The Apalachicola Maritime Museum Works Hard to Provide a ‘Franklin County-Friendly’ Industry
Charting the Course
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Once ready to go, plans call for the Jean Mary to make an 800-mile voyage to Apalachicola by a circuitous route around Florida’s peninsula. She will travel down the waterways of Florida’s east coast, cut across the state along the Okeechobee Waterway, paddle north along the west coast, then make an open-water transit from Tarpon Springs. Once docked at the museum in Apalachicola, it will be rechristened the Samuel Floyd. Samuel was a successful entrepreneur of maritime trade on the Apalachicola River in the 1840s and is George Floyd’s great-great-grandfather.
Apalachicola Maritime Museum
Once a part of the museum’s fleet, it will carry up to 12 passengers on short cruises around the local bays, rivers and barrier islands, including trips to St. Vincent, Little St. George and Ballast Cove on Dog Island, and other local points of interest. Longer cruises up to Columbus, Georgia, will also be offered that ought to give guests a taste of old-time steamboat travel.
“The restored paddlewheel boat is very exciting and will be a unique offering to those who want a true river experience,” said Franklin County Commissioner Pinki Jackel. “I’m looking forward to taking the trip and stepping back in time to when things were a lot more slow-paced.”
The Apalachicola Maritime Museum actually has two locations, one in Apalachicola and another set to open in the near future in the city of Chattahoochee. The Chattahoochee facility is still under development and is located just below the Lake Seminole dam where the Apalachicola River begins. Back in the mid-1800s, this particular property was a riverboat landing and comes with a 20-acre island below the railroad bridge. The site being developed now will feature a 120-acre campus with a museum, a renovated historic commercial building, riverboat remains, springs and a live music venue.
“This will become a port for the paddlewheel vessel and a launch point for downriver paddle excursions,” Floyd said, noting that it will be the perfect place for the protection and preservation of historical, environmental, ecological and archaeological treasures.
Row Your Own Boat
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at constructing your own wooden boat, the Apalachicola Maritime Museum now gives anyone the chance through its new wooden boat school, which teaches students how to build small vessels like a canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or Passagemaker dinghy. In time, the school might also feature a wider spectrum of larger boat projects, such as commercial fishing boats and paddlewheelers like the ones of the 19th century. There’s also the possibility that high-end yacht building and renovation work can be done in Apalachicola in the future.
Members of a boat-building class learn the time-honored skills and techniques used by their forefathers to build sea-going vessels.
Jackel, the Franklin County commissioner, is an enthusiastic supporter of the museum’s mission and the vital role it’s playing in the local economy.
“The Maritime Museum focuses on the historic and current role boating, boat design and the commerce of the Apalachicola River played in the community and economy of Franklin County,” she said. “The setting and the facility is an incredible tribute to life years ago on the water and to the art of boat crafting. Though it is a museum, the art of boat making and classic boat construction is alive and well, but only in a few locations in the world. So, from that standpoint, as a commissioner I would love to see this enterprise continue to grow and thrive, because it is bringing much-needed jobs to Franklin County.”
Overall, the museum’s projects and vision are what Jackel describes as “Franklin County-friendly.”
“It means treasuring our natural environment, understanding the rich tradition of the river and the bay and the very important role it continues to play in our community,” she said. “These are great opportunities for folks to experience history firsthand in a very fun way. Imagine floating along the great river, on a luxurious paddlewheel boat, music playing and a tall glass of sweet iced tea. Well, it just doesn’t get any better than that in the South.”