Manatee Floatation Station

Sometimes, you just have a feeling about a person. An unexplainable connection.  It happened to me the minute I met Lois.  What a fun, spunky lady, full of life and energy.  An unassuming, authentic being. Smart, kind, helpful and resourceful.  The instant I met her I knew I wanted to earn her friendship for life.

 

We visit daily as we are walking dogs or gathering in the road for impromptu discussions with Ranger Sam, Dennis and Carol and other campers.  Then Lois finds out that I, the big outdoors person, have never Kayaked.  Well, what do you know, they have two kayaks here and Buddy doesn’t like to go.  I’m not sure why I’ve never Kayaked.  Perhaps there’s just not enough hours in the day, and I am so entrenched in canoeing, that it just never was a priority.

 

Today all that changes.  It’s 70 degrees and sunny, no wind, and Buddy has got the vessels down to the water, has adjusted mine to fit, and is ready to help us ladies into them.  With Buddy at her side, Lois gracefully gets into her kayak, and begins paddling  away to make way for the newbie. 

 

Now it’s my turn.

 

I immediately discover Boy Scout Buddy has the patience of a saint.

 

First, I am here to tell you that who ever invented the Kayak clearly didn’t have an ass end.

 

How in the world do you hold the paddle, step into the boat without getting wet, and lower your ass end down into that seat with your knees up into your boobs and expect to not either hurt something or tip over into the water?  I swear getting down into that seat is the most humbling experience ever.  I think I need back up lights on my hind end, perhaps a beeper to go with it, as I squat down into the hole. 

 

My goodness!

 

So, I finally get on in there, and now am faced with how to get comfortable with the balance.  There’s not a lot of room for error, that’s for sure.  And as I try to approach paddling the same way as canoeing,  I quickly drench myself with each stroke of the paddle.  Lois is simply drifting out in the water, getting a great show.  Buddy is standing on the shore, chuckling and shaking his head.

 

“Lean back and paddle” Lois advises.  Whoa, kinda tippy doing that.  I try again.  I look like I peed my pants from the water I’ve brought in on the paddle.  Still, I am determined to conquer this activity.  Lois turns toward the open ocean and beach.  I follow behind, adding a splash of water to my shorts with each stroke.

 

Eventually I catch up to her, and am feeling pretty strong as a paddler. Hey, except for the wet, this is pretty fun!  It is a lazy sunny day and feels wonderful to be out on the water.  We search for fish in the water.  She spies several exotic shells in the shallows.  We wonder if we will get grounded.  It’s low tide.  But we do make it across the beach area and around the corner and down by the sand bar.

 

“This is wayahh the manatees ahh sometimes”  She says.

 

Oh lets go check it out!

 

We paddle around the sandbar and into an isolated body of water that gives the appearance of being a lake.

 

We relax and drift.

Well, I’m not sure about how relaxing it is to be sitting in several inches of salt water….shriveling and chafing….but it’s a great experience….

 

Lois and I start talking about things.  She tells me about the park, and how they came to be camp hosts.  I comment again how she and Boy Scout Buddy are a cute couple.

That leads to a fairy tale story about how they met…

 

She went to a costume party with friends.  She was widowed.  She fell in love with a clown—literally—it was Buddy.  Yes, he is a professional clown, AND a Boy Scout. She never even saw his face, but knew he was the one.  He was a widower. He was equally captivated by her, and the pursuit began.  Although she hesitated at first, he managed to get her number, and convince her to go out.  They met, and have been together for the last seven or so years, traveling the country in the back of a truck, then a little RV, and another one, until they discovered Secret Spot Park, and became winter camp hosts, and now own a huge 5th wheel “home on wheels” that they leave down in Florida year round.

 

What a great story!  How romantic!  “Lois, did you see that?”  I point out in front of us.

 

It’s Manatees!  We slowly, carefully, paddle forward.  Within a few minutes, we are in the nucleus of water where there are at least eight or more Manatees.  They are surfacing all around us, blowing, and dropping back into the water.  They come closer.  They swim under our kayaks.  Along the kayaks.  One nearly touches my paddle.  They are as curious as we are.  We both remain motionless, and just drift, thrilled with this unexpected experience, and taking care to not overstep.   One comes so close to me I can see the texture of it’s nose, and look deep into it’s eye, then it sinks back into the water.  Mullets are jumping out of the water as well, almost right into the boats.  We stay here the entire afternoon, relishing the joy of communing with nature.  So do the Manatees.

 

“I love it out here.”

“Me too.”

 

The afternoon goes by.

 

“Lois?”

“yeah.”

“my ass hurts.”

“yeah, mine too.”

 

And so we begin the journey back.  The tide is now high, and the wind picked up.  We fearless women adventurers bravely face the wind and paddle against the current around the sand bar, in front of the beach, and around the corner back into the brackish waters where camp is.

 

I am here to tell you that who ever invented the Kayak clearly didn’t have any intention of getting in, OR OUT of one themselves.  Oh my, I am certain I need some sort of hydraulic hoist to get my ass end back up out of that hole.  How are you supposed to function at all after having your legs straight out in front of you for hours while soaking in salt water on the most uncomfortable piece of plastic known to man?

 

And yet, there’s Lois, gracefully paddling along, gracefully getting back to shore, gracefully getting back out of the kayak, and gracefully coaching me through it all like a pro.  I am an awkward, wet mess.  We laugh until we about cry.  Walking up the hill back to their campsite, we are hobbling along, rubbing our back ends deciding it must be time for happy hour.  Oh, my goodness. 

 

If I could have a sister, I would want it to be Lois.

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