Category Archives: People

Bridging the Gap

No matter how you look at it, the new bridge over Oregon Inlet is an engineering marvel. For the past few years, driving over the old Bonner Bridge, we witnessed the construction progress, going together like a humongous tinker toy.

Last Saturday, NCDOT opened the new thoroughfare just for pedestrian and bike traffic. It happened to coincide with 40° weather and a northeaster, making it somewhat more challenging.

The Bonner Bridge is well past it’s life span, so it’s out with the old, in with the new.

At 10:15 we began our walk on the north side, heading south, downwind. Dozens of folks had already begun the 2.8 mile trek.

With a 30 mile an hour breeze at their backs, bikers hardly even needed to peddle.

Everyone was bundled up.

Equipment was still in place.

Following a curve, the new road rises to the peak about 90 feet above the water.

The high point of the old Bonner Bridge is about 70 feet.

Hitting the uphill grade, I felt the wind intensify as if the bridge created a Venturi effect.

Facing into the wind from the rise, I saw more approaching troops braving the elements.

On top the wind seemed to accelerate even more, as tide boiled through the inlet.

Photo ops were everywhere and everyone became photographers.

This crew got the shot and then in a gust…

… almost got blown away.

Three quarters into the walk, the south end of the new bridge converges back toward the old bridge landing.

Looking back I could see hundreds of people still underway.

A cyclist coasted to the end of his downhill run.

Welcome to Hatteras Island, home of Highway 12, probably the most expensive road to maintain in the entire state.

 

 

 

 

Forty One on the Outer Banks

Recently I read how George Bush, as a young Navy pilot, would see the Hatteras lighthouse from the air during flight school training out of Norfolk.

It made me recall our forty-first president returning years later as a visitor in 1997, then in 1998 for the rededication of the Wright Brothers Monument.

In the Fall of 97 I had a chance to meet him fishing at Harkers Island. The Core Sound is a fisherman’s paradise and President Bush arranged to go with Sam Sellars, a guide who would take him fly fishing for false albacore.

Before getting underway, Sam demonstrated some new tackle for the former president.

After an hour of tedious casting, the president finally hooked up near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Of course, Sam and the president were elated when he boated a nice one, and released it.

The weather deteriorated with some passing rain squalls, but the president still managed to pull in a few more. At one point he noticed a styrofoam cup floating by and directed Sam toward it. President Bush then leaned over and plucked it from the water. That little gesture really impressed me.

The following May, President Bush flew in to Manteo Airport and was greeted by local resident Andy Griffith and his wife Cindy. I was given the responsibility to take pictures for the First Flight Commision, and rode with them to the Wright Brothers Monument for the rededication ceremony.

There were other dignitaries present, including our State Senator Marc Basnight.

Senator Basnight and astronaut Buzz Aldrin were seated together on stage as speakers addressed a large audience.

The highlight was hearing President George H. W. Bush deliver the keynote speech.

The event culminated with relighting the beacon atop the monument and a spectacular fireworks display. It was the first time the beacon was shown bright since being cut off during the Second World War.

 

Dogs Gone Fishing

One of the best things one can experience is companionship. As pets, dogs are cherished and devoted to their owners. Years ago when I became associated with locals that fished commercially, I noticed a number of them taking dogs out on the water.

The harbor at Rodanthe was a pretty busy place back then. There were gill-netters, crabbers and long haulers working out of that spot, better known locally as The Creek. In the Summer of 1980, brothers Collins and Belton Gray ran their long haul rig out of Rodanthe. In this photo Belton, Sr and son Belton, Jr contemplate after packing out their day’s catch. I don’t recall the name of their black lab standing on the bow.

Dale Midgett ran the fish house and packed out the daily catches for Jimmy Austin Seafood Company with his loyal companion, Titus.

Another fishing friend of mine was Roger Woolyhan. He worked out of The Creek and had just begun a career in commercial fishing after moving here from Delaware in the 70’s. He bought an old wooden skiff and learned to hang his nets. I went fishing with him a number of times and got one of my favorite shots in Spring of 1977.

His female black lab was named Moose. She went everywhere with him fishing, surfing or shopping. It made no difference to her, as long as she was close.

By 1987 after I had finished building my home in Waves, a regular visitor was a young boy named Brian Midgett. He and his extended family lived on property adjacent to mine, and still do. My Chesapeake Bay Retriver named Boca loved Brian and they frequently played in the creek behind his grandparents’ place. Boca always wanted to be in the water.

