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:


They’re Coming in HOT!!

May 2, 2014:

Naaaaaaaaa-suhWENya!  WanaBEEzeewhen-aaahhhh!   Okay, you probably have no idea what I’m trying to replicate here (but if you do – five gold stars!).

We rose the next morning before sunrise.  The sky was choked at first with soft, billowing blue clouds, covering every inch of the space overhead with only one sliver of light growing in the east.  As the sun rose, the blue canopy began to dissipate and everything turned a fiery shade of pink.

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Now you’ll understand — Naaaaaaaaa-suhWENya!  WanaBEEzeewhen-aaahhhh!

I went for a sunrise paddle that morning – left before the sun rose, and watched it taint the sky as it climbed the horizon.  I felt like I was the center of the Circle of Life!  Everything seemed to open, bloom and awake around me and change from a dusky blue to a golden pink.

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Pelicans were swimming and flying right along side of me.

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Hey whenyahhna.  Hey, heywhenyahhhna … 


The water was rippled pink, purple and blue and the only sound I could hear was my paddle dipping in and out of the water.  (Well, other than the African Lion King chants I was wailing in my head).

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Hey whenyahhna.  Hey, heywhenyahhhna … 

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And then I emerged!



Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic in reality.  I just pulled up to the boat.


Hello Beautiful!

But, it was an intensely serene sunrise paddle.  Such a beautiful area right around our boat to tool around in.


I paddled around Bird Island.  I didn’t know – then- that the other was called Snake Island, but I’m glad, now, that I avoided it!  Since it was our first day in a new port, we decided to what any good adventurer would do … get out and explore!  We walked around the boat a bit and checked out the cool rock jetty (Venice Inlet) that leads out into the Gulf – knowing we would be headed out that way in just a few days.


We noticed it was both (1) very narrow:


and (2) very rocky:



A bit of a bad combination for entry and exit in a boat, particularly in rough seas.  The sea state was still kicked up with the storm rolling in to Clearwater, so we knew we would be hunkering down in Venice for at least a day or two.  But, I tell ya, it wasn’t a bad place to be!  We had the boat nice and secure at an excellent marina,

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and we had attracted some friends around the boat.

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And the jetty, inlet and Gulf waters were beautiful.  Lots of folks came out it seemed to eat lunch, sit and read, and just hang out around the jetty.  Excellent walking/meander grounds.

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But, like I said — we were ready to explore!  A little further than what was achievable on foot.  So, remember the free bike rental I mentioned at Crow’s Nest Marina for marina guests?


Suh-weet!  We checked us out a free pair and set to it!

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The area around the jetty was really nice, and it was a perfect sunny day for a bike ride, so we decided to make a day of it.  We biked … all … over!


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Adorable little condos and townhouses by Crow’s Nest.  Many of them had stairwells up to the roof where they had set up a little sunbathing area on top of their house!

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Quaint shaded streets and light traffic made for perfect neighborhood cruising among HUGE banyan trees.

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I almost crashed five times trying to look up at the Spanish Moss.  Well, I take that back, I almost crashed several times because I’m just well, accident prone, and I was shooting while biking, AND I’m a blonde.  So, I had a lot working against me.  But, I somehow managed to stay upright.  The biking was actually excellent exercise for the knee which still had a little pain and a pop, but was improving daily.  We found an excellent public beach access that appeared to be the perfect place to set up for kiting if we got some favorable winds while we were there.


We actually met a kiter who was out there setting up that morning and chatted him up for a bit.


He told us the thermal winds in that area were usually pretty steady, meaning you couldn’t trust the wind prediction.  It was always off.  Good to get the local wind scoop!

Wind scoop …


Get it??


We rode our bikes all the way to town!


Tis me!


Annnd, I didn’t crash taking that shot either!  You’re welcome.

We found this awesome 1950’s throw-back trinket shop – Nifty Nic Nacs!



