Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year!

Village Craftsmen's Howard Street gallery will be closed after today, until mid-February. Jude, Dallie, Dale, & I will all be taking off for at least two weeks. Some of us will be here on the island, enjoying this wonderful place in the off-season; others will be traveling a bit. We will not be posting on the journal until sometime in mid-January. Please keep in mind that after January 15 we will again be processing internet and mail orders, although our Howard Street gallery won't re-open until mid-February.

We hope you all have a fantastic 2007, and we hope you understand that islanders need a little time off too, now and then! And....we look forward to seeing you again in the coming year.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sand Angel

In the bleak mid-winter, with snow drifted high against the picket fences, and ice crystals hanging in the air, children are wont to lie down, bundled up with woolen caps, colorful scarves, and warm mittens, and. by moving their outstretched arms, make snow angels.

Well, it's not like that on the island this Christmas season. Even though it's cool today (well, OK, a young man just walked into the Village Craftsmen in his t-shirt), it is bright and sunny. Yesterday, as Lou Ann and I wandered back to the walk-over ramp at the lifeguard beach we spied a "sand angel" in the dunes. I suppose it was some child (maybe even a young-spirited adult) from way up north who missed the snow.

Some island news: This Saturday, December 30, the Ocracoke Working Watermen's Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the island's last fish house open, operating, and profitable, will be sponsoring a seafood dinner at mid-day, and an evening of storytelling with nationally famous islander, Donald Davis, at the Community Center. Come on out and support both events if you are on the island.

One more thing: Tomorrow will be our last journal entry for a couple of weeks. We are all taking much needed vacations and Village Craftsmen will be closed, including our internet business. Even though some of us are staying on the island, we will not be posting until at least the middle of January. I'll remind you all again tomorrow.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Walk on the Beach

Christmas Day has come and gone, but the holiday continues. Lights glow on homes, candles shine in windows, and wreaths decorate fences. lamposts, and even the lighthouse.

We went to the beach yesterday. The wind was blowing sand across our path, making walking something of a chore. However, the temperature was Spring-like. Today it is cooler, but the wind has died down, so our walk on the beach was easier. Lou Ann is here, so we walked and talked.

Tonight we'll look after Lachlan while mama & papa spend the evening with David's family (his mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law are visiting this week). After Lachlan goes to sleep Lou Ann & I will open our Christmas stockings (with all of the family events these last few days -- including having my brother as a house guest -- we neglected our stockings). We'll turn on the gas log stove, light a few candles, and pull up an antique quilt. We might even brew a pot of tea and serve ourselves sticky buns (a gift today from Linda & Al).

Life is good.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

We hope all of our readers had a very merry Christmas with family & friends. Mine was just wonderful. Pot luck dinners, Christmas carols, games around the dining room table, opening was all fun and full of good cheer.

And it's not over. Lou Ann & I are off to another dinner in moments. Maybe I'll have time tomorrow to share more island news. (Never got to do the "Boxing Day" thing this afternoon, by the way!) Bye.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

To all of our readers, neighbors, and friends of Ocracoke, all of us at Village Craftsmen wish you the merriest Christmas ever!

We will be taking a few days hiatus to celebrate the holiday. Look for a new journal entry on Tuesday, December 26.

From, Philip, Dallie, Jude, & Dale.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another Pot Luck!

Yesterday was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year -- the right occasion for a pot luck dinner. David's mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law are all on the island for Christmas this year. So we figured it was the perfect time to combine a family get-together with a solstice pot luck.

As in years past, I baked a spice cake with a bean mixed in. Eight-year-old Caroline found the bean in her slice of cake and was duly crowned Queen of the Solstice. She sat upon her throne (actually a wooden stool), wrapped in her royal robes (a throw with sun, moon, and stars on it), with a tin foil crown on her head. We all paid homage to the Queen, who then proceeded to give commands to her subjects. Her older brother was less than happy with how the night's events unfolded.

