High season is definitely here; squid catches colossal attention
"Welcome back, winter friends!"
Based on an unscientific survey conducted while driving up and down the Island last week, "the season" is definitely here.
Now is the time to prepare for 20-minute trips just to cross a bridge to or from Anna Maria Island.
Now is the time to gird yourself for long, long delays getting anywhere when weather is nice and our winter friends are availing themselves of our beautiful beaches, quaint shops and wonderful restaurants.
Several years ago, I wrote what I'd hoped was a tongue-in-cheek article about how to survive the high tourist season. It drew a slew of comments, few favorable, and at least one call to police to escort one gentleman from the office who had more than a few choice words to say about the column.
In an effort to avoid such confrontations in light of the recent, wonderful weather, here are some thoughts which might brighten the upcoming weeks of wackiness that lots of people crowded in a not-so-big place can cause.
First, be nice.
No, you can't expect to get into your favorite restaurant or lounge or shop without some kind of a delay. It's the Season, for goodness sake, the time of year that all of our friends in the hospitality business need to make their annual bankroll. Sure, they still love us, and sure, they love us patronizing their establishments, but hey! Give 'em a break if they don't give us all big hugs right now. They're busy making money!
Second tip, take your time.
A five-minute jaunt to the store just ain't gonna cut it for the next month. Traffic is jammed, store aisles are jammed, checkouts are jammed. Plan ahead, be patient, and enjoy the crowds of sunburned folks while you just chill.
Remember the joys of making reservations at your favorite restaurants. Actually, it's always amazed me that people don't always make reservations, but for the next few weeks, make it a practice and perhaps a promise in the future to call ahead and book a table. Everyone welcomes it, some places require it, and it's just a neighborly thing to do. See "be nice" above for more information.
Third tip, remember that timing is everything.
Here's the average day on the beach: Sun comes up about 7 a.m. It's kinda chilly. People on vacation are sleeping in. Then they go to breakfast. Then they go sightseeing. Then they go to the beach, probably around 11-ish. They sun, they sand, they have fun, they grab lunch, they clean up later and then go to dinner.
Why must we run our errands at 11-ish? Beachgoer traffic is atrocious, if the last few days are any indication at that hour. Why try to fight it?
Why go to lunch at the stroke of noon or 1 p.m.? If recent excursions to Island restaurants are a clue, the noon-to-2 p.m. hours are wickedly packed, but at 11 a.m. or 2:30 in the afternoon there are empty tables galore and a great sigh from the servers.
Ditto dinner at the prime 6-8 p.m. hours. Try earlier, or a bit later - after making reservations, of course - and avoid the crowds.
Best ‘insider' tip on the Island?
The best way to circumnavigate the crowds is to utilize one of the best things the Island has going for it - the trolley.
Did I mention that the trolley is free?
Saunter to the road - see tip No. 2 above - wait a bit, and jump on a free ride to pretty much anywhere you want to go. It's the best way to avoid the traffic, let somebody else worry about hitting something, and enjoy the scenery from a view other than over your clenched, white knuckles on the steering wheel.
The second insider tip to travel around the Island is one that I can't quite recommend at this time of year: bikes or scooters.
There are just too many people with big cars and a small case of confusion to be able to safely scoot around the Island right now on something smaller than a big vehicle.
Any other time of year is great for bikes and scooters, but they quite frankly scare the bejeezus out of me right now.
But riding in one of those big, green buses is definitely the safe way to go right now.
Fishers off New Zealand reeled up an unexpected catch last week - a colossal squid, weighing almost 1,000 pounds and stretching out to a length of about 40 feet.
The colossal squid, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, isn't the same as the giant squid, Architeuthis sp. The colossal squid is, well, more colossal in size and weight, and is found throughout the southern oceans off Antarctica.
Seems a fishing boat was catching Chilean sea bass, or toothfish, when they caught the squid and eventually got it onto the boat. It was the biggest such critter ever spotted, let alone caught.
According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, "Unlike the giant squid, whose tentacles are equipped with suckers lined with small teeth, the suckers at the tips of the colossal squid's tentacles have sharp swiveling hooks. Its body is wider and stouter, and therefore heavier, than that of the giant squid. The beak of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni is the largest known of any squid. The colossal squid is also believed to have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom.
"Many sperm whales carry scars on their backs believed to be caused by the hooks of colossal squid. Colossal Squid are a major prey item for Antarctic sperm whales feeding in the Southern Ocean; 14 percent of the squid beaks found in the stomachs of these sperm whales are those of the colossal squid, which indicates that colossal squid make up 77 percent of the biomass consumed by these whales."
So you've got a critter the size of a school bus that puts up a good fight with a sperm whale, and those New Zealand fishers actually brought it up to their boat? Jeez.
Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are looking at a big squid - well, if 13 feet is considered big after our view of the colossal squid world - captured off the Florida Keys last week. No word yet as to what species it is.