Thursday, August 02, 2007

Camping At Sea

So where was I?
The "camp" in the photo above sits about a half mile offshore of New Port Richey, Florida. It belongs to a friend of ours who graciously allowed us to use it this week. The photo is looking through the remains of my wife's family's camp. It was destroyed in a storm and the state only allows repairs, not replacement. All that is left are the pilings that stand as a monument to the generations of her family who spent countless happy days and nights out in the Gulf of Florida.
When we were dating, and I had not gone home to "meet the parents" yet, the future Mrs. FC tried to describe their camp and how fun it was to live out in the Gulf for days at a time. For her, "going out to camp" was a regular part of every childhood summer. Before I made it out there,I pictured something on the shoreline, extending out a little bit, but these camps are out there.
There's only a handful left. They are a wonderful remnant from a Florida that was less crowded, less busy, ... less disconnected from itself.
I met Johnny Cash out at a camp like this.
That's another story though.

The basic design of any of these camps is a rectangular open room about as big as a two car garage. Around the perimeter of the room are beds, a galley, and dining table. They are rugged plywood cabins with decking and shuttered open windows all the way around to catch the Gulf breezes. When I say "open windows", I mean there is no screen or glass, just openings in the plywood walls that can be securely battened down using the heavy plywood shutters. When a rain squall comes up, you close the shutters on the side where the rain's coming in until it passes ... or you sleep in a wet bed.

Here's my boat, "Summer School", moored at the landward side of the camp. Doesn't she look happy to be there?

The purpose of the trip was an early birthday celebration for Junior (white shorts). His actual birthday is next month, but September is the worst of the hurricane season, so we did the "boys in the Gulf" celebration now.

The knuckleheads didn't waste any time once they got there. A few minutes after we arrived, they were wrestling and leaping crazily into the water. This top deck is about 6 feet above high tide water level. At high tide you jump into about 8 feet of water and at low tide there's only a couple of feet.

The water was spectacularly clear and green. Besides being excellent for leaping in to, the clear water was also super for snorkeling and fish watching.

We fished some too.

One of the neat things (there are many) about being out at camp is that it reduces life to the fundamentals. Not totally of course, or we would have had no time for fun. Still, when you are at camp, you only have the food, water, and ice you brought with you. There is no A/C, no internet, no water heaters ... showers are cold and very, very short. Rinse - turn off the water- soap up- turn on the water.

Waste freshwater out there and see how fast you catch hell.

Anything you forgot ... you do without.

It's good for teenagers to experience this, I think.

Fundamentals ...

...and when a storm comes, you batten down the hatches and endure it. The one above came Monday night. At the time, when it finally passed and the lightning subsided, we thought that was about as bad as we would ever see out at camp.

We were wrong.

The real monster came Tuesday night ...

... I'll share that with you tomorrow.


OldHorsetailSnake said...

You paint pretty pictures with your camera, and your words. Thanks, FC.

Cathy S. said...

Oh, I have been thinking about you. The weather has been horrific. I was hoping somehow it had bypassed you. Guess not. Glad you are alive to tell about it.

Anonymous said...


Tell Junior Happy Birthday from the Band-aid.

Sharon said...

What a great place to go. Love that pic of the rain coming, and your new header. Happy birthday to Jr. :)

misti said...

Ah, reminds me of the Stiltsville out in Biscayne Bay! Didn't realize there were more around Florida.

Do tell the Johnny Cash story...

Deb said...

Sounds like my life, on water. Especially the shower thing.

But it does sound a lot more fun!

charless said...

Your Header Photo is very reminiscent of a Jack Vettriano!

robin andrea said...

What an interesting place to spend a few days. I had no idea about camps like this. Great way to spend a few days, celebrating Jr's birthday. Nice. Tuesday's storm sounds like a very good story. Do tell.

SophieMae said...

Glad y'all all survived and made it home, presumably, in one piece.

I am so totally jealous! I always wished we could spend a few days in one of those places. Should've known Mrs. FC's family owned one.

The storm picture is AbFab! Alas, it's got that missing link thing, so I can't see the full-size version. 8-\

Peggy said...

WOW WOW WOW --super place (I am a delightful shade of green that you got to STAY there!!). The storm photo (uh oh, what's next?) is extremely impressive. You are having a good summer!

pablo said...

That new photo in your banner is really very good.

rcwbiologist said...

