Before our good friend Terri of the Frozen North returned to Minnesnowta, she had a “bucket list” item to check off – a visit to Crystal River to swim with the manatees. Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) are also called sea cows, and are distant relatives of the elephant. Adults weigh up to 1,400 lbs and can reach 11 feet in length. A thick layer of fat and a slow metabolic rate keeps them warm in winter, but water temperatures even in the high 60s can be fatal. They feed on 60 varieties of sea grasses and plants, but may also eat small fish and invertebrates. They typically live to 25-30 years of age, but have been known to live to 60.
We booked a trip at CrystalRivermanatees.com, and arrived on the coast to meet Harry, our boat captain and tour guide. We donned wet suits, boarded a 24 foot Hurricane boat, Harry gave us a commentary on the way to the springs, and since he is from Crystal River, he provided plenty of “local knowledge” that we would have otherwise been unaware of. A short trip up river was a pleasant maritime change to our usual landlubberly existence (living aboard a sailboat for six years and sailing across the Atlantic was quite different than our current method of cruising across the country in an RV). Harry brought us to Three Sisters Springs, where we anchored and got into the water (a not-exactly-toasty 72F).
At Three Sisters, you swim into the small springs area from the wider river, hauling yourself against the current with the aid of a nylon line attached to the bank. Beneath you swim schools of fish and the occasional manatee, sometimes a single adult, sometimes a cow and her calf. There were more manatees than we ever imagined. Suzanne enjoyed the manatee show for about 45 minutes until the cold water started to bring down her core temperature, and she swam back to the boat to warm up.
Terri, Harry and I continued to observe and swim with the manatees, keeping a 6-10 foot distance from the animals in accordance with the rules. You are not allowed to touch the manatees, but “if contact is initiated by a manatee, you are allowed to touch him/her gently with one hand.” Yeah, like a manatee is going to come give us a hug, right?
Well, guess what? Here’s Terri being kissed by a young manatee about 2-3 years old. This little gal swam right up to Terri to nuzzle her and have her belly rubbed. I even got a kiss or two (My Lovely Bride wasn’t jealous, for some reason), and I can tell you that looking eye-to-eye with a manatee actually up against your dive mask is a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Their skin feels much like an elephant’s, but wetter.
The day after our manatee experience, Terri returned to Minnesnowta, where she will probably be interviewed by the Coon Rapids media about her exploits in Florida. We were sad to see her go, but we know that she missed the snow, ice, sleet, blizzards and frozen lakes of her home state…
Suzanne was invited by Nancie Leon here in The Villages to address her Energy Meditation Group at Lake Miona Rec Center the other day. An S.R.O. crowd of over 200 folks crowded the room for Suzanne’s first “Preponderance of the Evidence” talk. It was very well received, and Suzanne has been asked to give that talk again before we leave for our summer tour at the end of March. Details will be available on her web site, www.SuzanneGiesemann.com .
There’s a Navy saying, “First you have to be smarter than it!” which deals with the oft-troubled relationships that men (in particular, much more so than women) have with pieces of equipment that they are not trained to operate. In today’s example, the piece of equipment is a mean, nasty, troublesome, vindictive food slicer. I was preparing my famous hash browns and onions for My Lovely Bride. I normally use a sharp knife without any untoward incidents, but today was different… she suggested using the handy-dandy, razor-sharp, much faster but potentially dangerous food slicer shown here… “Safety guard? I don’t need no stinkin’ safety guard… safety guards are for sissies…” (The photo was taken after it was cleaned of blood and small pieces of human tissue… yuck!). ‘Nuff said…
A much safer place to eat a few nights earlier had taken us back to V.K.I., our favorite Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, with good friends Joyce and Sharon, who had asked for a lesson in sushi etiquette and cuisine. We were happy to help, and met them for Introductory Sushi 101, which included watching our sushi chef prepare delicious nigiri and rolls.
Sharon and Joyce also learned about wasabi (Eutrema japonicum), the fiery green Japanese horseradish that bears an uncanny resemblance to avocado (MLB mistakenly popped a large piece of wasabi into her mouth during her very first visit to a Japanese restaurant… a mistake that she has not repeated since). Our meal included red snapper appetizer (lightly battered and fried, and to-die-for), gently sauteed gyoza, nigiri sushi (yellowtail, shrimp, salmon, eel and tuna), and two rolls (spicy tuna and California). Part of the Intro course is learning about Japanese beer. Any sailor ever stationed in Japan will give you their opinion on which beer is best, but our personal favorite is Kirin Ichiban (Kirin is a mythical creature, part dragon, part lion; Ichiban means “Number One”). It was a fun evening, and we had a blast introducing Joyce and Sharon to our favorite sushi.
In a previous blog post, I mentioned the SPOT emergency locator and tracking beacon that MLB Suzanne and MLD Elisabeth convinced me to get. Well, it had a test the other day during a 9-mile, three hour training hike. We energized the unit, attached it to my backpack, and drove to town to start the hike. Here’s a screen shot of the locator’s tracking feature; every 10 minutes, it sends a signal up to a satellite with your position anywhere on earth (yes, even if you’re at Hooters). My Navy Shipmate Dale, a fellow sailor from Battleship IOWA, suggested that I attach the SPOT to a mountain goat before leaving the wilderness and heading to my favorite watering hole. Suzanne would then be very impressed by my day and night movements up and down sheer cliffs and over seemingly impassable mountains. (Yeah, for about five minutes… then, SMACK!)
We were having dinner with Suzanne’s Lovely Mom Ruthie, her brother Brent and His Lovely Bride Cheryl the other night when Brent related the following tragic true story… a friend of his showed up for golf one morning, and Brent asked him, “Fred, why are you looking so glum?” Fred replied, “I don’t know what I said wrong, but my wife took me shopping with her yesterday. When she came out of the changing room with a dress on she asked, ‘Does this make me look fat?’ I knew better than to say yes, so I replied, ‘No, just a bit bloated… “