"Egret" N4674 - Scott and Mary Flanders
Ed. note: On February 10, 2011, Scott and Mary Flanders, on board their Nordhavn 46, Egret,arrived in the Canary Islands. In doing so, Egret became the eighth Nordhavn to circumnavigate the globe. It had been four years, five months since the couple departed Gran Canaria, intent on seeing as much of the earth as possible, although not necessarily with an end goal to circle the globe. Voyage of Egret do cuments the Flanders’ entire trip, an endless adventure that has put them intouch with the most fabulous places and interesting people. Much route planning and forecasting was required in order to get to some of their ports of call. But the days of detailed planning areover…fornow.“Egret” is now back in Fort Lauderdale, the place the couple called home for so many years, and, ironically, the starting point of their world wide cruising escapade that began withthe Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004. They currently travel hither and yon, sometimes by boat,sometimes not.Here, the latest update from the Flanders as they keep us continually apprised.
December 30, 2014
Position: 24 57.92N 80 34.14W Slip L46, Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys.
Hello mis amigos, a few times during the past couple weeks we had to resort to jeans and long sleeve shirts here in Islamorada, but for the most part it is tee shirts and shorts. Of course this is just a cheap shot for those living in the frozen wastelands farther north and another reason for you to join The Life, get outta Dodge and join the snowbirds following the sun north and south in their little white fiberglass ship of choice. Yea I know, you have football over the holidays but that’s just other’s deeds, not yours. Anyhow……….let’s move on to what could be.
Life in the marina is good. We have weekly pot-lucks on Thursday evenings including the past Thursday - Christmas, for those who didn’t return to wherever. The Christmas pot-luck had more folks than usual. Mary fixed a lobster pot full of steamed veggies and had a side of more health food; eggnog mixed with a splash of rum. The nog pitchers came home dry. ^%#@#%^ dockies don’t leave anything. And then there was ham, turkey, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, silly veggie plates, various potato and pasta salads, cookies and cakes and so on. It was a good evening.
Mary and I have been taking skiff trips into the backcountry (Florida Bay) to do a little bird shooting. Of course we are using cameras, there is no place in our lives for killing anything unless it swims and we can eat it like this fellow. We followed this young great blue heron for perhaps a mile before it took to the mangroves and stayed put. It didn't really know what to do with the needlefish but it didn't want to let it go. So it sat with its head way back counterbalancing the weight of the fish when MS nailed it with her new toy. Also see how it is help to hold the needlefish's head in place with it's tongue.
I began this posting early in the morning and Mary is still down below with her cuppa in bed* so I’ll just ramble a bit.
*For years, Mary got up first and made me breakfast before I left for work including the early years when she wasn’t working and Jr was a little rug rat. Since we have been cruising, I have been taking MS morning coffee in bed no matter where we are including at sea. It’s only fair. We both enjoy this little ritual to begin the day.
Mary and I obviously enjoy photography. It gives us something to fill the day while on hikes, dinghy/skiff trips to explore something new or simply be on the water. Photography to us isn’t selfies with a cell phone. That’s fine but it isn’t photography. Real photography isn’t easy. What makes it difficult is the constantly moving target of personal standards that never seem to end. Modern digital cameras have a ‘motor drive’ or continuous exposure so it’s easy to ‘spray and pray’, ‘hose and hope’, and so on. This approach seldom, if ever works. After a while you begin seeing shapes, light, leading lines and so on to compose an image something more interesting to others than yourselves trying to document the day. This takes time. Nothing is more boring than OPP’s – other people’s pictures – unless there is something to hold your eye in the image.
Along with all this is a boy trap of Stuff. Most ladies are smarter; all they want to do is push the button. Guys want to know Everything, AND they know in their hearts if they get the latest – latest, their images will improve. So we boys become diseased with Want, not necessarily Need. I don’t know how I can even write these words because in the past week or so, I have been melting major plastic for stuff we Need.
