Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Visit to the Texas Maritime Museum

After a couple of days looking at sad little kittens and cats at shelters, we decided it was time to educate ourselves about the Rockport area and figured the Texas Maritime Museum was a good place to start.

Located at 1202 Navigation Circle, the museum is easy to spot as it was built to resemble a lighthouse. Entering the museum takes you right into the gift shop where there are some attractive cloisonne' pieces, sterling silver jewelry, prints of lighthouses in Texas done in watercolors and the ubiquitous tee shirts. A very knowledgeable and friendly volunteer was manning the cash register on the day we stopped and she provided additional information about the museum and the area as we chatted.

The emphasis of the museum's main display is the story of Robert Cavalier, known as La Salle, who sailed with four ships and a couple hundred settlers to colonize an area around the Mississippi River but through poor navigational tools and lack of geographical knowledge of the area ended up near Matagorda Bay along the Gulf Coast of what would eventually be Texas. But there are many exhibits in the museum detailing the history of fishing, boat building and the oil drilling industry in Texas with some interactive displays and video clips that are quite interesting.

We climbed to the third floor to go outside and take in the view of Aransas Bay from the deck of the "lighthouse" and watched the boats in the marina coming and going. After you explore the museum two floors you can step outside and view the La Tortuga, a replica Texas Scow Schooner hand made on the grounds of the museum by volunteers. The scow schooner was a sailing vessel that was built with flat ends fore and aft that was used extensively in the bay waters of Texas. There are also two types of life boats or safety boats used by employees of offshore oil drilling rigs in times of fires, explosions or storms and a variety of water signs, lights and buoys.

While not a large museum, the Texas Maritime Museum allowed us to spend a pleasant hour and a half learning about the Gulf Coast of Texas and the people who settled here. At $4 a person (senior price, adults are $5) it was an inexpensive way to spend an afternoon.

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