So true …


Take an old photo, put a funny caption on it and BOOM!  I just love these things!


Apparently, the shopkeep didn’t LOVE my love of them, though.  He totally busted me for taking photos of his stuff.  Sorrryyy!  It’s just cause it’s such cool stuff!  The lengths I go to to capture our adventures for you all … I could have been arrested!

Having biked all morning, we set our sights on lunch.  A little research told us this Blue Island Bistro was the hot lunch spot in Venice, and boy were they right!

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Quaint little bistro atmosphere overlooking the hotel pool.

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A pile of hand-made shoestring onion rings, three chicken, avocado and lime salsa tacos and a piled-high pork & coleslaw sandwich later, and Phillip and I could barely walk, much less pedal!  It took us a while to roll out of our seats and ease back onto our bikes to make the trek back to the marina, but it was totally worth it.  That was a mighty tasty lunch!

We had good timing, too, because just as we made our way back to the boat, we got to see first-hand what that storm that was headed to Clearwater looked like.  Our marina was haunted with looming grey clouds and dark horizons.

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We hunkered down in the boat for a bit to wait for the storm to pass.


I actually love being on the boat when a storm comes through.  Granted, I don’t want to be buried in a wicked thunderstorm, but it’s a neat feeling to be on your boat, on the water, out in the middle of a torrential downpour, but you’re dry and secure, watching it all first-hand.  It’s kind of like getting a cozy, front-row seat to some of Mother’s Nature’s most amazing displays.  And, our boat needed the rinse, so we were fine to let it pour, pour, pour!

I tell you one thing that rain didn’t clean, though, was the paddle board!  Remember the new “friend” we had made at the marina?  The one I thought was so cute because he was hanging on our dock line?  I had been snapping shots of him that morning, telling Phillip “Look, Phillip, we’ve got a little buddy!”  Awww … how cute!

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Well, he turned out to be a real shitty friend, that bird!  He used our paddle board as his own personal hunting perch and he SHAT all over it!


That terd!  It took some serious industrial scrubbing to get it clean!

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But, we got it clean, and cleaned ourselves up as well.  The previous night, we had fine-dined at the swanky top floor of the Crow’s Nest Marina restaurant, so this time we decided to check out the casual, cozy tavern on the bottom floor.

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I required some serious industrial cleaning as well after the foul fowl discharge clean-up!  But, I think I turned out alright.  You can’t see the elephant arm at all!  We mozied around the marina a bit to check out this huge fishing boat that had pulled in for quick cover during the flash storm.

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And, just as we were walking the docks, checking the boat out, we saw this other sailboat come flying in.  The boat would easily qualify as a “work-in-progress.”  It had big, brown paint patches in places, no lifelines to speak of and a few buckets and board planks lying around on deck.  The boat made a quick u-turn near the fishing boat where we were standing and then started on a beeline back toward our boat – just hauling through the marina (which always makes you nervous).  It’s like watching a car up ahead on the interstate swerving and screeching around.  You’re either going to ease back and stay out of the way, or floor it when you pass them to make sure they don’t careen into you.  But, the problem was, we weren’t on the boat!  Meaning, we had no way of getting our boat out of harm’s way.  We both craned our necks up and watched with tight-lip frowns as the blazing boat made a quick turn into the slip right next to us (not on us, at least).  Whew!  It was clear they weren’t going to hit our boat, but they were still barreling into the slip, headed straight for the dock.  Phillip and I both started running toward their bow as one of the crew on the fishing boat shouted:


The View From Up Top

April 14, 2014:

You guessed it.  Another mast climb.  After we let our hair down and painted St. Pete red on Sunday night, Captain was quick to wake on Monday morning and put this crew to work!


Thankfully, this time we were able to use the main halyard to raise me, which is faaarrr more reliable that the spinnaker halyard we had to use last time to retrieve the main halyard.  That thing scared the Bejeesus out of me.  (Yes, that’s a word – quite the fitting one here).  I think we stretched her three times her length last time.  And, having the boat tied securely to a mooring ball while I ascended (as opposed to swaying like a treetop in the wind mid-sea) made the climb infinitely more comfortable.

