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Events Calendar
 

December 7 - Locals and members go free!  Free museum admission, free kayak rentals, and free passage aboard any of our educational and recreational boat tours all day.


Of course any day is a good day to visit our 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!

 

Paddlewheeler Restoration Nears Completion
 

 

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.  

 

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, where the vessel will be re-christened as the Samuel Floyd.  

 

After a brief settling in period, we will quickly undertake promotional tours wherein educators, historians, writers and 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.

  

Recently, a film crew from WFSU visited the boat yard to film the first of two segments on the vessel for the television series "Dimensions."

  

We would like to extend a special thank you to the following people who have donated their time and expertise to consult on this project: Lynn Wilson Spohrer on interior design; Brett Byrd on plumbing; and Danny Itzkovitz on the galley.

 

To learn more about the history of the boat, click here.

 


 

 
View from the Bow
By George K. Floyd
  
The John W. Callahan 

 

Come travel through time with me if you will.  Close your eyes and release all thought of the here and now, of current tasks to be done, of debts to be paid, of all responsibilities .... and thus open your mind for a journey into the past ... where you find yourself on the wharfs of old Apalachicola in December of 1846, a scant 167 years ago.  It is a bustling busy place with people and cargo bustling about at all hours of the day and night.  With the growing season over, the cotton harvest is flooding into port from the farms upstream.  The total will be a staggering 153,386 bales this year.  Conversations among residents and visitors are of an international flavor where French, Dutch, Spanish Native American and African American language and dialects mix with English.  The records at the Customs House document ocean going vessels visiting port this year will total 95 ships and barks, 61 brigs and 88 schooners.  As you walk along the waterfront, you overhear discussion about the arrivals and departures that take place at all hours where tide, winds and river levels are of far greater concern than the clock. 

 

Eleven paddlewheel steamboats navigate the waters between Apalachicola and the upriver ports of Albany on the Flint and Columbus on the Chattahoochee.   On the Apalachicola River, there are over eighty landings and on the Chattahoochee there are close to 180 landings.  As you drift among conversations, you overhear about how Captain Greer's PEYTONA, the queen of the river in 1846, which made record time in traveling upstream from Apalachicola to Columbus in 34 hours and 30 minutes, a land speed of around 7 knots which when considering current would have been more like 12 to 15.  In response you hear a comment about the FLINT, as tiny as the PEYTONA is large.  She was built in Albany with engines installed in Apalachicola and only produced 11 horsepower but it is a good bar rather than speed that brings her fame "as she bore her course onward with the dun of waters flowing underneath, there was a flow of fluid above that was of quite a different color, and though the stream was no so broad, its power was much greater.  A spirited interest was manifested by some in the success of the craft." (Apalachicola Commercial Advertiser).   Drifting along the wharfs you encounter a different conversation about the low water in the Chattahoochee River in early December where the Columbus Enquirer reported that the "River is hardly boatable yet, but with a small sprinkle more in the upcountry, it will come down booming, and our steamboat boys will have an opportunity for making up lost time, warehouses here being full and ready for shipment." 

 

Paddlewheel boats running the river this year are the LOTUS, CHAMPION, PEYTONA, VIOLA, MARY ANN MOORE, NOTION, BOSTON, EMILY, COLUMBUS, EUFAULA and ALBANY comprising a total cargo capacity of 2,400 tons.  Compared this to the cargo capacity of the 244 ocean going vessels entering port at 71,323 tons which is they have thirty times that of the paddlewheel river boats.  It becomes evident that many upriver trips are required to fill the holds of the international sailing ships bound for European markets.  Add to that the limited cotton harvest and shipping season of only half the year and fluctuating river conditions which limit travel, one quickly realizes that speed and the ability to haul more cotton quicker is a huge financial advantage.  The paddlewheel boats run day and night and often operate with a fire on the bow to illuminate the way adding to the adventure and perils of a river journey.  In the far off distance you hear the sounding of a steam whistle announcing another arrival into port and the stevedores transition from idle conversation to prepare for the landing.  The merchants, inspectors, creditors, dock master and Customs officer all spring to life to repeat their well-practiced roles with shouted commands as she comes onto the docks.  All conversations transition to speculation about the new arrival, her cargo and planning for the offloading and processing into the warehouses or the fleet lying at anchored in the bay. 

