‘Something magical happens’

‘Something magical happens’

Float for Life event attracts larger crowd for second annual event
Published in Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 22, 2015 issue

Seventy-five individuals reunited with the ocean on Fort Myers Beach while floating on their backs in an effort for them to fall in love with the water, which in turn will encourage them to become stewards of the ocean.

Seventy-five people participated in the second annual Float for Life event on Fort Myers Beach.

Seventy-five people participated in the second annual Float for Life event on Fort Myers Beach.

“Two years ago Roy and I moved to Palm City on the east coast of Florida,” Shelley Lynch said. “The devastation of the waters and the death of marine life were so painful for us. We felt so powerless, so we decided we wanted to be apart of the solution. One day we said, ‘you know we float people for a living, let’s float them for our oceans.'”

That thought ignited the inaugural Float for Life event last year on Fort Myers Beach.

A quote from Mother Theresa, “If you ask me to march against something I won’t join you. If you ask me to march for something I will be there,” made the thought into reality. The first event attracted 55 people within six months of promoting the event last year.

“We are here to float for our waters, marine life, for our eco system that supports us and gives so much to us,” Lynch told the 75 participants this year through tearful eyes. “This topic is so emotional and passionate for me that I want to cry because it is so important.”

Lynch grew up on the Florida coast in a little town when kids were able to roam freely. She spent countless hours on the beach, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the intercostal waters that were lined with massive mangroves that were used to play make believe house.

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“It was really where I fell in love with the ocean,” Lynch said. “I feel like it was my third parent. It was my solace.”

Her husband, Roy Desjarlais grew up on the canals of Cape Coral where he spent countless hours finding ways to be in or near the water.

“The love of the water became ingrained very early,” he said. “So that is really the heart and passion for me when it comes to Float for Life. We are both therapist wanting to help people.”

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The participants separated into groups of three and headed for the ocean near Pink Shell Resort and Marina Sunday, July 12. Each member of the group floated for 10 minutes while the other two group members provided assistance with their head and legs.

“We want things to be on a really positive note when you connect with the water. When you are positive, when you have that connection, you tend to love things and care for things,” Desjarlais said.

Fort Myers resident Paula Reiss attended the event for the first time this year because Jacques Cousteau has had a major impact on her life. She said she met him many years ago, which resulted in scuba diving and being actively involved with water quality issues.

“It was a very interesting experience,” she said of floating. “You don’t feel like anything is going on around you until you go vertical.”

Once Reiss went from the horizontal to vertical position she said it resembled the “feeling you get when you wake from a good sleep.”

Other participants described their experience as feeling safe, incredibly peaceful and it allowed them to tune into how their body was feeling. Another participant said “the rough waves out there weren’t ideal, but it’s kind of representative of life in a way.”

Alexandra Cousteau and Roy Desjarlais.

Alexandra Cousteau and Roy Desjarlais.

Guest speaker Alexandra Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter, said it was really exciting for her to see everyone floating and enjoying the ocean.

“I hope that we will take something away from this day and that will be some renewed conviction that everything you do matters and every single choice you make has a consequence . . . that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” she said.

In addition to participants, the Float for Life event also attracted many volunteers that assisted before, during and after the festivities.

Edie Gleason, a Sanibel resident, said she wanted to volunteer because she loves the ocean and believes in the importance and connection between the health of the water, environment and everyone’s actions.

“I encourage people to think and support government issues,” she said.

The event’s beneficiary this year was the Sanibel Sea School, which resulted in a presentation from Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill. He shared with the crowd that the Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future one person at a time through marine conservation and education.

Sanibel Sea School Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill

Sanibel Sea School Cofounder and Executive Director Bruce Neill

“Very quickly we are all going to realize that conservation is the true economic way to do things. It is the most cost effective way to do things in the future,” Neill said. “Humans don’t change our behavior based on data. We don’t read numbers and say ‘oh geez, I shouldn’t be doing that.’ We change our behavior based on emotions. At the very root of conservation is an emotional attachment to that thing.”

