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Portuguese man-of-wars

February 4, 2011

Yesterday, while diving with Lionel, his father and Mouda off the beach at the end of Oakland Boulevard we encountered the most unsettling invasion of Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) I’ve ever seen. The blue jellyfish, also called bluebottle, is much more venomous than other Jelly fish encountered in Florida. They leave unsightly welts and scars that look like whiplash and the pain can last for hours. Had we not been wearing full wetsuits I don’t think any of us would have stayed in the water very long.

I was pedaling my kayak without the sail or the outriggers. The kayak felt rather tipsy since I did not have a paddle to help me keep my balance. The kayak did go rather fast and pedaling is so comfortable and easy in comparison with paddling.

While swimming carefully around the Jellyfish, I managed to get three Florida lobsters. That’s the name the spiny lobster or crayfish get in Florida even though they are present all over the world including the Mediterranean and Australasia. Just don’t tell the locals. I put the guys on at least one good hole on the second reef. It was loaded with margate grunts (Haemulon album) and one slightly undersized red grouper was circling me while I took two spiny lobsters out of the same hole. I had forgotten my gloves so taking the lobsters was extra sporty. During the day I cut my hand on five different spots. As I look at my hands today I cannot help thinking how this is a testimony about the importance of gloves for spearfishermen. Fifteen years ago, I got really hurt while diving without gloves, that time I lost all of my skin inside both hands, so I guess I needed a refresher.

Today, like everyday other day since I got to Florida, the wind was coming from the South. I chose to go sailing was on the ocean side. I took off from the John U. Lloyd beach state recreation area close to the very busy Port Everglades. The park is a green oddity in the overdeveloped Fort Lauderdale area. If you want a great natural beach in South Florida, this is it.

I was a bit apprehensive about taking off the beach into the surf. It turned out that the surf was almost inexistent. Unfortunately the wind was not very strong either. Heading South into the wind and against the current it was a slow progression. The Portuguese man-of-wars were all over the place. I did not dare put my hand in the water and falling in without a wetsuit was out of the question.

While the wind was not impressive, the waves were still present and their frequency very high. With the large cruisers also making wakes the surface was quite choppy. The kayak was not overly affected but it was not able to pick up speed on a light wind like it can on a flat surface.

On the material side, I found that heating alcohol that we use in fondue kits is not available in Florida. Paradoxically, the entire sales argument for the alcohol heating gear is the ubiquity of the fuel it uses. I guess no one counted on the fact that people in Florida don’t eat fondue outside of restaurants. I’ve been to camping stores, convenience stores, supermarkets and even the dollar store, they just don’t have it. I’ll have to get another type of camping stove.

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