The large populations of manatees tend to be more on the Gulf side of Florida and up around Crystal River. An overnight to there is another of the “to-dos” that hasn’t gotten done yet for several reasons. Manatees in this area are common enough that if you are frequently around the docks, you’ll see them on a fairly regular basis. They often meander into the canals, especially when it’s time for rinsing down boats. They come seeking the fresh water and of course all the marine mammal experts rightfully tell people not to let the manatees drink from the hoses. On the other hand, holding out a hose with a stream of fresh water as a manatee raises up out of the water and holds its head to where it can catch the stream of water is difficult to resist.
I have only had a chance to see a few come in around the docks; once it was a mama and baby. Our friends from NY who will be headed home next week took this photo the other day as a mama and baby pair cruised up from the ocean side. They really are lumbering creatures and boaters have to excercise a great deal of caution because the manatees simply cannot manuever quickly enough to get out of the way of a propeller. This is why you have the no-wake zones in so many parts of Florida – or you may instead see the Manatee signs along with them. However, like most wild creatures, they don’t go only where there are warning signs and that is why boaters have to pay close attention when they are in any environment where manatees might be. They eat sea grass and are indeed in the “so ugly they’re cute” category. The term sea cow is appropriate and if the legend is true that sailors once mistook them for mermaids, then they must have had pretty low standards for what they thought a mermaid would look like.