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View from the Bow
View from the Stern
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Big Bend Scenic Byway
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Events Calendar

August 3rd - Return to the era of Steamboat travel with the unveiling of the Steam Engine exhibit where a live working steam engine can be operated by visitors.  In addition to the working steam engine on display in the museum, we will have our two working steam launches on display at the museum and, weather permitting, we will offer a limited number of rides aboard.  In addition we will have on display our new collection of steam whistles which can be operated by visitors and steam gauges.


August 10th - Cooling the South.  The first of our renewed lecture series will be a presentation by author and photographer Elli Morris which brings back to life the manufactured ice business that helped shape the American South.  The free lecture will be at 7 PM followed by a low country boil and reception on the docks ($12).  Click here to register online, or call us at 850-653-2500.

August 14th - Return to the era of Spanish sailing vessels with the unveiling of our new artifacts from that era including a bronze rail cannon, cannon balls, a glass jug and a copper ingot. 

August 20th and 21st - Full moon paddle trip and Starfish cruise trips.  On the paddle trips will depart from our Breakaway paddle sports facility for a moonlit trip down the Apalachicola River arriving at the AMM docks.  The paddle group will be accompanied by a support vessel to help ensure safety.  Check in for the trip must be by 6 PM at the AMM facility at 103 Water Street from which paddlers will be shuttled by van to the launch site at Breakaway to allow equipping with boat and gear.  Experienced paddlers only for this trip please.  The trip cost is $20.  Click here to learn more about our new Paddle Sports Facility. We will also be running full moon trips aboard the Starfish, departing the docks at 7 PM.  You are welcome to bring food and beverage on this trip. 

August 31st - Locals and member go free day.  We will be hosting a number of trips to the out islands and a sailing trip aboard our flagship vessel s/v Heritage.  We will also be (hopefully) christening the launch of the gaff sloop rigged sailboat Robert Baker that day and taking as many people as possible on sailing excursions.   Weather permitting, we will be hosting a reception at 7 PM on the docks to celebrate the launch of this magnificent addition to the active sailing fleet of the AMM.

Of course any day is a good day to visit the AMM locations on Water Street to see the many events taking place on a daily basis including wooden boat construction in our light craft workshop at the main museum building or the renovation of our two traditional wooden sailboat just down the street toward the bay where we are actively working on our renovation projects.


Wooden Boat Building Classes available by request! Visit our Wooden Boat School web page, or email us for more information.


Boat Tours available daily!  A variety of educational and recreational tours and excursions.  Click here for more information.  Book online with promo code "webstore" and get 20% off!


View from the Bow
By George K. Floyd and Augusta R. West

The Jean Mary is a paddlewheel vessel donated to the AMM by the legendary actress Debbie Reynolds.  She was originally powered by steam and has been since converted to diesel hydraulic.  The Jean Mary was originally hauled out to begin repairs in May 2012 near Jacksonville, Florida and has been a hub of activity since actual renovation work started in September 2012.  The most significant accomplishment this month was the completion of all steel bottom plating, testing, and painting including the installation of a hydraulic powered stern thruster to complement the recently replaced and upgraded one in the bow.   These thruster units will greatly improve maneuverability when navigating the swift currents of the Apalachicola River.  


Other accomplishments in July include the completion of the first prototype cabin, completion of all exterior siding on the top deck, continued renovation of electrical and plumbing systems, engine systems upgrade and rebuild and renovation of the calliope.  The launch date is expected to be in mid-September at of this writing.  We continue to prefer delays to deficiencies such that our focus on quality and reliability drives all of our decisions.  In addition, we plan to have the vessel fully restored and completed prior to start of the journey so that when she arrives, she will be ready to begin river travel all the way to Columbus, GA in the fashion of historical riverboats that once flourished between 1827 and 1927.  


She will carry up to 12 passengers and offer opulent accommodations, extraordinary dining and an unparalleled educational experience.  Once launched, the vessel will make the 800 mile journey to Apalachicola by traveling down the east coast waterway, through Lake Okeechobee, and then up the west coast waterway before making the open water transit from Tarpon Springs into her new home at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum docks.  


After a brief settling in period, we will quickly undertake promotional tours wherein educators, historians, writers and older residents of the river basin will come together to create a travel journal and video documentary to bring back a connection to the glorious age of paddlewheel boats upon the Apalachicola River in what we expect will become a new and emerging force of commerce and economic opportunity based on river life and travel.


View of the starboard side of the Jean Mary paddlewheeler currently undergoing renovation.


A view along the starboard side of the completed, tested and painted paddle wheeler hull. Note the graceful sweeps and curves that were formed in the steel plates..



Live oak planks specially milled at Sinkola Plantation Sawmill for the Jean Mary paddle wheel strakes being loaded for transport to Mayport, FL.
Paddle wheeler Engine rebuild underway on the primary propulsion Cummins diesel.


