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Winter in the Big Cypress Swamp

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 5:17pm

Bob McConville
Master Naturalist

One-month-old baby alligator nestles on its mother’s head recently in the Big Cypress Swamp.

Ah, the harsh winter climate of South Florida! So blustery, so cold that I had to wear long pants twice last January! I don’t know how people can stand it!

Actually our climate provides a safe haven for many of our northern visitors to escape the cold and snow. These humans will take advantage of the excellent beach conditions, boating opportunities and great eco-attractions to keep themselves entertained over the next four months. Some will also take the short trip, less than thirty minutes, and learn about the fascinating areas just west of the Everglades. One specific region that offers an abundance of potential bird and wildlife sightings would be Big Cypress Swamp.

Here more than 720,000 acres of land is protected. The fresh waters flowing from north to south are essential to the health of the next door neighbor, Everglades National Park and these same waters feed the estuaries at the south end of the preserve to create a place of change where fresh waters meet the salt water bay.

With a blend of temperate and tropical plant communities, a variety of wildlife can survive here including the endangered Florida panther. This is also one of the few areas that you can find both alligators and crocodiles sharing the same habitat. During the winter months, young gator hatchlings will feed on insects and small fish to sustain their lives. Only twenty percent will make it to their fifth birthday.

Black bear in Florida do not hibernate for the winter like their northern relatives. Some revert to a pattern called “winter lethargy” or “denning,” whereby a reduction of activity takes place and the Big Cypress bears sleep less deeply than others, if at all.

More than 200 species of birds have been seen here and many are migratory from the now cold northern states while some are year round residents. One of the more unique birds is the wood stork. During the winter months, the Big Cypress area becomes more dry, and fish that were spread throughout the swamp are now concentrated in smaller, wet areas. This signals the mating season for the storks. Food will now be more abundant closer to the nesting area, which is mandatory for breeding pairs. Two adults and their young will consume more than 440 pounds of fish in a single breeding season.

Many wading birds such as snowy egrets, great blue herons, night herons and a variety of other species will be found in these water-concentrated areas as well. This also gives rise to sightings of red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles and even the American kestrel.

The area received its name from the many cypress trees that are found here.

Wood stork flies
over the 10,000 Island refuge area, close to Big Cypress and the Picayune Strand. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Florida has more of these conifers than any other state in the union. During the early 1900s railroads were actually built in the region to transport this lumber to market. The wood was used primarily for roof shingles and cisterns, which should indicate how durable the product was.

These are high rising canopy trees that provide shelter, habitat and food for a variety of wildlife. They are slow-growing and can live very long lives. Some Cypress in this area are estimated to be more than 400 years old. One in central Florida was estimated to be 3,500 years old before it was struck by lightning in 2012.

Big Cypress is truly a winter wonderland. You won’t find snow but, if you look carefully, a variety of magical surprises can leave you with lifelong memories!

Meaning this in the kindest way and, with no disrespect, I urge you to…GO TAKE A HIKE!


Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and is a naturalist for the Dolphin Survey Team on board the Dolphin Explorer. He will be speaking at Rose Auditorium in January, March, April and May on a variety of wildlife subjects. Bob loves his wife very much!!


Join Bob once again on January 13TH at the Marco Island Historical Societyís Rose Auditorium at 7 PM.


Last year’s talk about wildlife in the Everglades was both fun and exciting and, with a live alligator present, patrons will learn hands-on all about these prehistoric creatures. MIHS Members and Marco Island Academy students are FREE. A $5 donation is requested
from all others.

Prescribed Fires Made Possible Through Partnership

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 4:55pm

Renee Wilson

Prescribed fire is an important tool for natural resource managers in Southwest Florida. Within Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, thousands of acres of fire-dependent habitat are managed each year with the help of regional partners and crews from the Prescribed Fire Training Center (PFTC) in Tallahassee.

“We rely on partners for a lot of what we do here,” said Resource Management Coordinator Jeff Carter, who is responsible for overseeing the reserve’s prescribed fire program. Rookery Bay Reserve staff coordinate burn activities with the Florida Forestry Service, and work with partnering land managers and local fire departments to get the job done safely and efficiently. “We are glad we can help them, and get help at the same time,” he added, noting that this infusion of fire fighter trainees has been extremely beneficial for the reserve.

The PFTC matches fire personnel of various skill levels from around the nation with trainers at sites that require burning, resulting in a mutually beneficial opportunity. In addition to providing locations where PFTC personnel can gain experience, the reserve also provides dormitory space, and receives in return some very valuable help in managing its resources.

Rookery Bay Reserve staff, who manage 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters, work diligently to achieve the reserve’s resource management goals, which often include physically demanding jobs. With a goal of maintaining the native biodiversity, or natural living species population, in the reserve these managers sometimes must actually fight fire with fire.

According to Carter, one of the biggest threats to our coastal upland habitat is wildfire, which can occur when the fuel load (amount of downed limbs and other vegetative debris) builds up to a point where leaves can ignite with a lightning strike or careless spark.

In addition to reducing fuel loads, prescribed fire also:

  • Maintains natural composition and density of the forest
  • Stimulates seed production providing food for wildlife
  • Recycles nutrients in the soil

Fire is best used as a land management tool in South Florida in winter, when humidity levels and wind direction are optimal for the safest burns. Each January through March, residents of adjacent areas will see and possibly smell smoke from the fire, and fire activities may temporarily inconvenience motorists if wind changes direction and pushes smoke toward the roadway. Fire personnel carefully monitor the fire throughout the day until it is extinguished.

Many species of plants and animals in Southwest Florida are either directly or indirectly dependent on fire for survival. Although the reserve staff strives to mimic the natural fire regime, fire prescriptions require some extremely specific environmental conditions as well as a state-approved burn permit. For more information on the reserve’s prescribed fire program, visit

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for students and scientists from around the world.


Renee Wilson is Communications Coordinator at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. She has been a Florida resident since 1986 has joined the staff at the reserve in 2000.

Rookie Agents Corral Car Thieves. Save Careers.

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 4:49pm

By Barry Gwinn

FBI Credential Photo, issued March 1965. PHOTOS COURTESY OF FBI FILES

On November 30, 1964, at the age of 26, I reported to the Justice Department in Washington to be sworn in as an FBI Special Agent. After three months of training, we were all given our first office assignments. The protocol then was to serve for a year in your first office; then be sent to your second office for three or four years. Sometime after that, you would land permanently where the Bureau thought they needed you. Our class. New Agents Class 9, waited eagerly for our assignments. They varied in desirability from San Diego and Phoenix (which got cheers) to Milwaukee and Newark (which got moans). I got Milwaukee. On March 13, 1965, I arrived there with my wife and two infants in diapers. Snow cover didn’t disappear until May.

There was a spirited group of about five first office agents there. We hung out together in our off hours and helped each other in our cases. We partied on weekends quite a bit. We got the most unglamorous and unrewarding cases as they came in from other divisions. We suffered in silence knowing that better days would come in our next office of assignment. For the first two and a half months, nothing of note happened. And then came the Memorial Day weekend.

Some of the first office agents got together for a holiday party on the Friday night of that weekend. We would brag about our cases, complain about working conditions, and speculate as to what the future might bring. Mostly we drank beer. The wives stood it as long as they could before repairing to another room for a more sedate setting. After the ladies withdrew we were able to pick up the pace. Since the gathering was in my apartment building, I didn’t have to worry about driving home. I took full advantage of the situation. We started to bog down around midnight and the party broke up shortly thereafter. I made it back to our apartment and tumbled thankfully into bed.

About an hour later, while in a deep alcohol induced funk, the phone started ringing in the living room. As groggy and befuddled as I was, I knew I had to answer the damn thing. Only the Bureau and the Milwaukee Field Office had my number. I stumbled out to the living room and picked up the phone. Sure enough, it was the office. They wanted me and John Porter (another first office agent who lived in the same building) to drive up to West Bend and set up surveillance on a stolen car. It had been stolen in Chicago. When it crossed the Wisconsin state line, it became a federal case. A phone call of that nature tends to sober you up pretty fast – kind of.

We got up to West Bend about 4:00 in the morning and found the subject motor vehicle without too much trouble. If memory serves, it was a gold late model Buick. It was sitting at the edge of a field. We were able to set up about 100 yards away on the other side of the field. The car shimmered ominously in the bright moonlight. The tension mounted. The excitement mounted. Then the boredom set in and we took turns snoozing. As the sun came up, we faced the possibility of someone getting in the car and driving away. What should we do then? Boredom quickly turned to apprehension. We had neither instructions nor an arrest warrant. How can you get an arrest warrant for an unknown person who has yet to appear in the case? We decided that there was nothing for it but to discuss this with the Milwaukee United States Attorney’s office. Cell phones, then being unknown, we had to go into the center of town to find a phone booth. That was the easy part. Trying to get in touch with an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) at 7 AM on a Saturday on a holiday weekend was the toughest thing either of us had done as agents. To make matters worse, we were running out of quarters. Finally we made contact with an AUSA who under the circumstances, seemed like a nice enough guy. Even better, he gave no indication of being as hung over as we were. Down to our last two quarters, plus a couple of dimes, we finally got the authorization to arrest whoever had driven the vehicle away from the field. Buoyed by our good fortune we hastened back to the surveillance site. Although we were still rookie agents, we had managed to set things up perfectly. Up to this point it had been a flawless investigation – by the book. We were still congratulating ourselves as we got back to the field. Horror and foreboding quickly replaced smug satisfaction upon finding that the Buick was gone. The unidentified thief had driven off at the very moment we were setting him up for an arrest.

FBI Acceptance Telegram Nov. 20, 1964. PHOTO BY BARRY GWINN

Now it was time for pure unremitting panic. The Bureau did not look kindly on these kinds of shenanigans. We had enough information to know that this case was in connection with a major car theft ring out of Chicago. The only reason they didn’t send real agents out on this was because it was 2 AM on a Saturday morning. Our bloodshot eyes were bugging out of their sockets as we contemplated being sent to Butte, Montana or Jackson, Mississippi. After a short intermission of holding our heads in our hands, we did the only thing that was left for us – drive like hell all over West Bend and hope that the Buick showed up. The next hour or so was spent in a white knuckle, high speed, tires squealing search through West Bend. Desperation ruled. Finally, about to run out of gas, with nowhere else to look, we admitted defeat. We had combed all streets and alleys in the town. The Buick was nowhere to be found. It was probably up in Appleton or who knows where by that time. If either one of us had been by ourselves, we would have pulled over and bawled. However, G-men don’t do that kind of stuff. There was nothing for it but to gas up and head back to Milwaukee and face the music. We would be the laughing stock of the office. The Special Agent in Charge was not likely to find it amusing.

