DARIEN, Ga. -- Shrimp boats along Georgia's coastline are usually seen dragging nets. One has been refitted to drag kayaks.The Captain Gabby, a shrimp vessel that's been retrofitted for kayak tours, is making its public debut at today's Blessing of the Fleet in Darien. After that the boat will moor at Darien's city docks, ready to ferry kayakers to far-flung coastal places too remote to reach by paddle power alone.
By CAROLE HAWKINS - The Florida Times-Union
Cindy Dennard, co-owner of the Captain Gabby and a partner in the kayak tour company Southeast Adventure Outfitters, said the charter shrimp boat will take coastal kayak tours into deeper waters.
"Right now we take trips all along the Georgia coast. But, there are a lot of islands you can't access easily from the mainland, and you certainly can't camp there," Dennard said. She and two fellow kayak guides, Charlie Young and Robby Bufkin, tried to think of a solution.
"We used to say to each other, 'Wouldn't it be great if we had a mother ship?'" she said.
Anchored out, with kayaks and sleeping quarters on board, kayak tourists could go places where no paddlers had gone before.
They bought the Captain Gabby 31/2 years ago and set out to make their vision a reality. It took a lot of work."We had to clean and remove years of commercial shrimping from the boat. We probably filled up a couple of Dumpsters," said ship captain Patrick Hagan, who led the retrofitting project. "It took way more time than we anticipated.
"The group ripped out old plumbing and electrical systems and installed a new generator and main engine. The galley was expanded, bunks added for passengers and crew quarters installed below.
"Basically it's an old boat with all new guts," Hagan said.
Except for its historic charm, it doesn't look old. The 42-foot wooden vessel is painted a crisp white with blue trim. Fishing gear is gone and custom equipment added. That includes a side winch to lift kayaks out of the water and an oversized swim platform on the back to deploy kayaks and passengers.
"It's really unique. There's definitely nothing else like it in the world," said Hagan. "Maybe it will help more people realize how much you can do with an old shrimp boat."
The Captain Gabby makes a good stable platform for kayak tours, fishing or bird watching, said Hagan.
He's especially looking forward to overnight tours.
"It will give everyone time to sit, relax, unwind and immerse themselves in the surroundings. Places like Blackbeard's Island and St. Catherine's Island are unbelievably beautiful and rarely visited," he said.
"They're aren't many other stretches of coast that aren't lined with condos and development. Georgia is really special that way. Once you get to Florida or South Carolina, it's all over."