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Yes indeed, it’s always something. And then there is the next thing and the next. Maybe that is why it has taken me over a month to post part two of the revitalization of Pyxis, my Rosborough RF246 boat. Since my last posting, I have been south only once and that was when I was passing through the Florida panhandle on my way to St. George Island to attend a writer’s retreat.
During this trip, it was my privilege to stay overnight at the home of dear friends, Jim and Jayne, who live on top of a tall dune in Beacon Hill – just a few miles from the city of Port St. Joe. After a pleasurable evening and a good sleep in charming guest quarters, I headed east early the next morning. First stop: Port St. Joe Marina to check on my lovely little Pyxis.
The marina was all but deserted as I walked the docks toward slip N21. It was a splendid morning on the coast – the type of day when the sky is as blue and soft as well worn jeans. Inside the boat harbor a slow incoming tide kissed the seawalls and gulls competed for the tallest perch.
As usual, when walking toward Pyxis’ berth, the first thing I spotted was her tall, flared plumb bow, which allows her to slice the water efficiently and maximizes her (rather short) waterline length. The architecture and design of the Rosborough RF246 is what initially attracted me to this brand built for heavy seas by a family-owned business in Nova Scotia. As Rosborough claims, “…she’s quiet, smooth riding, not flashy, economical to operate and has some working boat heritage. A boat that makes you smile.” I agree.
I hopped gingerly stepped aboard. It is such a great pleasure to once again board Pyxis. After a long summer without the vessel, this quick trip felt like coming home again. Although the writer’s retreat was to begin in less than two hours, I lingered on the boat as she rolled gently in her slip. I went inside the pilot house and was satisfied that everything was as it should be. Galley goods were securely stored, fishing and safety equipment put up overhead and in lockers, hats and other items stowed in handmade gear hammocks swinging over the two front berths and clothes and shoes neatly organized in the hanging locker. Even the head was clean and tidy – a proper little yacht, indeed!
Reluctantly, I locked the boat and returned to my truck for the drive to St. George Island. Yes, it was a beautiful day and I had places to go and people to meet – not to mention my new Globe bike (hitched to the back of the truck) to ride. Boats and bikes and books and friends old and new – life is good.
During a recent visit to Mexico Beach – a tiny gem situated alongside some of the most beautiful and benign waters in the Gulf of Mexico – a friend showed up brandishing a shiny new metal detector. One of my many secret desires is to own a metal detector, so I pushed myself leapt out of the Adirondack chair in which I had faithfully lounged for the past hour or so. “What’s that?” I inquired, wide-eyed and sidling up close to the object of desire.
My friend, a serene and gracious person, was unperturbed by my eagerness. With a beautiful smile, she explained it was her new metal detector and unselfishly handed over the device. With wide sweeps and satisfying beeps I quickly detected 3 bottle caps, a wine bottle foil, and a nail buried in the sand. Quickly bored contented with my findings, I handed the detector back to my friend, who strolled along the beach in search of fresh treasures.
Later that evening, after my friend departed for higher-yielding territories, our friend and hostess Weepy joined my partner and me on the deck for cocktails. Weepy had a story to tell. It seems that earlier that day she observed a tourist cutting sea oats on the beach. “He must have been semi-gay – carefully cutting each plume and arranging then admiring the bouquet held in his fist,” said Weepy. (Note, the semi-gay comment was not meant to disparage, but merely describe the plunderer’s methodology.)
Weepy was incensed. Having lived beachfront for many years and survived plenty of storms, she knows just how important the berms of sea oats are to her property and her community. My mind wandered as she continued to rant about the miscreant who dared defy Florida state law and risk a $500 fine for a vase full of sea oats.
I began to imagine Weepy as a super hero – defender of dunes, sister to sea oats, avenger of blight – racing down the beach in tall white boots stenciled with sea oats and a bright green cape billowing in her wake! As I created this vision, I began to realize that the lovely sea oats that grace the beach are indeed treasures worthy of our protection. Moreover, people like Weepy, who care enough to defy interlopers and defend the ecological balance, are also treasures to be commended and emulated.
As I idled through the next few days, I discovered many other treasures on the Forgotten Coast. Among them are an Osprey flying close by clutching a fish in her talons, early morning deer tracks in the sand, the soft Gulf waters warming me as I cast my fly rod into the swell, thousands of frolicking mullet fish that have never taken my fly, millions of sea shells, and some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets the planet offers.
