A long time ago on a houseboat not so far away…
Story by Clarence Baker
It was a brisk morning in early 1974. A man by the name of Clarence Baker started the engine of his beloved houseboat, Li’l Hobo, which had been commissioned for an epic journey from Pennsylvania to Florida.
He pulled in the lines.
He went cautiously to the fuel dock, then crashed into it—likely out of sheer nervousness for the impending journey he was about to take with his spouse and friends.
“We filled our tanks and then crashed into the dock again while maneuvering to leave it,” Clarence noted in the first installment of this story, which debuted in our July 2006 issue. “We waved goodbye to Newt and Lynn, who ran the marina. I’ll never forget the worried looks on their faces as we left them behind to start our great adventure. We were finally on our way…”
When we last heard from Mr. Baker, After a couple of hours of fighting only four-foot waves, they were in front of Jules Marina, but all the slips were taken. The wind had kept everyone in port and there was no space for Li’l Hobo.
After drinks on board the Seagraves’ boat, they left us with the remains of a large smoked Arkansas country ham, which to say the least, was greatly appreciated, especially by Eddie, who would do anything for ham. I later came to be Sig’s captain on three different boats in Florida.
Rose and I were at the Marina Restaurant one night for a nightcap and the waitress bragged about a drink she had invented and for which she had won a prize. It was the called the ‘707’, so of course we had to have one of those blue ribbon type drinks. It’s terrible the way people are dishonest to one another, because we told her it was delicious, but in reality it tasted like ginger ale and sewer water.
We stayed for five enjoyable days, and then headed for Dauphin Island, Alabama. On the way in to the island, we were glad we only drew ten inches of water because I ended up on the wrong side of a breakwater where boats were not supposed to be. When we got in the channel and tied up to a dock, a man who had watched us remarked that no other big boat had ever been on that side before. We were lucky we didn’t run aground.
Mary Diane bought five pounds of large shrimp from a boat for seventy-five cents a pound. Then she and her mom cleaned them on the dock and we promptly stuffed ourselves. It was a treat to find seafood so inexpensive and fresh.
It was 80 degrees the next morning and the weather seemed to be just right for boating, so we left for your next port. Unfortunately I decided to take a shortcut through the island canals. It was very narrow and the tide was out (which I had not yet become used to). Our stern drive hit hard on some rock or dead coral and the out drive jumped up into the air. We didn’t notice any damage but only a little vibration at 2500 rpm so we kept on going. It turned out to be a rough and bouncy day crossing ‘Bon Secour Bay’ which took three hours but nothing could bother us today because this was the day that Li’l Hobo would reach Florida.