Beaches, Endangered Species, Fishing, Florida, Navarre Beach, Sea Turtles

MEET GIGI

If we’re Facebook friends, you know that I just got back from our favorite place to unwind, Navarre Beach, Florida. Thanks to Navarre Beach News, the day before we came home, we made a new friend. Her name is GiGi. Today is the first installment of a three-part series of this community’s love affair with sea creatures. I’ve definitely signed on.

gigi

GiGi is an almost 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle who came to live at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center (NBSTCC) from Sea World Orlando in July. Blind, underweight and covered in barnacles, Gigi was pretty pitiful when she arrived at Sea World ten year ago.

Through their expert care, she regained her general health, but because of her blindness, she’d never survive on her own in the wild. Consequently, Gigi’s rescuers had been looking for a permanent home for her for over ten years.

Enter Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

nbstcc

 

Navarre Beach is a nesting place for loggerheads. Over the years, I’ve heard and read about how the locals were working to make it a more welcoming environment for these endangered creatures. Volunteers patrol the beach to remove obstacles to their successful nesting, sponsor regular trash pick up events and educational opportunities for visitors.

They’ve conducted campaigns to encourage vacationers to fill in holes on the beach that can entrap turtles. They’ve also been instrumental in the development of ordinances to require beachgoers to remove all personal articles each day and limit artificial light on the beach at night. Both are hazardous to nesting and hatching turtles.

 

nbstcc4

 

This group lobbied for vacationers and residents to draw their blinds and drapes during nesting season because our lights confuse hatchlings, which normally move toward light reflected on the ocean. Volunteer, Jim Holmes, told us how one year hatchlings got mixed up by the lights of civilization and headed toward the center of the island. They were no match for the cars and trucks rolling along busy Gulf Boulevard.

 

sea-turtle-volunteer-jim-holmes
Jim said his wife, Cathy, who’s the Director of NBSTCC, got him into this job. We thought he looked pretty happy when we were there.

 

Fishermen sometimes hook a sea turtle. From the turtle’s vantage point, that’s a serious situation. If the fisherman just cuts the line, the turtle is doomed to get wrapped up in it and will probably drown. Or it may ingest the hook which presents another set of problems, possibly death.

 

nbstcc2
Folks, please don’t drop your old line on the beach. Take it home to discard it.

 

NBSTCC TO THE RESCUE

NBSTCC also works with the Navarre Pier by providing instructions and a phone number to fishermen who happen to snag a turtle. IF the fisherman will call, a trained volunteer will show up, free the turtle, and release it back into the Gulf or take it somewhere to be treated. Please make that call.

 

navarre-pier
Navarre Pier as seen from our balcony one mile down the beach.

 

By the way, Navarre Pier is the longest fishing pier in the Gulf of Mexico. If you like to fish, it should be one of the stops on your next vacation. (Bring along your fishing pole. Just remember who you’re gonna call if you tangle with a sea turtle.)

Have you ever vacationed on the Florida Panhandle?

empty-beach

If not, you definitely need to consider wiggling your toes in the sugar sand and go wadding in the emerald surf.

Seriously!

Hope I see you on Navarre Beach sometime soon.

So God created the great sea creatures and every living thing that moves,

with which the waters swam …

Gen. 1:21

Next time, I’ll tell you TEN THINGS ABOUT LOGGERHEAD TURTLES and introduce you to some of the other people we met and show you some things we encountered at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. (Can you say that five times real fast?)

Many thanks to Navarre Beach News  for the great features on Gigi and NBSTCC. You hooked me, so I made that visit. I’m sure glad.

 

Beach, Family, Fishing, Florida

Daddy’s Girl

From my balcony for the second morning in a row, I watch a family of three – Dad, Mom and daughter in her early teens – walk down the boardwalk to the beach. Both parents carry fishing rods and coffee cups. Dad clinches a cigar in his teeth. The girl trails unenthusiastically behind. It’s early, going on 6:00 a.m. I think, “What teen wants to be awakened at daybreak to go fishing with Mom and Dad?”

When they reach their destination, the girl drops to the sand, folding her coltish legs beneath her. She  shifts, hugs her knees and leans her head against them. I bet her eyes are closed.

Her parents stab the ends of the poles into the sand, and Mom sips from her cup while Dad works on the lines. At one point he crouches down between his girls and tries to light his cigar. I’m not sure he succeeds. The wind is picking up to yellow-flag level.

Dad wades waist-deep into the surf to cast. Clambering back up the steep slope, he hands the rod to Mom. She works the line, reeling in nothing more than a string of seaweed. They patiently tear it away, and Dad casts again, this time from the shore. He hands the rod to Mom then moves a little farther down the beach. Apparently the fish aren’t biting. Cast and reel in, tear off seaweed.
At one point, Dad comes back and bends down to give his daughter an affectionate-looking pat. Maybe he says something like, “Come on, Pumpkin. This is fun. Want to try your hand?”
From where I’m sitting, I see no response. I imagine eyes rolling. Dad goes back to fishing.
After a while the girl rises and moves close to her mother. I can almost hear her say as she leans in, “Mom, why can’t I go back inside? I’m still sleepy.”
I wonder if Mom answers something like: “Just a little longer, Sweetie … humor your dad. This is important to him.”
The girl returns to her place on the sand. After 20 minutes or so, they gather their gear and head back toward the building. This time, the daughter’s in the lead, with Dad bringing up the rear, still chewing on that cigar.
I imagine the girl confiding to friends at home: “They got me up at 5:30 every morning – to go fishing!”
“No way!”
 “Way! And Dad had that stinky cigar he always smokes on vacation.”
“Gross.”
“Totally gross. When I have kids, I am NOT doing that to them. I’ll let them sleep ‘til noon.”
“Yeah, me, too.”
Then I imagine the girl as a mother herself, telling her children about this day on the beach, how she got up at 5:30 to please her dad. Maybe she’ll ask them what they’d like to do for family fun. If she’s lucky, she’ll have an involved husband/father, who’s enthusiastic enough to bait everyone’s hook. If she’s extra lucky, he might even wade waist-deep into the surf to cast out her line.
But maybe her family won’t fish. Maybe they’ll camp, hike, ski or any number of things instead. As I watch this little family, I think about the importance of making memories with our children before the siren call for independence draws them away.

I know it doesn’t matter what the family does as long as they have fun together. I’m grateful that my parents were good at making simple things fun. I wish I’d been better at it, but still, I think our family had our share of good times.
 It was just regular growing up, of course, the kind everyone does – but it still hurt him …                                                                                                                Catherine Chung, Forgotten Country