Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cape San Blas Lighthouse - History in the Making, July 15, 2004

What's this I see coming down the road in PSJ?  Oh, its only a lighthouse and a couple of historic homes!

It is not every day that you see a lighthouse and it's associated dwellings being moved. In fact, I believe that only 3 such structures have been physically relocated in the United States. I know the first to be moved was the Cape Hatteras light, as I had a very small involvement in that many years ago while working with my last employer.  I believe there was another one a few years ago, but its name presently escapes me.

On July 15, the Cape San Blas light was relocated from its former location on the Cape to Port St. Joe. It was quite a sight. Being lighthouse fans (or perhaps more accurately, lighthouse admirers) we knew that plans were in preparation for the move but we did not realize it was imminent. So we went to visit the former site on the Cape on the 14th. There we found the light loaded up ready to go together with 3 other structures - 2 houses previously used by the keepers and another brick structure that was used as the oil house

Cape San Blas Light at its Original Location on the Cape 

The plan was to move all structures by road as a single convoy leaving the Cape at 8 am, for its approximate 7 mile journey to the new location in Port St Joe. The movers, planned to complete the relocation in a day.

Perhaps the biggest challenge would be to get the convoy past the 100 or so electricity distribution lines that cross the highway along its route.   This is where Duke was to play a major role. In order to minimize service disruptions, Duke crews would disconnect each service line just ahead if the convoy, and then reconnect the lines after the convoy cleared each crossing.

On the day if the move, we made a brief shopping trip to nearby Panama City, and upon our return, we spotted the convoy approaching it's destination from our slip in the marina. So we quickly walked over to the "Thirsty Goat", joining the forming crowd to cheer along the convey and raise a glass to their success!

As a civil engineer, I could not help but marvel at this amazing sight.  To see a structure moved is one thing, to see a structure moved that was designed and originally built in the late 1800s just seemed like a once in a lifetime event.  As I watched the light make its way to it new home, I paused for a moment to think what the engineer who designed the structure might think if he could see this happening.  We sent photos  to friends and relatives over the internet, and within minutes, these were being viewed by recipients in England.  Again, I thought back to the engineer who designed this structure......its even more amazing to think how technology has advanced - particularly in communications.  When you think about it, in its day, this structure's purpose was to communicate a hazard.  And now the small handheld communication device we call a "smart phone", can transmit images of events like this within seconds, to the other side of the world, bouncing the signal through space.

Additional information about the Cape San Blas Lighthouse can be found at

So I will end today's blog with a little offering from the famous poet Robert Louis Stevenson, and a  poet that came from a long line of lighthouse designers.  

The Light-Keeper II

As the steady lenses circle
With frosty gleam of glass;
And the clear bell chimes,
And the oil brims over the lip of the burner,
Quiet and still at his desk,
The Lonely Light-Keeper
Holds his vigil.
Lured from far,
The bewildered seagull beats
Dully against the lantern;
Yet he stirs not, lefts not his head
From the desk where he reads,
Lifts not his eyes to see
The chill blind circle of night
Watching him through the panes.
This is his country’s guardian,
The outmost sentry of peace,
This is the man
Who gives up what is lovely in living
For the means to live.
Poetry cunningly guilds
The life of the Light-Keeper,
Held on high in the blackness
In the burning kernal of night,
The seaman sees and blesses him,
The Poet, deep in a sonnet,
Numbers his inky fingers
Fitly to praise him.
Only we behold him,
Sitting, patient and stolid,
Martyr to a salary.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Enjoying PSJ - July 13

Port St. Joe is perhaps our favorite location in Florida, so not surprisingly, we seem to have stalled again.  I guess we will move again "soon."  I have done a fair amount of business travel from here, which has worked out quite well, and we will be having a short spell on "dry land" very soon.  We have had some wonderful day sails in the bay and really enjoyed the wildlife here, including sea turtles, shoals of Tarpon, numerous dolphin, sharks, and even a manatee.

 Sunset over the bay

We have met really nice people - both cruisers and locals and have taken a couple of new friends with us on day sails.  I think this location qualifies as the best stop on the US portion of the cruise.

Marina staff are great - a few small family run restaurants within a close walk - what more do you need?

Even a 4th firework display with prime viewing from our slip!

I guess there must be some bad days here - but I have not experienced one yet.  This boater either missed marina entrance and ran aground or had some other bad luck.  Either nobody really knows the story, or nobody seems to want to talk about it.  Actually this boat has been abandoned and has been here at least 2 years to my knowledge.

More updates soon!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Carrabelle to Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas

After we rescued Austin from the United States' smallest Police Station, we spent an evening at "Fathoms" listening to a pretty good funk band called Cuda Brown!....not what you might expect in Carrabelle.

Can you tell he loves a photo shoot!

Fathoms Steam Room, Carrabelle - the food was good too!

 Carrabelle by Sunset

The next day, we took the scenic trip from Carrabelle to Port St. Joe.  The trip on the "outside" was about 75 miles, but only about 55 miles traversing inside St. George Island, up the Apalachicola River, and then out through the Gulf County Canal.  For anyone unfamiliar with the area, our route is shown below.

The "outside" route is considerably longer as you need to go a fair way out off St. George and Cape San Blas to avoid the shoals that extend several miles offshore.

The river trip was very scenic - again, a seemingly very remote part of Florida, known as "The Forgotten Coast".

 Flat calm conditions just off dog Island....not a breath!

 Scenes from the Apalachicola River - I hear Banjos

It was a very hot day, but the scenery made the time pass quickly.  The trip was uneventful.....well almost.

One way to shade from the sun!

Just before we got to the St. George Island Bridge (65 ft.) we had to cross under power lines.  Yikes - the charts show "authorized clearance - 49 ft"  I missed that while planning the route.  I don't know why.  But why would there be 49 ft. lines within 100 yards of a 65 ft. bridge?  internet search (nothing found), electronic charts, paper charts....49 ft.  A few circles while I called to Tow Boat US on the VHF, and they told us "you are fine, the bridge is 65 ft.......the lines and bridge were taken out years ago by a hurricane and you are good as these are new lines".  Gritting teeth and staying well clear of the mast.......we cleared OK.  Thank you Tow Boat US!!  another example of charts not having up to date information.

On the Apalachicola River, we did hit a submerged log.  We saw and avoided a few, but this one caught us. Thankfully no damage.

We arrived in Port St. Joe at about 5 pm.  The marina and staff here are wonderful - highly recommend it!  I  am a little biased as this area is one of my favorite areas of Florida.  We have a small beach place on Cape San Blas and have been coming here for years.  Unfortunately the house is in a rental program and we don't get a break from the boat.....but that's OK, it is home!

 A large ketch "S/V Traveler" leaving Port St. Joe

Sunset over St. Joe's Bay

And a few minutes walk from the boat is the "Haughty Heron" - a nice little wine bar that has been visited on many a trip down here!