The Queen then turned the evening over to the adults. The night continued with feats of dexterity, poems, and songs, especially Christmas Carols. Everyone left filled with good food, good cheer, and good thoughts. Happy Solstice to everyone!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Last night Amy, David, Lachlan, and I were enjoying dinner together at my house when we heard a knock at the door. Upon opening the door we were greeted by a dozen or so Christmas carolers. Sundae had told me that a group of folks would be out caroling one more time (they'd already been around the village last week), and invited me to join them. But I forgot about it.

So here I was, thinking, "I must be getting old. Carolers usually go to old people's homes." But Lachlan was there with me and that made it seem better. After serenading us with several songs the carolers asked for a request. Deck the Halls is Lachlan's favorite seasonal song, so we all joined in, with especially robust "Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, las."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ocracoke Bomb Scare

I'll bet that got your attention. And it's true. Well, actually it was a hand grenade. Or at least that's the story I heard. Here's what's going around the village -- last night, around 7 o'clock the sheriff's deputies got word that workers discovered a hand grenade in the attic of a house they were remodeling. Anyone on the island who knew anything about grenades said, "Call the bomb squad from Cherry Point." No argument from me on that one.

As you may know, Ocracoke is a long way from Cherry Point. The bomb squad missed the Cedar Island ferry, so they "drove around" (the DOT ran a special Hatteras Inlet ferry for them about 2 o'clock in the morning).

In the meanwhile the road by the Coffee Company was cordoned off for hours, and nearby residents were evacuated. Must have been quite a scene.

The bomb squad put the grenade in a special protected box and in a matter of minutes the threat was diffused, and the road was reopened in the middle of the night.

I've heard the grenade was at least 45 years old,and I'm guessing it was from World War II. Seems to me like an odd thing to store in your attic for 60 years. And who knows how many children might have been rummaging around in boxes up there. Let that be a lesson for you all. Keep your WWII grenades locked up in a safe place!

I can't vouch for all of the above details, but I did see the cop cars in that vicinity last night when I rode my bike by just after 7 o'clock.

So another exciting adventure ends safely on Ocracoke Island! Keep reading our Ocracoke Journal for all the late-breaking island news.

(I related this whole tale to Lou Ann last night, and, not to be outdone, she told me about the lead story in her local newspaper yesterday -- some miscreant, in the dark of night, has been letting the air out of her town's blow-up santas! At least we don't have that threat to worry about. Not yet, at least.)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Post Office Elves

Sporting green aprons with the words "Santa's Helper," Ocracoke's postmaster, Celeste, and her assistant, Melissa, are making Christmas gift sending a happy experience. The post office is decked out with red stockings, a decorated tree, and wrapped packages. Our two elves are even offering customers Christmas candies when they step up to the counter.

Celeste and Melissa are definitely in the holiday spirit. Thanks to both of them (and Dale, too -- he took the photos, and works behind the scenes sans apron) for all of their good cheer and terrific service!

Celeste at the Counter:

Melissa & Celeste Enjoying their Work:

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Blanche

116 years ago yesterday the 2 masted schooner, Blanche, bound for Boston, was sunk on Ocracoke's beach, about 300 yards from shore in stormy weather. Keeper James Howard's shipwreck report is transcribed below (I have preserved his spelling and punctuation as faithfully as possible, though parts of the report are difficult to decipher).

He describes firing lines to the stricken vessel, which then allow the station crew to haul the eight sailors ashore by means of the breeches buoy (a life ring with leather "breeches" attached to it, that traveled along a sturdy line anchored on one end to a wooden crotch planted in the sand, and on the other end tied to the ship's mast or rigging).

Note that surfman Ballance spied the Blanche early in the morning (at 7 am according to another part of the report), and arrived at the station an hour and a half later. It took the surfmen five hours to pull the beach cart 12 miles down the beach, contending with strong winds and rising water. It was another six hours before they returned to the station, after saving eight sailors. They had given their all for nearly twelve straight hours. And this was all in December. It is difficult to imagine today what fortitude and bravery it took to be a member of the Life Saving Crew on the Outer Banks one hundred years ago. Notice that Keeper Howard asks in his report that the government add another station on Ocracoke.