Crestfallen, we pulled into a single island Sinclair gas station. There was one other car gassing up across the island. A man got out of the car and walked to the rear. He had a Wisconsin license plate in his hand. Come to think of it, the car was a late model gold Buick. Being well trained agents, we felt this warranted further investigation. We got out of our car and proceeded to the rear of the Buick. The man had laid the Wisconsin plate on the ground while he was removing an Illinois plate from the Buick. It was the same plate that was on the stolen car. We stared at each other in disbelief. All of a sudden, the sun burst through the storm clouds. I could almost hear a rousing Sousa march being played behind the gas station. This was the moment we had signed on for. With all the majesty and authority of the omniscient and omnipresent agents of the FBI, a shout rang out which in later years, was to be repeated many times, “FBI! You’re under arrest!” How sweet that sounded. It was better than the movies. With that simple phrase, we graduated from dumb rookies to wise, experienced agents. We would henceforth be treated with more respect. It got better.

The poor guy never knew what hit him. Somehow, even after all the precautions he had taken, he had gotten caught red handed. He could offer no plausible explanation for this. He expressed his admiration and respect that we were able to follow him. He had spent the last couple of hours making sure that he was clean. The guy was so impressed with our acumen that he blurted out that there would be several additional stolen cars to be delivered to the field that day. After being caught in the act, he thought we already knew this and wanted to earn some brownie points. If true, the case agent would get a pile of impressive statistics. We duly reported this to the Milwaukee Field office. The office was delighted at our fine work and promptly sent up some real agents to take over the case and pad their resumes. We were recalled to Milwaukee. Throughout the day, there were several arrests made as four more stolen cars arrived in South Bend. The case was a big deal and did help to break the back of a notorious stolen car ring. It got front page play in the Milwaukee Sentinel. Although my name wasn’t mentioned, I sent a clipping to my parents, assuring them that I was the one who broke the case. They never doubted this and sent the clipping to the Swarthmorean, my hometown newspaper. The paper treated me much like the agent who had shot John Dillinger. I was finally on my way.


Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.

Reflection, Recognition and Resolve

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 4:46pm

Lisa Honig
Sr. Manager Distinguished Events
American Cancer Society, Marco

Bill and Karen Young, this year’s recipients of the Grado Award.

Happy New Year Marco Island! I hope that you all enjoyed the holiday season with family and friends and are rested and ready for yet another action packed season. Before we move into 2016 I’d like to look back on 2015 and provide you with the results that because of your generosity led to another record setting year for the third year in a row. All I have to say is $507,000! This is the final tally of all the hard work completed by our volunteers, sponsors and donors who worked together right here on Marco Island in support of the fight against cancer. Thank you for your donations and for supporting the American Cancer Society of Marco Island. Sue, Nikkie and I appreciate your generosity and philanthropic spirit.

Both of our flagship events, the Imagination Ball and Relay For Life, set new records; in fact, both were recognized nationally by the American Cancer Society for their outstanding results. Sue and our two committees, led by Dick and Debra Shanahan and Jamie Bergen, really set the bar high and cleared it by a mile. Their committees worked tirelessly in their quest for excellence, and I am constantly humbled at the amount of time and effort each and every one of them put into these events. However, neither of these events would even get off the ground if it weren’t for our amazing volunteers who work day in and day out fundraising and planning the events to ensure that our guests have a wonderful experience. We are also extremely lucky to have so many local businesses, foundations, individuals and communities support the American Cancer Society by holding events that are fun for all ages while also raising the funds we need to keep up our lifesaving work. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart and am so grateful for all that you do.

This past December at our annual dinner we thanked all of our Volunteer Leadership Board members for their dedication and commitment to the American Cancer Society. Each and every one of them has had an impact on our community and we are so appreciative that they chose to give their time to us. We also recognized our Volunteers of the Year, Dick and Debra Shanahan, for their contributions to the American Cancer Society as the chairs of the Imagination Ball. Under their leadership, the results from our gala events have tripled in just three years. They have brought new ideas, energy, and vision to the event and we are so thankful that they are part of our team. We also paid tribute to our outgoing board chair, Gary Landis, for his years of service to the Marco Island American Cancer Society. Gary has worked tirelessly on our behalf securing new supporters and personally co-chairing the “Shoot Down Kids Cancer” event at Gulf Coast Clays each spring. I have had the pleasure of working with Gary for my entire tenure and cannot thank him enough for showing me the ropes and being a constant presence in our office and one of our most ardent supporters. He has helped us grow and evolve and truly helped improve our presence in the community.

Gary closed the evening by remembering our vice chairman, Monte Lazarus, who lost his battle in October. Monte was passionate about our mission, and when he joined the board he wanted to do something for the community in the “off season.” Monte developed and chaired the Luau Against Breast Cancer, raising funds for breast cancer research. As a board member Monte attended every event and was proud to be our advocate in the community. We all miss him, his contributions and his sense of humor, even while he was going through his treatments. I will continue to fight for Monte and for the many other members of our community who are fighting this disease.

So, we move into 2016 knowing that there is more to be done and hopeful that with your help we can continue to save more lives by funding the research, programs and services that help our survivors and their caregivers navigate this very scary and life altering diagnosis. So, I am going to go out on a limb again this year and tell you that my resolution for 2016 is to raise more than we did last year by continuing to recruit and retain amazing volunteers and give them the freedom to create spectacular events that our community wants to support.

To get us started we have a new volunteer board chair to guide us, Rachel Schenk. Rachel has been a member of our board for two years and also serves on the gala committee and is an avid participant in our Relay For Life. She is truly passionate about our mission and a vocal advocate for us in the community. Professionally, Rachel is the vice president and branch manager at BMO Harris Bank in the Esplanade. I am thrilled to have her as my partner and am looking forward to another successful year. We are also very fortunate to add Dennis Pidherny to our Board. Dennis has served as Logistics Chair for the Imagination Ball for two years and brings a wealth of business knowledge and volunteer leadership skills to our organization. I am confident that Dennis will bring new ideas to the table and challenge all of us to do bigger and better things in the new year.

Season is upon us and I know you all have plenty of options and that calendars fill up quickly so let me give you all the important dates so you can plan to attend some or hopefully all of our events and activities:

The Imagination Ball presented by BMO Private Bank is set for March 5, 2016 in the Beach Pavilion at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort and Spa. We hope you will join us on the beach as we strive to “Wash Away Cancer” with great food, live and silent auctions, and lots of dancing. This year we will honor Bill and Karen Young with our Grado Award for their support of our mission. We still need committee members to assist with the planning of the event and day of event volunteers to help us with check in, auction, and other activities. Tickets and tables are still available if you would like to join us.

Relay For Life presented by Robert J. Flugger will again be a 12-hour event and will be held on April 9, 2016 at Mackle Park. Our chair this year is Cathy Nelson who has participated in Relay For Life for many years serving in a variety of capacities. Last year Cathy was our Volunteer of the Year for her contributions to Relay For Life. We are so excited that she has taken on the extremely important role as chair to lead our teams and volunteers on a “Relay Road Trip – Destination End Cancer.” We are currently signing up teams and sponsors to participate in our fundraising efforts and we will need volunteers on the day of the event to help with crowd control, luminaria set-up and our survivor/caregiver luncheon. You will see our teams in the community fundraising and I hope you will give them your support. You can’t miss them as they will be all decked out in our favorite color – purple.

We also have several upcoming events that you may enjoy that are run by local businesses, communities or individuals:

Island Country Club Charitable Foundation Annual Charity Golf Classic will be held at the Island Country Club on January 31, 2016. Get a foursome together for a great cause.

Golden Gate Jewelers Shopping Day is brand new this year and will be held on February 3, 2016. Stay tuned for more details and get ready to shop for your special valentine!

Fight Like a Girl Fashion Show is being held at Bistro Soleil on February 23, 2016 and always sells out so get your tickets right away if you’d like to join us.

Shoot Down Kids Cancer will be held at Gulf Coast Clays on March 19, 2016. You can sign up for a team or sponsorships now.

Hideaway Home Tour, Fashion Show and Luncheon is expanding in its second year by adding a preview night. The dates are set for April 11th and 12th and this is sure to sell out again in 2016.

If you would like to host an event of any kind, please contact Sue, Nikkie or me at the office to discuss the logistics and timing. We welcome all ideas and look forward to hearing from you.

Hopefully upon reading this you have reached the conclusion that raising a half million dollars takes the entire community and that the three of us in the local office need more help to keep the momentum going. We need your help to keep our streak alive, exceed our 2015 results and help me achieve my 2016 resolution! There are so many ways to lend your support and all you have to do to get started is call or stop by the office and we can find a match based on your available time, skills and interests. In closing, I would like to make a toast to thank all of you for your support and to recognize all of our survivors and caregivers for their courage and tenacity while coping with this disease and most importantly to honor those we have lost who we will not forget and for whom we continue to fight. I thank you in advance for considering the opportunity to participate in or volunteer for events that support the American Cancer Society. I wish all of you peace, happiness and good health in 2016.


This is an ongoing series of columns dedicated to informing the Marco Island Community about the American Cancer Society, the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health concern by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Marco Island American Cancer Society office is located at 583 Tallwood St, Suite 101 and is open daily from 9 AM–5 PM. For more information about volunteering or any of the events mentioned in this column please contact Sue Olszak or Lisa Honig at 239-642-8800 ext. 3890

Travel to Cuba – Logistics

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:52pm

Vickie Kelber

Cuba is known for its “Yank Tanks”; classic American cars from the 1950’s.

Travel to Cuba for US citizens is evolving. There are a host of new transportation options either already in place or planned including ships, ferries, charter and commercial flights, even trains (well, sort of….read on). While more choices are available, travel still requires that visitors from the US meet one of 12 broad categories to justify their trip; under US law, travel to Cuba purely for a vacation is not allowed.

The 12 accepted purposes include visiting a close relative, educational activities which involve “people to people exchanges”, journalistic, religious, and humanitarian activities, public performances, professional research, “support” for the Cuban people. Family members of professionals and others traveling to Cuba for such approved activities as research, meetings, or performances may now accompany those individuals without having to apply for a special license.

There are more permissive opportunities for joint business ventures there as well. This will be important in the future as it will allow expansion in telecommunications, internet, and finances.

Fresh fruit and vegetables in Old Havana.

Most major tour companies as well as those specializing just in travel to Cuba offer a number of options that meet the requirements, usually under the “people to people” category. Viewed as an educational opportunity encouraging meaningful exchanges between Americans and Cubans, there must be organized activities with a guide or agent. For this reason, the tours are usually very structured and involve a variety of experiences including meeting and interacting with Cuban teachers, farmers, musicians, artists, academics, and/or other professionals and workers. I’ve been told that there are only three travel agencies in Cuba licensed to work with American companies, so no matter which US company you book with, your local guide will be from one of those three agencies.

Independent travel is allowed, but must also satisfy one of the categories and the independent traveler must be able to “justify” his/her trip. We have friends who recently traveled there on their own for a week; they were not asked any questions about their purpose when they went through Cuban immigration upon entering the country. The only question we were asked was if we had recently visited Africa. Our friends and we were asked no questions upon exit.