He classified the work between Lynch, Desjarlais, guest speaker Alexandra Cousteau and the Sanibel Sea Schools as a perfect union.

“It is conservation that is hooked to an emotional content of how we feel about the environment that sustains us,” Neill said.

Float for Life is similar to the Sanibel Sea School’s soul floats, which also connects individuals with the ocean.

“We like to cover our chests and we tend to not open our chest because it tends to leave us vulnerable,” Neill said. “So when we lie on the ocean and open our arms to allow us to float . . . when we open our arms and we open our chest something magical happens. We become reunited with the ocean and not only do we heal ourselves, we reinvigorate the love for the ocean.”

One of the main messages participants took away from the event was how to become better stewards of the water.

“To me what that means is take personal responsibility for our immediate environment,” Desjarlais said. “Embrace personal stewardship and create a new habit or embrace the old one and let that ripple out.”

Another chapter starts

Another chapter starts

At 6 a.m. I slowly crawled out of bed as my alarm woke me Monday. Pure excitement washed over me as I got ready for my first day as the new editor of the Sanibel-Captiva Islander.

I was leaving to go to work. I was heading to an office where I would be working with others. My streak of working only out of my home doing freelance work came to an end that morning.

The hardest part of Monday was saying goodbye to my little puppy who I have spent pretty much every day with since we adopted her in April 2014. The look she gave me as I closed the garage door made me smile as memories flooded of the time we have spent together. My heart broke a little knowing that she will now spend a good portion of the day alone.

The goodbye with Jason carried me through the jitters of my first day. He always knows the right thing to say at the right moment. His excitement shined through his sleepy words and his sweet smile as he looked into my eyes. For the first time in two years, I was the one who kissed Jason goodbye, wishing him a good day as I left and went to work.  As I walked out of our bedroom, a smile swept across my face.

It’s true I have the support of a beautiful man. A man that has continued to share how proud he is of me through my career changes over the past almost six years.

That morning reminded me of a day in September 2009. I moved back to Fort Myers from Arizona a few months prior and began a job search. After a few months, I found a listing for the Cape Coral Daily Breeze and went in for an interview. I was at Jason’s place when I got the phone call . . . I was hired as a new reporter for the paper. The excitement he shared with me that day was beyond supportive. A memory that still makes me smile.

The sky was blue with typical Florida temperatures engulfing the car as my drive to work began before 7 a.m. earlier this week. It was the most relaxing 40-minute drive. As soon as I crossed the toll for Sanibel my shoulders relaxed and my back hugged the seat a little more as I took in the view of the water. Cars were already parked along the causeway as another beautiful day unfolded. I stopped where no other cars were parked next to the water, took a picture and breathed in the salt water before continuing my trip to the office.

First day at Islander

I did it. I was offered a full-time position, a position that will allow my passion of writing to continue.

The same smile I had after walking out of our bedroom surfaced again as I opened the door to the office. It remained as I introduced myself to Craig who I am replacing.

We shared information about ourselves before diving into the responsibilities I will be taking over come Monday morning.

I honestly felt like I was home again. As I sat in his office, soon to be mine, the passion of my craft consumed me. I am faced with another challenge . . . well opportunity . . . of making another newspaper into a great weekly sharing the news and stories of the island.

One of the true beauties of this career is the endless opportunities it provides in getting to know, fully diving deep into the character of a community. Although I grew up in Southwest Florida and have spent time on Sanibel, I really do not know the community well. Now, working on the island I have the opportunity to really get to know what makes this area a destination for so many.

My first day sped by relatively fast. It was absolutely perfect. That smile remained throughout the entire day. I was introduced to people, got some leads on stories and had the opportunity to see some of the beautiful island.

That night Jason, Lucy and I went to Fort Myers Beach to embark on one of my favorite past times. We stopped at Publix and I ordered us subs before we headed to our destination. We used to eat dinner on the beach while watching the sunset before we left for Tennessee.

