“Manatee in the basin! Manatee in the basin!” Colin yelled as he came flying back to the boat on his bike. You should have seen how quickly all of us moved! I was in the middle of cooking dinner, so I turned off the stove and grabbed a camera. We raced down to the haul out basin where two Jarrett Bay employees had observed a manatee.
By the time we arrived, we had just missed the best part. The employees had turned on the water hose, and the manatee surfaced to drink from the hose and roll in the spraying water. Colin had been there to see the manatee’s whole body surface and come take a drink. But, then he ran to get us and missed when the animal played in the water stream. Apparently, this is the third year that a couple of manatees have appeared in the basin. Last year, they hung out for a couple of days before moving on.
After some searching, we finally saw large bubbles appear from below the water’s surface. Lo and behold, the manatee surfaced for a quick puff of air. We hung out for about an hour, watching the manatee surface for air every 10-15 minutes. It would surface about 2-3 times in a row before going back under. We were hoping it would return to the hose for some fresh water, but it never did.
After doing some brief online research, the West Indian Manatee is native to Florida, but it’s becoming more common for the juveniles to migrate as far north as the Chesapeake. Due to protective measures of this endangered species, the manatee numbers are growing, and they are spreading across more territory in search of food.
The manatee hasn’t been the only wildlife sighting this week. Earlier in the day, Justine and I had seen a couple of dolphins swim past the docks. Then, there was a small sea turtle. At night, we’ve watched all kinds of fish and crabs feasting in the casting of the basin lights.
Several days ago, Colin and I saw a sea otter surface. We were walking the docks when we came across a trail of bubbles. Curiosity got the best of us, so we followed the bubbles. Suddenly, a sea otter surfaced for a brief swim on top of the water, before diving down again. We couldn’t believe our eyes! I’ve spent a lot of time in coastal North Carolina, but I’ve never seen an otter. And it was definitely a first for Colin.
It is becoming a daily ritual to walk the docks and check for any marine wildlife. This is only a small taste of what we are about to experience once we set sail, but we are cherishing every moment.