There are regularly scheduled charter flights from places such as Miami, Tampa, New York, Houston, and Los Angeles; more cities are scheduled to be added as departure locations to Cuba. For a short period of time, there were flights from Ft. Myers to Havana. However, they were suspended over what were described as a “technicality” and “paperwork problems”. Flights can even be booked via and it is anticipated that approval of commercial flights is imminent. Ferry service has been approved for future travel between Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Havana.

Microbrewery/pub on Plaza Vieja in Old Havana.

There are small ships such as the 3 masted sail cruiser S/C Panorama that provide the opportunity to participate in a people to people exchange in 5 locations around the island. Carnival Cruise Line has announced people to people cruises stopping in Havana, Santiago and Cienfuegos beginning later this year. Vacations by Rail advertises a specialty trip to Cuba with service on Amtrak’s Silver Meteor from New York to Miami for a cruise to and around Cuba.

Non-approved travel for US citizens to Cuba via another country such as Canada, Mexico, or the Canary Islands is still considered illegal based on US law.

US travelers to Cuba must have a passport that will not expire until at least 6 months after the completion of the trip and it should contain two blank pages. They also need to obtain a Tourist Card commonly referred to as a visa and medical insurance. If taking an organized tour or charter flight, that company will typically arrange for the Tourist Card and insurance. The Tourist Card can be purchased at the departing airport if it has not been provided by the tour/charter company. The medical insurance can be purchased before passing through immigration in Havana if necessary.

For air travel, there are restrictions on luggage. In general, there is a weight limit of 66 pounds (30 kilos); more than that is subject to a surcharge per kilo. When we traveled to Havana, our airline, American, limited us to 44 pounds including carryon; more than that would have resulted in additional charges. It is recommended that travelers arrive at the airport 4 hours prior to flight time. In our case, that meant 4 AM. It took about an hour for us to go through the three-step check and weigh in process. This is because there are so many people taking gifts to friends and relatives in Cuba. We saw flat screen TVs and many hay bale size plastic wrapped bundles of clothing being shipped. In fact, there was so much extra weight on our plane that the flight was delayed while some fuel was taken out of the tank.

Castle de Los Tres Reyes del Morro guards the entrance to Havana Bay. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Money conversion and usage in Cuba is a bit involved. Although it has been announced that there is a plan to merge the two, there presently are two currencies in use in Cuba, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) used by visitors and the Cuban Peso (CUP) used by locals. There are about 24 CUPs to a CUC. Money can be changed at CADECAs (change bureaus), banks, and major hotels. There is a CADECA in the arrivals part of the airport in Havana. The American dollar is pegged at about 1 to 1 with the CUC. In addition to a possible conversion fee, there is a 10% fee in changing US dollars into CUCs. For that reason, some recommend using Canadian dollars, Euros, or Swiss Francs instead of dollars. I keep a variety of currency in my safety deposit bank for future travel and I did have all three available to me. I brought my Canadian dollars with me, but figured that with the exchange rate at the time I purchased the Euros and Francs, it actually was better to use US dollars, despite the penalty. The lines at banks and CADECAs in Old Havana can be long.

Although use of US credit and ATM cards in Cuba has been approved officially, the implementation of this has been slow. In addition, few places are set up for accepting credit cards, even those issued by non US banks and there are few ATMS. It is difficult (some say impossible) to exchange US travelers checks and the original purchase receipt may be required at exchange.

Except for prescription medications, I’ve never worried much about carrying an abundance of “what ifs” when we travel. I’ve found that it is easy to purchase almost anything unforeseen we might need at local pharmacies. Even in Mexico City, when my husband had a self-diagnosed throat infection, I went to a farmacia, asked for “pastillas para la garganta” and was able to get a very effective antibiotic. Not so, we were warned, in Cuba. So, into my suitcase went an abundance of Alleve, Immodium, Neosporin, hydrocortisone, and other “maybe we will need them” items including bug spray for those mosquitos I had read about. Fortunately, we did not need any of the medications and the only time bug spray was needed was when we headed into the thickly forested Escambray Mountains in central Cuba.

As travel of US citizens to Cuba increases, there is concern about the infrastructure not being able to meet needs, especially as it refers to the number of hotel rooms and the upgrading and updating of these hotels. Following the disbanding of the Soviet Union, Cuba went through an extended period of economic difficulties known as the “Special Period.” One of the many affects of this was the diverting of money from infrastructure maintenance to things like education, food, medical care. Intermittent water problems can be a problem in hotels, sometimes even in the top ones. It is recommended to not drink the tap water in Cuba. We did use it for brushing our teeth and always accepted ice cubes in restaurants.

Enjoying refreshing coconut milk on the streets of Old Havana.

Increasingly, casa particulares are becoming popular. They are rooms or apartments in private homes and may provide some meals as well. There are a number of online sites, including Airbnb, through which one may be booked. Casas are required to be licensed and are routinely inspected to make certain they meet prescribed standards.

WIFI is not widely available in Cuba. In the cities, the internet may be accessed at major hotels, for a fee of $2-$12 an hour/day. Service can be slow. In Cienfuegos, the main plaza is WIFI enabled, but a card must be purchased in order to access it. SIM cards can be purchased for unlocked cell phones. Cell phones can also be rented. Calling cards can be purchased for use on the many landlines in Cuba. It is about five cents a minute for in country calls, about $2.50 a minute to the US. Verizon offers a Pay-As-You-Go option for its customers. Calls are $2.99 per minute, data is $2.05 per MB, while standard international rates apply for messaging. People I know who have used their Verizon smart phones in Cuba say that service is inconsistent.

When we told people we were traveling to Cuba, many of them asked immediately, “can you bring back Cuban cigars or rum?” Americans may bring back up to $400 of goods, including no more than $100 total of tobacco AND alcohol products. That said, a box of Cohibas costs more than $100. At the Romeo y Julieta factory in Havana, we purchased a package of 7 medium sized Cohibas for $55. People wishing to bring back rum in their carryons must purchase it at the airport, where the price is the same as in the city. Santiago rum, we were told, is made in the original Bacardi barrels.

There are many online resources for travel to Cuba. For more information on independent travel requirements and procedures, consult and I found useful for a listing of cultural events and other information.

As noted above, travel to Cuba is evolving. Information provided above was accurate at the time of writing this column.


Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is a former board member of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.



MIPD Trains Officers in Active Shooter Situation

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:39pm

By Samantha Husted

It was a strange sight, officers with gun blazed in the Tommie Barfield Elementary school hallway.

It was a surreal sight, police officers with guns drawn creeping through the hallways of Tommie Barfield Elementary School. The same school that I spent my elementary years and graduated from in 2004. It still looks pretty much the same, maybe a little bit smaller. It definitely smells like it always did. The large, hunkering police officers did not fit. Nor did the guns.

The officers were looking for an active shooter. Well, an actor posing as an active shooter. And the guns, they were the real deal, except that they were modified. Instead of bullets they expelled a sort of waxy, crayon-like paint.

The officers were being trained on how to respond to an active shooter situation at the school. Something that the Marco Island Police Department (MIPD) feels is very important.

“We have a changing world,” said Sgt. Nick Ojanovac of the MIPD. “We need to make sure that we’re up on our practices and tactics. The tactics actually change continuously now for us. It depends on what the shooters are doing, which changes how we respond.”

The officers entering and searching the room in pairs. PHOTOS BY SAMANTHA HUSTED

This type of training is reality based. The scenarios created were meant to feel as real as possible for the officers so that if this ever were to happen they would know exactly what to do and how to respond.

The night began with the officers gathered around the entrance of the school by the bus loop, disarming themselves. Safety is definitely the name of the game. It was the overarching theme of the whole event. Before the officers entered the school they were searched and searched again to make sure that they had no live weapons on them. Not even a pocketknife. They were then armed with the guns with the paint bullets. A square of duct tape was placed on their boots, signaling that they were clean and ready to go.

Officer Brad Gallagher of the Naples Police Department ran the training. He started with a walkthrough of the school and as well as the area where the officers would run through the different reality based scenarios. He taught them how to search rooms individually and paired up. He also showed them how to properly look around corners. He would correct the officers until he was satisfied that they had done the procedure right.

Sgt. Mark Haueter of MIPD acting as a victim during one of the scenarios.

The scenarios all began the same. Over the loudspeakers a realistic recording of a fire alarm going off, children screaming and the sounds of general chaos played. Master Police Officer of the Naples Department, Matthew Doyle would then fire two blank rounds. Guns, by the way, are extraordinarily loud. So loud that it’s almost disorienting. Especially when it echoes in the hallways of an empty school.

Then the officer, or officers, would make their way down the hallway where they would encounter a downed civilian or even a bomb. They would then turn the corner and be met with the shooter, played by Bill Miller, Reserve Officer Badge #68 with the Naples police, who would fire at them.

In one scenario Sgt. Mark Haueter of MIPD acted as the active shooter taking Bill Miller hostage. In another situation Bill Miller acted as a victim and ran towards the officers screaming, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” In each scenario the officers had to respond properly as if it were the real deal.

The training teeters on the edge of comforting and alarming. It’s alarming that we live in a world where school shootings are a part our reality, but it’s nice to know that our local officers are taking serious steps to combat that. They now know exactly what to do and how to respond should one ever happen and that’s definitely something.

Fire at the Sea Watch Condominiums

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:34pm

By Samantha Husted

An aerial view of the scene shows the collaboration of first responders from Marco Island Fire Rescue, Greater Naples Fire Rescue, Collier County EMS and Marco Police Department.

On Monday, January 4, 2016 at 4:09 PM, the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department received a call of smoke coming from the Sea Watch Apartments at 209 S. Collier Blvd. Fire units responded immediately, arriving at the scene in approximately three minutes. Smoke was coming from the front of the structure as well as the rear. The Marco Island Fire Rescue Department, Greater Naples Fire Rescue and Collier County EMS all responded to the scene. Marco Island police officers assisted in the evacuation of residents of the building.

The fire crews entered the structure and successfully extinguished the fire. The unit itself is now unlivable due to damages. The unit directly above also sustained smoke damage.

The fire department made contact with the management on scene and were able to locate the unit’s owners who were not present at the time of the fire. Other surrounding units did receive some light smoke damage but were able to be turned back to the owners and the association.

Due to the extensive damage the cause of the fire remains indeterminate.

“We made contact with the owners of the affected units and the condo association,” said Fire Rescue Chief Mike Murphy. “We’ll do whatever we can to assist them during this time of need.”




The Business of Bocce

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:23pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

Pat throws the bocce ball after assessing the court.

There are many residents and visitors to Marco Island who love the game of bocce. From organizations like the Italian American Society, who host a team, to condominium associations who have their own leagues, to many individuals passionate about the game, there is an ample supply of bocce players. Enough so that it was determined three bocce courts at Mackle Park was not enough. An idea Peter Pareene and his friends firmly believed in.

