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Story Tools

Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

New-old resolutions, sailing class starts, cycad thefts on rise

Happy New Year!

With everyone busily making resolutions for the upcoming year, resolutions that are destined by be broken by the middle of January, here's one that you can make and actually keep.

I'd love to take credit for this little ditty, but actually it comes from author Peter Mayle in his book "Acquired Tastes." You may have heard of Mayle through his best-selling novel, "A Year In Provence."

Anyway, Mayle's New Year's resolution - and mine - is as follows:

"I never, ever go out on New Year's Eve. Instead of the forced merriment and the consequent liver damage, I eat dinner at home with the most expensive bottle of wine I can lay my hands on. I take a glass of champagne to bed, and if I'm still awake when the New Year arrives, I toast it. On New Year's Day, when the rest of the world is feeling terrible, I go out and have a very long lunch."

Cruising (with) Class

My old buddy Stan Zimmerman is again offering his sailing course, "Cruising (with) Class," at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on City Island just south of Longboat Key. As Stan puts it, "In the cruel months of January and February, when all sensible   Florida sailors knit their socks and stay close to the fire, a rare few will brave the elements to attend Cruising (with) Class.

"Scheduled for every Thursday of those months, the free class will introduce novices to the arts and sciences of cruising under sail. The classes are two hours long, with a short break in the middle, and start at 7 p.m. sharp.

"This is not a BS session; the agenda is specific, the topics are proven, and students are expected to take notes. The first class alone is worth the price of admission (it's all free, actually), which covers the winds and waters of Southwest Florida. Did you ever wonder why the Gulf Stream is so strong?

"Subsequent classes will cover myriad topics looming over the prospective cruiser. Meal planning and provisioning, anchoring and sailing handling, storm tactics and health hazards, emergencies and routines.

"Students are presumed to know the fundamentals of sailing, for this is not an introductory course. Questions are always welcomed. The class is open to the public (you can invite friends) to further the mission of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron - promoting the arts and sciences of sailing.

"While 'throng' may not be accurate, class sizes have grown in the 20 years the class has been taught. So dress warm (it's cold outside, and the classes will be on the porch), bring pencil and paper, curiosity and questions. It all starts Jan. 6."

By the way, Stan is also teaching a course titled "The Florida Maritime Story at the Paean Spring Academy. This is not a free class, and for registration information go Online at www.pierianspringacademy.org or call 716-2471.

Civil rights activist's murder under investigation again

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist has announced that his office is reviewing "the terrible 1951 Christmas Day bombing and killing of civil rights leader Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriett," his office has stated in a press release.

"The killers were never identified and therefore never brought to justice. Despite an investigation initiated during the Chiles administration and another review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last year, we are unfortunately no closer to resolution," said Crist. "The Moore family deserves closure if that is humanly possible. We stand at the ready

to review any new information that may be available. Justice never rests."

There has been quite a bit of publicity generated by Crist's pronouncement, which stirred me to pull off the shelf a wonderful book by Ben Green about Moore's life titled "Before His Time." Green, a Cortezian who now lives in Tallahassee, chronicled the life and times of Moore. He also wrote "Finestkind," a history of Cortez and its people.

Coral reef update

There's good news and bad on the Florida coral front.

To the good: "It appears all reefs in the path of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne have been largely scoured free of the seaweed," according to Harbor Branch Oceanographic marine ecologist Brian Lapointe.

To the bad: He said that "seaweed overgrowth problems are likely to return, however, and could even be exacerbated by the storms' temporary removal. And farther south, off areas beyond the brunt of the storms, the team has found alarming concentrations of a cyanobacterium similar to algae killing corals and other reef organisms."

As Lapointe put it, "This is uncharted territory. No one has ever had the chance to study the impacts of natural phenomena like hurricanes on reefs under siege from these harmful algal blooms that we believe are triggered by humans."

He should know his algae blooms. For three decades now, Lapointe has been studying the harmful spread of macroalgae, or seaweed, on coral reefs throughout Florida and around the

world. He and others have focused on two isolated reefs off Palm Beach County that had become almost completely covered in "lawns" of an invasive alga called Caulerpa brachypus.

It's becoming a big problem and is starting to receive a big focus by officials. A reef study was approved by the Florida Legislature earlier this year to the tune of $500,000, and 84 reef sites between north Miami and Fort Pierce are being surveyed. What they've found isn't pretty.

The Harbor Branch team found no signs of macroalgae overgrowth, but instead large concentrations of a blue-green algae called Lyngbya, which grows in large, stringy clumps. Lyngbya grows over and kills soft and hard corals as well as associated organisms such as sponges. The species has also been tied to the production of compounds that can cause tumors in sea turtles and other animals, and research at other institutions has indicated its spread may also be tied to pollution.

Plant theft

It seems at first blush to be some sort of a plant person whine: Somebody stole into my garden in the dead of night and took my plants. Waaa!

Well, "whoa!" might be more appropriate, as a rash of plant thefts and netting the thieves with tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare specimens.

The plant of choice for the taking are cycads. There are about 300 species of cycads, with a popular one around here going by the name sago palm. They're generally tropical or subtropical plants found in Florida or California. Both states have been hit by thieves.

In Coral Gables, at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the thieves struck during the evacuation of Hurricane Frances and took off with about 30 cycads. No dollar amount was listed in the theft.

But look at it like this: One guy in California has a plant that is valued about the same as what it will take to put one of his kids through a year of college.

Sandscript factoid

Cycad thefts have become so costly that one nursery owner outside of San Diego, Calif., installed a $50,000 security system to monitor his plants.

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