Steve Allen stands on the poop deck of the pirate ship, with the bow behind overlooking Apalachicola Bay. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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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.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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