“Look Ma!  No hands!”

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In light of the vastly improved conditions, I took some time this time to get some footage!  I give you … the view from up top!


Such a great shot!  I love the view of this boat from up top.  She’s beautiful from all angles!

Thankfully, I made it up this time without any issue.  It was a nice, easy ride using the main halyard. As part of our preparations for the Keys, we had replaced the old main line with new VPC hybrid braid and what a difference!  I don’t think she stretched one bit while hoisting my heavy bottom all the way to the top.

I even got some footage from up top!


Video HERE.

What I find incredibly entertaining about this clip, though, is while I’m up there is Phillip’s one-line dialog: “What about the piece that broke?”  I mean, I’m up there risking life and limb climbing this mast (what seems like day after day on our sailing adventure) and the one time I try and take thirty seconds to capture it on film, Phillip is still all business.  “What about the piece that broke?” he says.

NOT:  “Man what a great climber you are, Annie.”  “Wow, you look like a real pro up there, Annie.”  “Go ahead, take all the time you need up there, Annie.”

NOPE.  It’s “what about the piece that broke?”

Like I said … a real slavedriver.   Yeaaahhh … He’ll regret that later … 


Much like the piece of the shackle that had come down (the swivel portion), the “piece that broke” (the part that connects to the Jenny halyard), it didn’t seem to have any obvious defect.  I shimmied it down and Phillip inspected it down on the deck.  He said it seemed the sir-clip (aka c-clip) had just popped off, which caused the shackle to come apart, allowing the swivel part to fall, and the halyard piece to remain at the top of the mast.  But, we were still missing some bearings, so repairs were certainly in order.  I also pulled off what looked like some marred black plastic at the top of the foil on the forestay.

We also put the inner forestay back in on the way down.  You’ll love this …  So, if you recall, our inner forestay busted during our initial Gulf Crossing when we were sailing the boat back from Punta Gorda, FL home to Pensacola, FL and we had a new one put in as part of our Keys preparations.  Well, the darn thing banged around like a banshee the first week of the trip and drove us crazy.  For that reason we decided to take her out when I had to climb the mast the first time to get the main halyard down.

Yeah, I can just imagine what you’re thinking (and saying to yourself with an imaginary pat on our heads):  “Poor little novice sailors.  You will learn.”  


Don’t worry.  We were doing that to ourselves.  When Jenny had her crack-induced fall-out and busted, we said the exact same thing to ourselves.  “Oh, no worries.  We can just hoist the staysail and keep on cruising.”  Except that we had taken down the forestay for the staysail.  I know … real brilliant like.  But she was banging!  And, I’ll tell you, with sailing, if you’re not out there screwing up and learning from your mistakes, then you’re not really sailing.  So, we chalked it up.  “Might as well put that back up while you’re up there.”  Which we did.  Lesson learned.  Make sure all of your safety and back-up gear are always ready, rigged and in working order.  You never know when you’re going to need them.

The great news was, we made it back up and down the mast a second time, safely, and we now had both busted parts of the Jenny down, as well as the Jenny halyard.  Done and done.  Hopefully no more mast climbs this trip.  But, we had even better news.  Once we got down and situated, Phillip got on the horn with the folks at Embree Marina who our previous owner had recommended in St. Pete, and they referred us to a local rigger – Steve Smith of SMMR, Inc.  We gave him a call and, while he had a few boats already lined up to work on that day, he asked us if we could motor over that morning so he could have a quick look at our Jenny shackle and give us a diagnosis.   We told him we were tied up to a mooring ball in the North Vinoy Basin and, turns out, he was just a short hop out into the bay and around the bend, up Salt Creek.


“Uhhh … you bet Steve.  We’ll be right there!”  We readied the boat and headed out.