Here’s an example of how it works and my justification for the recent melt job. A couple years ago we threw our usual conservative caution out the pilothouse door and bought a lens that cost as much as a used car. I don’t remember the occasion but it was justified for sure. (Actually I should say I – Mary wasn’t part of the decision, she just went along with it)
Because our buddy loaned us a flats skiff, we have been making long treks into the backcountry as we mentioned. We worked at it and ended up with some killer shots that mean something to us. Mary took a high percentage of those like this one because she usually sits on the bow casting platform with MY giant lens and I run the boat. When she runs the boat and I have the giant lens, her longest lens doesn’t have the reach to get The Shot. So it went. OK, so the other day we were shooting a rare happening when a small heron was dancing in shallow water right before dark scaring up critters. I laid the giant lens on the gunwale and shot low thru the mangrove shoots and got two killer shots representing what we saw from a perspective of a foot over the water. The only problem is, even the big lens didn’t have the reach so we had to crop the image considerably, just like Mary’s longest lens while we are riding around. There is a cure. Camera companies make what is called teleconverters in powers of 1.4 - 40% more reach, 1.7 and 2.0. Each increasing power more compromises shutter speed in low light as well as image quality on the top end, however it is certainly less expensive than another lens so it’s acceptable, sorta like cheap but good enough wine except teleconverters aren’t cheap. Nothing to do with quality camera gear is cheap.
OK, so we got this 1.4 dealie we need and put it on Mary’s longest lens to give it a go. Of course she won’t give it back. If I even get near her camera she gets all squinty eyed. I Need It so you know what that means? Yep, another 1.4 dealie is on it’s way and another BU* up in smoke. And there are a couple new tripods in route. The best of the best but that’s another smoke story. And Nikon is supposed to announce a new 300mm lens soon. More smoke………..
*If you are a newbie to cruising and don’t know what a BU is, you will soon learn. A BU = 1k = $1,000 U.S.P. = U.S. Peso.
Photography gear is sorta like boats. If you buy a boat based on your skills and perceived cruising destinations at the time, before long you have outgrown your latest purchase. Broker fees and depreciation wear you out financially and mentally as you progress thru your boating years. So it makes sense to buy what does the deal no matter what your skill levels are at the time because certainly you will improve and as you do, it is natural to expand your horizons. If you expand enough, a silly girl boat won’t cut it. If you buy a silly girl camera with a kit lens and get off the dock, it doesn’t cut it for long. You get the picture.
And now boat Stuff. Boat Stuff is much like camera stuff. Want and need are two different things. Egret’s years and miles passed safely and comfortably using laptops with navigation software and electronic charts for navigation. It worked every day over every nautical mile without a single failure along the way. You can’t improve on zero failures or zero navigation issues. 75k, 100k or 250k in electronics won’t improve the failure rate or navigation issues over Egret’s experience.
The cruising forums used to drive me crazy. If we contributed something about actual cruising, the thread stopped. Every time. If someone posted something you can BUY, the thread went forever. A couple times when the forum was slow, I would throw out electronics or anchors and SAY I was stirring the pot. It was like throwing meat to sharks. Off they would go in a screaming flurry of want and opinion and didn’t care, knowing they were baited.
The bottom line is, I’m speaking with a forked tongue. We buy camera stuff because we want it, we are comfortable with our electronics because it works every time. So I suppose I should get over the boating forums because who are we to talk? Eh?
For years one of my big hobbies was fishing. Fishing stuff is sorta like boys with cameras and boats. We have at least 20 rod and reels aboard plus lotsa stuff in drawers and a dock box. See how it goes? Anyhow, my buddy Kal (who is a big time fisherman and how we met) arrived in Plantation Yacht Harbor with N46 Anita Cay. His sweetie and their Boat Kid (4 ½ ) did an overnighter from Ft Lauderdale to Islamorada. K&A timed their arrival at the head pin of Snake Creek, where Egret spent a bit of time exploring the bottom, on a high rising tide so there was no drama. So the next day, Kal and I went backcountry fishing in the Flamingo area at the bottom of the state.
Backcountry fishing is different than nearly any other form of fishing. We use purpose built shallow water skiffs to sight fish*. (*We see the fish we are trying to catch) Typically, the angler is on the bow and the other is standing on a poling platform over the engine. The engine is trimmed up and the person on the platform poles the boat along slowly using a 21 to 24’ carbon fiber pushpole. Because the person on the stick is higher, spotting fish is easier and they direct the angler to the fish. When redfishing like at the time, we follow the tide rise into the flats poling in around 8 to 10”of water. Kal is an expert caster, much more so than you know who, so he connected on two of the legitimate shots he got, the first a large sea trout and the second, a nice redfish. I didn’t get many shots, but one in particular was blown to a bad cast. Oh well, it was still a great day on the water. So that night Kal made a big pot of fruita del mar – fruit of the ocean – with marinara sauce loaded with fresh redfish, Bahamian lobster and veggies over pasta. Ho hum, does it get any better?
