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it some how relieves the pressures from society to succeed - 
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Cedar Key Fish Stories

Pat's July 2011 Blog 

If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime Journey with our Past Blogs

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Sunday July 17th 2011 - Sun Up till Sun Down

Dave and I had yet to go out shooting around Seahorse Key since he's been here visiting.  They're leaving tomorrow morning, so this morning was our last chance to get out on the water for sunrise.

As always happens, the girls had high hopes of going with us, but when you roll over at 5am and say "Hey honey, you ready to go out on the boat?"  The answer is usually a very disgruntled "Leave Me Alone!" which tells me it was just going to be the boys on this photography excursion.

Dave and I loaded up the camera gear and motored out of the marina before the sun was hitting the horizon.  There were storm clouds all around us and you could see an occasional bolt of lightning light up the sky, but that is to be expected this time of year.

For the past few days we've watched storm after storm blow through the islands, but only had a few rain drops actually fall on us, so we just made sure we had waterproof Pelican Boxes for our camera gear and figured if we got dumped on, it would just cool us down a bit.

Motoring out of the marina, we were watching the clouds go from dark red to a lighter shade of orange as the sun crept closer to the horizon.  It wasn't long before we heard that unique sound of a dolphin surfacing with the loud exhale through their blow-hole.

I angled the outboard so we were kicking up as large a wake as this little 50hp Yamaha could create and before long, we had some dolphins playing behind the boat.

I yelled at Dave to stand beside me and just focus on the wake, knowing before long one of them would jump out of it.  It was really cool because you could see the dorsal fin riding in the wave, so you knew they were back there, and every now and then they'd kick that powerful tail and leap out of the water.

This isn't the best shot, but you can see the front of Dave's lens beside me. 
I was simply holding the camera up and over my shoulder

While Dave was shooting the dolphins playing in the wake, I was paying attention to where we were going so I wouldn't hit any channel markers and while looking back and forth, I was shocked when two dolphins that were easily half the length of our 19' Skiff leapt from the water right beside our boat.  I'm not talking just a small jump, I mean their entire bodies were out of the water and they both were about even with my head!  My jaw just dropped and I screamed "HOLY $*%#!"

Dave didn't even have time to look because the dolphins behind us were doing the same thing.  He was telling me to look back as I was telling him to look to the side of us.  This entire show might have lasted a little more than one minute, but for that short period of time, it was better than being in Sea World!

Dave ended up nailing a shot with the dolphin jumping out of the wake that is easily a Wall Hanger, so only a few minutes into our day, we could have turned around and went home and been happy with the results.

As fast as the dolphins came over to play, they all turned and went back to what ever their daily rituals are and we continued on our way over to Seahorse Key.

Pulling up to the island, you don't realize how many birds there are till you sort of sit back and just take it all in.  I asked Dave to just sit back and look overhead at how many Frigate Birds were circling high over the trees.

It was at that point I heard the usual "Oh My God!  Look how many of them there is!"

We got out the big guns and Dave tried his hand at using the Canon 400 f/2.8 lens mounted on the Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal mount.  Without that Wimberley, the 400mm lens is just too big and heavy to handle.  There is still a learning curve even when mounted on the Wimberley, but it makes it much easier to handle.

For the next hour, we sat watching the baby pelicans be fed by the adults, watched the antics of the Frigates as they ride the air currents above us and listened to the cormorants honk, growl and make numerous primordial sounds as they talk back and forth to one another.  It was a great morning on the shoreline of Seahorse Key.

Surprisingly enough, with the wind blowing out of the East at our backs, it almost felt cool.  Granted if I would have checked a thermometer, it probably still would have been close to 90 degrees, but having a ocean breeze surround you is a great way to cool you down.

Once we were done shooting, we idled back towards the marina talking back and forth about travels, life in general and photography.  I find it really comforting that you can take two grown men who've never met one another before a few days ago, put them in a boat and they can talk non-stop about such heartfelt topics. 

I think this has to do with our love of travel.  Those who love to travel are usually more apt to open up to complete strangers than those who would rather stay in one place.  At least that's my theory.  Many people we've met along our travels will go out of their way to talk and they're eager to listen to your stories if they're fellow travelers.  Those that we meet that aren't interested in travel are usually not all that interested in listening or talking...again, just my theory.

I really enjoyed my time spent with Dave.  I would consider him a good friend and we've only known one another a few days, but we have so many things in common, that I would venture to say if we went on a long vacation together, we'd probably still come back good friends.

Once back at the Motel, I had a full day of work ahead of me.  I wanted to try and work on the Tiki Bar to open up the top a bit to allow more air flow. The past few days the wind has been blowing out of the East, and the Eastern wall of the Tiki Bar is completely closed. This means its like an oven in there, not that a small breeze would make all that much of a difference, it is 96 degrees out today.

