Why hurricanes avoid our part of paradise?
As stories go, this definitely is one, and it's got all the elements of a made-for-TV movie. There's adventure, romance, tragic death, a miraculous escape and a surprise ending.
It's even got hurricanes in it, which prompted Dana Cessna's call regarding the tale.
The story starts in 1528, when Panfilo de Narvaez led the second Spanish amphibious invasion of Florida. He and his ships and troops landed somewhere in Tampa or Clearwater, and once ashore ashore, claimed the land for queen and country, and then got a little confused.
Seems he thought that Tampa Bay was more north than it really is and had sent the bulk of his forces farther north. He and his crew of 600 started marching north to rendezvous with the rest of the contingent. They marched, they ate, they slept, they marched some more, and so on for years.
Native Americans, who were pretty sick and tired of all the Spanish troops killing their men and raping their women, started picking off the troops. The survivors - there were only four of them - eventually reached northern Mexico and were rescued.
Meanwhile, the crews on the ships with the body of the fleet, realizing they'd missed meeting up with their leader, headed south. One ship ended up in Tampa Bay, and a boat was set ashore and made landfall somewhere in Manatee or Sarasota counties.
Indians attacked, and only three of the crew made it back to the boat and returned to the safety of the ship. The other Spaniard, Juan Ortez, was captured and enslaved.
In a Pocahontas-like turn of events, a beautiful Indian maiden fell in love with Ortez. She died, and her ashes were spread upon Sarasota Bay. Her love of Ortez was so strong that storms have veered away from the area ever since out of respect.
Twelve years pass, and Hernando de Soto and his crew arrive. Ortez somehow is able to hook up with de Soto, and joins his expedition northward. Again, Native Americans pick off the troops as they search for gold and whatever they can find, and Ortez is one of the few who survived the expedition.
Author and historian Jeff LaHurd has another, similar tale that he recounts in his book "Qunitessential Sarasota." In his story, Sara de Soto joined her father on his expedition to Florida. Native American Chichi Okobee lays eyes on the comely Sara and falls hopelessly in love and surrenders himself to de Soto.
He soon fell ill, and Sara nursed him back to health. However, she too fell ill, and died. Chichi was granted permission to bury Sara in the most beautiful place on earth - this water now known as Sarasota Bay - and he and 100 of his braves then drowned themselves. Apparently the storms also decided to avoid the area due to the bravery and love expressed by the two.
Now, it's important to remember that there is almost no historical basis to any of the above. Yeah, Ortez did exist, was rescued by de Soto and did make it back to Spain. The Indian maiden stuff? Na. Considering the way Native Americans felt about Europeans back then, the chances were pretty good that if any white guy was captured, the women would have probably killed him and eaten him, or something, rather than fall in love with the White Satans.
And a quick check of historic hurricane tracks will reveal that our part of the world has indeed had its fair share of storms pass through, although not in recent years.
Never let it be said that the truth should get in the way of a good story, though.
Thanks to Stan Zimmerman, La Hurd and Cessna for their help with the tale.
Another story - really true, this time
Sarasota author Stuart Kaminsky has received a great prize by the Mystery Writers of America, the designation of "grand master" for 2006.
"Being named a grand master is the highest honor a mystery writer can have," Kaminsky said. "It is for lifetime achievement. I will be the 50th grand master." He will receive accolades from his peers in New York next April.
Honorees for the title include Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, John D. MacDonald, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Georges Simenon, Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, Daphne du Maurier, Tony Hillerman, Elmore Leonard, Mickey Spillane, John le Carre, James M. Cain, Donald Westlake, Robert Parker, Ed McBain and Alfred Hitchcock.
According to the Mystery Writers of America, "The Grand Master … represents the pinnacle of achievement in the mystery field. This prestigious and highly coveted award was established to recognize not only important contributions to the mystery field over time, but a significant output of consistently high quality as well."
Of special note is that three grand masters lived in Sarasota at one point or another: MacDonald, McBain and now Kaminsky. Pretty good marks for a sleepy little town on Southwest Florida, eh?
Kaminsky has written three books based in Sarasota featuring sometime private detective Lew Fonesca. The first novel in the series, "Vengeance," has its penultimate scene at the "Barrington House" bed and breakfast in Holmes Beach. Sound familiar?
Congratulations, Stuart - it took only 60-plus books for them to recognize your works.
And a good local read
And in the vein of good works, Terry Griffin has just come out with his first novel, "Longboat Blues," a mystery that takes place on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.
His character, Matt Royal, retired early from practicing law, burned out by the trials of the trials he had to work. His idyllic days of fishing and friends on Longboat Key are shattered when a good friend is murdered, and another friend charged in the crime. Matt now has to strap on the three-piece suit again and go forth to battle the bad guys and save his buddy from a life behind bars.
Speaking of bars, there are lots of references to watering holes on the key and Island and a climatic scene on the red brick paths of Egmont Key, which become covered with a different type of scarlet.
Good going on your first book, Terry.
"Longboat Blues," $12.95, is available at bookstores and, locally, at the Tingley Memorial Library, 111 Second St., Bradenton Beach. He'll also be at Circle Books on St. Armands Circle at 11 a.m. Nov. 26 to sign copies and greet fans.
It's that time of year again - manatees are moving thorough the area seeking warmer waters off power plants in Tampa Bay, and they need for us to be especially watchful to avoid those boat-marine mammal interactions that can prove fatal to sea cows.
"Manatees generally start traveling to warm water when the air temperature drops below 50 degrees or when the water temperature dips to 68 degrees," according to officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
According to the FWC, "boaters should scan the water near, and in front of their vessels for swirls resembling large footprints, a repetitive line of half-moon swirls, a mud trail or manatee snouts or tails breaking the surface."
Other boater tips:
- Stay in marked channels.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to improve vision.
- Abide by posted boat speed zones.
- Use poles, paddles or trolling motors when in close proximity to manatees.
- Have someone aboard to scan the water for signs of manatees while their vessels are under way.
You've probably heard all the above before, but it's worth repeating. Remember that there is probably no worse way to ruin your day on the water than to hit a manatee.
Here's a few words from Jurgenne H. Primavera, a senior scientist of the aquaculture department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center based in Iloilo, Philippines. She has spent more than 20 years studying aquaculture and its impacts on the environment, as well as other natural and manmade systems, and offered the following thoughts in Science Magazine.
"As the December 2004 tsunami has shown, conservation is not merely a matter of aesthetics. Man-made structures such as shrimp and fish farms and tourist resorts along the coastline are no match for rampaging waters. It is time to enforce greenbelt and other mangrove-preserving laws, because only a solid wall of trees can slow down a moving wall of water.
"More than ever, there is a need to preserve or rehabilitate mangrove forests and coral reefs to serve as natural barriers that diminish the tremendous wave energy generated by tsunamis, as well as by typhoons.
"Tsunamis appear every 20 to 50 years in the Philippines, but in a single year 20 typhoons may devastate the country by inflicting massive losses of life and property."
Dr. Primavera's comments are founded on Pacific Ocean-based typhoons, which we call hurricanes here in the Atlantic basin, but the impact is the same.
Oh, and don't forget that there have indeed been some pretty nasty tsunamis in our part of the world as well.
Bring on the mangrove greenbelts!