Boca was a big, beautiful Chessie and I took him whenever I foraged the sound for oysters. When he found a terrapin trapped in this abandoned crab pot, we released the poor struggling critter.

Another creek in Salvo belonged to Burgess Hooper. He was born, raised and fished there all his life. With his wife Zanovah, they owned property and rental units. I used to help him on maintenance and building projects. We were pretty close and he loved his canine companion, Princess. She fished with him every time he went out on the Pamlico Sound.

Burgess was an old school Hatterasman and still fished with traditional cotton nets.

Princess anticipating catches from the bow, had sea legs. She was truly a man’s best friend… unconditionally!

 

Mirlo Commemoration

Cape Hatteras is well known for it’s proximity with the offshore waters known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Over the centuries there have been numerous documented shipwrecks and loss of life. Most of these have been weather related incidents, but some were a result of German U-Boat activity off our coast during both world wars.

One of the most notable was the daring rescue of 42 British sailors by personel from Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station in Rodanthe. On August 16, 1918, the tanker Mirlo, carrying a load of fuel for the war effort in Europe, was struck several miles offshore by a torpedo fired by the U-117. The explosion split the tanker in two, setting the sea aflame.

Hair-raising details of the event can be found at www.Chicamacomico.org

The Mirlo Rescue was led by Captain John Allen Midgett, the officer in charge at Chicamacomico. He was accompanied by 5 surfmen: Zion Midgett, Arthur Midgett, Prochorus O’Neal, Clarence Midgett and Leroy Midgett. They were all awarded Gold Lifesaving medals from the British Government and the American Grand Cross of Honor. It has gone down as one of the most heroic rescues in the history of the United States Coast Guard.

As a former president and board member of Chicamacomico Historical Association, I attended the recent centennial commemoration of the Mirlo Rescue.

The day began with the raising of colors of Britain and the United States.

Chicamacomico Station was all decked out.

Dignitaries representing the British Government, U.S.  Coast Guard and descendants of the rescuers and were on hand to pay their respects.

The newly restored Bebe-McClelland Surfboat used in the rescue was on display in the original 1874 station.

The event was culminated, as reenactment surfmen carried a wreath on the beach cart out toward the ocean.  At the same time the U.S. Coast Guard out of Elizabeth City Air Station conducted a flyover.

The wreath was then transferred to the Chicamacomico Water Rescue Team’s jet ski, and handed over to an awaiting Coast Guard vessel.

The Coast Guard then committed the commemorative wreath to the sea, miles offshore at the site of the famous Mirlo Rescue, a hundred years to the day.

In a final tribute: Left to right.                                                                                                               David Hallac, Superintendent Cape Hatteras National Seashore.                                                     Admiral Todd Sokalzuk, Deputy Commander U S Coast Guard Atlantic Area                         Colonel Laura Fogelsong, U S Air Force retired and great grand daughter of John Allen Midgett Commander Richard Underwood, British Royal Navy                                                               Matthew Shepard, Chaplain U S Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City

Fig Fest

This time of year local figs are ripening. They have long been a staple on the Outer Banks. Nearly all the old family homesteads have a fig tree or two growing in the yard. When the  US Lifesaving Stations were active, they almost always had a fig tree nearby. Sandy well-drained soil helps and they seem to thrive come hell or even high water. Originating in the middle eastern countries and Asia, figs must have been introduced here from early sailing ships.

The tree I planted in my yard 30 years ago is having a productive season.

A big ripe one is ready to pick, while new ones form.

I picked a bowl 2 days ago.

They’re best eaten soon after harvest. I love them raw or cooked stuffed in a baked chicken.

In August of 2015 I attended Ocracoke’s celebration of the Second Annual Fig Festival. Ocracoke is gifted with a wide variety of fig trees and islanders have nurtured them for generations. The festival ran for 2 days and featured presentations, entertainment and most of all, figs and fig related goodies.

A main event took place in the Community Square

Vendors were there with homemade preserves and potted plants.

Locally made fig cake was a delectable favorite, not to mention samples of freshly picked figs.

In 2015 I met Della Gaskill and bought some of her homemade preserves and a signed copy of her book, A Blessed Life, Growing Up on Ocracoke. To her right, son Monroe shared fig stories with Phillip Howard.

Ocracoker, Chester Lynn is the local go-to person on fig culture and lore. He’s spent a lifetime studying and propagating figs.

Go if you can!