While Dave and I worked on the tiki bar, yes even though Dave is on vacation, he worked with me for multiple hours even though I didn't ask him to, Cindy spent the day washing and scrubbing down the camper.

It looked pretty nasty after sitting for so long, but by the end of the day, the ol' Sunline looked like the day it rolled of the lot.  Fine day of work put in by my beautiful wife!

Dave & Nicole were all smiles after their Ice Cream

Later in the afternoon, Dave and Nicole went into town for some ice cream since today was National Ice Cream Day, and Cindy and I went out to lunch with another couple that had just checked in.

Peter and Sherry were on their way home to Tampa from Jacksonville where they had been visiting family, and stopped here for a night of rest.  They were in a really nice Tiffin Coach, but had decided they didn't want to pull the car behind them.  They were going to walk into town, but since we were going to go have lunch anyway, we asked if they wanted to go with us.  It's too hot to be walking anywhere this time of year unless its to the fridge to grab another beer.

Peter & Sherry enjoying the Hideaway Tiki Bar

This lunch date turned into a total laugh fest because Peter is one step short of a comedian.  My sides hurt after the first 20 minutes around them because I was laughing so hard.  We had drinks at the Big Deck in town, then went over to the Neptune Lounge for a burger.

From the little lounge, we all came back to the Tiki Bar where the rest of the night was spent with lots of hysterical laughter and more fun times.

Chris from Island Pizzeria had told us last night that they were going to make us something special, and tonight she shows up with a freshly made pizza. Dave, her husband had spent the last hour cracking freshly caught Blue Crab and they presented us with the best pizza I've ever eaten in my life.

A 18" pizza covered with fresh Blue Crab meat, blue crab claws on top and a garlic butter cheese sauce all topped over fresh spinach. My mouth is watering just typing those words.

Mouth Watering Blue Crab Pizza from Island Pizzeria

It was amazing and we joked that if it was on their menu, they'd have to charge $35 to pay for all the crab meat that was on it.  She said it wasn't on the menu, but they just wanted to say 'Thank You' for all the business we send them.

Since the Tiki Bar doesn't serve food, but everyone wants to stay hanging out to watch the sunset, Chris had laminated some menus for us and it seems every night we're open, they get multiple orders from our place.

I couldn't be happier with a belly full of fresh crab meat all washed down with some ice cold Coors Light. 

Life is Good here in Cedar Key!

Friday & Saturday - Hot Time at the Hideaway Tiki Bar

Its the weekend and we're completely full, so Friday was spent checking in guests and getting the bar ready for tonight.  By 7pm the place was packed and we stayed full till late into the night.  All the motel guests were out there along with a bunch of locals who came by to visit.

There was a great lightning storm blowing by off the coast, so in-between opening beers, I would run out to my camera I had mounted on the tripod and make adjustments throughout the night.

Notice the lightning bolt above the Leinenkugel chairs

Saturday was the Jennefest in Cedar Key where a bunch of locals have gotten together to raise money for a local resident who is battling cancer.  We went downtown to bid on some of the silent auction items and see what was going on.

Soon enough we were back in the Tiki Bar with a packed house having fun and enjoying our Cedar Key Summers.

Thursday July 14th - Having a Blast on the Airboat

I had asked Dave and Nicole if they had ever been out on an airboat?  They both said they've never been on one but they both said they'd be interested in going out if we could.  Now I know we should just go down and take one of the normal tours on Dock Street, but I called a friend who owns a airboat, and asked for a favor.

We were supposed to open the tiki bar tonight, but Cindy said it would be 'Ok' to keep it closed so we could all go play.

Best part was since low tide would be about 7pm, Danny said he could pick us up right on our dock and we'd go fool around till the sun went down.

Leaving the Dock behind the Low-Key Hideaway on Danny's Airboat

This time of year, you can watch the big summer storms blow around all day long.  Most never last for more than a few minutes, and many times you might watch a storm roll past for hours but it never drops a bit of rain on you.  That's the way our night would be.

Thunder and lightning all around us with billowy clouds threatening to let all hell break loose any second, but we never had a drop of rain hit us.

Danny picked us up and as we pulled away from the Low-Key Hideaway, we stopped for a second to take a photo of a big cloud formation with a rainbow shooting out the side.  I think that was a good sign to start the night off.

An airboat is a totally different feeling than one would expect.  It sort of defies what you think you should be doing while on a boat.  You're skimming along on mere inches of water and sliding right over the mud when the water is gone.  You'll actually slow down when you hit deep water because the boat has to work harder to stay aloft.

Cindy and Nicole getting ready to take off

You know its going to be a good night when Cindy's putting in a mouth guard!

It's a mix of flying and floating, and a good airboat pilot can literally make the boat dance.  Danny can put the boat into spins that feels like you're spinning on ice.

