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Sandcastles of the Ultimate Handy Man

Posted by Paul Parr on March 9th, 2009

Sandcastle from July 2004
Sandcastle from July 2004

The Siesta Key sand, as mentioned in previous posts, is ideal for making into forms and characters. Since Nann and I moved to Siesta Key and have been able to view the beach everyday and walk it regularly (not regularly enough) and we often see where someone has taken the time to form this incredible sand into a sandcastle, figure or character. Some of these are very simple and obviously built and designed by a young person, perhaps with some help from a parent, sibling or friend. Others are more detailed and show the efforts of someone who was having fun in forming the sand. Every now and then you will come across those incredible sand formations where someone went out and showed their talents in creating sand figures that stop the beach walkers and bring out the cameras of those fortuitous enough to have brought theirs along such as this sandcastle that I shot about 4 or 5 years ago before Sunset Royale in the background was completely redesigned and remodeled. Today was one of those days and I will share with you my findings of March 8th, 2009 on my walk on the beach. This is truly a busy time of the year and the beach parking lot is generally closed by noon with no room for more cars. The area of the public beach itself was also loaded with people enjoying the beach, surf and even the 62 degree water. I smile every time I think of myself finding this water temperature to be cold, when this was about as warm as it got back in Michigan where I lived for most of my life. We new it was summer when the water reached 60 degrees.

On this particular morning as I walked toward the shoreline I noticed a familiar scene. Our location on the north end of Siesta Key Public Beach gives Sunset Royale a rather unique view of life at the beach. The areas on Siesta Key Public beach that are in front of the concession stand and beach facilities along with the area between the four life guard stations are the most popular beach area for visitors to claim as “their piece of sand” for their day at the beach. This is where we look from the balcony of our 4th floor penthouse when we want to determine how busy the beach is today. Because we are past the last life guard station on Siesta Key Public Beach the sand in front of Sunset Royale is not as populated with beach goers and this is also the designated location for all Siesta Key beach weddings. In spirit, Nann and I probably attend more weddings each year than what would ever believe possible unless you were a person of the cloth or a wedding coordinator. This is also the location where you will sometime find a very serious sand castle builder and today was one of those days.

Sandcastle building 101
Sandcastle building 101

I walked over to the building site of today’s sandcastle and introduced myself. I recognized the tools of the trade along with the location of construction to be that of a person I had occasionally seen busily at work in the past, but had not stopped to talk or interrupt as he went about creating his magic in the sand. When I would later return, he was always gone, but left on the sand a show stopper that would cause even the most ardent fast pace beach walkers and runners to stop and admire his work. Today was different, I introduced myself to Jeff Bierman, castle builder. Jeff came to the beach prepared for a day of work. He brought buckets for water to form the sand, shovels to get the sand for the project and a generally good attitude. I have to believe that Jeff carries the good attitude with him where ever he goes. I asked Jeff what motivates him to come to the beach and build in the sand. He gave me an impish grin and said, “laying around the house today seemed too easy and un-fulfilling”. He needed some exercise and thought he would go to the beach and get his workout. The chore is challenging, the sand and water are heavy and of course the task, build a quality castle in one-day, does put some pressure on you. Jeff and I exchanged some more pleasantries and Interesting things on the beachexchanged cards, I took a picture and continued on along the shore to catch up with Nann and her high school friend Jan who had stayed with us for the weekend. While walking to catch up I kept my eyes open for other interesting things on the beach. Finally I caught up with the girls and we walked into the Village and noted some of the changes that had taken place, walked through the Siesta Key Farmers Market, checked out the wait at the Broken Egg and decided to eat at the Cafe Continental Patisserie where we had a good brunch, met the new owners and started on our walk back to the condo. I took the beach to check out the progress on the sandcastle while Jan and Nann took Beach Road so they could stop in a couple of open houses.

