Who You Gonna Call?

May 7, 2014:

So, the whole world and only Carrabelle’s got it …  I know your curiosity is killing you.  As one faithful follower put it, “I’m sure the server crashed with the flood of responses you received.”  Touche.  But, I also had one correct guess, from a true Panacea native!  Here’s the story:

They say the city was having problems with tourists making unauthorized long distance phone calls on its police phone.  You see, now you call the police and it rings to a station.  But, this was back in the day of the payphone.  Call the five-oh in Carrabelle back in the 60’s and it rang to a regular old pay phone, one bolted to the side of the Shop-and-Stop (or some similar) building at the corner of U.S. 98 and Tallahassee Street.  Despite harsh warnings, mean stares and policemen running at them, swinging batons overhead, the good folks passing through Carrabelle just couldn’t seem to pass up the urge to sneak up to the phone, pick up the receiver illegally and give sweet Aunt Ida back in Nebraska a ring.  Just for kicks.  “Hey Ida, you’ll never guess where I’m calling from … “


(And, yes, that photo is so good, you can buy it here).

In an effort to solve the overwhelming problem, Johnnie Mirabella (yes, from Carrabelle-uh), St. Joe Telephone Company’s sole Carrabelle employee at the time, first tried moving the police phone down the road to the Piggly Wiggly (or some similar) building, but the wily tourists discovered the phone at the Pig and continued their rampant illegal calls to out-of-state kin.  In addition to the escalating tourist telephone problem, Johnnie Mirabella also noticed the officers were getting drenched when they had to answer the police phone on the side of the building in the rain.  So, when the St. Joe Telephone Company decided to replace its worn-out phone booth in front of Burda’s Pharmacy with a new one, Mirabella seized the opportunity.  On March 10, 1963, Mirabella had the old booth moved from Burda’s to its current site on U.S. 98 under the chinaberry tree and the police phone put inside.  Not only were the good men in blue of Carrabelle now protected from the elements when they had to answer a police call and the rogue tourist collect calls deterred but the booth also became the first, last and only — WORLD’S SMALLEST POLICE STATION.  Boom.


Seriously, the whole world, and only Carrabelle’s got it.

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There’s the wise Mirabella there.  Ain’t he a looker?


He probably looked better with a mustache.

Old shot

Everyone did in the 70’s.

Eventually the dial was removed from the phone, making it impossible for tourists to make calls.  Sorry Ida!  But, the booth has been featured on various television shows — Real People, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, The Today Show, Johnny Carson — as well as the movie Tate’s Hell which was produced at Florida State University.  Along with World’s Smallest Police Station t-shirts, you can also purchase hats, visors, postcards, and calendars bearing the distinct, copyrighted WSPS logo.


“I’ll take one visor please.”

They say life has not always been easy for the retired phone booth, though.  Vandals have ripped phones out of the booth and shot holes through the glass.  It has been knocked over by a pickup truck, and a tourist once asked a gas station attendant to help him load it into his vehicle to take it back to Tennessee.  “Hey Gomer, help me load this here booth up into the bed-uh-my truck.  Gramma Bickers will love this!”  I mean …  I really don’t need to tell stories when the truth is actually far more entertaining.

Needless to say, Phillip and I got a real kick out of the World’s Smallest Phone Booth when we were wandering around in downtown Carrrabelle.  We popped our head in a few other places – one rough-and-rowdy looking motorcycle bar named Harry’s to restock our rum supply.


I swear I saw a guy in the back pick up his cue stick when we walked in and start smacking it in his other hand, much like a police baton, and I started thinking about that phone booth.  We paid the nice 6’3″, 300 pound man behind the bar and gently made our way out.  We then stopped at the trusty IGA to stock up on provisions for the boat for tomorrow’s passage to Apalachicola.  Once we got everything stowed away on the boat, we were excited to get out and pay the fine crew at Fathom’s a visit that night, sip white wine, indulge on their fresh oysters and take in the live music for the evening.  But, when we got there, we were incredibly disheartened to find Fathom’s was closed that night.  That night!?!  Of all nights.  It ‘ppears the good folks at Fathom’s only find it fit to open their doors to the rogue tourists of Carrabelle Thursday through Sunday and we had the good luck to come on a Wednesday.  But, we were only planning to spend only one night in Carrabelle so that was that.  No Fathom’s.  We headed back to The Fisherman’s Wife hoping to get some good ole’ Apalachicola Bay oysters there but we were thwarted again!  “We’re out of oysters,” she said.


“What else can I get ya?”  Bollucks!  We ended up sharing a perfectly fine Fisherman’s Fried Platter and calling it an early night.  Having thoroughly enjoyed the World’s Smallest Police Station and our downtown jaunt, we felt we’d satisfied our Carrabelle craving and we set our sights on Apalachicola in hopes of finding some good, local oysters tomorrow.  Also, the droopy withered docklines and power cord on our neighbor’s slip told us it was a good time to toss our fresh lines and get the heck out of Dodge.

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May 8, 2014:

“Seven point three!” I shouted, smiling goofily like a kid at the fair.


We were making 7.3.  We had a spectacular sail across the Apalachicola Bay.  And, it was high time, too.  As you recall we had spent the last 30 hours on passage in our SAILboat doing anything but sailing across the Gulf.  Have wind, will travel.  Have not, won’t.


So, we were thrilled to watch our boat frolic and sprint across the Bay.

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Phillip had to take a business call at one point and I remember him telling the guy, “Yeah, I’m not in the office today. Calling from out of town.  It’s a bit windy here.”  A bit windy ….   We were doing SEVEN POINT THREE!  An incredibly sporty sail across the Bay.  Nothing we love more.


We zipped across the Bay in just under five hours.  And, what’s even better?  You know what we saw as we were coming under the bridge to George St. Island?

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Mmmmhhh-Hmmmm … that’s right.  Oystermen!  Harvesting piles of oysters right out of the Apalachicola Bay.  We saw several boats out there harvesting.


“You save a couple dozen for us boys!” we shouted as we sailed by.  It was great to see them out there harvesting local oysters when we had heard so many times during the trip to/from the Keys that all of the oysters were coming exclusively from Texas and Louisiana.  We were excited to get our hands on some fresh, local oysters, harvested right out of the Apalachicola Bay!

As we made our way under the St. George Island bridge and into the mouth of the Apalachicola River,


we heard a lot of talk over the radio about how they had not dredged the pass into the Apalachicola River in a while and there was some shoaling to look out for.  As luck would have it, just as we were coming in, a large shrimp boat was coming out.


It was a tight squeeze, but he called us up on the radio and said there was plenty of depth for us on his port side.  Real nice guy and we were thankful he was communicative, knowledgeable about the pass and the depth and attentive to a sailboat making its way in under sail.  And, it was pretty cool to watch him pass by so close.  I swear I thought one of his big shrimping arms (yes, that’s what I call them) was going to snag our genoa.

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But, we made it through safe and sound under the John Gorrie Memorial bridge into the Apalachicola River and up to the City Dock.  We had checked out this dock many times when we spent time in Apalachicola while our boat was stuck in Carrabelle having the transmission replaced.  It was right downtown.  Just dock your boat, jump off, and you’re right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of ole’ Apalach.  Lookout!

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I fully expected someone to mozey by in a horse-drawn carriage any minute.

We weren’t sure about the depth coming in but we had heard the river was really high at the time (remember the torrential rains and flooding we’d had in April in Northwest Florida) so we figured that would work to our advantage.  We kept an eye on the depth and made our way in gently.  We also didn’t know if the docking was free or how it worked, but we eased up without hitting bottom and tied her off anyway, hoping to find out.  I guess the tourists in these parts do seem to get a little sneaky.


But, we’re an honest bunch of sneaks, so we started looking around for a contact and wouldn’t you know it, having just left the town with the world’s smallest police station, we found ourselves once again, resorting to the police.  There was a lone sign on a pole at the city dock that read:


The Whole World … and Only Carrabelle’s Got It

May 7, 2014:

If we were trying to avoid an aerial bomb strike, you would think coming in under nightfall, might be a good idea.  But, I’ve said it several time before and don’t mind repeating it — we do not like to come into a pass at night, and we try to avoid it on every occasion.  Unfortunately, with the absolute lack of wind and continued motoring throughout the night, we were slated to make it to the East Pass into Apalachicola Bay a little earlier than we had intended – around 4:00 a.m.

East Pass

Not yet daylight.  So, we bobbed around in the Gulf for about an hour to allow the sun to rise, so we could safely see all of the markers and make it into the Bay.

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There she comes!  And, see??  With the sun, we can SEE the markers!

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We could see land, too!  We had left Venice around 10:00 a.m. two days prior and had made it safely once again across the Gulf of Mexico.  No small feat.


It was unfortunate that we’d had to motor most of the way.  36 out of the approximate 43 hours were spent with our engine churning away under the cabin.  Ironically, that’s about the exact same way we made the Gulf crossing the last time from Clearwater to Carrabelle.  An approximate 36-hour engine run, and the heroic hacking-off of the dinghy mid-Gulf.  Like I said — crossing the Gulf without issue — no small feat.  But, this time we were determined not to the let the 36-hour motor-crossing get the best of our old Westerbeke.  If you recall, the year prior, the daunting motor across the Gulf of Mexico had unexpectedly drained our engine of her last drop of transmission fluid and she locked up the next day as we were trying to motor out of the Carrabelle River … the tight, narrow, obstacle-lined river.  Fine time to lose engine power.  We vowed this time once we got her docked safe and secure in Carrabelle, the first part of that boat that was going to get some good ole TLC was the engine!  That is, of course, after the crew got some sleep.

We made it into the river just fine this time during the day.  It was nostalgic for me to come back in and see it now, as a somewhat experienced sailor, and remember how I had viewed it then during that first Gulf Crossing and my very first passage on a sailboat, period.  I realized how oblivious I had been the year before to everything that was going on.  Markers, depth, wind, current.  Not that I was sitting around painting my nails or anything, I had spent a good part of that trip taking care of our overtly sea-sick Second Mate, helping Phillip to the best of my ability and cooking and cleaning, but I didn’t really have much involvement in the actual sailing.  Well, this time I did.  It was Phillip and I.  That was it.  And, we were coming in to dock once again at the Moorings Marina.