My God that looks fun!!!

Thunder Dave said...

I agree with Pablo, the new pic is great!

What an awesome shot of the storm too. It reminds me of how we could see the big "anvil heads" rolling in back in Kansas, without the Gulf waters of course!

LauraO said...

Pablo, what a great place for your kids to experience. Loved the storm photos, too. I'll say it again - I miss Florida, and especially watching a storm out in the Gulf. It's really something to see - though I prefer to see it from land. Looking forward to your next post.

Scott aka Florida Native Musings said...

Totally Great Pics FC. I have been on one of these camps up in the panhandle and it is too cool, cept ours was in St. Joe Bay.

Great shot of the salute. That pic could win some awards.

Yours in the Bond

jojo said...

FC why is it that those that own them can't build them back up after a hurricane takes it down? I spent my childhood summers out on one in stiltsville, so idyllic. and then i think it was gone, after andrew. I lost touch with that family. But why? I never understood it.

Floridacracker said...

Thanks buddy!

Cathy S,
Thanks for thinking of us. We really were in the thick of it about 2:00am Wed. morning.

Thaaaaaaaaaanks dude. Will do on the BD wish.

It is a magical place, that's for sure.

Yup, stiltsville is similar,but being Miami, I believe those are more upscale these days. These still have a good rustic feel.

But without snow :)

Okay, now I have to google that. Apparently part of my cultural awareness is missing :)

It is a special place and I always feel blessed to be out there ... even in a storm.

All home in one piece minus a few barnacle scrapes. I thought you would be familiar with the camps due to your past life.

I don't know about that link problem. I'll check in to it.

Thanks! If you think a photo is impressive, than I know I done good :)

Father of the groom,
Thank you for that compliment.

Oh man it is! The kids weren't the only ones leaping liking nutcases!
No pics of that tho :)

I bet it does look similar ... only no cellar to crawl into ...

Okay now, I'm FC, Pablo is the rascal above who writes the wonderful Roundrock Journal :)
I have some more Gulf weather pics, but none of the big storm due to it's 2:00 am arrival.

St. Joe Bay has to be one of the world's prettiest places. Lucky you.

The camps were built in a time when you could just go out and do it. Florida's population was still of an appropriate size, not bloated like now.
The state has exerted it's ownership powers on the seabottom and camp owners must lease their location from Florida.
The state would prefer the camps were gone, so their rules are designed to slowly eliminate them through storm attrition.
Hence, repairs only and they have some damage percentage that precludes repairs even.

roger said...

double, triple extra super cool!

Anonymous said...

I hope that you leave that new header photo is just awesome!!!!!!!!!!! And as I was reading this post I was thinking to myself...we had some pretty wicked storms this week...and wow did you get a great picture of one of them. Although I am rather envious of the 'camp' (it truly is beautiful out there)...I am one to run and hide under the bed during the least little I am uncertain whether I would be a very 'happy camper' during the summer storm season ;)...beautiful photographs by the way...!!!

smilin-buddha said...

Great looking place. Reminds me of a cover on a old Randy Wayne White book. Florida deaming.

Floridacracker said...

ditto thanks!

Glad you like the pics. You might enjoy the camp more in the spring when storms are few!

I hear ya. I just discovered Mr. White this year and I have thought the same thing.
Welcome to Pure Florida!

kathy a. said...

the boys crack me up! another vote for the great photos, especially the new header.

sounds like you had a fabulous time at a special place. i had no idea camps like that existed, but would have dearly loved to have gone to one as a teenager. [now, too, actually.]

my husband's grandparents had a cabin in the mountains when he was a kid -- it was just a shack, really, no electricity or conveniences. he would spend weeks with them in the summer, out of the heat of california's central valley. fishing, hiking, spashing in streams, cooking over fires -- they are some of his fondest memories.

me, i'm a suburban girl. we camped in backyards. not the same thing.

threecollie said...

Some things are almost too beautiful to imagine. The storm photo gave me cold chills!

And cold showers are an everyday thing here at Northview, (sometimes even in winter). Getting wood for us women is just not much of a priority for the guys in haying season.

Floridacracker said...

Kathy A,
These boys are a silly, wacky, creative bunch. Lots of fun to be around. It's neat to think that camps and cabins all over the country are providing great memories even now.
Suburban backyards too :)

Brrrrr! Cold showers on a regular basis. You're tough!