Danny showed us the remains of an old paddle wheel that used to be in Cedar Key.  The only thing left is the spine of the wheel itself.  Its all covered in barnacles and unless someone told you what it was, you'd just think it was some sort of coral formation.

For the most part we just flew around the shallow water with giant smiles on our faces and enjoying the early evening.

There were times I wasn't sure if Nicole was having fun or was scared shitless.  She had a smile on her face the entire night, but there were times when Danny would be spinning the boat over a mud bank or flying really close to the oyster bars when I could see every muscle in her arms tensed up like she was holding on for dear life.

We enjoyed dolphins fishing in the shallow pools and Danny showed us something I've never even heard of the whole time we've been in Cedar Key.  He asked aloud "Hey Pat, have you ever heard of a salt water waterfall?"

Of course I hadn't, so he said "Well heck, I'll go show it to you."

We followed a series of canals that would have had me lost for days till we came around a bend in the saw grass where we could see a drop from one section of ground that was only about 3 feet in elevation, but the water was rushing over it at a fast rate.  I guess when the tides going out like it was at this time, the elevation change creates a waterfall just in this area.

The picture I took of it was somewhat dark because of how late in the evening it was, so you'll have to take my word for it. 

Dave is really into Geology and we've been talking about lots of rocks, soil types and of course the arrowheads we're so known for in this area.  Danny has a huge collection of points and arrowheads found from years of digging in the shorelines and diving in the local rivers.

We stopped on one of the deserted islands to take a break and watch the sun finally go down.  As we walked the abandoned shoreline, we looked for interesting shells and found some neat pieces of clay from Indians that called this area home long before we settlers were ever fishing its waters.

As the sun set and the sky got darker, Danny said we needed to hang out for a bit till the Full Moon came up so we'd have light to make our way home by.  At first you're thinking "Wait, we're only going to have the light of the moon to guide us home?" But then once your eyes became adjusted to it, it was really bright out.

We climbed aboard the airboat and Danny fired up the big Cadillac motor.  With that giant prop chopping the air, we were soon skimming over the mud having a blast.  It's quite surreal to be flying along that fast, in almost total darkness but having full trust in your pilot.

Every now and then Danny would shine a high powered spot light at the water in front of which would make the surface explode with mullet jumping out towards the light.  Don't ask me why the light makes them go so crazy, but it's amazing to watch.  I'm not just talking about a couple of fish jumping, I'm talking thousands.  Its amazing to watch!

You know we're flying when Cindy has a smile this big on her face!

We pulled back up to our dock and I slid down a 6' A-Framed fiberglass ladder we keep for times when people pull up on their boats.  I keep trying to talk Cindy into letting me buy a real aluminum ladder that is mounted to the dock, but we all know how frugal my wife is.

Danny and I were holding the ladder as Cindy climbed up and onto the dock.  Next was Nicole who started to climb the ladder.  She was about 3/4 of the ways up the ladder when the boat shifted and she fell hard onto the dock.

She's a High School Phys. Ed teacher back home in Pennsylvania so she's in phenomenal shape.  This allowed her to catch herself before she fell into the water, but she still hit the dock pretty hard.  I felt terrible and of course it was my fault.  I was waiting for Cindy to kick me in the head since my skull was perfect level with the bottom of her shoe.

Nicole sucked it up and said she was fine as she climbed up onto the dock.  Dave climbed up and I decided I was going to stay with Danny and two other guys we had picked up on our way back to the dock.  They were going out fishing and I hadn't gone out on a nighttime fishing excursion in a long time.

Knowing full well I'd be in the doghouse for not crawling off the boat with Cindy and our guests, I said 'Goodbye' in a hurry and Danny fired up the big prop.

By this time the full moon had crawled much higher in the sky and it felt like it was early morning during the first few hours of twilight.  Danny was flying through the shallows like he knew it by heart, which I'm sure he does.

He was shining the shoreline when two glowing red marbles stood out like laser beams.  We killed the motor and sat staring at a alligator that was sitting in Danny's fishing hole.  This infuriated Danny because he said this hole is usually boiling with fish, and he had been noticing the last few nights that he wasn't getting anything good out of it.

He had one of the other guys get behind the controls of the boat and he walked out onto the oyster bank.

I asked TJ what he was going to do and he said "He's going to go try and catch that alligator."  Of course he says this with total calm like it's a common occurrence.  I asked how he was going to catch it and TJ says "Well he's got his knife in his pocket.  He'll just jump on its back and hold the mouth shut while he kills it with the knife."

HOLY SHIT!!!  I couldn't believe I'm sitting here watching him stalk a gator.  The other guy in the boat was holding the light on the gators eyes the entire time as Danny is now up to his waist in the water holding his hands out in front of him ready to pounce.

