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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes - Your Yak Or Mine

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On: Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 11:04AM | By: Mel The Guide

Hi, all. I hope you have all had healthy happy holidays and time to spend with family and friends. We went to the New Jersey shore, or what once was, for the holiday. We did not get to stay at the Ocean Club in Mantoloking on the beach front. Sad to say it was like so many other homes and buildings on the beach—either washed away or in such disrepair that they have to be knocked down and rebuilt. Everywhere you look there is a vacant lot, a closed market or beach club, and piles of debris.  Not just little piles; these are about 10- to 15-stories high. Houses that were not washed away are being gutted. Soaked sheet rock has to be torn out for fear of mold; all the electric boxes that were under water have to be replaced. On an upbeat note, the Long Branch pier shopping district is up and running, and the restaurants are open. The city really put in a lot of work to get ready for the holiday shoppers.

So were did we spend the holiday? Not at a hotel, the FEMA workers and volunteers who have come to help have them all filled up. Not to mention the folks who lost their homes and have no place to stay. But it was Christmas, and like it says in the song “We Are Family." So we camped at my daughter’s house. My oldest granddaughter, Cassie, gave up her room so g-ma and g-pa had a bed; she slept on a sofa bed in the office. They could have said there was no room at the inn, but they insisted we stay for the holiday.

Now let me tell you what else has happened in the life of Mel the Guide. After many years of riding 60 miles a day back and forth to Matlacha to rent kayaks and do kayak tours seven days a week, in season, we have sold Gulf Coast Kayak. At age sixty nine, I felt it was time to sell to a younger person who would still give the customer the same friendly family service we had offered for all those years. We were very lucky to find such a family with the Stockbridge family. V.A. Bryan and his lovely wife, Diana, love the great outdoors as I do and have that old fashioned set of family values. Their son, Sebastian, is a Boy Scout; he has helped and volunteered in many community events. I will still be working as Mel the Guide for them and doing kayak tours on the back bays of Matlacha and other select kayak sites.

On a sad note, Gulf Coast Kayak will not be renting kayaks at the old fish house marina any longer. They have been asked to leave so the new restaurant and marina owners can rent kayaks. So, Gulf Coast Kayak is looking for another location to better serve you and your kayak needs .They will still be renting kayaks and doing tours. If you have a location in mind or looking to rent or go on tour, Gulf Coast Kayak is still at 1-239-283-1125.

Now that I don’t have to be at work every day to rent kayaks I can do what I do best—be Mel the Guide, and do kayak tours. We still do tours for area kayak rental shops and resorts. If you need a kayak guide we are still for hire. We are very lucky to have made many friends within the kayak community who will keep me on as a guide. We will now be able to offer kayak tours in different ecosystems and environments and times. We offer Gulf Coast Kayak 1-239-283-1125 in the back bays and mangrove tunnels of Matlacha. We also do three-hour tours around the Great Calusa Land Trust island for Tropic Star 1-239-283-0015. And the really great news: We are guiding out on North Captiva Island at the island resort called Barnacles Island Adventures 1-239-472-1200. It was once known as Barnacle Phils; it has changed hands and is now owned by Deb and Charley Skinner, longtime residents on the island. They have been working really hard to fix up and transform this restaurant into a true destination island resort adventure.

I would like to tell you what to expect and may see on a kayak guided tour. The easiest way is to tell you about what we did on our last tour. Deb, the owner, called and said she would like to go on a tour with some of her close friends who live on the island. So we set a date a few days later when the weather would be better.

We met under the chickee in the main courtyard. One of the dock personnel helped set up the sit-on ocean kayaks with nice seats with high back rests. We fitted everyone with life jackets and paddles, and then had a brief safety class on the correct way to wear a life jacket, sit in the kayak, and hold the paddle so as not to tire on this three-hour tour.

It was a beautiful warm day and the water was like a sheet of glass. We followed the shoreline south on Safety Harbor. The red mangroves on our right were full and thick with many nooks and crannies to support the bird life. We saw Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored herons, Green back herons, little blues and some yellow-crowned night herons. Waving their stretched-out wings were some doubled-crested cormorants. We got so close you could see there bright opal-colored eyes. We spotted some snake birds. One male had a beautiful white and black wing span, showing why he is also known as the piano bird.

Then, much to my surprise, we saw off in the distance what looked like an island of snow. As we quietly paddled closer we could see it was not an island at all, but the largest flock of white pelicans I have ever seen, floating in a tight group. We able to get very close to the flock. For the next mile and a half or so we spotted many others in smaller groups of about forty to fifty birds each. The white pelican it is one large bird, about three times the size of our brown American pelicans. They do not dive for fish. The alpha male swims in a circle and the rest of the flock follow him. Fish come up from the bottom in the center and the birds just reach their heads out and scoop up the fish in their large bills.

After about 90 minutes we stopped for a short break on the bay side of north Captiva. We walked up over the sugar sandy beach to the gulf side. If you’re into shelling this is the time to break out your mesh bag; there are so many different kinds of shells to add to your collection. We watched many different kinds of shore birds. After a little walk we made our way back over the sand dune to our kayaks. Then we made our way up and down the the shore line. It was now mid-day and it was warming up. So, not to take as long getting back, we paddled in a straight line to Barnacles. It was only a one hour paddle. When we landed at the beach launch area, we pulled our kayaks up on to the sand. A few steps more and we were back under the chickee.

So, if you love to kayak, take pictures of the great outdoors, and take strolls on a white sugar sandy beach and gather shells, I would love to have you join me at one of the three fantastic locations I will be working at this season. Please call the restaurant or kayak rental place to set up a tour with Mel the guide. Barnacles: 1-239-472-1200 Gulf Coast Kayak: 1-239-283-1125 Tropic Star 1-239-283-0015, and Mel the Guide to help you pick the right tour for you. Hope to see you on the water.


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