Tuesday, May 12, 2015

NC Ocracoke, Pamlico Sound, Cedar Island Ferry

     Welcome back to Cedar Island, NC.  A tropical storm passed through, and it was raining sideways here last night.

     Today we take The Ferry over to Ocracoke NC, the southernmost of the "Outer Banks."

     It is a two and a half hour ferry ride, captained by Walter Goodwin.

     Walter has been running the ferry for ten years now.  Prior to that he spent thirty years working for the Coast Guard, doing commercial dredging like we saw on Topsail Island and doing some commercial fishing.

     The boat has radar and sonar, and back-up radar and sonar.  In many places out here the sand banks shift so rapidly that maps are useless.

     There is an ample supply of life rafts - sort of a boat in a barrel affair.

     Firefighting gear - we got that too.

     There is also a fairly comfortable lounge for passengers.  It seems though that most opt to spend the two and a half hours in their cars or on the observation deck up top.

     We are almost at the extreme tip of Cedar Island in a large area of break-water walls.

     I don't know that much about boats, but after inspection it seems suitable, so we are off.  Actually, I would have settled for much less as the alternative is a drive of over 300 miles to get to Ocracoke.  And after driving that far, you just have to take a ferry out there anyway.

     We are quickly past the jetties and out into Pamlico Sound.

     Seagulls are such opportunists, and seem to be able to fly almost tirelessly.  A few of them followed us the whole trip out.

     Two hours later we start passing sand bars - the inner edge of the banks.

     Without vegetation these banks could not grow like they do.  Plants get a bit of a hold and start to grow.

      Then, one wind-blown grain of sand at a time, they build these banks.

     And we arrive at Ocracoke Island.  

     There is a spacious harbor here - built during World War II by the corp of engineers.  

     It is good that they left something - they confiscated all of the island but 775 acres.  That leaves linear 16 miles of island and beach uninhabited, which today is part of the National Parks.

     The harbor is the center of the community - in more ways than one.  There are a few marinas and several hotels.

     The inlet faces west, making for great sunsets.

     Many of these small island towns got their start as fishing camps back in the 1700's.

     About a half mile wide, this strip of land is home to less than 1000 residents, but there can be as many as 20,000 people here in peak tourist season. 

     The island's lighthouse, built in 1823, is the oldest one still existing in North Carolina.  

     At only 65 feet, it is also the smallest.  But it can still be seen about 14 miles away - whether in the sound or out at sea.

     Out on a neighboring sandbar several forts have been built - during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

     It was demolished back in the Civil War, and today it serves as a sanctuary for birds to breed and nest.

     Ocracoke is what you would expect - a community oriented small town that is feeling the same struggles with the fishing industry as everyone else in this area.

     There are lots of picket fences, and lots of houses with that idyllic "island look."

     There are a number of bread and breakfasts.

     And there are a variety of stores.  The prices here are surprisingly low - the merchants go out of their way to not gouge the residents or the tourists.  Things seem to cost only about ten percent more than on the mainland - many places I have seen are double.

     There are lots of beautiful spots if you want solitude or just a nice place to sit and chat.  

     The pace is considerably slower here - no one is in a big rush in traffic.  Everyone smiles and waves.  A couple of locals complained about the sheriff's writing tickets for no seat belts though.  There are golf carts everywhere with kids hanging off of them, all manner of bicycles and motorcycles tooling about and no one seems to drive over about twenty miles an hour.  

     Speaking of crime, I read the newspapers crime report for last week - several shocking incidents.  A man "bared his buttocks at a local business owner" - I guess we called that mooning.  And someone took their exe's(?) pickup truck and drove it into a tree.  That was it for the criminals.

     We meet Chester Lynn (O'neil,) who traces his ancestry here back to the 1600's and is considered to be the local historian by many folks.

     Chester remembers his grand-father carving him a fishing net sewing needle when he was just a tot.  Everyone pitched in with everything - it wasn't work, it was a way of like.  His least favorite job was cleaning out the cistern each August.  

     There was not well water here until the 70's, and folks relied on rainwater runoff to drink and cook.  So the gutters had to be cleaned and repaired, and all of the moss that built up in the cistern tank had to be cleaned out.  You climbed down into the tank and bleached it - and kids were just the right size for this task.

     Chester remembers that his grand-mother was so proper that she would change clothes to go outside and hang laundry to dry on the clothes line.  

     Chester owns an antiques shop, and enough people have come in here over the years that he has folks that scout all over the United States for things that he can sell here.

     Among his prized possessions, and not for sale are a couple of plates that were dug up at the house where Edward Teach (the pirate "Blackbeard" lived.  When Edward Teach's ship wreck (The Queen Anne's Revenge) was found and salvaged a few years ago, plates with the exact same markings and of the same composition were found.  The curators certified his plates as genuine Black-Beard memorabilia.

    There is a spot close to downtown Ocracoke called "Teach's Hole," where Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, was said to have lived and anchored his ship.  He was killed not far from here in November of 1718.

     His killing was ordered by the governor of Virginia, who had no confidence it North Carolinas willingness to bother pirates.  In fact NC officials were said to have been on the take from the bounty in exchange for looking the other way.

    They found Blackbeard hiding out here at Ocracoke, and he didn't spot the until they were almost on him.  A bloody battle ensued in which Blackbeard was killed and the rest of his men surrendered.

     The island lost its innocence during World War II.  Many ships were sunk by German submarines just off the island in the Atlantic.  

     Many sailors washed up on these shores - most of them dead.  Oil slicks covered the beaches, and the military kept a tight reign on the residents.  Rumors abounded about "Nazis" in their midst, and the government "disappeared" a few folks who were never seen again and no explanations were ever given.

     A British freighter was sunk near here, and the residents buried the sailors who washed ashore.

      The cemetery is taken care of by members of the US Coast Guard, and there are military honors here with visitors from England on the anniversary each year.

     This is the only place in the USA that had a mounted Boy Scout Troop.

     You see, this island also has the descendants of the horses the Spanish left behind 450 or so years ago.

     This is however the first place I have heard of the horses being regularly corralled, branded and some of them trained.

     That brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd."

     That is one of the fellows working on the ferry.  

    And today's parting shot - taken in a co-ed bathroom at a small dirt runway airport -

     I don't have much airplane lingo in my vocabulary, but I think that means "don't pee on the seat."

     And last, a number of people have asked me to start sharing a bit more about where I am and how I am dealing with things.  This trip isn't about "me, " but I will try to add tidbits now and then.

     This is where I am writing this from - in a small local restaurant called "Gaffers."  They have good wifi and were kind enough to let me use their space today.

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Make it a great day !!

1 comment:

  1. David,

    Thanks for the many post about the coastal communities. I am sure you are having a great time. I have been to the Outer Banks a few times and have enjoyed my visits. Ocracoke was one of my favorite day trip's Nags Head. The National Parks and old lighthouses are fascinating. Make sure you check out how the coast guard rescued mariners in distress.