Vacation - Day 4: Breakfast, Beach and The Other Boat.
Another day with no schedule and nothing important to do. I could get used to this.
This morning we were treated to breakfast at The Grand Hotel. It's been a while since I've seen a breakfast buffet that large. I tried to find a link that would give some of it's history but, alas, couldn't some up with one. In a very small nutshell it goes like this. The small hotel was first built on the site back in 1820. In 1847, the Grand Hotel was built to replace it. It quickly became famous for it's hospitality and southern charm. It was converted to a Confederate hospital during the Civil War and there is a Confederate cemetery on the grounds. Sometime thereafter (I don't remember the exact date but I want to say around 1910 or so) a fire pretty much wiped the whole thing out. It was rebuilt but much of it was decimated again when a ship that was docked at it port exploded (mid 20's, I think). Rebuilt yet again, it was used for training US amphibious forces during World War II because of it's location right on Mobile Bay. It's been added onto over the years, but the original building is still there and is gorgeous. All wood. Wood everywhere. Timber framing, wide plank floors, solid paneled walls. I've never seen so much wood in one room. I'm not sure when it was purchased by Marriott but they appear to have avoided screwing it up (other than not having a page with its history on their web site.)
Anyway, after breakfast we headed for the Gulf.
Gulf Shores, to be exact. We rode around for a while to get familiar with the area and then headed for Orange Beach. Al & Jamie have a nephew (or maybe great-nephew) who is the captain of a $3.5 million boat (a 61-foot cruiser fully rigged for deep sea fishing) called the "High C's" who had agreed to give us a quick tour. It was fitted with top end electronics (CD & DVD players, cameras on the fishing outriggers each with its own recorder, satellite TV, etc) and a full remote console from which you can control it all, even in other rooms. (Every parents dream - see what your kids are watching in their rooms without listening at the door.) Chuck is very nonchalant about his job and his boss. As he puts it, "Big toys for big boys - that's all it is." He knows he has a great gig, but he's worked his way into it. He's been piloting boats for over 20 years, starting with his first little skiff when he was about 17.
He also showed us some video of a couple of fishing tournaments they were in. In one, a 14-year-old boy caught a 420 lb marlin having fought it for just over 2 hours (Chuck says he's the best angler on the team) taking third place and in the other, they landed a 635 lb marlin ("Capt. Chuck" is Chuck Darring, the aforementioned nephew) which easily won first prize.
The rest of the day was spent at the beach. Thing 1 & Thing 2 had never been to any coast before so this was a fun experience for them. And they had a blast. They ran around collecting shells and building rather abstract representations of sand castles as we had no bucket. We had lots of fun playing in the surf and jumping the waves as they came in. We'll be back.
We grabbed some dinner and headed back for a good night's rest. Tomorrow we're gonna hang around Fairhope for the morning and then take the boat out for a spin.