Wednesday, May 6, 2015

NC Beaufort Inlet Seafood Company, Morehead City, Radio Island

     Today we are heading up the coast from Bogue Bank.  We pass briefly through Morehead City, across the Newport River and into Beaufort NC.

     Worldwide there are about 20 Beauforts but this one lies in close enough proximity to Beaufort SC that the two are often confused.  The annunciation for the two is different - this one is pronounced Bow-furt, as opposed to the Beu-furt that designates South Carolina's.  You may recall the tour guide from Hollywood California that we met in Beaufort SC.  He flew in from California and bought a sailboat here in Beaufort NC, intending to sail the world.  Overcome with horrible seasickness, he was rescued by the coast guard.  When he was taken to the hospital, he saw the name Beaufort and thought he had merely sailed in a circle.  Since that event he has lived in Beaufort SC for over twenty years.

     Morehead City has a number of riverfront and harbor front restaurants, shops and boardwalks.  This area is characterized by a couple of large industrial firms along the river and numerous large marinas.  Here is a condominium complex that overlooks the harbor, river and ocean.

     Seafood is a big part of this area - everywhere you look someone is fishing or casting a net.

     An inlet beside the river is where most of the deep sea fishing vessels put in.

     Today the ship "Heritage" has put in after two weeks of fishing along the banks running between here and Point Judith, Rhode Island, its home port.

     It has put in at Beaufort Inlet Seafood Company, owned by Brent Fulcher, the third generation of his family to work handling seafood. 


     Brent is the chairman of the North Carolina Fisheries Association, a non profit organization that was created by fisheries back in 1952.  Its mission is to preserve and promote the families that work in this industry, the industry's heritage and the seafood itself.  One local told me that if it weren't for Brent there might not be any fishery business in Beaufort anymore.

    The fishery itself handles about two million pounds of seafood a year, and employs about thirty people, and Brent owns and operates eight large trawlers himself.

     His brother-in-law Lee runs the daily operations of the fishery, which today means unloading, packing and shipping the haul from two vessels that have put in overnight.

     Preparations are underway early - Lee is running loads of ice into the packing house - a good bit of ice as about 15,000 pounds of fish are expected.

     Packing boxes and lids need to be assembled.

     Each box gets a layer of ice on the bottom.

     The Heritage is owned and captained by Tom Williams, a native of Point Judith.  

     Tom ran to get provisions before I could get a good photo of him, but he has owned the vessel since June of 1997.

     He runs with two crewman - helping him on this trip were Frank Jackson of Wooster Mass. and Steve Walsh from Rhode Island.

     In a good year deck hands can make $100,000, but it is hard work and long hours - weeks at a time on the sea.

     After a day here, these guys will head back out to sea and fish their way back up the coast.  This trip the figure they got 7,500 lbs.

      There is an old joke about life on the fishing trawlers - it is that the men are men and the women are men too.  It is a harrowing job where a thousand things can go wrong at any given moment.  Safety has to be a top priority because there is not much margin for error and nothing in the environment gives second chances.

     When it comes time to unload, workers climb down in the hold and place the fish in buckets.  Frank and Steve then winch these buckets out and slide them on a pulley over workers above on the dock.

     The fish and ices are dumped into a hopper that allows the ice to fall out and then transports them up a conveyor belt into the fishery.

     Once inside they fall onto another conveyor belt where they are separated by specie and by size.  The fish are pretty well sorted by specie on the boat, so most of the work here is just sizing them.  Here Juana helps Lee with the task.

     From the sorting station they are put into baskets and weighed.

     They are then placed atop the layer of ice in the cartons, and more ice is shoveled on top of them.

     Lids are placed on the cartons, and they are marked for specie, size and weight.  Ideal is about fifty pounds of fish per carton.

     About twenty five cartons make a skid, which is wrapped in plastic and moved into the large cooler.

     About eighty percent of the Heritage's catch was flounder.

     But there were numerous other species - Monkfish, Skates, Butterfish and squid were among the others.

     There were a few Horseshoe Crabs too - they are resold for bait.

     Meanwhile there are a steady stream of other folks coming in and out.  The fishery supports about 150 smaller boats.  This is Hunter Barta, a local crab man.  His father is Tred Barta of the popular hunting and fishing show.

     Hunter has strings of crab traps, as we saw with the men from the Sea Eagle market in Beaufort South Carlina.

     The crabs ae then weighed and put on pallets.

     Balancing the whole act by keeping up with who is where and what they need is Aundrea, the office manager here.

     Meanwhile, a fuel truck fills the Heritage back up, and Lee pumps fresh ice back into their hold.

     The Heritage is ready for its run back up the coast and the pallets are loaded into a refrigerated truck to be take to auction.

     It is hard work, and the pay isn't always too good.  Folks in the business say you have to have it in your blood.

     There are several "Faces in the Crowd" today.  This fellow does a lot of the maintenance work that needs done on the boats and facility,

  . . this is one of the sailors that came through, 

. . . and this is Winston, the fishery's mascot.

     And today's parting shot, hanging from Aundrea's desk:

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Have a great day !!


  1. My other work family. Ya gotta watch old Winston and a pair of flip flops

  2. What a great site David! I'll take the time to look at some of your other visits when I have more time.

    Jerry Schill
    North Carolina Fisheries Association