Our Mission

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.

NC First Lady Kristin Cooper visits coastal counties

First Lady Kristin Copper visited Carteret and Pamlico Counties, Saturday, September 21. She is touring the state to visit all 100 counties to learn more about each county’s history, socio-economic dynamics, and to discuss any need for hurricane relief. Her visit to Pamlico County was hosted by the NC Coastal Heritage Association and The Pamlico County Heritage Center and Museum. She is pictured below with association members, David Booth, left, and Rex Horne.

Heber Guthrie poem & Cape Lookout Lighthouse print for sale

Harkers Island native, Heber Guthrie, who now lives in Gloucester across The Straits from The Island, wrote a documentary style poem in 2003, What would the lighthouse say? The poem records the first person voice of the Cape Lookout light describing the transitions it has witnessed over the decades. Heber’s family heritage is embedded in Core Sound culture, boat building and fishing. His brother, Will, his father, Chauncey, and his late uncle, Julian, all deceased, were once icons in rack-of-the-eye wooden boat building.

A general carpenter and boat builder, retired from MCAS Cherry Point, he has constructed over 100 Core Sound skiffs and workboats. He recently designed and constructed the Frances Mae, a juniper, strip-planked replica of a Core Sound workboat of the type used in long haul netting. This vessel will be both a classroom and documentation of a fast disappearing craft that once dominated the Down East Carteret County landscape. Parallel to the rapid decline in commercial fishing was the advent of manufactured fiberglass boats. This combination has virtually eradicated traditional wooden boat building. Guthrie’s heritage in boat building is somewhat defined by his observation, “I like working with hand tools more than with power tools. I can feel the wood when I use hand tools.” Visit the projects page of this website to learn more about the Frances Mae and Heber Guthrie.

Beyond his legendary skills in a boat shop, he is widely known as a civic leader and champion of programs to help youth understand and appreciate their Core Sound heritage. He has spearheaded a number of projects for scouting groups and conducted heritage boat building workshops, many sponsored by the North Carolina Coastal Heritage Association.

Family, friends, and neighbors describe him as a sensitive man deeply connected to his native Core Sound, salt marshes, creeks, and Core Banks. His poem in the voice of the lighthouse and imprinted in a collection of Cape Lookout images recently experienced a revival both locally and beyond. He was persuaded by many to exhibit it for sale in the Down East July 4th celebration. It’s popular demand has pressed his personal picture framer into overtime during the holiday period. It is available unframed as a 12 X 18 print or matted, framed, and signed by Guthrie. This poem is presented in a format that expresses Heber Guthrie’s profound appreciation for his native culture and his passionate desire to share this heritage.

This treasure is from a man who himself is a treasure. Unframed prints shrink wrapped with an acid free foam core backing are $45.00. Framed and matted prints are $95.00.

A purchase of this print of What would the lighthouse say? also supports the work of the NC Coastal Heritage Association. Order a print by emailing info@nccoastalheritage.org.

Critically acclaimed artist to create painting of NCCHA’s Frances Mae

Durham artist Tony Alderman, a veteran of creating images on canvas of rural coastal scenes, photographed Frances Mae in the Atlantic harbor on Tuesday, June 18. These images will assist his creation of an original acrylic on canvas. He will retain the original painting which will be for sale, but he will grant exclusive rights to NCCHA to reproduce prints of his painting as a fundraiser to aid a variety of the association’s projects.

Durham artist Tony Alderman rode on the trunk section of Frances Mae’s bow en route to the Atlantic harbor, Tuesday, June 18 to capture images to be used to create a painting.

Alderman is no stranger to Core Sound. Local boat photographer Cathy Rose provided a day-long tour for him from which he made a painting of a boat docked at the North Harbor, Davis. That paining has sold. Alderman has been twice chosen to create the image promoting the Southport Wooden Boat Show.

Captain Danny Mason, assisted by young Braden Mason, captain in training, did the honors at the helm for Alderman’s excursion into the Atlantic Harbor. Along for the ride to assist with dock lines was Bruce Mason. David Booth towed the boat to Atlantic for this mission. Alderman took his photographs from the west docks of the harbor and also from the bow of the Kathryn Smith, a run boat owned by Dean Smith’s fish house, the only surviving fish house in Atlantic.

Danny Mason, retired commercial fisherman from Sea Level , piloted the Frances Mae for what was her maiden voyage in Core Sound waters.

Cathy Rose was on hand to document this event. Alderman expects to have the painting completed by September in time for the association to sell prints during the Christmas giving season.

David booth, left, drove the tow vehicle for Frances Mae to Atlantic. Bruce Mason met the team at the Drum Inlet Fishing Center to assist with dock lines.

Alderman used the bow of the Kathryn Smith as a perch from which he captured a number of images. Danny Mason followed his directions steering the boat around the harbor to provide as many different views as possible for Alderman.

