Friday, January 16, 2009

It was a great day, BUT...

...I think I might have killed a sea turtle with my windsurfing fin. A baby sea turtle. :(

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I saw one in the water and veered well around it, but right as I was passing there was a "TCHKUNG!" and I hit something else; probably one of his buddies. I jibed and when I was passing by again there was a stunned / dead turtle bobbing at the surface with his head down. :(

I can barely bring myself to write about how great the windsurfing was (4.2 all afternoon!) because I feel so bad about the turtle. :(

Actually I think that inadvertently killing / maiming lots of cute sea creatures is sort-of the dirty secret of windsurfing in Florida, since several other folks I've talked to have also mentioned striking turtles or manatees. Formula sailors, especially. I could go back to using raked weed fins all the time to help deflect the blows, but that might not help much. One time in the James River of Virginia I sailed right through the back of a large gizzard shad, and that was with a weed fin. At least gizzard shad aren't cute.

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10 comments:

John said...

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A MARINE BIOLOGIST!! TERRIBLE!! jk, hope all is well dude.

James Douglass said...

Yeah, I'm gonna have to save a lot of whales to make up for this.

Chuck said...

James,

Sorry to hear about the poor turtle. I think you are right about the windsurfing's'dirty little secret and you are definitely not alone in hitting one. I first ran into one while planing along nicely in Okinawa, Japan back in 1987-88. I looked down, saw it on the surface, but before I could turn away, Wack! I was on a long board with the dagger board partially down which upon impact retracted almost fully into the board. Luckily it was a fairly big turtle, about 2' across the shell, so I don't think I hurt it, although I worried about it.
Also, I did the same thing sailing of the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii several years ago. I had seen 3-4 turtles, most 18"-2' size, swimming lazily on the surface and was trying to watch out for them. Then "thunk", looked back and briefly saw a shell of a fairly big turtle quickly disappearing. So I was extra careful the rest of the afternoon but no more close encounters.
Anyway, guess we all have to remember to try to keep our eyes open as much as possible for the various sea creatures while out there in their world.

Chuck
WET Rep to Belgium

Matt Whalen said...

Gizzard shad aren't cute?! C'mon James. Did you SEE the picture you posted? At least it's not as bad as http://www.peta.org/sea_kittens/

PeconicPuffin said...

That gizzard shad needs a makeover and a new name.

Tragic about the turtle. Or perhaps you're thinning out the dumb ones?

Catapulting Aaron said...

I'm surprised you don't carry a jar with formaldehyde onboard your windsurfer =P

James Douglass said...

Chuck- Those are interesting stories. I guess when you hit a BIG turtle you're less likely to inflict serious harm to it and more likely to inflict serious harm to yourself. Either way, it pays to keep a careful eye out, as you say. After this last event I'm also going to slow down and go WAY around any turtle that I see, in case their are others in the water near it.

Matt- Leave it to PETA to make me regret the "sea kitten" sticks I had with tartar sauce last night. :)

Peconic Michael- Gizzard shad are about as ugly as they come. They're also stinky and yucky because they eat a lot of dead plant and plankton detritus off the bottom. Their "gizzard" is the bulky, coiled part of their digestive system that they use to process the large amounts of poor-quality food they consume.

Aaron- You just gave me a great idea!

Ann Phelan said...

Sniff..I sail with turtles in Lac Bay...The water is so clear I can see them really well..this is a sad story.

John I said...

From a food chain perspective, we windsurfers do not effect critters nearly as much as boaters. I'd like to keep our discussions about hitting them to a minimum. Who knows, some zealot may come along and convince the authorities to restrict us as much as boaters....

Hit a turtle in the head, sorry. Hit one in the shell, bye bye fin or more. Years ago, a leatherback did the porpoise style breathing technique on the fly very close to me. He was huge! He would have wiped me out!

James Douglass said...

Ann- Yeah, it's a real bummer. It hasn't stopped me from windsurfing, but it has definitely make me more cautious.

John- You're probably right that windsurfers account for only a very minor fraction of turtle injuries and deaths compared to powerboats, ingesting plastics, fishing bycatch, natural predators, etc. It would be interesting to know the actual stats, though.

Leatherbacks are awesome. I saw some off South Carolina one year when the cannonball jellyfish were abundant.