Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stingy thingys

“All creatures great and small . . . the Lord God made them all.”

Now I hesitate to second-guess Our Creator, but what was He (She?) thinking when the concept of sharks, no-see-ums, and jellyfish popped into His (Her?) mind?

James Herritot’s book (and subsequent TV series) focused on great and small creatures, and Samuel Coleridge also used this phrase In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Neither must have tried to enjoy a sunset near mangroves keys on a quiet night, or enjoyed snorkeling.

We and another young couple, who had never snorkeled before, took off on a chartered motor catamaran one day in Key West to Looe Key for a fine day of snorkeling. It was one of the few warm days (in the 70s) that we’ve had, but windier than we’d prefer. We planned to wear our shorty wetsuits, and top them with the diveboat’s heavier ones for extra warmth. The water temp was only 72 degrees. Yellow vests are required for visibility.

I incorrectly assumed that a “Key” was above water level. Not so. It can also refer to a reef. When 15 knot winds blow water over your snorkel air intake tube (as happened to me as I was back-tracking from the docile nurse sharks basking on the bottom 20’ below), that is NOT the relaxing snorkeling experience I enjoy.

As I sputtered and coughed, Pete advised me to put my tube back in my mouth and try to relax. That’s when the 6’ hammerhead (photo by Google) swam by beneath us. Relax? Ya gotta be kidding. I promptly sputtered and kicked my way back to the boat. Lunch was a good choice then. Even the boat crew and captain said they had never seen a hammerhead shark in the wild before. Perhaps that was just good marketing, but there was little snorkeling after that. A few juvenile Man o’ War tentacles found the arms of the young couple too. Vinegar to the rescue!

We witnessed a plethora (I’ve overused “googads”) of Portuguese man o’ wars floating ominously on the turquoise waters of Hawk Channel as we motor-sailed from Key West to Marathon yesterday. They supposedly have no means of transportation and depend on the wind to carry them (it seems to prime swimming spots and beaches!). I’ve seen them on Hilton Head and Ocean City beaches, but never in the thousands like this. The adult ones were almost fluorescent as their oval-shaped bodies float above the surface. The little dudes (I don’t think they have dudettes) are small whitish blobs with shorter tentacles, but they are in even larger supply than the older ones.

Shortly after we anchored back in Boot Key Harbor, a lovely sunset arrived, and so did the no-see-ums (real name Ceratopogonidae, also called biting midge or punky) that apparently have extremely sharp biting apparati. No-see-ums wake up when the sun goes down and are most active at dawn and dusk. Citronella candles kinda work, and they're cetainly better than spraying yourself with DEET. That would require a shower before sleeping. Thank you, Lord God, for creating man and woman, who then created screens to deter most of them, and duct tape for blotting up those who got into our cabin earlier.

As you can see, in my Boot Key Harbor photo, the anchorage is a VERY crowded one, but gorgeous at sunset.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that gorgeous sunset picture! It snowed AGAIN yesterday and last night.