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Manatees are truly magnifi cent creatures. But they are very shy and for the majority of us, even the lucky ones who live here on Marco, the most we ever get to see of them is a glimpse of their nostrils as they surface briefl y, or the splash of their tails as they dive quickly out of sight. Well, now all that has changed. A husband and wife team, Captains Barry and Carol Berger, are offering guaranteed personal manatee sightseeing trips for a maximum of 6 passengers on their 13 passenger rated boats, which really do give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. And guess what? If you don't see a manatee you don't have to pay for the trip!They are based at Port of the Islands and on a recent trip with them we were just minutes from the dock when we made our fi rst sighting. Captain Barry was very knowledgeable and informative. He told us what to look for - a circular motion on the surface of the water - the manatee's "footprint" which is a sure sign one is close by.And suddenly, right there beside us, an enormous creature surfaced. He looked curiously at us, almost as if we were the ones behind the bars in the zoo and he was just visiting! His barnacled back was just within our grasp and he was so huge and gentle hovering there so close. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he sank elegantly from sight. It was awesome.We lost count of the many manatees we met and the 1½ hour tour just fl ew by. We hadn't traveled very far in terms of miles but we learned an incredible amount - and boy did we have fun!submitted tour photoby Kate QuesadaYOU WILL TREASURE OUR MANATEE SIGHTSEEING ADVENTURE

If you're a regular reader you may recognize the faces of Jessica and Michael Carter from the Fishy Photo competiton in our last edition. Jessica and Michael sent us some great photos which they took when they went fi shing on their own boat on their fi rst visit to Marco last Thanksgiving. As Jessica put it... "we've never been with a guide and usually just muddle around getting lucky now and again!" Well they got lucky in a big way when they won our competition and landed a half day offshore charter trip with Capt Randy Hamilton of Wild Thing Charters. We asked Jessica (a 1st grade teacher) to let us have an account of their trip, together with some photos to prove they weren't exagerating about what they caught! We hope her story below inspires you to send us your fi shy photos and, who knows, you may get lucky too and be the next winning contestant to get out there on the water with one of our many great charter captains on a search for your own personal Moby Dick! "My husband and I headed back to Marco Island on March 17 with a stay through March 21. We had been watching the weather for the weeks leading up to our trip and it just kept getting better and better! Friday morning we were scheduled for a half day trip with Capt Randy of Wild Thing Charters. We showed up at Rose Marina about 15 minutes early and shopped the ship's store. It is loaded with everything you could possibly want or need out on the water. Many people were milling around, excited to be catching the tour boat to head to Key West for the day. I felt a little envious that I was not going with them! The sun was just rising and the weather was heading into the 80s. As I watched from afar, the guides were all talking with one another and you could tell there was a wonder-ful rapport amongst all the guides. I overheard them talking about where they were headed that day. Capt Randy invited Michael and I to come aboard his boat. It was large and would easily accommodate 6 people. As we motored out, we had the opportunity to get a chance to know Capt Randy better. We found out that he grew up about 45 minutes from where I grew up in Pennsylvania. It is such a small world! He was a very personable guide and really made you feel comfortable and welcome.Shark or goliath grouper? (or maybe both!)Once we reached the wreck, he helped get our lines out in the water immediately. The water was churned up from the hard tides of the full moon. We began to catch Spanish Mackerel, a young king fish, and let out line for a shark. It was a steady bite, and the mackerel proved to be a good catch. Capt Randy used them to bait