Monday, January 14, 2019

By the Sea

In one telling respect being by the sea is no different from being anywhere else; namely, one can become complacent about the privilege. I say it is a privilege because whenever I have become disassociated from the advantage (or fortuity if you will) - such as when I moved inland to Ontario after having spent three years at law school in Nova Scotia adjacent the Atlantic Ocean - I have invariably considered it a lost honour or at the very least a terribly nostalgic state of being. Leaving a maritime resort after a brief scheduled visit is always more sufferable but never less punishing. In any event the imperative to recall is that - like life in general - one must capitalize upon entitlement when possible.

Living on an island by the sea captures a further maritime distinction - isolation. Whether I am sojourning in Nova Scotia or on Cape Cod, on a Caribbean island or St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, Sardinia or by the Mediterranean, the element of separation is undeniably there. Usually aligned as well with uniqueness. Seaside dwellers infamously colour themselves and their environment with the singular characteristics of a littoral habitat - such poetic retail denominations as Pelican Cove and Sharky's Sea Grill; extending to the culinary customs of fried clams and oysters; or sartorial habits such as blue-and-white striped shirts, blouson white cotton shells and preposterous sun hats. Naturally the pathways and parking lots are frequently white sand or crushed sea shells. The demographic includes every age but a uniform casualness, an unmistakable commitment to relaxation and comfort (as though anything else were a violation and trespass). Perhaps it is the overwhelming natural views which excite the feature of simplicity.

Though not everything about the sea is dedicated to transient interlopers with nothing better to do than enjoy the scenery, eat, drink and sleep, the local residents (including the many fishermen and fisherwomen who populate the area) are equally adamant about the spiritual resolve associated with the sea. The inhabitants are as propelled as the vagabonds by the mystical allure of the sea; and for the most part I would imagine the locals are happy to have the business of the transients and gatecrashers. The generosity of the native community is no doubt enlarged by what is commonly called the ebb and flow of "the season" in most seaside resorts, time to recover from the demands of a  changeable population.

Our accustomed travels today altered from the aging, country-club bent of Longboat Key to the younger and more recreational atmosphere of Anna Maria Island (Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria), all in Manatee County immediately north of Longboat Key.

Anna Maria Island, sometimes called Anna Maria Key, is a barrier island on the coast of Manatee County, Florida in the United States. Named after Anna Maria Ceravolo, it is bounded on the west by the Gulf of Mexico, on the south by Longboat Pass (which separates it from Longboat Key), on the east by Anna Maria Sound and on the north by Tampa Bay. Anna Maria Island is approximately 7 miles long north to south.

Anna Maria Island was discovered by the local Timucan and Caloosan Native American tribes and, later, by Spanish explorers (including Hernando de Soto) in the name of the Spanish Crown. Hernando de Soto and his crew entered the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of Anna Maria Island, in May 1539, passing the island by to make their landfall on the mainland.

Anna Maria Island was first settled in the beginning of the twentieth century by Tampa Mayor Madison Post who then named the island for his wife Maria and his sister-in-law Anna. As Cuban fishermen were the first visitors to the island at the southern mouth of Tampa Bay, the settlement was very soon dominated by nautical types.

In 1892 George Emerson Bean became the first permanent resident on the Island, homesteading much of what is now the City of Anna Maria. After Bean's death in 1898 the land's ownership transferred to his son, George Wilhelm Bean, who partnered with Charles Roser, a wealthy real estate developer from St. Petersburg to form the Anna Maria Beach Company in order to develop the area. The company laid out streets, built sidewalks and houses and installed a water system. The first bridge that was built to connect Anna Maria Island to mainland Florida began construction in the summer of 1921. A heavy storm wiped out half the bridge but construction was able to continue. The bridge was finished as scheduled in 1922. It crossed the bay to what now is Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach to the fishing town of Cortez.

More people then began to visit the island which caught the interest of several businessmen. Nearly a century later Anna Maria Island has become one of the most popular locations in Florida, visited by both locals and tourists. Its wildlife and nature has attracted many scholars of different sciences such as biology, and marine biology.

Among the many things we like about Longboat Key is that there is close-at-hand everything we require, all easily accessible because of the diminutive nature of the island. Our morning for example began with a routine visit to a dentist for a cleaning.  The dentist's office is all of 4 minutes by car from our condominium. Afterwards we directed ourselves to Anna Maria Island for lunch at The Rod & Reel Pier at 875 N Shore Drive.

We had to park a couple of blocks from the pier. When we arrived there we people waiting for a table but luckily we two were seated immediately at a small table in the overhang part of the restaurant at the front.  The pier was mildly animated by the violence of the waves today in the windy but bright setting. Our meal was superb - delicate to a fault, all delicious! And, yes, there was signature Key Lime pie for dessert!  No regrets!

Of the many seaside places we've visited over the years, Anna Maria Island (and Longboat Key for that matter) are among the most recently developed, certainly only after the second decade of the twentieth century. I suspect it is the installation of a potable water system which made all the difference.  Fresh water on what is basically a sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico is no small accomplishment. My pattern of drinking Perrier bottled water has not changed.

After lunch we wandered along the nearby secluded streets of Anna Maria, relishing the quaintness and tranquillity. The adventure we had earlier proposed to visit Cortez (a nearby historical fishing village) was set aside as we travelled back to the demure surroundings of Longboat Key.  Once home I wasted no time positioning myself as usual on a chaise longue overlooking the sea to gather the radiation of the late afternoon sunshine. There was a cool breeze off the sea and no one else on the entire beach except for the occasional sole walker.

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