When I returned to Jeff’s sandcastle building site I found he had made some pretty good progress and a number of friends and family had gathered at his building site to see what the white sands would form for Jeff today. In the digging of the sand around the already started castle Jeff had found a dragon buried in the sand. The dragon had a certain similarity to “Puff the Magic Dragon” who we all know lived by the sea, but then again that might just had been wishful thinking on my part. I took another picture and continued across the street to Sunset Royale to finish Sunday’s paper. Jan and Nann appeared at the same time I returned and we discussed Jeff’s progress. Jan packed up for her return to Orlando, we said our goodbye’s and I finished the paper. I then picked up my camera and headed back across the street at about 4:00 PM to see the how the Sandcastle turned out. Jeff and his friends were all relaxing and I took some more pictures. Jeff mentioned he was just wiped out from the hard day of work and could never had completed it without his friend Darrel from Minnesota. You can judge for yourself Jeff’s ability and ironically you can find out for yourself about Jeff’s talents. Jeff would gladly build you a sandcastle on your beach and more importantly Jeff has his own Handy Man and Repair business. He does pressure cleaning, repair & paint, carpentry, custom woodworking, A/C & Appliances, maintenance, minor electric and minor plumbing. Jeff lives between Venice and Sarasota and obviously can be found on Siesta Key, his favorite beach, whenever needed mind and body exercise demand a workout. You can call Jeff at 941-928-9920. I can’t speak for Jeff’s handy work, but I can say this, “the concept of hiring a handy man who understands the importance of completing a task the day you start it is a pretty rare find”, just ask any wife who attempts to have her husband take care of a task that has been hanging around too long without being resolved. Jeff starts and finishes all of his castles in one day.

After taking my last pictures of the finished sandcastle I walked further down the public beach and entertained myself observing the many different people who were covering Siesta Key Public Beach. In the midst of a mass of people I spotted a rather large elephant being sculpted by Jim Unger who is not a young republican, but is one heck of a sculpter. It was lumbering over everyone around it in that area of the beach. I pulled out my trustee Sony Cybershot and walked over to get a better look and some pictures. You never really know when someone decides it is time to get exercise and come down to the beach to concentrate on their workout for the day. I take that back, there is one day you can guarantee this will happen. It is usually the first Saturday in May when Siesta Key Beach hosts the Siesta Key Sand Sculpture Contest which is May 9th this year. Come on down or better yet, enter your name for the contest and do your exercising on the beach for all of the others to see and admire. If you are out of town, don’t you think you owe yourself and family a beach vacation? Click here for reservations at the Sunset Royale Penthouse on Siesta Key vacation and holiday beachfront condo rental.

Filed under Penthouse Condo #408, Sarasota & Siesta Key activities and events, Siesta Key Beach
Tags: beachfront, penthouse condo rental, siesta key, sunset royale, travel, vacation rental
White Powder Sugar Sand of Siesta Key

Posted by Paul Parr on February 26th, 2009

First time visitors to Siesta Key Public Beach on Crescent Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida are in disbelief when they first step on our powder sugar white sand beach. If it happens to be in July or August and they are barefoot the amazement is reflected in their face and the questionable look that is radiated back to everyone around them. How can this beach be so white, so soft and yet firm and so cool? It’s not magic, but it sure is cool and unusual.

The sand is like confectioners sugar to touch or squeeze between your fingers and yet fluffy but stable to walk on and when you are walking along the beach it is solid and firm enough to allow bike riders to peddle along the beach with no concern of sinking into the sand. Another oddity about Siesta Key Beach is watching sun bathers choose to lay in the sand with no blanket or mat to absorb the sun rays, but then turn over when they are getting warm to have the powder sugar sand that adheres to their bodies reflect the sun and allow them to tolerate more beach time without the sun heating them up at the same intensity when their skin had no protection.