When he was only a few feet away from the back of the gators head, I guess he stepped on the gators tail which sent it into an explosion of madness.  Within seconds the calm water was a raging torrent of mud, grass and water being thrown around as Danny was diving for the gator while it was thrashing around trying to get away.

Danny stood up empty handed cussing and yelling because he had missed that one.  We all sat there for a minute because they told me many times the gator will just go under and sit calm thinking what ever is trying to get it will go away.

After about a full minute of nothing moving, Danny gave up and came back to the boat.

By this point the air had become dead calm and hot as an oven.  I think I had donated a few quarts of blood to the local mosquito population that was devouring my ankles and calves.  Danny was soaking wet and said "Ya'll want to go home?"

I was ready and the other guys were just along for the ride, so we headed home and called it a night.  When I finally got back to the dock, I thanked him profusely for another amazing night in Cedar Key and went in the house to douse my legs in calamine lotion.

Wednesday July 13th - Long Day of Driving

Cindy decided she wanted a new couch a few days ago.  One of ours had went into one of the rooms after the couch in that room became broken.  She was looking around on Craigslist and yells from her office "How far is Orlando to drive to and is it too far to go pick up a couch?"

I yelled, "No, its not too far, only a few hours drive."

That was before she told me it was on the far Eastern edge of Orlando, almost to the other side of Florida.  More like 3.5 hours!!

On our way there, I said "Man, the truck feels horrible, it feels like we're going to lose a tire or something." But knowing that the shocks probably need replacing, I never pulled over to check the tires.

Cindy laughs and says "These tires only have 60,000 miles on them, and we've only put 60 miles on the truck in the last few months, we wont be buying tires anytime soon."

A little while later, we're cruising along I-75 when it sounds like we drove over a roadside bomb.  The whole backend of the truck bounced when the tire blew out.  Cindy screamed, punched me in the arm asking what I've just done all while I'm trying to hold the truck on the road without hitting the cars and semi's on each side of me.

I could feel the truck riding on the rim as I'm watching pieces of tire fly all over the interstate.

When we finally come to a stop on the side of the road, we both looked at one another and said "Guess we're getting tires sooner than we thought!"  We're going to end up needing an entire new rear quarter panel due to the tire crinkling the metal all around the fender well.

The next hour was spent lying on scalding hot asphalt cussing and swearing while I'm getting bitten by ants and just waiting for one of the passing vehicles to hit us like you always see on those news videos.

It's amazing to me how many people refuse to move over when a vehicle is on the side of the road.  I had my flashers on and asked Cindy to stand behind us, but off the road so people would hopefully notice that I'm lying under the vehicle.

NOTE TO SELF: Buy a better jack!  The tiny bottle jack that comes with the truck barely lifts it off the ground and if I didn't have a piece of 2x4 in the bed, we'd probably would have called roadside assistance.

The tire was shredded and all wrapped around the brakes.  Amazing that it didn't bust a break line.  It did kink my emergency brake line, so I'll have to remember not to use that till it's fixed.  The rim is pretty bent up because of how long it took me to come to a stop which means we're going to have to get a new rim too. 

Back on the road, the rest of our day was spent driving across the state so we could get this really good priced couch.  I told Cindy she's not allowed to buy things off of Craigslist anymore.  Finding a piece that is a really good price zeros out the savings if you have to use $150 worth of fuel to get it.

Back in Cedar Key, we parked the truck and asked Dave ad Nicole if they wanted to go into town to go out to eat with us.  Dave had asked if we wanted him to go with us to help load the couch because of how heavy it was (It's a full sized couch with recliners on each end). 

I'm glad we said 'No Thanks".  Imagine if the first time we take him on a boat ride we actually end up taking the boat for a walk, then he comes to help us pick up a couch and we have a blow out...all the while being on vacation!  Luckily he had stayed back at the motel today.

We had told them about the burgers at Neptune's Lounge and Cindy and I had been thinking about them all day long.

We all went out to dinner enjoying great conversation and food while we got to know one another better.

Nicole & Dave at Neptune's Lounge

After dinner, we decided to head out to the Black Dog because the night was still young.  The girls sampled some new wines that Jay had just gotten while Dave and I sampled some Chimay.  You should know that beer made by Trappist Monks is nectar from the Gods.

I got a chance to talk with one of my favorite people in Cedar Key.  I great guy named Macy.  He's got some of the best stories you'll ever hear and he's always so fun to talk with.  No matter which topic we can think of, we both can talk about said topic for hours.

I had told him that we'd be going up north to Maine this summer to visit our friends Scott and Karen in Kennebunkport and he goes on for an hour about places to visit, things to see and tells me about the year he rode his bicycle from Maine to South Carolina. 

See what I mean, he's a fascinating guy.

Tuesday July 12th - New Friends Arrive

We get lots of people come visit, some are old friends, some are friends we might only know through the internet or off of the various forums we frequent.

