We left Ocracoke about 7:30 a.m. headed for Slade Creek where we anchored for the night. For the first part of the trip we were close hauled with two reefs in the mainsail and the full 120 percent genoa. The waves were close together and two to four feet.
We were bouncing around pretty good, dipping and rising like a rocking horse when the bow hit a 16-18 inch Spanish mackerel and flipped it onto the deck. Flopping wildly, it slid toward the cockpit. I yelled for Robert who was down below. He identified the fish and made noises about eating it for dinner, but that didn't seem sporting and he tossed it back in the water.
The second half of trip we sailed on a nice beam reach, much less bouncy. We traveled 49 miles in 10 hours.
We rarely tow our dinghy, but knew we'd be anchoring after a long day and wanted to save time. When we anchored we forgot to pull in the slack on the tow rope and wrapped it around the prop. I told Robert, who was very annoyed with himself, that I was so hot I wanted to go for a swim anyway, so using the snorkel mask to see, I went in the water and freed the rope. Except for losing a few feet of line, there was no harm done. We found a small sandy beach where we could get Madison off the boat for a few minutes. We enjoyed a lovely sunset, despite the haze from a peat fire in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
We had poor phone and internet reception, but managed to retrieve a message from Robert's 90-year-old father that he was scheduled to have surgery to repair a small hernia on June 13.
Our 30th anniversary. I am grateful that, in spite of myself, like Buttercup in The Prince's Bride, I found my true love in the end.
Over the week before and during the festival we became friends with the three members of the crew of the boat docked across from us, Doug, the boat's owner from New Bern and a couple, Don and Evelyne, from Washington (NC). They were a gregarious, high-spirited crew who enjoyed ribbing each other and it didn't take long to extend the ribbing to me. One morning they saw me doing my yoga routine under the shade trees by the visitor's center. On Tuesday, after they arrived back in Washington, they called to say they'd come up with a new name for me. In the spirit of Dances With Wolves, they dubbed me Stands On Head. We're looking forward to taking them up on an invitation to visit in the fall. In the meantime, I'm going to have to come up with a new exercise routine.
Late Tuesday morning I went in search of fig preserves as a small thank you for Cathy and her family. A fig branch image created by Ann Ehringhaus and the artists at Bread and Butter Screenprinting was featured on the festival T-shirts and programs this year. A fig cake recipe compiled by Debbie Wells was printed on the back. Wells started The Back Porch Restaurant and authored The Back Porch Restaurant Cookbook, one of my anniversary gifts to Robert. My first inquiry after fig preserves resulted in discouraging news. The figs begin ripening in late July. Last year's preserves were mostly gone. Discouraged, I decided to give it one more try and asked at the island's excellent book store, Books to be Red. "You might try Della Gaskill out by the Assembly of God Church across from the lighthouse. She makes her own and she might have some left," the helpful young woman behind at the counter told me. She marked the place for me on a walking map. I hoisted my daypack and set off on School Road, crossed Irvin Garrish Highway and headed up Lighthouse Road, hugging the shady side of the street and regretting that I'd forgotten to apply sunscreen. I found Mrs. Gaskill's Woccocon Nursery and Gifts tucked behind her house, but the door was locked. I was just about to leave when a woman put her head out the window of a pickup truck that had been about to pull out of the driveway. With a distinctly Ocracoke inflection a voice said, "She's just gone in the house. You wait right there and I'll go get her for you." A friendly woman named Christine emerged from her truck and went to the door and told Mrs. Gaskill she had a customer. It turned out Mrs. Gaskill had some fig preserves left, but didn't take credit cards. As is usually the case, I didn't have enough cash or my checkbook. Determined to have the preserves, I was about to set off for the docks to get some cash from Robert, a round-trip of about 3 miles. Did I mention that it was HOT?
But Christine said she would give me a ride. I ask where she was headed and she said not to worry, she would take me to the boat and bring me back. After protesting without serious conviction, I gratefully accepted her kindness. Her family has been on Ocracoke for generations and I loved hearing her talk. Carl Goerch talks about Ocracoke speech in his 1956 book. "The outstanding difference between speech at Ocracoke and points farther upstate lies in the pronunciation of the letter 'I,'" he says. "It is changed by the natives to 'OI,'" so that words like high and tide become hoigh toide. I think it's interesting that the mountain dialect I grew up speaking is quite different, yet both regions were settled early by mostly English-speaking colonists and then remained relatively isolated for decades. Were the settlers from different regions of the British Isles? Were they influenced by the languages of other immigrants? I'm sure a linguist could tell me.
During the drive we talked about shopping trips off the island and Christine's family. After she dropped me back at Woccocon Nursery, I bought my preserves and headed to the coffee shop for a smoothie. Christine's kindness gave me a whole new appreciation of island hospitality.
Curious about the significance of figs to Ocracoke, I did some internet research and found a 2009 Our State article titled "Ocracoke's Famous Figs." It wasn't available online, but packrat that I am, I still have my November 2009 copy of the magazine (not on the boat, I looked this up at home). The story, by Molly Harrison, says the island's sandy soil and salty conditions are perfect for figs, which are native to the Mediterranean and that local residents have been growing them since at least the 1700s. There are about 10 varieties on the island. They have great names like brown turkey, old sugar, blue, yellow and lemon. In the Our State story, Harrison says Della Gaskill's sugar fig preserves are made with whole figs that are more delicate than the blue fig and that they "melt in your mouth even before you chew, and the caramel-hued syrup has a lemony zing." Yum! Next trip, I'll be going back to visit Woccocon Nursery.
Dinner at the Jolly Roger
We had dinner at Jolly Roger with Frank and Ethlyn. The Jolly Roger has outside tables overlooking Silver Lake so we could bring Madison. As a bonus, Mandolin Orange was performing on the porch. We had an enjoyable visit with the Frank and Ethlyn, who've been coming to Ocracoke for about 20 years and know many local people. The young woman who sent me to find Della Gaskill's fig preserves sat down at the table next to us and she and Frank greeted each other. Frank's so well-known at the book store that they know what he likes to read and have books picked out for him when he comes. She was soon joined by local teacher Charles Temple (nephew of Capt. Rob Temple), who recently won $100,000 on the game show Jeopardy. We recognized him because his success made him an island celebrity and he was introduced during the festival. He was even part of a Jeopardy skit during one break between the music. When Ethlyn realized who he was she told him she owed him a hug. It turns out that a member of St. James Episcopal, our home church in Hendersonville, played a role in Temple's Jeopardy success. When he was a youngster, she lived next door to him in Atlanta and got him interested in watching the game show. Before Ethlyn and Frank left for Ocracoke, she'd told Ethlyn if she saw Temple to give him a hug for her.
After dinner we strolled across the street for ice cream, then said good-bye to Frank and Ethlyn and headed back to the boat. As we neared the docks, we saw a family of otters playing in the area where the NOAA vessel is usually docked. Robert said eastern otters usually prefer fresh water, but this family seemed happy in briny Silver Lake.
We spent the day doing boat maintenance and shopping. We had a great dinner and wonderful conversation with Cathy and her family Monday night.
My friend Cathy from Asheville, on Ocracoke for a week with her family, and her dog Elvis came for a visit Sunday during their early morning walk. We had tea in the cockpit after Elvis and Madison made peace, then I gave Cathy a tour of our accommodations. Impressed by my ingenious use of space, I'm sure, she decided we might survive our adventure. She invited us to dinner with her family Monday night and we gratefully accepted.
Ocrafolk Festival, Day 3
We spent most of the day at the festival beginning with the gospel sing in the morning. Beautiful Madeline Sales from Beleza led the spiritual "Wade in the Water." It was too wonderful. I felt like soaring with the seabirds. Only one stage today, so we didn't have to miss any of the music. We heard Mandolin Orange and Warren Bodle & Allen, both favorites from last year's festival. The festival ended with an All Star Jam and incredible performances by Molasses Creek's Lou Castro. Thanks to Licia's good eye, I got a nice photo of three members of The Steel Wheels all holding their daughters after the performance. Some of the performers mentioned how much they appreciated coming to Ocrafolk because it was a good place to bring their families.
Warren Bodle and Allen
Dajio for dinner
We took Licia, Philip and Dylan to dinner at Dajio to say thanks for letting us use their shower, do our laundry at their house and use their car to ferry Madison to and from the kennel. Late arrivals Ethlyn and Frank, also from Hendersonville, who missed the festival to attend a high school reunion, joined us for dinner. They were taking over the house Licia and Philip had rented and had two whole weeks on Ocracoke to look forward to.
Most of the Hendersonville contingent spent the day at the festival going from the Live Oak stage to the Howard Street stage. The bands I heard included Scuttlebutt, Beleza Brasil, The Steel Wheels, Craicdown and Molasses Creek. I hadn't heard Beleza Brasil before. They were awesome. Robert and I made sure to be at the Live Oak Stage at 12:15 p.m. for the Green Grass Cloggers. One of our caving buddies from 30 years ago who lives in Asheville performs with the cloggers and we wanted to see him kick up his heels. It was a great, rollicking performance.
I couldn't find a web page for Scuttlebutt, but here are the others:
Green Grass Cloggers
The Steel Wheels
An interesting aside - this is what Wikipedia says about the term "scuttlebutt": "Water for immediate consumption on a sailing ship was conventionally stored in a scuttled butt: A butt (cask) which had been scuttled by making a hole in it so the water could be withdrawn. Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumours."
Had dinner Saturday night at Creekside with Licia, Philip, Martha and Dylan, then briefly went to square dance. But we had to collect Madison from the kennel and we were tired....
Exploring in the dingy
The wind was calm, so we took the dingy into the sound, past Springer Point almost to Ocracoke Inlet. We beached it on some sand flats, but the vegetation was so thick, we couldn't walk very far. That was a good thing, because when we shoved off and went closer to the inlet, we discovered the beach we'd been trying to reach on foot was closed because it is a bird nesting area. It seems no paradise is free of controversy, however. The Island Free Press reported on its web site on Feb. 2 that three members of N.C.'s Congressional Delegation - Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, and Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Walter Jones, both Republicans - are pushing the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the director of the Office of Management and Budget to decide on a "more appropriate" balance between public access and environmental stewardship in the proposed rule for off-road vehicles at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Threatened and endangered birds and turtles
According to another Island Free Press story, the Park Service closes the areas temporarily to protect threatened and endangered species, including piping plovers and sea turtles, and species of concern, including American oystercatchers and colonial waterbirds (terns and black skimmers). From reading the stories, it sounds as though there's more concern about closures at Cape Hatteras than on Ocracoke.
The stories can be found at: Hagan, Burr and Jones as for more reasonable beach access
Park Service releases pre-nesting closure information
Friday evening we went to the pot-luck. The food was ample, varied and scrumptious. Afterward, auctioneer Phil Howard kept the audience laughing during the Ocrafolk Festival Live Fundraising Auction. The auction offers those of us from off-island a rich glimpse into island life and the musicians, craftspeople, storytellers and others who live here.
When the auction ended, a Washington (NC) band, Carolina Still, played for about an hour. Carolina Still