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Kayaking the Off-Season Waters of Pamlico Sound


Holiday issue 2013

by Pat Garber

Summer at Ocracoke finds lots of kayakers plying their paddles along the shores of Pam­lico Sound, as residents and tourists alike take to the wa­ter. As the seasons change, the experience of kayaking changes as well, but there is still plenty to see and en­joy in all seasons. Pamlico Sound, which divides Oc­racoke from the mainland, is one of the largest estuar­ies in the United States. It is home to all kinds of fish, skates, small sharks, and turtles, and attracts numer­ous species of ducks and other water birds. Its shal­low, brackish waters make it an ideal nursery for fish, shrimp, and crabs, and the salt marshes that line its shores are alive with mus­sels, marsh crabs, snails, and secretive birds.

As you paddle across the water, look for patches of eelgrass waving softly underneath your kayak, or you might see it pushed up against the shoreline. Eel­grass forms an underwater garden which is essential to the health of the sound.

Looking higher, you may see long strings of cormo­rants flying to and from the reefs. Cormorants are capa­ble of diving to great depths in their search for fish. An occasional loon, dressed in the soft browns of its win­ter plumage, might be spot­ted diving and surfacing in the dark waters. Most people think of loons as northern birds, but many of them winter off the coast of North Carolina. Canada geese, brants, pintails, black ducks, and mergansers are among the many kinds of waterfowl that win­ter in the waters of the Pamlico, easy to sight with binoculars. Brown pelicans glide in elegant formations along the surface of the water, and herring and ring-billed gulls are common.

There is much to see on the open wa­ters of the Pamlico, but the creeks that lead into the salt marshes are my favorite places to kayak. From a dis­tance the marsh looks like an impenetrable curtain, but behind it a labyrinth of creeks open up into a hid­den world. The marsh grasses take on an au­burn hue in autumn, turning a dark grey in winter. Spartina and black needlerush are the main components of the marsh. Near the waterline ribbed mussels cling to their roots, and on warm days small snails called marsh peri­winkles climb up the stems. You might spot a great blue heron stalking its dinner.

Some of the creeks wind through maritime forests, where live oaks, yaupons, wax myrtles, and junipers, or cedar trees, grow to­gether in a lush ecosystem. The bright red berries of the yaupon and the softer blue fruit of the cedars and wax myrtles attract yellow-rumped warblers and other songbirds. Belted kingfish­ers, piercing the air with their distinctive calls, may be observed diving kamika­ze-like from a branch into the dark waters and emerg­ing with a tiny fish.

Diamondback terra­pins bury down into the mud when tem­peratures drop, but on warm winter days they can be observed sun­ning on logs or pop­ping their heads up through the water. In the early 20th century these medium-size turtles were threat­ened with extinction when terrapin stew became a huge fad in New York. Still rare in many places, they are relatively common at Ocracoke.

Fall and winter are oyster-harvesting time, so if you are lucky you may find a few of the tasty mollusks for an oyster roast. If you look at them carefully, you can see the many forms of life that make up the oyster ecosystem; slip­per shells, snail-fur, tube worm casings, and the tiny pea or oyster crab.

A good place to put your kayak in is at the public docks behind the Ocracoke Museum. Ride the Wind rents kayaks and have their own spot for launch­ing at the edge of Silver Lake Harbor. Driving north along Hwy 12, there are several places you can slide a kayak down along one of the creeks. With 4-wheel-drive you can also drive down one the sandy lanes in the national seashore to the Pamlico Sound and put in. You need to buy a per­mit to do this. Be careful if you launch your kayak during duck-hunting sea­son; there are a number of duck blinds in the shallows of the sound. Wherever you go, don’t forget your life-preserver, required by law. Happy paddling!

Thank you Pat Steely for sug­gesting this article to the Oc­racoke Observer!


Ocracoke Fishing: October on the Beach


October 2013

by Ken DeBarth

There is an old saying that tells us the best day to go fishing is today. This is especially true if today happens to fall in October!

