The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 29 - April 8, 2009


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO/BOB HAGEMAN Kevin Derlon, right, and Chuck Williams ride to
safety after being pulled from the water Sunday
morning after their boat capsized in rough water.

CORTEZ – He can joke about it now, but floating near his capsized boat surrounded by chum off Egmont Key last Sunday morning, Kevin Derlon wasn’t laughing.

Derlon’s 18-foot Gulf Craft fishing boat, "Shark Bait," was capsized by the third wave that hit it after his two fishing lines became entangled in a crab trap.

The buckets of floating chum that he and his friend, Chuck Williams, had brought along as bait had just transformed the two Cortez men into prey in an area known for sharks.

"We went out to shark fish," said Derlon, 52, a seasonal resident from Michigan. When the waves came up, he and Williams, 43, headed for the calmer leeward side of the island, where their fishing lines hooked a crab trap.

They never saw the buoy, which was submerged, Derlon said.

"We saw some other buoys around, but that one was under water," he said."We have to dodge these things like little land mines," Williams said, adding that the buoy also was in the channel, a violation of state law.

The incident was an eerie reminder of the recent tragedy when four men capsized 30 miles out in the Gulf and only one survived. That sole survivor stayed with the overturned boat, which is what the U.S. Coast Guard recommends in such emergencies.

But Derlon and Williams found that almost impossible, since all but a corner of the boat was submerged. And, the two had just filled the water with bloody chum, which was floating in the water all around them.

"My biggest thought was to get away from the boat," Derlon said.

Williams, the better swimmer, had a similar thought, and said his goal was "To get him (Derlon) out of the water and stay away from sharks."

Wearing life vests and holding a floating cushion, they swam with the wind behind them toward Egmont Key, but the current was headed the opposite way - toward the Gulf of Mexico.

"We got within 200 yards (of Egmont). I couldn’t quite read the signs on shore," Derlon said. "Chuck was blowing a whistle and a fishing boat started heading our way, but didn’t see us. We held up a white throwable cushion with handles on both sides, then they saw us," he said.

Holmes Beach resident Bob Hageman and a friend fished them out of the water and marked the submerged boat.

"It was a moving tide," Hageman said. "Egmont wasn’t too far away, but after an hour of swimming, they had only gone about 100 yards," he estimated.

After the rescuers delivered the men to Annie’s Bait and Tackle in Cortez, the Eckerd College Search and Rescue Team arrived. The group of students provides maritime search and rescue services to the Tampa Bay boating community, and recovered "Shark Bait" later that day.

The deep claimed two cell phones, a GPS, a stereo, fishing poles, reels, lures and other equipment, and ruined the boat motor, Derlon said.

But the sharks went away hungry.

If boaters find any gear marked "KD" or "Shark Bait," please call Derlon at 989-598-0154.

Police to be out in force on Easter
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN FILE PHOTO The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Posse
will patrol Island beaches over the Easter weekend.

BRADENTON BEACH – Easter has occasionally been a dangerous holiday for some beachgoers on Anna Maria Island, especially at Coquina Beach. But steps taken over the past two years and a show of police force this Easter are expected to make it safe once again.

A group of law enforcement officials in Manatee County met on Monday, March 30 to make plans for this Easter on the beaches and it will look a lot like last year, which produced more families and fewer troublemakers than in 2007, when gangs cruising the parking lot at Coquina Beach led to a shooting.

As they did last year, there will be the full Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Posse on hand to keep an eye on things as well as the Mutual Aid Gang Task Force (MAGTAF), a group of officers and deputies from departments and sheriff’s offices around the region.

There will be a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) task force there to check the status of gang members. The Bradenton Beach Police Department will be there with a full roster, including reserves, and the sheriff’s office will have a marine unit there. Sheriff’s deputies will be roaming from one county beach to another and will be available to respond to any problems.

Following the 2007 shooting, Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department and local police agencies gave priority to a plan to reconfigure the parking lot at Coquina Beach. The new design does not give visitors free reign of the parking area. Police can block off portions of the huge parking lot and there is little room for cruising, which is what drew gangs.

There were no gang-related incidents the following Easter, according to Bradenton Beach Detective Sergeant Lenard Diaz.

"The bad guys came out, but when they saw that they would not be able to take control of the parking lot, they left," he said.

Diaz said he expects the same thing to happen this Easter.

"We feel that they will come out again and when they see the same situation, they’ll go away," he said.

