The NCCHA supports development of seminars, lectures, tours, demonstrations, and publications that encourage an appreciation for the history and cultural heritage of NC’s sound country communities.
Radical changes are in the forecast for centuries-old coastal lifestyles, traditions, and occupations. Diversity invades the coast as Technology transforming traditions into obsolescence.
Environmentalist Rachel Carson observed, ”The lines between land and sea are constantly changing.” Lines that separate cultural lifestyles and occupations among coastal communities are shifting and dissolving. Communities are now impacted by a migration of new paradigms swept in with a rising tide of new development.
NCCHA programs and projects can lead to better understanding of how the coast and the coastline are weathering the forecast changes.
2019 Oriental Boat Show
The Frances Mae, sporting fresh coats of paint and several tweaks post hurricane Florence, was a hit at the Oriental Boat Show, April 12-14.
ABC News features Frances Mae at Oriental Boat Show
Reporter Greg Payne for an ABC affiliate captured David Booth and Ben Casey at work on the port side window for a full 8/10 of one second while panning scenes at the Oriental Boat Show. The clip aired on Friday evening, April 12.
Fortuitously, the Frances Mae was located across the street from the booth where Ian Bryce, left, assisted by Heber Guthrie, right, was building the skiff that was raffled at the conclusion of the boat show. Many who stopped by expressed interest in meeting Guthrie, Frances Mae’s builder. Visitors offered a variety of positive comments and asked questions indicating a sincere interest in the boat and the work of the Association. A number of applications for membership were distributed by Michael Fulcher on Saturday.
Questions were often focused on description of rack-of-the-eye and strip planking construction. Quite a few persons took time to study the pictorial story board illustrating the construction of Frances Mae. Discussions followed about the decline in Down East commercial fishing and wooden boat building. It was explained that this boat was probably one of the very last of its kind to be built Down East, that only 3 or 4 boatbuilding enterprises now existed where once there were over 2 dozen. This led to an explanation of the importance of the Frances Mae as an educational tool appearing at festivals, in parades, and at schools and civic club meetings. Of note, many questioned how a 90 horse engine could push a boat of this size. The lightweight juniper construction and the hull design comprised the answer.
Aside from comments about the beauty of the boat, several asked if it were sale, how much would it cost to obtain a boat like this, one commenting that it would be a great boat for cruising the ICW for one or two people.
At the show, Ed Mitchell, CEO of the River Dunes community near Oriental, indicated that he would like to offer a boat slip for Frances Mae to be berthed for a few weeks after the Beaufort Boat Show in early May. This would provide more visibility for the mission of this vessel and the NC Coastal Heritage Association.
Through her estate,Frances Mae Carawan, a native of Lowland, NC in Pamlico County, made many NCCHA projects possible. She would have been 95 on St. Patrick’s Day. She made many treks to Ireland, whereupon she would always pose for a photo as she stood by the statue of James Joyce.
The Carawan estate grant to the NC Coastal Heritage Association has far reaching implications. It has been the impetus for more donations to publish works on coastal heritage, develop seminars and summer camps for idle youth in coastal regions, and helped create a rack-of-the-eye Core Sound workboat built by Harkers Island native Heber Guthrie that will be a lasting documentary of Down East boatbuilding traditions rapidly becoming extinct. This non-profit is focused on creating other projects to provide documentation and preservation of traditions that are disappearing from the landscape of coastal communities to students of all ages, the young and the not so young.
NCCHA members met at the Hunting Quarters Museum, Saturday, February 9 to elect a new board and make plans for the 2019 fiscal year. Keith Bruno, commercial fisherman and an advocate for sustainable fishing and conservation of water resources, from Oriental, was re-elected president. Flo Daniels, from Grantsboro, NC was elected vice-president. She is also the post mistress for the association. Michael Fulcher, from Stacy, NC was re-elected secretary/treasurer. Barbara Valentine, from Nashville, NC, and Keith Smith, of Oriental, were re-elected to the board.
Wayne Willis and Steve Goodwin from Beaufort led a discussion about various aspects of coastal heritage. Goodwin has recently finished a book on the once thriving menhaden industry on the NC Coast.
Steve Goodwin reported on his research on the menhaden fleet while Wayne Willis provided a colorful view of life on the coast.
Goals and plans discussed for the upcoming years included potential participation in the
Oriental Boat Show April 12-14, 2019
Display MV Frances Mae in the water, and have booth with photos / images showcasing
NCCHA. Add NCCHA logo sign to Heber’s boat building demonstration to take advantage of visibility there also,
Beaufort Wooden Boat Show May 4, 2019
Display Heber built skiff (built 2018) along with photos/images showcasing NCCHA.
