February 13, 2011

The Mermaid's Tale

Slow sail'd the weary mariners and saw,
Betwixt the green brink and the running foam,
Sweet faces, rounded arms, and bosoms prest
To little harps of gold.      
 Lord Alfred Tennyson, The Sea Fairies

Since the time of ancient Greeks, tales of a mythical sea creature, part female, part fish, have inspired artists, poets, musicians and sailors. Described with the head and body of a woman and a fishtail replacing legs, these folklore figures have been known to lure lusty sailors to their deaths. 

Christopher Columbus noted in his log of 1493, the sighting of “female forms” that “rose high out of the sea.”   In 1614, John Smith, an English explorer, described seeing a mermaid in the Caribbean:  “Her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.” Further entries in his travel log indicated that he’d “begun to experience the first effects of love.”

Love, could it be?  After months at sea, little food, and a bad case of homesickness, ancient sailors probably mistook the sighting of a manatee as a mermaid.  Manatees are lovable, gentle sea creatures.  Most are gray or brown and can grow up to 13 feet and weigh over 2,000 pounds.  (Voluptuous women were the ideal back then!!!)

The largest population of manatees is found right here in Florida.  It is estimated that there are between 1,200 to 3,000 manatees in our coastal waters.  You can find them in shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and along the coast.  They thrive in warm waters which they need in order to survive without cold stress.  

During the winter months you can view them in Anna Maria near the “hump back” bridge (on Bay Street near the City Pier). Manatees are vulnerable to cold weather. During winter season, manatees will gather near power plants which have a consistant warm water output serving as a safe place for adult manatees and their calves.  

If you are interested in viewing hundreds of manatee, then consider a short day trip to the Florida Power & Light Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from Anna Maria Island north towards Tampa.  The center is a state and federally funded manatee sanctuary.  They offer an observation platform for visitors to observe manatees in the wild without disturbing them, along with a tidal walkway, and interactive educational exhibits. Visitors view manatees that gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal between the Big Bend Power Station and the center when the temperature of Tampa Bay falls below 68 degrees.

You can check out the interactive web cam by clicking here:

                         Manatee Viewing Web Cam

Viewing season is November 1 through April 15, and hours are 10 AM to 5 PM daily, no charge.
Manatees have no natural predators. Unfortunately, humans have caused manatees to become an endangered species through hunting (now illegal), inadvertent collision with boats, and habitat destruction.  It is against the law to kill, injure, molest, torture or annoy a manatee. Boaters must remember to reduce their speed where posted and where manatees have been sited. These gentle, slow-moving sea creatures can live to 60 years. 
To learn more about manatees and see them up close, you might be interested in visiting The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.  They have a Manatee Research Program whose primary goal is to study manatees in Florida.  Mote is located in Sarasota on City Island between St. Armand's Circle and Longboat Key. 
Check it out:  Mote Marine Laboratory
So, now you know.  Mermaids were just a product of lonely sailors’ imaginations….
Or were they?  
There is one more spot to check out just an hour north of Tampa where you can claim your own mermaid sighting. It’s the mysterious blue world of mermaids, manatees, turtles and bubbles, known as Weeki Wachee Springs.  The city of live mermaids is one of Florida’s oldest and most unique roadside attractions.  

Make the most of your manatee and mermaid experiences by checking in with one of  Coastal Cottages vacation specialists who will help you with all the details of your Anna Maria vacation.

It's a Dog's Life

Anna Maria is a Dog Lovin' town.  As you wander the streets, you'll come upon several AMI four-legged locals.  Businesses are named after much beloved pets, such as Rudy's and Slim's, both on Gulf Drive.  The newest business addition to Pine Avenue, Bella's by the Sea, is named for a family pet, too… little Bella, an English Bulldog.

Strolling down Pine Avenue, you'll meet Fritz Carlson, a lovable boxer, most often found lounging in front of An Island Place Realty .  Fritz fills his days people-watching while basking in the sun under palms and gentle Gulf breezes. He participates in parades and town activities, loves boating and always looks dapper with his collection of fashion accessories. 

A welcome hello from Fritz in front of An Island Place Cottage
You'll find that Anna Maria Island is pet-friendly.   Many of Coastal Cottages AMI vacation rentals welcome your furry family members as guests.  Some require a small pet deposit.  Although animals are not allowed on our beaches, there are plenty of roads and paths to walk your dog. Businesses leave water bowls outside their doors.  Julie and Sally, owners of Rudy's, sell homemade dog biscuits and will actually whip up a delicious, nutritious breakfast for your pet.  Inside, you'll find a dog paw wall and visitor pet photos including Rudy and their three other rescue dogs. 

Island Animal Clinic on Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach is a full-service veterinary medical facility, with 24-hour emergency service.  Check your Coastal Cottages vacation pack for more details.

So, relax…you’ve found the perfect vacation location for you and your pet.  

New Anna Maria Island Trolleys Arriving Soon

You're on "island time" now.  No need to rush.  Hop on one of the Anna Maria Island Trolleys and take a tour of our beautiful island.  The Trolley travels the 7 mile length of Anna Maria Island, stopping every few blocks  giving you the opportunity to get off and on while exploring beaches, shopping and restaurants.  Removing the back windows so cool island breezes circulate, the open-air trolleys give visitors a clear view of the beaches and towns along the route.  Air conditioned trolleys are also available for your comfort.

Trolley stops are marked with a green trolley logo sign. You can't miss the benches every 2 to 4 blocks running north from Coquina Beach along Gulf Drive, continuing north on Marina and then onto Pine Avenue ending at Anna Maria City Pier parking area. After a short wait, the trolley then makes a return trip west on Pine Avenue, south on Gulf and then around East Bay Drive (near CVS and Publix) and then continuing south along the beaches to Coquina Beach.  There are several trolleys running at the same time, so your wait will be around 15 minutes "island time"!!!

Oh, did I mention it's free!  You can hop on and off all day fare-free! 
Back in 2002, residents and visitors enjoyed the first free trolleys.  Since then, the three island cities (Anna Maria City, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach) contribute funds supplementing county tax and revenue from ads on the trolleys. 

This year, the county ordered five new trolleys which should arrive on the island by this fall.  Ads on the vehicles will continue to be displayed, as a result of Developer David Teitelbaum's efforts to keep the county from charging money for trolley rides. Revenue from the ads will supplement the budget to cover operating expenses.   Daily free service runs from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every 15-20 minutes from the Anna Maria City Pier on the north to Coquina Beach on the south, stopping every 2-5 blocks at designated benches.

So, if you are staying at one of Coastal Cottages AMI vacation rentals, check out the free trolley schedule and map that you'll find in your visitors pack.  Leave your car in the driveway, find a trolley bench and hop on the Anna Maria Island Trolley. 

Take a virtual ride now to prepare for your visit.  

Check out this video: