Ocracoke's history & its people

From 1859: Pilots at Ocracoke and Hatteras inlets

The wrangling over Hatteras Inlet goes as far back as 1859 as this portion of an old article we found demonstrates.

The following is a portion of a legislative report in the Raleigh Weekly Standard, Jan. 26, 1859.  Volume  1858-1865. It concerns the debate over a bill amendment seeking to give adequate compensation to pilots. A member of the General Assembly from the mainland wants to reduce fees for state-employed pilots at Hatteras Inlet.  A politician named Basnight opposes the measure noting that it would  only benefit wealthy owners.  

PILOTS AT OCRACOKE AND HATTERAS INLETS.

The bill concerning pilots at Ocracoke and Hatteras inlets was next taken up.

Mr. Flanner offered an amendment reducing the fees one-half, in cases where the pilot is refused.

Mr. Basnight opposed the amendment. The pilots were a very poor class of men, he said, many of them not having even a collard patch.

Pilot boat. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Pilot boat. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

This amendment struck at their compensation which was far too low now.  It was intended for the benefit of wealthy owners. The pilots could barely obtain a living now. It might be urged that they could leave there; that he considered a poor argument to compel men to work for half fees and keep them at starvation point. Besides, their services were too important to talk of driving them away.

Mr. Flanner said he offered his amendment at the suggestion of his constituents in New Bern. They suffered much from these pilots. When they were needed in bad weather they could not be got, but in fine weather they were to be found in abundance.

Mr. Donnell would vote against the bill through no sectional feeling, but on the higher grounds of mthe interests of commerce. He proceeded to show the difficulties of the navigation of the sounds and the necessity for a thorough knowledge of the shifting channels. He was in favor of confining the pilots to the separate inlets to ensure efficiency.

Mr. Basnight said a portion of Hatteras belonged to Ocracoke and that the pilots of the former were as familiar with the navigation as those of the latter. The law provided means to ensure competency–it required the pilots to be sworn and licensed and to be examined in a satisfactory manner to show their competency.

Mr. Lane was opposed to the amendment and would support the bill. Formerly there was no restrictions (sic) on these pilots and they were as familiar with Hatteras as with Ocracoke. He knew the country well and he knew the men, and he knew they were perfectly acquainted with the charges in the channels alluded to by Mr. Donnell.

It was not fair, nor just, to prohibit the pilots of Ocracoke from the privilege of piloting at Hatteras, seeing that nearly all the commerce took that course.

The amendment was rejected, and the bill almost unanimously passed its second and third readings

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