His name is Apple. He moved here from Virginia Beach as an electrician to work on small boats at Harbor-Ops with Caleb. Not his choice, though he doesn’t regret it, he too is military. Caleb has wanted a truck that gets as good a gas mileage as our Hyundai to pull a dreamboat for a while. Just so happens that Apple owns a ’05 Ford Ranger. They set out to search for a $2,000 boat on Craigslist.
We would all sit in his three-seater and take drives to Yulee, Gainesville, and Orange Park. The first boat was purple and the owner’s biceps were huge – he had to steer the boat somehow. Another boat had a crack in the hull that the guys decided to not even bother trying to fix. One day, the guys would take a trip south and come back with a 1990 Wellcraft 18-Sport on a trailer that was too small; now to put it in the water.
We launched the boat from Michael B. Scanlan Mayport Boat Ramp and I was smiling with a Bud Light Lime in one hand and a Canon XSi in the other. Seconds later, Caleb is telling me to move the cooler to the front before we sink; someone had taken out the bilge plug. We pull back in, Caleb dives under, and back out we go. We head to the ocean where Apple begins to hate the constant rocking. As soon as we get back to the river we lose steering. Caleb is able to maneuver the engine, left turns only, to get us back with the help of Apple paddling.
This boat will need some work but, for what it is worth and what he got it for, it is worth it. Apple will buy a ladder, fish-finder, and a battery. Caleb will attach jean-strips to the canvas of the Bimini-top to secure it to the aluminum frame; eventually new straps will be bought so it can stay up while we drive. Apple will buy the glass and make a tinted windshield himself in his garage. Apple will get rid of the anchor that came with the boat and replace it with two, one homemade and one a mushroom anchor, and eventually use both to ensure the boat stays put.
With the trailer being too small the axle would bend and Apple would need a new trailer. He returns to Craigslist for a trailer under $400 – a hard feat. He finds a guy that’s got a deal and, after picking up some chili-mango candy, we arrive with cash in hand. Some small talk is made, but Apple is set and I use his Garmin to direct us towards home. We make a few left turns and a hard right and when Apple sees the gas station with chickens he decides that we are lost. We notice that home is over 14 hours away, somewhere in Wisconsin, and after some hard laughing get turned in the right direction. Caleb will reprogram home on the way back.
The guys wanted to go fishing and I like spending time with my husband and my camera; this was an opportunity for both. Apple gets a bucket of minnows from Fisherman’s Seafood & Bait and after Caleb catches an eel and throws it back, the boat is in full-throttle towards home, Caleb realizes Apple has kindly let all the little fish swim home too, except for one. Caleb had left one on his hook and decided a beheading was the way to go.
Days on the boat are filled with laughter, sun burns, Bud Light Limes, and junk food. So far, the guys have let more fish go than they have caught. I think it started out as a joke, but the life-vests on board have become regular swimwear. I will let the guys in first so I can get some pictures. I start out with an orange vest and it hurts my chin so Caleb trades me for the black one that rises above my head – photo opportunity. Apple waits for Caleb to get back to the boat before launching his attack. Luckily I expected him or I would have swallowed lots of seawater.
Even the boat-ramp can be an adventure. The first time Apple went to put the boat in, he took up the ramp big enough for two. One time pulling in there was a cop car next to his truck; it’s funny now to remember how nervous he was about what kind of expensive ticket he might get. Luckily the guy was on a break with his girlfriend and had no interest in us. Another visit would have me chasing a red-running-bug. After some research I will find out that it’s a velvet ant, which really isn’t even an ant.
Before the next ride we make a trip to PetSmart for dog-life-vests and Pet-Ease dog-relaxation-biscuits for Piggy. They are so cute and ready to go after the bumpy ride they endured to get to the swimming area for the day. The vests have handles and I’ve seen Sparky swim back to shore after fetching a ball, but I have no idea how this will go so I attach their leashes to the vest handle. I lower Sparky to Caleb and the tide pulls him towards the boat. I lower Piggy on the other side and off with the leash she is going, but where. I jump across the boat, bruising my shin, and snatch her out of the water.
I reattached her leash differently this time and then we spend the day swimming and running on the beach. The next beach we visit I will be glad we didn’t bring the dogs. Another good reason for vests that float: when you start to walk on sharp things underwater that are cutting your feet you can start to float instead. I wish I would have thought of that sooner but my right foot is recovering nicely.
Wilson Rivera will join us on a trip and we will make a stop at Fisherman’s Seafood & Bait to pick up some new weights and some new bait – squid. One of the guys that work there will give us some stinky dead crabs to aid our efforts and I will see a sign on the fridge door – Plese. Do not open Door Ask for Help. After donating a few squid to the unknown hungry animals below there will be a unanimous decision to go swimming.
Here the guys will let loose and play dead, pretend to be dolphins, and wrestle with each other. They have fun swimming, floating, and fighting for their way back onto the boat with the help of the ladder and spare ropes. Soon it will be time for a break and let the picture-taking begin. Caleb noticed this small submarine submersion or a manatee swimming. I got pictures of pieces of gray back and one with his tail until he swam into the distance. Then came the dolphins and after 100 pictures I got three with faces, mostly fins, and a few back shots.
The guys do not tire easily and, ensuring they are again left with only little fish, jump back in. I try to get a good picture of the waves crashing over the rocks and after Rivera makes a show of watering the ocean the other two are ready to go. I will get some pictures of roseate spoonbills flying in the distance with plenty of gulls and pelicans close-up. I enjoy seeing how my pictures turn out after bouncing around and pointing somewhat aimlessly. I hope to get a chance to swim with the manatees and dolphins on another trip.
Apple will send an invite for a boat ride for a friend and T-Pain (aka Jessica or Throttle-Pain) and I will decide it best to let some of my prior bruises heal while they take our old roommate, Jon, out for a guys’ day. They tried to go to Fort George Inlet but they ended up getting the boat stuck on a sandbar and turned around. A cumulus cloud in front of the sun will make for a pleasant conclusion.