Blessing The Fleet Oriental NC Late July or Early August 2019
Display MV Frances Mae in the water, and have booth with photos / images showcasing NCCHA.
Morehead Seafood Festival October 4-6, 2019 Morehead Blessing Of The Fleet / October 6, 2019
Display MV Frances Mae in the water, and have booth with photos / images showcasing
Publish Coastal Heritage Stories on nccoastalheritage.org Publish four stories over 2019. A mix of photos/text/audio/video – as determined by the subject matter. Upgrade web site to better present these stories.
Normal maintenance, painting, perhaps move battery forward and port (build box seat just behind the cabin to house battery.) Add a second battery & wire both through existing switch.
Membership / Fundraising
Target 100 new members for 2019.
Find an individual that has the drive & skills to seek grants to support association Youth Educati, primarily workshops taught by Heber Guthrie.
Frances Mae on the Neuse
Board member Keith Smith has been experimenting with a drone commanded from the deck of the Frances Mae. He has been “droning” areas of Neuse River shoreline near Oriental that suffered severe loss of land mass during Florence. Frances Mae can be useful in many capacities.
While we think of coastal heritage primarily impacted by cultural changes, cultural changes are often impacted by natural forces.
Feature Story, A coastal era ends
Two old salt Core Sound natives are experiencing a transition in their lives, one is a boat, the other is a man.
Danny Mason, 69, is a native of Atlantic. When he was 6 years old, his family migrated to Sea Level for a change in scenery. Sea Level is five miles south of Atlantic. Mason and his wife, Marie, now live in the Sea Level home of his school days. He grew up in a commercial fishing family, and just as so many other youth in fishing families have done from generations thorough the ages, he became a fisherman, working as a teenager before he finished high school.
A decline in Core Sound fishing stocks and his continuing battle with diabetes prompted his decision to retire from commercial fishing. Though he may be retiring, his reflections indicate the memories will not retire. He said, “Even with the regulations as tough as they are, with the prices as low as they are, and even as tough as it is dealing with the changing cycles of fish species, if I could get a crew of five that would be dependable, I would still try to make a living at it. But I’ve tried. You can’t find a crew that will stick with you that is dependable.”
At the same time, he acknowledged the reality of his situation. “Now, I’m just tired of fighting it. I’ll get rid of my boats and keep a skiff to get out on the water occasionally. Marie is happy. Five years ago, she got tired of seeing me struggle. She said she wished all my boats would catch fire and burn to the waterline.”
Mason laughed, “I told her that if that happened, the fire would burn up the boats tied up next to my boats and then I would have more troubles.”
Mason is the very last of the traditional long haul netters in Core Sound, and probably anywhere else in North Carolina coastal waters. Eddie Wills from Harkers Island has adapted the method but uses fewer and smaller boats and a smaller crew. A haul net is similar to a seine net. According to Mason, “Back in the late 70s, on through the late 80s, there were at least 30 long haul crews fishing from here all the way to Wanchese. I’m the only one left, and I’m having to retire.”
“I’ve fished past Cedar Island, up the Neuse as far as New Bern, then across the mouth of the Neuse to the ICW, to Hoboken, Indian Island in the Pamlico River, and as far upriver as Little Washington. Back across Pamlico Sound, we fished all the way to Swan Quarter and from there on to Ocracoke.”
Mason worked with a minimum of three boats using a crew of 6 including himself. Skiffs without engines that were loaded with thousands of yards of net were towed to the area to be fished. “You can catch more fish with a haul net. And a haul net traps fish, it doesn’t catch fish in the gills like a gill net does. But when you have a big haul, some bait fish wind up as by-catch. I’ve always worked with the state on ways to cut back or get rid of any by-catch. Nothing that’s been tried has been totally successful.”
“One day in 1999, we caught 280,000 pounds of spots in The Straits. You keep them alive by drawing the net around in a big circle, keeping them contained in the circle. It took the rest of the week for the run boats to haul that catch to the fish house. A year later, we caught 220,000 pounds at Middle Marsh between Beaufort and Harkers Island. You can’t do that now. Those were the biggest catches of spots I ever saw.”
Mason was 15 when his stepfather purchased the Aileen in 1964. Aileen is a juniper wooden vessel built by Ambrose Fulcher in Atlantic in 1919. For almost a century, just as Rose, Guthrie, and Lewis, among others, were household names in the wooden boat building industry along the southern shores of Core Sound, Fulcher was one of the icons in the northern Core Sound communities of Sea Level and Cedar Island, and especially Atlantic. At 15, Mason was 30 years younger than Aileen when his stepfather acquired her. Now a century old, this vessel is considered to be the oldest fishing boat still working North Carolina’s coastal waters.