Last year, more families came back to the park after reading about the new parking lot layout and the presence of police. Diaz said he hopes more families come out to the beach this Easter and take advantage of the increased security.

Island stimulus funding progresses

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has given its approval to the proposed federal stimulus road projects for the Island cities after making some changes, and Bradenton Beach is the big winner while a lot of Holmes Beach projects were rejected.

Bradenton Beach got more than it requested for its lone project, Anna Maria got slightly less than its request and Holmes Beach got much less. The FDOT figures now go to the state legislature for its approval.

Bradenton Beach

Bradenton Beach requested $700,000 for Gulf Drive corridor improvements, a project that it had delayed in 2007 when its Bridge Street Pier rehabilitation went over budget. The city was awarded $830,169.

Holmes Beach

Holmes Beach requested $1,297,000 for projects including sidewalks, East Bay/Gulf Drive realignment, docks for the 63rd Street boat ramp, improvements to the public works maintenance building and streetscape for the causeway annex.

FDOT approved $188,729 total for Holmes Beach including these enhancement projects: $11,414 for a sidewalk along Gulf Drive between 57th and 84th streets; $64,379 for a sidewalk along Holmes Boulevard from 54th to 66th streets; $14,724 for a sidewalk along Palm Drive from 66th to 85th streets; $20,102 for a sidewalk on 85th Street between Gulf and Marina drives. FDOT also awarded $78,110 for upgrading the signal light at East Bay and Gulf drives.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said it appeared that some of the items they requested money for were not eligible. Cindy Clemmons-Adente, spokesperson for FDOT, said another reason was that a lot of the projects were not on roadways eligible for federal funds, such as State Road 789. Enhancement projects and sidewalks are areas where projects don’t have to be located on such roadways.

Anna Maria

This city initially proposed $1,363,335 worth of projects including resurfacing roads citywide, sidewalks, bike path improvements, eight trolley shelters, improvements to the Crescent Avenue and North Bay Boulevard bridges and a boardwalk from the city pier down Pine Avenue.

While FDOT rejected the boardwalk and trolley shelters as being ineligible, it did approve $1,218, 205 for sidewalks, bridges and paving. FDOT recommended $30,513 for a sidewalk from Palm Avenue to Willow Avenue along Gulf Front Park, $15,437 for a sidewalk along Gulf Boulevard from Palm Avenue to Magnolia Avenue, $85,486 for a sidewalk along North Bay Boulevard from hibiscus to North Shore Drive, $13,107 for a sidewalk along Gulf Drive from Spring Avenue to Pine Avenue. In road and Bridge design and build projects, they got $775,169 to repair pile jackets, columns and the guardrail on the Crescent Avenue and North Bay Boulevard bridges; $186,264 to resurface Pine Avenue from Gulf Drive to Bay Boulevard; $112,229 for resurfacing Gulf Drive from Willow to Pine Avenue.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford was elated.

"It appears FDOT went back and ran cost estimates for some of the projects where we just guessed the cost," she said. "They really expanded the sidewalk projects and made them more inclusive and they upgraded the two bridge projects."

All in all, she said it is a windfall for her city, and she thanked the county commission for putting the cities in line first for the stimulus funds.

"They know we need to keep our little cities viable in order to attract tourism," she said. "In their infinite wisdom, they put us first."

The next step is for the Florida Legislature to review and vote on the requests. Due to the urgency of the stimulus program, that vote could come fairly quickly.

Corona pleads not guilty

HOLMES BEACH – Robert Corona pled not guilty last week to grand theft of a motor vehicle, no valid driver license and resisting, obstructing or opposing an officer.

Corona, 38, was arrested last November for stealing the car of missing Haley’s Motel

co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, two days after her boyfriend, William Cumber, reported last seeing her, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports.

Investigators reported that the missing woman’s blood was found in the car.

Corona’s attorney, John Pangallo, also requested a jury trial. Corona’s previous attorney, Thomas Ostrander, withdrew from the case, citing a conflict of interest with Cumber, another of his clients.

Cumber, 39, formerly of Anna Maria Island, was questioned in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance and the subsequent arson of her motel, and is in jail facing violation of probation charges for leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent. He was on probation for a 2006 arson conviction for setting fire to a former girlfriend’s house.