Today we had a new couple check in to the motel that I've talked back and forth with for months now.  Dave Eisenbeil is a fellow photographer who frequents the P.O.T.N. camera forum along with the Expedition Portal Forum.  We've talked back and forth for years it seems like and when he and his wife Nicole said they'd be doing a road trip from Texas back to Pennsylvania, they gave us a shout saying they were going to be stopping by for a visit.

They checked in this afternoon and we asked if they wanted to get out on the water for a afternoon boat ride.

This turned into somewhat of a debacle on my part, since we were so excited to be going out on the water, we didn't even check the tides to see where our water levels were at.

This week is building up to Thursday nights Full Moon, so the tides are at their extremes right now. We were headed out of the marina and noticed uncommonly rough waters with the strong winds blowing out of the West.

I turned to the East so the winds and splashing would be at our backs and headed around Atsena Otie Key.  I know there is normally a big sandbar that comes off the Eastern point of Atsena Otie, but today it was stretching out further into the channel than I've ever seen.

Cindy kept saying "You need to go further out to get around this sandbar!"  Yes, even in the boat she tells me how to operate it.

By this point, it was too late.  We had been up on plane and when we finally ran out of draft, we hit bottom and came to a stop.  We had sand all around us and this was our introduction to Dave and Nicole when it comes to boating in Cedar Key.

Its normal to hit bottom when out around Cedar Key, its not normal to hit a sandbar that's larger than a few football fields.  Trying to pole us off the sand bar only put the pole deeper into the soft sand.

Taking the Boat for a Walk in Cedar Key

This meant Dave and I had to get out of the boat and push for a few hundred yards to get back to deeper water.  Each time we'd think we had water deep enough that we could get back in and idle the boat along, we'd make it a few yards before we'd have to get back out and start pushing again.

Jokes were being passed around about taking the boat for a walk and "Don't worry, this is how we scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat here in Cedar Key."

When we finally got to a channel deep enough that we could start the motor, we idled back to the marina which was now dry.  This meant we had to tie the boat up at the outside docks and leave it there for the night.

So our boat ride was somewhat uneventful, but we had lots of time to sit and hear some of Dave and Nicole's road trip stories from when they left El Paso a few weeks ago.

Saturday July 9th - Going to Visit the Seahorse Key Lighthouse

There are only a few times a year that the Cedar Key Historical Society opens up the building that used to house the light for the Seahorse Key Lighthouse or the Cedar Key Lighthouse as it was known. It is the oldest lighthouse still standing on Florida’s west coast, so there is lots of history surrounding the building and the island it's on.

I don't like to call it a Lighthouse, because without a light in it, its just a building.  Seems a shame that they cant put a simple, high powered LED bulb in the top that is run off a solar panel and at least it could still be called a Lighthouse.  But I guess it's politics, and we all know how that turns out.

We knew today they would have the building open to tour through and you could climb the tower to get a view out the top of the tower.  We woke up really wanting to get out on the water, but some serious rain was passing through, so we hung out getting some chores done around here till the rain passed.

Once the skies cleared up, we loaded up the camera gear and headed out on the water.

The weather is roasting this time of year, but being on the water always help cool it down.  We pulled up to the Seahorse docks and made our way up the steep concrete path that leads one to the historic building.

We toured through the minimal accommodations the building offers, basically a bathroom, two kitchens, multiple bedrooms that are used as a bunk house and a big wrap around porch.

In 1839, Congress authorized the construction of the Cedar Key lighthouse in the hope that development would bring settlers to the area, which would in turn help drive the Indians from the coast. But it wasn’t until 1854 that the lighthouse actually became a reality and was lit for the first time.

The lighthouse was built on a dune forty-five feet high, but the tower itself extends seventy-five feet above sea level. Sometime later, wood-frame housing extensions were added to each side of the brick Cedar Key lighthouse for the keepers and their families.

At the time of the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842, before the lighthouse was built, federal troops used Seahorse Key as a detention center for Indians being moved to the West for resettlement. Many Indians were housed at relocation camps in Tampa until they could be sent on their long journey west to Oklahoma. Indians who tried to leave the camps were placed in chains and put on ships that brought them to Seahorse Key. On the island there was little chance of escape, and it remained a stockade until the end of the Seminole War.

The staircase leading up to the light would make sure any lighthouse keeper would stay in shape, as my pudgy body had a tight squeeze getting through the small opening.

Cindy Walking down the Stairs

The view from the top of the tower is amazing.  You can see for miles upon miles in any direction.  I'd pay money to sit up in that tower during a crazy storm passing through the Cedar Keys.  I can only imagine the views and sights the lighthouse keepers must have seen back in the days when it was operational.

