Lauren’s kayaking adventure in Thailand

Railey Beach Thailand kayakingI suppose the title is misleading, in a way. You’re probably now expecting some epic adventure account, a multi-day saga with pirates, no food, native Thai people and language barriers, some sort of heroic rescue, and then a celebratory bonfire and feast on the beach. No, sorry. I wish it involved all that. The truth, as usual, is much less glamorous. Anything that involves puke is generally unglamorous, I find. Throwing up is a universal leveler, brings us all down to the same miserable state of being. Though, of all the places I’ve thrown up in, emptying my stomach contents over the side of a kayak just off a beach on an island in Thailand in front of at least two restaurants of people enjoying their lunches is definitely the most exotic. My friend, who was a patron in one of the restaurants, said he thought we stopped to look at some fish, which gives me hope that I didn’t put anyone off their food. I would like to apologise to my other friend, who was in the kayak with me, politely adverting his gaze, covering his ears and humming loudly. Apparently the waves were a little rough, and his foot might have gotten splashed a little. I’m sorry, but it did wash all over my legs too, dangling off the side, if that makes you feel any better, and I was slightly preoccupied at the time so I wasn’t able to monitor the currents properly. I’ll try to do better next time. I’ve never thrown up in public before, nor in a kayak, so I’m unfamiliar with the proper protocols in these situations.

view from the kayak, Thailand

In the future, when I decide to jump in a kayak with someone who wants to paddle to a distant island a good hour away by constant paddling (one way) over choppy open water, I’ll try my best not to feel nauseous for the entire trip out and back. Also, I’ll try to void my stomach contents before almost making it back to the beach, keeping in mind the wave patterns, wind speed, and current so as to avoid any splashage. I’ll also work on being more discreet and trying to avoid such public stages for future barfing episodes, of which I fervently hope there are few (or none, none would be okay too). Now that I’ve ticked off throwing up from a kayak from my list of firsts, I’ve no desire to repeat the experience. Been there, done that, moving on (with the aid of Dramamine and some Pepto-Bismol).Railey Beach, Thailand

Oh yes, we are having a splendid time here in Thailand.

Max kayaking in Thailand

Kayaking with manatees

Great Egret on the lookout for idle manatees.
No manatees over here.

Monday I finally took a kayak out to Bair’s Cove boat ramp, the notorious manatee hangout. Those manatees are a brassy  bunch, they just swim right up to you and shove your kayak around like they own the place. I believe there was some, ahem, bedroom activity going on, which is why they were so active this morning. There was a lot of twisting and possibly some shouting going on by the looks of it.

Barbara Manatee (manatee, manatee) / You are the one for me (one for me, one for me) / Sent from up above (a manatee from heaven) / You are the one I loveYes, that is a Veggie Tales song, sung by Larry the Cucumber.  It gets stuck in my head every time I see a manatee, which is not as often as I would like.
I’ve got your nose!
Manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes (according to but typically surface to breathe noisily every 3 to 5 minutes.
To see my video of some manatee action, click here:
Manatee poo floats. And is very smelly. (Max, this picture is for you).

Manatees can grow to be up to 12 feet long, and I think I may have seen a few that were indeed that large. It’s a bit disconcerting to see the real big guys floating around passively under your kayak and then realizing that, if they decided to get at all frisky, you would be taking a dip. But then you could say that you were attacked by a manatee, so it’d probably be worth it.

I’m going that-a-way
If I was a Brown Pelican I’d stand on that rock too.
Sing a joyful noise, all ye pelicans!

