Tropical Storm Debby Siesta
Family, Featured, Florida, Fun

How a seahorse turned a regular day into an adventure.

As most everyone is aware, Tropical Storm Debby hit the Florida Gulf Coast last week.  I had never been in a tropical storm and was really excited to see what all of the fuss was about.  The sky was grey, the rain dumped, and the wind was blowing.  It really wasn’t much different than some winter storms in my home state of Washington.  However, it did close the bridge between my home and my office so I got to work from home most of the week!

On Tuesday, just as the storm was about to make landfall–we decided to make a beach run.  The rain was on and off and we were just tired of being stuck inside.  We headed to Siesta Beach (#1 Beach in America according to Dr. Beach) and awed at the waves.

If you have never seen the Gulf of Mexico, then you probably aren’t aware that most of the time it. is. flat.  Think swimming pool or bathtub flat.  After the wind of TS Debby, the ocean was stirred up and lively.  The waves were huge!  The ocean was angry! The sparkly clear blue water was replaced by grey water, flooded beaches and lots of sea foam.

Some people didn’t appreciate the energy of the storm…

but we sure did.  (In case you can’t read what the Bean wrote in the says, “Debby’s Fun!”)

We weren’t planning on getting in the water (careful of rip currents in this type of conditions) but just wanted to go a walk.  We were not alone…there were a surprising number of people on the beach strolling, swimming–likely just needing some fresh outside air.

The kids were going crazy, jumping into the wind, running like wild animals–having a great time.  As we were walking we noticed this:

Just laying on top of the sand.  Probably 50 feet from the edge of the ocean.  We had no idea how long it had been there or how many people had “almost” stepped on him.  He was still alive.

Aaron grabbed him and took him to the water’s edge–thinking about releasing him– but as soon as he was covered in the water..he perked up and wrapped his tail around Aaron’s fingers.

“I can’t throw him back in here.  The waters too rough. He’ll just die.”  said Aaron, his sensitivity shining through.  He directed the kids to run to the garbage can and find a cup to keep him alive until we could get him to a more suitable location.

We filled the cup with water and piece of algae and continued on our walk.  Every so often, we would check on our little seahorse friend (we named him Sammy)  to ensure he was doing OK.

Once we had walked and played to our hearts content, we headed back up the beach–trying to figure out where we could take Sammy that would be safe.

We got into the car and drove to the first place that we thought would be good for Sammy–a little bay right before the bridge to leave Siesta Key.  Normally, it would have been perfect but the water was too rough and there were a few pesky pelicans hanging out looking for an easy meal (Not sure if they would eat a seahorse but why take the chance?).  It was also  high tide so there were no exposed plants for Sammy to hold onto.

So, we kept going.  Our next spot was on the other side of the bridge in the lee of the wind.  We thought it looked OK.  We said our good–byes and gently dropped Sammy  and his piece of algae into the water.


We made a little video of the first release attempt if you want to see him trying to swim away. From the video it is clear, that if we left him here….he wouldn’t have done well.

He immediately let go of the algae and started to try to swim away–but he was getting nowhere.  He was trying to swim but the current was too strong and he had nothing to hang onto.  We watched him struggle for a couple of minutes and then decided to rescue him again.  We scooped him up and grabbed his algae and headed off to Lido Beach to hope for a better outcome.

I remembered a quiet little boardwalk near Mote Aquarium that meandered through the mangroves.  It seemed like the perfect place for our little seahorse friend.  But, after a quick walk along the boardwalk, we realized it was filled with garbage and just not a nice place for Sammy to live.

We decided to try one last place.  At the end of Lido Beach Road is a small kayak launch area, with a tight little mangrove and very calm water.  Although the road was flooded and we were driving through deep water and bumpy roads–we persisted.  Just as the dark clouds began to drizzle, Aaron waded into the water and helped little Spike attach itself to a a piece of vegetation in the mangrove.  After a few minutes, Sammy was home.  He looked secure and was well protected from wind, waves, and hopefully predators (what are the predators of a seahorse anyway?).

As a reward for our adventures, we went out to dinner at 5 Guys–mostly because they were the only place still open at 9 pm.  I was kind of grumpy to be eating dinner so late (It is not supposed to be good for you, you know) and feeling kind of guilty for the kids.  At one point the Bean said to me, “ Mom, would you rather eat a late dinner or kill a seahorse?”

What a way to put it into perspective.

Thanks Tropical Storm Debby for an experience to remember!

(Afterword:  As soon as we finished our dinner and headed out to our car, we realized we had a flat tire.  Luckily, Aaron was able to deal with it while the kids waited in the car.  Un-luckily, it poured rain the entire time. Good times!)