Noah’s Ark 

Yeah, that is the name of the boat that is moored next door on the St. John’s River.  No, I am not living in La La Land.  There truly is a large boat that sleeps 16 paying guests and is for hire for excursions up and down the river or for week long or longer fishing trips. 

The fun is watching it leave it’s berth with all those dinghies in tow.  On board, is Noah Tillghman, the captain, and his trusty right hand, cook, bottle washer, handyman, fishing guide guy.  It was tall enough – a double decker – that the bridge had to be opened to allow it to pass through.  Sometimes it would sit dead in the water waiting for the bridge tender to raise the bridge, other times it seemed like the bridge opened at the first blast of the boats horn.

People from all around would book a fishing trip.  Mostly there were the men alone.  Occasionally the wives would join in and then Mrs. Tillghman would ride along to entertain the women with card games, etc. while the men fished. 

The hope was that there would be enough fish caught so no one went hungry. 

Engine trouble was a fact of life. I remember once going to the Ocklawaha River mouth and sitiing dead in the water for about an hour waiting until the crew had her engines working again.

When Noah no longer took trips out, the boat was sold to someone near Sanford.  Noah’s nephew went along to be the captain for a while.  At some point there was a fire aboard and I had thought that was the end of Noah’s Ark.

Several years later to my pleasant surprise, I was crossing Lake Harris heading for Howey-in-the-Hills and I looked off to the right shore and there I was once again looking at my old friend.  Mission Inn and Country Club had bought it and gutted the insides to make a party boat.  Sunday brunch, weddings, receptions, parties, you name it, once again people were enjoying cruises of much shorter duration.

Again she was sold.  This time she sunk.  The bilge pumps quit working after she was lifted up and she sunk again.  Now she is back in Palatka where she started.  She is on the south side of the bridge instead of the north and she is being refurbished once again. 

I t will be nice to see her again going up and down the river.

The Tillghman’s lived in the boat house with the Ark.  They had an upstairs apartment on the shore side of the boathouse. 

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©2007-2010 Story by Fran Smith