Here is Keeper Howard's report:

"H.H. Ballance out on beach discover a vessel ashore on beach in breakers, sunk finding live men on board, put whip to his horse for the station, arriving to station 8:30 reported sch shore on Ocracoke beach with distress signals flying.

"Keeper immeatly cauld out crew. Hitch up team, tuck apparatus cart, left station 9 am for sch. Surf very rough running over beach, wind SW fresh gale witch mad our progress very slow, the distance about 12 miles with water and wind to contend with it was all we cold do reaching abrest wreck sch. Wee was nea fag out but seeing the condition of the wreck men, wee tuck curedg went at work.

1st shot was unsuckcessfull, hauld shot ashore gain. The nex shot line drop cros vessel, the crew of sch got line, hauling off whip shot line, no. 7 parted. The third shot line drop acros wreck crew got the line hauld of whip line made fast in starboard riging. Sent off hausser, the current so strong and forse of sea was hard to handle the gear. Men from the settlement rendered us valable service.

Hop n to haul on gear. After hausser hauld taugh, buoy sent off landing in all eight persons all right. Hade to cut our hausser, cut shot line, current so feirce cold not resk it, so cut them, one shot lost. The wreck crew was very bad off. They had life lines run around them to keep them from washing over board. All that peple that was there to see the site and my judgement seas ther was noth elce cold saved the crew. Pleas gave us another station. Capt. was very thankful and many thanks for our assistance."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Quiet Day on the Island

About 20 minutes ago I received the following puzzle in my email. It's quiet on the island today so I thought it would be fun to mess about with it. If you've got a few minutes for a puzzle read on.

Post a comment if you want to explain the puzzle. I've already posted my explanation. Just click on "comments" below if you want to post or peek. (It really is quiet here today!!)


It takes less than a minute .
Work this out as you read .
Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to go out to eat. (more than once but less than 10)
2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)
3. Add 5
4. Multiply it by 50
5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1756.
If you haven't, add 1755.
6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born. You should have a three digit number

The first digit of this was your original number
(i.e., how many times you want to go out to restaurants in a week.)
The next two numbers are YOUR AGE! (Oh YES, it is!!!!!)


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Painted Bunting

Yesterday Dale told me that he and Jaren had a strikingly beautiful bird visiting their back yard. After a bit of research they determined that it was a Painted Bunting.

According to the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds this "sparrow-size....gaudy finch is one of the most beautiful birds in North America." North Carolina appears to be its northernmost range, and it normally "skulks among dense thickets" making it difficult to see. Luckily for us it has ventured onto Dale & Jaren's feeder, although Dale says it darts away at the least sound or sight of another bird.

(All photos by Dale Mutro.)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it..

Friday, December 15, 2006


Lots of little things to share this morning:
  • We at Village Craftsmen had our "End of the Season" dinner last night at Jason's. I think it is fair to say that we laughed our way through the meal. We really were loud. Lucky for us there weren't many other people in the restaurant, and those that were (I think we knew them all) just rolled their eyes and shook their heads.
  • After dinner, at 7 o'clock, we strolled over to the school for their annual Christmas Program. There was lots of music and dancing. One particularly noteworthy skit, "Christmas Time on the Sound Side," (or, maybe it should have been called "Christmas Toime on the Sinde Soide") was written by middle schooler Chante Mason. The audience laughed heartily when a group of "tourists," fascinated by the line in the middle of the road, said, in effect, "There's traffic coming from both directions, so let's go stand in the middle of the road and look at it."
  • Walking home down Howard Street (all alone I might add, and beside the many graveyards) I had to pass through thick, rolling fog. The fog, and an accompanying light cool wind, gave a decidedly creepy feeling to the night.
  • It's foggy again this morning. Haven't heard if the ferries are running. Yesterday they were delayed several hours because of the thick fog. It makes the village even quieter than usual this time of year.
  • Happy Hanukkah to all of our Jewish friends!
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Last night's Civic & Business Association Christmas dinner and December meeting was yet another fantastic pot luck. It was a small group, but the food was stellar -- sweet potato casserole, meat loaf, salads, macaroni, vegetable pastries, beans, and much more. Oh yes, there was a table full of cookies, pies, and puddings, too.