Fall fishing on the Oc­racoke beaches can be spec­tacular. Many of the sum­mer species are still in the area and the fall migrations of bait and predator fish is at its peak. The water is still warm, but the seasonal shortening of daylight com­bined with falling water temperatures will stimulate the fish to feed and move to their winter habitat.

Red drum that spend the summer in the sound move through the inlets as they migrate to deeper ocean waters for the winter. Blue­fish that spend the summer in cooler northern waters are migrating south follow­ing the cooling water tem­peratures to their winter grounds. Black drum are usually found close to the beach through October and November.

Large schools of finger mullet move through the surf zone in the fall. These finger mullet are a vital food source for Red Drum and Bluefish and keep the game fish close to the beach.

The summer species of flounder, sea mullet, speck­led and gray trout are still in the surf zone as well.

The most popular bait for fall drum and blue­fish is mullet. You can use cut chunks of large mullet, sometimes called “corn­cobs” because of their size and shape, or finger mul­let. Both are available, fresh or frozen, at tackle shops. Fresh usually works better if you have a choice. You can catch your own finger mul­let for bait if you know how to use a cast net.

Chunk mullet and fin­ger mullet are fished on the bottom. There are many types of rigs. A “slider” has a small plastic device that holds your sinker and moves up and down the line before snubbing against a swivel attaching your hook. This allows the fish to pick up your bait and swim away without feeling the drag of the sinker. There are a number of options in vertical bottom rigs. Usu­ally these have two sepa­rate hooks and baits with a sinker at the bottom of the rig. Some rigs have colored bucktails; some have small floats to lift your bait off the bottom, providing more movement of the bait while keeping it out of reach of crabs. Any place that sells tackle will have a variety of rigs to consider, but it is al­ways a good idea to seek lo­cal knowledge at the tackle shop where you are going to fish.

There is a special fin­ger mullet rig available on the market. It consists of a swivel to attach to your line, a length of heavy line ending in a clip for your sinker. Midway down this rig there will be a piece of wire through a small float (available in differ­ent colors) and extending 3 or 4 inches before end­ing in loop that fastens to the hook apparatus. This looks like a pair of hooks folded in the middle. The hooks are slipped out of the loop, which allows the wire to be pushed through the finger mullet’s mouth and out the vent. The hooks are then slipped back through the loop and you are ready to go. [This is hard to describe in words. Ask someone at the tackle shop to show you how this works.]

One rule about using mullet as bait is to keep it fresh. The blood and oil that seeps from the bait will at­tract your target species, but in a short time the ef­fectiveness of this scent will be leached away. Some se­rious drum anglers recom­mend changing baits every 20 minutes.

Big drum are caught along the entire length of Ocracoke’s beach. Many anglers prefer the points— North End or South Point, but these fish are mobile and can be found in the middle of the island, too. Some prefer to fish after dark, but many big drum are caught during the day. Drum are caught in the churning white water of breaking waves and the smooth water of deeper holes. The key is to get out there, somewhere, and get your bait in the water!

Other species—floun­der, sea mullet, trout, black drum, and croakers—can be caught along the entire island as well. Preferred baits are shrimp, squid, clams, and crabs. Try a sec­ond rod with smaller hooks baited for these guys while working your long casting rod for drum and blues.

A few last thoughts:

Keep your baits fresh.

Get your fishing gear, bait and advice locally.

Use the smallest weight sinker that will hold bot­tom.

Use big baits and big hooks for big fish.

Return “trash fish” to the water—come to think of it, there are no trash fish. Don’t kill anything you aren’t going to eat.

If you aren’t going to eat it, practice CPR—Catch, Photo, Release.

Pick up your trash. And someone else’s, too. Leave a place better than you found it.

Make good memories even if you don’t catch fish.

Come back and try again!

Ken DeBarth lives and

Health and Wellness: Chocolate, a health food?


October 2013

By TL Grace West

Those of us who adore chocolate are pleased with more and more re­search showing health benefits of eating chocolate: especially raw, dark chocolate.

