We sea captains can be very superstitious.
I remember that one voyage ... well, let's just say after that one, I was a little more careful about my nautical mojo management.
Our first stop on this voyage was North Key. A sandbar there divides broad shallow flats from a deep channel that cuts between Seahorse Key and North Key. We anchored up next to bars covered with resting pelicans, terns, cormorants, and laughing gulls.
I did a little bird shooting (no albatrosses) while the girls beach combed and soaked.
The sandy flats are loaded with invertebrate crawlies and it didn't take the dormies long to find some cool critters.
This hermit crab was inhabiting the biggest moon snail shell I've ever seen and I've seen a lot.
No one knows what the true hermit crab personality is like, but they sure have a curmudgeonly appearance.
We let this guy go after he finally agreed to a photo op.
The lightning whelk above and the crown conch below seem harmless, but they're actually deadly predators out on the flats.
If you were another snail and fell prey to them, they would envelope you in that muscular foot and use their radula (sort of a toothed tongue) to scrape your flesh into their mouth. The lightning whelk gets a lot bigger than the youngster in the photo.
On the other hand, (heehee) crown conchs are a smallish variety and don't get much bigger than this guy.
I've mentioned before how much I love the sand and grass flats off this quiet coast. There is so much going on all the time and flowing tidal currents bring stuff to you even if you are standing still on a flat.
It brought me a small bonnethead shark that cruised by about three feet from me before I noticed him ... I was so intent on photographing some pelicans. Bonnetheads are a small variety of hammerhead and mostly crab eaters, so no big deal ... but, it still gave me that start you get when you almost step on a snake.
I think he only came so close because I was standing still. Usually they are very shy. We see them so often out there when we are wading or swimming that our protocol is simply to yell, "Bonnethead coming your way" , when we spot one.
If somebody from the Chondrichthyes clan is going to harm you on the flats, it's much more likely to be a stingray than a shark.
The flats are their ideal habitat and you need to be aware of that when you're flats walking. The stingray shuffle ... walking without lifting your feet is very effective in avoiding stings.
The best defense is probably a pair of polarized sunglasses. Not only will you see more critters (woohoo!) , but they will make it easier to spot rays nestled into the sandy bottom.
The picture above shows a stingray as viewed without polarized sunglasses.
Here he is viewed through my $15 polarized fishin' glasses.
This is a little one. Some of these get 4 feet across wingtip to wingtip . I tried to get a photo of one of those, but the water was too deep for a good shot. I spooked him and he zoomed away from me in a cloud of mud.
I just hold still when they do that so I don't interfere in whatever direction Mr. Ray needs to go.
After North Key, we cruised over the North Key flats watching seabirds clobber baitfish schools, swam around at Snake Key, and then cruised back over behind Seahorse Key to watch the nesting Frigate birds spiraling en masse above the maritime forest.
Pretty sweet day.