To report information on Musil-Buehler’s disappearance or the fire, call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 747-3011 or the West Manatee Fire Rescue District at 741-3900. co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, two days after her boyfriend, William Cumber, reported last seeing her, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports.

Investigators reported that the missing woman’s blood was found in the car.

Corona’s attorney, John Pangallo, also requested a jury trial. Corona’s previous attorney, Thomas Ostrander, withdrew from the case, citing a conflict of interest with Cumber, another of his clients.

Cumber, 39, formerly of Anna Maria Island, was questioned in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance and the subsequent arson of her motel, and is in jail facing violation of probation charges for leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent. He was on probation for a 2006 arson conviction for setting fire to a former girlfriend’s house.

To report information on Musil-Buehler’s disappearance or the fire, call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 747-3011 or the West Manatee Fire Rescue District at 741-3900.

AMITW gets lighting education grant
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

These lights are not turtle friendly because
they are visible from the beach..

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch has been awarded a grant to educate beachfront property owners on safe lighting options.

The grant was one of 27 awarded around the state from 56 applications.

"It’s in Your Hands: A Lighting Tool Kit for Beachfront Property Owners" is the name of Turtle Watch’s project, and the amount awarded from state sea turtle license funds is for $4,170, the total amount applied for.

"We plan to take some photographs of beachfront properties where existing lighting would cause a problem for nesting sea turtles, and later, for the hatchlings," said AMITW Director Suzi Fox. "What we’re hearing out on the beach is that no one wants to harm sea turtles, but there is a big concern sea turtle friendly lighting isn’t compatible with human safety."

This grant is designed to show people that there are lighting options that are safe for sea turtles and for people alike.

AMITW will be photographing beachfront properties where the lighting is out of compliance with local sea turtle ordinances.

"We’ll put the photos onto a laptop computer and plug in some options that beachfront property owners can choose that will be safe for turtles and people alike," Fox said. "Fixing lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. In some cases, the lights just need to be redirected or shielded."

In other instances, according to Fox, people may want to replace fixtures, especially those that are really old

"There are a number of inexpensive, attractive options that people can choose from,’ she said. "We’ll plug the possible options into a photo of the property so that people can see what lighting that’s compliant will look like."

Members of the grants committee said they think that the AMITW lighting tool kit will be of use to beachfront communities all around the state.

"We’re really looking forward to getting the program up and running," Fox said. "We can’t begin until turtle nesting season officially begins on May 1, but we are working the kinks out of our systems so that we’ll be ready to roll during that first week."

Fox, who holds the state permit for sea turtle and bird nesting monitoring on the Island, has already begun daily checks of the beach in accordance with a contract she has with Manatee County. Visitors and residents may see her out on the AMITW ATV early in the morning.

She said people should feel free to stop her to ask any questions they have about bird or turtle nesting.

The larger group of volunteers will begin daily walking on May 1.


AMITW Training

Anyone wanting to volunteer to help monitor sea turtle and bird nesting on Island beaches must attend a training session April 23 at Holmes Beach city hall from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Volunteers will be taught to recognize turtle tracks, care for the nests and then monitor for hatching.

Anyone wishing to work with sea turtles must be listed on the state permit. To be listed, you must take the training. Anyone else interfering or handling sea turtles, their nests or their eggs is subject to substantial state and federal fines.

Call 778-5638 for more information.

Island Playhouse to receive plaque
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The building was used as an early tourist center.

The Anna Maria Island Historical Society (AMIHS) will present the fourth historic marker to The Island Playhouse in Anna Maria at 7 p.m. on April 13.

The building was barged to the Island from Parrish in 1912 and used as a tourist center and community hall before becoming a playhouse for the Island Players in 1949. This year is the 60th anniversary of the Players.

Concerned about the loss of the historic structures to development, AMIHS members are recognizing them by presenting plaques to their owners. To have your building recognized, apply in person to the Island Historical Museum and provide proof of the structure’s age. Buildings must be at least 50 years old.

The AMIHS board of directors will review the applications. For those that are accepted, AMIHS will file the forms with the state and where the structure will be added to the Florida Master Site File in Tallahassee. The cost is $125.

For more details, contact Melissa Williams, plaque chairman, at the museum, 941-778-0492.

Dolphin Ginger doing well in wild
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Ginger the dolphin, named by researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory,
fed on mullet one recent April morning off Siesta Key, herding them
toward the seawall to make it easier to catch them. The dolphin was
stranded in December on Siesta Key and was rehabilitated and
released by Mote in February

SARASOTA BAY – There it is again, every time Ginger surfaces to take a breath of air.