Before we left the house it started raining, but since we live in Florida we ran to the car and hoped for the best. It rained on and off the entire drive to the beach. We ended up eating dinner in the car waiting for the showers to finish.

Fortunately the rain stopped and an incredible sunset covered the night sky.

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That night was the first time Lucy truly got to experience the beach. Although she was extremely hesitant of the water, Jason and I eventually encouraged her to get her feet wet.

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It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

The next few days were just as successful as the first.

There is truly no better feeling than working in an office with others who have the same passion as mine. It’s nice to be surrounded by others, instead of being isolated in my home interviewing people over the phone.

Another perk of working on Sanibel came to fruition Thursday night on my way home. For the first time since Jason and I started dating we work in the same area. So, before I left the island I stopped by Jerry’s where he cooks and said hello.

With our hours, most of the time we only get to see each other at the end of the day, when I’m falling asleep on the couch waiting for him to come home.

Although it was a brief visit, it was great to see him.

With a smile on my face I began driving off the island when a rainbow caught my attention. The water began calling my name, so I decided to stop on the causeway and get out of the car. The weather was perfect at that moment as my hair started flying in every direction with the wind coming off the water. I stood there taking in the scenery, smelling the salt water and listening to the wave’s crash against the shore. I probably stood there for 15 to 20 minutes.

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As I climbed back into my car I was completely relaxed as I drove the rest of the way home. It was at that moment that I truly felt grateful for the life Jason and I have. At that moment I began thinking about my journalism career here in Southwest Florida.

Since September 2009, my editor Val has taken care of me. I have gained heaps of experience as my duties change as a new position opened.

When I shared I would be moving to NE Tennessee in 2013, she kept me on as a freelance reporter. A phone call sharing that Jason and I were moving back to Florida offered her word in keeping me busy with freelance work until something full-time popped up. Val kept to her word. My workload tripled for the Cape Coral Daily Breeze as a freelance reporter.

Last week my world changed when I received an email from Val asking me to call her. That phone call, which led to a meeting in her office, was another promise kept.

I love what the beginning of this new chapter has offered so far. I’m excited to fully dig in next week when I no longer have to shadow the editor who is here now.

I firmly believe that our move back to Southwest Florida was meant to be. I continue to feel myself relax while the stress diminishes.

This week, although has worn me out, has been one of the best week’s I have had in a long time. I’ve met some really nice people, have seen some beautiful places and have contributed articles to a newspaper that will soon be filled with my byline.

A beautiful life

A beautiful life

My heart is singing. I have the love of a man who would move mountains to make me smile. A man who would do absolutely anything to make my life even more beautiful.

That feeling has consumed me since I returned home from my trip to Fort Myers. A trip that left us apart for almost a week, the longest time spent a part in more than five years.

They say it’s good to spend time apart . . .

I knew that week was going to be hard, but did not know to what extent. There were a couple of things I truly missed while we were apart. Jason kissing me goodbye in the morning before leaving while telling me to have a great day. Surprise visits during the day. Most of all, us not sleeping in the same bed at night, was by far the hardest thing. I sleep so much better knowing he is peacefully laying beside me, or even knowing he is in the same house.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of my trip because I was surrounded by family and friends. It was a trip I needed to take, a trip that was long overdue. A trip that was filled with nonstop laughter as every single one of my siblings gathered together with their loved ones and children.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

The Monday after Christmas, my family had its family Christmas. Mom had 19 people under one roof. All of her kids together for the first time in five years for Christmas. Sometimes it was so hard to hear someone talk because of the booming of laughter that filled a room. New memories were definitely made that day.

Towards the end of the day, we all gathered outside, so my Mom could have pictures with her family. This was specially hard on me. Mom and Dad stood waiting for each one of their children and significant others to surround them, as I snapped a shot. I, of course, took that picture without Jason that day. Although he was not standing beside me, I could still feel the love we share with the hundreds of miles that separated us. I could hear him saying, “I’m glad you are spending time with your family.”

