Friday, June 27, 2008

Beaches, Manatees, & Finicky Fish

This month, it was time for a much needed Keller family vacation. It took only a brief discussion for us to all agree that we should again return to the Ft. Myers, Sanibel, Captiva Island, Florida area.

The beautiful water, skies, and wildlife keep us coming back each year. Our family is very much one that prefers to have a relaxing vacation. This means that we typically try to find the most deserted beaches, stake our claim at the water's edge, and just chill for the entire day. To some, this may sound boring, or even anti-social. However, some of my fondest memories are those spent with my little family, on various beaches, looking at skies like this. This year's vacation provided even more fond memories....

My family travels well. For me, this is a great compliment. There is not much in this life that can stress out a human being more than driving for 18 hours. In fact, the kids started the trip by each offering their impersonations of me driving. That was a humbling experience...but very funny nonetheless. I made a strong attempt to make this a stress-free drive. Yet, the kids have it made, regardless of what is happening with the front seat occupants of the car. In the back seat you would find video games, movies, books, magazines, snacks, candy, drinks, pillows, blankets, etc. To make the drive bearable, we split it into two days. This enabled us to spend an evening with the Pieracini's in Griffin, GA. Michelle and Andrew have such a wonderful home and family! We spent hours talking with them, but we wished we'd had more time to spend. We can't wait until we see them again...and the new addition to the family. Michelle Pieracini is expecting another boy in August! We hope that their family enjoys as many fun moments with their boys as we have with ours. Thanks for letting us stay with y'all !!

Once we arrived in Florida, it was time to determine what we should do. There was very little debate. We headed to Captiva Island, which is literally the end of the road when heading west from Ft. Myers. We ended up on the beach in front of the 'Tween Waters Inn. That's near the bottom right of the photo. It was here that we had one of our most memorable experiences: Manatees. The water in the gulf was as calm and clear as I had ever seen it. Due to this, we could see every fish, sea shell, and animal in the water. While I was fishing near the shore, Ian, Nathan and Michele saw a large dark shape moving along the sandbar. Most of the people in the water ran screaming toward the beach, away from the dark object. My family ran into the water toward it. Their reward was seeing a manatee in the wild from about 5 yards away. However, about two hours later, the manatee came back. This time, Ian and Michele were on a mission to get even closer. They had to wade out over 100 yards from shore in order to meet up with the manatee. Ian made it a little further than Michele did. The 800-900 lb. manatee swam right up to him, so Ian reached out and petted it! What makes this story even better is knowing that Michele's mom and her husband had the same experience, on the same beach, back in May. Other wildlife moments on this beach included swimming within 10 feet of a mother dolphin and her baby, seeing a 10 foot manta ray jump clear out of the water, and finding a live sea urchin.

Possibly due to the fact that it was so clear and calm, Ian and Michele spent more time in the water than usual. However, Nathan is a fish and is always in the water. I was able to do quite a bit of fishing each day. I caught some nice fish (ladyfish, pompano, trout, sailcat), but I was really after the 3 foot snook which I could see swimming around me. They were swimming in packs of 10-20, chasing the small mullet and pinfish schools which were hanging around near shore and tickling our toes. I used live shrimp and pinfish for bait. Nathan and Ian even caught some real nice bait fish with their nets. However, the snook just sniffed my bait and swam on. I know this because I could see them in the water. It seemed as though I could have caught them with my bare hands! A fisherman just 75 yards down the beach was snagging the snook with a fly rod...I bet he caught a dozen of them. At that point, I wished Drew Hebdon was there with me. He would have loved it. Michele, Ian and Nathan tried their luck, too. The snook just didn't like our bait....darn it.


Diane said...

Wow Ken....I LOVED reading about your vacation. And the pictures are incredible!
I loved hearing you tell me over the phone all about the manatee adventure....and now reading about it seems even more incredible. Fun times.
Michelle and Drew (and the rest of the gang) just love was fun to hear you talk about them in your blog.
I love you lil' brudder. I really do.
Let's walk a beach together soon.

Diane said...

by the way....
I need close-ups of the boys' haircuts! I haven't seen Ian with short hair for ages.
They both are looking so old!

Michelle said...

I would have been one of the folks running away from a big dark object in the water, for sure. You guys are brave!

kkeller said...

It's not bravery, Michelle. We're just weird that way.