Peter, along with friends and fellow bocce enthusiasts, Lou Imbrogno, Phil Madonia, Lauren DeLisa, Pat Mazzucco and Dale Johnson, decided to approach Mackle Park with the idea of adding a fourth bocce court. They spoke with Alex Galiana, Recreation Administrative and Facilities Manager for the City of Marco Island. The idea was passed by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee onto the City Council after the Italian American Society had proven their interest with a financial donation as seed money. That donation, along with their persistent efforts, brought approval from the City Council and the idea to fruition! A fourth court has been developed.

Peter takes aim, showing the ball does not curve.

“All in all, design, cement, carpet, etc., is expensive. The bid for this court came in at a little over $18,000. We started speaking with others and before long, we had 350 signatures on a petition to put forth to council to build a fourth court. That turned a lot of heads and the court has been built,” said Peter.

The court was built by Sports Surfaces. Getting the cement truck into that area of the park was challenging. The cement truck is too heavy to cross the playing fields and had to enter on a side street and back down the pathway. The company prepares the area, builds the framing, pours the cement, uses a laser to level the court and then the grass was put in. The turf is no longer glued, it is held in place with sand.

The three older courts get plenty of use, but they could use repair work, too. “Low spots collect water. It’s obvious when the ball curves this way or that. The ball moves straight down the new court,” said Peter. “Repairing the old courts should be considered in the near future.”

From left to right: Friends RickRicardo, Bill, Pat, Peter, Jerry, Dennis, Manny and Jim interrupt their game of bocce on the new court last Saturday for a photo. PHOTOS BY COASTAL BREEZE NEWS STAFF

“The new court was finished just in time, too. We begin league play Monday afternoons on January 11th. We play Friday nights as well,” Peter added. One can sign up for a few time slots or an entire season.

The popular Bob Ray Memorial Bocce tournament will take place the 27th of February (last Saturday). In March, Hideaway Beach also hosts a tournament.

For further information on leagues or to schedule court time, contact Mindy Gordon at Mackle Park at 239-642-0575.

The cement truck was guided, going in reverse, halfway around the lake.

Our Island Ecology

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 3:58pm

By Chadd Chutsz

Burmese python sightings.

New Year 2016 brings a new column to Coastal Breeze News- Our Island Ecology! Enjoy regular updates and insights on Marco Island nature and wildlife, straight from the desk of the City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist, Chadd Chutsz.

Burrowing Owl Chicks Arrived!

The first chicks of the season have been spotted by Owl Prowl volunteers! Three fluffy chicks along with mom and dad have made themselves at home on a sandy lot just a short fly from the beach.

Writer Rosanne Pawelec is kindly donating a portion of sales proceeds from the book “Ollie Finds A New Home” to a burrowing owl fund to assist the city and the Owl Prowl volunteers for burrowing owl education, equipment and signage. Thank you, Rosanne. The Owl Prowl volunteers maintain the growth of the vegetation around owl nests, owl perches, boundary tape, and stakes and of course, report on new chicks and any new nests. Contact Chadd at 239-389-5000 for more information.

Red Tide Passes

The first red tide of the winter was reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) as a patchy distribution across Southwest Florida at levels of not present to moderate over Christmas. A light to moderate wind out of the South and favorable currents for Marco Island has thus far spared us from the worst of the ill effects. If you want to keep tabs on red tide go to If you observe fish kills, please call the Collier County Red Tide Hotline at 239-252-2502. To speak to a health professional regarding red tide symptoms, call the Florida Poison Information Center toll free at 1-800-222-1222.

Invasive Exotics

The Brazilian pepper trees have fruited their distinct red berry clusters. Australian pines, carrotwood trees and scaevola continue to leap from landscaping to sand dunes, lots and public lands.

Pythons, Lionfish and Lizards

The warm winter has produced favorable conditions for tropical exotics on the move, including Burmese pythons. Collier County has recorded 90 sightings, compared to Monroe County at 200 and Miami-Dade County at 1,777 sightings. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding a Python Challenge competition from January 16th through February 14th. Check out for more information. Training sessions on python removal have already begun!

The cold-tolerant Argentinian tegus in Florida is the latest invader on the FWC radar. Growing up to 4 feet, tegu lizards are established in Hillsborough County and in Miami-Dade County. Report exotic animal and plant species to the “I’ve Got 1” hotline at 1-888-Ive-Got1 or online at

Lionfish also continue to proliferate the Caribbean and Atlantic. Lionfish derbies held across the state bagged thousands of this venomous fish known for their ability to wipe out other marine life in any area they populate. Watch for more of these derby competitions coming this spring. You can even hold your OWN derby competition! For more information, contact

If you have a topic you’d like to see covered in this column, or a question you’d like answered, contact Chadd at 239-389-5000.

The Noes Arrive in Goodland

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:25pm

By Barry Gwinn

Noe and Pettus houses, waterside – 1965. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE NOE FAMILY

After the war, Walker Noe used his G.I. Bill to get a B.A. in English Literature from Center College in Danville, Kentucky (1948). Walker claims he never bought a book while there, but paid close attention and took good notes in class. He and his wife were housed in prefab housing for vets and were paid $110 per month. “That was more than enough to get by on,” Walker said. After college Walker taught high school, managed large farm operations, and finally moved back to Stanford where he opened a real estate and insurance business. This led to a job as a real estate appraiser in the Kentucky Highway Department. Walker was soon made head of the Real Estate Appraisal Division and finally retired in 1985.


In the late 1950s Walker’s dad Stiph (I didn’t make this up) bought a travel trailer and took a shine to Florida. In the winter Stiph and Nancy wintered in various Florida trailer parks. The Tamiami Trail was always a part of these winter excursions. In 1962, as Walker tells it, “My Dad noticed a sign at the intersection of CR 92 (San Marco Road) and Tamiami Trail, (U.S. 41) which he had not noticed before. It noted that Goodland lay a few miles to the west, down CR 92. Stiph remembered that a good friend from Kentucky, Joe Pettus, wintered at a small trailer park in Goodland. He decided to pay him a visit. Pettus lived in a trailer park on Papaya Street, known as Drop Anchor. Walker’s parents fell in love with the place and stayed a while longer than they had planned, leasing a spot at Drop Anchor. At that time most of the development in Goodland was in the Highlands, a term used to describe the higher ground, built on Indian shell mounds toward Marco River. There was practically nothing west of Goodland Drive West. In 1962, Stiph Walker bought the house at 563 W. Coconut Ave. It stands beside the Carter Dock building on the corner of Goodland Drive. My dad was intrigued with this house. It was the first house on stilts and because you could drive into a car port on one side and park your boat in covered boat port on the other. Both have since been enclosed.

Noe (brown roof at right) and Pettus houses, waterside – 2015

A Miami entrepreneur and businessman, T.E. “Ted” Curcie, had also discovered, Goodland and was coming over for fishing trips. In 1963, a year before the Mackle Brothers arrived on Marco Island, Curcie foresaw the development possibilities in Goodland. In July 1963, Curcie bought much of West Goodland, styled Goodland Isles, from the Collier Development Corporation. Walker Noe understood from his dad that this purchase included just about everything on the West Side of Goodland Drive including what is now the boat park. In 1964, Curcie incorporated as Goodland Inc., “with its principal place of business at Goodland Drive.” This would have been at the present day Carter Dock offices on the corner of Coconut and Goodland Drive. Curcie and Stiph Walker were now neighbors. Thus began the second wave of Goodland development.

Noe and Pettus houses, street side – 2015

Ted Cursie must have liked Stiph Noe’s house on Coconut Avenue, as he built one just like it further down the street as a model home (#576). Cursie may have envisioned that a house with both a car and boat port would be a big seller. It wasn’t, but Cursie liked the model home so much he moved into it. It was solidly constructed with cement and I-beams. Ironically, John Carter later lived in this house and ran his marine construction business out of the old Goodland, Inc. offices.

In 1965, Stiph Walker saw his relatively peaceful neighborhood erupt into the clatter and clanging of a large dredge deepening and widening the canal and forming a small bay in front of his house. Curcie was not only running his development company next door but was also bringing in water and collecting garbage for Goodland. The Carter Building also housed the town cistern. Curcie owned and ran the whole shebang as Goodland, Inc. The cistern’s sturdy sides can still be seen at the western end of the building. Water lines had been laid from the cistern to nearby lots. Every morning, Curcie would bring in a tanker truck full of water and pump it into the cistern. According to Stiph Walker, there was a rush in each serviced residence to get as much water from the tap as they could before the cistern went dry later in the day. Other residences had their own cisterns, many of which can be seen today. A rise in the ground capped by cement is most likely a cistern. “My dad was outgoing and amiable,” recalls Walker, “As neighbors, they (Curcie and Stiph) took a liking to each other. They also trusted one another.” Curcie had platted his holdings into residential lots. Stiph could see a beautiful bay being dredged along Goodland Drive. He wanted a couple of those bay front lots. In negotiations with Curcie, Stiph promised to bring more Kentucky investors down to Goodland to buy Curcie’s lots. A commission was likely involved for Stiph. As an extra incentive, Curcie gave Stiph a couple shares of Goodland, Inc. and probably a good deal on the lots. Stiph bought two lots and his Kentucky friend, Joe Pettus, bought three lots on Goodland Drive. Walker Noe, 92, still winters on one of the lots – 521 W. Goodland Dr. Pettus’s son-in-law, Hurl (I didn’t make this up either) Durham, 84, winters next door – 519 Goodland Dr. Stiph Noe did succeed in bringing more Kentuckians down, but the only ones left are Walker Noe and Hurl Durham. When no more Kentucky buyers could be produced, Curcie asked for the return of the Goodland, Inc. shares.

Cursie’s model home, boat port at right, car port at left – 2015

“Dad also grew friendly with Cursie’s dredge foreman,” Walker recounted, “He talked him into a deeper dredge at the water line and more fill on his property. Dad also noticed that some mighty big limestone rocks were being dredged out of the bay. He talked the foreman into depositing one of these rocks on the street side of his property as a curiosity.” The rock has resulted in at least one fender bender and probably numerous barked shins and stubbed toes. It has since proven too heavy to move. Stiph Walker paid $1,750 each for his two lots. In 1965, over on Marco Island, the Mackle Brothers Deltona Corporation was picking up steam and was offering more rental cottages from a Caxambas fishing camp. The cottages were fully furnished, including lamps, kitchen utensils, and a window air conditioner. The sale price of $8,250 included moving the house to Goodland. To buy the lot and move a fully furnished house cost Stiph $10,000 total. Joe Pettus did the same next door.

Carter Dock building, Cursie cistern site – 2015

In 1977, Walker’s father died and he ended up buying the cottage from his mother, who no longer wished to come down. Until 2005, Walker and his wife Betty would come down from Stanford for winters, doing a lot of fishing and entertaining of their children and grandchildren. Additions and add-ons were made to the cottage. After Betty’s death in 2005, Walker continued to come down by himself. He has since taken a lot of our money, shooting pool over at Lynn Albee’s house and has been joined by a vivacious companion, JoAnne Miracle, a neighbor in Stanford. Today are three things that Walker reveres – University of Kentucky basketball, Stanford, Kentucky, and Goodland, Florida. He has been faithful to all three for almost 50 years.


Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.



Bubbie’s Bakery is Back!

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:20pm

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

Estie Karpman tempts us with warm strudel.

The pleasant smell of cinnamon is once again in the air at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island (JCMI). In the kitchen, Bubbie’s Bakery is keeping the ovens hot, baking for the more than 2,000 diners expected to attend the Jewish Deli Fest on January 24.

Bubbie’s Bakery is a group of talented ladies who are JCMI Sisterhood members. Coastal Breeze heard that they were busy using their baking skills and paid them a visit. We arrived at the JCMI kitchen to find the air filled with the sweet smell of strudel, and the ladies focused on their monumental task. Last year, Bubbie’s Bakery baked and served 3,200 pieces of pastry. This year, Natalie says that the group plans on baking “until the dough runs out.”

The ladies bake using their own cherished family recipes. That day, Estie Karpman shared a strudel recipe handed down from her own bubbie (Yiddish for grandma). She estimates that the recipe, from Russia, is around 130 years old. The recipes are from all over Europe, brought to the U.S. and faithfully made for generations. “Our bubbies would be proud of us,” says Estie.

The secret to perfect strudel? Get the dough as thin as possible. “It has to feel like a baby’s tushy,” Estie says with a smile. Another tip: use crushed graham crackers to stop the filling from oozing out of the pastry. Most importantly, the strudel (and each other dessert the ladies make) is “made with love.”

Even if the strudel doesn’t bring back fond memories for you, it’s guaranteed that one of the other hand-made baked treats will tempt you. Other baked goods that will be available include babka, rugelach, mandelbrot, coffee cake, cheesecake, lemon poppy seed bread, banana bread, chocolate chip cookies and brownies.

There are no preorders, so come early.

Joan Blau told us that for the past two years the first customer of the day has been a gentleman intent on purchasing the Key lime cheesecake. And last year an elderly man in a wheelchair came all the way from Estero for authentic Russian strudel. He told the ladies that he hadn’t had the delicacy since his mother had passed away many years ago. Natalie Klein tells us that guests will find baked goods that they simply “can’t get here” in Southwest Florida.

To enjoy some of the treats from Bubbie’s Bakery, come to the Jewish Deli Fest on Sunday, January 24, 2016 between 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM. The event is open to the entire community, and Marco residents look forward to it all year long. Guests will enjoy a New York style deli sandwich of kosher style corned beef or pastrami, served with homemade coleslaw and chips. Homemade soups will be served, such as chicken soup with matzo balls or beef barley.

If you don’t leave room for dessert, Bubbie’s Bakery will pack your treats to go. For more information, call the JCMI at 239-642-0800 or visit their website at The JCMI is located at 991 Winterberry Drive in Marco Island.


Bubbie’s Strudel Recipe

Courtesy of Estie Karpman. Yields: 48-50 pieces of strude

Fruit Filling:

2 boxes white raisins

2 packages apricots or 24 oz. apricot preserves

2 cans crushed
pineapple (drained)

1 box/bag coconut

2 jars (about 24 oz.) cherry (or strawberry) preserves

Zest and juice of either one lemon or one orange

1 lb. nuts, ground



2 eggs, beaten

½ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

1½ cups hot water
(not boiling)

1 cup oil

5 cups flour


As Needed:

Graham cracker crumbs

Sugar-cinnamon mixture (Ratio of 1 cup sugar to
1 Tbsp. cinnamon)

Oil (to brush on pastry)

Parchment paper

Pam oil spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the dough, mix the first five dough ingredients, then add the flour. You may use a mixer. The dough will be soft. Let it stand for one hour in a covered bowl.

While you are waiting, mix all fruit filling ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. Have your additional ingredients ready for use.

After an hour, roll out small pieces of the dough on lots of flour; you can also use a pastry cloth. Make the dough as thin as possible, and oblong in shape. Each piece should be about 15 inches long and 8-10 inches wide.

Brush the dough with oil. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (Ratio: 1 cup sugar to 1 Tbsp. cinnamon).

On one-half the area of the dough, sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and spread the fruit filling on top (about 1½ inch high). Take the end of the dough and roll it over, and then fold over both ends of the dough. Roll until you have made a log.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam oil and cover it with parchment paper. Place the strudel log onto the cookie sheet and brush the tops of rolls with oil. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. With a sharp knife score the top of about every inch of the strudel, at an angle.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.



A Thankful Year in Review

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:18pm

Bob McConville
Master Naturalist

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails. ~ Wm. Ward


Bob holds the “business end” of a 60-pound Burmese python in Big Cypress Swamp. Bob’s wife, Cathy, (blue shirt ^) is a python wrangler as well! SUBMITTED PHOTO

What a fantastic year this has been! I would like to thank the Coastal Breeze News for allowing me to be a part of their team. It has been an honor and I am humbled. I would like, even more, to thank those who read my contributions to this paper. Your positive feedback and constructive criticism have made me a better person (although I like the compliments more than the criticism).

One of my favorite sayings “If there’s one thing that’s constant in life, things change” certainly rang true in 2015. Let’s review a few highlights of the year.

On board the Dolphin Explorer, as a naturalist for the only dolphin survey team in South Florida, there was lots of excitement in the water. Two-year-old Skipper, rescued from a fishing line entanglement in 2014, is maturing and doing well by mom’s side.

Another calf turned one this fall and also survived a serious injury this past summer. Rose suffered some type of puncture wound and, through constant monitoring by the survey team, it appears to be healing nicely. Rose’s behavior is now normal.

Eight baby dolphins have been seen in the area since mid September. Nine-year-old Sintas gave birth to her first calf. Giza, mother of Sintas, also gave birth this fall making her a mom and a grandmom in the same year! Other moms are Chip, Victoria, G2, Cosmo, Mama Bear and an unknown female from the Naples area now seen around Marco. This is a banner year for newborn dolphins.

In the Big Cypress Swamp, a great horned owl made its presence known by taking over a red shouldered hawks nest and producing hatchlings.

The two resident bald eagles in that area also made room for a young one last winter. They are back on that huge nest again this fall. Several barred owls can be heard in the trees and alligators are usually present in the ‘gator hole. Night herons and wood storks and other birdlife helped make this a place of magical sightings for the year. My favorite adventure in the Big Cypress…a juvenile bobcat followed me inquisitively for nearly 200 feet down the boardwalk one day (I wasn’t sure if I was on the welcome list or the menu!).

In general, there has been a lot of talk about the continual invasion of Burmese pythons into new land as they seem to be seen more often closer to Marco Island. Bird, rabbit and other small animal populations seem to be dwindling as these constrictors eat their way from Florida’s east coast toward our region. It will be a pleasure to participate in the upcoming Python Challenge this January to help raise awareness and eradicate these invasive reptiles.

The Florida black bear hunt this year ended on the second day. With an estimated population of 3,500 black bears in the state, 298 were killed in less than 48 hours.

On a sad note, 37 Florida Panthers have died this year, a record for the state. Of those 37, 26 were killed on roadways.

Taking the bad news with the good, this writer can only give thanks. I am blessed that I can physically, mentally and emotionally enjoy the amazing opportunities that nature has placed before my eyes.

My New Year’s wish for all of you? Be wise enough to adjust your sails as the winds change. Be aware of your surroundings and smile when nature places those surprise moments in front of you. Let those special memories live within your soul forever!



Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and is a naturalist on board the Dolphin Explorer. He is a member of Florida SEE (Society for Ethical Ecotourism). Bob loves his wife very much!!


Roadside Attraction Reinvented

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:22pm

Vickie Kelber

One of the many colorful birds at Everglades Wonder Gardens.

When I was growing up in the Northeast, my father loved road trips. He also loved roadside attractions. I think his favorites were Roadside America, an indoor miniature railroad and village in Pennsylvania and Santa’s Village in New Hampshire. We spent long summers in northern Maine, which meant frequent trips to New Brunswick, Canada, which had its own attractions. We never crossed the border without a stop at one of them…Magnetic Hill where cars appear to roll uphill, the longest covered bridge in the world that crosses the St. John River, the giant “flower pots” formed by the tides in the Bay of Fundy.

It is a shame we never ventured further south in the car than Virginia (Luray Caverns, of course), as the south and, Florida in particular, was home to so many roadside attractions popular in the 50s. Of course, Southwest Florida still has quite a few and, until recently, I had never visited any of them. I don’t consider our federal and state parks and sanctuaries as roadside attractions.

A friend with whom I usually make treks to places like Shark River Valley or the Bird Rookery Swamp suggested a day trip to the Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita. “They have flamingos,” she said. Flamingos? Oh, Dad, I thought, too bad you aren’t here; you would love a place with flamingos. She added, “we can stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home.” Shopping? “OK, I’m in,” I said.

Local ibis join the resident flamingos for breakfast.

The Everglades Wonder Gardens is located on Old Route 41 in Bonita Springs. Turning onto Old Route 41 is like a drive back in time to Old Florida. Old Route 41 is a world away from the “new” one. The street features one-story wooden buildings painted pastel tropical colors and housing businesses such as ice cream and antiques shops. The side roads leading off it are shaded by lush hardwood hammocks; slash pines, native to the area, are seen throughout. The road crosses over the Imperial River. The downtown park was set up with tents and tables for an upcoming “Taste of Bonita” festival. We had to make a slight detour as part of the road was closed for revitalization. The city council has embarked on a project to improve the downtown area while trying to maintain its historical charm.

Opened in 1936 by two colorful characters, brothers Bill and Lester Piper, whose history included being retired moonshiners, the Everglades Wonder Gardens remained a typical roadside attraction until 2013. In its heyday, the 3.5-acre landmark featured such animals as panthers, bears, crocodiles, alligators, an African lion and an African black jaguar.

When the Piper family closed down the Gardens, John Brady, a Florida landscape photographer leased the attraction and began work to turn it into more of a botanical garden while still preserving some of the other attractions. The Gardens now functions as a not-for-profit entity whose goal is to preserve and improve it.

We accessed the Gardens through one of the original buildings, which now houses the gift shop, gallery of John Brady’s photos, and small natural history museum. A diorama is being created that will feature some of the more dramatic animals who once roamed these grounds.

Two friendly and helpful women told us more about the history of the Gardens, its present day status, and future plans. Their enthusiasm was infectious. What we found most interesting is that one is the daughter of the mayor, the other a member of the Bonita Springs City Council. We were told that the City Council lent $3.5 million dollars to the Everglades Wonder Gardens non profit group to help purchase the property and ensure it’s preservation. Oh my, my friend and I thought, we certainly had stepped back in time!

As we entered the Garden, we were greeted with the thunderous bellowing of alligators; it was mating season we were told. The 40 that reside there are safely enclosed, but there is a swinging bridge that allows visitors to walk over the gator-infested water. It is netted, of course. A sign warns, “Do not stand, sit, climb on this enclosure. You might fall in and the alligators will eat you and that could make them sick.”