Throughout the week, Jason and I would talk through text messages. Yes, I still received my good morning. Often times we had the opportunity to catch up at night before we both went to bed. I loved those moments because I had the chance to hear his voice.

Our week apart was definitely confirmation that I have truly found my soul mate. I found the love of my life.

Jason was a part of many conversations and in my thoughts as every day unfolded.

The night I met a great friend at the beach to watch a sunset, he was with me. Charlene and I watched the sunset in almost the exact spot that Jason and I have shared many times while enjoying dinner on the beach. I sent him a picture of the sunset. His reply, “Very nice. I can feel it.”

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Those seven days a part showed me yet again that I have true love from a man who loves me to pieces. Although I know he missed me, he was always sending me messages sharing how happy he was that I was with family and friends.

My favorite text was sent the night before I returned home. He had a countdown going of when I was going to be “stuck” with him again. 12 hours and counting . . . that warmed my heart in ways I cannot explain. Jason missed having me home.

When I came around the bend at the airport and saw him standing there, a smile swept across my face in a speed I could not control. I was home. I was in the presence of my man once again. I could tell he was just as equally as excited to see me.

I feel a new kind of closeness to Jason. A new kind of appreciation for one another. The laughter I felt at my parents house, is the same kind of laughter that has filled our home the last couple of nights.

It’s an unexplainable feeling to have that kind of love. A feeling that is sometimes overwhelming. A love that has opened my eyes to all kinds of beautiful moments that were once clouded before.

Jason continues to show me how to appreciate every moment for what it is worth.

This man has helped in creating a beautiful life for the both of us. A beautiful life that continues to excite me as new days unfold.

I am beyond grateful I met this man 19 years ago. It was a true blessing to be reunited with him again more than five years ago. Jason has helped me become a better person. The support he shares often times leaves me speechless.

It’s truly a powerful thing . . . how much someone can impact your life. A positive impact on every aspect of my well-being.

This year has started off with a bang, as I continue to share my life with a man I know I will grow old with.

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

 

“We are a romance destination”

Lovers Key Resort: A serene retreat on the south end of the island 

Published in South Fort Myers Community Lifestyles October/November issue

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A hidden gem frequented by couples for a romantic getaway is tucked away on the south tip of Fort Myers Beach, providing breathtaking views, an award-winning restaurant and lagoon-style pool to really escape.

“We are a romance destination for anniversaries, honeymoons and special occasions, like Valentine’s Day,” Lovers Key Resort general manager Jeff Bullock said of the property that is catered toward couples. “We have some custom packages for a couple’s getaway destination.”

He said the boutique property opened in 2000 with picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico and Estero Bay from the suites, many of the rooms receiving upgrades and remodels in 2013.

The suites are spacious with a king-sized bedroom and queen-sized sleeper sofa, as well as a full-service kitchen and private balconies overlooking either the Gulf of Mexico or Estero Bay. The units also include a dining room with a table and chairs for four people.

Lovers Key Resort suites offer full-sized kitchen galleys with updated stove, microwave, refrigerator, large sink and spacious granite counter tops.

Lovers Key Resort suites offer full-sized kitchen galleys with updated stove,
microwave, refrigerator, large sink and spacious granite counter tops.

“Many of the units have full floor-to-ceiling windows,” he said. “You
can see all of Lovers Key, as well as the gulf and Fort Myers Beach.”

Several units also include a Jacuzzi tub and separate showers in the full-sized spacious bathrooms.

Bullock said what makes the resort unique is guests see a lot of natural Florida habitat, such as native birds, manatees and dolphins, when staying on the property.

 

The resort has a lagoon-style pool with a waterfall that sits right on the bay and a 24-hour fitness center that is assessable for all guests. It also public, as well.