Renowned Naval Architect Jack Hargrave was the designer of Jean Mary. Originally commissioned for a family in Alabama, she was designed to capture the beauty and romance of the age of paddlewheelers while incorporating modern conveniences.  After changing owners a couple of times, Jean Mary was purchased by actress Debbie Reynolds. Unfortunately, her beloved boat sank in 2008. Ms. Reynolds donated the boat to the Maritime Museum so that she would be restored to her former splendor. Below is the text of a newspaper article about the boat's sinking from the St. Augustine Record:


Debbie Reynolds' boat sinks

'Jean Mary' was carrying antiques to Tennessee museum

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Movie star Debbie Reynolds, who played the lead role in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," bought a boat a few months ago. It sank on Friday in Green Cove Springs.  Reynolds, an actress, singer and dancer who came to fame in the 1950s and continues to perform, is also known for her collection of movie memorabilia that will become part of the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum next year in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.


And that's where her antique-filled boat was supposed to be he

aded on Wednesday.  "It was an adorable boat," Reynolds said, in a telephone interview from California. "You know, just really as cute as anything could be."  She said she still didn't understand why a boat would go down.  "When you have antiques you don't dip them in water," Reynolds said.


Todd Fisher, Reynolds' son, said "Jean Mary" was featured on television as one of the world's top 10 finest houseboats.  Fisher said he's seen the salvaged boat from a live video feed.  "It's pretty hammered," he said in a telephone interview from his office in California. "When I told her, she burst into tears."


John Hall, vice president of Mobro Marine in Green Cove Springs, said his team used a 450-ton crane to salvage the boat. Part of the boat was sitting in eight feet of water while docked at Reynolds Park Yacht Center a mile away.  Hall said deterioration on the side of the 75-foot-long boat must have been overlooked when the boat was surveyed. That created a hole big enough to sink it in about 10 minutes.  When lifting the boat out of the water, Hall said, his crew was careful not to damage it any further.  "It's decked out with super-expensive stuff," he said, adding that it is not uncommon for boats to sink.


Fisher, also CEO of the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, said about $100,000 worth of antique furniture was in the boat.  "'Gone With the Wind' Victorian furniture could've been in there," he said, laughing.


Reynolds' museum will hold the world's largest private collection of Hollywood memorabilia.  Fisher said his mother visited the $350,000 boat that was docked in St. Augustine by the previous owner.


"The family that owned it before put a lot of work into it for years and years," Reynolds said. "We were looking forward to living on it. We would sit out on the deck and sing and dance."


The plan was to float the boat up to Tennessee. Reynolds was to sing with her band on the boat around the museum as a publicity tour in October for a partial opening of the museum.  Fisher said he still would have to figure out if the amount of repair the boat needs is worth it.


Reynolds said she wouldn't replace a boat "you can't top." She said she would focus on filling up the 40,000-square-foot museum while on tour for the next couple months.  "You can see I won't be going by boat," Reynolds said.


Reynolds, an award-winning actress, has been acting for the past six decades and still performs.  Alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, she performed in the musical "Singin' in the Rain."  She received an Oscar nomination for her lead role in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."


She started a nonprofit corporation, Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, to preserve thousands of items she bought in an MGM auction in 1970.  Her collection includes dresses worn by Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.


Apalachicola steamboat builder Sam Johnson, circa 1900.
View from the Stern
by Research and Education Director Augusta R. West

During the age of steamboating on the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, over 200 vessels plied these waters, transporting passengers, mail, merchandise, produce, cotton, farm supplies, and more. This era lasted from approximately the 1830s to the 1920s.


One well-known paddlewheeler was the John W. Callahan. While many of the steamboats used here were built in other places, this sternwheeler was built by Apalachicola steamboat builder Sam Johnson. 

The boat's namesake, John W. Callahan, was a prominent businessman operating in Bainbridge, a southwest Georgia city on the Flint River. Beginning in the early 1900s, he used riverboats to ship farm products such as cotton, hay, watermelons, and corn.  These vessels ran three times a week between Bainbridge and Apalachicola. Callahan enlisted Sam Johnson to build the steamboat which would bear his name in 1907. The vessel would incorporate salvaged machinery from the sunken steamboat Gertrude into a fully modern vessel offering "first class passenger and freight service."


The new paddlewheeler was 153 feet long, 34.6 feet wide, and weighed just over 200 tons. Though not the largest steamboat on the river (some were over 200 feet long), this vessel would carry large quantities of merchandise and guano fertilizer, as well as naval stores from the area's turpentine industry. Such cargo was carried on the lower deck, while the upper level contained cabins and a dining room to accommodate passengers heading to Apalachicola and fisherman heading to the popular Dead Lakes. Tickets on the steamer included meals and berths. With electric lights and hot baths, the vessel was quite popular with travelers.


