Off Islands

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By Rodger Skidmore

Cue the Music
What music do you ask? Why, the theme from Jaws, of course. And why not, we’ve just gone through Shark Week or Shark Month or a lot of people shouting Shark, Shark, Shark. Normally all this shark business is just something at which to giggle or guffaw, as it’s funny/scary and great for of cable network TV ratings. But, this season, not so much.

It appears that the shark bite capital of the world (15% of all shark bites each year) is New Smyrna Beach. Yes, NSM is in Florida, but on the east coast just below Daytona Beach, not anywhere near here. The good news is that most of the bites are just nips. Sort of like a wine tasting where you take a sip to test the flavor and then spit it all out. Seems that is exactly what sharks do – mostly.

There are three main shark bite categories. The first is due to murky water. This is quite often the case in the Atlantic where the bigger surfer waves are found. The water is churned up by wave action, the shark, which can not see too well, notices movement and bites.  Not liking what its chewed off it spits it out or, because it has good manners, swallows grudgingly.  The second type is related to real estate – location, location, location. At New Smyrna Beach the best surfing waves are at an inlet where the Vidian river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Here we have a combination of murky water and a fisherman’s dream – an inlet where marine creatures (some call them “fish”) zip by.

In both categories the shark has made a mistake and rectifies it by making the Atlantic Ocean its own personal spit bucket. Unfortunately there is no accounting for taste and some sharks have that Aha Moment and say, “Tastes like chicken to me”. That seems to be the case up in the Carolinas where ten attacks have taken place so far this year. And thus we have arrived at the third type of shark bite, the bite by a shark that has decided that people aren’t so bad after all. Surfers might want to slather on shark repellant to keep the beasties away. Julia Child had a recipe that works pretty well, containing putrefied shark tissue. If you think I am making this up, google “Julia Child Shark Repellent”. [To save you time: she worked for the CIA developing shark repellent during WWII]. The problem, of course, is that, while you may not be bitten by a shark, you smell like a dead one.

The bad news is that a couple of weeks ago a Bradenton woman was bitten by a shark. The good news is that she was off the coast of Miami at the time. In all of Florida we’ve been averaging one death every ten years. I guess that is also good news. Further good news, according to, is that in the 131 years that they’ve been tracking such things, there have been no fatalities in Southwest Florida (as long as you don’t consider Tampa to be Southwest Florida). Most attacks and fatalities have been in the murkier waters north of here and up along the Florida Panhandle.

According to there have been 717 documented, unprovoked shark attacks on the Florida coast between 1882 and now. One question might be, unprovoked according to whom? Don’t think they asked the sharks about that. Also, what is the definition of the word unprovoked? Man has overfished – successfully harvested, in the language of aquaculture – most of the fish in the Atlantic Ocean and off the Gulf Coast. If sharks are hungry, what are they to do – eat a hot dogger (surfer) or, heaven forbid, a small child? And whose fault would this be: the shark’s? Our eating , or feeding to our cats and dogs, what has been the shark’s traditional food for millions of years may not seem to be a provocation to us but it may be to the poor shark. A hungry shark is, for want of better words, a hungry shark. Brightly colored swimsuits and reflective jewelry are more apt to attract sharks, so tone it down and save the bling for dinner time (your’s, not the shark’s).


Who’s Got Your Back?
Everyone on Longboat Key who has email knows the Nigerian bank manager who would like to transfer six million dollars from a dormant bank account into yours, if only you would send your bank account number. (Theoretically) everyone knows never to give anyone their bank account or social security number, especially if the deal sounds too good to be true.

Well, thieves are staying current with technology – linking the internet with your cell phone. List a high ticket item on Craigslist, and when it doesn’t sell too quickly, just when you are thinking of lowering the price, you are saved by someone texting that they will pay what you ask without even looking at the item. Seems they are on a business trip and aren’t in the area. Their solution, when you agree to the sale, is to send a check which includes quite a bit extra. The overage is to pay some delivery service to cart off your stuff. You are to pay via a Western Union type money gram, but only after the check clears and the money is in your account.

The fun part is that the check is either stolen or is a fake cashier’s check. Call the bank or company on which it is written and even the receptionist will know about it. Call your own bank before making the deposit and you will be told that, as you haven’t lost any money yet, there has been no crime. But as the check was sent through the mail there was a federal crime, just not one involving your bank, so you could call the FBI. They will tell you directly, and via an automated menu, to fill out a form on the internet. The problem with that is the FBI website is for people who have already lost their money to the scam, not for someone trying to assist in stopping it. The FBI says some local police will call you back, but they don’t. If you make the deposit and send the money gram you will find out the check wasn’t any good when, two weeks later, the bank deducts the full amount from your account.

Who’s got your back – your local police, the FBI, the bank on which the check was issued (they should care), or your bank? NO. The only one who can help you is YOU. Never accept a check from someone you don’t know. Simply say, “Sorry, cash only”, that’s the key.

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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