KAYAKING WITH MANATEE — Phyllis’s Sea Eagle adventure in Three Sisters Springs, Florida

Phyllis Williams mingled with manatee on a recent kayaking trip to Three Sisters Springs in Florida

Phyllis’s Sea Eagle FastTrack was a “manatee magnet” in the crystal clear waters

Ever see manatee in their wild habitat? Phyllis Williams, Sea Eagle FastTrack owner from Tennessee got up close and personal with them recently and told us of her fascinating and unusual experience.

“This past January,” she says, “I was one in a group of about 22 members of the Tennessee Valley Canoe (and Kayak) Club who spent five days camping and paddling in the Ocala, Florida area.” The plan was to kayak; hanging out with manatee was a bonus.

Gentle and curious, manatee are BIG, slow moving marine mammals with surprising intelligence

“We paddled with the manatee in Three Sisters Springs,” says Phyllis, “and the manatee loved my Sea Eagle inflatable kayak! I guess they thought it looked like a member of their family. They cruised under my boat, beside it, and raised their noses to look into it a couple of times.”

Kayaking in sparkling clear springs

The TVCC is a very active and popular boating club from Chattanooga, Tennessee that organizes kayaking trips, adventures, and events all through the year. Recent group excursions to Florida have featured flat water kayaking in major springs including Silver SpringsRainbow SpringsThree Sisters Springs…and Juniper Springs.

Why springs? Because Florida’s spring-fed pools are pristine, beautiful, sparkling clear, and often quite warm. And a remarkable bonus is the occasional opportunity to kayak with manatee.

Gentle giants…with the emphasis on GIANT

“Manatee are big sea cow-looking mammals,” says Phyllis. Closely related to elephants, the sea-going manatee is truly super-sized. Adults can measure more than 12 feet long and tip the scales at over half a ton. But these are gentle giants who spend half their lives munching vegetation in shallow water.

Hers was the only inflatable in a fleet of hard hull kayaks. “Something about the inflatable Sea Eagle resonated with the manatee,” Phyllis says. “They hovered around and under my inflated boat and followed me wherever I paddled. Those in hard hull kayaks had to come to me to get close to the manatee.”

Manatee magnet

In fact, Phyllis’s FastTrack was so popular with these marine mammals, her kayaking partners began to call it the “manatee magnet.”

Of course, spending quality time with manatee was not her goal when Phyllis chose her Sea Eagle FastTrack 385ft. “I can handle the boat very easily by myself,” she says. “It’s lightweight, stores under my bed, and doesn’t need trailering. I can put it in the back of my car with a blanket over it and nobody knows there’s a valuable boat there.”

They used the keel as a back scratcher

The stability created by the FastTrack’s rigid drop stitch floor is a big plus, too, especially when there’s a 1200 lb. manatee using your keel as a back scratcher. “They lifted me up a little but I had no fear of getting tipped,” says Phyllis.

From Tennessee to Florida, Phyllis is a fan of kayaking and her Sea Eagle FastTrack

Nature’s beauty

Manatee are curious about her Sea Eagle, and hard hull kayakers are, too. “They can see the FastTrack is a handsome boat that’s sharp and sleek in the water. I can keep right up with hard hull kayaks,” says Phyllis. “With the drop-stitch keel, it moves straight in the water with no yaw (no serpentine movement) and handles waves very well.”

Even if mixing it up with manatee is not on your to-do list, Phyllis offers good thoughts for anyone interested in boating. “I encourage people to look at Sea Eagle. From my experience, their inflatable boats are affordable, user friendly, and give you a way to get outdoors and enjoy all the beauty that Nature has to offer.”

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9 thoughts on “KAYAKING WITH MANATEE — Phyllis’s Sea Eagle adventure in Three Sisters Springs, Florida

  1. Great post, I am actually in the process of writing an article for S.E. about our adventures with manatees and my SE 330 sport kayak…we are form TN as well but not from the club!

  2. That is really cool. I actually have went kayaking with manatees before, in a smaller kayak. I accidentally came up too fast on two of them, and they flipped my kayak. Heard it doesn’t ever really happen, but happened to me. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened with the Sea Eagle kayaks.

    • The day I was out there, there were hard-shell kayaks, too, and because one did move especially fast, it was up-ended by a manatee. I think the Sea Eagle being black on the underside and gray on the upper, it wasn’t intimidating.

  3. This sounds like a really magical experience. My question is this: I have heard that in Florida, anywhere there is water one will find alligators. Have you had that experience? If so, was it of concern to you? I’ve been out in some canals where I have seen some that were about 4 feet long and conclude that there are probably many more (many of whom are longer) hiding in spots I missed. We had a wonderful time kayaking in our Sea Eagle that day but it made us think that we need to find out about their habits and kayaking in a “blow-up” kayak!!!!

  4. Debby, there are a lot of alligators in the waterways in Florida, but most of them in the waterways that are well-traveled are small and avoid people. I paddled in the Silver River and most recently again on the Rainbow River and saw alligators, but they were sleeping on the bank. If an alligator were going to attack you, it wouldn’t matter what small craft you were in–you’d be lunch!

  5. I’m glad to read your post. Our daughter and son and daughter-in-law live in Orlando. I said I was going to bring our Paddle Ski on the next trip and they thought I’d gone nuts. They said the gators were too big a threat. I said we’ve paddled Florida rivers in rented canoes and thought if a gator took us on we would be done. I think I’d rather be on the Paddle Ski, in fact.

    • I went back to Rainbow River and paddled two days in my inflatable and felt very comfortable. I was able to get within a couple of yards of birds with their young in the grasses, and I almost bumped into a cormorant on a log. I pulled over in one spot, and tons of little fish rushed up to my boat; I put my hand down, and they nibbled my fingers. I think the way the inflatable moves in the water, and its color, is less threatening than a hard-shell kayak, which I also have. I saw one large alligator on the bank, and I stopped and took a photograph of him. No matter if you’re in a canoe, hard-shell or inflatable, an alligator could attack you. I think your Paddle Ski would be perfect on any of the rivers there except Juniper, and that’s only because they don’t allow inflatables of any kind there. Keep paddling!

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