View from inside the tower where the light should be

The Cedar Keys Lighthouse was extinguished at the onset of the Civil War, and in January of 1862, Union forces aboard the USS Hatteras blockaded the keys, ruined the port and rail terminus at Cedar Key, and destroyed all structures of military value at Seahorse Key.

Cindy walking down the front porch of the Cedar Key Lighthouse

After the war, the lighthouse was returned to service on August 23, 1866, after having been overhauled and repaired. That same year, William Wilson, the first keeper of the light who had served just under a year, was buried on the island.

The last keeper, Charles H. Gardner, extinguished the light for the final time in 1915, after serving eight years at the lighthouse. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover created the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge by reserving three of the keys as a bird sanctuary. Seahorse Key was under the control of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Biological Survey until by Executive Order 7484 it was made part of the refuge on November 6, 1936. In 1997, Atsena Otie Key was added to the refuge, raising the number of islands in the refuge to thirteen.

Today the University of Florida in Gainesville operates the lighthouse as a center for marine biology research which is why the bunks are still in the bedrooms.

Monday July 4th 2011 - Happy 4th of July Everyone!

Had a busy day today during the day so we never even got a chance to head Downtown to attend the Cedar Key 4th of July parade.  I hear it was lots of fun and all our guests talked about what a fun little town we live in.

The past few years the fireworks have been let off downtown, but this year they were setting them off from Cemetery Point, which just so happens to be right across the bayou  from our location.

This meant the Hideaway Tiki Bar was going to be the best place on the island to sit back, sip on a cold Coors Light and take in the display of holiday explosives.

To our surprise, Heath and Jolie volunteered to bartend for us because they knew how busy it was going to be and how much stuff we'd have to be attending to other than the serving of drinks.  It was beyond helpful and I don't know if they even realize how much they helped us out.  But I'll continue to thank them for the rest of the year!

The night went great and the back yard of the motel was packed with people who thoroughly enjoyed the show.  The Cedar Key Fire Department did an excellent job with the fireworks and for such a small town, they held out no stops.  I think the show lasted for almost 45 minutes.

Hottest Bartenders in Cedar Key - Jolie and Cindy behind the bar at the Hideaway Tiki Bar

Heath & Jolie working the crowd at the Hideaway Tiki Bar

The Backyard was Packed with Guests waiting to see the Show - I see you Chris

I think you can trust your best friend in the till when he's not only the Mayor of Cedar Key, but also the President of the local bank :)

Milinda capturing the sunset before the fireworks really start - Hideaway Tiki Bar

Cindy with her sister-in-law Jackie and her brother Jeff

Of course Fonda and Juergen stopped by for the celebration

And then the show started

The display of fireworks was awesome!!  Thanks Cedar Key Fire Department

Sunday July 3rd 2011 - Boat Ride With Family

Cindy's brother and sister-in-law had come up on Friday afternoon stay with us for the holiday weekend.  Since we have a full house and no one was checking in or out today, we decided to take the day off and head out on the boat.

We packed a lunch and headed down to the Marina, which was crazy busy because of the holiday and scallop season being in full swing.  I don't care what the news or media says about the economy being in the dumps, you wouldn't know it by looking at Cedar Key for the past few weekends, especially this weekend.

We loaded up and headed out to find a big sand bar where Jeff and Jackie could let their new puppy run and play and wear off some of that excess energy he has.  The past few days him and Luca, our dog have been having a ball playing with one another, but this morning Luca could barely walk around the house he's so sore.  He's really showing his age because Sammy, their Golden Retriever acts like they haven't even been playing he still has so much energy.

Pulling the boat up to the sandbar on Snake Key, we let the dog out where it quickly found there were blue crabs scurrying everywhere in the shallow water.  He would actually put his head under the water trying to catch them and when they'd dig into the sand, he'd sit there digging till he would cloud up the clear water and he'd be too confused to know what was going on.

Sammy Having Fun at the Beach

This was great entertainment for us as we all just kicked back and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  It's amazing how hot it will feel when you're on land, but be out on one of these sandbars with the ocean breezes blowing and the salt water on your feet and its about as perfect as one could hope for.

Once the dog was good and wore out, we loaded back up the boat and just motored around showing Jeff and Jackie the surrounding islands, the canals and just giving them a taste of Cedar Key the way we get to experience it.

Many people come to visit and think they've seen our small town for all it has to offer.  Many never go out on the water or if they do, they only go on one of the short boat tours.  Sure this gives you a taste of the island lifestyle, but spending a day out just kicking back, hopping from island to island with no real agenda is the best way to unwind and get a real feel for the Cedar Keys.

Towards the afternoon, the breeze had died down and the water was like a pane of glass.  We were running with a high tide at this point, so we motored over to Seahorse Key to show Jeff and Jackie the humongous flocks of birds that are on the island right now.