 

Let your mind's eye place you at any of the shipyards in Albany, Eufaula, Columbus or Apalachicola where Longleaf Pine planking and Live Oak framing timbers are employed by hundreds of skilled craftsmenin building new vessels to meet the burgeoning demand for cargo and passenger transportation.  Discussions among owner, designer, foreman and the many skilled shipwrights span topics from material supplies from the sawmills, steel fasteners from the mills in Columbus and boiler equipment from northern mills, to use of the adze, saw, chisel, mortise, hammer, caulking iron and cotton caulking used to form the final product.  Four boats were launched this year.  The ALBANY was launched in January at the city of that name, followed by the FLINT in April and then the SOUTHERNER.  The schooner OREGON was built in Apalachicola.  She was 70' long with a 24' beam and 5'6" draft.

 

Your journey continues to find you in the pilot house of the PETONA where the pilot is advising Captain Greer of the passage through the shoals at Blountstown, past Alum Bluffs and into Aspalaga landing.  On the bow a deckhand uses the lead line for measuring depth, heralding to the wheelhouse the depths marksas Captain Greer deftly maneuvers his vessel among the hazards with speed andgrace.  He sounds the steam whistle to announce arrival. With confidence and intensity he orders the boiler engineer to reduce steam and to the deck hands to make fast the lines as she comes alongside the dock to take on passengers and cargo bound for upriver destinations.  Making a hasty departure the journey is continued upstream to Coe's, Sampson's, Pank's, Ferrell's landings before arriving at the major port of Chattahoochee where General Jacksononce crossed his troops during the Seminole wars along the highland path across North Florida known as the Spanish Trail.  A bustle of excitement fills the air as this speedy traveler goes day and night to maximize profit from her travels and to traverse the river while conditions permit.

 

And so now, while still in this imagination state, let your mind gaze into the crystal ball to look into the future where once again graceful wooden sailing ships frequent the docks, bay and gulf.  Picture that paddlewheel transportation is once again operating between Apalachicola, Columbus and Albany.  Conjure a future where local shipwrights once again build and maintain vessels for local, upriver and international customers powered by sail and steam (and now internal combustion and perhaps one day the latest innovation, solar power).  Frame an image where experiential educational tourism is the new export of an international scope that is on a parallel with other world heritage sites accessible by the global transportation grid.  Envisage a place which beckons visitors to take a trip back in time and into the future and as they come to our coastal and river communities primarily for that new "export" on a scale surpassing that of the cotton era.  Such a utopic scene would have many benefits, among them being minimal environmental impact, heritage preservation, a sophisticated and educated populace where jobs are born from knowledge of our history and promotion of our future as one of the most unique places on the planet. Where web development skills, mathematics applied in ship building, multi lingual skills to interface with visitors from all over the planet have become the counterpart to the sophisticated populace which once managed the international export of cotton.

 

As we wind up this experience of time travel into the past and the future, we must return to the present.  But now with that return, you are empowered with a vision of the distant shore we seek to attain at the Apalachicola Maritime Museum.  Much of what we have written in the above paragraphs is already underway.  The AMM Wooden Boat School, directed by Ron Dierolf, a retired engineer and mathematics instructor at Gulf Coast Community College received recognition by the Florida Department of Education for work with the Project Impact after school program for the incorporation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as one of the three top programs in the state and has been referred to the national level for review.  We have a number of light craft and large wooden vessels currently being built and refurbished with traditional methods.  We are expanding our sailing program as a certified training program under the American Sailing Association.  We have procured the historic Yacht Basin on St. George Island which will soon become an expansion site for the AMM.  We have completed the build out of our paddling center at Breakaway Lodge where over 100 kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are available for small and large groups.  

 

And, of greatest significance, is the conclusion of the 18 month restoration of our 86' paddlewheel vessel that should be arriving into her new home docks in Apalachicola this month to resume commercial paddlewheel transportation between Apalachicola and Columbus after a 90 year hiatus.  Soon we will be opening our Chattahoochee location at the historic riverboat landing site on River Road.  This will become a port for the paddlewheel vessel and a launch point for downriver paddle excursions.  The Chattahoochee site is a 120 acre campus including a museum in the renovated historic commercial structure there, riverboat remains, springs, a 20 acre island in the river and a live music venue along mile of river frontage just below the city of Chattahoochee RV park.  The reach goes all the way up the Chattahoochee River to Lake Lanier where we have a historic structure at the dam there.  We hope that you will join us on our journey as we make dreams into reality by protecting, preserving and promoting the maritime heritage, ecological treasures, archeological, commercial seafood, hunting and fishing paradise which all come together to create one of the most fantastic places on the planet.

