Thursday 21 July 2005



Full Moon!


Today's low tide would not occur until 8:55 PM, so I decided to sleep in, and then go shelling all day, anyway.  The itinerary would include Bowman's Beach, the public beach on Captiva, and, of course, the Lighthouse Beach for the low tide itself.  On the way out to Bowman's, I stopped in at Jerry's and got something for lunch.


Of course, I'd read about it, but still could not believe my eyes as I drove down Bowman's Beach Road, approaching the Condos at Blind Pass and the entrance to the public beach.  Where are the trees?  Where is the jungle?  I looked up briefly at the corner unit that I'd rented a couple of summers ago.  The big tree right outside the lanais is still there and doing fine, but there's sky where the rest of the jungle used to be.  As I turned into the parking lot for the beach, more shock - why, there's hardly a stitch of shade to park under!  I wove my way through the cars to the back lot, where I knew there was a little oasis of palms that had probably survived.  Yep, about a dozen or so parking spots in a reasonable amount of shade.  I claimed one of them, paid the fee, applied a wad of sunscreen, and headed off to hit the beach.


The waves were just nasty!  Bowman's is not a calm beach under normal circumstances, but today's surf was especially ruthless.  I noted that there was a HUGE line of shells just at the break point, churning up with each crashing wave, and thought it better to stay out of that - standing in all that is a good way to get your shins sliced up.  Besides, there was plenty being tossed up onto the shore, so I decided to patrol just above the surf line, dodging in now and then for a random scoop, scurrying away from the vicious approaching breakers before they could get me.  I'd stand on the shore, out of harm's way (so I thought), to examine the contents of the net, and then go in for another scoop.  In this manner, I found some smaller stuff, but also a couple of mature fighting conchs and a whole buttercup clam as well.


It was during one such examination interlude that I caught some trouble.  I thought I was standing in a safe spot, well above where the waves were crashing.  I wasn't looking at the surf, I was looking in the net.  I didn't see the HUGE wave, nor did I see the kid on the boogie board about to wipe out, until it was too late.  Someone yelled, and I looked up and before I knew it, I was in water above my knees, and he and the wave had simultaneously crashed into me, knocking me off balance.


Several years ago, when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis (thank you, chemo therapy), I went through some physical therapy to show me how to exercise properly.  This included balance training, and the therapist (Betty the Bone Nazi) lecturing me on what to do when threatened with a fall.  I was cautioned to make every effort not to fall on my backside, for fear of breaking a hip, and put through all sorts of balance drills and fall scenarios.  So, in that split second when I realized that the kid on the boogie board was totally out of control, and that he was going to take me out, I deliberately fell FORWARD, onto my knees.




I had difficulty getting up, due to the rip tide that was both pushing and pulling me at the same time.  I could not believe that a moment ago, I was standing on "safe" beach above the surf line, and now I was IN the water and caught in a rip tide.  I used the shell net stick to brace myself, and was half-way up when BAM!  Another humongous wave sent me sprawling again.


By this time, the kid's parents had come running, and the father was shouting, "Are you ok?" while picking me up out of the rip tide.  As I stood, I looked down.  Instead of knees, I saw shredded chopped meat.


Ok, we've had enough of Bowman's Beach for today.  I collected my wits, thanked the man, and limped off up the beach back to the parking lot.  Amazingly, throughout the whole ordeal, the shell net on a stick was still clutched in my right hand, and the mesh bag and car keys were still dangling from my left wrist!  But I had sand and bits of shells EVERYWHERE - all up and down my legs, inside my suit, inside my water shoes....I pit-stopped at the showers to rinse it all off, and gave the shells a rinsing, too.  Back at the car, I fished out the tea tree oil and applied it liberally to my knees, particularly the left one.  The right one was more of a bleeder, but actually had less damage.  The left, however, was truly something you'd expect to see in the butcher's display case.  Yuk.  I knew that wading in the salt water would be good for my boo boos, but until I got to the next (hopefully, calmer!) beach, the tea tree oil could work it's magic toward healing.


Moral of the story: no more Bowman's Beach on the day of the Full Moon!


I'd originally intended to hit Turner Beach, but that's even rougher surf than Bowman's, generally.  In no mood, I headed right over Blind Pass and didn't even look at Turner.  On Captiva, I headed down to the Mucky Duck, to see if there was any place to park and wave at the beach cam - someone from the Sanibel forum might be looking.  Alas, there was no public parking available down that way.  Even the Mucky Duck's parking lot, which would be off limits anyway (unless I was planning to eat there), was full.  So I consulted the map, figured out where the public beach was located, and headed that way.


