Crooked River ‘pirate ship’ readies for maiden voyage
Nine years ago, after the Carrabella “pirate ship” playground burned to the ground at the Crooked River Lighthouse on Mother’s Day 2015, Steve Allen was determined to build it back better.
As an architect by profession and president of the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association, Allen set to work on designing and building a unique, multi-faceted wooden ship that would both delight kids and double as an amphitheater and stage.
At Saturday’s Crooked River Fest, on a lazy afternoon that featured a much expanded daylong version of the twice monthly country market, Allen was eager to show off his handwork.
It’s still a few months away from setting sail in all its practical splendor, but the still-unnamed ship (which Allen prefers to call the Phoenix because it rose from the ashes), is taking shape as the centerpiece of a “destination playground” where kids can do everything from recreating the “I’m flying” scene from Titanic, to standing in a wheelhouse and pretending they’re Captain Ahab to “locking up” their friends in a brig that can be escaped from through a secret passageway.
With brass fittings on a wooden structure, it’s a far cry from the plastic playground variety that the lighthouse might have gone for with a simple buy-it-and-snap-it-together. Instead, Allen cobbled together insurance monies from the fire, as well as thousands more from individual donations, from the Tourist Development Council and from assorted fundraisers, to recreate the one-of-a-kind ship entirely from pressure-treated wood, with the generous help of local artisans and craftsmen.
It’s not all about child’s play, as Allen made sure to put in a powerful sound stage that can accommodate concerts, such as the one by the 10-piece Funky Taters that rocked the festival’s Saturday night entertainment.
It’s by no means finished, as Allen still has to put in giant slides on the stern, an enormous metal bowsprit on the bow, armaments, portholes and rigging on the pair of 40-foot mast poles.
But as an impressive backdrop, with the folksy sounds of Johnny Cash and Peter, Paul and Mary emanating from its hull, it formed an impressive vantage point to the Crooked River Fest booths below.
Booths that included Forgotten Coast Farms off of Golden Honey Trail in Sumatra, a modest operation run by Josh and Tara Lemmon that includes goats, chickens, hogs, quail, rabbits, pretty much everything but beef, along with produce.
Tara didn’t bring along the meat and vegetables for the day-long event, it was too perishable, but she offered an assortment of soaps made from goat milk as well as lotions that she creates. With their home-schooled family in tow, sons Kale, Sawyer and Huckleberry, and daughter Frankie, the fledgling operation, begun in May 2023, sells its wares at markets between Port St. Joe and Carrabelle.
It’s all about “faith, family and food,” as noted on their logo, which features Josh’s drawing of the pond and trees found on their property.