"Beep, beep." Maybe a third "beep" if she grabs a particularly long breath.

Then silence.

Aaron Barleycorn holds up an antennae that looks like it was salvaged from a 1960s rooftop. He aims it lengthwise toward the beeping and points out the direction to Katie McHugh, who steers the Mote Sarasota Dolphin Research Program vessel toward the sound.

The battery on the VHF radio transmitter that researchers placed on the bottlenose dolphin in February is nearing the end of its one- to three-month life, but they plan to take advantage of every opportunity to track Ginger while they can.

Short for Gingerbread, Ginger was named because she stranded before the Christmas holidays on Siesta Key. After Mote vets successfully treated her for pneumonia and gastrointestinal problems, she was released in February in Sarasota Bay, where she leaped into the air, maybe to say goodbye to her caretakers, maybe to say hello to a group of dolphins that appeared to be waiting for her, maybe to shed her new radio transmitter. They don’t know for sure, but they do know a lot about Ginger and Sarasota Bay’s other dolphins.

Program researchers have known Ginger since she was born in 2005, and know her mother, age 13, and grandmother, age 50, too. They also can identify the 140 dolphins that live in Sarasota Bay by the shape of their fins.

The 39-year-old program, headed by Dr. Randy Wells, is the world's longest-running dolphin research program, and serves as a model for other programs worldwide.

Researchers study various aspects of dolphin behavior, such as what makes a successful dolphin mother, which dolphins socialize with each other and how many times a dolphin breathes in a certain period of time.

The team monitored Ginger daily for two weeks after her release and will continue to check on her twice a week until her transmitter expires. She has been seen with her longtime companion, Thrasher, as well as her mother and several other dolphins.

Last Thursday, McHugh and Barleycorn found her herding mullet against a seawall on Siesta Key, tossing a fish into the air. While it looks like play, Barleycorn says it’s probably to stun the fish and make it easier to catch. The wake she creates by zooming up and down the seawall chasing fish is loud enough to attract the attention of a resident enjoying her backyard.

The researchers count Ginger’s breaths as she feeds. Hunting and eating are good signs that she’s recovered, they say.

Natural hunting behaviors among the bay’s dolphins have been disrupted by fishermen who feed dolphins, a dangerous and illegal practice, according to Wells.

"The problems associated with humans feeding dolphins have been well documented, especially here in southwest Florida where Beggar still receives regular handouts from boaters," Wells said. "In fact, we've seen behavior indicating that Beggar has even taught this behavior to other dolphins. That puts dolphins in danger of being caught in fishing line, of ingesting things that are harmful to them and of being struck by boats. It also puts humans in danger as well – a number of people have been bitten by Beggar and other dolphins that have learned to beg for food from humans."

Enjoying dolphins from a distance, particularly when they’re feeding, is safest for both animals and humans, researchers say.

You can follow Ginger’s progress at

Floating pier to get fix

BRADENTON BEACH – The floating day dock has been troublesome since it was installed next to the Bridge Street Pier in 2007 during the pier’s renovation. At one point, the city found out that the contractor that assembled it used bolts that were too small, and it caused a portion of the dock to come apart. There was also a problem when a boat ran into it.

At a meeting of the city’s pier team, Public Works Director Tom Woodard said he got an opinion from a Sanford, Florida professional.

"I talked with Ken Gano, of Gano Fabrication, and he said there was nothing broken, but things were coming loose," Woodard said. "He said we need to replace a friction plate and he will return to fix that and perform a tune-up."

Woodard said that when Gano bills the city, he will turn it over to the contractor that installed the pier.

Woodard also said they are shoring up some of the boards in the pier and handrails that have come loose. He said he is talking with an electrician about moving the wiring out to the end of the pier underneath the structure, instead of along the handrails.

In other news regarding the pier, restaurant franchisee Dave Russell said that they will install fish lines over the outdoor eating area to keep birds from landing on the tables and bothering diners.

Projects and Programs Manager Lisa Marie Phillips said she submitted a request to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for a $220,000 grant to design the mooring field south of the pier with a pump-out station for sewage and a harbormaster’s office at the pier.

The grant requires $35,000 from the city, which includes city salaries for public works employees who work on the project, she said,

The city pier team meets on the first Thursday of each month at 1 p.m.

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