The white powder sugar sand of Siesta Key is known world wide and, in fact, Siesta Key Beach won the 1987 Great International White Sand Beach Challenge beating out 30 other entries and bringing to an end any future challenges for the title. Unlike running, racing or even judging a fine wine, It became pretty obvious a whiter and softer white sand beach was not going to be found on this planet. Janice Martin of the St. Petersburg Times reported in 1987 that sand was brought from contestant beaches from around the world, including entries from such far-flung spots as Ireland, Waikiki, Bermuda and East Lyme, Conn. David G. Aubrey, PhD., director of the Coastal Research Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Cape Cod, Massachusetts judged the sand from all 31 competing beaches from around the world and announced that Siesta Key in Sarasota Florida was the obvious winner.

Siesta Key sand really is in a class by itself. It is clean and very white, dazzling white and it squeaks when you compress it in your hand or walk on it like confectioners sugar or even corn starch. Siesta Key’s sand is unparalleled and for good reason as this sand is like no other. The sand is quartz and a study by Harvard University’s geology department found that the sand was 99 percent pure quartz crystal, ultimately derived from the southern Appalachian Mountains. Over millenniums, the quartz sand crystals were carried by rivers into the Gulf and down Florida’s coast. Those quartz crystals are very fine, without any coral or shell fragments, which results in sand with a soft, flour-like texture.

Quartz sand comes from igneous rock, the kind of rock that once was molten. Quartz is a very hard substance, graded at 7 on a hardness scale of 10. Diamonds are rated 10 on this scale. Minerals of hardness 7 cannot be scratched with the point of a steel knife. The most common such substance is granite. Because quartz is a crystal it actually dissipates the heat of the sun and leaves our beach cool on the hottest days. On most beaches sunbathers are laying on blankets, towels or mats for some insulation from the hot sand on those plus 90 or even 80 Fahrenheit degree days that is being baked by the solar waves of the sun. They will also do their walking in sandals or along the shore, but not on Siesta Key where bare footing on the sand is not ever a problem. To inquire for more information on how to personally experience Siesta Key Beach yourself just use this link for further information

Nobody can calculate how many eons of time have passed since Siesta Key sand first appeared from fragmented rock, but Siesta Key sand is quite old. We know this not only because of the very fine grains, but also because other components of the original rock, such as feldspar, mica and other minerals, have almost completely disappeared, leaving only the extremely hard quartz.

The fine sand has passed through one of more “eolian cycles”, as the geologists put it. Those are periods when it was blown about by the wind. Such cycles tend to knock the sharp corners of the quartz crystals grains and help bring about the somewhat angular nature of our sand.

Sand is pretty shifty stuff. No beach is static, all sand moves up and down the coastline because of wind, storms and ocean currents. The shifting dune is a common phenomenon in sandy areas. If the sand is eroding in one place, it’s building up somewhere else. Prevailing winds roll the surface sand from the bottom of the windward side of the dune over the top and down the leeward side, so that in time, the entire dune may be rolled for miles. The owners of condos at Sunset Royale are happy that at this point in time the sands of Siesta Key Public Beach happen to be sitting in front of their condos and expect to be able to continue to enjoy their daily walks on this beach in front of their condos for the next few hundred years. Perhaps this might be a good time for you to make a reservation at the penthouse condo with open balcony that overlooks this incredible beach.

Siesta Key’s beaches have been recognized for cleanliness, water quality and safety by one of the world,s top experts, Dr. Stephen Leatherman (AKA “Dr. Beach”) of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign, and qualifies as a Blue Wave Beach by the Clean Beaches Council. The Travel Channel ranks Siesta as one of Florida’s and America’s Top Ten Beaches. David McRee, Florida’s own BeachHunter has named Siesta Key Beach as his favorite beach. This would be akin to a world class chef letting you know the name and location of their own personal favorite restaurant.

Sand sculptors love the sand on Siesta Key Public Beach because of the angular grains of quartz sand compared to the silica and shell sand found on other beaches. This unique feature along with very white color of Siesta Key Beach sand makes for great sand castles, characters and makes the annual Siesta Key Sand Sculpture Contest which is usually the second Saturday in May each year on Siesta Key Beach. This is a well attended event for both participants and the crowds of sand gazers who come to see what the sand artists are offering up for this fun contest on the beach that is free for all come to watch and admire.