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Story Tools

Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

'Regina' moves along bureaucratic journey; Got life jackets?

The "Regina" has taken another step along its journey of becoming Florida's 10th underwater archeological preserve.

State officials have completed mapping the "sugar barge" that sunk off Bradenton Beach 64 years ago and have produced a 31-page proposal that goes to the Florida Department of State for final ratification.

The proposal will also be used to nominate the wreck to the National Register of Historic Places.

If approved, the "Regina" will be the only offshore wreck listed from Florida's Gulf Coast.

The story of the wreck of the barge reads like a true sea drama.

It was a bad night March 8, 1940, when the "Regina" was under tow from Havana, Cuba, to New Orleans. The 247-foot-long converted steel steamer, built in Belfast, Ireland, in 1904, was carrying 350,000 gallons of molasses.

Molasses, by the way, was not only used to distill rum, but was also used by animal feed manufacturers in the Midwest, and New Orleans was a major port for the transfer of the sweet stuff for transport up the Mississippi.

Anyway, a strong nor'wester was ripping across the Gulf of Mexico, and the barge and its tug, the "Minima," were having a rough time of it in the 12-foot seas and gale-force winds. The tug and barge attempted to make shelter in Tampa Bay, but somehow the tow lines parted near Egmont Key and the barge began to drift.

Gene Birney, manager of the Gulf Trailer Park - now the Sandpiper Mobile Resort - spotted the adrift barge and reported it to the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Petersburg. The Coast Guard mobilized a ship and aircraft, but the barge grounded about 200 yards off Ninth Street North in Bradenton Beach.

With the heavy seas, the "Regina" began to break apart as night approached. The crew of eight, wary of the high surf, tried to take refuge in their quarters, but water reached their shoulders before the night was out.

Islanders lit fires on shore to offer some comfort to the crew to let them know that they were not alone.

The Coast Guard, determined that a rescue from shore was the best approach to save the crew, and Coast Guard Gunner's Mate Frank Barnett was dispatched to a dock on the east side of Anna Maria Island with a line-throwing gun.

Barnett was met by Islanders and taken to the shore, where, at 1 a.m., he attempted to fire a line to the sinking - or already sunk - barge. The shots fell short time after time.

At daybreak, a Coast Guard aircraft circled the barge twice to drop life presersa one of the jackets out of reach of the barge.

The barge's cook, Seferino Canneciras, became fed up with the situation and jumped overboard to swim to shore. His German shepherd followed him. Local resident Eddie Glant swam out to meet the cook and almost reached him when Canneciras disappeared under the seas. Their bodies were later recovered on Coquina Beach.

Barnett secured a nine-foot dinghy and rowed out to the barge, trailing a line. He took off Capt. Jose Urquida and almost made it back to shore before the small boat capsized. A human chain was quickly formed and the two were dragged from the water.

The locals then took over. Furman Smith manned the dinghy and made it back to the "Regina." With a line secured, he and Billy Parker and Clayton Adams were able to safely rescue the remainder of the crew.

How you can help
Letters of support for the listing of the "Regina Preserve" are encouraged. Address the letters to: JuDee Pettijohn, Deputy Secretary of State for Cultural and Historical Programs
Florida Department of State
R.A. Gray Building, 500 S. Bronough St.
Tallahassee FL 32399-0250,
or e-mail to jpettijohn@dos.state.fl.us

Grim boating statistics
Speaking of boating mishaps, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has compiled a profile of a typical marine fatality.

He - yes, it's a he - is a 22- to 50-year-old who is an experienced boater. If he sustained an injury, it was not life-threatening. If he did not survive the injury, he drowned. He was not wearing a life jacket because it was "uncomfortable, unbecoming or un-necessary, even if he didn't know how to swim," according to the FWC.

Boating accidents in Florida claimed 64 fatalities in 2003. Seventy percent of those who died in Florida boating accidents drowned, and the U.S. Coast Guard estimates 85 percent of those who die in boating accidents would have survived if they had worn a life jacket.

I'm still trying to figure out the concept of boaters going out on the water without a life jacket if they don't know how to swim.

... and another grim mishap
FWC Commissioner David Meehan found himself in some hot political water recently.

He and friends were fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande Pass last week when he was discovered to be violating a law he had recently passed that banned the use of more than three fishing lines per boat in the pass. He and his buddies had four hooks in the water from their boat.

"I'm sorry but I was just mistaken about which rules were in effect at the time," he said.

Yeah, it's real confusing, Commissioner.

See, the FWC passed a rule in February limiting all tarpon fishers to no more than three lines in the water while fishing the pass. That rule was amended in April to limit all fishers, not just tarpon fishers, to no more than the three hooks in the pass.

Oops. No word on whether Meehan will be fined or not, but there were photos.

The swarm
It's termite and flying ant swarming time in Florida.

Flying ants make a mess but are mostly harmless. Termites will eat your house. They look an awful lot alike.

According to University of Florida/IFAS Manatee County Extension Agent Jane Morse, "The easiest way to tell if it's an ant or a termite is to look for a waist. Ants have narrow waists while termites are straight bodied. Ants also have bent antennae and their front wings are longer than their hind wings, whereas termites have straight antennae and wings of equal size that are twice as long as the termite body."

The three main types of termites in Florida are the subterranean, dampwood and drywood. Subterranean termites cause the most damage and are the most commonly found termite in Florida, and most subterranean termites swarm in the spring.

Morse offers this perky little tip: "Swarms in a house or finding a pile of wings means the house is probably infested. Mud tubes along the house foundation or anywhere inside a house are another good clue that the house is infested. Swarms or piles of wings in the house are a bad sign."

If you've got a sign, get in touch with a pest control company. Be sure to keep a few of the carcasses for inspection, because treatment methods vary depending on the type of bug you've got.

"If drywood termite damage is localized, it may be controlled by removing and replacing the damaged wood or by the application of an insecticide," Morse said. "Extensive and advanced infestations will require tenting so the whole building can be fumigated. Subterranean termites will require soil treatment with pesticides around and under house foundations, or termite baits."

I've been living with termites for the past few years now. I thought I'd knocked them down two years ago after a borax-like treatment in the walls, but they seem to have come back. The jury is still out on whether the house will have to be tented or not - something to look forward to later this summer, I guess.

Sandscript factoid
There's tourism, and then there's apparently niche tourism, and that niche is filling nicely with lots and lots of money for Florida.

According to the "Regina" proposal, the proposed underwater preserve site fits nicely into three somewhat under-reported categories: recreational tourism as a watersport destination, heritage tourism as a historical site reflecting local maritime heritage, and eco-tourism."

"Heritage tourism," according to a recent study, produced more than $3.7 billion in expenditures in 2000 in Florida.

Who said people don't want to look at the past?

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