Cacao is the name of raw chocolate while cocoa is the processed version, meaning it is heated above 75 percent. When heating cacao some vitamins and minerals are lost. There is a whole raw food community promoting a mostly raw diet for optimum benefit from all foods (davidwolfe.com).

On Ocracoke, Debbie Wells (known as both the founder of the Back Porch restaurant and a mixed media artist) and Kathy Koss (owner operator of Southern Rain a garden design business in Chapel Hill) have created Graffiti Rose Raw Ca­cao Bar.  While in­terviewing both women, I was inspired by their commitment to hand-make in small batches these delicious, nutritious and affordable bars for our small community. I was able to watch Debbie make a batch (eight bars) then taste the incred­ible result. The chocolate flavor burst on the tip of my tongue.

“The flavor is best when the bar is room tempera­ture–70 to 75 degrees,” Debbie said.  I experienced the gentle increase of energy without the sugar rush of other chocolate bars and subsequent crash. The coconut sugar used in Graffiti Rose bars has a low glyce­mic value of 35 compared to cane sugar’s value of 68. It sim­ply tasted delicious and a little bit goes a long way.

Here are some specifics about the nutritional benefits of the ingredients in a Graffiti Rose Cacao bar (see nurtition­news.com for more info):

  • Raw Cacao Powder: While taking my long test for my National Certification for Massage Therapy, during my breaks I would eat a square or two of chocolate contain­ing raw cacao powder. In my research I learned that it is the theobromine which is a bitter alkaloid similar to caf­feine (but not addictive) that is responsible for increasing blood flow and stimulating cognitive function and im­proving memory. I passed with flying colors. More re­cently, when I developed asthma and high blood pres­sure, I liked seeing that theo­bromine has been shown to reduce asthmatic symptoms and lower blood pressure.
  • Almonds: low cholesterol, a good source of Riboflavin, Magnesium, Manganese an a very good source of vita­min E.
  • Coconut oil: cholesterol free (an alternative to butter).
  • Maca: an adaptogenic herb from Peru that helps your body adapt to stress, assists hormone health and has the added benefit of being an aphrodisiac!

You can purchase Graf­fiti Rose Raw Chocolate Bars in the Community Store, the Variety Store and Zil­lie’s Island Pantry. In Chapel Hill, look for them at the Healing Earth Re­sources on Franklin Street and at Carrboro Acupuncture.

 Pirates to invade Ocracoke! Aaargh You Ready


October 2013

by Connie Leinbach

Pirates are poised to invade Ocracoke Is­land the last week­end of October in a celebration of the last days of Blackbeard with the First Annual Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree, a weekend, family-friendly pirate festival Friday, Oct. 25 to Sunday, Oct. 27. Three years in the making, the chief activity of the jamboree will be historically authentic encampments and ship battles by four professional re-enact­ment pirate crews.

“We are really excited about how this bigger-and-better event is shaping up, including an overwhelming response from the pirate com­munity,” noted Daphne Ben­nink, owner of The Back Porch, who spearheaded the event. “Not only will this be an amaz­ing educational entertainment for visitors, but it also will give a boost to the local economy.”

Various pirate re-enactors are gearing up to travel to Oc­racoke because of the histori­cal significance here for Black­beard.

“The pirates are excited about coming here because this is the only place with au­thenticated Blackbeard histo­ry,” noted Chip Stevens, owner of Blackbeard’s Lodge and one of the event organizers. Since this event is an unofficial close of the pirate season, re-enac­tors and aficionados can walk around and have fun, Stevens said. Locals and visitors alike  are encouraged to join in the fun and don pirate attire.

Blackbeard’s Pirate Crew, a 12-member living history or­ganization from Hampton, VA., will camp Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the historic Wahab House, 161 Irvin Garrish Highway, while the Devilmen of Cape Feare will be docked on the longboat Florie. Outfitted in historical costumes from the 17th and early 18th centuries, pirates will engage the audience with storytelling, sea chanteys, sword play and demonstra­tions of vintage black powder weapons.