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Flippers on the Bay, a restaurant sitting on top of Estero Bay, changed to the current management company in 2011 with new Executive Chef Juan Cruz, originally from El Salvador.

“He came from California to us about three years ago,” Bullock said.

The restaurant was also renovated and remodeled in 2011. The casual, yet elegant atmosphere of Flippers on the Bay is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, primarily serving seafood cuisine.

Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 11 a.m. offering such favorites as the
Ultimate Lobster Egg Benedict and Lovers Key Breakfast Burrito.

Lobster Benedict

Lobster Benedict

The Benedict is comprised of two English muffins, two poached eggs,
fresh succulent lobster meat finished with house-made key lime hollandaise and house-made breakfast potatoes. The burrito is made of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, peppers and cheddar cheese, topped with house-made enchilada sauce, sour cream and house-made breakfast potatoes.

From May through January, the resort offers a room package that
automatically comes with a warm continental breakfast.

The lunch menu is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some of the popular
appetizers include Tuna Ceviche and Campechana.

Bohemian Grouper

Bohemian Grouper

The ceviche is fresh yellow fin tuna with pickled ginger, diced cucumbers and avocado relish tossed with sesame seeds, lemon juice, house-made cusabi and Asian garlic sauce. The Campechana is a Spanish-style shrimp cocktail with seasoned shrimp, lump crab meat, avocado, red onion, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno and clamato juice on warm tortilla chips.

Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. and concludes at 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Some of the favorite menu items include Chilean Sea Bass, Coconut Shrimp and Bohemian Grouper.

The sea bass is pan-seared and served with a citrus miso sauce and
steamed rice. The grouper is seared and served over ripe mashed plantain with roasted seasonal vegetables and topped with a citrus mango relo fish and citron buerre blanc.

Taste of the Bay

Taste of the Bay

Taste of the Bay, fettuccine pasta with succulent lobster meat, shrimp and sea scallops, is another popular dinner item.

The location of the resort also offers many opportunities for guests to take full advantage of the water within walking distance.

Bullock said Lovers Key State Park and many local vendors offer private tours for kayaking, paddle boarding and water sports.

“When they stay here they can access the state park or the local vendors within a mile,” he said of the resort. “Some of them will meet the guests here and access the bay from the resort property.”

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Guests can also take a short walk across the street to Fort Myers Beach or travel a mile down the road to Lovers Key State Park.

Lovers Key Resort has a very high rating on Trip Advisor and was voted the Best of the Beach Waterfront Restaurant and Best Place for Lunch on the Water by the Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach’s local entertainment newspaper.

 

Lovers Key Resort is located at 8771 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach.

For more information, call 239-765-1040 or visit LoversKey.com. For
more information about Flippers on the Bay, visit FlippersOTB.com or call 239-765-1025.

Lovers Key

 

 

Came to my rescue

I have such a caring man by my side. I love him to pieces.

Yesterday Jason had the day off from his now two jobs, so I took the day off as well. He planned a hiking trip with one of the girls he works with at the Marriott in town and her son, as well as his cousin and two boys.

We all eventually arrived at the Devils Bath Tub in Virginia, with the hope that the weather would stay nice enough for all of us to enjoy a day out in nature.

After waiting for some time in the parking area at the trailhead of the Devils Bath Tub for his cousin, Jason decided to put a note in the window telling them we already hit the path.

It was overcast and the winds were changing, which told us the rain was on its way. We have been out on a few hikes where it started to rain, but decided to push on, which worked in our favor because the storm always passed us by.

We were on our way, with Lucy of course.

The trail looked much different yesterday, the water level in the creeks was much higher and the rock beds, which were dry last time, had water running through them. With overcast skies, the look of the trail and vegetation was much different as well. The darker hue was breathtaking.

