogue box choose the “Rectangular Polar Setting.”
- Use the Clone Stamp and/or Burn tool to clean up the line where the two sides join.
- In the case of this example, I also used the Marquee tool to select the area of the sphere I wanted, then did Select – Inverse to get rid of the exterior part of the image. Remember, you’ll need to Unlock the Layer to get a Transparent Layer.
- As you can see, I also added an additional Layer of baseball threads.
Comment on this post if you ever end up doing something fun with these simple Photoshop tricks.
If you look carefully at this mural (click to enlarge) that is painted on the side of a building in downtown Tampa, you can see that it embodies much of the personality of the city. I hope the artist does not mind that I took a picture of it and posted it here.
Within the lettering you will see the Sulphur Springs Tower, Gasparilla Festival, Henry B. Plant Museum, Ybor City, and representation of the natural environment and countless springs, rivers, and bays that surround the City. Since I moved to Tampa, I have done my best to try and encapsulate the diversity of the area with the Sea Kayaking Tampa, Florida post bringing in a surprising amount of traffic to my website. Of course, there is much more.
My assumption is that very few people outside of Florida think not only about the agricultural production in the State, but also the ranching and equestrianism that goes along with it. Starting with the Spanish, horses have played an integral role in the development of Florida. Not far from where I live, Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders camped for several days in preparation for the Spanish American War. The City of Tampa has not forgotten, for you will find horses featured at the Tampa Bay History Center. Likewise, this statue is just down the street from me on Bayshore.
Horses are iconic symbols that have played a role in my professional life, and in the past two states I have lived in – Nevada and Florida. In my work with Twelve Horses, I have been fortunate to learn more about the history of horses in America, and the challenges they face. It is a fascinating story that is still being written.
The fact that Cocoa Beach is a mere 2 hour drive from Tampa, Florida can be a life saver for me. I get a little grumpy with all the flatness as far as the eye can see, so it sooths me when I spy a little natural variation on the horizon line. This generally comes in the form of waves. If the GC (Gulf Coast) isn’t kicking it up a notch with a strong windswell or a hurricane, my best bet is to Go East, Son!
My usual stomping ground is Sebastian Inlet, and this past weekend did not disappoint. Great waves on Saturday eased the beast within so much that I put my strategic mind to work and scheduled a surfing lesson for my little Shred Betty in Cocoa Beach on Sunday.
I hit up the guys at Cocoa Beach Surf Camp, and they lined us up with a skilled instructor named Wes. The waves on Sunday had dropped in size and were perfect for a surf lesson. Wes started her out with the fundamentals, and before long she was tearing it up. You can see the Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Center launch pads in the background just above Shred Betty.
I’ve been surfing since I was 12 years of age, so I hope it becomes a hobby of hers that we can share for a lifetime to come. Meanwhile, I watched the little man and took pictures on the Cocoa Beach Pier. Apparently Hawaiians invaded Florida at some point?
It’s not even April yet, so here is hoping for more waves to come. Then it is the summer doldrums. Dare I say hurricanes? Bring it!
If you are interested in visiting Anna Maria Island there is decent write up on the location in Southern Living. Otherwise, here is a little summation of this mellow enclave on the Gulf of Mexico.
Think I’ll go for a bike ride.
There are certain people who are absolutely fanatical when it comes to their fascinations with dolphins. I call these special treats, Porpoise People. And trust me, these unique individuals are by no means exclusive to beach communities. I can’t tell you how many times I have been driving through some little poedunk mountain town, East or West, and marveled at some maniac’s yard centered around a giant porpoise fountain. Inevitably, they also have a mailbox fashioned into a life size replica of a dolphin, and guaranteed, if you enter their house you’ll find china dolphins prominently placed, collector dolphin plates affixed to the wall, and quite possibly some ridiculously large and expensive statue made out of metal or crystal that the dog is completely afraid of.
What is up with this obsession?
Just the other day I was out paddling my sea kayak off the coast of Honeymoon Island, and a number of them surrounded me while hunting for food. The way they wrangle fish is so dramatic and fun to watch that one can’t help but feel a little jealous. It would be like getting up from the dinner table and doing a triple back flip followed by a few smacks of your ass on the table just for good measure.
I have to admit there is something captivating about these creatures. Dolphin’s actions wreak of intelligence, their physical abilities are astounding, and they seem so damn happy and carefree one would think they had the option to be human but decided, ‘Nah, I’m cool here, thanks.”
So, maybe I am a little understanding of Porpoise People. At least they don’t surround themselves with idols they eat like those crazy Pig People…
Sure, family is important, but if you are tempted to avoid all the hassles of baking a bird and packing on more calories than nature ever intended, you might just think about disappearing down to the Florida Keys for Thanksgiving. That is exactly what I chose to do this year, and a light suitcase containing no ancestral commitments was all the trip required.
