Throughout the years staying on Hatteras, I’ve gotten to expect coastal storms. At times it feels as though I’ve been living on a ship at sea. It’s both thrilling and humbling at the same time. The latest event was no different.
On the morning of November 6th the seas were getting stormy yet still moderate. But by 3 o’clock that afternoon the ocean rose up dramatically. It was blowing a gale with rain pelting from the northeast. As I walked halfway up the Rodanthe pier, the wooded structure vibrated and swayed . The waves were almost as high as the pier. I took several quick shots then turned back. It would have been crazy not to.
Gales continued into the next day while shifting out of a more northerly direction. As the ocean washed over the highway in the expected locations, I wondered about the fragility of the pier with such heavy seas.
At high tide the morning of the 8th, waves still battered the pier and damage was evident.
About a quarter way from the end, the deck had collapsed. It’s been said that a boat is a hole in the water and you throw money into it. I suppose a wooded pier is much the same. As of this morning, highway 12 is still closed to traffic as NCDOT works to clear debris and rebuild dunes. The coastal storm of November 2021 was deja vu all over again.
Over the years I’ve seen restaurants here come and go. Some fail faster than others, and it’s not an easy business to achieve success. It’s about quality, quantity and customer satisfaction, among other things.
One of the most successful restaurants in our town was started at a location where several other restaurants had come and gone. The Rodanthe pier complex had reincarnations of restaurants in the same building with names like Cross Currents, Under Currents, JL Seagull and Down Under. There were others prior whose names have escaped me.
Undoubtedly the most successful was the Down Under, founded by Skip and Sheila Skiperdene. The name was coined by Australian ex-pat surfer Skip, who married Sheila a North Carolinian, and they began the Aussie-themed restaurant. It took a year or so to catch on, but with planning and hospitality it became hugely popular. Most summer evenings had dozens of patrons lined up outside the front door waiting to be seated. This went on for about ten years, when personal circumstances ended the epic run of Down Under circa 1999.
This 1989 aerial photograph shows the pier complex, including the restaurant building under the arrow. The proximity to the ocean made a dramatic venue for diners, but also contributed to it’s demise.
An aspiring restauranteur then bought the trademarked name and stepped in to continue to operate the business. Something however was missing and the restaurant was not quite the same. A few years later, things really went south when Hurricane Isabel pummeled the property.
After continuous battering from high seas, storm surge from Hurricane Isabel finally took it out in 2003. This photograph taken by my wife, was probably the last shot ever taken from the upper deck of the restaurant. It was a harrowing experience.
An aerial image shows the newly built Gallery restaurant circa late 1980’s. It featured local art, and a home-grown herb garden. The Gallery made national news when a man died from eating bad tuna there, ending that venture.
TheGallery was sold to a new owner and renamed Waves Edge. They employed local chefs preparing great meals. This 1991 photo was taken during their hey-day. It was popular with locals and visitors alike. That lasted until personal issues forced another sale, this time it was changed to Blue Water Grill, featuring an upstairs wine bar.
The new Down Under owner wanting to sustain the business, bought the building in Waves that had previous lives as The Gallery, Waves Edge, and Blue Water Grill.
The new Down Under struggled for several years and eventually landed in foreclosure. It sat vacant and unmaintained a few years until it was bought by an adjacent property owner then demolished on June 27, 2017.
Going, going… pretty much gone!
Down Under is history. And it all began with Skip.
This morning my rain gauge showed 2 ½ inches of overnight rainfall. Despite that, with Memorial Day here, we’ve officially begun our high season for tourism. The rain from Tropical Depression Bonnie, will likely continue off and on over the next few days. Today is a washout, but yesterday was gorgeous with pleasant ocean breezes. We peddled bikes to the Rodanthe Pier to check things out before the downpour.
Out on the pier, folks were enjoying the sunny sea breeze.
Looking south, it didn’t look like a typical Memorial Day Weekend.
With rain in the forecast, beach goers weren’t packed in as they’d normally be.
The end of the pier isn’t out nearly as far as it used to be. It’s been destroyed continuously by storms and rebuilt multiple times.