And the meeting was short. I was home by 8 o'clock. OCBA members have been doing lots of good things this past year. If governmental beauracracies will move on certain issues we may eventually get a trolley to serve Ocracoke village, more parking at the lighthouse, and additional handicapped facilities. If all goes well, we might also have sidewalks in portions of the village. In other news, the new Ocracoke Working Watermen's Association appears to be doing well. Look for more news soon about activities planned for December 30.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

On the Beach

Yesterday afternoon Amy called to ask me if I wanted to join her and Lachlan at the beach. The weather has been getting milder, so I couldn't resist. The winter beach is such a wonderful place for young children. This time of year there are hardly any "beach buggies" so Lachlan could just run and play with little concern from Mama. He picked up shells as we strolled along, and seemed to understand that the water was too cold for swimming (at least he didn't try to jump in).

Lachlan was equally fascinated by the dunes. He climbed up nearly every path (we were near the campground), and then disappeared over the top. Before long he was back, running down towards us, with sand spurs stuck to his shoes and pants.

All too soon we were ready to head back, but Lachlan kept wandering away. Finally I picked him up and we walked to the car. I'm sure he slept well last night.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Jamie Tunnell's story about Dory Fishing on Ocracoke's Beach. Click on the link to read it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dory Fishing

Several weeks ago I posted an entry here about dory fishing on Ocracoke's beach. This is a fascinating local commercial fishing technique. This month the Ocracoke Observer published an article by Jamie Tunnell that explores this topic in more depth. Jamie and Linda Rippe, owner of the Observer, were kind enough to allow me to republish the article on our web site, as our December Ocracoke Newsletter. Linda also sent me several photos that had not been published.

You can read the entire account of Ocracoke's dory fishing by clicking here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Busy Week

Most of our readers can probably identify with busy-ness before Christmas. Ocracoke is no exception. This week I'll be part of a family dinner, the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association pot luck, and our annual Village Craftsmen dinner. Of course, there are the other usual holiday activities -- our school Christmas program Thursday evening, ordering and wrapping presents, putting up a yule log, finding a Christmas tree, writing to friends, etc.

Everything considered, life isn't too hectic on the island. I don't have to fight commuter traffic, and there's no mall filled with frantic shoppers. Actually there are hardly any shoppers at all. Mostly it's quiet. I think I'll wrap a few presents as I sit here at the counter!

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jimmy's Garage & the Space Shuttle

Last night several hundred islanders gathered at Jimmy's Garage for Ocracoke's annual Christmas pig pickin', pot luck dinner, and dance. Jimmy's is the cleanest garage you can imagine. The floor was virtually spotless. Picnic tables were lined up, and tables were piled high with all manner of delicious fare. From 5:00 to 7:30 folks ate, visited, chased after young-uns, laughed, and told stories. The dance commenced at 8:00 and continued long into the night.

A couple of dozen islanders left the party around 8:30 to gather on the walkover ramp at the lifeguard beach. The night was clear and the sky was studded with stars*. In every direction we looked twinkling lights covered the heavens. The Milky Way looked like it had been painted across the dome of the sky with a magical brush.

Shortly after 8:45 the cry was heard. "There it is." Hurtling toward us from the southwest was a bright, shining dot. The space shuttle streaked by, rather low on the horizon, as we all fell silent and watched. It was difficult to imagine that the shuttle was climbing. It looked like it might just barely clear the top of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone and out of sight.

The night air was cold and crisp. Most of us walked back to our cars, awed both by the canopy of stars overhead and the accomplishment of our fellow humans.

* According to & we could probably see about 2000 stars last night of the 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in the known universe. According to CNN, "Astronomers say there are more stars than grains of sand in all of Earth's deserts and beaches." That's a lot of stars!


