Having just recently (less than a week) purchased my first kayak, I was very anxious to get out on the water after a hard day at work. As I live in kayak central (Cocoa Beach, FL - 1,000 island area) I have many acres of mangroves to explore and, with almost zero wind, a perfect evening to go for an hour cruise.
I put in and almost immediately saw some tell-tale water swirls indicating a manatee swimming along next to me. There were finger mullet jumping at my impending approach, like a bow wave in front of a tanker ship. Pelicans were diving for their dinner, as were the fish hawks.
I had my MP3 player on low so I could easily hear the sound of my Carolina 14.5 slicing through the water and marveled how fast I could paddle, in relation to the sit on top I rented the month before. As I made it thorough some mangrove tunnels, I sped towards a setting sun and the open river. It was just an amazing paddle, which I was grateful for as well as just being out on the river.
As I turned and headed home, dusk was approaching, so I was trying to make some speed between outcroppings of mangrove runners. Suddenly my boat lifted up out of the water and slowed significantly - at almost the same time, the water directly to my right, for lack of a better word, exploded with a loud "Whoosh!" and I was immediately drenched. There was a tremendous swishing/swirling/swooshing sound and I came to realize that I had just run over a manatee!
My best guess that it was 'napping' (do manatees do this?) or resting on the bottom and I inadvertently beached myself on it. Well, as you can imagine, it wasn't too happy, which explains all the thrashing.
Anyway, after the commotion, the manatee got some "traction" and took off. Unfortunately, my boat got sucked into the depression of water left by a powerful tail stroke and I actually speeded up and was being sucked along for a brief moment. That was just before the tail made an upstroke, which sent a small breaker that came up and over my cockpit as well as tipped me over and off my kayak!
(As a side note, it was more like this: Bump, whoosh, deluged, hearing thrashing, getting pulled along, wave over bow, swimming in water. - Read that quickly to get some idea of how fast that really was.)
At this point, I am now swimming, holding onto my kayak with the surreal realization that I am listening to Green Day. I am not sure what this means, until I see a hazy emerald glow of my I-pod, giving it's last bit of life before silencing forever.
Then I start thinking; now I know that manatees do not have teeth. I know they are vegetarians. I know they do not hurt people. BUT at this point my brain is having none of this logic. I am certain the manatee is circling around for a go at me. He is brandishing some razor sharp teeth and is fixing to ram me!
After a 10 second conversation between the 2 sides of my brain, I calm down and access the situation. 35 yards to the right shore. 25 yards to the left. I start to think rationally and remember that it can't be that deep here. I then tentatively lower my feet and they meet 3 inches of muck before stopping. At least the water is only chest deep though.
My kayak is another story, with it being full of water, but still floating. Once I get my kayak righted, I use my hands to scoop most of the water out. I manage to wriggle back in, but am now sitting in 5 inches of water and the kayak is riding very low in the water. If anyone would have seen me, they would have just seen a guy from the waist up, skimming the water with no visible kayak.
Thank goodness, I was only 5 short minutes away from home, so I managed to slog my way home, bringing those last 30 gallons of water along for the ride with me.
I guess I got man-a-teed!
Submitted by: John Angove - Cocoa Beach, FL
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