My kids and I saw a manatee in the ocean this year.
That’s more toward the end of the story. So here’s the beginning:
First, back in the early 2000s, when my kids were really little, we saw two manatees, mother, and baby, at the Living Seas Pavilion at Epcot Center in Orlando. That was the closest we had ever been to one, but at the time I remember thinking that they were just cool-looking creatures. The embodiment of what I thought was cool – I mean, refusing to be hurried along, and not caring what anyone else thought. The courage to say “Hey, I’m chubby and I move at my own pace. Deal with it.” They were not in a hurry to get anywhere; they were just chilling. Like Joe Cool. Well “Josephine Cool” I guess, for the mom, and Baby Joe Cool.
Fast-Forward to February 2019. We did a short trip to Key Largo, Florida, in an attempt to escape the New England cold for a weekend. The kids decided they wanted to do some kayaking, so off to the boat rental shack, we went. Gabby and I rented a tandem, and Mikey got a single. We planned to paddle down the coast and back, soaking up the sun.
When we were renting the kayaks, the proprietor of the rental place told us that sometimes manatees hang out on the coast, pointing to a spot far down the island. I was immediately suspicious. I just figured this was something they tell the tourists, to get us to rent the equipment and keep it out longer because the area he was describing was a good mile away. The more time you spend, the more money you spend on the rental. I was dubious, but my kids wanted to kayak so that’s what we did.
We set out along the coast, taking our time, just enjoying the weather, and being away from the snow. The water and wind were very calm, so moving around was easy. Mikey was in the single kayak and of course, trying to show us how awesome he is, decided he was going to speed past us and keep going. Flexing his baseball muscles, and daring us to keep up. We didn’t take the bait though - Gabby and I were preferring to take our time and enjoy the scenery.
When Mikey was maybe 100 feet in front of us, he started yelling that he just kayaked over a submerged manatee, that was sitting on the bottom, hardly moving. For the second time that morning, I was suspicious. The rental guy may have been trying to pad his fee or may have been telling the truth, but I was sure that Mikey was lying through his teeth. *smile pic w braces
I thought that for sure he was having us on. He’s a smart kid, and I figured he was trying to capitalize on the story that the rental guy gave us, just to make me and Gabby look bad when he would eventually yell “Gotcha!” Gabby gave me a look that said “yeah, right” and I rolled my eyes in return. We weren’t buying it. I told him that we thought he was full of It, and we would catch up to him in our own sweet time. We were slow-moving, relaxing, and very manatee-like.
Mikey starts waving his arms frantically, and he sounds excited. He’s not that great a liar, and I could tell the excitement was real. Gabby and I exchange looks again, and we start paddling with gusto. What happens when we catch up to him? You guessed it, there was a manatee right there. It was huge!
It was just hanging out, floating to the surface for a breath of air, and relaxing. He paid us no mind whatsoever. It wasn’t scared and just floated around, occasionally coming up for a breath, with his face and back coming over the surface, and then back down again. We just sat there, floored. We watched him for a while, and couldn’t believe our luck. His slow and easy movements were mesmerizing, almost like a lullaby, and he relaxed right along with him. Of course, none of us had a camera or a phone with us. But I remember watching and again just thinking how cool these creatures were. He eventually went on his way, and it was time for us to go back.
The kids couldn’t wait to tell Jill what they had seen, and they needed me to back up their story so that she would know they were telling the truth. Really, Jill could tell from their excitement that it was the real deal.
After seeing them up close, I was again reminded how much I liked these guys and recalled that they are endangered. It was easy to understand why; they are big, slow, and had no apparent fear of us. It was obvious that they could never get out of the way of a fast-moving boat, and that a boat or its motor could definitely do serious damage to a manatee, especially a young one.
I thought about it and made a decision. I decided that we were going to make the Manatee the official mascot of Monteforte Law. We started including a cute little stuffed manatee with our gift packs and we decided to adopt a manatee through Florida’s save the manatee foundation - you can see their website HERE.
We took a quick vote, and the winning manatee is Brutus!
We have an official adoption certificate for him, pictures, and a bio. See a cool video of Brutus HERE. He’s at least 50 years old, and weighs almost two thousand pounds!! Everyone in the office agrees that this was a worthwhile cause, and definitely deserving of our support. How can you resist these faces!
If you want to help us save the manatees, you can donate to the cause through our office, just ask us how.