The premier event will be an authentic ship-to-ship battle Saturday afternoon at 3 in Silver Lake harbor as Black­beard’s crew meets up with Lt. Robert Maynard in “The Battle at Ocracoke.” Captain Horatio Sinbad on the brigan­tine Meka II and the Ada Mae, a skipjack out of New Bern, will re-create the last hours of Blackbeard and his crew with cannons blazing.

“They’re bringing a lot of gun powder and shooting it off at the end of the season,” Ste­vens said. “There will be lots of explosions.”

Following that will be bawdy songs in the “Bawdy Beer Garden” on the Books to be Red grounds along School Road until 7 p.m.

The event kicks off Friday in two locations—The Oc­racoke School PTA Hallow­een Carnival from 5 to 10 p.m. An annual fundraiser for the school, this costume event is a natural fit for the jamboree.

A pirate meet-and-greet, sponsored by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Associa­tion, will be held in the Oc­racoke Community Center from 7 to 9 p.m., with a mock trial, conducted by historian-author Kevin Duffs to weigh the evidence on the fates and identity of “Blackbeard the Notorious Pyrate” and his crew. Grog and hors d’oeuvres will be available along with music by the “Motley Tones,” a pirate minstrel group.

Among the many activities for the festival include “Black­beard’s Market” in Commu­nity Square, a treasure hunt through Ocracoke businesses, sing-alongs, sword fight dem­onstrations and more. There will be a pirate movie for kids in Deepwater Theater and a “Little Pirates” craft at the Oc­racoke Preservation Society museum.

In his Saturday afternoon talk, Duffus will unveil some newly discovered informa­tion about the pirate who has inspired so many for so long during his Saturday afternoon talk.

“I will present newly re­searched information that will shift how the Blackbeard story is told,” Duffus said. “I also will reveal the true nature of Black­beard’s treasure and where it is.”

The weekend will culminate with a memorial service Sun­day morning for those killed in Blackbeard’s last battle. Pi­rates will gather at 10 a.m. at Blackbeard’s Lodge, 111 Back Road, and then walk along Lighthouse Road to Spring­er’s Point Nature Preserve. As Meka II and Ada Mae stand off-shore, a eulogy will be read and a wreath laid, followed by a broadside salute.

This is the first year of this jamboree (despite its having been canceled in 2011 and 2012 due to hurricanes Irene and Sandy), building up to a grand event in 2018–the 300th anni­versary of Blackbeard’s death. Organizers want the yearly dates for the event to be the last week in October since it is close to the actual Nov. 21 date of Blackbeard’s demise.

Parking for the event is available at the National Park Service parking lot, 4352 Irvin Garrish Highway.

The complete schedule is posted on the website www. piratejamboree.com and the Facebook page: Ocracoke/Hat­teras Pirate Jamboree.

Oyster Restoration Projects at Ocracoke



October 2013

by Pat Garber

Ocracoke Island is sur­rounded by historic, shallow-water oyster beds, which have provided the island with protection from wave action in storms and deli­cious seafood for islanders and visitors. They filter and clean the water as they feed, and provide important habitat for many marine species. Com­mon oysters, a species of ma­rine mollusk known to scien­tists as Crassostrea virginica, are free-floating in their larval stage, but once they attach to a bottom they develop into spat and stay put. They often attach to one another forming huge congregates known as oyster reefs. In recent years, however, the reefs have suffered a dra­matic decline, reducing them to a fraction of their former territory. This decline has been occurring across the whole of eastern North Carolina, but Ocracoke’s losses in the last few years have been especially alarming. “The oysters thrive for a short while” says James Barrie Gaskill, a fisherman and a board member with the North Carolina Coastal Fed­eration, “but they are dead before their fourth year.” As a result, there has been a collab­orative effort by state officials, environmental groups, and lo­cal fishermen to understand and reverse the losses, with several exciting projects in the works.