Cathy Rose captured an image of the trawler, Amanda Jean, as she entered the harbor just moments after Frances Me followed this same route in from Core Sound. This image, contrasted with her image of Frances Mae entering the channel into the harbor from Core Sound, captured a stark reality of conditions that challenge fishermen. The harbor has not received dredging services and is extremely narrow. Amanda Jean, which is a relatively small trawler, is typical of many larger Core Sound fishing vessels. The view captured by Rose of the Frances Mae in this channel illustrates just how skilled these fishermen have to be piloting their vessels in among shoals and narrow channels.

It is hard to imagine that Amanda Jean negotiated this same narrow channel just moments after Frances Mae made her entrance into the harbor.

A goal of the Frances Mae and all other projects of the NCCHA is to stimulate an appreciation of coastal heritage, especially among young people.

In a recent email, Alderman said, “I am so excited about this project, not only just for the 1 painting but for all the others that I now have stuck in my head. I believe that this is actually the start of my new project which is going to be the Down East area.”

Links to his work are:

Instagram @aldermantony

Images from the Beaufort Wooden Boat Show 2019

The annual Beaufort Wooden Boat Show brought a beehive of activity to Front Street May 4, 2019. Large vessels, power and sail, were berthed in slips along the boardwalk. Walking tours along the docks gave boat show attendees the opportunity to view the in-water part of the boat show.

Countless smaller boats representing a plethora of vessel genres were parked on the west end of Front Street. This exhibit also included boats from other states along the Eastern Seaboard. The Frances Mae, a Core Sound work boat constructed by Heber Guthrie using the rack-of-the-eye method, was the only vessel exhibited representing centuries Down East commercial fishing. NCCHA commissioned Guthrie to build this vessel from juniper strip planking as part of its efforts to document and preserve the state’s coastal heritage. It is exhibited in festivals, parades, school functions, boat shows, and civic organization meetings. The white pilot house over the teal colored hull gave her a demonstrative presence among many smaller vessels with polished mahogany hulls and decks. Visitors asked a variety of questions about the Frances Mae. particularity where she was built and how long it took to build her. They also paid close attention to the pictorial storyboard of images taken when she was under construction.

NCCHA members Rex and Carol Horne, Heber Guthrie, David Boothe, and Michael Fulcher answered questions and distributed NCCHA membership application forms. NCCHA Secretary/Treasurer Michael Fulcher coordinated the Association’s first appearance in this prestigious boat show. Member David Boothe went above and beyond the call of duty filling in for Bud Belangia for this event. Belangia, who recently had surgery, transports the Frances Mae to all of her public appearances. Boothe, who lives in Beaufort County, delivered the vessel in the early morning hours of May 4, returned to his home 50 miles away for a previously scheduled appointment, and then returned to Beaufort to transport Frances Mae back to her current home port in Pamlico County. As the NCCHA mission unfolds, Frances Mae will call many ports home in its endeavor to spread awareness for and appreciation of the state’s coastal heritage.
Michael Fulcher provided the photos from this event.

The Beaufort Boat Show coincidentally fell on the same day as the Kentucky Derby. Member David Boothe, was not like a jockey in the big race at Churchill Downs, but instead was more like the Pony Express. He delivered Frances Mae to the show and back home after the show with a business journey sandwiched between these trips.

Michael Fulcher manned the NCCHA booth from the opening to the closing bell of the Beaufort Wooden Boat Show.

Beaufort Wooden Boat Show 2019

Heber Guthrie, who built the Frances Mae for NCCHA, is apparently scoring points with a young blond who is learning about rack-of-the-eye wooden boat building at the Beaufort Boat Show, May 4.

Rex Horne and Heber Guthrie, far right, join boat show attendees who are taking a thoughtful gaze at the only wooden commercial fishing boat in the show.

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.

Membership meeting

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.

Frances Mae
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.
See more.

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.

What We Do

NCCHA is the organization that is speaking up for coastal heritage.

Wooden boat building heritage classes

“Heber, why don’t you get something going in the summer for kids that have nothing to do but ride around and get in trouble? My 3 kids stay home all day, every day, and just watch TV all day.”
~ Parent from Marshallburg, NC

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Sound People: The Book

Folklore has spawned volumes about Core Sounders, their flat-bottomed skiffs and the Harkers Island boatbuilders.
Sound People presents a record of conversations with down east natives. Core Sounders describe their cultural history, from their perspective.

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Building A Boat

For centuries, Down East fishermen have built boats in their yards. Aaron Styron from Cedar Island said that in the early 20th century, a boat was under construction in almost every yard around Core Sound. Over time, many fishermen discovered they preferred building fishing boats over fishing. A separate industry was born.

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NCCHA Project Updates

With construction of NCCHA’s Core Sound workboat in its final stages, NCCHA can begin focusing more on an expanding cultural/heritage education agenda.

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NCCHA Project Updates

The Frances Mae, built by Harkers Island native Heber Guthrie for for the NC Coastal Heritage Association, is almost finished.

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