It was a first for both of them to see baby pelicans up close.  And to think they've both lived in Florida for most of their lives.  Many people never realize how big of a deal that is till they see them and then think "Wow, in all my life I've never seen a baby pelican before."

By this point it was getting late in the afternoon and it was getting close to having to open the Hideaway Tiki Bar.  We made it back to the marina where we tied up the boat and headed back to the motel so I could go to work.

Saturday July 2nd - Our 1st Photography Tour & the Big Holiday Weekend

We were at the docks this morning around 6am to get everything ready.  The girls were there with camera bags in hand and as the sun peaked above the horizon, we motored away from the marina.

While Heath piloted the boat, I sat with the girls talking about camera settings and explaining why you want your camera set a specific way to achieve a specific type of photo.

By the time we got over to the shoreline of Seahorse Key, we had the cameras set and we killed the motors to switch to our electric trolling motor.  This would kill any noise and allow us to get real close to the birds in their nests without spooking them.

Idling up to the Shoreline on Seahorse Key

We idled up and down the shoreline watching the dozens of species of birds move around their nests and go about their morning rituals.  It's amazing how active they are how much noise they make when they're grouped up like this.

We watched numerous adult pelicans return to the nest while the fuzzy babies would go ballistic attacking the parents to regurgitate some fish to feed them breakfast.  I don't know how the babies don't injure the adults with the force they're jabbing their beaks down their throats.

Two Baby Brown Pelicans attacking the Adult who had just returned with breakfast
Canon 5D with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS lens with a Sigma 2x extender attached

Immature Night Heron
Canon 5D with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS with a Sigma 2x extender attached

After an hour or so of shooting and watching the birds along the shoreline, our tide was going out which meant we were close to getting stuck around the island.  We decided we'd head from Seahorse Key over to the inner canals where lots of birds like to flock up to pick through the mud flats during the low tides.

Both ladies were shooting with Nikon cameras, and I'm not as familiar with the Nikons as I am with the Canon line up of DSLR's.  I couldn't figure out how to set their camera bodies to shoot multiple frames per second like I had my Canon 5D set.

In the short boat ride across the main channel, I was able to pull out my smart phone and Google the question.  This brought me to multiple websites that explained where the buttons were I needed to find.

Isn't technology amazing these days!!

Once back in the channel, we stopped so the ladies could use the rest room and we topped off the boats gas tank while we were there.

From the Cedar Key Marina, we headed over to Steamboat Channel where the birding was top notch.  We're talking a multitude of birds to pick from with many all grouped together if you're into that sort of shoot.  It always amazes me to see the many choices we have when shooting around Cedar Key.

A Great Blue Heron leaping to flight with an Egret and 4 Roseate Spoonbills all in the same shot

We spent another hour or so in the back water before the sun was getting to high to really capture any keepers.  Heath motored us back to the Cedar Key Marina where we dropped the ladies off and headed to our normal jobs.

I think the first photography tour went well.  The girls learned some new information with their cameras, Heath and I learned a few new things when it comes to getting closer to the birds and we all came home with some nice photos.

With this weekend being a big holiday, we were packed full and town was buzzing with visitors.  Everyone is talking about the entrance into Cedar Key where the Fire Department has erected a memorial listing all our residents who are in the military.

Its quite the salute to our soldiers and really puts a welt in your throat when you come across the #4 bridge leading into town.

Thanks to everyone involved in this and THANK YOU to all our Troops who are serving and who have Served our country in the past. 

Friday July 1st 2011 - Seahorse Key Opens

With our 1st photo tour planned for this weekend, we wanted to make sure we knew where to take the photographers tomorrow.  This meant Heath and I were up at 5am this morning packing camera gear and the boat to make sure we were on the water before the sun rose.

Heath picked me up just as a big bolt of lightning cracked above our heads and we both sort of shook our heads wondering if we were even going to go out on the water.  We've been having lots of storms blow over in the past few weeks, but they usually only last a few minutes and they're gone.

The forecast was for nice weather today, so we both thought it would be better to just head out and hope this storm sitting over us would blow out to sea.  Looking at the Eastern horizon, you could see clear sky, and that's where the wind was blowing out of, so we hoped it would be gone soon enough.

Backing the boat into the water down at the Cedar Key Marina, we watched a few more bolts of lightning crack around us, but the sun was just starting to rise and the sky was clearing up some already.

Idling out into the channel, we had some rain drops pelting us as we motored towards Seahorse Key.  July 1st is the first day it opens from the past few months of being off limits.   If you remember last July, Luz, Cindy and I spent our first few days of the month shooting every morning around the island coming home with some knock out images.  I've been thinking about this time of year for weeks now.

As we were motoring over, Heath told me to watch the dolphin that were swimming up behind the boat.  He adjusted the motor so we'd be kicking up a big wake and the pod of 5 dolphin started playing in the waves right away.

