Fall is a great time for wildlife. It's all on the move. Baitfish are shooting by all over the channel. You can stick your hand in the water and pull out a flounder. The (mostly harmless) cannonball jellyfish are starting to show up. Dolphins are a standby. We saw some fisherman catch a big sheep's head fish. Those look like convicts in black and white stripes.
 
By far the most exciting wildlife encounter we've had this year has got to be from our paddle last weekend.
 
"Hey Patty! Look over there! I think it's a turtle! I saw a head!"
 
Cue Patty paddling right toward it.
 
SPLASH THUNK OHSHEETOHSHEETOHSHEETAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHCK
 
I've never seen anyone get back on their board so fast in my life.
 
Whatever was in the water surfaced under Patty so she fell off and it splashed around. All I could see were big gray swooshy swirls.
 
Patty gets back on her board and we keep paddling.
 
"IT IS UNDER MY BOARD! IT IS UNDER MY BOARD! WHATEVER IT IS IT IS UNDER ME!" It visited Marissa next.
 
From her descriptions of a big gray blob with a little nose sticking up, we deduce it is a manatee.
 
WE SAW THE MANATEE!
 
All summer long there's been at least one hanging around the Wrightsville Beach area.
 
Wow!
 
Recovered, we move on. "Can't believe we saw that!" "Glad you two were here with me!" "Holy crap!"
 
Conversation ensues. "I wonder where it is now?" (Because it followed us for a while before "playing" with Marissa.)
 
A trail of circular ripples moves steadily in between Patty and Marissa, heading south along the Intracoastal, just like us. "Hey guys–I think it is RIGHT IN BETWEEN YOUR BOARDS!"
 
Cue the nose of the creature popping up a few feet ahead.
 
OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH

For the Visually Inclined

I drew a little diagram for you:

 

Much like the Loch Ness Monster, we can't be entirely sure that what we saw was a manatee, but we're pretty sure it was. It wasn't a dolphin or a shark. It wasn't a turtle. It was too big and too gray and too flipper-ish to be an alligator.
 
Now we know what to look for:
 
Who knew manatees could be so scary?

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