When Harry Met Adventurer Kathy Ford

Harry d butler

Local woman has the chance to swim with manatees

For some people, going on vacation means going to the beach or Gatlinburg or camping in a tent in someone’s pasture. But for others, the extraordinary adventures are “to do”.

Take Kathy Ford and her husband, Mike, of Gadsden, for example, both retirees from Goodyear. They had just returned from their most recent excursion on our last visit.

This whirlwind adventure in their home-away-from-home motorhome took them to Niagara Falls: “What an awesome sight to see – the work of God! “she recalls.” The most inspiring show was Maid of the Mist. ”

From there at the Canada-US border, the couple traveled south to Dover, Delaware, for a NASCAR race; and from there another adventure for them was to ride ET under the 92,928-foot (17.6-mile) long engineering marvel of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge / Tunnel. (The toll to cross was $ 43.)

Kathy Ford of Gadsden was able to swim with manatees in the Crystal River in Florida.

The Fords were on their way to meet family members in the Outer Banks of North Carolina to observe wild horses. From there, they headed to Charlotte, NC for the NASCAR 600-mile Memorial Day race before returning home.

But before this quest, the Fords were in Citrus County, Florida, about 90 miles northwest of Tampa, near the Gulf of Mexico, for Kathy to go for a swim – along with the adorable, gentle Manatees of the Crystal. River.

Brittanica describes manatees as “large, slow-moving aquatic mammals found along the tropical and subtropical Atlantic coasts and associated inland waters.” Dull gray, blackish or brown in color, all three … have a sturdy, tapered body ending in a flat, rounded tail used for forward propulsion. The forelimbs are changed into fins; there are no hind limbs. Manatees are huge mammals, some reaching 100 feet in length and weighing up to 3,650 pounds. ‘

“I have always been fascinated by these creatures,” said Ford. “Our family takes an annual trip to New Smyrna Beach, near Daytona, and we watched them from the piers. It’s funny to see their (nose) come out of the water every five minutes or so for some air; the water just ripples.

Manatees come to the warmer waters of the Crystal River from November to March, when the temperature is a constant 72 degrees. Ford signed up for a visit in February and the couple traveled to the manatee capital of the world to take time to swim with the friendly “sea cows.”

“I love to snorkel and doing it wearing a wetsuit with the manatee so close is hard to describe,” Ford said. “You are not allowed to touch them although they are friendly and not afraid of you being near them (there is no risk of a swimmer being bitten by a manatee; their teeth are near their eyes – a vision problem).

Ford said it was a wonderful feeling to come up close and watch the manatees face to face. “I plan to go back next year,” she said. “Other family members have said they want to join me in swimming with the (manatees) and we are planning to do so.”

They say apples don’t fall far from the tree, and so Ford’s younger brother Randy, another Goodyear retiree who is learning to fly airplanes with the ambition of becoming a professional pilot, traveled with his two daughters and his wife at the most magical aquarium in the world, eager to scuba dive and swim with whale sharks and manta rays.

Yes, you can do that at the multi-million dollar Georgia Aquarium, located in downtown Atlanta. Its literature indicates that the 10 million gallon aquarium includes six distinct galleries with more than 70 amazing habitats “where one can observe and better understand the thousands of species of marine animals that include such majestic animals as sharks. -whales, manta rays, the aforementioned dolphins. , belugas, sea otters, exotic fish and much more ”,

The literature indicates that with 4,474 square feet of viewing windows, a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel (for viewers, both seated and walking), and 185 tons of acrylic windows (protecting viewers from 10 million gallons of water) which are the largest in the world at 23 feet high and 2 feet thick, “Visitors will have multiple opportunities to see all of these magnificent animals,” including watching people swim. in this water with (under) the whale sharks.

The Gunters underwent an hour’s training before being allowed to dive into the giant reservoir to begin swimming alongside the “Gentle Giants of the Sea.” A website states that the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slowly moving, filter-feeding carpet shark, and the largest known extant species of fish, with some reaching 62 feet in length. They are by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrates.

Gunter said he’s not sure what to expect, but the experience has exceeded any expectations he might have had. “It was a great thing to do; it’s not every day that you can go 25 to 30 feet underwater and swim with the biggest fish on earth, ”he said with a smile. “Absolutely, I want to do it again. ”

Harry D. Butler, a former broadcaster, is a motivational speaker and author of “Early Alabama Radio Stations, 1920-1960”. Butler periodically sits down with someone notable, then brings the conversation to the readership.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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