 

An personal anecdote here is that my grandfather, Albert Floyd, met my grandmother, Margaret Thomas, at Chattahoochee landing in 1907.  Albert was the boiler engineer on the last steam powered paddlewheel boat, the CALLAHAN, and his father, Theodore, was the pilot.  My grandmother was traveling down from Bainbridge to meet her sister who resided in Quincy.  They went on to marry in 1917 and move into his grandfather Samuel's house in 1917.   This is the house at 145 Avenue E.  The large oaks in front were planted by my grandmother in the year they were married.  A tangible link to the past.  Samuel first came to Apalachicola in 1842 and would have known of the PETONA and experienced the scenes envisioned above.  My father, James, passed along stories from his father, Bert, about his times on the CALLAHAN enriching my life and engendering the calling that drives this Maritime Museum mission.

 

 

Hylas and the Nymphs, by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
View from the Stern: Mythological Steamboat Names
by Research and Education Director Augusta R. West
 

The steamboats that travelled the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system in the 19th century were christened with a variety of names.  Some honored military generals, others the wives of owners, some were named after cities along the waterways or the rivers themselves, and at least seven of them had names inspired by ancient mythology.

 

The first was the Phoenix, built in Pittsburgh in 1829.  In Greek mythology, the phoenix was a long-lived bird associated with the sun that underwent a cyclical rebirth. The phoenix attained new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Perhaps this alluded to the unfortunate reality of the dangers of steamboat passages of the day, in which the average lifespan of a vessel was only seven years. Boiler explosions, fires, collisions with snags and other underwater obstacles, and running aground were all causes for these wooden hulled vessels to meet an early demise. When possible, the vessels were hauled out, refurbished, and put back into service. Ironically, the Phoenix's career ended just three years after launching.

 

The Hyperion was the next steamboat on our river system with a mythological name from the ancient Greeks. Hyperion ("The High One") was one of the twelve Titans, children of Gaia, (Earth), and Uranus (Sky or Heaven). In Greek literature, Hyperion is described as the god of Watchfulness, Wisdom and Light. He was the first to understand the movement of the sun, moon, and stars and their connection to the changing of the seasons and was called the father of these bodies.

 

This 124 ton vessel was built in 1836 by James Howard, the son of an English immigrant who started a shipyard on the banks of the Ohio River two years earlier at the age of nineteen.  The Hyperion was his first boat. During its three-generation, 107-year history, the Howard Shipyard would produce over 3,000 vessels and establish itself as the largest inland shipyard in America.

 

The Ion was built the following year in New Albany, Indiana. Ion was the son of Apollo, the sun god. In its first year of service, it was involved in "The Great Steamboat Chase," one of antebellum Florida's most notable crimes, in which speculator and financier Hugh Stephenson made off with $160,000 from an Apalachicola bank. He spontaneously purchased the Ion while eluding capture and eventually made his way to Texas. This 99 ton vessel was in service on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers until 1842.

 

The Siren was a 110 ton vessel built in Cincinnati in 1838, and listed Apalachicola as her first home port. Named after those dangerous and beautiful femme fatales who lured mariners with their enchanting music and voices to wreck on the rocky shores of their island, they were depicted as a combination of women and birds, or as seductive women. The boat of this namesake was known for her ability to make the trip to Columbus against very strong flood currents. During a flood in 1841, the bridge at Eufaula was almost impassable due to the high waters, and the Florida Journal reported that "the steamer Siren on her way up thought it too tedious to undergo warping through the bridge, so went around it, gallantly plowing her way through fields. The Columbus Enquirer reported that the Siren reached that city by making the journey "...for the greater part over submerged plantations."  In 1842, the Siren met her fate a few miles south of Chattahoochee, Florida. She was headed downstream in the middle of the night, having just taken on 200 bales of cotton, when her boilers exploded. Nine people lost their lives.

 

The Naiad was built upstream in Columbus, Georgia in 1884 by Charlie Blaine. This 173 ton steamboat listed her home port as Apalachicola and was in service until 1902.  In Greek mythology, the Naiads  were a type of nymph, a female spirit, who presided over the fresh water of rivers, fountains, wells, springs, streams, and brooks.  This vessel reportedly made more trips on the Chattahoochee-Apalachicola than any other ship.  It burned and sank at Old Landing near Blountstown, Florida with no lives lost.

 

Pactolus derived its name from the myth of King Midas and his golden touch. This tale is an etiological myth, a story that explains a real-world phenomenon. In this case, the story of King Midas explains the rich deposits of gold and gold alloys in the ancient Pactolus River, near the Aegean coast of Turkey. According to the myth, King Midas earned the gratitude of Dionysus, Greek god of winemaking and revelry, and so Dionysus agreed to grant Midas a wish. The king wished that anything he touched would turn to gold. He soon realized that this blessing was a curse when the food he tried to eat, and even his daughter, turned to gold.