A swinging bridge traverse the alligator infested waters. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

As part of the rebirth of Everglades Wonder Gardens, the mammals have been removed. Remaining are various native and exotic species of reptiles and birds and a koi pond. All of them are either from the original roadside attraction or are rescue animals. The snakes range from typical Florida corn snakes to terrifying boa constrictors. There was a huge iguana that looks just like the one that lives in the empty lot across the canal from me, and a monitor lizard with its creepy, darting forked tongue. The many turtles and tortoises included African Black turtles and local gopher tortoises. Incidentally, in case you wondered, the difference between turtles and tortoises is that the former can live in water, while the latter live on land.

Birds included a variety of parrots and cockatoos, wood and mandarin ducks, some exotic looking roosters and/or quail, peacocks, even parakeets. Some of the parrots were quite polite, greeting us with “hello” and being certain to say “goodbye” as we walked away. And, yes, there were flamingos. They remain from the original attraction, having been born here some thirty years ago. They were surrounded by dozens of ibis. The ibis do not belong to the Gardens; they merely visit every morning for breakfast with the flamingos.

The lush, jungle like flora was diverse and included old growth trees, some exotic species, and newly introduced varieties such as bromeliads and stag horn ferns. Kapoks, banyans, shaving brush, African mahogany, plumeria were just a few noted. There is an Orchid Trail as well as a Butterfly Garden.

Two of the 40 gators sun themselves on the beach.

Everglades Wonder Gardens is a work in progress. Many of the animals and some of the plants had identifying signs. Some areas lay empty, waiting for renovation or innovation. The reinvention of this former roadside attraction is new and it will be interesting to follow its progress. My friend and I commented how nice it would be if a student or retired botanist would volunteer to assist in further identifying and working with the beautiful greenery that is there.

Everglades Wonder Gardens is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except for major holidays.

This year, they are introducing what they hope will be an annual contest/event, Snowflakes in the Gardens. The snowflakes will be on display until January 2, 2016 and follows their successful Ghosts in the Gardens contest for Halloween. They also offer a Lunch & Learn Lecture Series on the first Wednesday of every month. Memberships are available.

We enjoyed our visit to the Gardens; it made a pleasant day trip. And, kudos to the people involved in this non-profit organization as well as the Bonita Springs City Council for their efforts. How wonderful that this reminder of Old Time Florida will remain, rather than being replaced by yet another condo development or shopping mall.

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is a former board member of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

What You Need to Know About Thyroid Cancer

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:19pm

By Leela Lavasani, M.D.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that sits over our trachea as it enters our chest. Each lobe of this gland is on average 3-5 cm. in height and 2 cm. in width. Thyroid nodules are growths that occur within the gland, which are very common. Fifty-percent of women over the age of fifty will have a nodule, however 90 percent of these nodules will be benign.

What are the symptoms of a thyroid nodule?

Most thyroid nodules are asymptomatic, including normal thyroid hormone levels. Very rarely, if a thyroid nodule is large enough it can cause symptoms of a hoarse voice, difficulty breathing and swallowing, a pressure sensation in the throat, or neck pain. They are most commonly found on physician examination or as an incidental finding on other imaging studies of the neck, such as a carotid ultrasound or an MRI of the cervical spine.

Statistics on thyroid cancer

As stated above, only one in ten thyroid nodules will be cancer. There are approximately 45,000 new cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed every year. This makes it the number five most common cancer diagnosed in women, and it does not even rank in the top ten for men. The number of thyroid cancer associated deaths is also very low, as this diagnosis often carries a favorable diagnosis, even when diagnosed at late stages. Thyroid cancers and nodules are about three times more common in women. The peak age of occurrence for women is between 40-50 and for men it is 60-70.

Risk factors for thyroid cancer

Age, as discussed above, can be a risk factor. Radiation exposure as a child can be a risk factor. Radiation was used for many processes that have become obsolete, such acne treatment and the treatment of enlarged tonsils. The radiation exposure to the thyroid can later cause thyroid malignancy. Although Iodine deficiency is very rare in the U.S., it can stimulate nodule formation and also place you at a higher risk for thyroid cancer. There are a number of familial conditions that also increase your risk of thyroid cancers.

How is thyroid cancer diagnosed?

The diagnosis process begins with a dedicated ultrasound, which is the best modality to evaluate the thyroid. It allows us to see high risk features, such as microcalcifications, echogenicity, and the vascularity of the lesion. If one meets criteria for biopsy, a fine needle biopsy is first completed. According to our American Thyroid Association guidelines, all of these biopsies should be completed under ultrasound guidance to ensure that the proper tissue is sampled. Depending on the biopsy results, surgery or observation will be recommended. Often, we will only take out half of the thyroid to spare the need for thyroid hormone replacement. It is not uncommon in thyroid surgery to require completion thryoidectomy in a second staged procedure, because the diagnosis of the cancer cannot be made until the pathologist has an opportunity to carefully look at the nodule.

What are the types of thyroid cancer?


This is the most common thyroid cancer we see and it accounts for 80% of all thyroid cancers. It has the most favorable outcome with survival rate of 93% at five years at Stage III, which is when the cancer is found with regional metastases.


This is the second most common thyroid cancer that is seen a rate of 10%. This also carries a very favorable diagnosis.


This cancer can often be familial in nature and associated with some other syndromes such as a condition called MEN (multiple endocrine neoplasias). The treatment of this cancer is often more aggressive, but is still very treatable if caught in the early stages.


This is a rare very aggressive type of thyroid cancer that occurs in less that 2% of all thyroid cancers. Unlike other thyroid cancers, this is very resistant to any treatment and has a high mortality rate.

How do we treat thyroid cancer?

Surgical resection of the entire gland is the mainstay of treatment. Depending on the size of the tumor, radioactive iodine may be given. This is often administered a few weeks after surgery and allows for the destruction of any last cell of thyroid tissue that may have been left behind. There is most often no need for any other adjuvant chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

I am worried about a thyroid nodule, what should I do?

The first step is to start with your primary care provider. A careful examination of the neck is important. If it is then indicated, a thyroid ultrasound can be ordered. If necessary, your primary care physician can then refer you for the appropriate specialist.

Family Financial Huddle

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:18pm

Darcie Guerin

“Give me the gift of a listening heart.” ~ King Solomon


Question: Our family will be together for the holidays. I’d like to take advantage of this time to discuss a few financial matters. What advice can you provide to make this conversation as valuable and productive as possible?

Answer: Providing your family with the gift of communication is commendable. This is an opportunity to share financial philosophies, discuss planning strategies and listen to how others feel about monetary matters.

Keeping the lines of communication open and flowing with information is vital to the successful transfer of wealth between generations. Family members may have differing visions, ideas and values that can sometimes lead to breakdowns in trust and communication. You may or may not choose to disclose total net worth, account balances and other specific details but the willingness to promote honest and open discussion is a great place to start. Here are a few tips:

Who should be at the table? It depends on a number of factors and the choice is entirely yours. For some, it’s immediate family only; for others, extended family is included. You may want to have one-on-one conversations with certain members before the gang gathers and it may help you create a productive agenda and help to avoid surprises. At the very least, you and your spouse or partner should be on the same page.

What should you discuss? Topics will obviously vary and will depend on what’s most important for you to communicate. You only need to go into as much, or as little detail as you’re comfortable when disclosing specifics. Focus on matters that impact the smooth transition of wealth, including wills, location of important documents, even funeral and burial preferences. Identify and acknowledge any changes among family members (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.) that can affect legacy planning. While you’re gathered together, encourage each family member to share their thoughts, feelings, achievements and hopes. This is the perfect time to express your financial philosophy and hear how others feel about monetary matters.

When should you have a family discussion? Don’t delay. Having these meetings long before there’s a need may avoid unnecessary confusion or even anguish in the future. There is a reason why I’m so insistent on having these conversations now; many years ago my father and I met for lunch on a Friday to outline the agenda for his family financial huddle to be held that Sunday. He unfortunately died that Friday night before he could express, let alone implement his wishes. Take advantage of this time of year to tackle this task while everyone is together and in a good frame of mind.

Where do you go from here? Review what was discussed and how any new information may impact your planning. Consider introducing your family to your professional advisors (accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, etc.). Most important, take action updating plans and documents as necessary. Finally, plan to meet again and keep the conversation going.

Another gift you can give yourself during the time before the New Year is to act on any year-end tax moves. Always consult your tax advisor to learn exactly which strategies may benefit you the most. Here’s a list of a few opportunities, but be sure to consult your tax professional.

Rebalance holdings if your financial plan and portfolio are off-kilter due to concentrated positions or appreciation. Rebalancing can potentially bring your asset allocation back in line with your objectives. Be aware that the process of rebalancing may carry tax consequences.

Harvest losses to offset potential capital gains taxes. If you’re selling securities to rebalance or take advantage of other opportunities consider offsetting gains with losses where appropriate.

Know your tax-bracket and thresholds being mindful of activity that may bump you into the next highest tax bracket. Consider timing income and deductions by accelerating or deferring income and deductions to reduce your tax liability.

Take RMDs if you’re 70½ and have an IRA, take your required minimum distributions to avoid any penalties.

Give generously to loved ones (the gift tax exclusion limit is $14,000 for 2015) or charitable institutions. Ask your financial advisor if you have highly appreciated assets that could be incorporated into your charitable-giving strategy.

Make a date with your team of advisors to coordinate a financial huddle to make the most of existing tax laws, identify opportunities, and implement any changes that may have come about as a result of your family huddle. Review your accounts, beneficiaries and estate planning documents to ensure they’re tax- efficient and accurate. Experts recommend doing so at least once a year or whenever you experience a major life change.

Addressing these important matters now is a brilliant way to approach the New Year, the sooner you can do it the better. You owe yourself, and those you love, the greater understanding, compassion and comfort that comes from a well- thought-out conversation. Openly discussing important matters during the holiday season can bring your family closer. Stay focused and plan accordingly.


The opinions expressed are those of the writer, but not necessarily those of Raymond James and Associates, and subject to change at any time. Information contained in this report was received from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed.

“Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.”

This article provided by Darcie Guerin, CFP®, Vice President, Investments & Branch Manager of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Suite 401, Marco Island, FL 34145. She may be reached at 239-389-1041, email, website:

Goldeneye Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:17pm

Maggie Gust


By Matthew Parker

Penguin Books 2015, 387 pages

Genre: Biography

Collier County Public Library: Yes


“My contribution to the art of thriller-writing has been to attempt the total stimulation of the reader all the way through, even to his taste buds.” ~ Ian Fleming


The James Bond movie franchise is 53 years old yet it is the third highest grossing movie franchise in the world, right behind those whippersnappers “Harry Potter” and “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, wrote 14 Bond books plus a collection of short stories and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” a children’s story about a flying car, a bedtime story he made up for his son Caspar. He finally wrote it down while recovering from his first heart attack in 1962. The hugely popular book was published in 1964. Dick Van Dyke starred in the 1968 movie version. Fleming was already deceased, so he couldn’t protest an American actor getting the role.

