Category Archives: Outer Banks

Quarantine

With the world in pandemic mode, things are mostly shut down here, including entry of visitors into Dare County where I live. Residents are generally shuttered in their homes and avoiding close proximity to others. Our neighborhoods look like they do in storm evacuations. Streets and beaches are nearly empty. I spend my days going for walks, reading, doing some yoga or shooting a few photographs.

Beach walks are idyllic for some alone-time. Looking north from the oceanfront in Salvo, you’d never know it was Spring pushing into the tourism of Summer.

I’ve always loved the introspectiveness of macro photography, so I’ve been paying particular attention to the little details of our natural world.

The texture of sand and shells continues to captivate me.

This young snapping turtle had just awakened from its winter hide-a-way.

It would have enjoyed dining on my new garden greens of lettuce, spinach, and kale.

The fig tree I planted 30 years ago is producing once again. I get some and so do the birds.

My property goes back to the Pamlico Sound, much of it pristine coastal wetlands. Every time I explore it, I’m amazed at the transition and variety of flora and fauna.

The appearance of fiddler crabs is a sure sign that Spring has arrived. This individual shows a defensive posture with a broken claw.

Spartina and Juncus grasses dominate the landscape, and act as a natural buffer protecting more upland property especially during storms.

Juncus is also called black needle rush. What appears to be a stem is actually the leaves rolled into a cylindrical shape ending with a very sharp tip.

The new Juncus flowers began popping out about a month ago

The shoreline marsh is adapted to be wet at times and dry at other times. The tides lately have been mostly higher than normal. So much so that new oyster spat are setting 20 feet inland.

The periwinkle is an intertidal snail that climbs up grasses to get above water.

In its larval stage this oyster spat settled on a clam shell fragment on the flooded shoreline during last year’s spawning. It measures an inch and is still growing.

Now when I’m around others in public spaces, I’ll be wearing a new fashion statement. My talented sister-in-law, Peggy, made masks for Denise and me. I have a feeling it’ll be getting a lot of use in the coming days.

 

The Live Oak of Springer’s Point

Most of my visits to Ocracoke include a walk through the maritime forest at Springer’s Point. My favorite tree there is a large live oak near the shore of Pamlico Sound. It’s been said that tree was there when Blackbeard bivouacked nearby at Teach’s Hole over 300 years ago.

During Summer months the forest is lush and green. Under the canopy one feels sheltered, safe and protected. This is how it looked when I photographed it in 2004.

The old live oak is large enough to take 3 or 4 people putting their arms around the trunk.

The big tree was tucked well back into the forest along a nature trail near Pamlico Sound. The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust purchased the 31 acre property in 2002 to preserve and maintain it for the public to enjoy.

I photographed it again in December of 2007.

The following Spring of 2008, I saw it bursting with new foliage.

One year ago in March of 2019, I shot the tree again from the same general perspective.

When I returned two weeks ago, Hurricane Dorian was 6 months gone. The environment on Ocracoke was transformed from what I had known in the past. The oak that I admired for years was ravaged by wind and sea.

Cedar trees along the edge were torn out by the roots, eroding into the forest.

The oak tree was still rooted, leaning over into the woods.

It seemed the only thing holding it upright was the big limb supporting the old giant, like a kickstand. Now that it’s vegetated buffer is gone, I wonder how many more years it can survive.

The barrier islands are a frail yet tough place. It changes here every day, some days more than others.

 

 

Stumpy Point Oyster Feast

The town of Stumpy Point is the southernmost village on the Dare County mainland. It borders Pamlico Sound and it’s earliest inhabitants may have been Native Americans involved in fishing. Even today, well off the beaten path, Stumpy Point has deep roots in commercial fishing. For 35 years, the town has become known for hosting what has become one of the most popular oyster celebrations in the area.

Last Saturday, the Stumpy Point Oyster Feast began at noon, while visitors from near and far lined up outside the community building.

The line was long, but moved quickly.

Inside volunteers dished out a traditional dinner of fried fish and oysters.

An adjacent building was set up with long tables, paper towels and condiments to cater to the most enthusiastic connoisseurs.

The star of the show was bushels of oysters going into a highly efficient steamer.

Each steamer box held two bushel baskets.

After a mere seven minutes they were perfectly cooked.

The hot oysters were dumped onto trays ready to serve the masses.

It was an “all you can eat” affair.

People could’t get enough and the steamers kept coming.

In the end, all the spent shells are recycled back to the sea where new ones will hopefully attach and grow. Providing substrate for new oysters is crucial to their survival and to our enjoyment.