Eventually the rain drops began and after some discussion we all decided to hike on . . . Our tune eventually changed as the leaves could no longer hold onto the weight of the rain water and the drops started falling at faster rates. We found some coverage, well a little bit of coverage, and stopped to see what would happen. At this point the rest of our group joined us on our wet hiking adventure.

As we were all gathered in the same spot, an intense lightning bolt struck, which sounded like it was extremely close by. Jason called it, our hike was over. He wanted to make sure everybody was safe, and after reading about someone being killed on Fort Myers Beach, near where we used to live, the day before from being struck by lightning, we knew better than to take any chances.

By this point, I had picked Lucy up and wrapped her in my shirt, which was gaining dampness by the minute. Thank goodness I packed another long sleeve Under Armour shirt that I could wear. This poor puppy of ours gets cold really fast.

With the decision finalized, everybody turned around and began walking as fast as they could, while being careful not to stumble on tree roots or rocks along the path. We were all extremely soaked, but everyone seemed to be in good spirits.

It was crazy to see how fast the path filled with water and how the intensity of the creeks changed as it filled with rain water.

Although I was not scared, I was glad Jason called the hike and we all decided to walk back to the car. Since we were all soaked, it got cold, especially when walking through the creeks, which was also cold, as we followed the trail out.

Jason was always close by as we crossed the creeks, which he confessed later almost ended up putting him in the water. I love how he makes sure I am always okay. I’m still a little hesitant on crossing some of the creeks, which by this point I shouldn’t be. My courage constantly grows though, which is good.

Even the little boy who came out with his mom, was keeping an eye on me. It was absolutely adorable, 10 years old, and he was looking out for me. He was right in front of me, loving every minute of being out in nature and walking in the rain. I spotted him turning around to make sure I was still coming. What a nice young man.

It wasn’t until almost the very end of the trail that led us to the final creek to cross where I took a spill, a really hard spill. As we turned a corner I walked close to the edge of the trail because there was a large pool of water. As soon as my foot hit the edge it slid in the mud and I fell pretty hard on my hip. Mind you, I still had Lucy in my arms. I have no idea how I did it, but I kept Lucy in my arms as I hit the ground, cushioning her blow.

I’m so proud of Lucy, she was such a sport. She didn’t budge at all as she sought out comfort in my arms.

Jason was ahead of me a few steps and before I knew it he was by my side leaning down grabbing my hand to pull me up. It all happened so fast. I was really covered in mud.

As I stood up, I placed my forehead on his shoulder as he asked if I was okay. He said he heard the impact of me hitting the ground on my hip, as well as the squeal I let out. His caring tone almost brought me to tears, so I picked my head up looked him in his eyes before he took Lucy’s leash and we started walking again. I was proud that I restrained from crying, even though the tears started filling my eyes.

I was in a lot of pain, but we were almost to the finish line, if you will, and the rain was still pouring down, so I had no other choice but to keep moving.

We made it to the car and then back to our place, where his cousin and boys joined us for lunch.

Although we couldn’t finish our hike, and I took a nasty fall, and Jason lost his glasses, it turned out to be a fantastic day. The day was full of a lot of laughter and after our company left to head back to Kentucky, the good times continued with Jason.

Today, well, I’m a little sore, so I decided to stay at home and not go for a run or head to the gym. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t found any bruises yet, but a little bummed about how achy I am. I guess it all comes with the adventures of loving the outdoors.

Great ending to the day

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Tonight Jason surprised me with dinner on the beach, which was then followed by a beautiful sunset.

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There is something special about being out in the open, smelling the fresh air, and listening to the waves roll to the shore.

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Tonight we traveled to Fort Myers Beach one last time before our move to Tennessee. One last sunset on the beach.

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As we witnessed the sunset yet again, the sky changed to a beautiful array of colors.

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A perfect ending to my day for the simple reason that Jason and I spent some amazing quality time together creating more memories. Our laughter filled the air throughout our time on the beach.

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Best part is we saw many dolphins playing in the water, a beautiful site to witness. I have video of a few coming up for air at the same time.