Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hushpuppy exposé

In 1957 a wooden ketch was being battered in a gale and started taking on water from a split hull seam. It quickly came about and ran hard due east towards the Florida coastline.  The eastward turn was fortuitous, and the vessel started to run a bit ahead of the storm. A pass was seen, and used, although at that point with several feet of water sloshing in the cabin, a beach would have been acceptable.

The pass was Egmont Key, and the vessel hooked to the south seeking the lee side of Anna Maria Island. The boat was bailed down as much as practical, and the family fled to shore. The storm followed them into the coast, roiled over night, broke the anchor chain and  drove the ketch onto a sandbar. 

In the morning a tug attempts to pull the boat off the bar, but to no avail, A plan is hatched to remove one of the running backstays and use the tug to heel over the full keeled vessel. It starts to shift, and then with a horrific crack, the main mast splintered, and crashed into the water. In 1957 dollars $9000 dollars of rigging was now floating in the water.

Like the pioneers who built the sod hut where the wagon wheel broke, the demasted vessel became the first Florida home for the small family. After hull repairs, the boat lived at small inexpensive docks on the local barrier islands. A very rare treat in those days was to go out to eat. What was close, and inexpensive, were the local mom and pop seafood restaurants. The hushpuppies were always my favorite menu choice. Remember this is 1957, and from my five year old perspective, all seafood was fried, and vegetables come out of cans.