Here’s the anatomy of a flats skiff. In the photo you can see the poling platform over the engine, the raised bow casting platform to give the angler better visibility and a small Garmin chart plotter with a depth finder. The push pole, 24’ in this case, is resting in a holder on the platform.
We had a friendly manatee visit the marina the other day. A marina boater put a garden hose over and Ms manatee stopped by for a drink. She drankand drank for a half hour while we were hanging around with a group of yachties. After I left and Mary stayed, she said the local boater used the hose to turn her over so she laid on her back using her flippers to hold the hose in her mouth. Pretty cool.
We have some news. Mary and I will be in two presentations at the upcoming Trawlerfest in Riviera Beach, Florida (RB is next to West Palm Beach on the south east coast of Fla). The Trawlerfest dates are January 20th thru the 25th so you still have plenty of time to make reservations. (Check out the details on the internet) The first talk we participate in is a town meeting - question and answer – sea story discussion with cruising greats, circumnavigator Bruce Kessler, ocean crosser Milt Baker, Peter Swanson – editor of Passagemaker – and Canadian Cheryl Barr who recently wrote the Cruising Guide to Cuba. This is a super worthwhile event because you can write a list of questions before hand and have them answered by folks who have done the deal. I might add, without a venue other than helping the audience.
Mary’s and my presentation will be about Cruising And Photography or something similar. We will discuss the parallels between photography and cruising, what each adds to the other, a little techno for The Boys and so on. It will be fun and we’ll show a few snaps to make you want to go cruising so badly you can’t stand it. This 2 hour seminar could end up costing you more than a few BU’s for Boats and Stuff, however at the same time, it could change your life.
Here’s a perfect example of what can happen. The first summer cruising, Mary and I attended a Trawlerfest in Solomon’s, Maryland. Bruce and Milt were presenters at one of the seminars. Look what happened when we were inspired by these two. The same could happen to you and that is what it is all about. After all these years, Bruce, Milt and the others are still volunteering their time to help the newbies come along. The daily Trawlerfest seminars over these few days are more informative and accurate than years of internet opinion. Trawlerfest is well worth your time if you are considering The Life, even if you already have a boat and are in the early years.
So that’s it from sunny Islamorada. Let’s hope the New Year is the beginning of Your Time and your reward for years of dirt dwelling and toil is a little white fiberglass ship of your choice.
We’ll leave you with a little local Islamorada tradition. Years ago a wheel ditch thru a shallow bank was lined by PVC poles by locals. Along the waysomeone hung a toilet seat off one of the poles. When we had a home here there were perhaps 20 toilet seats lining the cut. These days the wheel ditch is much deeper and lined with toilet seats as you can see in the firstphotograph. Today the ditch is simply called Toilet Seat. The second photo is of an individual seat. It looks like a Schipperke named Katie to me.
Egret is listed for sale on the PAE Brokerage site. She will be on display at the Trawlerfest docks. Mary and I will be aboard most of the time to give boat tours and answer questions folks may have about cruising, whether it is long distance or coastal cruising. Please feel free to stop by.
December 17, 2014
Position: 24 57.92N 80 34.14W Slip L46, Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys.
Hello mis amigos, today we are going to do something different. We are going to lead you along the route of the Ft Lauderdale Winterfest Boat Parade as seen by a native. Mary and I have been spectators by boat a few times in the past and it is NOTHING like being a participant.
Our buddies Kal and Anita have the last N46 built - #82, a flybridge model in great shape. This was m/y Anita Cay’s third year in the Winterfest Parade. The first year was a learning experience. The second they were farther ahead but the DJ wasn’t that good and they didn’t have a theme. This year it all came together, killer decorations, a great theme and a great DJ. Anita Cay was entered in the commercial division under Florida Spine Specialists (a group of fellowship trained, best of the best types). The theme was based on the TV sitcom Cheers, Where Everybody Knows Your Name.
By the numbers.
