Hate to be eaten by manatee

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I love going to the beach. I like the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand beneath my feet and the smell of the salty sea air.

All that said, I do not like the ocean itself. It’s always been my theory that I don’t swim in places where I can’t see the bottom. This rules out oceans and lakes. Add to this the fact there are sea creatures that could brush up against me while I’m in the water and there is no chance I will go in any deeper than my ankles.

It was during one of these ankle-deep wades during a recent trip to the beach that I spotted what I thought was a large clump of seaweed near the shore.

“The storm must have blown it up,” I told Greg as we walked along the beach.

Then the “seaweed clump” turned and we saw a tail stick out of the water. We realized this was no ocean debris.

The creature was dark brown and about five feet long. It had a flat tail and a large snout. We knew it wasn’t a shark but weren’t too sure about what it exactly was.

A local lady walking along the beach with us informed us of the creature’s identity.

“It’s a manatee,” she said. “They get off course during a storm and end up by the shore.”

It was a neat experience to watch the large animal swim through the ocean. It was only about 10 feet away from the shore and we we had a pretty good view.

We followed the manatee – whom we named Manny – for about 100 feet. That’s when we spotted a group of swimmers right in Manny’s path. We weren’t worried about him hurting them – manatees are mild mannered – but could only imagine their shock as a large, dark creature swam right by them.

Bystanders on the beach tried yelling to the swimmers but the high winds and loud surf drowned out their calls. It wasn’t long before the manatee was within arm’s length of the unsuspecting group.

One of the ladies looked up and saw the manatee and then yelled loudly. She scurried out of the water, moving quicker than she probably thought possible.

It was just like a scene from America’s Funniest Home Videos. Once she realized what the creature was, the lady and her friends all laughed.

And we did, too.

“See,” I said. “I knew I was right not to swim in the ocean. I’d hate to get eaten by a manatee.”