 

Midas prayed to Dionysus to remove the golden touch. Dionysus answered that he could wash the curse away in the river Pactolus.  The Pactolus River was known for its rich deposits of electrum, an ancient gold alloy containing mostly gold and silver, and often smaller amounts of copper, iron, or palladium.  The river was so laden with gold that the ancient state of Lydia based its economy on it, and created the first gold coins around the 7th century BC. As the port of Apalachicola bustled with activity during the antebellum "King Cotton" days, bringing wealth and prosperity to planters, merchants, cotton brokers, bankers, and other associated with the cotton economy, it's easy to imagine why the Apalachicola River could be seen as a modern day river of gold.

 

The Lotus was built in 1845, one of the few paddle wheelers built here.  It was one of the larger vessels in service on the river, weighing in at 202 tons. In Greek mythology, the lotus-eaters were a race of people living on an island near North Africa dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic, causing those who consumed it to sleep in a state of peaceful apathy and oblivion.

 

In the Odyssey, Odysseus recounts how north winds blew him and his men off course as they were rounding Cape Malea:

"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of 9 days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars."

 

These vessels with names inspired by ancient myths hint at the dangers of life on the water, the lure of the promise of wealth, the age old longing that mariners felt for women (even dangerous ones), the hope for rebirth,  and the waterman's connection to celestial bodies. For those who spend their lives on the water, some fears, desires, dreams, and connections to nature remain steadfast across the reach of centuries.

  

The Pactolus
 
Naiad at dry dock in Apalachicola


 
Photos courtesy State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory and the State Archives of Georgia. Digital Library of Georgia.

Peter Burgher is an outstanding captain and a dedicated museum volunteer.
Radio Waves at Sea
By Captain Peter Burgher
 

One of the earliest occasions where the use of radio made a huge impact took place in 1905 when a Russian warship captain discovered his enemy, the Japanese, were transmitting by radio the positions of the Russian fleet. The Russian requested the signals be jammed, a whole new idea at the time. Permission was denied by the Russian admiralty, leading to an overwhelming victory for the Japanese in the Battle of Tsushima Strait.  Eighty percent of the Russian fleet was destroyed.  The Czar then abandoned efforts to curb the Japanese expansion, enabling them to emerge as a new world power.

 

Since then, thousands of rescues and even more thousands of disasters were occasioned by good and by inept use of radios. Consider the U.S. Navy fleet that ran aground at Pt. Conception, California, just south of Vandenberg AFB. The young Captain of the fleet maintained orders, by radio, to keep the heading that he set, driving a dozen ships onto the rocks. Before it was closed to the public, I walked among the wreckage on an abalone collecting expedition. An awesome sight.

 

We use a number of radio devices on the Starfish and on the Heritage to assure passenger safety and ease of passage. There is the standard marine communication channel 16 on at all times. There is also a (now common) hand held wireless telephone that is useful almost everywhere we go in the bay and estuary. A GPS gives us position information as well as weather and other useful information on the same pad-type device. Radio waves from transducers fore and aft tell the helmsman how deep the water is under the ship. While technically, these are not all "radios," in the aggregate they rely on air or waterborne signals that are interpreted electronically. Radio waves are used to measure time in the case of the GPS-time known from a fixed point can then be used to tell how far away from a fixed point you are. More than one time factor (some use five, six, or more) pins down latitude and longitude, i.e. where you are.

 

While sound basic seamanship is fundamental to a successful voyage, it's good to know we have all these "radios" to help us along and keep us safe.

 

Snapshots of Recent Events
 
The Starfish Enterprise was hauled out for upgrades including roll-up vinyl and mesh screen sides to provide for 

comfortable cruising in any weather.

 

 

A group of Air Stream enthusiasts from all over the country were one of several large groups we hosted recently.


One of our gorgeous steam powered vessels was a crowd favorite in the Seafood Festival Parade.


AMM hosted a beer garden in our courtyard during Seafood Festival Weekend as a joint fundraiser with the Franklin County Seafood Workers.


Slim Fatz was one of the musicians who provided great entertainment.


The wooden oyster boat shown below was constructed in our Wooden Boat School for local events.


Much progress has been made on automating our Maritime Library, in partnership with the Apalachicola Municipal Library.


Brett Byrd of Byrd's Construction has volunteered to design and build an interactive antique steam whistle display. 






jmBackground on the Jean Mary


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.  She is 86 feet long. Originally steam powered, she was later converted to diesel. 

 

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.