The 2014 Winterfest Boat Parade was expected to have over 100 entrants; I don’t know the actual number. Anita Cay was number 45.
Entry fee for a private boat is $35.00
The smallest entry we saw was less than 24’
The largest was well over 100’.
1,000,000 live viewers along the route; 250,000 in downtown Ft Lauderdale alone.
8,000,000 TV viewers.
Spectator boats were anchored everywhere along the route out of the navigable waterway.
Almost every private home along the route had backyard parties.
Every commercial eatery along the route was packed.
Every park and public area along the route was packed.
Brightly lit kayakers and paddle boarders were prolific along the route.
So here’s the deal. Winterfest participants are issued an entry number and furnished with 3 large number boards to be placed for judging. Boats begin lining up along the downtown Ft Lauderdale waterfront along New River beginning mid day. Prior to Winterfest the docks were completely cleared. Kal chose to dock early, around 1230 to catch slack high tide. After a quick celebratory beer (celebrating the voyage from his house to downtown FLL – about 1.2nm) it was time for nap chores before things began whipping. First to show was the DJ with All His Stuff including 4 high quality speakers. Then the caterers brought the food and the guests began arriving. In total we had a little over 30 people aboard with some cancellations the last day. The group ran from 3-4 year olds to early teens to the rest up the scale.
Mary was back at A/C’s home organizing transportation to the boat while I wandered the docks before hand to sightsee and snap a few pics. This is what downtown FLL on New River between the Third Avenue Bridge where I took this shot, and theAndrews Avenue Bridge in the distance. This photo was taken late afternoon. The parade didn’t begin until after dark. Anita Cay (AC) is the fourth boat on the left. Here is another photo of AC at the dock. Both of her dinghys were left at home for room to dance n’ spectate, and for the DJ.
Once off the dock following Night Owl , following The Grinches, following the MASH theme sportfish, etc, we first cleared the 3d Ave Bridge. Not far along near the historic Stranahan House* were the judging booths and the lights set up for the TV cameras.
*Frank Stranahan came to FLL in the early 1900’s and set up a trading post to trade with the local Indians and his wife was the first schoolteacher. After a while the Stranahans built this larger house next to the trading post. The Stranahan House was moved 1/4mile to its current location some years ago. The judging station next to the Stranahan House is on the flat area over the U.S. 1, New River Tunnel.
Moving along New River, AC came across the first of the private home parties – on the stbd side – and a typical spectator viewing area on the port side. Soon after this we passed a secret fishing hole, a deep spot at the apex of a turn where New River straightens out for a bit. Next on the left with no photo – we have to pick and choose – is an old home where years ago a car enthusiast built a 3 car garage addition to the living room with large window glass in front of each car. Yes, the cars were in the living room. He routinely swapped cars to give boaters a different car of the month or whatever. My kinda guy. Definitely not a boring lemming. Now we come to Tarpon Bend, a natural, nearly 90 degree bend in the river. It is quite deep in places, over 40’, and the tide rips thru here on the fall. There is a rock ledge that extends to the red 12 marker that you can’t – shouldn’t cross, even in an outboard. Beyond the mark it is deep. The home in the photograph between Sea Owl and the MASH sportfish (glowing green) belongs or used to belong to (don’t know for sure) Mr Alamo Rent A Car. The home is a point lot where Mr Alamo joined at least 5 houses into one with covered walkways between. Each small home kept their original façade and they sorta flow together. Pretty cool.
Directly across Tarpon Bend from Mr Alamo’s home is Cooley Hammock, a FLL park full of oak trees from the 1800’s or before. During the Indian Wars of the 1800’s, a band of Indians massacred the Cooley family at this site. A young Army officer, Major Lauderdale was sent to sort things. FLL got it’s name from this period.
Once around Tarpon Bend is where the DJ quit running the Cheer’s theme music on a continuous loop and got to the good stuff. I’m so dated I don’t know what to call the music. All I know is I LOVED IT as did everyone on the boat and along the waterfront. Nearly every entrant had music, and most of it was nothing more than noise from inadequate speakers. Not AC! We wuz rockin’, like, like big time rockin’. It was sorta like a wake of beat rolling down the Intracoastal. Normal people at backyard parties as well as the spectator areas began moving with the music. They couldn’t help themselves. It was Wild!
