Thursday, December 22, 2011


Here we are at the winter solstice already! I celebrated it by taking the family out on a sail. Actually, Emmet took us out; I handled the dock lines and hoisted the sails. The wind was light, but since it was seventy degrees, we really couldn't pass it up. We had a better breeze two days ago when Emmet and I set out to explore Nine Foot Shoal Channel. I hadn't tried that in years since the last time I took the older, larger Windfall in there on a sunset cruise and touched bottom in a few spots. It was a piece of cake with the new schooner and we sailed clear out to the open sound and back without seeing less than six feet on the fathometer.

I can only hope that this mild weather continues into the winter. About a month ago, my friend Bill and I took a three day cruise to "little" Washington and back. We'd taken on a supply of fresh shrimp so when we got to the dock at Pamlico Plantation, we had our friends Frank and Patti aboard for Frogmore Stew (something I hadn't had since my Hilton Head days back in the 80's). I know that most of you (if not all THREE) who read this "blog" have probably been aboard for a day sail or two, but the little schooner is a pure joy to cruise in. Her only drawback is the ghastly faded pink upholstery which Sundae is currently in the process of replacing for my Christmas present. The new fabric is a nice Scotch plaid which almost cries out for a tired old salt to sit down 'neath the oil light for a wee dram o' single malt!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Last week the Ocrafolk School convened for its fifth annual session. A combination of old friends from past sessions,interesting new students, a couple of new course offerings and ideal weather conditions made for what most students and staff agree was the best session ever. This year Debbie Block from Massachusetts joined the faculty with a course on English paper-piecing (a quilting technique) and Gary Mitchell taught a special Ocracoke music course. Both courses got great reviews from the participants.

And of course Debbie Wells's ever-popular cooking class was once again a big hit, not only with her students, but with the entire group who enjoyed their breakfast finale.
Ann Ehringhaus once again taught her photography class which treated us all to a splendid slide show on Friday ("show and tell day"). Ann took the picture of the faculty and student body seen here. Also Philip Howard, Dave Frum and I conducted our "Ocracoke Sampler" class which included a trip to Portsmouth, an all-day schooner cruise, kayaking and clamming as well as the creation and consumption of a traditional Ocracoke fig cake and some meal wine.

For anyone interested in a real learning vacation at Ocracoke, I highly recommend that you sign up early for next October's session. You can find out more on the website:

The season is gradually winding down and the fall weather beckons. Since I won't be able to join my friend Tony on his annual boat delivery to the Bahamas this year due to other obligations, I think I'll cast off the dock lines early Sunday morning for a few days of cruising on Pamlico Sound. So far, the forecast is perfect!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Avast me hearties! It’s Talk Like Pirate Day!
Ahoy there all ye stout lads and saucy lasses!  This be Captain Larboard Slushbucket, ye trusty advisor in all matters piratical.  As ye well know, September 19th be International Talk Like a Pirate Day and it’s my aim herein to put ye on course for some proper piratical discourse so drop ye anchor for a gam [chat] and I’ll fill you to the gunn’ls with some salty terminology.
First off we’ll get underway with getting’ yer bearin’s.  Never say “left” or “right.”  That’s lubberly talk and ye best clap a stopper on it and stow it below.  It’s always “port” and “starboard” and ye’ve got me starboard flipper [right hand] on that. Avast [stop!] saying “front” and “back.”  It should always be “fore” and “aft.”  When a pirate goes upstairs he “lays aloft” and when he comes back down he “goes below.”  The bathroom’s the “head” and the kitchen’s the “galley.”  If you like a wench’s looks, ye could say ye like “the cut of her jib.”
On this special day, I’d advise making liberal use of ye Pyrate’s Alphabet.  Having only two letters, it doesn’t take long to learn:  “Aye!” and “Ahhrrr!”  Whenever anyone says something ye like or agree with just bellow out, “AYE!”  And when they say anything ye disagree with, don’t like or don’t understand, or to which ye can’t think of a fitting response, just yell, “AAAHHHRRRR!”
YOUR BOSS:  “Great weather we’re having isn’t it?
YOUR BOSS:  “So I was thinking you wouldn’t mind taking out the trash and sweeping the parking lot.”
Here are a few other expressions to throw around when you’re practicing piracy:
Fire a shot across his bow = give him a warning
He slipped his cable = he died
There’s rocks to yer lee = you’re heading for trouble
Sun’s over the yardarm = it’s cocktail hour and time to...
Splice the mainbrace = have a drink of...
Grog = booze (usually a mixture of rum, water & lime juice)
Spin me a yarn = tell me a story
There’s the devil to pay and no pitch hot = we’re in a tough situation
Scuttlebutt = rumor
By the wind = broke, penniless
Shipshape and Bristol fashion = tidy and neat
Making heavy weather = exaggerating the difficulty of a job
Round the buoy = take a second helping at meals
Sojering =  shirking when work is to be done
Lash up = temporary or sloppy job
Half shot or half seas under = nearly drunk
Three sheets to the wind = totally drunk
Shot in the locker = money left over after an evening’s carouse.
Fair winds to ye now, and smooth sailing on September 19th!

