Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekend On The Gulf Of Florida ... Where Do I Begin?

Every year my wife's side of the family has a summer get together. The location rotates from year to year.
This year, since most of them live in the New Port Richey area, we said, "Let's keep it simple and just go out to eat one evening and then spend the weekend at the camp out in the Gulf. "


"Summer School" (my boat, newbies) was pressed into service as a shuttle, as was the boat of my brother'nlaw Chuck.
The plan was that we would ferry people and cargo (food!) out to the camp beneath a beautiful blue Florida sky.

Reality check ... see above photo.

At departure time, Chuck's boat would not start and mine (which had just got back from the shop) was acting kind of cranky.
Chuck is pretty much the sweetest, nicest person on the planet, so it wasn't long before a friend had loaned him not one, but two boats, one of them being the tiny little Craig Cat boat off in the distance in the top photo.

Now, I would not have taken my children out into that maelstrom if we were just going boating. We were heading out to that camp off in the distance. All we had to do was avoid waterspouts (yes, there was one) and lightning for a short distance and then we would have shelter.

Safety first you know.

A seabird flying inland under a storm cloud is not the best harbinger of a good day at sea, but sometimes they get it wrong.

After a brief squall, the sky cleared as it so often does in Florida, and the rest of the day was excellent with calm seas and just the right amount of cloud cover to buffer that Florida sun.
I took the photo above from Summer School as I circled the camp in the afternoon.

My niece Mckenzie is demonstrating the most common use for the inside ... eating.

The camp is basically a cube of shelter sitting atop pilings driven into the Gulf bottom. It's a one room cabin with some beds, galley, and a table inside. Most of the time at camp is spent in the water or on the wraparound deck, so the inside is barely used anyway.

This device was a truly amazing kid occupier. The little ones loved bouncing on it and were content to play on it for long periods of time, which meant the big kids were free to snorkel, tube, wakeboard, etc. The bottom of the raft is mesh so the ocean comes on in with you.

Most of us were in the water continuously, getting out only long enough to eat or drink, and then jumping back in.

A few of us spent part of the day snorkeling slowly looking for cousin Jeff's wedding ring which slipped off when he playfully lept from the little Craig Cat two seater boat as it zoomed by. We all knew it was a needle in a very big haystack, but we had to try just in case.
We looked really hard, but never found it. Mine is out in the Gulf too, somewhere off Cedar Key, so I could relate.

Junior (driving) and his cousin Jeff scooting around on the borrowed Craig Cat boat. Junior's usual Prince Valiant hairstyle is blown back by the wind in this picture and I can see the man who's been quietly growing beneath the curtain of teenager bangs.

In the upper left picture, Katie is demonstrating that even though we are 10 generations removed from Minorca, the Mediterranean "talk with your hands" gene is still active in our line. She's explaining something to boyfriend Conner who seems to actually understand her.

The lower left picture shows the two newlyiest weds, Monica and Jeff being serenaded by Jeff's brother Joey. Both "boys" spent time in Iraq and/or Afghanistan with the US Army ... as did their older brother Professor Chuck who couldn't be here for this trip.

The upper right photo is my niece going for the last wakeboard ride of the day and in the bottom photo, another niece with a pinfish she caught and released.

I had some dockside contemplation time.

Tranquil looking isn't it?

Well, it was just setting us up for one more adventure ... lulling us into a sense of complacency.

At around 10:00 pm, with another squall coming in off the Gulf, we headed in to port. We had enjoyed a long day and an evenings fireworks display put on by Chuck, so the day had turned out very nice considering it's stormy beginning. Some of our clan spent the night out at camp, but we had not planned to do that on this trip so our day was complete ... we thought.

The rain was cold as I piloted Summer School back into the 'Cotee river channel, but it was a short ride to Chuck's house where I could moor her for the night.
We tied her off in a light rain and headed to our lodgings for showers and bed.

The phone rang as I was just dropping off to sleep.
It was Joey, a little breathless ...
"It's pouring out here and your boat is filling with water... I just bailed it out, but it's still coming down hard. It's going to fill again, it was full to the gunwales when I started bailing."

Now, my Carolina Skiff will not sink, even full of water, but obviously that is not a good thing, so I said, " We'll be right there!"

Back out into the rain (and now some pretty incredible lightning) we went.

Mrs. FC followed in one vehicle because I had to leave the JEEP at the boat ramp park, and then get driven over to Chuck's house where Summer School was floundering. It was one of those tropical downpours that causes road flooding in a matter of minutes and we drove through flooded streets most of the way.
At one point, I got out and walked down the center of the road just to make sure it wasn't too deep to drive through.

We made it to Nick's Park and left the JEEP and trailer there, then drove to Chuck's.

I had my finger's crossed that being flooded would not have shorted anything out and that the 12 year old Johnson motor would start.
It did!
With some much appreciated assistance from Katie's boyfriend Conner who came along to help, we shoved off and cruised slowly out the canal and into the river in a driving rain with lightning cracking overhead.

It was 12:45 am.

The nice thing about loading your boat in the middle of the night in a tropical thunderstorm is you have the boat ramp all to yourself. Strangely, no one else was loading or launching their boat at that hour.

