Manatees, we all know what they are. And if you don't I suggest adding more Diego or Zoboomafoo to your TV diet. My family took a trip specifically to swim in the same water as them last year. There are all kinds of laws and etiquette involved in swimming with manatees. They are very protected. And though we all know it is the propellers of boats that are responsible for the maiming and killing of these gentle creatures, the law makers seem determined that people swimming are to be monitored because we are (apparently) dangerous.
Being the law respecting, nature loving person I am neither I nor my family has ever molested a manatee in any way. I do not swim with heads of lettuce in the hopes of attracting sea cows and I do not enter protected areas. But a recent camping trip made all of these precautions irrelevant.
Once the shock of the 72 degree water faded, leaving everyone's legs and torso's nicely numbed, we were prepared to head down river. Oh, yeah we heard the ranger trying to call us back to the dock, but we were in the current...what was there to do but float? Just as we turned a slight bend in the river we met AJ. He introduced himself to us in no uncertain terms. It began with him changing direction and swimming our way. He got really close then turned a flip in the water.
No, Aj was not a teen boy eager to meet Teen and her two friends. AJ is a manatee, a VERY friendly manatee. Swimming near our pack of floaters was not enough. He would stick his snout above the water directly in front of Teen. He was swimming under our feet and brushing against our legs. Even when we tried to open our circle (for fear the aquatic animal would feel trapped) he continued to nudge and play. Stealing furtive glances to the shore, in fear of the wrath of the ranger, I tried to enjoy the spectacle before me. Kids laughing, Boy noting AJ's tracker and his name branded into his back, everyone feeling the joy of the situation and the wonder that is an unplanned encounter with nature. But I was worried about the repercussions. What if we were accused of molesting this poor soul?
After we had our experience, and my fear of the law overwhelmed me, we tried to paddle our floats, moving away from AJ. Laying across my float, holding onto Youngest I noticed she was moving further away. I pulled her toward me only to see that AJ was under her raft. He was lifting her slightly with his back and playing with her. Remembering she was not wearing a life jacket and could possible panic I calmly continued working her off the manatee. AJ in response rose from the water between us taking a breath, giving a turn, and going under. I eventually shoved Youngest toward Teen and Boy and went around AJ to rejoin the group. So, while I am all for protecting the manatees, what can you do when a manatee is molesting you?