Monday, September 5, 2011


This morning I attended a planning session for the 5th annual Ocrafolk School to be held October 23- 28, 2011. Turns out there's room for a few more lucky participants for next month's term. Once again this year, Dave Frum, Philip Howard and I will be teaching the "Sampler" class. But there are several other exciting offerings including Debbie Wells's ever-popular cooking class (yum!). Chances are if you read my blog you probably already know enough about Ocracoke to be familiar with the folk school, but on the outside chance that there may be a few readers who haven't gotten the word, please check it out at:

P.S. I just checked out the website for the first time today and, while I think it's really great by and large, I was mortified by the photo of the Turk's head bracelet which displays an obvious flaw! Trust me: I won't let you go home with a bracelet like that.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Like so many recent hurricanes, Irene seems to have caused far more damage to our neighbors up the beach and across the sound than to Ocracoke. Remarkably, there was no flooding on Ocracoke and, although there was a lot of wind for quite a while, there was very little damage. The worst result for us here on the island is the damage to N.C. 12 and to the power line (both on Hatteras Island) which has necessitated closing the island to visitors through the Labor Day weekend. Rumors abound and I'm not sure how much to trust much of the information I'm getting, but I've heard that the restoration of our electricity may permit reopening to tourists early next week. It appears that the damage to Highway 12 may not be repaired enough to allow traffic from the north for several weeks to come, however, so our only access will be via the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries.

In an effort to make the best of an unfortunate situation, our family (complete with dog AND cat!) took a little "evacu-cation" to visit inlaws in Columbus, Ohio. It was fun and we drove through the night on our return in time to catch the 10 a.m. ferry at Swan Quarter on Tuesday. All three kids resumed school on Thursday but only for half days Thursday and Friday.

I took the older two kids on a little sailing cruise across the sound. We left Friday (I know, I know, but I'm not a superstitious sailor!) at 1 p.m. and sailed over to a beautiful anchorage in the lee of Judith Island. Saturday morning we sailed up the Pamlico River and when I gave the kids the choice between visiting Bath or Aurora, they chose the latter. We docked up, and walked up the street, not knowing what to expect in a town alleged to have recently experienced serious flooding. To our surprise, the place was fairly well cleaned up and the Fossil Museum was even open, as was the Piggly Wiggly and a surprisingly good local restaurant. We cast off at 5 p.m. and motored down stream to an anchorage off the village of South Creek.

There was no wind this morning, so we had to motor all the way back to Ocracoke, arriving at 2 p.m. It's nice to put up the sails now and again and just keep on sailing over the horizon!

While all of us here on the island wish we could still be in the peak of the season with cash registers buzzing away, it's nice to kick back a bit and take a breather. Philip Howard has put together a traditional Ocracoke square dance at the Community Center this evening. I've got to go shower and put on my dancing shoes!

Before signing off, I'd like to thank the many of you who phoned and e-mailed with expressions of concern and, in many cases, offers of refuge. One of the few really good things to come of these natural disasters is the reminder of how many really good friends we have scattered far and wide. Thanks!

Monday, August 1, 2011


The season is now in full swing! Hard to believe it's already August. For the past two weeks the Windfall II has been sailing four and sometimes five cruises a day. The sailing school has been as busy as I want it to be, considering the high temperatures and I've had some really great students. By now I've recovered my investment in the teaching sloop, but who needs more boats? (see "Plures Naves Quam Mentes")

The regular mate, 16-year-old son Emmet just got back from a couple of weeks in Florida and South Carolina trying to catch up on some summer fun. While he was off the island, 12-year-old daughter Caroline stepped up to the plate and did a terrific job as crew. A few nights ago one of our kind passengers e-mailed this photo of us returning to the dock. She's saving her tip money for a September trip to Austin, TX to visit her cousins. Not hot enough for her here in N.C., I suppose!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Our facebook page (so I'm told) is: Schooner Windfall II Charters and Sailing School. Sundae's shop is: The Black Schooner. Check 'em out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

WE'RE ON FACEBOOK! (or so I'm told...)