Mercifully, someone was leaving as I pulled into the parking lot.  Unmercifully, it wasn't one of the shady spots, but we take what we can get in these situations.  The parking permit machine was broken - it would not give tickets.  A woman said she was going to put a note to that effect on her dashboard, and also call the town to report it, so I wrote my own note, too, reapplied my sunscreen, and headed onto the beach.


Ah, a calmer beach!  I'd never been here before.  It was reasonably peaceful, and there were some tidal pools pretty far up beach from the surf, so I went to check those out.  It seems there are no real "dunes" on this beach, and the tidal pools were pretty much in the back yard of some private homes, decorated with "KEEP OUT!" signs sprinkled here and there.


Well!  This place was cockle and paper fig heaven.  Before this trip, I'd only ever found broken figs, and now, between my first night at the Lighthouse Beach, and today, I'd collected quite a few.  The cockles were big and delightful.  Oddly, there weren't many people shelling at this beach, and I was pretty surprised that these nice shells were just sitting there in the tidal pool, waiting for me to pick them up.  I mean, it was afternoon already, and I would have expected all the good stuff to be gone by now, but apparently, that wasn't the case here.  One big cockle had a small hole in it, but it was huge, and it would look just fine in a wicker basket with other stuff piled on to hide the hole, so I declared it a keeper.


No foot wash or showers here, that I could see, so I stuffed the shells into one of the plastic grocery bags I was keeping in the trunk for this purpose, to keep the sand from getting all over the car, and headed back to Sanibel to get something to eat at the deli.  I parked under a big tree near the liquor store and ate my sandwich and drank my Lipton's iced tea, and then headed out to the Lighthouse Beach.


The pylon area was pretty spent - nothing much left there, I'd picked it clean, I guess!  I did walk away from there with a pretty big moon snail, though.  It's finish was worn clean, but it was big and unharmed, and a little baby oil would bring back the colors, once I got it home. 


By now it was raining lightly, and I came upon Mrs. Nicer from yesterday, sitting in the shallows, examining handfuls of smaller stuff.  I greeted her, and she showed me some of the things she'd found.  Her friend, Mrs. Nice, was prowling around up by the driftwood, and we waved to each other.  None of the tween/teen Nicettes were present, but there were plenty of other people of all shapes, sizes, and ages, strolling the beach.  A bit beyond the driftwood, a little more toward the lighthouse, was a huge area with lots of small stuff, and I crouched down and began to collect things.  I found a bunch juvenile fighting conchs, moon snails (how apropos!), whelks, and a nice grouping of various-sized tulips in that area.  While I was working that section, I overheard an older woman say to her companion, "I don't care, they're just crabs.  Out, crab!  Find a new home!".   Hmmm, seems Mrs. Bad has a sister in crime - Mrs. Badder?


Directly in front of the lighthouse, an enormous tidal pool had formed, and it was heavily populated.  Hundreds of crabs in their borrowed houses, live fighting conchs, and even a few live giant cockles were making an appearance.  And there were tons of fighting conch shells in this area, too - again, so many that you didn't know where to start.  There were lots of families with little kids playing in the tidal pool, ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over the crabs scuttling to and fro, collecting things, and generally playing and having a good time.  Another big live king's crown was spotted, bigger than the one with which Mrs. Bad had absconded the night before, which caused much excitement among the younger set. 


Splash!  Splash, splash, SPLASH!  People started exclaiming and crying out, and I looked up in time to see a dolphin, very close to the shore, leap up and make a dive into the water.  He had at least two companions, and it seemed the more they realized people were watching them, the more they jumped!


Although there was still a lot of time before the actual low tide, I felt I'd done enough collecting for the day - I'd been to three different beaches, and realized I had a lot of shells to wash that evening.  I also wanted to get out of my salty wet clothes and into the shower, and do something about my wounded knees.  As I turned to go up to the foot wash spigot, I spied a very nice macaroni and cheese shell in the tidal pool, and almost passed it by, assuming it was occupied by a crab.  But I turned back and picked it up, and it was empty!  Now, is that karma, or what?  I put back the one I'd found yesterday evening, and now I was being rewarded - too cool!  I drove back to the hotel very happy, set the shells a-soaking, and finally got that shower I so desperately needed.


A very good day's haul - wanna see? 


Thursday's Full Moon Haul

Top group - Bowman's Beach

Middle group - Captiva public beach

Bottom group - Lighthouse Beach

Cockle from Captiva beach

Small hole, but it's the biggest cockle I've ever found, I think.

Bowman's Beach haul

Here's a closer shot of what little I'd found at Bowman's Beach before my wipeout

Captiva public beach haul

Closer shot of the stuff from the Captiva public beach

Lighthouse Beach haul

Another amazing haul from the Lighthouse Beach!





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