I was out at the beach, wading back to shore in about navel-deep water. About 20 feet in front of me closer to the beach was a dark patch of underwater seaweed — of which there is not much on Florida beaches. Then I noticed that the patch of seaweed was being dragged towards me on the undertow, which was strange. In an instant, the dark patch was next to my hip, 8 feet long and as wide as the trunk of an oak tree... brown speckled skin: A manatee. He was past me before I could really react, and had swum on to visit a couple of people standing 20 feet further out. (I had just enough time to shout, "Hey, a manatee is heading for you!") His big snout came up in front of them for a few seconds, then submerged again, and his big rear flipper made a splash out out of the water, and he was gone.
Because I have a lot of readers from other countries who might not know what a manatee is, here is a video below. A manatee is a water mammal, sort of like a gentle walrus. They are vegetarians and hang out normally in canals and inlets where there is underwater vegetation and the water is a bit warmer. Cousin Paul says that they are friendly and curious, and will come up and visit with humans who venture into their habitat (or vice versa, as happened wtih me). However, they are a protected species in Florida, and messing around with them (or chasing after them, especially in water craft) is strictly prohibited.