Last January North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries biologist Clay Caroon met with fishermen from the Ocracoke Working Watermen’s Associa­tion to discuss ways to work to­gether in creating oyster reefs located in productive and work­able areas near Ocracoke. NCD­MF has ten long-term oyster sanctuaries in Pamlico Sound, where no harvesting is allowed. They created the reefs by using barges to lay down cultch (oys­ter shells or marl), which attract oyster larvae to attach and then develop as oysters. According to Caroon, the sanctuaries that are in high salinity areas like Ocracoke do well for the first three or four years. Then they begin to fail, and the oysters die. It is believed that predation by crabs, boring sponges, oys­ter drills, and fish, particularly sheepshead, which thrive in highly saline waters, are mainly responsible. This is believed to be the cause of the recent failure of their sanctuary near the Le- High shipwreck. The Division also seeds oysters for public use, including near Ocracoke. These cultch sites can be harvested in 18 to 24 months. “This program,” said Caroon, “is funded spe­cifically for public harvest. The ecosystem enhancement is an added benefit.” To make it suc­cessful, “we rely on fishermen and the public.”

The approach discussed in January was a plan to seed the cultch in many small ar­eas of sand, and to scatter the cultch material very thinly, in hopes of reducing infestation by boring sponges and oyster drills. With multiple sites the watermen can then have more places to work. The sites they were looking for were sandy bottoms with grass growing around them. Using a shallow-draft barge the sites could be planted, harvested, and re-planted. During the spring and summer the sites were identified and planted with oyster shells, with hopes that by next summer there will be young oysters growing there.

Another project, conduct­ed by the NC Land Trust and North Carolina Coastal Fed­eration (NCCR), involved set­ting out approximately 5,000 bags of oyster shells near the shoreline at Springer’s Point. The goal was to reduce ero­sion. It was completed in July. Also funded by a NCCF grant, a third project was to set bags of shells in the waters near Beacon Island, which has been eroding at an alarming rate. The island, owned by the Audubon Society, is a vital nesting site for pelicans and other birds, as well as an im­portant historic site.

Ocracoke waterman Gene Ballance, who has been map­ping old oyster beds in Pam­lico Sound for ten years has, with the help of James Barrie Gaskill, completed this effort, and is now setting out loose oyster shells in the waters off­shore of Beacon Island, in what they call patch reefs. There are nine reefs, 20’X100’ in size and composed of 7,200 bush­els of shell, which are trucked in and then transported to the sites by barge. The oyster reefs should reduce wave action which causes erosion and will be open for harvest to water­men in about three years.

Ocracoke watermen and their affiliates are hopeful that their efforts will succeed, and that Ocracoke’s historic shallow-water oyster beds will once again provide winter-time jobs for local fishermen, as well as erosion control, cleaner water, and more a pro­ductive

Guess the Gadget


oct gadget

October 2013
By Jim Borland

Welcome to “Guess the Gadget” a monthly reader participation series. Here’s how it works: First examine the photo of the monthly “Gadget” and guess what it appears to be. You will find the answer under this photo but upside down. Lastly congratulate yourself on your cleverness or not.

We hope that this series will poke at your imagination and enhance your knowledge of historic and unusual objects no longer commonly used and raise appreciation of life as it used to be. Feel free to send photos of strange and unusual objects or gadgets for our review and possible presentation in future issues. Also, if our answer for “Guess the Gadget” is incomplete or inaccurate, please educate us.

“Ahhhh…late summer on Ocracoke and the weather is good and the tourists plentiful, how could it get any better?  Well here’s how, a new “gadget” to guess.  This one is tough but was used in water probably during the 18th century or earlier.  It does look like a rocket, but it isn’t.  What do you think?  I got it from Justin LeBlanc at The Ocracoke Coffee Company, who got it from his dad who may have inherited it,… who knows?

Answer:  “It is a mechanical speed log or meter or otherwise known as a taffrail log.  It operates on the same physical principles as a car’s odometer by towing a van or rotor from the stern (or taffrail) by a long line, thus the speed of the hull can be calculated using simple (?) mathematics. (reference to Wikipedia, chip log)  Interesting eh?”  Jim Borland, The Gadget Guy

Jim Borland is semi retired and has lived here full time with his wife since 2007.