 

 

Old Christmas 2020

For most, the holiday season ends with a celebration of New Year’s Day. But in the villages where I live, many of us extend the festivity to  another lesser known holiday. Old Christmas is a remnant of the Julian carried over to the Gregorian calendar. In Rodanthe it occurs the first Saturday after New Year’s Day, has a local history dating back a couple hundred years, and is celebrated at our community building.

Originally an early 1900’s schoolhouse, the building has been renovated and expanded to serve the community.

Festivities start with the oyster shoot where participants fire shotguns at paper targets. Whoever has a pellet closest to the bullseye wins a bag of oysters.

Folks mill around and wait for their turn to shoot.

Young Owen O’Neal tries his luck at a bag of oysters. Old Christmas has long been part of his family heritage.

                                        Santa wants a bag of oysters too.

Skating is an activity recently added to the events.

 Joey O’Neal shovels oysters roasting on his homemade grills.

  Eddie O’Neal and Eric Anglin are some of the first to shuck a few.

Empty shells begin to pile up under the table.

                                      Phillip Beck shucks one out for a youngster.

Cooks in the kitchen prepare a traditional meal of stewed chicken and pie bread.

The deserts are to die for!

   By the time night falls, the shells continue to fall.

Joey has gotten his groove on the grills. I’d give him an A+.

Back inside, the band Chicamacomico plays on in anticipation of Old Buck.

Justin O’Neal prepares the legendary bull before entering. Like ancestors before him, Justin has become Old Buck’s latest caretaker.

The appearance of Old Buck is an evening highlight.

Kids love meeting him.

Briggs McEwen sets his son on Old Buck’s back for a fun ride. But as soon as he came, he’s quickly gone for another year.

    In the end, I asked if Old Buck needed a ride home, so we loaded him into the back of my Toyota. It was another Merry Old Christmas!

 

 

Shad Boats

Since my early days on Hatteras Island, I’ve been drawn to remnants of the times past. Old wooden boats have been particularly fascinating. Some are still operating and some lay derelict or forgotten. One of my favorite designs is the shad boat.

They were first built in the 1870’s on Roanoke Island by George Washington Creef. Designed for local sound waters and commercial fishing hauls, demand for shad boats increased. So other regional boat builders began constructing their own versions.

On June 15, 1987 the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the Shad Boat as the official State historical boat of North Carolina.

On a 1992 visit to Wilmington, I saw a newly built replica sailing down the Cape Fear River.

When I took this shot in 1980 at the Beasley fish house in Colington, surviving shad boats had long since had their sails replaced with motors.

One day the same year, I photographed the Beasley crew long-hauling Pamlico Sound at Rodanthe. They caught 10,000 pounds of fish, and bailed them by hand into a boat called Old Shad.

The Rodanthe harbor was Beasley’s base of operations. That’s OLD SHAD on the left with REDFIN rafted up next to it.

Hatterasman Michael Peele uses his shad boat for pound net fishing. I took this photo in 1982. To this day, he still uses it.

About the same time, I had a job at Mike Scott’s Buxton Woods Boat Works where we restored Lee Peele’s old workboat. More recently built, it had a hull with hard chines rather than the more traditional rounded bottom. It was beefed up with a durable West System epoxy treatment.

On the Outer Banks it’s not unusual to see a boat in someone’s yard. In 1999 while riding my bicycle around Ocracoke, I admired this beautiful boat blocked up for maintenance.

Spring of 2000, I shot an assignment for CoastWatch Magazine, concerning the Museum of the Albermarle’s restoration of a 1904 Shad Boat. It was built by Alvirah Wright, a logger, decoy maker and boat builder from Camden County.

The restoration was extensive. All good wood was left intact, but most of the boat was replaced. Today the finished product sits in the lobby of the museum as a permanent exhibit. Before that, it had been in a Wright family relative’s yard, rotting away.

In 2002 the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Manteo had an 1883 George Washington Creef Shad Boat on display. It was used as a model to build a new boat with the same lines.

The new boat was built next to the 1883 boat.

Fully planked, it was made with scarce, aromatic Atlantic White Cedar, commonly referred to as juniper.

Just before it’s christening, I saw the new boat all finished except for the bottom paint.

When I first met John Herbert, he was one of the Rodanthe old-timers. I knew him as a friend, a former duck hunter and the Keeper of Ole Buck. He was also a cook at Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station during the 1918 Mirlo Rescue. He told me how they used to have sail boat races on the Pamlico Sound and most of the time he won with his shad boat. It was a bit smaller and faster than most, and must have been a grand sight under sail. In 1985, I marveled at it, high and dry in the marsh at Rodanthe.