Leaving New River proper is the turn south to join the Intracoastal Waterway. Farther ahead is the turn north to join the Intracoastal we’ll mention in a bit. Between the two is a shallow, sandy area* that is a perfect anchorage for smaller boats with little draft. The tall building in blue in the upper left of the photo is Pier 66 restaurant. Pier 66 has a revolving dining area with great views over downtown FLL, Port Everglades and the ocean. To the right of Pier 66 is Lauderdale Marina and behind Lauderdale Marina is First Performance Marina where Egret hauls. Beyond both is Port Everglades and P.E. Inlet to the Atlantic. The Intracoastal continues south beyond the port.
*When I was a kid there was a small mangrove islet in the shallow spot that was dry at any tide. We called it Raccoon Island. The older boys called it Beer Can Island. Hummmm.
Most of the point lots to port had elaborate parties and decorations on the way to Bahia Mar Yachting Center (where the NAR departed for Gibraltar in 2004 and Med Bound in 2007). The point home in this photograph didn’t have the most lights but the coolest display. Imagine what it took to put bulbs on the palm fronds, much less wrap the trees. The large twisty tree to the left with lotsa lights is a Royal Poinciana* tree. Just beyond in the photo is Bahia Mar. Mary and I anchored Proud Mary, our 32 Grand Banks, to the left of this property a couple years for the boat parade. This home is where New River joins the Intracoastal Waterway and turns north.
*When the Royal Poinciana trees bloom with orange flowers, a local sport fish called snook begin snapping. (Told you this was local knowledge)
Passing Bahia Mar to stbd is this FLL mega house – single family home to port . It’s pretty unique, even for FLL. First of all, it was built on SPEC! The home continues to the right out of the photograph. In addition to the 80’ Donzi sportfish in front there is a 50ish go fast dealie at the other end of the property out of the picture. Can you imagine what Dickiedoo from little Nelson (NZ) thought as he saw this thing when we gave him a tour of FLL?
So we idled north on the Intracoastal trying to keep the committee requested 150’ between the boat in front. Of course it didn’t work like that but we did what we could.
Passing Bahia Mar and going under the Las Olas Bridge, to stbd is a City of FLL marina where we came across an old friend. A really old looking friend. If you remember, this same Spanish Galleon was passing N76 Trixie in Annapolis Harbor (Maryland) and we snapped a pic. It was posted on VofE shortly after. Here it is in warm Ft Lauderdale instead of the frozen wasteland farther north. Of course the Spaniards have had it figured out for a long time.
Past Bahia Mar and the City Docks is a long stretch with private homes on the west side (to port heading north) and a few small condos along with private homes to stbd. As we mentioned, most private home had a party in the back yard. This home was one of the better decorated. Yes again, this is one house.
So it went as we boomed our way north and the AC crew was hooting and hollering at the spectators and visa versa. Santa Baby in this photo kept it up all night where some fizzled from being over-served. AC passed more bridges and the area with lotsa waterfront restaurants then reached the turnaround. From there on every boat was on their own to return to wherever.
OK, so AC was chugging back south in a clump of parade boats. A few bridges were up but most were closed clearing spectator traffic and we had to wait. One bridge pulled what could have been a Bad Deal. AC was following the boat in front when the bridge began to close with no warning. Yikes! Kal spun the wheel to stbd and AC did a quick 360 and stopped. A number of boats behind AC let the moron at the bridge controls what they thought of his maneuver. Anyhow, AC led the procession south after IB – Idiot Boy – finally re-opened the bridge. This was nice because we had a clear view heading down the Ditch.
Along the way a private home began a fireworks display. We don’t know why they chose to shoot off the fireworks in front of AC but it was way cool. This is one of many personal fireworks.
So back to AC’s dock we went and the tide was high enough to clear the high spot even with 30ish folks aboard.
It was a VERY GOOD day. Its something you should do at least once. Think about this. Arrive in FLL sometime before. FLL is a great place to haul, finish the final boat work, provision and wait for the Winterfest Boat Parade. Participate in the parade then head for the Bahamas or the Caribbean for the winter. How cool would that be?
Egret is listed for sale on the PAE website. Her details are shown along with photos and the price. Take a look if you are interested in a VERY GOOD sea boat at a great price. If you hustle she could be yours by New Years Eve. How cool would THAT be?