DOT Secretary Tata honors heroic ferry crew


 North Carolina De­partment of Trans­portation Secretary Anthony Tata awarded seven crew members of the Motor Vessel Croatoan with the Ferry Division’s Extra Mile Award for their actions during an on­board medical emergency in June. The award came during a ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 11, in Mann’s Harbor.

“This incident could have had many possible outcomes, but the crew’s quick response and attention to every detail ensured it had the right one,” Tata said. “The crew members of the Croatoan helped save their captain’s life, and deliv­ered the ship and its passen­gers safety to their destina­tion.”

The incident occurred on the afternoon of June 2 while the Croatoan was en route from Hatteras to Ocracoke carrying 24 vehicles and 52 passengers. Captain Shawn Gray suddenly collapsed in the wheelhouse and was unre­sponsive and not breathing.

The crew immediately sprang into action to admin­ister emergency medical pro­cedures to Gray while another officer took control of the helm and proceeded to the Oc­racoke dock.

Meanwhile, other crew members secured professional medical help from a passenger and operations personnel on shore contacted Hyde County Emergency Medical Services.

The employees receiving the award are: Terry Gray, Hat­teras Operations Manager; Ervin Farrow III, Senior A/B; Sandy Griffin, A/B; Zander Brody, Ferry Engineer; Rudy Austin, Oiler; Taylor Daniels, Ordinary Seaman; Robert Penfield, Security.

Captain Shawn Gray has made a complete recovery and returned to work last week. He attended today’s award cer­emony, and thanked the crew that helped save his life. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be here today,” he said.



As of August 27, 2013, the Ocracoke Fire De­partment ended the bingo season.

At this time, there are no plans to continue bingo next year. By next sum­mer the department will be housed in the new station on Irvin Garrish Hwy. Due to financial restrictions and state and federal build­ing code requirements, it was determined that it would not be economically feasible to add space in the building for bingo. These restrictions would have required a commercial kitchen, extra bathrooms, an elevator, another fire es­cape, and additional ADA (American Disability Act) requirements.

It would have been impossible for us to con­tinue with bingo the last several years, if we had not had some loyal people who volunteered to help those Tuesday evenings. For a number of years, John Manning put out and brought in the bingo signs on Tuesdays. He often drove Teresa around in the Kenworth so she could re­mind visitors that it was a bingo night at the fire hall. When John retired from this job, Blackburn Warner started taking care of put­ting out and taking in the signs. He started working in the kitchen as a Junior Firefighter and continued through this season. Rare­ly a Tuesday night went by that Albert O’Neal and Dick Jacoby were not in the kitchen and Teresa O’Neal and Janey Jacoby were selling games. Support­ing them were a myriad of volunteers – some who came once or twice and some who came on a regu­lar basis. Sundae Horn and Mary Swain worked hard the last several years to get volunteers to work the floor checking winner sheets and selling specials. Dave Frum, BJ Swain, Wil­liam Howard, Caiggy Roth, and Doreen Robinson have stepped forward as callers for several years. Janey and Dick came early and set up the fire hall and kitchen, while those who volunteered each night stayed to clean up and put away everything.

OFPA also wants to offer a special thanks to all of the businesses on Oc­racoke who donated items for door prizes. We had things like gift certificates, CDs, t-shirts, pictures, and specialty items from shops. Players were thrilled to have their ticket number called for one of the special door prizes given away each night.

Finally, we would like to thank the community and visitors who came out for an evening of fun. With a limitation of seating of no more than 100 people, we have cleared about $9,000 a year. This has helped pay for new equipment and upkeep on our vehicles.

2013 Volunteers Who Worked the Floor and the Kitchen:
Cathy Barthelmas, Maddie Bishop, Vera Buxton, Adam Carter, Jacob Church, Leslie Espinosa, Lauren Fulcher, Tay­lor Fuller, Mark Ganoe, John Haddad, Cindy Hichens, Sun­dae Horn, Dick Jacoby, Janey Jacoby, Leslie Lanier, Connie Leinbach, Karen Lovejoy, Bill Monticone, Albert O’Neal, Mackenzie O’Neal, Teresa O’Neal, Caiggy Roth, Jenny Scarborough, Jo Ann Spencer, Tony Spencer, Mary Swain, Casey Tolson, Blackburn War­ner, Kati Wharton, Deena Yeat



September 2013
By BJ Oelschlegel

I have spoken about the resources with which our community has to work. Some are not tangible but have a powerful effect on the quality of life on the island; others are obvious.

