Friday, July 09, 2010

There have been reports the last couple days of tar balls -- lots of tar balls -- coming ashore in the Cocoa area. That's on the Florida Atlantic coast, for those who never watched a space launch. Or 'I Dream of Jeanne,' for that matter.

Do they come from the BP Gulf oil spill?

I started taking surf trips to Cocoa back in '68 and, even then, there was always plenty of tar on the beach. We carried cans of gasoline in our cars so we could clean our feet after leaving the beach. Motels did the same, leaving gas cans by their outside showers. They wouldn't do that now, too many liability considerations!

So it's nothing new and it might or might not be coming from the Gulf. But if the oil does get into the Atlantic, I think it's a sure bet it will end up on Cocoa beaches. The Gulf Stream does bring the refuse of shipping from all over and often drops it there before turning further out into the ocean at Cape Canaveral. I'm sure that tar I used to see came from many ships and many places, including the channel right there at the Canaveral Jetties, with navy, coast guard and cruise ships coming and going.

The Cape is a bit of a divider. Water remains somewhat warmer in the winter to the south of it, thanks to the Gulf Stream's proximity. It also moderates the big winter swells that come with cold fronts, taming the waves as they wrap around and come into the beaches. It may be completely out of control and unsurfable down at Sebastian Inlet but very ridable up at the Jetties.

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