With the bright orange glow behind us on the horizon, having the dolphin jump and play in our wake was a great way to start the day off.  After a few minutes of this, they grew bored with us and headed back into the channel where they could continue to feed on their morning breakfast.

I looked at Heath and said "We can turn around right now if you want to, that was good enough for me!"

Instead, we headed over to Seahorse to see what we could see.

This was our view pulling up to the Shoreline on Seahorse Key

As we approached the island, the flocks of Magnificent Frigate Birds were riding the thermals above the island looking like something out of a horror movie.   Imagine in a scary movie when they show a haunted place and it has hundreds of bats or buzzards circling the witches castle.  This is the way the island looked this morning.

By this point, the rain had grown a little stronger and our chances of getting any decent shots was at about zero, but we were this close and we were already wet, so why turn around now?

We idled around for about a half hour watching the birds, listening to the strange, prehistoric sounds come from the bowels of the overgrown island till we were soaked.  At this point we turned and decided the rain wasn't going to let up, we might as well start heading back into the Marina.

Of course, mid-way home, the rain let up and it turned into a beautiful day.  I guess the clouds were just parked right over Seahorse Key for the morning.  Such is the life of living in the Cedar Keys.  One island might be bone dry while another island only a mile away will get rain on a daily basis?

On our ride back to the docks, we had another pod of dolphins swim up to play in our wake.

This time the big dolphin was riding the wake right beside the boat.  I was hanging over the edge of the boat with my camera and lens held as far as my arm could extend away from the boat.

Taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 lens -
This Dolphin was mere inches away from the front of the lens

At one point, the dolphin jumped out of the wave and almost hit the camera.  It was like it was trying to kiss the front of my lens.  Heath was laughing pretty hard when it happened because I'm sure he could see the adrenaline rush come over my face when I realized the dolphin was about to snatch the camera out of my hand which would have meant I would drop about $4000 worth of electronics into the Gulf of Mexico.

As we pulled back into the Marina, we were both pretty geeked over the dolphin encounter and even though we had gotten rained out from any good bird photos, I'm hoping tomorrow will be better.  We have another tour lined up tomorrow A.M., so I'll be sure to post what our outcome is.

Thursday June 30th - Crazy Storm Blows Through Cedar Key

Today was a great day, we had beautiful weather all day.  Very hot and sticky, but a typical summer day for Florida.  Typical to the point except that our afternoon storm that blows through was almost a small hurricane.

The Hideaway Tiki Bar was filled with people all sitting around talking and having a good time.  I kept hearing thunder in the distance but we were looking at a clear blue sky.  Someone finally came walking in and said "It's fixing to start blowing real hard, real soon."

We looked to the East and could see a wall of black clouds coming our way which is where the thunder and lightning was coming from.

The wall of storms blowing our way

Within seconds it went from a normal afternoon to winds so strong it blew off a section of our overhang in the front of the building.

Look at the second dormer on the roof.  See the section of eave that is blown off!  Our chairs were all over the parking lot and in the road from the strong winds

The hammock on the palm trees was completely sideways and the wooden swing behind the motel that everyone loves so much was rocking like a roller coaster.

Notice the Hammock completely sideways

The rain was coming in at every angle and there was no where in the tiki bar you could stand without getting wet.  This this keep anyone from staying out there through the entire storm? NOPE!  We all just huddled behind the bar and in the corners where the water wasn't blowing that strong and rode it out.

Hazie & Amanda having fun during the Cedar Key Storm

The power even went out for awhile, but that didn't keep anyone from having a great time.  Heck, some friends of ours had ordered pizza before the storm hit and in the middle of the worst part, in runs Chris from Island Pizza with the pizza in her hand!  That's some service right there.

Wednesday June 29th - Sunset Celebration on the Boat

Last week we had an issue with the prop on Luz's boat.  I brought it into the marina where we found it needed to have the hub rebuilt, so the mechanic put on a different one and asked me to take it out and make sure it worked properly.

Sounds like a bad problem to have.  "Go take this boat out on the water and run it around for a few hours to make sure it was just the other prop, and not any issues with the motor itself."

We were slow this week building up to the holiday weekend, so we called it a Date Night and headed out on the water, just Cindy and I.

We motored around the islands just talking and throwing around ideas about what we want to do when we grow up and philosophizing about this and that.

As the sun started to set, we thought we heard thunder off in the distance and turned to noticed one of those afternoon storms heading in our direction.

I wanted to take pictures of the sunset so Cindy said she'd drive.  She didn't want to be out on the water with lightning all around us.

Watching the Sunset as we head back into Port

We made it back in to the docks with no issues, but it was still a great night out on the water.

This was in front of us, notice the lightning on the horizon

Sleepy Cedar Key at Sunset


Photo Gear We Use  -  Solar Tips, Fact's and Trick's we've learned while on the road 

Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp.  Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.


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