I see our natural setting, protected by The National Park Service, as a valuable asset. We can rest assured that our beach will generally look the same through the decades. How we get to use the beach may change, but development will not alter the face of such a perfect en­vironmental event. Born out of the natural setting, are the activities which involve the water and keep our guests coming back. This same envi­ronment has provided a way of life and a chance to make a living through fishing, which predates the tourist trade. The workings of a small fishing village are an attraction unto themselves.

Friendly people, and a laid-back attitude round out a pic­ture which produces a pas­sion in our visitors leading them to come back year af­ter year and causing tears as they depart on the ferry. This one statement of “Ocracoke being their favorite place in the whole world”, is the line I hear just about every time I speak to someone who wants to rent or buy property on the island.

After the planning board meeting in July, it was ap­parent that we are placing this passion in jeopardy. What I am hearing from my own customers at the The Slushy Stand, as well as from neigh­boring store owners, is that the village is losing this ap­peal, the historic and quaint feel of a fishing village. The guests have gone so far as to beg for something to be done about the changing face of Ocracoke.

Right after that somewhat contentious meeting in July, I heard an interview with a director of a documentary on sustainable living. He was speaking about sustain­able communities, such as the movement in Durham. I didn’t pick up on the details about Durham because I fix­ated on a statement he used: “Community is the secret ingredient of sustainability; without that sense of com­munity, it can’t exist.”

If you Google “sustainability,” you will find a simple definition: “the capacity to endure.”

One article talked about the ac­tions of today not having neg­ative effects for future gen­erations. Based on the current scuttlebutt around the number of signs and the occurrence of pop up businesses, I am hear­ing a desire for discussion with regards to our sense of community and the picture which we present.

It has been voiced to me that we are ru­ining the “goose that lays the golden egg”; there is a fear that it won’t take very many years before we see a drop off in the number of visitors be­cause we have lost our unique flavor.

The most visual of con­cerns was described to me as “the stadium effect.” The guy in the front row stands up to make himself heard; the guy behind him has to stand up just to see. Before you know it, everyone in that section is standing up to get what they came for–a chance to see.

In our situation, when one per­son puts out a sign or a sand­wich board, the next store owner might feel that putting out two signs will gain more attention. It doesn’t take long before the streets of the vil­lage become destinations for signs, flags and sandwich boards instead of the oppor­tunity for riders or people strolling to see the life on the island. Why would they come to Ocracoke, when we could just as easily go to their local big time beaches and witness that competi­tion for the dollar?

I think that it is a ques­tion of what we value in this community and that will re­quire a lot of lively discussion and hard work. Living on an island requires a degree of resiliency to weather storms, ferry troubles or delayed essential repairs.

The Ocracoke population is strong and har­dy. The folks who choose this way of life are creative, smart and resourceful. I have al­ways felt that no problem was insurmountable for this com­munity. We have had more than one occasion to band to­gether and make something happen. I clearly remember the village’s response to the surprise vote on a county oc­cupancy tax which was taken while our commissioner was in Miami at a hurricane con­ference.  We were quick, effec­tive and successful in mov­ing the proceeds of that levy from the county coffers to an island fund. My point is that we have the wherewithal to tackle anything.

People are talking among themselves. I have had locals stop me and tell me that they agree with the idea of trying to preserve our historic-vil­lage atmosphere. It was what drew them in the beginning. Now is the time for people to bring these opinions out into the open; to make sure that the powers that be hear the will of the people. This too is a problem that can be solved.

BJ Oelschlegel is a broker w/ Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty
….before we had a lighthouse, there was a lightship to light the way for mariners.


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