Eight Catalina 22s sailed from Apalachicola on Saturday October 9, 2004. The trip was documented in MainBrace in an article titled “Hooligan’s Apalachicola Eight”. If you read the story you may recall a stopover made by two boats, Rhapsody in seA and Hooligan, at Little St. George Island. It was here that while we spent the day exploring the island Rhapsody broke anchor and followed the wind and current towards Government Cut, a pass that leads to open sea. Fortunately we had brought our dinghy, RoxseA, and were able to chase and eventually catch Rhapsody, about ½ mile before she entered Government Cut.
Although the original article did a good job documenting our adventure, little effort was given to providing information about the day we spent exploring the island. Little St. George is situated 8 miles offshore from Apalachicola and can only be reached by boat. The island is uninhabited. It is a perfect destination for a Catalina 22. We found an old cabin near the beach where we anchored. The cabin is used by volunteer workers who maintain the island and do research. After applying liberal amounts of mosquito repellant we hiked along a sandy trail that led us through island vegetation to the south shore. From there we hiked east along the shore collecting seashells and taking pictures. Our destination was an abandoned lighthouse.
The lighthouse is officially known as the Cape St. George Lighthouse and is at the southern-most tip of Little St. George Island. Replacing earlier lighthouses, Cape St. George Lighthouse was built in 1852. Over the years hurricanes took their toll. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew pulled a major part of the beach surrounding the lighthouse back into the ocean. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1994. In 1995 Hurricane Opal produced a tidal surge that moved the lighthouse from its foundation. The lighthouse settled in the sand and developed a 7 degree lean. In 1995 the Cape St. George Lighthouse Society raised the funds to level the lighthouse and poured a concrete ring around it.
As we approached the lighthouse I was struck by its isolation. Erosion continued its toll on the beach. The lighthouse was sitting 20 feet out in the water and the platform was engulfed in the surf. At the time of our visit additional funds were being raised to move the lighthouse back to dry land. For the few hours we spent exploring the lighthouse we were alone on the island. Cape St. George Lighthouse stood 153 years as a lonely guardian, protecting ships and boats from the dangerous shores. There was little remaining of the lighthouse keeper’s residence save parts of the foundation and fireplace. The lighthouse itself was an empty shell. The spiral staircase and the light were gone. The lighthouse was leaning again as well. Eventually we had to leave and we took our last pictures before hiking back to the other side of the island.
On our way home, with our Catalina 22, Rhapsody in seA, safely in tow behind our truck, Dora and I talked about making a trip back to visit the lighthouse again. Unfortunately, we waited too long. On Friday, October 21, 2005, just over one year from our visit, Cape St. George Lighthouse fell into the ocean. Our Catalina 22 continues to provide us with the gift of adventure. Although there will be other islands to explore and other lighthouses to visit we will always remember this adventure and the fellow C22 owners and friends we shared it with.