Sara Godwin

Posts Tagged ‘Gulf Coast’

Manatee Manners

In Florida, Travel, Wildlife on May 21, 2012 at 3:01 am

According to Captain Jeff at the Plantation Inn Dive Shop in Crystal River, to see manatees one must be versed in manatee manners.  It begins, as all successful social interactions do, with dressing properly for the occasion.  The correct dress for meeting one’s first manatees is a swimsuit over which a wet suit is layered.  Getting into a wet suit is one of those things which is easier said than done, but in the end, everyone managed to wiggle and wriggle, tug and twist until the fact was accomplished. Next comes the flippers, and last — at last! — a face mask and snorkel.  His students thus attired, Captain Jeff begins the lessons in etiquette.  First, slip into the water silently. Splashing and water vibrations cause the manatees to swim slowly out of sight. Use a breaststroke to swim, and keep your flippers underwater, again to keep splashing to a minimum.  Manatees don’t make any noise, and they’d rather you didn’t either.

Once you locate the manatees, just float off to one side.  Because their eyes are on the side of the head, hanging around the tail puts you in the manatee’s ‘blind spot’. Floating directly over them does the same, and it may startle both parties if the manatee comes up for air while you’re there. Since manatees are all bigger than you are, weighing in at around a ton or so, it’s best if they know where you are.  Since manatees have no natural predators — neither sharks nor alligators have them on the menu — they are both gentle and unafraid.

They look like exceedingly large gray sausages with absurdly small heads in proportion to the rest of the animal. If you make noise or surround them, they vanish.  If you don’t, they may move closer to you.  While it is bad manners for you to reach out to touch them, it is a moment of transcendent epiphany if you have behaved well enough by manatee standards for them to touch you.  I’m told it happens, but I wasn’t that lucky.  I did see manatees, both awake and sleeping, and that was thrilling enough for my first time out.  I can promise you that I will go back again to see if I can behave enough like a well-mannered manatee that one would like to make my acquaintance.

Look up Captain Jeff at the Plantation Inn on Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida.  The guy has three degrees in ecology, and  is exceptionally knowledgeable and informative.  Above all, don’t miss the manatees!


Florida Safari: Manatees, Skimmers, and Spoonbills

In Baby Boomers, Birding, Florida, Travel on May 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I almost missed the manatees. In the process of reading the itinerary so I’d be fully prepared for my Gulf Coast safari, I noticed that my flight arrived AFTER the swim with the manatees. A few phone calls later  (plus ticket change fees), things got sorted out, and I shall be en route to snorkeling with the manatees tonight. Having scrambled to get there, I REALLY hope I’ll actually see some.  I’m wildly curious about manatees.  History has it that manatees are the original mermaids. Having seen photos of manatees, one can only conclude that the sailors who described these ‘mermaids’ were a long way from home, had been a long time at sea, and were seriously lonely.   

I wonder how close one can get … With elephant seals on the beaches of Año Nuevo, California, the rule is 20 yards away.  When I swam with fur seals and sea lions in the Galapagos, the seals themselves decided how close they were willing to get.  The sea lions cavorted about 20 feet away, and acted as though they were inviting me to play. I’m a good swimmer, but I know when I’m out of my league.  I took my delight in watching them.  The fur seals came zipping toward me on a collision course, swerving off to one side just prior to impact.  I think they were as curious about me as I was about them.  But manatees?  I don’t know yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as do.  Same goes for skimmers and roseate spoonbills.  I’ve seen both species before, but they’re so very odd-looking, I feel as if I should l look again, just to make sure they’re really a strange as I remember. Stay tuned!


Swimming with Manatees : Florida’s Gulf Coast Plus a Thousand Islands and a Fairy Tale Castle in France

In Baby Boomers, Birding, Florida, Health, Parent, Travel on May 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Welcome to my very first ever blog post. I’ve been lucky enough to have wandered widely in this world, and I propose to take you with me from now on.

For me, there are three parts to a great trip: The anticipation, planning where we’ll go and what we hope to see. The trip itself, complete with all the sensory stimuli, from the tantalizing scent of bacon sizzling to the incessant itch of no-see-um bites, the sun hot on my back casting for fish, or the lights of the Bateaux Mouches flashing through the arched windows of a Paris apartment on the Seine. The third, of course, is the many memories, and all the tales to tell.

So here’s what’s on offer for anticipation: Winging our way to Florida’s Gulf Coast (look up Pasco County) to swim with manatees (OK, the manatees aren’t guaranteed — wildlife never is —  but they’re a real possibility); snorkeling in the Crystal River, fishing the Florida flats (fish aren’t guaranteed either, but if you don’t have your line in the water, you are guaranteed not to catch anything), plus golf on the Gulf.  There’ll be fun and photos, and some fine food, so come on along the week of May 20th.  I’m new at this, but my personal  technogeek (tall, slim, beautiful, and 12) tells me I can post from my phone, and I have every intention of finding out how.

(A moment of silence, please, for Steve Jobs, the guy who made it possible for me to share my world in real time. )

Next up:

How about Fourth of July in the Thousand Islands, those tiny dots in the St. Lawrence River that straddle the international border between upstate New York and the grand land of Canada? One of those dots is Grenell Island, not far from Clayton, New York.  Thousand Islands has long been a summer resort for those who seek to escape the East Coast’s  heat and humidity. The little clapboard church on Grenell  celebrates  one hundred years of service and services this year.  One of the cottages, of much the same vintage, needs its annual dose of repair, and we’ll be there.  New railings will go up on the second story veranda that looks across the river toward Canada.  A summer morning spent identifying the huge ships that ply their way up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway is time well spent.  Cheat sheets are available identifying the logos of the shipping lines, clearly emblazoned on the stacks of the vessels.  It’s the armchair traveler’s version of going to sea.  One can’t help but wonder where the ships are from, where they are bound, and how long from home they might be. Where I stay is a two-story cottage built by a friend’s grandfather on pre-Cambrian rocks that date from the last Ice Age. It’s still in the family, and every summer, family and friends alike show up to fix whatever needs fixing, and plant the garden (pockets, fissures, and small crevasses in the rock packed with soil)  with whatever needs planting from peas to peonies.

The coup de grace: Remember that apartment I mentioned on the Seine in Paris? A couple of days ago I received a phone call from the friend who lived there inviting me to come stay at  a big, old house in the French countryside belonging to a school chum from France’s highly regarded HEC (Haute Ecole Commerciale — think Harvard Business School or the London School of Economics, but way sexier. It is in Paris, after all.). Further conversation gave me to understand that the big, old house, aka the Chateau de Vermette,  is a 16th century  castle on France’s list of historic properties, a prized part of the French patrimony, once a portion of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s dowry, and now a privately owned castle complete with a moat, multiple turrets, and 30 beds.  Here are the pictures.  We’ll be there in mid-July if I can figure out a way to get there without swimming the Atlantic.  Follow the blog  to find out how things develop.

See you again soon!