We got her loaded and drove back through flooded streets, anticipating the second hot shower of the evening.

In the end, the weekend was a great success punctuated with moments of tribulation and challenge.

Situation normal.


Emily said...

I love the new header! Sounds like it was an exciting and fun weekend. The camp house must be a blast.

Susan said...

Aaaaaahhh! Such is Florida!!!

My SW Florida vacation is coming up soon, and I'm really gettin' in the mood.

roger said...

wow!!! nice camp ya got there. nice family too.

Miz S said...


How cool is that?

I assume one of the reasons that Mrs. FC came along on the boat mission was to re-start your heart in case you got struck by lightning.

Stop distracting me with these interesting posts. I have cherries to pit, for God's sake!

VitaminSea said...

We had some super BIG thunderstorms this weekend and almost all of them were at night. I wouldn't want to be out in the stilt house during one of those squalls!
But overall, sounds like a great time and a lot of fun!

And I LOVE the photo on the new header!

Sharon said...

Looks like a great weekend, and I also love the new header :) My Dad's first wedding band is in the Atlantic.

caroline said...

Headed for our family camp on Lake Champlain this week, same scenario. However, we are only on stilts in the water during spring run-off, dry land otherwise.
Indoors for sleeping, cooking, etc., all meals on screened porch on lake side of house, regardless of weather. Breakfast on the porch in your ski jacket is an interesting experience, but sunrise over Vermont is a treasure from the NY side of the lake no matter what.Beautiful Florida sunset you have added.
Caroline in South Dakota

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great that came at a perfect time for you and your family. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it either one of these family camp gatherings or family scallop hunting trips when you tried to amputate a part of your body? JA-ing....Just askin'

jojo said...

So glad you're back... now try not to do that again!!! i put up one of those things you have on the side bar, too. and i had like a 3 day reminder no new post from FC. Kept thinking he's taking this really hard.

But i'm so glad you had all these adventures to snap out of it. Dangerous eh? Lightening and alligators are my only florida fears.

SwampAngel65 said...

Even with the storms, it sounds wonderful! You are so fortunate to have a place like that to go to...most of us dream...

Anonymous said...

OK, how did you manage to build the camp? Was it once a fish-house? I'm trying to figure how you managed to skirt the regulatory shoals--hazard to navigation etc. But way cool anyway.

Anonymous said...

"The nice thing about loading your boat in the middle of the night in a tropical thunderstorm is you have the boat ramp all to yourself. Strangely, no one else was loading or launching their boat at that hour."

I love the way you stay so positive while dodging lightning!!!!

That camp is very cool. I am glad you guys had so much fun.


kathy a. said...

what a wonderful weekend! even with the boat crises.

Cathy S. said...

Oh, I was hoping that was where you were going. Though with so many kinfolk around you didn't get much time to think. Well, maybe that was for the best.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Explain to me again: Why is it that you had the boat ramp all to yourself?

Anonymous said...

learned about your blog a while ago and enjoy it very much.Love your pictures and will keep following them. Thanks jabo

lej619 said...

Glad your back and had a little bit of good old florida liquid sunshine!

Floridacracker said...

About the camp ... just so I don't repeat myself too much ... my wife grew up camping out there in her Dad's camp. Her uncles had camps too.
That original camp was lost in the noname storm of 93. Now,we alternate between two camps that are either friends or a joint ownership with my brotherinlaw.

Pretty special experience to be out there. We all love it.

I hope it goes great! Bring an umbrella, the forecast has been stuck on 50% chance of Tstorms all summer.

they are exceedingly nice and yet they still accept me.

Miz S,
Tres coolio my friend.
So is it pie yet??

Glad you like that Gulf sunset ... you probably have a million just like it!

Alright, I'm buying a metal detector.

That sounds excellent ... a sweetwater version of this salty camp. Have a great time!

All parts returned home this time.

Those are two good fears.
Thanks for missing PF while it was static.
I think we're back on track again.

You're right. It's a very special place and I pinch myself when I'm out there.

Great questions. The camps are old and grandfathered in. You can't do this anymore.
Repairs and upkeep are allowed, but if a storm destroys most of it, you can't rebuild.

If you've ever seen some of the short tempered weekend boatrampers, you know an empty ramp is worth a few near misses with lightning :)

Kathy A,
Every boat is a crisis.
Damn things!!!
Can't live with them, can't live without them.

Cathy S,
That was the idea. :)
A break from thought.

Well, see, it was dark, raining, and electric, so ...

Welcome! Thanks!

Plenty of the liquid kind! Thanks!

Freste said...

Yabba dabba do, that looks like fun. Despite the storms, there's nothing like open water. Closest thing here like that is the headlands under mile high redwood trees. Love the shade and the smell of ferns and eucalyptus but it looks like the gulf can revitalize anyone in an instant.

Stacy said...

The camp looks awesome! I've never seen one of those before. Anyway, enjoyed the pictures. I don't get to go to the beach this year so I'm living vicariously through the pictures on everyone's blogs.

Floridacracker said...

The Gulf WILMAke anyone feel better.

No beach!!
I will get more pictures to post for you.