In the 1980s, Mason gave Aileen a new name, Old Salt, a name that long preceded the commercial marketing of Salt Life apparel for sport fishermen. He had an uncle that went by the handle, Old Salt. “I decided to change Aileen’s name to Old Salt. Now, I’m just an old salt myself.”
Lawrence Early, author of The Workboats of Core Sound, University of North Carolina Press, 2013, devoted several pages to Fulcher, Mason, and the vessel, Old Salt. Early concluded that Old Salt was easily recognized by old timers as not only an Atlantic style Core Sound workboat, but also recognized as an Ambrose Fulcher boat.
Early reported that Fulcher was not well known beyond Atlantic and did not live his life in the limelight, even in his own hometown. Fulcher was observed to simply arise early each day, take a walk, and go to his shop to work on whatever boat he had under construction. If he had no commission to build one at any given time, he simply built one on speculation.
Early’s book included reports that Fulcher had probably built close to a thousand boats in his long career. Born in 1865, he was credited with completing a boat just a month before he died in 1952 at 87. Fulcher’s boats were noted for their tall cabins which were more comfortable for fishermen who stayed out for days while long haul netting. With a round stern and a low profile hull, many of Fulcher’s boats exhibited distinctive traits borrowed from sharpies, sailboats used for fishing and hauling freight.
Mason said, ”Old Salt is the only boat I’ve ever been on in my whole life that you could hit the throttle if you were in a rough sea. She stays straight and I’ve never had her hit the bottom of a rough sea. She’s got a real sharp bow so she slices right through the sea ahead of her.”
Fulcher built Aileen with an open hull and no deck. Though the boat was 39 feet long and 11 feet wide, its power plant was a small 16 horsepower, 2 cylinder Lathrop engine. There have been changes. Early concluded that the longevity of a wooden fishing boat was dependent totally on how well the vessel could be modified thought the years.
Mason told Early that when his stepfather purchased the boat in the 1960s, the vessel had graduated to a Chrysler V-8 marine engine. They replaced that engine with a diesel. A chain of re-works on the boat were begun in 1977. In the late 1990s, the hull was fibe-rglassed. Early called an Atlantic workbook like Old Salt a mutable, changeable document.
For steering, ropes pulled on the tiller when the wheel was turned. Mason says the steering now is a hynautic system, when the wheel is turned, air, not a piston, pushes against hydraulic fluid which pushes the controls that turn the rudder. The adaptations have not erased its classic Ambrose Fulcher features.
Any new pilot for Old Sal, like Danny Mason, will be considerably younger than she is. He is considerably older than the skiff he plans to use occasionally in retirement.
Mason drew attention to 2 images near his shrimp trawler, Olivia, Old Salt, and 2 skiffs loaded with haul nets tied to a dock in Atlantic. “This is what the fishing industry has become.” He pointed to a skiff once used in a haul net operation by another fishermen that is now filled filled with rain water. “She’s not been used for years.”
Later, he said, “Look at this. This guy quit fishing and got a job on a dredge, gone 6 weeks, home 2 weeks.” Mason pointed to a picnic table on a trawler’s rear deck. The rigging and nets had been removed from the vessel. “He put this picnic table on her and his family takes the boat over to the banks for pleasure trips.”
Mason’s reflections perhaps reveal a regret over not just his retirement from a career he has loved, but also an industry that seems to be headed to some form of retirement, or like old wooden boats, continued revisions and mutations.
NC Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson contributed an opening poem for the book, Sound People. He has published a new book, Our World.
NCCHA invited to participate in Chowder Cook-Off, March 17.
Check out the events page.
New NCCHA President
Commercial fisherman Keith Bruno of Oriental, NC is the new president of NCCHA. An strong advocate for a common sense approach to this industry, he is often sought by UNC-TV to provide narratives on many aspects of coastal heritage, from family life to the science of sustainable resources.
“I am honored to be given the opportunity to help preserve our heritage. Our lifestyles, our stories, our people. We might be a throwback to another era; we are definitely not comfortable in a disposable society, and all of our coastal people are worth learning from and protecting. Going forward together and meeting the challenges that we all face in a modern society, we can all help remember and learn from the past while living in the present. Thank you,” Keith Bruno
Make a difference. Friends don’t let children of friends grow up without learning to appreciate their heritage.