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Wild ride off Florida unnerves fisherman

Jan 1, 2003

Two Florida fishermen had the ride of their lives recently while tryingto spend a quiet morning on the hook off Ponce Inlet. The men suddenly found themselves being towed by their anchor rode at more than six knots through the water by an unidentified sea creature.

"They were first concerned that whatever it was going to tow them into the rock jetties, but then it turned and started heading offshore," said John Bowman, an engineer on a Coast Guard 41-footer that responded to the boat's distress call. Once on scene an hour and a half later, the Coast Guard team discovered the 24-foot FMP vessel was unable to stop the creature, and the fishermen's 16-foot vessel, equipped with a 90-hp outboard, was pulled forward despite being run at full astern. "They didn't cut the line because they didn't want to hurt whatever it was."

Finally, Bowman and his four crewmates transferred the anchor line to the 41 and together began hauling in the line. Twenty minutes later, a giant shadow appeared beneath their vessel and the wing of an enormous manta ray surfaced. "The one wing came out of the water and towered over us. Our boat has a 13-foot beam, and it was just as wide, which means that the total wingspan must have been from 18 to 23 feet. This thing was unreal; it was huge," Bowman said. The animal, which eventually freed itself from the Danforth anchor and swam away, is believed to have weighed 2,000 pounds.

"If that ray had found deep water , that little boat definitely would have gone under instantly ," he added.


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