As popular as the Bond movies have been for five decades now, it would be interesting to know how many movie fans have read even one of the books. The most recent statistics I could find show that Ian Fleming surpassed Agatha Christie as the most financially successful British crime writer, with his books earning more than 100 million pounds (about 252 million dollars) while Agatha lagged behind at 100 million pounds even. In contrast, the #1 American thriller writer John Grisham has earned more than 600 million dollars from his books and six other Americans have outearned both Fleming and Ms. Christie. Yet, Bond films have earned over 7 billion dollars plus whatever the just-released “Spectre” rakes in. If they adjusted for inflation, I would imagine that the massively successful Bond films of the 1960s would place the franchise in at least the number two slot.

Even though Fleming died August 12, 1964, of a massive heart attack, he remains as intriguing a character as his fictional spy hero 007. Several writers have published biographies of Ian including his long-time good friend Kingsley Amis whose book was sanctioned by the Fleming family. Matthew Parker approaches Fleming’s story as history rather than an homage to a friend or British crime writer icon. He provides context to each of Fleming’s winter visits to Jamaica from 1946 to 1963 including his first trip to Jamaica in 1943. Parker’s intention is to show not only the effect that Jamaica had on Fleming and his books, but also to clarify the authentic imperial and post-imperial Jamaica that is the backdrop for several of the novels. Parker himself was born in Central America and lived in the West Indies through most of his childhood, so he is familiar with the region and its history. He also uses multiple sources to support his writing.

Fleming was the second of four sons of Valentine and Eve Fleming. Like Bond, his father was British and his mother from an aristocratic Scottish family. Valentine’s father Richard had made a fortune investing in American railroads and his son was educated at Eton and Oxford and took his place in society as a country gentleman and member of Parliament. At school he became lifelong friends with Winston Churchill, served with him in the military until he was killed in May 1917, when Ian was nine years old. Churchill wrote Valentine’s obituary and stayed in contact with the Fleming family throughout his lifetime.

Smoking gun: Ian Fleming, on a beach near Goldeneye, 1964. GETTY IMAGES

Ian’s own education was at Eton and Sandhurst, and although he attended two colleges, he did not graduate. Eventually he found work writing for a newspaper and then with a publishing house. Parker goes into some detail about Ian’s relationship with his mother which was in sharp contrast to the closeness he had with his father who called him “Johnny.” His youngest brother Michael was killed in World War II. When Ian first experienced Jamaica in 1943, he was a man born for the best of things who had lost his one loving parent and his youngest brother, failed to graduate college and was reduced to writing for a living before the war. He had rather a fatalistic outlook on life. After joining the military in WW II, Ian’s intelligence and communication skills were well utilized in the British Naval Intelligence Division.

Ian had his first experience with Jamaica when as assistant to the director of Naval Intelligence, he was sent to Kingston for an Anglo-American conference on tactics to deal with the destructive German U-boats. They were inflicting massive damage on shipments of vital war goods. Ian brought along his lifelong friend Ivar Bryce, who met him in New York where the two friends took Silver Meteor to Miami. Sound familiar? Yes, it is the same journey that Bond took with Solitaire in “Live and Let Die.” From Miami they flew to Kingston. Bryce was eager to show Fleming his latest wife’s new purchase – a former plantation great house set 1,500 feet above the city. They stayed there during the duration of the conference.

Ian was smitten at first whiff of the Jamaican air. The tranquility and live-for-today simplicity combined with the incredible natural beauty of the island and friendliness of the residents infused Ian’s psyche with a contentment he had never experienced before.

Jamaica would prove to be the one true love of Ian’s life.

When he returned to Jamaica after the war’s end, he eventually built a winter home which he named Goldeneye after a war-time memorandum he wrote about the planning and oversight of two intelligence units. The house was extremely rustic to put it nicely. He was there to relax during the day and party hard in the evening. He didn’t have hot water installed nor worry about draperies and furnishings. Every morning he swam and sometimes snorkeled before breakfast. After his two months of winter respite, it was back to London to his world of writing, especially travel writing, and working at a publishing house, travel, continued hard partying and ceaseless womanizing.

In 1952, Fleming wrote his first Bond book, “Casino Royale.” It was published the next year and thereafter, Fleming spent each winter at Goldeneye starting the day with a swim, shower, breakfast and sitting at his bedroom typewriter pounding out Bond’s escapades until early afternoon. He wrote for a post-war Britain which was still suffering shortages and still living with the ruins of the war. He took them to distant places, warm sunny opulent places, because travel was too expensive for average people at that time. Bond’s clothing and grooming are as sumptuous as the description of the meals he eats because Fleming was giving his reader what they yearned for, but could not hope to attain. Bond was implacable and always came out on top because Britain was still bruised and limping from that long war and because the Empire was almost gone. America was pictured as a place of greed and crime, primarily because Fleming resented the role it had played in the war. He knew it would have been lost without America’s entry and that America was going to dominate world affairs. He just didn’t like it.

Most often the anti-Americanism is apparent in his novels. One exception is Felix Leiter, an American operative that Bond works with. Fleming used the surname of a good American woman friend of his, Oatsie Leiter. He also named some of his villains after people he disliked. Oatsie also introduced him to a man who would have a huge impact on Fleming’s future fortune – John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Ian was visiting Oatsie in D.C. and they were driving in her Cadillac when they came upon a young couple walking. Oatsie knew them very well – JFK and Jacqueline. It was 1960 and the senator was running for president of the United States. Oatsie was to attend a dinner party at their home that evening. She asked if she could bring a guest. JFK politely asked who would that be and he was introduced to Ian Fleming. His response, “James Bond? But of course, by all means, do please come.” JFK had been reading the Bond books since Jackie gave him a copy of “Casino Royale” in 1955 when he was bedridden. She also gave CIA Director Allen Dulles a copy of “From Russia With Love” in 1957. Thereafter, it is said that JFK and Dulles traded their Bond books. It was in a March 1961 Life magazine article by Hugh Sidey that America learned that “From Russia With Love” was in JFK’s 10 Top Ten Books. The very day after the issue’s release, Bond book sales skyrocketed in America. It is a clue to Fleming’s character that when he retold the story of meeting JFK, he would quote Kennedy as saying, “THE Ian Fleming?”

Fleming’s personal life reflected his indulgent behavior. His womanizing started at a young age as did his drinking and his use of barbiturates and other drugs. He had first episode of gonorrhea at age 19, was plagued with kidney stones, and had his first heart attack in 1962, then the final fatal heart attack in August 1964 at age 56. He had been warned at age 40 by a doctor to cut down on the drinking and drug use. He decided he would rather “live too much” than live too long.

He married for the first and only time in his mid-40s, to a woman he had been having an affair with since 1936. She was married when they met and after her husband died in WW II, Ian refused to marry her so she married a wealthy nobleman. Finally, in 1951, five months pregnant with Ian’s child, Ann Charteris was given a divorce and the very day it was finalized, Ian and Ann were married. Their child, Caspar, was turned over to his nanny, where he and the nanny lived in a cottage near Ann and Ian’s home. Caspar would be brought in for a quick minute before dinner, where the parents and their guests, drinks in hand, would coo over the child for a few seconds. No one in the Ian Fleming family had a happy ending.

“Goldeneye Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica” is a great read. Fleming is even more captivating than his fictional spy hero. He is not admirable except for his work ethic, in my opinion. Like Bond, he was often brutal, cold and merciless with people. This book was a massive undertaking by Parker, to put this British icon Ian Fleming and his fictional British icon James Bond in historical context. I think he did an admirable job in showing how Fleming’s own snobbery and xenophobia (in a 1956 letter to Ann, “All foreigners are pestilential”) are reflected in Bond. Also his relationship with Jamaica, which was mostly loving yet paternalistic. He had the same cook for all the years he spent at Goldeneye, who called him “Commander,” and most of the other help came back year after year. Parker makes a strong argument for where Fleming got Jamaica wrong.

The book is stuffed with anecdotes about the rich and famous of the 1940s and 1950s who made Jamaica their hideaway. Fleming and Errol Flynn, who also loved the island, were oil and water. If they were in the same room, they made sure to be on opposite peripheries. Noel Coward was a good friend and a Jamaican neighbor to Fleming. He also knew Fleming’s women quite well and Parker quotes Coward many times in regards to those relationships.

Parker begins with the 2012 incident where Daniel Craig (newest Bond) and Queen Elizabeth are chatting, then appear to parachute to the opening of the 2012 Olympics. Bond and Elizabeth both officially began their reigns in 1953. Both are British icons. After a brief survey of Fleming’s early life, Parker details each Bond book and that year of Fleming’s life. He argues that Fleming’s own feelings about Jamaica are reflected in the stories, including the latter novels where he portrays Jamaica as a dark place plagued by crime and greed. Events in Fleming’s life are also reflected in the novels. All of his assertions are bolstered with entries from the diaries, letters, interviews, biographies of Fleming himself and people who knew him.

I gave it a rating of 4.0/5.0. It is well written, easy to read with some interesting information about the history of Jamaica, and many photographs. You do not have to be a Bond fan, either movies or books, to enjoy this book. But if you read this, you will get insight into why he had Bond’s wife killed on their wedding day.


Maggie Gust has been an avid reader all her life. Her past includes working as a teacher, as well as various occupations in the healthcare field. She shares a hometown, Springfield, Illinois, with Abraham Lincoln, but Florida has been her home since 1993. Genealogy, reading, movies and writing are among her favorite activities. She is self-employed and works from her Naples home. Contact her at or

Naomi’s Holiday Cheers

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:14pm

Naomi & Karina Paape

Dear Fellow Felines:

Tracey, a six-month-old kitten found wandering on Winterberry Drive.

Merry Christmas to one and all! I know each of you is under the tree at this very moment, contemplating the wands, laser pointers, and catnip mice Santa Claws and Rudolph delivered in the wee hours of this morning, not to mention the salmon, turkey, chicken, and beef flavored treats spilling out of your over-stuffed stockings.

Thanks to the efforts of my staff here at For the Love of Cats (Marco Island’s no-kill cat shelter), the 154 cats and kittens we rescued this year are enjoying Christmas in the warmth and safety of loving fur-ever homes instead of being alone and hungry on the street.

But we sure had a couple close calls this year involving young female cats who were kicked to the curb because they were pregnant, an all too common scenario for which these teenage moms (females can get pregnant as early as five-to-six months old) were not at fault. The people in their lives simply did not care enough about them to have these gals spayed or micro-chipped. In all honesty, these poor mom cats should never have been outside in the first place.

For the Love of Cats has stringent rules when placing cats and kittens in a fur-ever home: the adopter must agree to keep the cat/kitten indoors 24/7; the adopter must agree not to have the cat/kitten de-clawed (a procedure that is nothing short of amputation; would you want your fingers and toes amputated? I didn’t think so); and if the adopter can’t keep the cat – for whatever reason – they must return the cat to us versus dropping it off at a kill-shelter (yes, people have really done this).

Francisco is one of the lucky kittens who were rescued by For the Love of Cats from a parking lot.

