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Date of Issue: April 20, 2006

Sandscript

Good news from bad events, big boat visiting near us

This is one of those happy stories that anti-media types always beg to read.

An under-construction U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship, the USS New York, contains about 24 tons of scrap steel, recycled from the World Trade Center devastation of Sept. 11, 2001. It's a special ship containing a special part of all of America's heart, based on that horrible morning.

And the New York is being built in Avondale, La., site of another of our country's calamities - Hurricane Katrina. The ship and shipyard did sustain damage as the killer storm passed, but workers were quick to come back to work on the vessel despite the fact that many had lost their homes in the storm's wake.

According to an Associated Press report in the St. Petersburg Times, 200 workers are living at the shipyard still.

"These are very patriotic people, and the fact that the ship has steel from the trade center is a source of great pride," an official with the company building the New York has said. "They view it as something incredibly special. They're building it for the nation."

Wow.

 

Gator tales from afar

The boss was in San Francisco part of last week, and sent this tale from California. It somehow seems apt in light of the University of Florida NCAA champs.

"Did you know it's illegal in California to keep alligators as private pets?" she asked. From an Associated Press story in the San Francisco Chronicle, some guy was sentenced to three years of probation after pleading no contest to illegally possessing an alligator that was dumped into an urban lake, where it has eluded capture since last summer, officials said.

"Los Angeles resident Anthony Brewer, 36, also was ordered to serve 45 days of community service work. A restitution hearing will be held in May to determine how much he should pay of the $155,000 the city has spent on increased security around Harbor Regional Park's Machado Lake since the alligator was discovered in August.

"Authorities allege that Brewer and another guy released the 7-foot reptile known as ‘Reggie' last summer when it became to big to keep as a pet."

I guess it's a good thing he didn't flush it down the toilet to join the other urban legend alligators lurking in the sewers under all the big cities in the world.

But doesn't $155,000 for "increased security" seem a bit absurd to ensure a 7-foot alligator stays in a lake?

The boss said maybe they were hoping to prevent any human-gator encounters. Sounds like money well spent when you look at it that way.

 

Florida fish news

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission let forth a few decisions on pending matters last week in its regular meeting.

Lobster trappers pulled a proposal to let them start their season earlier this year, due to the damage they incurred in the past two high-hurricane years. Call this one a no-story story.

Tarpon fishers have assurances that the FWC is indeed going to crack down on gear used to catch silver kings in Boca Grande Pass. New rules went into effect April 1 and, no fooling, they really mean it now.

The rules are an attempt "to reduce the amount of non-degradable material deposited on the bottom of the pass by anglers," according to the government agency. "In the past five years, citizen-based clean-up events in the pass have removed almost 13 tons of fishing debris and litter from the sea bottom, including lead weights, fishing line, crab traps and anchors."

OK, stop a minute and think about that last sentence.

Or, imagine you're out fishing and get a snarl in your reel. You untangle the mess and, as a good environmentalist, put it in a safe place to properly dispose of later. Remember how much it weighed, or didn't weigh? Now image what a ton or more of mono line would look like, multiply that image on what it can do to birds, fish, dolphins and manatees, and you've caught a glimpse of the problem.

The fishing rules, which only impact the Boca Grande area of Southwest Florida, "prohibit use of more than three fishing lines per vessel to harvest any species of fish and prohibit use of breakaway gear to harvest any fish in the pass during April, May and June."

The term "breakaway gear" is defined as "any bob, float, weight, lure or spoon that is affixed to a fishing line or hook with wire, line, rubber bands, plastic ties or other fasteners designed to break off when a fish is caught."

 

Good fish work, bad recovery, too

FWC members also looked at some fishery assessments based on recovery goals. The news was mixed.

"The assessment for snook indicates the FWC's management goal for the fishery to achieve a 40-percent spawning potential ratio is falling short," according to the agency.

"The snook assessment estimates of the spawning potential ratio on Florida's Gulf coast range from 26- to 32-percent and from 25- to 26-percent on the Atlantic coast. The assessment indicates total snook harvest has been increasing on both coasts due to the growing popularity of snook fishing."

As a means to reach the goal, the commission is considering changing slot-limit catches of snook from 26- to 34-inch total length to 27-35 inches. The matter is scheduled to come back for further talk in July.

Redfish fared better in the goal category, with the target of 30 percent of fish surviving to age 4 being surpassed at the 32-percent region in the Gulf, 34 percent on the Atlantic coast.

As for mullet, "biologists report stocks appear to be healthy, and current levels of fishing effort look to be sustainable. Mullet stocks statewide are surpassing the FWC's 35-percent management goal."

 

Glittery puzzle

Price of gold late last week topped $600 an ounce, the first time it's been that high in 25 years.

I also paid $2.95 a gallon for premium gas late last week.

Remember the oil embargo in the early 1970s, and the price of gold going to $2,000 an ounce? Are we looking at the same silliness again?

Could be, as some gold commodity traders predict that the precious metal could top $1,000 an ounce before things settle down.

The reason for the mention of gold and gas is a weird comment an investment buddy of mine told me months and months ago when we were talking about the usual inanities. He'd been studying gold and cold prices, going back more than 100 years, and found that the price per ounce has generally reflected the cost of a good men's dress suit.

When we were talking months ago, gold was hovering around $350 per ounce, and he told me - since I'm not much of a suit-wearing guy - that you couldn't get even a halfway decent suit for that price. Look for $500 or $600 for gold pretty soon, he advised, since that mimics the cost of an OK suit.

So I made some calls, and found that suit prices today at discount stores are in the $200-$500 range, but that $600 is a pretty good mark if you want to look sharp.

And if you want to look really spiffy, $800 or $1,000 for a suit is also in line with current prices.

Weird stuff, eh?

 

Big boats, er, ships

Here's something for those of us suffering from big-yacht envy: The country's fourth-largest private vessel is undergoing some cleaning and repairs in St. Petersburg.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Tatoosh will be at the Port of St. Petersburg for another couple of weeks. It's 301 feet long, cost reported at $100 million, and is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. He also owns the Portland Trail Blazers, as all National Basketball Association fans probably know.

Another of Allen's boats, the Meduse, this one a paltry 199 feet in length, anchored off Anna Maria Island in 1997 and created quite a stir among boaters, who kept circling the boat to catch a glimpse of the crystal chandeliers and other goodies aboard.

The Tatoosh is alleged to have five decks, a swimming pool, a French limestone fireplace and comes equipped with a 40-foot sailboat, 40-foot speedboat and two helicopters.

Oh, and Allen also has the No. 2 big-U.S. boat, the Octopus, which stretches to 414 feet in length.

 

Sandscript factoid

Remember the TV show "Miami Vice?"

Remember Sonny Crockett's pet alligator, which he kept on his sailboat?

Remember the gator's name?

Elvis. How I know this stuff eludes me.

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