Friday, April 6, 2012


Ever since I gave up the original schooner Windfall, I've received scores of calls from people wanting to take  large groups sailing.  My little Windfall II is a terrific boat but can only accommodate 6 at a time. Well, we're finally working to address that problem.

On February 29, the local non-profit Ocracoke Alive Inc. received the donation of a totally reconstructed Chesapeake Bay skipjack, the Wilma Lee and I have been working with them in an effort to obtain Coast Guard approval for carrying thirty or more passengers.  The boat was built in 1940 in Wingate, MD by Bronza Parks and was used for dredging oysters right up until 1996 when she was purchased by Herb Carden of Sandy Point, Va.  Mr. Carden has a deep love of traditional Chesapeake Bay vessels and has restored a number of them but the Wilma Lee was by far his most ambitious project.  He hired master shipwright John Morgenthaler to tear the boat down to the keel and stem and reconstruct it with the best available materials.  (Fortunately, Mr. Carden happened to own one of the largest lumber mills in the Southeast!)  Wishing to put the vessel in a place where she would educate and entertain a wide public, he finally settled on Ocracoke.

Although skipjacks were designed in the late19th Century for dredging oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, they soon spread south to the sounds of North Carolina as Chesapeake oyster beds became depleted and over the next half-century many skipjacks were built and used in North Carolina.  One such vessel, the skipjack Ada Mae was built in Rose Bay (mainland Hyde County) in 1915 and is currently based in New Bern where the non-profit Coastal Carolina Classrooms uses it to educate school children about marine biology and environmental science.

A couple of weeks ago, Tom Pahl, Steve Musil and I brought the vessel down from the Potomac River to her new berth at the Community Square Dock in Ocracoke where, with her 72' sparred length and 64.5' mast, she will be the most prominent feature visible to people arriving by ferry into Silver Lake.

You can find out more about the Wilma Lee and, ever better, get involved by visiting

In an effort to learn more about how these vessels work, I went out on the skipjack H.M. Krentz last month out of Deal Island, MD for a day of oyster dredging and wrote about it in my wife's online newspaper, the Ocracoke Current.  (

Next time you're on Ocracoke, come check out the new vessel!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


As I write this on one of the last days of January I'm down in the newly re-upholstered saloon of my schooner, sitting at the dinette table with the oil lamp swinging rhythmically overhead. The weather's fantastic! It's sixty-eight degrees with blinding rain and a southwest breeze of thirty knots gusting to forty. The little vessel is pitching and rolling in her dock slip with such spirit that it's easy to imagine myself at sea in any number of places she's taken me. Springsteen on the stereo. Life is good.

What a January it's been! Yesterday afternoon it was even warmer than this without all the wind and rain. As soon as my son Emmet got out of school I took him and three friends out for a sail. We went out to the end of Nine-foot Shoal Channel. As we beat back against the increasing breeze the sun began to set and we broke out our fleeces. The boy took the helm and I went below to brew a pot of tea. Back at the dock, as we were securing the boat and putting on the sail covers, we were even greeted by a few mosquitoes, kindly reminding us that summer is not really so far away.

Many thanks to Lou Ann Homan for the photos of Emmet.

Can it really be January 27th?

                                                                                   Rigging the "fisherman." 


Chilly as the sun set.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


The big news this week is, well, the news! I'm referring to the brand new online news site, The Ocracoke Current which went active yesterday. This is the brainchild of my wife Sundae Horn and her partner in crime, Jenny Scarborough. These two industrious young women have been talking about doing something like this ever since they gave up collaborating on the Ocracoke Observer nearly a decade ago.  When they called in the assistance of internet expert Carol Pahl a couple of weeks ago it began to appear that the idea was more than just talk.  And then, early yesterday morning, voila!

They've dragged me aboard to contribute a regular weekly column entitled "The Shipping News."  Yeah, I know what you're thinking:  "They think Rob's going to make 'regular weekly' posts? In their dreams!"  So, as you can understand, I'll probably be pretty busy in the coming weeks and may not be able to keep up this blog with the dependable regularity you've come to expect.  Just kidding!

Actually, I think the girls have done a terrific job so far (if I say so myself).  But I hope that, rather than take my word for it, you'll check it out for yourselves:

If you like it, please spread the word!  Thanks. 

                                                                 Jenny and Sundae at work. (Mariah's with the band).