December 10, 2014
Position: 24 57.92N 80 34.14W Slip L46, Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys
Hello mis amigos, MS and I took a road trip the other day in the direction to Key West at the end of the Florida Keys islands chain (by road). The excuse for the trip was to pick up something at a friend’s house in the Lower Keys, but in actuality it was just a road trip to do a little exploring here and there and to snap a few pictures. And to play. It turned out the main photography focus was shooting bridges connecting the chain of islands.
The bridges in the Florida Keys began life as railroad bridges for the rail to Key West built by Henry Flagler in the early 1900’s. There was no road to Key West at the time. In 1935 a hurricane destroyed the railroad and soon after the right of way including the bridges were turned into what is now knownas the Overseas Highway. Some of the original bridges have been replaced by modern bridges. A few of the original bridges have been kept for foot traffic only and a boon for bridge fishermen. Onweekends with good weather, particularly in the summer, the bridges have fishermen fishing around the clock. Some even put up temporary shelters to spend the entire weekend on the bridges.
We shot a few bridges, however you can’t be everywhere in good light before sunset so we turned the last two photographs into black and white, which represents the era better than color. The first snap is of the old Bahia Honda Bridge which has a portion of it’s span removed to allow boat traffic into the small bay to the left. The shallow water in this photograph is so pretty we left thephotograph incolor. The second photograph is the new 7 mile bridge next to the original bridge. And the third photograph is a second version of the new and the old 7 mile bridge at sunset. The old bridge was used in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, True Lies.
In the third photograph you can see how narrow the old bridge is. A few years back in our newly married years, we were flat towing a race car (no trailer) across the 7 mile bridge with a Volkswagen mini bus. The middle seat was removed and Scott Jr was sleeping in his playpen between seats. It was windy and when we exited the 7 mile bridge a wind gust blew the VW into the next lane. Obviously there was no oncoming traffic. We traded the mini bus the next week on a heavy station wagon. Some years later we broke down on the same bridge towing a double-axel race car trailer with a car on top. The rear axel broke it’s mount and ran into the tire in front. Nightmare city. Traffic piled up in both directions. In the end we used a come-along to ratchet back the axel sans tires and had a single axel trailer for the trip back to Ft Lauderdale. Lotsa memories.
Since the road trip we have been working on maintenance free fiberglass making it look like new. The ol’ back is creakin’ but it’s what it takes to make the little lady look like new. If we had a penny for every rpm the old Makita polisher has under her keel, we would be able to keep a fleet of N120’s scattered around the world. We use 3M products; compounds and buffing pads. Typically we make 2 passes with the coarser of the two compounds, then a 3d pass with the fine stuff on a finer buffing pad. The photograph shows the flats skiff rafted alongside. There was no wax applied before the photograph. We use Treewax paste wax after buffing.
Prior to the time Egret was being built, U.S. gel coat companies were having a tough time with consistency. Lotsa problems and we experienced quite a few early in our boat building years. My fiberglass guru partner found a small specialty gel coat manufacturer in North Carolina named H.K. Research. H.K. made an acrylic gel coat, not the usual polyester gelcoat. This was the end of our gel coat problems forever. We had H.K. mix a custom color to our specifications. It had to be white with enough cream to be distinctive, not so creamy to look dirty and not so bright to reflect off the deck of the flats fishing boats. We chose a color between sample 4 and 5 and it became known in-house as Egret White Gel Coat. So when it was time to order our new precious, PAE purchased H.K. gel coat and flew it to South Coast Marine in Taiwan and we paid the upcharge.
My former partner is still building boats in North Carolina. He recently built the fiberglass hull, deck and interior structure for a 55’ drone patrol boat ordered by a government on the far side of the world that had Egret White gel coat. Pretty cool. We’re talking to Jim about building our next boat. Egret White of course.
Of course work takes up play time so we didn’t want to short ourselves with silly things like buffing and waxing. Off in the skiff we went every couple days with nothing in the skiff but a bit of camera stuff and no tackle. The Upper Keys and particularly in Florida Bay, there is tons of bird life to simply watch and document. Winter is the best time of all because it is cooler and the flats load up with migratory birds feasting on shallow water goodies. We have seen the usual winter residents except flamingos, at least at this point. One new species to us was a flock of skimmers flew by and we later saw a few scattered on a small bar rising out of the water on the falling tide.
