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VTMAS No. 61: Swimming With Manatees

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Florida is a melting pot of weirdos if you want my honest opinions. It’s a place where natives like myself, who were bizarre on our own, mingles with the retirees and tourists from all flocks of life. Which leads me into this next story, or life event.

As you have discovered, a famous local pass time here is fishing. We have the best of all worlds in this hobby and even serious sport from deep sea saltwater, brackish flats, and lakes and ponds filled with large mouth bass. Chances are you can find the fish and fishing style and stick to it with great results in the sunshine state.

On this particular day, we were in Titusville, a favorite locale for us to fish. The tourist who frequent here are low in numbers, so its a preferable place that lacks the swarms of fancy hotels and gift shops. It is simply a waterside town, sleepy even. We decided to try Haul Over canal, a boat ramp and bottleneck which holds a great reputation for catching some red drum fish and other brackish water delicacies.

We park and start to follow a foot path to the water. Evidence of fisherman frequenting this spot was riddled among the trees with fishing line and rusted out hooks. It was low tide, so I can only assume this scene was normally underwater for the majority of the day. Breaking from the trees to a much more open spot, we came to an abrupt halt. Before me was a small child in his swimming trunks and I paled.

“Oh honey, you shouldn’t swim here.” I was on high alarm, pictures of rust hooks, sharp oyster shells slicing his legs and even him drowning tangled in unseen fishing line rushed my mind. “You’re gonna get cut up… where’s your parents?”

I looked over my shoulder at my husband, he too was startled. “Yea Buddy. There’s safer swimming back over by parish park. This is the boat ramp, someone might not see you…”

At this point, the small child pointed out to the water. “My mom wanted to swim with the manatee.”

I walked out further to see, and much to my surprise, a woman was wading out into the main route of where boats were passing to physically greet the manatee. My face reddened. This whole ordeal was ludicrous. At the time I didn’t have kids of my own, but that didn’t stop the maternal outrage I felt in the situation she was even putting him and herself in to end up in the emergency room.

“Ma’am!” I was attempting to be polite as I shouted at the top of my lungs. “It is illegal to swim with manatees! And it is not a swim zone here!”

I pointed at the sign which had revealed itself when I walked up closer to the boy. No swimming, danger, boat ramp…

“Miss, there’s all sorts of line and hooks in that…” She was looking angrily at us. “You and the boy can get seriously hurt.”

“I don’t believe you.” She flustered and I saw the water breaks of the manatee fleeing her side. “No where did I see signs that said I couldn’t swim with the manatee.”

I think I managed to go stark white and I gapped at Justin with a lopst for words.

“And they don’t have signs saying you shouldn’t swim with the gators either, but it doesn’t mean you should!” Justin’s face reddened, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “If you don’t come out right this instant, I’m calling Florida Wildlife and they can explain it to you. They are right up the road here…”

“Fine!” Her face soured. “I’m from Alabama… I know what I’m doing.”

Looking to her son, I muttered. “You’re mommy is brave, but she is breaking the rules, Buddy. Glad you stayed on shore…”

Before she could make it all the way to the shore again, a boater started to go through where she had been blocking. SHE LOST IT! Waving her hands and screaming at the man on the boat. At first us and the boater thought she was in need of help. He pulled closer to her, thinking he was about to have to pull her out and she screeched.


He looked to us and we shook our heads, lipping MORON. Grinning, he realized we were locals trying to get a tourist to understand she can’t do this.

“Ma’am…” He started, a sparkle in the old fisherman’s eyes. “That manatee can swim, he’ll move. It’s a no wake zone for that reason… you’re the only one whose in danger. Florida wildlife has an officer over there… he’s already on his way to greet you.”

Her face reddened and she started swimming harder to the shore. “I’m from Alabama and I’m in the military… you can’t do this to me.”

I covered my face for a moment when I heard someone coming down the foot path behind Justin, their radio mumbling: Florida Wildlife was indeed here. “Ma’am, we are locals and we are honestly concerned for you and your sons safety. I understand, you’re not from here… but that doesn’t mean you are in the right.”

“Thank you folks.” The officer startled Justin and he waved for the woman and her child to follow him. “Appreciate your help, I’ll take it from here. Enjoy your fishing.”

It’s crazy anyone would want to put themselves and their kid in a dangerous situation. Haul Over Canal is a BUSY boating zone, like driving through a downtown city area version, boat traffic and all. Why on earth she felt the need to swim with a manatee despite all the commotion is beyond me. Perhaps they are sirens of the sea HAHAHAHA.

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