Thursday, May 7, 2015

NC Beaufort Wooden Boat Show

     Welcome back to Beaufort NC.  Of historical interest - as we have traveled the east coast, in numerous places we have been told this or that place was the furthest north the Spanish ever ventured.  On August 26th of 1747 the Spanish took the town of Beaufort and occupied it for several weeks.  So we have another "furthest north" point of early Spanish influence.

     In many ways Beaufort has been able to retain its small town charm, reminiscent of our visit to St. Marys, Georgia..  There is easy access to the nearby Newport River, the harbor and the ocean, but it is isolated enough from major interstates that it has retained much of its small town identity.  

     It has its share of antebellum architecture, and has a long river walk complete with several large parks.

     This last weekend was Beaufort's 41st annual wooden boat.  Much of the show centered around the Watercraft Center and the Maritime Museum, both located on Front Street by the river.

     This was also the 7th annual wooden boat building challenge.

     The challenge took place under a large tent along the waterfront, and featured about twenty teams of all different descriptions.

     All teams had four hours to complete a simple wooden rowboat.  A couple of the teams were good carpenters who had done this before. 

     Their moves and their teamwork were practiced and their boats came out pretty good.

     Other teams were in it as a learning experience.  Here a man works along with his wife, son and daughter.  In another booth a cub scout troop was building one.

     The atmosphere was fun and friendly as all of the teams readily interacted with the crowds of people.  It really seemed like everyone won.

     Just up the street was a whole different kind of wooden boat building.  These are the modelers.  

     Meet Robert Tuttle, a self-taught model boat builder.

     Robert's passion is building scale model wooden boats that specifically have been built by North Carolina boat builders in the past.  He collaborates with boat manufacturers to get the details so that his designs are accurate.

      The one he is shown with above has several modifications that he would incorporate if he had a boat built for himself.  He prefers the curved pilot's house windows and several other features that he built in.  From Winston-Salem NC, he recently celebrated his 47th wedding anniversary, and his wife was right by his side helping him with the show.

     Robert is very interested in helping anyone who has an interest in getting involved in model boat building, and can be reached at

     These model boats have to be a labor of love, because given the time it takes to make them it certainly is not a money-making proposition.  The details are precise, and modelers often have to get real creative to find the right things to trim the boats out.

     I don't know much about building these models, but I am told that in many cases the model builders have to use much the same processes as the folks who build the full size working boats. It seems to me that rigging sails in particular must take painstaking effort.

     The maritime museum itself has some impressive models - this one is about twelve feet long.

     Much of the museum's displays center around the salvaging of a shipwreck just off of Beaufort Inlet that was found in 1996.  This was the Queen Anne's Revenge, a ship that was taken over and operated by the pirate Blackbeard until he ran her aground and she sank back in 1718.

     One of the many exhibits in the museum show how the salvage ship set up and worked the debris field.

     There are many exhibits of items found in the wreckage and artifacts that were used by pirates in that time period.

     Also in the museum are artifacts showing the evolution of modern small boats, including a display of the evolution of outboard motors.  This one dates to the 1920's.

     Meanwhile, along the street were full sized wooden boats built by regular folks. 

     Many of these are works of art, taking many thousands of hours to put together.

     The detail and the craftsmanship are spectacular.  Again, this is not a hobby for someone who is looking to make money.  These are a labor of love.  

     Across the street in the Watercraft Center we find Jim Goodwin who specializes in making ships in bottles.  

     We saw some spectacular examples of this craft at the Ships of the Sea museum in Savannah GA.

     This art was started by sailors looking to spend their down-time constructively, and the oldest one known was made in 1784.  The notion of building things in bottles to start with goes back even earlier to German peoples who would put their patron saint in a bottle and suspend it over cook pots.  When the steam hit the bottle, condensed and fell back into the cook-pot it was considered to carry the blessing of that particular saint.

     In the late afternoon, a race for small sailboats was held out on the river.  A small cannon was used to announce the beginning and the end of the race.

     Boaters ran lengths up and down the waterfront as the crowds cheered on their favorites.

     Scores of locals work as volunteers in both the museum and the Watercraft Center.

    Old tool boxes are lined up for those who ply their skills and carpenters and teach others those skills that otherwise might fade out as modern mechanization takes over manufacturing.

    And at days end, those folks that were part of the boat building challenge loaded 'em up and headed home.  It would be interesting to know what happens to them.  

          It is very enjoyable seeing a whole community make a new tradition out of passing on an old tradition.  My hopes that this annual event keeps going for many centuries to come, teaching whole new generations that they too can create a sea-worthy craft if they have the determination.

     Boat builder I am not, but I did pick up a side job putting a new deck on a dock.

     I met a local contractor who was running behind on a job, so he hired me to work for a day.  This was the scene when I arrived Tuesday morning.

     And this was what I completed that day.  It was fun to do something different for a change, and he was well pleased with the progress that was made.

     However, after volunteering to shovel ice at the fishery for five hours yesterday, my body is reminding me that I am in my fifties now.  But, when I ran short on decking material, the old van seemed to do just fine.  But that is to be expected - she is still in her teens.

     Today's "Faces in the Crowd" - taken of a man that was building a boat with his wife and children.  A tiny bit out of focus, but a good shot nonetheless.

     And today's parting shot, taken in a gift shop in Morehead City:

Have an awesome day !!

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Thanks !!

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