Skimmers are interesting and feed differently than anything we have seen. Their lower beak is much longer than the upper. They fly just over the water with the lower beak in the water. If it hits a critter it instantly snaps closed.
The last trip across to Florida Bay we did something different. The last time across the bay the wind had been blowing out of the northwest for days and it had blown all the water out of the bay, and kept it out of the bay. Today it was calm with plenty of water. Previously I had never seen so little water in our years putzing west of Islamorada. So this time with more water we entered a McCormick Creek, a narrow winding creek thru the mangroves to interconnecting lakes to the north. Can you spot the great white heron leaving in a hurry? The interconnecting lakes are no motor zone, in fact you can’t even have a motor on the transom if you enter. Hard core fishermen carry kayaks or canoes on top of their skiffs and use those inside. In our case, we were jump-shooting birds along the creek. It was a lot of effort for little return so we left.
Later in the day the tide fell and wading birds were lining up in shallow water to feast on the drying flats critters. It was beautiful to see at a distance but we had no chance to photograph anything because of the distance. Roseate spoonbills were mixed with great white herons, giant blue herons, pelicans, small egrets, ibis and small shore birds. There was no squabbling for position. There is so much food where they are on the flat doesn’t matter. If only people could figure that out AND do something about it.
Mary was practicing with the big lens for the first time and got this picture of birds lined up along a shallow water bar. Its tough to hand-hold because the lens alone weighs 6 ½ pounds plus the camera. I poled her as close as we could get without grounding so there isn’t much detail but you can still see what we’re talking about. The white birds on shore in the back right of the photograph are white pelicans that migrate from Canada during the winter. Birds in another area were even more graphic but they were well out of camera range.
After lunch we poled along a shore line looking for birds in the trees. This small blue heron blasted out of the mangroves and Mary shot it against the sun so it showed up in silhouette. It was a cool shot so we souped it up a bit. Pretty cool, eh? Here’s a more typical shore line shot with a great blue heron under way. A little later we came across this osprey feeding in the trees. It felt comfortable devouring his mullet with an audience so we snapped away. This is the best shot with the least amount of clutter. Osprey’s feed by taking a beak full and twisting the meat away. Their heads look like they are on a swivel when they wrench back and forth twisting a tough part free. They waste nothing but the tail and eat from the head down.
On the way back a few ospreys flew off the channel markers carrying their catch. This was our favorite shot here.
Closer to home the ospreys give way to large terns lining the markers. These two appeared to have a little family fued before one left and the other is still trying to get in the last word.
It is cool and windy today in Islamorada. The bay is full of whitecaps. I’m being lazy by writing this drivel instead of finish buffing the maintenance free fiberglass.
This weekend we’ll be guests aboard a friend’s N46, Anita Cay, for the Ft Lauderdale Winterfest Boat Parade. Anita Cay is being decorated as I write this. The Winterfest Boat Parade is televised nationally. Check out Anita Cay; her theme is from the sitcom Cheers. We might evenhave a few Winterfest snaps in the next VofE.
We’ll leave you with this sunset shot returning from Flamingo in the flats skiff.
Egret is listed for sale on the PAE website. Her details are shown along with photos and the price. Take a look if you are interested in a VERY GOOD boat at a great price.
December 02, 2014
Position: 24 57.92N 80 34.14W Slip L46, Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina, Islamorada, Florida Keys
Hello mis amigos, we hope your Thanksgiving holidays went well and your team won as long as it wasn’t UF. Our oldest and our hard earned pesos went to Florida State so we have to pull for FSU. My dad and sister are Gators (University of Florida). Scott Jr kept Grandpa’s ashes for a while at his home until Mary and I returned and we could place his ashes next to my mother. During Florida State and University of Florida games, Scott Jr would put grandpa’s ashes in front of the TV so he would have to watch FSU trash UF. So that was cool.
Mary and I have been busy re-visiting familiar spots by flats boat. The Florida Keys have been invaded by iguanas, just like Ft Lauderdale. As I mentioned before, we never saw an iguana anywhere as I was growing up in South Florida. Here’s one Mary caught hanging out with his girlfriend – out of sight to the right. This male had an unusual coloration for an iguana. I wonder if it took the color from the dock like a chameleon? Usually males are more orange and red on top.
