After a few days at St. George State Park we headed back down the island to the beach house for another long weekend with some friends who came down from Atlanta. We always love to meet up with friends, but by this time we’d discovered something interesting about ourselves that we sort of already knew, we don’t particularly like staying outside the bus.
I know most people think we’re crazy for living in such a small space, but for us it’s not even something we think about, it’s home. We’re also used to being outside all the time. And I mean that pretty close to literally. If we’re awake, we’re generally outside, it’s the best thing about the way we live. The thing is, it turns out that even we will stay indoors given the opportunity. Even though we know we’re happier outside. I don’t really have a good explanation or solution, other than having a tiny house.
In the end though I know I probably sound like an asshole. Having access to a beach house, as well as an open-ended schedule that allows a more or less unlimited amount of time in this area, and yet deciding that we’ve had enough of the beach isn’t going to endear me to anyone. But there it is.
Sometimes you need a change, no matter how nice it is where you are.
There were also a couple practical considerations that drove us to leave about 10 days before we’d originally planned.
The first was that it’s starting to get hot down here. The second, and far more important reason, is that the bus needs new brakes. I called at least a dozen mechanics between New Orleans and Apalachicola and not one of them was willing or able to do the job.1 Just outside of Athens, however, there’s a truck mechanic whose been working on m300 series Dodge chassis since they were coming off the factory line. We also have friends and family willing to put us up in Athens, so to Athens we went.
But not before we went to a classic car and boat show over in Apalachicola.
I’m not really much impressed by cars these days, I was in it for the boats. Unfortunately there were only a couple boats, very nice boats, extremely well preserved/made/taken care of, but only three of them.
There are plenty of people keeping cars alive, but far too few keeping maritime traditions going. Future generations will suffer because we’ve turned our back on the sea as a culture. But so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.
If you want classic boats and maritime history though, Apalachicola has you covered. The Maritime Museum has quite a few restorations and a few more in progress.
The museum’s current big restoration project is The Golden Ball, a 50 foot wooden sloop, designed by L. Francis Hereschoff and built especially for the west coast of Florida, thanks to its shallow draw (2.5 ft) and leeboard stabilizing system (controlled with block and tackle, no winches or motors). There’s a video on YouTube of her arrival in Apalachicola (on the back of a truck) along with the donor talking a little about the boat.
It’s a far larger boat than I would want — should we ever decide we want a boat — but boy would it be awesome to sail a wooden ship around the world. Nothing says fun like a family struggling to careen a worm-eaten 50-ft wood ship on some south pacific atoll. The family that careens together stays together. Probably not actually. When you come down to it, fiberglass was a pretty brilliant invention, probably up there with the ability to calculate longitude reliable on the things-that-revolutionized-seafaring scale.
Anyway our friends had never really spent any time in Apalachicola so we wandered the town for a bit, walked around the Maritime Museum and docks, along with the old canneries and warehouses that line Water Street.
Since no one else was interested, I wandered off to stick my head in the tent where the Golden Ball was being restored.
There was no one around, it was just a big canvas shed that I guessed was covering a boat. I poked my head in, snapped a few pictures and was getting ready to head off to catch up with everyone else when a voice said, “you can go in”. I turned around and an older gentleman was crossing the street coming toward me. He gestured to the giant tent and said go in.
I said I already had. It’s a beautiful ship I told him.
He said, “thanks, but it still needs a lot of work.”
“True,” I said, “but that’s the fun part.” I told him a little about restoring the bus, far simpler than his project, but the only restoration I’ve ever done. We talked about the beauty of fiberglass over wood and metal when it comes to surviving long-term exposure to the elements.
He looked at me for a bit and then squinted a little and said, “you want to help restore this thing?”
“Absolutely,” I said. Learning wooden ship building is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, along with welding, sewing, sailing, tracking, hunting, and several dozen other skills I’ve yet to pick up. “The problem is I don’t live around here. Worse than that I don’t really live anywhere.”
“Well, that’s easy to fix.” He smiled, “you need to move here.”
I laughed. “True, that would be the simple solution.” And it’s not often someone more or less offers to teach you wooden ship restoration. It was tempting. The most tempting settle-down-in-one-place offer I’ve had. “Someday we might,” I told him, “we do love Apalachicola, but right now we’re having too much fun on the road. Good luck with her though.”
“Thank you. And if you ever change your mind, come on down, I’m sure I’ll still be here.” He smiled.
We shook hands and he ducked inside the tent.
I set off down the street, walking fast to catch up with the family.
There actually is one I’m pretty sure would have been capable, and had worked on the bus last year, but he was booked up three weeks out. ↩