Fred Jacobsen curls his toes and steadies himself on Gus Muench's crabbing boat. It's kind of like surfing, he says.
But instead of balancing on a long board, he's holding his Sony video camera still. It's focused on Muench, recording his monologue on Cockroach Bay.
The lush mangrove islands, cloudy water and sea grass, marked with ribbons of scars caused by propellers, are managed by several state and regional groups. Wouldn't it make sense to join them under one advisory board? Muench asks.
As he explains his ideas to better manage the bay, the boat gently rocks and slowly moves toward tiny Sand Key. Muench and Jacobsen walk ashore, where the only sound is the rustling of palm fronds and the rhythmic lapping of the water on the white sand.
Crabs scurry across the sand, and raccoon tracks are still fresh. Muench continues to talk about Cockroach Bay, the place where he used to crab heavily. He doesn't as much now because his propeller leaves scars on the sea grass, and he thinks overcrabbing has contributed to the decline of the blue crab population.
"The sea grass is so important," he said. "It's the habitat for fish, crabs, shrimp. If you don't have a habitat, you don't have a home for them."
Jacobsen records Meunch's ideas and takes in the bay. He points his camera at a flock white ibis as the boat draws closer and they gracefully fly off their perch. He plans to preserve the morning in a short video posted on YouTube.
YouTube is Jacobsen's time capsule and his soapbox. It's where visitors don't have to hop on a boat to see Cockroach Bay. They don't have to drive to Ruskin to listen to Muench. And they don't have to sit through long county meetings to hear about important issues.
Jacobsen has posted 29 videos to YouTube. His first was about the 2006 Ruskin Tomato Festival. He did it just for fun, but now he's trying to promote the events and ideas he thinks are worthwhile.
"It's like show-and-tell," he said. "That's what really interests me. It's how humans started communicating with each other."
He thinks that by posting his two- to three-minute video on YouTube, people might see Cockroach Bay and might care about it more. People are visual, and these videos make abstract ideas personal, Jacobsen said.
He has made videos on the South Shore Gallery, Camp Bayou, E.G. Simmons Park and the A.P. Dickman house. He hopes people will visit those places in the Ruskin area. It's all part of his efforts to make Ruskin a destination spot.
"If we're not careful with Ruskin, we could get a cookie-cutter fast-food restaurant," he said. "What I'd really like to see is Ruskin offering something to people in a 50-mile radius."
Jacobsen is an amateur with a home video camera. He films in his spare time, but has won an award for his hobby. He got first place in the documentary category of the 2008 Tampa Bay Video Awards.
He already has plans for upcoming projects. He hopes to do a series of videos of people interacting with nature, like Muench. He also wants to record some of the older Ruskin residents talking about the community as a way to preserve history.
"I'm just a big kid," Jacobsen said. "I just like to get in there and try stuff."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.
"The sea grass is so important. It's the habitat for fish, crabs, shrimp. If you don't have a habitat, you don't have a home for them."
Fred Jacobsen, who won for best documentary in the 2008 Tampa Bay Video Awards.