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florida pirates

I was so excited, it was finally beach day!

My dad had promised us that we would visit the Emerald Coast as soon as he had a day off. Now Dad, Susie and I were almost to Destin, in our very own sunny Florida.

My little sister and I stretched ourselves as tall as we could reach in our car seats as Dad drove over a huge bridge toward the seashore. “Tommy?” my sister interrupted my thoughts.

“What?” I said, imagining that I was a captain on a huge fishing boat with a big hat and even bigger boots.

“Do you think we’ll see a dolphin?”

“Lots of them,” I promised, thinking about my favorite marine wildlife book, “and groupers, stingrays, jellyfish, and maybe even a shark!”

“A shark!” Susie said, sounding scared. “Are you sure?”

“Maybe just a little one,” I reassured her, waiting in anticipation as Dad turned to smile at us.

“We’re here,” he said, giving us the signal that it was finally okay to unbuckle and get out of the car.

florida pirates
florida pirates

It was a beautiful day in Destin! The sun was shining high above us, the sky was a clear bright blue, and a slight breeze swirled around making us all feel fresh and clean. I helped Susie lug her big bag of sand toys all the way out of the parking lot, while Dad carried our chairs and an umbrella. I didn’t bring anything except my imagination, which was my own special adventure pack.

We walked all the way out to the beach and set up our spot for the day. I stopped to kick off my sandals and plunged my toes into the soft, white sand, gazing out at the blue-green water. It gently rolled back and forth from the edge of the sand.

It was an Emerald Day for sure! I hoped that I would find my own treasures today. Not only emeralds, but rubies, sapphires, and best of all gold!

“Do you see any dolphins?” Susie’s voice chirped in my ear. Her little face was scrunched up from the bright sunlight.

“Not yet,” Dad said, “but we will keep looking. We might see them following a boat and playing in the water, too.”

florida pirates

Susie and I decided to build a sandcastle while we waited for the boats and dolphins to show up. As I scooped up wet sand on the edge of the foamy waves, I thought again about being a captain on a big fishing vessel. I dreamed about having a spyglass and a sword, standing on the bow of my ship, ready to defend my crew from any dangerous pirates.

When I stood up to carry my bucket of sand back to Susie, I gasped with surprise. There was a boat far off on the horizon—with a pirate flag on its mast!

florida pirates

Then, when I blinked, it was suddenly gone. I let out a deep breath of disappointment and brought the sand back to Susie. “Dad?” I said, looking at my father as he sat comfortably in his chair, watching us play. “Do you think there were any pirates trying to steal gold in Destin?”

Dad smiled. “Have I ever told you about the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail?” I shook my head, the very name making me feel like I was about to go on a wonderful adventure. “Well, over the years, there have been many different ships that have sunk all along the coast.”

“How many?” I interrupted.

florida pirates

“Well, I know of twenty for sure, but who knows?” Dad added with a twinkle in his eye. “Maybe you’ll find more! Long ago, when a boat sank, everyone thought it was lost forever, but then scuba divers found a way to explore the wrecks. Now they have different trails underwater that anyone can follow.”

“Wow,” I said. I imagined putting on my own wetsuit and diving under the water with a cool mask and snorkel that blew out bubbles. “Can I do that one day?”

“We will do it together!”

I was very excited to hear that. “We’ll find a ship that nobody has found before—a sunken treasure ship that pirates blew up—and we’ll even find some gold!”

“You never know.” Dad replied, sitting back in his chair with a smile.

florida pirates

“You will be rich!” Susie piped in.

“And you will be a queen,” I promised, making her giggle. I stood on the edge of the shore again, gazing out toward the ocean, thinking of all the ships that lay beneath the waves, just waiting to be discovered. A little sparkle caught the corner of my eye. I turned and saw an object glittering on the sand.

“Gold!” I cried out, and ran to pick it up. It was actually a shiny shell. Not exactly gold, but it was still beautiful. I brought it back to my dad for him to inspect.

“That, my boy, is a jingle shell. Awesome find!”

I gave the shell to Susie, and she put it on the top of her best castle.

“Captain Tommy, go get me more gold,” she commanded.

“Aye, aye, Queen Sue,” I laughed and pretended to scuba dive into the ocean. I splashed around in the water, finding sparkling reefs all around me where beautiful fish scattered in every direction. Then I imagined a shark was headed straight toward me. I jumped out of the water and ran past a bunch of little birds, determined to find more treasure.

florida shipwrecks

Another flicker of gold!

This time, my dad told me it was a piece of a conch shell and Susie put it on the path leading up to her smallest castle. I found so many treasures that day—from dull cockle shells to shiny oval olive shells, and lots of broken pieces of all different colors! My favorite was a little spiral shell that looked like the horn of a unicorn.

As the sun began to descend toward the sea, we heard the sound of a jeep driving toward us. Susie and I looked up in surprise. It was one of Dad’s friends coming to pick us up and take us on another adventure.

We rode along the shore, the jeep bumping up and down on the sand, which made me think about riding the waves in my own ship. I would protect my crew from the pirates, and the storms that roll through!

We gazed out at the beautiful sky as the sun dipped lower, sending streaks of yellow, orange, and red across the horizon. I felt something on my shoulder and looked down to see that Susie had already fallen asleep. It had been such an amazing day and I felt a little tired, too. But nothing would keep me from French fries and ice cream on our ride home—all that treasure hunting made me very hungry!

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