Our friend Becky sent a note asking what prompted this adventure.
Good question. Over the years, John has become more and more disinclined for winter.
It really cramps his style. He likes to get out and do useful things. The cold, despite his Chicago upbringing, is no longer pleasurable. So every year we book a couple weeks trip to someplace relatively warm.
We had a blast one year in California with the Malamuts – who live in
And saw our former neighbor and friend Harald.
And checked out Rodeo Drive!
Mike collects antique cars and we went to the Barrett Jackson auto auction in Arizona with them – that was a fascinating experience!
We also hop down to Sarasota Fl – to enjoy friends Laura and Don – former Glen Rock Girl, former Texas-Colorado boy who met and married later in life and relish the palm trees in their “pretty little city by the sea”
And we also pop down to Naples to visit Dad and Maryanne.
Last year-, we flew into Ft. Lauderdale and hitched up with HS pals Matt Lawskowski and Dyan Bernstein – boating for an afternoon -
and inbetween we explored . . . discovering Matlashay and Pine Island, which really suited our quest for nature and quiet – neither of which Naples nor Sarasota delivers.
So I looked around for a pine island rental but what we wanted was already booked up. Then I remembered my girlfriend Ellen
(we walk dogs together and have become good friends), had a friend who owned a home in Cedar Key. Where in gods name was that? — Well, it was exactly along the FL coast I’ve always wanted to explore. When you take off from Sarasota by plane, headed for Atlanta, they fly over this very territory and I’d push my cheeks against the window to see the vast, empty land. HEAVEN I thought and schemed at how I might see it. So Ellen called Boyd who said the place was free for the season – having been rented for the past 5 years by a Maine Couple (they moved across the street to a bay front house). So Oliver Cottage was ours, at a price we could afford for three months! Wow. We made that decision in September, giving us three months to get things together.
Almost immediately, my other dog walking girlfriend, Liz, who’s mother had edited my book the year before, asked if her parent’s could rent my house for a month so they didn’t have to stay in her basement. Wow. That’s a thumbs up sign if I ever saw one. So now we were in a race to not only prepare ourselves for the journey but prepare the house for renters. Yikes. There’s a lot to do when that’s the gig! Cleaning drawers, closets, baseboards, refrigerators! Stowing away papers, clothes and valuables. Having the chairs fixed. Sorting out the shed. Big stuff, little stuff – all needing tending because we were not just locking up and going.
We were supposed to leave the 11th of Dec, with renters arriving the 13th – but we were delayed 10 days due to John’s Hermia operation (what a difference that has made to his back issue as well). But finally we were able to hang the sign on the door and skedaddle!
And that’s the backstory of how we got to Cedar Key
THURSDAY MORNING, DEC 29th, I was puttering around the kitchen, prepping food for the freezer (we did a major shop on Wed – that story later) still in my pajamas with a sweatshirt and apron while John enjoyed spotting the birds along with his coffee, while we waited to hear from Captain Voyles.
We met the Captain on the 26th – he was finishing up his fishing tour and we were heading out to find clams. Thursday was his only open day but he first had to have an MRI up in Gainsville for his knee. Something had popped. But he called around 11 to say all was well and let’s meet up at the boat launch at 1. Yee Ha – first fishing gig.
We took Daisy with us, figuring she’d be a natural on a boat — but she balked at walking down the metal plank to get to the boat. Whoop! Whoop! “Danger Will Robinson” you could see in her eyes. I had to lead her down – then once in the boat, she positively cowered – at the motor, at the movement, at the sway.
Of course she got the hang of it – but it was fascinating to see her try to figure it out as fast as she could.
Off we roared in Captain Voyles flat bottom boat, heading out to the large island called ATSENA OTIE KEY – which was the original Cedar Key – its name meaning Cedar in the native indian language Back then, the main island was called WAY KEY . After a hurricane devastation sometime back, Way Key became Cedar Key and Atsena was deserted
We were heading to the back waters – where the trout and redfish winter and the water depth is 3-4 inches at the high tide, hence, the flat bottom boat. We stopped and fished along the way – but nothing was happening. It was clear Captain Voyles knew where to go, and as we got further away from the island, swinging south from Cedar Key, we were zooming around one small bird sanctuary island and oyster shell strewn patches of land after another.
At times it looked as if he was going to drive us into and over a patch of shell-land, when he’d swerve to the right or left and jut through a narrow passage between the small mounds. We kept marveling at the undisturbed wilderness!
He pointed out that the islands were off-limits beyond the tide level.
When we were fishing, we drifted close to one sandy island and Daisy jumped out! So we had to take care with her on that – the shell mounds would rip her paws to shreds. But the birds who gathered on the mounds made her mouth water.
We learned the other day that the birds who migrate to this area were late - so we will have plenty more to see in the coming months.
On Thursday we saw blue and white herons, oyster catchers with a long orange bill, some kind of small bird who fly together – weaving through the sky in a patch of waving white – until they turn their grey side toward us and momentarily disappear. Cormorants and Pelicans gather and gaggle around stationary objects. As we love birdwatching, our eyes were feasting.
Every fishing hole we tried, no luck. We did see some action in one area and Captain Voyles tried the hand cast net to get the Mullet he suspected were there — Mullet, we find out, are vegetarian and had no interest in the shrimp on my line. — it was interesting to see the handcasting net.
I think my sister Katie (and her daughter Rhapsody) should fashion it into her next Ball Gown for her annual Art House Ball, with colored crinolines underneath. She’s made a previous gown out of gumdrops and another with hostess ink snowball cupcakes.
With no luck on the fish, Captain Voyles offered to show us round the island, water side. That was great!
Winding around the island, we cut through under the bridge of rt 29. Voyles pointed out the claming incubators and boats.
When the GVT banned net fishing (too many people were using giant – catch everything – nets -
circling passagways from island to island – and it was not good for the fish population) they then created the clamming industry – leasing out 2 acres to fishermen to seed the clams and harvest them – I think he said it takes two years to grow for harvesting – half of that time being incubated to a certain size before seeding them in the bay beds. He said the clammers are constantly seeding and harvesting, and clam leases now cost about 5k, if you can find someone selling one – and they have to be worked of you lose your lease.
He also took us out to a group of pillars sticking out of the water. He told us they used to have planks on them and before we used chemical fertilizers, those planks would build up bird droppings which would be scraped off and sold for fertilizers. Nature inspired ingenuity.
He had many more stories — about the many snakes on snake Island “That’s a nasty place”
And the island were a famous pirate supposedly buried treasure – “I go there after any major storm to see what I can find”
So fun and so much more to explore. He said the tides in the winter are lower – so we plan to schedule a trip on a new or full moon, when the tides will be high enough to get into the back waters - needs 4 inches of water.
Glad we are here for a while to have the time to plan that.
Captain Voyles is also a school teacher on Cedar Key – and the range of subjects he has to teach is
astounding. He then told us of a project he’d applied to get a grant for – a project we’d first learned about from Don Wood – about farming Talapia in tanks with recirculating the water over greens growing on top of the tanks – one effluence feeds the other. Voyles wants to do this to teach the kids self sustenance and to donate the fish and greens to the food bank. We promised to hook him up with our friend to compare notes on how to do it.What a great day and great person to spend it with!
As we drove home, I got a taste for a Richard Hahn Bloody Mary – made with clamato. It was yummy and our evening meal of steak and grilled veggies and local sautéed greens could not have been better!
Next Topic: The HOOD! xo Laura