The two most heartwarming rescues of 2015 were “queens” Marty and Cherise (“queen” is the proper term for an un-spayed female cat; “tom” is the proper term for an un-neutered male cat). These moms and their tiny kittens were just days away from starving to death when hawk-eyed humans called my cellphone (of course I have a cellphone; I am, after all, shelter “supervisor”). I swiftly mustered the troops (volunteers), traps (humane), and tuna (bait), and dispatched my elite rescue team to the scenes of abandonment.

In ‘queen’ Marty’s case this was Walmart’s Garden Center on the day after Labor Day. For the Love of Cats co-founders Jan and Jim Rich got a desperate telephone call about a mom cat and four kittens who were hiding among pallets of mulch. It’s anyone’s guess as to how they got there. Jan estimated that it was about 110-degrees in the shade. With no source of food or water, the four three-week-old kittens were at death’s door. The rescue required extreme measures when Jim had to move a couple of pallets with a forklift to get to the kittens.

“It really is a miracle that the kittens survived as long as they did,” Jan said. “Marty must have done everything she could to feed them. She was skin and bones.” After all the hardship, Marty and two of her kittens were adopted by the same family! Such happy endings make me blush!

In ‘queen’ Cherise’s case the scene of abandonment was at a condo complex on San Marco Road. Jan and Jim are pretty sure she was abandoned after her family figured out she was pregnant. Cherise had no choice but to give birth to her four babies in some shrubs between the buildings. With no food and water with which to nourish herself, Cherise’s milk dried up and her kittens became severely dehydrated and malnourished. In a courageous effort to save her family, Cherise prowled around the complex looking for food. She eventually found an open lanai door and discovered a bowl of food and water left there for a resident cat.

By the third day of stealthy dining, Cherise took a huge chance and brought her four frail kittens with her so she could stay near the food while protecting them. When the lady of the house discovered them in a corner of her lanai the next morning, she immediately called us and we sent out our rapid response team.

Catalina survived being abandoned at a parking lot without food, water or shelter.

During a routine medical exam back at the shelter, we discovered that Cherise had two infected molars, which had to come out as soon as possible. Sadly, two of her kittens were far too ill to save. But the surviving two kittens were so cute together that they ended up in the same fur-ever home. And I of course found a great fur-ever home for queen Cherise.

Earlier this month we rescued a six-month-old, un-spayed kitten who was found wandering around Winterberry Drive. “Tracey” is very shy, but also very sweet. Santa Claws promised that – once she’s spayed – she will end up in the purr-fect, fur-ever home where she will always be loved.

And thanks to a telephone call from an insomniac, we were able to rescue six kittens who were spotted behind a shopping center restaurant at four thirty on a recent morning. I’ve already “pre-adopted” one of them! In the meantime they are responding well to the TLC my staff (did I forget to remind you that dogs have owners while cats have staff?) lavishes upon them every day.

Before you finish reading this and pounce off to your next holiday party please remember that chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, chives, garlic, turkey bones, and poinsettias are pure poison for felines. Personally, I prefer corn chips!

And yes, before you ask, my New Year’s resolution is the same as it’s been every year: let no cat be left abandoned, hungry, and alone. Happy New Year from all of us to all of you!

Love, purrs, and nips….


Naomi is a 6-1/2-year-old Tortie and a permanent resident at FLC. She is the shelter supervisor and takes her salary in food. She would love for you to learn more about For the Love of Cats at its website,


We have reports of several coyotes on the island in the area of Yellowbird, Jamaica and Nassau. They are by the 18th hole of the golf course as well. Please let everyone know that they are out there looking for food. We all know that cat is their favorite meal!!



Marco Island Real Estate Summary December 2015

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:11pm

By Susan Ackerson,
2015 MIAAOR President

Susan Ackerson

MLS statistics, released by the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors® for Marco Island only properties compare November 2015 to November 2014. Inventory decreased 10.02% from a year ago for all property types, while at the same time the median sale price for all property types jumped 18.87% from $408,000 to $485,000 according to Susan Ackerson, president.

  • The number of new single family listings that came on the market in November 2015 v. November 2014 increased 68% (84 v. 50). The total number of single family properties active on the market in the year-to-year comparison remained virtually unchanged at 1.03% (293 v. 290). The median sale price for closed single family homes increased 31.85% ($890,000 v. $675,000). Total sold dollar volume for single family homes increased in November 2015 to $15,606,200 from $12,645,250 in November 2014, a 23.42% increase.
  • In regard to condo activity, number of new listings that came on the market this November v. last November increased 8.97% (85 v.78). Total number of condos on the market from last year decreased 18.24% (269 v. 329). The median sale price for condos increased 39.62% ($370,000 v. $265,000). Total sold dollar volume for multi-family increased 20.93% from $13,020,100 in November 2014 to $15,744,900 in November 2015.
  • Number of new lots coming on the market in November 2015 v. November 2014 increased 22.58% (38 v. 31). Total number of lots active on the market decreased 7.45% (298 v. 322) from last year. Median sale price decreased 4.63% ($324,500 v. $340,250). Total sold dollar volume increased 257.81% ($4,224,000 v. $1,180,500).

(Median sale price means 50% of sales were above and 50% of sales were below.)

  • Number of pendings for all property types is down 26.61%. Single family pendings in the comparison down 51.22% (20 v. 41); Lots up 14.29% (16 v. 14); and multi-family down 20.90% (53 v. 67).
  • Number of condos closed in the comparison decreased 3.23% (30 v. 31). Number of single family homes closed decreased 10.53% (17 v.19) in the November-to-November comparison while number of lots closed increased 150% (10 v. 4) in the same comparison.

As always, please contact a local Realtor® professional if you have any questions.


Susan Ackerson is President for the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors®. Call 239-394-5616.

January Fishing in the 10,000 Islands

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:10pm

Capt. Pete Rapps

Bob and Mary Duelks with Mary’s beautiful redfish caught on a Capt. Rapps charter. PHOTOS BY CAPT. PETE RAPPS

While January is typically found to be our coldest month of the year, it also makes for some really excellent fishing in the 10,000 Islands. Temperatures can rise into the mid 70s, and with no fronts around, a nice sunny day on the water is actually quite comfortable. With the month of January comes a lot of great fish to be caught!

January is another month that you should keep an eye on your tide chart before planning your day on the water. We have some extremely low tides around both the full and new moons. If you get caught in a -.5 low tide that you did not anticipate, it could ruin your day! Be extra careful with the morning low tides January 7-13, and 21-26. These dates are also the peak solunar bite days of the month. Try to arrange your day to push off the dock at the start of the incoming tide and fish that rising tide for your best bet. The current solunar bite times can be found at a link on the front page of our website.

January is an excellent month to target speckled sea trout on the flats. Local southern region rules allow keeping four fish per person, ranging within 15 and 20 inches, with one over 20 inches allowed. These rules are subject to change rather frequently, so we always recommend checking the current regulations with the FWC at

You’ll find your trout in the shallow flats, where you’re also likely to see bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, Spanish mackerel, and a few pompano. To catch them you may find success with DOA jerkbaits and shrimp, in the rootbeer and white shades, but if you’d prefer, they also seem to like 3/8 oz. bucktail jigs topped with a small bite of shrimp.

If sheepshead and redfish are what you’re after, you’re going to want to fish the oyster bars, and they tend to go after a more natural sort of bait. When looking to catch sheepshead and redfish, try going with small crustaceans like shrimp and fiddler crabs, and they’re known to go after sand fleas as well. When the tide is incoming, the sheepshead and redfish tend to be more active, so you’ll see a really exciting time fishing.

Jimmy with a nice snook he caught.

Snook are also still around in January, and you’re going to find them along the mangrove shorelines in the backwaters and also over the oyster bars. They’re being caught using all types of bait, from natural to jigs, so you can really have fun and get creative trying to reel them in. Just remember that snook are illegal to take right now so be sure to take a quick photo and send ‘em back in the water.

The 10,000 Islands present us with a great deal of exciting fishing during the January fishing season, and days on the water during this month are plenty enjoyable as well. Whether you’re looking to catch and release a few snook, or you’re trying to bring home a speckled sea trout for dinner, there is plenty of excitement to be had during your day out on the water!

I hope that these forecasts serve as educational and beneficial to you, and that they will help you become a better angler. If you have any questions or would like to book an instructional charter, please contact me at the below email. I also conduct free instructional seminars and workshops to various groups, clubs, tackle shops, and other venues throughout the year. If your group could benefit from a workshop, please do not hesitate to contact me. Also be sure to check out our website for dates of future workshops.

Contact Capt. Pete Rapps by email:

or phone: 239-571-1756. Check out his website at:


Captain Rapps’ Charters & Guides offers year round expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the 10,000 Islands of the Everglades National Park, and springtime tarpon-only charters in the Florida Keys. Capt. Rapps’ top-notch fleet accommodates men, women and children of all ages, experienced or not. Between our vast knowledge and experience of the area, and easygoing demeanors, you are guaranteed to have a great day. Book your charter 24/7 using the online booking calendar, and see Capt. Rapps’ first class website for booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and more at

Seasonal Condo Activity

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:07pm

Gary & Sandy Elliott

A view of Seabreeze South – a condo here was one of the first to close in 2015.

During season, owners and renters push condo occupancy rates on the island to the maximum. Friends and relatives come for a week or two, and visitors vacation at local hotels and enjoy the superb weather and activities in January, February, March and April. During season, a favorite leisurely pastime between beaching, boating and fishing is checking out open houses. Condo and home owners may be looking to downsize, upsize, change location or to compare their condo’s value for a future resale. Renters check out open houses looking for next year’s rental possibilities or perhaps decide to buy a condo of their own. Friends, relatives and visitors satisfy their curiosity and imagine living here. It’s a happy and busy time for all.

About 575 Marco Island condos will change hands in 2015. This year 36% of all condo closings happened in the second quarter. The first quarter had 26%, followed by the third quarter with 21%, and finally the fourth quarter had 17% of all the closings. The top months for condo closings in 2015 were June, when 77 condos sold and April, when 71 condos sold. The slowest months were November and December with 30 closings each month.

Many potential buyers look this year and buy a condo next year or the year after that. However, once a potential buyer decides the time is right to buy they may shop in earnest for a month or two with a realtor before making an offer. It takes another month or two from the time a sales contract is accepted until the transaction closes. Cash transactions can take 30 days or less from acceptance of offer to closing, and about 70% of the condo sales on the island are for cash.

A view of Riverside – one of the first closings in 2015.

So the overall elapsed time from beginning of earnest searching to closing may take two or three months or longer. With this time frame in mind, the busiest earnest shopping months appear to be December, January, February, March and April. The slowest shopping months are August and September. However, even the slowest months for closings still represent about 40% of the busiest month of the year, so closings happen all year long.

If you are a seller you may want to have your condo listed for sale before the season starts to get the most exposure and offers. If you are a buyer you may find some motivated sellers during August and September. If you just want to see what is available or get decorating ideas then open houses any time of year are a fun way to see Marco Island’s condos.