A regatta of Sunfish take advantage of sailing conditions on Bimini Bay waters.
It is a huge privilege to get to see manatees in the wild on Anna Maria Island. Especially considering the fact that they probably will be extinct within the next hundred years. Those of us who spend time on or near the water know the tell-tale pattern on the surface that indicates manatees are below. A series of flat circles usually appears and then, every once in awhile, the nose of a manatee may surface. Sometimes the manatee pushes it nose through the water for a distance. Sometimes its back surfaces, too. Often, the back is badly scarred, having been hit by boat propellers.
A couple of years ago, we spotted a manatee swimming by the house, heading up the bay, and we quickly launched kayaks to go look for it. We eventually found two manatees. We stopped paddling and sat still, drifting, to observe them in the clear, shallow water. As we drifted, I ended up closer to the larger manatee than I would have liked to be. The sheer size of this gentle animal was a bit intimidating. I was worried for both it and myself that we might have an awkward collision unintentionally. Fortunately, I gradually drifted away and then kept a little more distance.
The waters in and around Anna Maria Island are perfect for kayaking, and there are more and more people enjoying it. Inside Bimini Bay, the conditions are particularly peaceful. Beginners or those who don’t know how to swim can feel very safe there. Surrounded by land, except for the channel out to Tampa Bay, the water is usually flat and it’s very shallow. In fact, it’s so shallow at low tides that even kayakers should pay close attention to water depth, in order not to damage the fragile sea grass floor of this environmentally important location. Just north of Holmes Beach City Hall is a park with a boat ramp, from which it is easy to kayak into Bimini Bay, under the bridge to Key Royal.
Among the wildlife usually seen by kayakers in Bimini Bay are dolphins, with the occasional manatee. Birdlife is plentiful. Ospreys, pelicans and terns dive for fish. Gulls hang around hoping for scraps. Great blue herons can be seen nesting high in the Australian pines, or wading in the waters at low tide.
Sit-on-top kayaks require almost no instruction or technique, but it helps to keep a few things in mind. A stable way to get into these kayaks is by putting one’s bottom into the seat before trying to bring one’s legs on board. Paddling is quite straightforward, and it’s good to aim for rhythm. In addition to pulling back on the paddle with one hand, one pushes the other side of the paddle forward.