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Captiva Cruises, SCCF team up for water quality cruise

By Staff | Aug 25, 2010

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, in partnership with Captiva Cruises, will be launching a new hands-on cruise that gives passengers the opportunity to explore the mouth of the Caloosahatchee and its estuary.

“The Conservation Foundation and Captiva Cruises have a long history of cooperatively working together on environmental education projects,” said Captiva Cruises Environmental Educator Richard Finkel. “This new cruise we’ll be doing together to raise funds for the SCCF’s education fund and to educate people about water quality issues and the SCCF’s conservation efforts.”

During the cruise, Finkel will teach passengers how to properly sample for water quality, while SCCF Education Director Kristie Anders describes the islands’ linkage to the greater Everglades ecosystem, which includes the entire watershed from Orlando to Florida Bay and everything in between.

“We were presented with a new opportunity when Captiva Cruises acquired a new boat, The Santiva, and they arranged for a dock at Punta Rassa,” Anders said. “This allows us a new venue to talk about the ecology of the area and in this case, it’s ideal to talk about the mouth of the Caloosahatchee and the intersection of San Carlos Bay, which is an area we haven’t been able to do yet. Until now, it was impractical for SCCF to provide any educational programs in that vicinity because of its location.”

Over time, discharges from Lake Okeechobee and runoff from the Caloosahatchee watershed have increased turbidity (or water clarity) and decreased dissolved oxygen levels in Sanibel and Captiva’s coastal waters, causing algal blooms, changes to ecological populations and the loss of sea grasses.

The SCCF’s RECON (River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network) is a network of optical water quality sensors situated throughout the Caloosahatchee river and estuary. The sensors provide real-time water quality data to the SCCF Marine Lab and can detect the presence of algal blooms and nutrient hotspots.

“During the cruise, we’ll be talking about the intercoastal waterway, the idea of what maintenance and dredging is like for the U.S. Army Corps and we’ll also in an ideal location to where we can get close to one of the SCCF’s marine lab’s RECON water quality units,” Anders said.

Last week, Anders said she went out with Marine Lab staff to check up on that particular RECON unit.

“I have a greater appreciation for what it takes our marine lab staff to keep these units going, especially when it comes to getting those units out of the water and cleaning them so that it maintains its accuracy,” she said.

In addition to observing the RECON unit, Finkel will be giving passengers and hands-on demonstration on how to test for temperature, salinity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels.

“When you get on the water, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the resources of the area,” Finkel said.

The first two water quality cruises are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 3 and Friday, Oct. 15, both beginning at 10 a.m. and lasting until noon. More water quality cruises will be scheduled later on.

The cruise departs from the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort and Spa, located at 17260 Harbour Pointe Drive, near the entrance to the Sanibel Causeway. The cost for the cruise is $35 for adults and $20 for children. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Captiva Cruises at 472-5300.

For more information about the SCCF’s Marine Laboratory, go to recon.sccf.org.

Captiva Cruises offers educational, interactive cruises for all ages

• Science at Sea Cruise — You too can be a marine biologist during this 90-minute, hands-on scientific inquiry that is fun for all ages. Passengers will take part in scientific research that will be utilized by the SCCF’s Marine Lab, by examining crab traps and plankton nets, learning to use compasses as navigational aids and looking through magnifying viewers to study organisms that are otherwise hard to see.

• Shoreline Discovery Cruise — Travel to a secluded beach for a guided shoreline walk to discuss coastal sea life and beach dynamics. Explore mudflats and use nets within the shallow sea grass beds for an up-close look at some of the smaller, but still amazing inhabitants of the Back Bay Estuary Ecosystem. Bring wading shoes and your sense of adventure for this hands-on sea life encounter.

• Sailing Under The Stars Cruise — Enjoy the sunset, experience day turning into night, linger out on the water and sail under the stars. Planets, stars and constellations will be identified along the way. Mythology, mysteries and features of our Milky Way Galaxy, as well as the greater universe, will be appreciated under the magic of the night sky.

For more information about Captiva Cruises’ daily excursions, go to www.CaptivaCruises.com