If you are interesting in visiting this area, I recommend Weepy’s Gull Haven. For more information, please leave a comment.
What does Van Morrison, Kilgore Trout, Peter Fonda and the waitress from the Lighthouse Cafe in Wewahitchka, Florida have in common? Hint: each are referenced in this story as having something to do with honey. And honey, dear reader, is today’s blog topic…
A raging Memorial Day thunderstorm had chased my traveling companion and me into a local cafe in the small Florida panhandle town of Wewahitchka – noted for its Tupelo honey, Dead Lakes and legendary girl’s softball team, the Gators. We dashed from the truck into the cafe and, instructed to sit anywhere, selected a small table near the enormous window that spanned the front of the restaurant. Apparently the plate glass window had replaced large overhead doors of what was formally a gas station and automobile repair shop.
Our waitress approached. Her friendly smile showed several teeth were missing. “Whatcha’ll gonna have, honey?”
We placed our orders for fried shrimp baskets with sides of cheese grits and slaw, then sat back and watched the torrent. We were in no hurry to go back out into the rain so were unperturbed when the service was a little slow. Each time the waitress passed our table with someone else’s order, she would stop by and say, “Yours’ll be out in just a few minutes, honey.” When she appeared to be in a rush, she would shorten the endearment to an expeditious: hon.
We had one single purpose for our visit to Wewahitchka on this Memorial Day and that was honey. We were in town to purchase our annual supply of Tupelo honey –– made from the nectar of the white Tupelo tree that grows only alongside the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers and collected by L.L. Lanier and Son –– a third generation bee keeping family.
For those who haven’t partaken of this sweet treat, Tupelo honey is celebrated as some of the finest honey in the universe. Ostensibly Van Morrison agrees and sums it up in the lyrics to the title track on his 1971 album, Tupelo Honey: “She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey / Just like honey from the bee.”
Evidently, this honey is so seriously good, a film entitled Ulee’s Gold was produced starring Peter Fonda in the role as bee keeper –– a character patterned after old L.L. Lanier himself. During a 1997 interview, Fonda reminisced, “I found a lot [of my character] in my father. He kept a couple of hives and I can see him hop-footing it across the lawn, thinking he had a bee up his pant leg.”
In the Florida panhandle from April to May, the moment the bees begin working the blooms of the Tupelo trees, bee keepers strip the hives of all their stored honey. When Tupelo production is over, the hives are harvested before it can be mixed with additional honey sources to ensure the product can be certifed Tupelo honey. Good white Tupelo, raw, unheated and unmixed with other honey will never granulate. This kind of honest-to-goodness honey is as close to the impenetrable swamps of the wild rivers of northwestern Florida as a human can get.
So here we were in Wewa (as it is known by the locals) on a stormy Monday in search of genuine unadulterated Tupelo honey. We knew where to go, we’ve been here many times before. We turned off County Road 71 onto Lake Grove Road and drove until we saw the open gates at L.L. Lanier & Sons’ establishment.
I steered my truck along a sandy drive, dodging puddles deep enough to swallow up the lazy wet hound that ambled from the junk-strewn yard. I stopped next to the side door of a decrepit house where various-sized jars of Tupelo honey were displayed on an upturned 55-gallon wooden barrel. An old cedar board hand-carved with the word “honey” lay half-buried, along with a collection of broken toys and rusted tools, beside the porch.
I stepped out of the truck to inspect the jars and an elderly woman appeared from the house. I could hear the indistinct sounds from a television in a nearby room. “Kin I hep ya?” she asked.
“I’d like a case of the eight-ounce jars,” I replied. Then, “I wish I had some of those biscuits from the Lighthouse Cafe to go along with this good honey. But anything is good with this honey spread on it.”
The old woman looked puzzled for a moment then came back, “Me? I don’t like honey. I like syrup, but not honey. That’ll be fifty-four dollars.”
I hastily pulled the cash from my wallet and handed it to the woman who thanked me, then stepped barefooted into the house. I loaded the honey into the back seat of the truck and backed out of the yard, pleased that I had scored another year’s supply of Tupelo honey and a few jars to share with friends and family as well.
I know I’ll return again to Wewa to buy up next year’s honey stock… just like Kilgore Trout wrote in his last known poem:
When the tupelo
I’ll come back to youp-a-lo.