Dog Island

I knew this time, as well, from our first entry into the Carrabelle River, that you have to stay to the right of the river.  And, by right, I mean waaaayy over to the right, almost hugging the docks on the starboard side.  Last time, we had come in under nightfall and run aground just after the bend in the river.  Right … about … here:


I know.  The Carrabelle River had not been good to us last time.  We were hoping for some better River karma this time around.  

And, thankfully, the River welcomed us with open arms.

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We made it in around 9:00 a.m. stayed to the RIGHT of the river and clear of the bottom, fueled up, docked up and went immediately to sleep.  We’d been two days at sea, on two-hour night shifts two nights in a row, had survived multiple encounters with creepy Gulf alien vessels and an aerial bomb strike.  Needless to say, we were tired!

But, the minute we woke, our first order of business was the engine.  That run across the Gulf had certainly burned up a good bit of her precious black gold.  Our faithful Westerbeke got a complete oil drain and change that day, which, thanks to the nifty hand-pump canister we picked up from the Back Door Marine Supply Guy in St. Pete, we were able to do easily and cleanly on the boat.

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Our previous owner, Jack, also converted the old horizontal oil filter mount to a vertical one to avoid the messy oil dump into the bilge when the filter is removed.

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Now ours spins in vertically and sits upright, making the entire process easier and cleaner.


Thanks Jack!

We also checked and topped off all of the other fluids, the transmission fluid – of course! – we check that now before every crank, and the coolant.  It felt good to give the Westerbeke some love after she’d carried us all the way to Carrabelle, yet again.  We also gave the boat a good scrub-down from bow to stern.  While we had motored most of the way across the Gulf, the half-a-day we’d spent trying to get out in the Gulf initially in 4-6 foot, head-on waves had laid a pretty thick coat of salt on the boat.  You could see and feel salt everywhere – on the deck, the lifelines, the stanchions.  It was like Plaintiff’s Rest, on the rocks.  We scrubbed every inch and polished her up, head to toe.

After tending to the boat, we then turned our attention to the crew.  It was time for a feeding.  We showered up and hit the town.  Yes, the hustling, bustling big city of Carrabelle!  We knew, from the multiple weekend trips we had made to Carrabelle last year when our boat spent six weeks in the River having a new transmission put in, that the happening spot in Carrabelle was Fathom’s.


Or, we were at least partial to it.  Our mechanic, Eric’s, family owned the bar/restaurant and we had stopped there for some incredible fresh oysters and beer before heading out last time to make the trip from Carrabelle home to Pensacola.

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Can’t believe I said “I’m not really an oyster person” in that post …  The Keys have changed me!

Fathom’s has a great custom-built boat-bar and the perfect outdoor deck seating right on the waterfront.

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Last time we were there, we could see our boat right across the way!

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Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?  No, you haven’t.

And, we had occasionally heard some great live music streaming across the River from Fathom’s when we were there, working on the boat.  We knew the next time we made it back to Carrabelle on our boat, we wanted to spend at least one evening eating our fill of fresh oysters and catching the live band at Fathom’s.  We figured it would play out very much like a scene at Pirate’s Cove – a lot of local riff raff providing some high quality, free entertainment.


The Riff Raff cast from the Cove – November, 2013.

Since Fathom’s was on the agenda for the evening, we popped into the first restaurant we came across on our Carrabelle outing – The Fisherman’s Wife – for lunch.  A fitting name for your typical quaint country restaurant.  It reminded me of the little diner my grandma (Big Mom) used to take us to on Sundays – Doris’s Diner.  The kind of place that keeps heaping condiment baskets on the table, complete with a sticky syrup dispenser, because they always seem to serve pancakes, and the waitresses can pull pens out of their poofy Peg Bundy hair like magic to take your order on a flip pad.  I felt right at home!  And, the Fisherman’s Wife did not disappoint.  They served us up some incredible onion rings, a heaping salad and sandwich combo for lunch.

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We walked lunch off down the main strip and found some pretty interesting highlights along the way.  Like this little gem – the Carrabelle Junction!


An old fifties-style ice cream shop chock full of antique toys, trinkets and signage.

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I love stuff like that.  You’re always bound to see an old toy you used to play with sitting on the shelf and the memories flood you.

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This one reminded me of the old Gumby & Pokey figurines I used to play with.  You know, back when toys didn’t need any bells or whistles or lithium batteries.


Hours of entertainment … 

Which is exactly what we found poking (and gumbing!) our way along the downtown Carrabelle strip.  It doesn’t take much for us, though.  We seem to find just about the same level of entertainment in tiny little rustic towns like Carrabelle and Apalachicola as we do New York City.  It’s all in your level of expectation and your openness to truly explore new places – the quaint or the common.  As fate would have it, we found something in Carrabelle that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.  The world!?  Yes, the world.  Without Googling, do any of you faithful followers know what it is?