Diving for Shells

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I get asked all the time about diving for shells.

“Where do you dive?”

“How deep do you go?”

“What kind of shells do you find?”

“Aren’t you worried about sharks?”

…and many many more questions.

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I appreciate all the questions asked. Now, I can answer some questions but not all.

“Where do you dive?”

This one is the most asked question.  Well, I cannot divulge where I dive. Every sheller has their honey holes as does every fisherman, shrimper and hunter. Some have found these spots by trial and error or by good old fashioned hard work. I will simply say that I dive all over the island as well as places like Little Hickory, Lover’s Key and Barefoot Beach. I have given my word that I will not divulge secret spots. I know that stinks and I am sorry.

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“How deep do you go?”

I have been known to go as shallow as a foot locally to as deep as 20+ feet in the Keys and the Caribbean. At about 15 feet, I can feel the pressure change. By about 20-22 feet, I’m about at my limit with a single breath. But I have seen some amazing things in deeper water.

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“What kind of shells do you find?”

Lots!

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Like this 18″ Horse Conch and huge Heart Urchins in Islamorada – which I still have yet to clean up.

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And this gorgeous Hawkwing Conch – same spot.

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Found this haul diving the island this past weekend. There are goodies out there. You just have to get into the deep water and get them.

“Aren’t you worried about sharks?”

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Sometimes, yes!

But I also play the odds and don’t go where it feels weird.

Read this article written by David McRee over at Blog The Beach. On a side note, our good friend Kim over at Snug Harbor did a great interview with him recently. Go check it out here.

One in 3 million odds.

Now I’m not gonna go shelling in some giant bait ball or near fishermen. That would be insane. I listen to my gut (and my diving friends) and pay attention to what I see and have seen in the water…

Let me also say that there are other things in the water that creep me out more than sharks……

“Isn’t the water really cold right now?”

Yes, the water is pretty daggone cold right now! I dove this past weekend with a water temp of 64 degrees. BRRRRRR. Good thing I have a wetsuit.

Unless you have one, you’re kinda on the crazy side to be getting in such cold water.

“Where is your favorite dive spot?”

Other than a couple of local spots, hands down it has to be the Caribbean (specifically The Cayman Islands and Cozumel), followed closely by the mid-Florida Keys. I’m sure the Shell Queen can confirm that. The Virgin Islands have amazing water. Grand Turk is just as beautiful. The Caribbean has the most beautiful, clear water that I have ever seen.

Diving is fun. It is also unsettling sometimes. But I think the payoff is always worth it!

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Fourteen Florida Fun and Festival Tour – June 2014

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For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed a good hot pepper. There was a time that I would have at least one hot pepper every single day. Many times, the Queen has been sitting next to me on the couch, has leaned over and said, “How in the world are you always so waaaaaaarm?”

Psssshhhh….Dats dem hot peppahs, baybeh.

So I was hoping that the Pinellas Pepper Festival would deliver, and for the most part, it did.

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 Beautiful day, beautiful drive (about two hours to Pinellas Park) with a beautiful chick (who doesn’t eat hot sauces or hot peppers).

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It was the 8th annual for this festival. It was still certainly small, but packed with a lot of punch in such a small area – just like I like my hot sauces.

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$3 per person to get in and a portion went to help the Elizabeth Animal Rescue Sanctuary, a no kill sanctuary in Odessa. If you’re in the giving spirit, stop on by and make a donation.

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Meat on a stick? Kinda? Not today. I had a tongue to scorch!

However…..

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We did pick up some Meat in a Bag – you know, for later.

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I had a lot of fun moving from table to table, tasting hot sauces and salsas. This was my kinda gig. I was surprised it wasn’t a gigantic event for being the 8th annual. I’d estimate somewhere between 35-40 booths.

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I shoulda bought a few of these. Dangit.

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We stopped at this booth and picked up some delicious Red Hot Pepper Jelly. Hot and sweet is my kinda combo.

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This vendor had a ton of dips for sale…and we sampled every one!

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But I’d have to say the moment of of the day was the Amateur Hot Sauce Competition.

Now let me first say that I am pretty much immune to hot. It takes a lot to stop me in my tracks, and it has only happened a couple of times. Once with a Ghost Pepper and the other with a Trinidad Scorpion.

Those two should only be used in warfare.

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There were nineteen entries. So that meant nineteen different hot sauces to taste and judge. Nothing like a gauntlet of heat. I ain’t scurred. The young lady behind the table explained the rules in her southern drawl in a continuous loop for those approaching the table.

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So I tasted Number 1. Ya know, no fear.

Now at this point, time seemed to have stopped. I felt flush and it coulda played out just like this:

“Hey shooger, you ever taysted leekwid fahr bufawr?”

“Uhhh, no.”

“Well, here, lemme stick this blowtorch on ya tuuuung real quick…that taste good shooger?”

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Holy smokes, what kind of pepper is in that? Do they make a Napalm Pepper? Because you know, that tasted like Napalm. Sweet napalm, but Napalm through and through.

I made it through all nineteen. By #7, I had a runny nose and was praying for God to save me from the firepit of hell.

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Thank the Lord the Queen had a cold bottle of water for me at the end of the line. I doused the flames with water and a handful of tortilla chips. We made our way through the rest of the festival pretty quickly and had the rest of the day to burn.

So as we learned at last month’s festival, it’s always good to have a backup plan. We had our swimsuits, beach bag, cooler of drinks and all our beach gear in the trunk. We decided to head to a beach we’d not visited before – IRB – only 10 miles away.

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We hit the 16th Avenue access and made our way to the beach.

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Now remember last week’s post about sunscreen and shoes on your feet? Yeah, I didn’t listen to my own advice and neglected both. I walked on parking lot blacktop, onto a scorching hot bridge and onto screaming hot sand. The dogs got blisters on them now. I was not smart.

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But wow, is that beach beautiful.

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Clear, warm turquoise water. Begging us to get in.

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You know we couldn’t resist. Water viz was probably 10 feet. Beautiful. Didn’t find any keeper shells, but there were remnants of gold in the water. We will be back, without a doubt!

After an hour, we jumped in the Shellmobile and headed South. We had made an appointment a few days before to visit our friend Karen on our way back, and we were very excited to finally meet her.

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We met up at Stump Pass, her home beach. She was waiting for us at the entry with a parking pass for us. What a sweetheart!

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There’s a reason why Karen said it was her favorite spot. The beach is absolutely beautiful. Stunning. When we arrived at her camp, she had a gift waiting for the Queen – a shark tooth/mini shell sieve. Awesome! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Queen will be using that every time we hit the beach. Thank you, Karen!

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You know me. I had to jump right in and snorkel for shells in the deeper waters while the ladies scoured the beaches for shark teeth (photo taken by Karen).

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We spent three hours or so talking about life and beaches; God and his goodness. Some of the best conversation we’ve had in a while. Karen is a wonderful person who exudes the love of God. She made us feel so welcome and a part of her family. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I know we made a lifelong friend on this trip.

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She sent us on our way with a gift bag of goodies and a prayer. We thank the Lord for people like Karen. We look forward to seeing her again soon.

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Stump Pass goodies

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 We got home, showered and went right to bed. What an amazing day. Although the Pepper Festival was small, it delivered in waves of pure heat. Our time at IRB was fantastic and our time with Karen was just the cherry on top.

We truly are fortunate and blessed people.