Boats, Boats, Boats: Tampa Bay Boat Show
If you are looking to buy a boat this spring, you'll find plenty to choose from this weekend at Tropicana Field. The Tampa Bay Boat Show will have hundreds of watercraft on display, but it is easy to get overwhelmed. So before you go, come up with a game plan. Are you a shopper who just wants to look around and dream of owning a boat? Or are you a buyer who wants to slap down cash and hit the water before kingfish season? If do really want to buy, set a budget. How much do you want to spend? Do you plan to pay for the boat in one lump sum or through monthly payments? Answer those questions before you settle on a specific model. Once you decide on what you want, check the used boat ads for resale value. If you buy the boat now, what will it sell for in two or three years? The show runs Friday through Sunday. Gates open at 10 a.m. Free admission; $5 parking. tampabayboatshows.com.
Prepare: Camping on the water
Most of Florida's best backcountry campsites are accessible only by water. The Everglades, the Ten Thousand Islands and Biscayne National Park are popular with canoeists and kayakers. In most places, outfitters rent watercraft and provide paddles and personal flotation devices, but you will have to bring camping gear. Pack for a water trip as you would for backpacking: Bring only what is necessary. But whenever you're dealing with open-water conditions, hypothermia can be a concern. Be sure to dress in layers and wear a waterproof outer layer in inclement weather. Before you try to paddle to this chickee on the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway that runs from Everglades City to Flamingo, try a few short day trips in your canoe or kayak. Pack as if you were going on a weeklong expedition, even it means just carrying 10 gallons of water. It will give you a sense of what to look forward to.
Animal of the week: Coral Snakes
Florida has 44 species of snakes, with six considered dangerous to humans: the pygmy rattlesnake, the copperhead, the cottonmouth, the diamondback rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake and the coral snake, the country's most venomous reptile. Measuring less than 2 feet but packing a punch more powerful than an 8-foot rattlesnake, the coral snake is closely related to the cobra and has a neurotoxin venom that attacks the nervous system. Because of its bright yellow, red and black bands, the coral snake is often confused with the scarlet kingsnake with similar markings. Forget the rhyme "red touch yellow, kills a fellow; red touch black, good for Jack." If you are bitten by a coral snake, chances are, you'll be too preoccupied with the pain to remember the rhyme. It's much easier to look at the face: The coral snake's is black; the kingsnake's is red. Nine out of 10 coral snake bites occur after the victim has tried to pick up, harass or kill the coral snake. So a good rule to follow is don't play with snakes. If you suffer a bite wound, stay calm. Then get to the hospital immediately. The doctor will need to know what species bit you. A coral snake's bite is treated with a different antivenin than a rattlesnake's bite.