Like all paddlewheelers of the day, the Callahan made regular stops at the landings along the rivers, picking up and off-loading passengers, mail, and cargo at Bainbridge, River Junction, Blountstown, Bristol, Iola, Estiffanulga, Wewahitchka and Apalachicola.  Before rail lines and roads connected these destinations, the river was the highway of travel and trade. The trip from Bainbridge to Apalachicola took just under 24 hours. It departed Bainbridge twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays at 10:00 a.m., and arrived in Apalachicola on Mondays and Fridays at 8:00 a.m.


One of the Callahan's captains for a time was Billy Russell, who later died in the 1913 sinking of the Tarpon near Panama City.  The Tarpon connected passengers between Apalachicola and other destinations on the gulf.


The John W. Callahan finally sank in March of 1923, about 40 miles north of Apalachicola. Since such vessels represented a significant investment, they were hauled out and repaired whenever possible.  But the Callahan, resting in 45 feet of fast moving water, reportedly still rests on the bottom of the river in its watery grave.


Museum founder George Floyd's grandfather, Albert Floyd, was a boiler engineer on the Callahan. It was on this vessel that he met his future wife, Margaret Thomas, in 1917. She was travelling to visit her sister. Albert's father, Theodore Archibald Floyd, was the pilot at the time. The return of a paddlewheeler to the Apalachicola River is thus part of a long family tradition.



Note the initials "JWC" between the smokestacks, stevedores on the lower deck, and passengers on upper decks.
Photos courtesy State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Wooden Boat School Update
by AMM's Wooden Boat School Director Ron Dierolf

July was a rainy month - one of the wettest Julys in living memory according to some of the old-timers at the Museum and around town.  In spite of the weather, activities continued at the boat shop - some under the cover of tarps to keep off the rain.


The Museum completed a custom exhibition "boat" to be used by the Franklin County Tourist Development Council at functions around the county.  The boat is constructed to resemble an oyster boat complete with side rails and a Sampson post.  The center of the boat contains a cooler box which can be filled with ice and oysters.  Ron Dierolf, the director of the Wooden Boat School, designed the boat which was built by Ron, and Gene Dasher - one of the school staff members. 

Pirogues, small flat bottomed boats, were built by visitors hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and from near New York City.   This brings the total number of boats built to date this year to 12.  


Builders have come from all over the Midwest and east coast from Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana as well as from Florida.  The ages of builders range from 13 to 79 and have included grandfathers and grandsons, husbands and wives, singles, groups of friends, nieces, and bucket-listers.  The coming together of so many different people from different areas of the country has made for fun and interesting boatbuilding sessions.


To all of our Wooden Boat School Alumni - thank you for your interest in our programs and please send us more pictures.   While these boats are not really our children we do remember each and every one and we really enjoy seeing how you have painted and are using the boats!  


The eight children from the Franklin County Project Impact program completed their Pirogues in July.  The boats require final sanding and painting which will take place when school resumes in a few weeks and a graduation party complete with boat races will be held in September.  The program participants came from both the county school and the charter school and included both girls and boys.  The Museum worked in conjunction with the Project Impact staff to make the program a success and we plan on continuing and expanding the program in the coming years.  Faye Johnson, the program leader, was instrumental in helping the museum set up and conduct the program and we are grateful for her help, support, and hard work.

The Franklin County Project Impact program has received recognition from the Florida Department of Education and the boat building program is a small part of the overall program.  Congratulations to the local Project Impact staff!!  


The Wooden Boat School staff is working with Gulf Coast State College to establish a non-credit, enrichment course in boat building in association with the college.   Through this program we hope to interest more local residents in boatbuilding and perhaps help to revive an industry that flourished in this area until recently.  The Franklin County area was once the site of steamboat and sailboat building industries.  Boat building continued with a number of oyster boat producers located in the area.  However, in the past two decades boat building activity has declined to the point that few boats of any type are being built in this area.  Through the general building program and programs in association with local and regional schools the Museum hopes to further its mission of education and the preservation of the traditions and history of the Forgotten Coast.


Check out our website for our wooden boat building course offerings.  If you have questions, please email Ron Dierolf or stop by the museum.  We enjoy having visitors and would be happy to discuss your ambitions and help you build the boat of your choice.  