In the Summer, there’s nothing like hanging out at the pier. Many of the same people return year after year, building memories along the way.
I noticed the dramatic sky shaping up, courtesy of Tropical Depression Bonnie. The clouds are always beautiful, yet at the same time so ominous.
Years ago, the thing that impressed me about Hatteras Island was how temperate the winters could be. The first few years after I moved here, I don’t think it ever went below freezing. I learned that the water surrounding the island acts as a heat sink and tends to keep temperatures more moderate, compared to those to the north and inland.
This year has not been one of those winters. The cold fronts have been colder, stormier and more frequent.
A series of storms took its toll on the Rodanthe Pier. Last week I could see that the end of the pier would soon collapse into the sea.
An hour after I made this shot, the pier became 75 feet shorter. The next day, the owners retrieved some of the timbers washed in on the beach and are resolved to rebuild it.
In the meantime, temperatures have plummeted and the Pamlico Sound froze overnight. The ice sculpted on the shoreline was a sight to behold. There were icicles on the marsh of all different shapes and sizes.
The sound was solid ice for hundreds of yards off shore.
When the waters freeze, the ducks come in wherever they can find open water. At a pond near my house, I found a variety including this Ring-Necked Duck.
A Pie-Billed Grebe was among the group.
There were about 50 Ruddy Ducks.
I was excited to see this Canvasback. It’s a sure sign that winter is far from over, and that it’ll only get colder.
Nothing can pay tribute, to a surfer who has passed away, more than a ceremonial paddle out. It is surfing’s honorable sendoff. We put the word out to do this for Robin and didn’t know what kind of turn out to expect.
On October 5th at noon, participants began arriving at the Rodanthe Pier for an informal covered dish beach party. By about 1:00 there were well over 150 people on site to pay their respects. We began paddling out at 1:15. It looked like about 80 people, aged 8 and up, on surfboards, a few kayaks and boogie boards.
It was slick calm, warm and sunny, ideal conditions for Robin’s memorial.
The photographs shown here are a compilation of several contributing photographers:
Amberly Dyer, April Contestable, Bev Martin, Jim and Marcy Martin, Ben Tran, Denise and Mike Halminski
Kelly Schoolcraft and Russell Blackwood were on hand to pay their respects
So were Jay and Scooter.
There was plenty to eat, especially when Eric came in hoisting a bushel of steamed crabs.
Chandra Rutledge made three beautiful leis for the occasion.
Denise was my co-conspirator for this great event.
Beverly Bull gave me some bird of paradise flowers to throw out on the sea, along with Chandra’s orchid lei.
Our special guests were Robin’s cousins, Rob and Jean Marie from Delaware. They were accompanied by their spouses, Jeff (left) and Bev (center). There were many great stories shared by them.
Charlie and Betz Mullen had it made in the shade..
Jo and Buddy Brothers did too.
Eric Anglin was ready to go out.
Let the paddle out begin!
GoPro YouTube video: courtesy of Brett Butler
Richard Byrd was paddling Robin’s ten foot Gary Propper model vintage Hobie.
Eric and I thought it would be nice to extend the paddle out to the shipwreck and secure the lei to a buoy.
Selby Gaskins Jr. and crew watched from the pier.
Colin and Ben Tran witnessed their first Paddle Out.
Twelve year old Ben made this remarkable interpretation of the ceremony.
There were petals out on the water.
We paddled out to the wreck.
April had her old Dewey Weber.
Jon Brown brought out his Redman shaped Hatteras Glass.
Robin’s old buddy Benji Stansky watched from the pier.
Jan Deblieu, Susan West, Marcia Lyons and Beverly Bull celebrate on the end of the pier.
Allen Jones had his studio set up.
At eight years old, Mia Phillips made the entire paddle out to the shipwreck.
Eleven year old Johnny Contestable also made it out to the wreck.
Here I am with Robin’s favorite Natty Bo and writer Jan Deblieu.
There were shots to be had.
Allen Jones made this striking portrait of Robin with his “Propper” in 1998.
Robin had this photograph on his wall for as long as I’ve known him. It was taken at the north side of Indian River Inlet in 1967. He would have just graduated from high school.