Spending time flapping her fin and blowing bubbles
By Brittany Llorente
PORT ST. LUCIE -- For more than 20 years, Cynthia Lott learned to swim with the fish, get up close and personal with the reefs but there was another life waiting for her under the sea.
Ms. Lott is an environmental specialist III for the Department of Environmental Protection for the southeast district of Florida and a state of Florida unit dive safety instructor.
Being under the water, the ins and outs of the oxygen tanks, flippers and underwater safety are no stranger to Ms. Lott.
"I put individuals through rigorous training and safety training and once a year I put them through training for rescue and oxygen administration," she said. "I authorize their diving activities for the Department of Environmental Protection, make sure they have a good plan for their type of work and that they have everything they need."
During a DEP meeting in Tallahassee, she talked to a fellow dive instructor about what they wanted to do when they retired.
"I just said to her, 'Just think! You can become an opera singer!" she said. "And she was like, 'No way, I want to be a mermaid!' and I said, 'Get out! I've always wanted to be a mermaid!'"
It had been a childhood dream of Ms. Lott's.
In high school, while Ms. Lott attended school on the West coast of Florida, Weeki Wachee Springs had an essay contest on why that student would want to be a Weeki Wachee mermaid.
Weeki Wachee holds mermaid camps throughout the year, teaching students and adults how to swim underwater like a mermaid and use compressed air tubes.
"I was a surfer, I always surfed and I was a surfer until I was 50," Ms. Lott said. "I always thought being a mermaid was cool. I didn't win the contest though and my heart was broken."
Many years later, she signed up for a camp at Weeki Wachee called Sirens of the Sea.
"I spent three days there and learned an awful lot and realized it is more difficult having mermaid skills than we have as divers," she said. "You're not wearing a face mask, a scuba tank, weights, a buoyancy vest or anything... you're just swimming with a tail."
The small breathing hose that most of the mermaids use was the hardest for Ms. Lott to learn to use.
"It is like a small hookah hose," she said. "You have to open your mouth while under water, insert the hose, spit out the water, turn on the air and then try not to float up to the top."
After being a little discouraged -- after all, she was a state certified diving instructor -- Ms. Lott learned how to use the breathing tube after three days when most took more than three months to learn.
Being a mermaid has given Ms. Lott a new appreciation and respect for professional mermaids.
"When I retire, I would really like to work as a part time mermaid," she said. "I'm 64 years old and I'm gorgeous and everything and I was told that all the mermaids are young," she said, laughing. "I frowned and said, 'Well anytime you need a mermaid though, I'm there!'"
In the meantime, Ms. Lott spends her time swimming with her mermaid tail around the pool and in the ocean.
The tail is a little hard to put on and once it is on, there is no walking.
"If you've ever tried putting on your skinny jeans after washing them, it's that hard," she said. "You kind of lie on the dock like a flounder and you sort of flounder and wiggle your way into the tail. Then, you roll over into the water like a seal. It's total fun."
Every time the tail goes on, she is able to live out a fantasy.
It invigorates her and lets her be as young as she feels.
"I really hope this inspires someone to go and be a mermaid," she said. "They have mermaid camps at Weeki Wachee for little girls and big girls. When you're all done you're a certified mermaid. It's great fun!"
For more information on Weeki Wachee Springs, visit weekiwachee.com.