Youth boat building in partnership with Project Impact.
A grandfather and his grandson are two of our recent Wooden Boat School alumni to complete a pirogue.

psfOur New Paddle Sports Facility is Open to the Public!  
After a rain soaked launch in July, our Paddle Sports Facility has continued to mature with a broad level of enthusiasm among locals and visitors alike.  We have over 100 boats including solo and tandem kayaks, canoes, rowing boats, stand up paddleboards, and pirogues constructed in our own Wooden Boat School, there are a broad variety of choices for the paddling enthusiast.  Of special interest is the 16' triple fishing kayak constructed from recycled plastic at least a part of which was taken from the river system.  This is our newest and most stable kayak.  To paddle one of these beauties down the river is to complete the cycle from trash to thrill where we promote Recycling for Recreation.  These vessels were roto-molded at a plant within the river basin to our specifications.   All trips are available at a cost between $10 and $20.


This new facility allows paddle and rowing enthusiasts to journey the 3 miles down the big river to the AMM site or take the more adventurous 4 mile route through the Four Tree Cutoff and then south along the Little St. Marks into the past Little Bay, Towhead Island and back to the AMM by crossing the river just north of the bridge.  The trip can be completed in as little as an hour and a half by a strong paddler or take as much time as you want. 


We run trips by having a registration and check in at the museum location at 103 Water Street followed by use of a shuttle van to take paddlers to the Breakaway Lodge property where selection of boats, paddles, PFDs are made and assistance with the launch given.  Upon completing the trip at the AMM docks, paddlers simply leave all gear at the docks or on shore and then check in with the AMM Visitor Center to verify a safe return and then go to their cars parked nearby.  For large groups we will coordinate for parking at the Breakaway Lodge and provide van shuttle as necessary.  The cost is $20.  Alternatively, you can still take our museum based craft out and about at $10 for half day or $15 for a full day and explore the riverfront, Scipio Creek or Treasure Island (aka Little Towhead) just across the river.  All customers are required to carry a cell phone in waterproof container so they can contact the AMM in the event of an emergency.  The AMM has a rescue boat to aid paddlers in trouble.  Note that trips are contingent upon tide and weather conditions.  



Chart showing paddling routes from our new Paddle Sports Center to the AMM docks.
Just a few of this month's adventurous paddlers.


Gulf Specimen Marine Lab Releases Rehabilitated Sea Turtle
Allie The Loggerhead Sea Turtle Release
Watch the Video:
Allie The Loggerhead Sea Turtle Release
Congratulations to our friends at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, Florida, on their latest success-- the release of a rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle nicknamed Allie. Allie is a loggerhead sea turtle rescued on May 15, 2012. She was found floating, sick and weak near Alligator Point Beach. She is approximately 50 years old and weights 250 lbs. When she arrived at GSML she was very thin and emaciated. After several visits with a veterinarian and the marine lab's staff working closely with her, she began to improve. A release party was held recently at Bald Point State Park. Watch the video to learn more about Allie and her successful release back into the sea.

The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab's sea turtle research and conservation program, began in 1964, is the third oldest in the United States. GSML was an early advocate of providing legal protection when sea turtles were still commercially harvested. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act, GSML coordinated with state and federal agencies and became the regional sea turtle rehabilitation center. GSML directors Jack and Anne Rudloe published a cover story in National Geographic Magazine featuring the program. 


Good luck to Allie, our fellow traveller of the sea.

The Big Bend Scenic Byway

"The Big Bend Scenic Byway will transport you to a different time and place 
through its Wildlife, Woods, Waterways and Way of Life."

Check out the Big Bend Scenic Byway's gorgeous new website and downloadable print guide, which are chock full of interesting information about this area's destinations, natural history, and heritage.  The Apalachicola Maritime Museum is part of the "Coastal Trail West" and is featured in the video clip below.  We are proud to be a new point of interest on the Big Bend Scenic Byway!

Watch the Scenic Byway's "Coastal Trail West" segment which features AMM.



Save 25%

On any scheduled boat tour at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum! Use promo code "Anchor" to book online, in person, or over the phone and your party will save 25% on a fun and educational tour!  

Visit our website to learn more about the variety of trips we offer, from historic tours to eco-tours, sunset cruises to barrier island excursions, or give us a call at (850) 653-2500.
Offer Expires: August 31, 2013

Video Archive

Here are just a few of the many Apalachicola Maritime Museum videos available on YouTube. Many thanks to Robin Vroegop of the Half Shell YouTube channel, who produced the videos below. 

Part 1: Classic Hereshoff Sailboat Design
Part 1: Classic Hereshoff Sailboat Design "The Golden Ball" Arrives at Apalachicola Maritime Museum
AMM Wooden Boat Building School Paddle Board - Fiberglass Cloth Saturation
AMM Wooden Boat Building School Paddle Board - Fiberglass Cloth Saturation

Archaeologist Dr. Nancy White Lectures at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum 12-08-12
Archaeologist Dr. Nancy White Lectures at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum 12-08-12

AMM Public Archaeology Network Turpentine Industry Lecture with Barbara Hines
AMM Public Archaeology Network Turpentine Industry Lecture with Barbara Hines