We have boater friends coming to visit some time after Thanksgiving. He is somewhat an amateur like Mary and I but with tons more ability. We have been feeding him a steady diet of snaps to keep up the pressure. We are also scouting here and there so when they arrive we will know where to take them when. I’ll run the skiff so he, his wife and Mary can shoot while I position the skiff. Its too difficult for all of us to be shooting. Even with Mary and I, I drove Mary into the mangroves twice trying to get The Shot while she was on the bow. One of those times there was a giant iguana in the mangroves just over her head. I had to listen for a while and promise to be good.
One favorite place for tourists and locals alike is Robbie’s Hungary Tarpon restaurant a couple miles past Islamorada and about a 45 minute run in the skiff. The food is great and the scenery is pretty special. There is a long barfacing the water where we always find a place to sit. This time we sat there with a couple cameras during lunch. These 3 photographs were taken whilewe were eating and didn’t move except to put down the fork and pick up the camera. The first and second shots is a young Egret preening. Must be a teenager. The next shot is an ibis that flew to the end of the table looking for snacks. That’s Mary’s camerain the photograph. She was sitting just to the left. So that’s pretty cool.
The dock is known for tourists feeding the tarpon, a game fish that can weigh over 150lbs locally. Tarpon are scavengers when it’s easier than working for a meal so they are around by the hundreds. Sorta like no-workee, no wanna workee welfare folks.
Easy Rider here hasn’t figured it out yet. You don’t hold the dead pilchard like it’s yours to keep, you should hold it loosely by the tail like his wife so you don’t bleed as much.
Mary and I fitted 2 cameras with polarized filters to cut thru the glare to shoot the tarpon. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Yea, I know that’s lame but it is what it is. You can shoot artsy shots like this one. Or you can get even more creative and have a tarpon try to eat your camera. This is a full frame shot meaning this is ALL the camera and a wide angle lens saw. Jaws!!
The next two killer shots won’t mean much to many folks but as a fishermen it has to be a first ever photographed. First of all, you have to be in a controlled situation like this with everything happening constantly. Second and more important, it is just luck. A young boy had just thrown a dead pilchard in the water. I pointed the camera and didn’t look thru the viewfinder. I pushed the shutter as soon as the pilchard hit the water and held the shutter down for a series of frames, 1/6th of a second apart. The first frame shows water swirling into the tarpon’s mouth and it’s gill plates extended (water following the pilchard). Many fish feed like this, opening their gill plates in a tiny fraction of a second and opening their mouth at the same time. Passing fish or whatever are sucked into their mouths like a giant vacuum. Its like holding your hands together under water then opening them quickly and the water rushes into the vacuum. The second photograph taken 1/6th of a second later show the gill plates shut and water spurting out of a nearly closed mouth trapping the bait. There is also a boil of water from the gill plate closing on the right side of the photograph.
And now wind is blowing and its gotten cool again. More to follow.
Despite the wind, MS and I made another run to Flamingo at the tip of the South Florida mainland. A friend told us about a pool of roseate spoonbills and flamingos mixed along with other wading birds. The run across wasn’t bad but we wandered here and there trying to find the spot but no luck. We did manage to find a single spoonbill who obliged us with a couple second pose before it split. Spoonbills have a long bill with a flat spoon shaped end. You can’t see it in this photograph of it feeding but the bill is very unusual for specialized feeding.
The wind has been blowing out of the north for days and with it the water covering the super shallow Flamingo flats has been pushed south. There was very little tide, perhaps a few inches. Areas that even at a normal low tide are covered by water were dry making for a bonanza for wading birds. These small shore birds that were grouped on an exposed flat swarmed into the air as another boat passed. This is a winter phenomenon we have witnessed before.
So what does all this mean to you other than a few pleasing photographs with a brief explanation? Here’s the deal. Actually Mary is getting ready to serve breakfast so instead of climbing up on The Box, I’ll just say when it is Your Time, you will be able to enjoy small pleasures like this because you can. Anywhere in the world you choose. You will be uncluttered and free. Imagine that?
Egret is listed for sale on the PAE website. Her details are shown along with photos and the price. Take a look if you are interested in a VERY GOOD boat at a great price.
Ed. Note - The glossary of Egretism terms will be posted on the Captain's Log home page for easy reference.