You learn something new every day…

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you always will.” 
— Vernon Howard
They say you learn something new every day. Well, on Sunday my something new was learning how to shoot a handgun. It was an interesting experience. Wayne, one of the USFWS guys who works over at Headquarters took us interns (Patrick, Meghan and myself) to the shooting range, where he is a range officer, to fire off some rounds. 
Patrick, one of my fellow interns, showing off and shooting one-handed. He’s had some experience.
Prior to Sunday afternoon, my only experience with guns was of the squirt and glue variety, and that blow gun in Ecuador. Not that I would know, but it seemed to me that none of those are quite like a Beretta, though at least the blow gun had the potential to be lethal (if your dart was tipped in poison, which ours weren’t. Or so they told us…).
Meghan taking her turn. She, like me, had never fired a gun before.
Needless to say, I was slightly apprehensive about holding a real-life actual gun, let alone pulling the trigger. Burning yourself and gluing your fingers together with hot melted glue is one thing, shooting a hole in your foot quite another. However, once I figured out how to aim the thing properly, I wasn’t such a bad shot. We were shooting at metal plates, and in my final rounds I managed to hit about six in a row before my eyes would get too out-of-focus and I’d miss. And I’ll admit it, my arms got tired. It’s hard to hold your arms straight out in front of you like that for extended periods of time. 
Picture proof I actually did it!
 Though I’m probably not going to be rushing out and purchasing a gun for myself, I did enjoy the experience more than I thought I would. And, I think knowing how to handle a gun safely is an important thing to know. Knowing how to fire one safely could potentially come in handy someday, if I ever have the chance to use a tranquilizer gun perhaps. I’m sure they’re exactly like either handguns or glue guns. 
On Monday (my weekends are Sunday and Mondays) I went kayaking with some of the volunteers from the refuge: Trish, Betty, Roz, and Trish’s friend, Mary. We launched from the boat ramp near Trish’s house in Cocoa Beach and spent a morning paddling around in the mangroves and canals. It was fantastic.
Trish heading into the mangroves
Mary and Betty
 Betty loves the mangroves, and she loves to tell people about them, so the morning was not only fun but educational. She had us all lick black mangrove leaves, to taste the salt secreted on them. Surprisingly, I managed to teach her a few things too, about preen glands and how not every species of bird has them (during my research on parrot coloration I learned that some parrots and a few other birds, ostrich being one, don’t have them). We also discussed feather lice, ticks on birds (and people) and feather-degrading bacteria and fungi. You know, normal things to talk about with friends while kayaking. And, I will have you know, I did not bring up any of those subjects, I just added to the conversation. It started when we saw an anhinga preening and went from there. 
Hanging out with the volunteers is always a hoot, they’re all so interesting and such characters. I’ve long ago realized that being old is a state of mind; you’re never too old to do what you love and what gives you joy. 
Someone had anchored this plastic chair in the middle of the mangroves, probably to sit in while they fished. The water is only a few feet deep, and the chair is sunk into the muck.
And, in other non-related exciting news (but since when does anything exciting ever have to be related?) my little brother Eric was named Employee of the Month at the Enclave!!! 
I heard the news yesterday, when I called home and was told he had some news he needed to share with me. We had the usual game of 10,000 questions:
Me: “What’s your news Eric?”
Eric: [silence] 
Me: “It’s something at work?”
Eric: “Yes.”  [silence] 
Me: “Do you get to clean the toilets now?”
Eric: “No.”
Me: “Well that’s good, you don’t want to do that anyway.”
Eric: [silence] 
Me: “Come on Eric, just tell me, I want to know your news!”
Eric: [silence]
Mom: “Just tell her what it is.”
Dad: “Finish what’s in your mouth and then tell her.” (They were eating dinner when I called, and put me on speaker phone). “Stop cramming more in there and finish chewing.”
 After a few more minutes in this vein I was given the clues “I got a certificate,” “They spelled employee wrong, they forgot an l” and “But they spelled the month right.” We eventually put everything together to determine the good news. YAY Eric! I’m so proud of you!!
AND, I found his picture on the website! Here he is hard at work landscaping (I think it must have been staged, because he looks way too clean to be actually working. I’ve seen his clothes when he gets home from work). Eric is the one in the brown Brown’s hoodie, in the picture under the words “Supportive Employment.”