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Posts Tagged ‘Stinson Beach California’

By the Wind Sailor

Posted by Jody on August 23, 2014

Greg and I recently returned from another fantastic visit to the Bay Area (and points north).

Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach

While strolling Stinson Beach one perfect July afternoon, we happened upon a large number jelly-like oval-shaped creatures washed up on the sand. 😦 They were the most striking deep blue in color. I recognized them right away, even though I had never seen one of these strange little life forms in person before.

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

By the Wind Sailors on Stinson Beach

Their distinctive “sail” was the give-away!

By the Wind Sailor

By the Wind Sailor

By the Wind Sailor

By the Wind Sailor

Nobody (except the scavenging gulls) seemed to pay them any mind at all. Harmless to humans, these amazing marine organisms are called “by the wind sailors” (Velella velella ). They live on the surface of the ocean and can be found on both the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast of the United States. By the wind sailors are commonly seen scattered about the sands of Stinson Beach during the late spring and early summer, and along the west coast as far north as Washington State, when especially strong winds can cast counteless numbers of these ill-fated critters ashore.

Look closely for the By the Wind Sailors.

Look closely for the By the Wind Sailors.

Harmless to humans: blue stinging tentacles around the rim.

Harmless to humans: blue stinging tentacles around the rim.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s SIMoN website:

Velella velella is incredibly stabile and seaworthy by design. The sail is triangular, slightly thicker at its base, stiffened by superficial thickened ridges, and yet still quite flexible. This incredible design allows smooth bending when its sail is under load, recoiling when the wind lets up, and overall minimizes the risk of kinking. The whole animal tilts when under sail, hull broadside to the flow of oncoming water.

Velella velella drifts before the wind, almost always tacking about 45 degrees to the right of the prevailing northwesterlies. This is normally enough to keep them offshore, however southerly or extremely strong onshore winds can cause them to spin around and follow the wind at a much closer angle that brings them toward land. Once washed ashore, the animals die and disintegrate within a few days.

And here’s a little something extra for your next beach/trivia party! According to Oregon State University: The sail is set diagonally to the long axis of the animal. On our side of the north Pacific Ocean, their sails are set in a northwest to southeast direction. On the other side of the north Pacific, the sails are set in a northeast to southwest direction. In the southern hemisphere, sails are reversed.”

Apparently, 2014 has been a bang-up year for the beaching of these remarkable, translucent, ocean-going creatures. Stories of mass sightings abound.

Here are a couple more helpful links in case you’d like to learn more about the (often hyphenated) by-the-wind sailor.

Bay Nature.org

National Geographic.com

Serenity, Sand and (yes) Sharks of Stinson Beach (Stinson Beach)

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Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Northern California Beaches, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Serenity, Sand and (yes) Sharks of Stinson Beach, Northern California

Posted by Jody on September 25, 2012

Stinson Beach, Northern California

I’ve seen Stinson Beach, California on many a “Best Shelling Beaches” list. Truth be told, though, I’ve never found a take-home seashell or sand dollar on this beautiful stretch of Northern California coastline.  No kidding!

Peaceful Stinson Beach on a gorgeous winter’s day.

Greg and I don’t go to Stinson Beach for its renowned (rumored?) beachcombing. We love heading to this beautiful beach for the quiet serenity of a long winter’s walk on a seemingly endless shoreline. I’m not sure if we’ve ever even been to Stinson Beach during the summer months, and that’s OK. Although there are lifeguard towers evident on the beach, with an average summer water temperature of 58°F, year-round rip current warnings and a shark attack history, we never plan to do much more than get some sand between our toes!

Left side of Stinson Beach safety sign

Right side of Stinson Beach safety sign

Even though this very thorough warning sign is posted prominently at the entrance to the beach, the Golden Gate National Recreation Site page states: “Swimming is only recommended from late May to mid-September when lifeguards are on duty.” All righty then…

The following Q & A comes from a wonderful White Shark Information webpage supported by the California Department of Fish and Game. In it you can find answers to many questions about white sharks (aka: great white sharks, or if you’re a surfer: the men in the grey suits).  The site covers everything from what white sharks typically eat to how to tell white sharks from other species of sharks and their role in the marine ecosystem. It’s definitely worth a look!

Q: How can people avoid white shark attacks?

There is only one foolproof method for avoiding a white shark attack: stay out of the ocean. If this is not an option, try to avoid places known for white sharks, such as the Farallon Islands, Ao Nuevo, and Bird Rock near Point Reyes. Another suggestion is to avoid swimming in areas where marine mammals are congregating. Don’t swim in or near areas frequented by sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals, etc. or near their rookeries.

Wearing a wetsuit and fins, or lying on a surfboard, creates the silhouette of a seal from below. Shark attacks are often believed to be cases of mistaken identity, with surfing or swimming humans mistaken for seals or sea lions. Times of reduced sunlight, such as foggy mornings or dusk, are ideal times to be mistaken for a seal.

View of Stinson Beach, California from the Pacific Coast Highway

Stinson Beach is located about 20 twisty miles north of San Francisco. Open every day of the year, Stinson Beach has rest rooms and shower facilities, picnic areas, and BBQ grills. Whale-watching is big here January through March. A snack bar is open during summer months and kayak and boogie board rentals are also available then. Keep in mind that Fido is not allowed on the beach area maintained by the National Park Service, but is welcome (on leash) in the parking lot area, picnic grounds and on the county section of the beach known as Upton’s Beach.

“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.” ~Bruce (Great White Shark),  Finding Nemo

Posted in Beach Safety Tips, Northern California Beaches, Sharks, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »

 
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