I’ve been to Key West before, and while I enjoy a vibrant downtown scene and the anthropology of people watching, I wasn’t really interested in that being the focal point of the trip. My primary goal was to hide out, maybe get a little fishing in, and set aside plenty of time to relax and catch up on the stack of books I’d built up. While planning, I systematically went through every Key in the chain using Google Maps to find the ideal spot, and I kept coming back to Islamorada. It is close enough to civilization to make driving or flying a snap, but far enough in latitude to give you the island feel you’re really needing. Plus, it just so happens to be an epicenter for excellent backcountry and deep water fishing. If Jimmie Albright were still around, he’d tell you himself. But more of that in a minute. First thing to do is to get a solid place to sleep.
I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of brat when it comes to quality accommodations, especially on my precious vacation. I’d rather save money eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just so I can blow it all on a decent place to rest. No, I don’t want to “Conch on In,” and there is nothing more annoying or distasteful to me than some cheesy motel-hotel bespeckled with expired sea creatures and fishing net decor. I want nice ambiance, good thread counts, and quality customer service.
Maybe it was the article in Conde Naste, or the fact that they have a nice website, but I kept coming back to Casa Morada. Owned by three women with hotel management experience, they’ve taken the time to construct an experience beyond just heads-in-beds. It’s not ridiculous, in other words, don’t expect a valet to polish your ass to a shimmering hue, but they do offer excellent customer service and plenty of attention to the little details. The rooms are well-styled with views of the water, beautiful landscaping, and there are a myriad of little things like complimentary breakfast, yoga, web access, bottles of water, movies, or even just a cool hand-delivered scented towel by the pool, to accentuate your personal enjoyment and help you get in the groove.
There is plenty to do if you need to DO something. Take advantage of their bocce court, sunset sails, snorkeling equipment, sea kayaks, and close proximity to all the restaurants and bars you would want to visit in Islamorada. If you want to leave there are several beautiful state parks close by, and I must admit I did end up driving down to Key West one day just to pay homage to Ernest Hemingway – it is approximately a 2-hour drive one way. But the other big thing you should do at Casa Morada is get picked up right at the property for a charter fishing trip.
November is an interesting time for the Keys when it comes to catching fish. Tarpon and Bonefish are pretty slow, but there are plenty of Red Fish and Snook to be had. Out beyond the reef the Sailfish are coming in to play, and there’s always the chance for a Dolphin. Just depends on what you’re interested in. For me, well, I grew up doing plenty of inshore fishing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, in fact, I look forward to going back down to the Keys to do just that. But for this trip it occurred to me that I had never before caught a Sailfish.
There are a lot of guides down in the Keys who run 40+ foot yachts with tuna towers. They do this so they can carry a crew and sight fish from overhead. The problem with this is you are going to pay around $1200/day plus any tips you decide to toss around. Beyond the expense, this route can be a little unnecessary unless you need to run really far offshore. What is so great about the Keys is that you don’t have to motor for miles to get into some really good offshore fishing.
Personally, I would rather run with a guy on a smaller boat, fish with lighter tackle, and be a part of the process. That’s exactly what I got from Chris Barron at Stray Cat Charters. He’s been guiding down in Islamorada and the Keys for 30 years. Needless to say, he knows what he is doing. We were monitoring the success of many of the other big boats over CB radio while were trolled about, and most of them were having little to no success. But Chris hooked it up, and I had a ball fighting a beautiful sailfish that took me full circle around the entire circumference of the boat, putting up an impressive display.
Even though it was a slow morning, Chris took the extra time to troll closer to the reef. Before I realized it, he was turning the boat into a shower of Ballyhoo, and moments later there was the heart-starting pop of the line and the sound of the drag reeling off to the stubborn pull of a Dolphin.
Good eats are the only fundamental functions of a good vacation that are a little lacking in Islamorada. Beyond the good food at Casa Morada, my favorite bang for the buck was Morada Bay Restaurant. Even though I had to send my lobster bisque back, the rest of my meal was satisfactory and the ambiance was great. If you head to Key West for the day and are a fan of oysters on the half shell, pop in to Pepe’s Cafe. Established in 1909, Pepe’s garners the title of “oldest restaurant in town.” To me that says they’ve had plenty of practice. The oysters are shucked only after you order them, so you are guaranteed they will be plump and delicious.
It is a difficult thing for me to do, but I hope you find time to simply relax and read. Ernest Hemingway once said, “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened.” If you are interested in some offbeat Florida-centric humor, check out Carl Hiassen’s, Skinny Dip. If history is your game you might find Les Standiford’s, Last Train to Paradise interesting, for it deals with the construction and destruction of Henry Flagler’s railroad, which once connected to the Keys to the capital markets of America.
So next year, save a turkey and come back home a little sun-kissed and satiated from some time in the southern climes. You’ll catch up with your folks over Christmas…or Easter…or some time soon. Better yet, have them meet you there.