|Headline: SHARK ATTACKS SUV IN TARPON SPRINGS!|
Back at the turn of the 20th century, an entrepreneur recruited sponge divers from Greece to established a commercial "fishery" for sponges--sedentary ocean animals whose dried skeletons (before the invention of cellulose sponges) came in handy for mopping up spills. (Fun sponge facts HERE).
We tied up at the Tarpon City Marina, ably assisted by the dockmaster, Ted, who looked like central casting's ideal of a Greek fisherman (though he was quick to tell us he's actually from Poland.)
For dinner on Thursday night we savored grilled octopus and retsina at a local restaurant. Friday morning we set the rowing frame into the dinghy and set out in search of the slow-moving marine mammals we consider a perfect mascot for our boat: manatees.
Tarpon Springs is on the Anclote River, and a side channel, Spring Bayou, is a well known wintering spot for these potato-shaped and Smart-Car sized critters. (Read many many fun manatee facts here.) Florida's manatees were upgraded from "endangered" to merely "vulnerable" in 2007 but they're still protected. So, no motorized boats allowed in the bay where they hang out. In fact, when we visited a policeman on shore was quick to chew out a young couple in a fishing boat trying to use their trolling motor to nose into the bay.
|Leaping manatee! Sorry, this is about|
as exciting as it gets . . .
The manatees were leaping too--at least, they were doing what passes for a leap if you're a manatee.
You've probably seen dolphins leap, at least in the movies or at an aquarium--they nose up out of the water, then dive back down, back arched in a tight gray loop, down, down, down into the water. Same moves in the case of manatees, except you see a dull brown back lift about one inch out of the water and roll down . . . and down . . . and down . . . in super-duper-slo-mo.
|Here's a manatee sticking its nose up to take a breath.|
If you'd like to see manatees in (sort of) action, I discovered a live "manatee cam" focused on the waters of Crystal River, another known manatee hotspot. (Go to THIS website and click the black tab labelled "single") Manatees usually come up to breathe every 3 to 5 minutes, but they CAN stay under as long as 20 minutes . . . so you may have to wait awhile to spot one.
Fun fact about the live manatee cam: It's operated by solar power!