My wife, Sundae of the Black Schooner Nautical Shop, informs me that we are now on facebook so you can "like" us. Well, being an old gaff-rigged sailor, I'm not too sure what all that means. They tell me facebook is a great way to reconnect with folks from your distant past. I can think of some folks in my distant past I'd just as soon keep right there, but if that's what it takes to be "liked," I guess I'm fer it.

Philip Howard and I took my sailing school's newly-acquired Rainbow sloop out a couple of days ago and as luck would have it, Ruth Fordon and her husband Ken came cruising by in their outboard and Ruth took some photos. I'll post them here if I can figure out how to get them from her e-mail to this site. (There! I managed to "upload" some. Yeah, I know -- the jib halyard's too slack!)

The Rainbow is really fun to sail! I took my girls out yesterday in a light breeze and about a dozen dolphins met us right outside the harbor. Four-year-old Mariah Daisy was ecstatic when they came up almost within touching range.

"I saw one of them's face!" she exclaimed, "It smiled at me!"

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sailing School

To address some recent comments: We're planning to start a basic beginner's course to be taught from 9 a.m. until noon on two consecutive mornings. The first hour of the first day will be in the classroom. The rest of the course will be aboard our 24' Rainbow sloop. There'll be a minimum of two and maximum of five students per class.
The introductory tuition is $150. I'm aware of the need for sailboat rentals here but at present am unfortunately not prepared to meet that need. My goal for the course is to take total beginners to the point where they can single hand a vessel of this size in reasonable conditions. For that reason, the schedule will be largely determined by weather.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


On Saturday, April 16th, my wife Sundae plans to launch her latest enterprise, the Black Schooner Nautical Shop in the old Williams House at the foot of our dock in the Community Square. As she summarized in our new rack card:

"This old island home houses a treasure trove of nautical gifts and d├ęcor right on the water in the heart of Ocracoke village. Artwork, ropework, scrimshaw, jewelry, reclaimed sail bags, and handcrafted items from the nautical tradition harken back to the days of wooden ships and iron men. Here you can find great gifts for sailors, master mariners, or anyone who hears the call of the sea."

For the past few weeks I've felt like a kid on Christmas morning, opening various shipments of the kind of stuff I love to browse through in places like Mystic Seaport. And, for awhile at least, it's MINE!

In addition to new gift items, the shop features a number of souvenir items made from salvaged parts of our old schooner such as the hand-crafted tote bags Amy Howard has made out of our old sails and beautiful half-models mounted on the original mahogany hatches made by our friend Jim Goodwin. Next time you're on the island, come check it out!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Plures Naves Quam Mentes

Some time back, my wife bought me a T-shirt in Maine with that phrase on the back. if I correctly recall my Latin from 48 years ago, it means somehing like: "More boats than sense." (If I don't then, obviously, it means something else!) Anyway, the phrase came to mind a couple of days ago when I agreed to sell my 15' fiberglass canoe to a seasonal visitor who wants to get on the water to take some photos.

The canoe has been in my back yard for quite some time, neatly stacked on my 10' Whitehall sailing dinghy.

"How long have you owned the canoe?" the buyer asked me. After thinking for a minute I said, "I think about eight years."

"When did you use it last?" he then asked and after a bit of thought I said, "I guess about eight years ago."

We were at a potluck dinner and my wife chimed in, "That's when we bought the Honda Odyssey with the roof rack so you could carry the canoe down to Florida and back every year. After the first year we left the canoe at home and rented whenever we wanted to go canoeing. I always hated that car."

I am making headway, though. Last year, after replacing my 57' schooner Windfall with the 40' schooner Windfall II, I managed to sell the 8' Trinka that used to hang from the stern in davits.

And, although I don't feel quite ready to part with the 10' inflatable I bought the last year we were in Florida, the 18' Herreschoff America catboat on a trailer in my driveway is seriously for sale.

I need that space for the 24' Rainbow sloop I'm in the process of buying to teach sailing lessons.