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Date of Issue: September 01, 2005

Sandscript

Be careful and safe this Labor Day weekend on beach, in boat

Labor Day weekend is generally considered the last hurrah of the summer for beachgoers and boaters. It's also the last chance, or excuse, to have a blast while the sun and water are warm.

While many Island natives view the holiday weekend as a good time to hunker down at home to avoid the throngs, they are definitely in the minority. So, if you're going out on the water, here are a few tips from the Save The Manatee Club folks to allow you to avoid any manatee-human interactions.

Yes, you've probably heard them before, but a refresher course doesn't hurt.

Wear polarized sunglasses. They can help eliminate the glare of the sun and enable you to see below the water's surface.

Stay in deep-water channels when boating. Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding. However, be aware that manatees also use deep-water channels when traveling.    Look for a snout, back, tail, or flipper breaking the surface of the water. A swirl or flat spot on the water is also created by the motion of the manatee's tail when it dives or swims.

If you see a manatee when operating a powerboat, remain a safe distance away - 50 feet is the suggested minimum. If you want to observe the manatee, cut the motor, but don't drift over the animal.

If you're on a personal watercraft or a high-speed vessel, choose areas that manatees do not or cannot frequent, such as waters well offshore.

Obey posted speed-zone signs and keep away from posted manatee sanctuaries.

Recycle your litter or throw it in a proper trash container. Debris in waterways, such as discarded plastic bags or six-pack holders, is dangerous to manatees and other forms of marine life.

Discard monofilament line or fishing hooks properly, or recycle them. Not only are they dangerous for manatees, other aquatic animals and swimmers, but discarding monofilament line into or onto the waters of the state of Florida is against the law.

 Resist the urge to feed manatees or give them water. Not everyone loves manatees and feeding them or giving them water could encourage them to swim to people who might harm them. Their natural feeding patterns may also be altered by encouraging them to "hang around" waiting for food or water. When hand-fed lettuce or water from a hose is no longer available, manatees may not know where to find or identify natural, reliable sources of food.

"Look, but don't touch" is the best policy when swimming or diving. By quietly observing manatees from a distance, you will get a rare opportunity to see the natural behavior of this unique animal. Any other actions might be considered harassment, which is against the law.

More boat tips

One of the more pleasant ways to while away a Sunday afternoon is to sip a few adult beverages while watching people load their boats onto trailers. Yeah, it's a cynical thing, but you've got to snicker a little after watching some poor guy - or gal - back and fill the trailer down the ramp for what seems like hours. 

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has offered some thoughts on how to stymie the embarrassment factor for trailering your boats. Even the folks in the auxiliary seem to get a giggle out of it all: They describe the boat-ramp antics as a process "that can evoke all the emotions of the theater - pathos, humor, drama, action and a whole lot of ‘worlds funniest videos' thrown in for good measure.

"Why do many people make the boat ramp a day's entertainment, at rock-bottom prices? Because many boaters just don't practice, don't plan, and don't expect the unexpected."

The auxiliary offers some tips for trailering, with No. 1 on the hit parade being practice. Go out one afternoon to a big, deserted parking lot, set up some markers and start parking. Backing up. Parallel parking. The works. Remember when you were learning to drive and practiced parking? It's the same concept.

Think about what you're going to do before you're in the middle of having to do it, and talk it through to everybody else you're with.

Is the plug in the hull? There's nothing more embarrassing that going off to park your vehicle and trailer only to come back to find you're boat is sinking because you forgot the plug.

Have you got a line on the boat when you let it off the trailer? Does the person on the other end of the line know what to do and where to go?

And avoid what the auxiliary calls "ramp rage" by quickly getting onto and off the ramp. A boat ramp is not a good place to store gear, empty coolers or collect trash. Get out of the way, then do what needs to be done before you head home.

Be safe out there.

Another September special

You gotta love the libraries, and librarians, for coming up with a snazzy theme for Library Card Sign-up Month during September: "The smartest cards. Get it. Use it. @ your library."

The American Library Association is urging everyone to either get a library card or renew it in September. With the price of books going ever higher, a library card is about the cheapest way to get to some good reads - and that's not even counting the DVDs, videos and all the other good stuff that libraries feature these days.

"Nowhere else are books, magazines, the Web, audio- and videotapes, CDs, DVDs and more available to all people regardless of economic status," said an ALA spokesman, "and librarians are always available to help you make the right choices for you and your family."

So go check out a book this month.

Sandscript factoid

According to the ALA, "Libraries are among the most effective of all public services, serving more than two-thirds of the population with less than 2 percent of all tax dollars. A study of the economic contribution and return on taxpayer investment in Florida public libraries shows that returns far exceed taxpayers' investment-$6.54 return for every tax dollar invested."

There are almost 16,500 public libraries nationwide, and Anna Maria Island is lucky to have two of them.

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