The Sponge Diver

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The cruise can be accessed at the sponge docks. Anclote Key is known for its beauty and shells. Wade in the shallow water and notice the wide diversity of bird species. And you just might get lucky if a family of dolphins escorts you on your return trip, surfing the boat wake while jumping in and out of the waves.

One more note, on your return, stop at the Spongeorama museum that displays authentic and historical sponge industry exhibits. Old packinghouse in Greek Town. Consider driving through Greek Village not far from the Sponge Docks. Here, the Greek immigrants built small, simple homes in the northwest section of town near the Anclote River.

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Wood frame homes of the original sponge divers are interspersed with commercial buildings and sponge packinghouses where sponges were processed by cleaning, trimming, sorting, bleaching, drying and packing. Tucked in a quiet neighborhood this quiet chapel looks like it belongs on a Greek isle.

The shrine is legendary in local Greek history through the miracles of Saint Michael. He lived in the house with his wife and three children eventually adding a second floor. Constructed of virgin pine, the house served as a boarding home. It was later restored and is now open to the public on select days.

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Ride a bike or walk downtown Tarpon Springs. Consider a walk or bike ride through the Tarpon Springs downtown to enjoy the vintage antique shops, art galleries, cafes and specialty shops.

Be sure to stop into Faklis Department Store, one of the oldest downtown businesses in Tarpon Springs, specializing in shoe repair and clothing. Across the street is the Train Depot, home to a collection of local memorabilia.

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It is filled with local history and exhibits. January 6 th marks the Epiphany with festivities representing the Baptism of Christ in Greek Orthodox religion. The day starts with the Blessing of the Fleet, followed by an event where young men 18 and under dive for a cross in the cold water. The young man who comes up with the cross is assured a blessed year. Another stop on your walking tour should be the one of the most celebrated Greek churches in the United States, the majestic St.

Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral featuring Byzantine architecture, a centered dome, rich carvings, Greek marble, and colorful stained glass windows. Enjoy Greek food while in Tarpon Springs Spanokopita. Greek food is delicious, flavorful, and often served family style. Families order platters and share.

Alert Diver | The Story of Sponge Divers

All are located in the sponge dock area: Mama's is a local favorite. Local Greek favorites are the Charbroiled or Pickled Octopus ; Lamb Shank in tomato sauce served over pasta; Smarides pan fried fish smelts Spanokopita Spinach Pie ; Horiatiki Salad tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, anchovies and feta ; and a dessert serving of the Galaktoboureko , the Greek Custard Pie chased with Greek Coffee.

Mykonos is known for traditional and classic Greek food. Try the Mykoniatiko or Chargrilled Kalamaria calamari ; the Avgolemono Soup , or Greek chicken soup with lemon; Psari Tis Oras, a fresh charbroiled or pan fried whole fish of the day, the Lamb Shank with fresh tomato sauce. Hellas — this restaurant has more of a touristy vibe, but try ordering family style starting with appetizers of the Saganaki or imported flamed cheese; add the Taramosalata or Greek caviar with pita bread; and the Broiled Octopus.

Finish off the meal with Baklava , the Greek pasty and Greek Coffee. Rusty Bellies is known for its fresh seafood. Also enjoy the fishing boats docked on the Anclote River. Tour Guide MichaelJohn Targakis. MichaelJohn is a dynamic storyteller who also conducts all inclusive day trips for small and large groups, associations, schools and classes. The Tarpon Springs Inn. Robin Draper is a Florida native and blogger devoted to the simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living.

There are currently no comments. Why not join the conversation by sending in your comments below? Sponge Capital of the World Author: The First to Arrive More than 5, years ago the earliest inhabitants settled this rich Florida environment near the mouth of the Anclote River. Tarpon Spring sponges He then met a Greek sponge buyer by the name of John Cocoris who convinced Cheyney that the current method of hooking sponges, using a long pole, off the side of the boat could be run more efficiently.

Kalymnos Sponge Diving

Tarpon Springs sponge boat St. At 85 years old and still selling sponges, he has an interesting story to tell. In his father, a sponge distributor and buyer from Greece, came to Tarpon Springs to develop the industry. As it turns out, he would not only become a driving force for sponge harvesting but would also help in creating a burgeoning tourism industry that thrives to this day. Following his success distributing sponges, he was asked in to show tourists how sponges were gathered — from that point on, sponge diving and the sponges themselves became the attracting force to a successful tourist industry, drawing people from around the world to visit this unique coastal town.

The market shifted to our part of the world and George jumped into action. Billiris laments that things have changed since another red tide hit the local waters and wiped out the sponges in The crop has recovered, but Tarpon Springs is now down to working boats.

The industry here is not currently at its previous high point, but he explains that there is still demand as there are over commercial uses for sponges, and retail demand is still strong. Other markets such as the Mediterranean, the Bahamas, Cuba and the Florida Keys have seen an increased growth in their sales in recent years. Harvesting is done in many different ways. His is one of the last remaining sponge diving operations that still works from a traditional Greek sponge boat.

He explained to me the process he goes through to get his crop of sponges. His vessel is built as the ideal sponging platform for the waters off Tarpon Springs. With a foot beam and a large raised self-draining deck the single engine craft plies the shallow gulf waters looking for sponges.

One diver at a time dives the ocean bed, walking on the bottom with an air line fed from the boat. A single orange buoy marks his position on the bottom. With a special weight harness weighing in at 60 pounds, the diver will spend two hours at a time walking the bottom and cutting sponges from their anchoring using a serrated knife. This form of harvesting allows for re-growth of the sponge and increases sustainability.

After the two hours on the bottom the diver returns to the surface and rests for two hours. This work continues from dawn to dusk.

Tarpon Springs: Sponge Capital of the World

Trips average 10 days to a month, a length necessary to make the trip profitable and account for an average of at least days at sea a year. These trips have become longer, as expenses such as fuel and supplies increase. When the sponges are cut from the bottom they are placed in special nets the diver carries with him.

When the nets are full, the support crew pulls the net to the surface and drops the empty net back to the bottom. The sponges are then sorted by type and rinsed off with a salt-water wash down. They are then left on deck and covered with blankets. They sit out on deck for three days to allow the surface membrane to separate and are then dried out and stored. All in all, a sponge is handled 44 times from the time it is cut from the bottom to when it is ready for final sale after processing back on land.

Once the boat is filled to capacity with sponges, the crew returns back to the docks and the sponges are sold to buyers on the dock in an auction-style sale.

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