Thursday, June 30, 2011


Day 3 in Florida and Manatee day is finally here. I was worried all night long because rain started the night before and it thundered all night long. When we got to the dock, it was still dark. Captain Mike had been watching the radar and he felt confident that the storms had moved past us. In fact, it did clear up. When the sun starting peaking over the horizon, we were treated to a beautiful rainbow. The rain stayed away until the exact moment that we pulled back into dock at the end of our tour.
We got to the dock very early so that we wouldn't have to worry about time again. When we did arrive, Captain Mike had clearly had time to dwell on what had happened the day before. He was very contrite about the problem and gave all five of us t-shirts of our choice, the kids got stuffed manatees and we got two disposable underwater cameras. We all felt much better about the screw up after receiving all of the stuff. ;)
The excursion was incredible. I really recommend it. Manatees are incredibly amazing and HUGE. They are very gentle and do not have an aggressive bone in their bodies. Some were very curious about the humans on their turf and some were a little shy.
The kids did not last very long in the water. With the combination of wearing the wetsuit, snorkels and masks (that were not their own), admonishments to NOT kick and to do the dead man float AND cool water, made it trickier for the under 12 set. I do think, in retrospect, if we had had the opportunity to let them practice getting on and off the boat, floating, not kicking and acclimating to the temperature before we reached the manatees, the outcome might have been different. However, the kids were perfectly content to watch from the boat and take pictures from above.
Alex and I were able to master being calm in the water though. ;) At our first stop, the manatees were very friendly. There was one that was particularly bothered by algae growing on her back. She was very appreciative of a good back scratching.
Our boat captain (a different Captain Mike) was an awesome tour guide. He was a certified diver and EMT, plus he had worked for NOAA as a marine biologist. We felt like we were in pretty capable hands. He recognized all of the manatees and knew their names. Joseph asked if there was a manatee named Hugh (get it? Hugh Manatee? Humanity?) and there was. Obviously, there is a marine biologist out there with a Joseph sense of humor.
The water was VERY murky because of the rain from the previous night. You can tell by how close the manatee is to the camera that I couldn't see her coming. All of a sudden there would be a manatee six inches from my face.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homosassa, FL....Day 2

Today was the day we were supposed to wake up early and go swim with the manatees. I made the reservations MONTHS ago and had an email confirmation that said:
Hello Theresa,

     This e-mail confirms your reservation for 4 persons Tour A June 29h.
Please bring swimsuit and towel and meet at 1 Southwest 1st Place Crystal
River,FL 34429 at 7:30am.

   See you soon and thank you for choosing my company.


               Captain Mike

So, I got the kids up early and we were there 30 minutes early, more than the website suggested. We get there, only to find out that the boat had already left and that the time is actually supposed to be 7 am.
I had printed out all of our confirmations, but had neglected to bring this one with us on that day. It was sitting back in the room.
While Captain Mike is telling me, over and over again, that the time has ALWAYS been 7 am and he has been doing this for ten years and NEVER had someone tell him that the time was wrong on the confirmation, I am trying to pull up my email on my phone with my hands shaking and thinking to myself, "Oh, crap. I really screwed this up."
Alex helps me with the search and I finally pull up the above email. I show it to Alex to make sure that I am not just plain nuts. Alex confirms that it says 7:30, so I show it to Captain Mike. He was stunned. He offered to let us come the next day, which happened to work out ok, so we did that.
Because of this little change, we had the entire day ahead of us!
We are on the Gulf Coast side of Florida and along a part of the coast that is not known for beaches. However, we had passed a sign on the way to the boat dock, so I decided to take the kids to the beach. Because it was so early, we had the beach to ourselves. I think this was the kids favorite part of the trip. They were ready to move to the coast!
After a couple of hours there, we left and went to the Ellie Schiller State Park where "our" manatee is a resident. We finally got to meet Ariel!