manatees and a kayak

Man, A Tee Sure Would Be Nice Or See Cows

There’s something to be said for ugly.

Mostly that something sounds like, “Eeeeewwwwwww!”

manatees_mother_calf_brandon_coleHowever, there also is something that goes along the lines of so ugly it’s cute. For exhibit 1 in this category, may I present the West Indian Manatee, a resident of many places, including Florida.

Yes, these are the manatees. They are slow moving, ugly and yet graceful in a ponderous roly-poly sense.

Because of their lassitude when it comes to motion (they sometimes will float in the same place for hours, barely moving) and their camouflage that allows them to fade into the water, many manatees are covered in scars all up and down their backs.

These scars come from boat propellers. Captains who aren’t looking out for manatees or who speed through manatee slow zones can zoom right over one of the peaceful sea cows, doing little damage to the boat, but severely hurting the peaceful creature.

Because they are a threatened species, manatee sightings are a rare and precious thing along the Intercoastal Waterway south of St. Augustine, FL, where my family vacations.

Bela Mar manateeWhich makes our latest two sightings all the more exciting.

I saw and photographed a manatee and her calf floating peacefully amongst the shore reeds at a local marina. Then, the next day, my dad caught a snap of this sea cow.

Apparently it has taken up residence beneath a boat dock near where my dad lives and has been seen swimming around in the river shallows several days running.

What a wonderful animal to have nearby.

One of the most-retold stories concerning the Intercoastal Waterway in our family is the time I and my brother-in-law The Teaching Dutchman took my young dudes, Sarcasmo and Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, fishing on the river in a small john boat.

We didn’t catch anything other than a small oyster (long story full of ineptitude), but we did have an amazing manatee sighting. As we were sitting in the boat, a large manatee surfaced less than ten feet away from us. We stopped all activity and watched as the manatee floated there and watched us.

The four of us must have been especially boring because it soon blinked and then drifted below the surface. Only to continue swimming closer, going directly under the boat, its backside bumping into the bottom of the hull, and then surfacing on the other side of the boat. It turned around for one last look and I swear it was smirking at us before it dropped below the surface again and swam away.

Getting an up-close look at the manatee, I came to a rather quick conclusion. If these things really were the basis for mermaid sighting, then either the old-time sailors were appallingly nearsighted or pleasantly size-diverse in their physical appreciation spectrum.

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