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Music & Stories

Last night's Christmas concert at Deepwater Theater (not the Community Center, as I wrote yesterday) was sold out. In spite of the cold weather (near freezing temperatures) many locals, and even a handful of visitors, came out to listen to holiday music and hear island stories.

Ocracoke's regulars (Molasses Creek, Marcie & Lou, Jamie Tunnell, Rob & Sundae, Roy Parsons & others) were joined by a growing group of young musicians who entertained with guitar, flute, violin, and voice. Rob read his new "piratical version" of Clement Moore's The Night Before Christmas to much laughter. At the end, song books were passed around and the audience joined with the performers in singing favorite carols.

The short walk home was dark and cold. Deep midwinter is definitely upon us. It was good to walk into my cozy parlor with candles in the windows and a warm fire at the hearth.

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Concert Tonight

Because I was off island for two days I missed Ocracoke's annual wassail party and the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum Wednesday evening. As usual, I'm sure there was a good turnout accompanied by singing of carols to usher in the holidays. It certainly feels like winter right now. Days are getting shorter as the solstice approaches, holiday decorations adorn more and more homes, and the temperature was below freezing this morning.

We are looking forward to our annual Christmas concert at the Community Center this evening. Music, stories, and refreshments will round out the evening's entertainment. I'll be sharing the story of the 1899 Christmas Eve wreck of the British steamship Ariosto.

Be sure to come on out if you are on the island.

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Back on the Island Again

Our readers must think we never stay home this time of year. I apologize for the gap in posts yesterday and earlier today. Unfortunately, I was off-island for a funeral. My brother's wife, Elaine, died late last week after a long illness, and I went to be with him. Jude was also off island, so we elected to let the journal go for a day or so.

Before I left I shut off the water to my outside shower. I had heard we might be getting our first real cold snap. According to forecasts, temperatures tonight and tomorrow night might plunge to the freezing point. There is also the possibility of strong winds and soundside flooding. Seems like we've had our fair share of that already this season. But I guess that's just one consequence of living out here on the Outer Banks. Really, we're not complaining. A little adventure can be exciting, and we also reap the benefits of living on this enchanted island.

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweaters & Hats

Well, it is December, so it shouldn't be surprising that we've got something of a cold snap today. The temperature is in the mid-40s and folks have been sporting sweaters, jackets, and wool hats. Not that many people are out and about. The island is pretty quiet this time of the year. Different houses and businesses are putting up holiday decorations, though. Cindy and Dee just brought Christmas wreaths -- one for the Village Craftsmen and one for my house. They're made of local cedar, with a big red bow. Just what I need to go with the candles in my windows.

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Journal Problems

Just a few words so our readers know what has happened in the last few days., which hosts our Ocracoke Journal, is "upgrading" to a new Beta version, and we were required to make the change sometime in the next month or so. I decided to go for it last Friday. Everything went smoothly, except that, when I looked on line the Journal page was blank!

I wrote to Blogger tech support, but by today had not heard from them. In the meanwhile I did some sleuthing and decided that the most likely source of the problem was the customized template I had created. My goal was to make the Journal visually consistent with the rest of our web site.

This morning I changed the template to one of Blogger's standard designs. Lo & behold, everything is working again, though with a totally different look.

I hope you enjoy having the journal back, even with a new look. By the way, did you read today's earlier post about the Doritos?

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.


Like the olden days when a schooner wrecked on the Outer Banks, Hatteras islanders flocked to the beach several days ago, looking for bounty from the sea. But this time they were out there with garbage bags. They weren't scavenging for lumber or coal or other valuable cargo. This time they were collecting Doritos. About 8000 bags of the chips, which had been loaded into a tractor-trailer size container, washed off the deck of a passing freighter a day or so before Thanksgiving.

The big container had been broken open, and then it fetched up on the beach at Hatteras. Shortly thereafter Doritos were strewn along the tide line. I haven't heard of any bags washing up on Ocracoke's least not yet. We'll keep our eyes open!

You can read our latest newsletter here. It's the story of two old maps (1590 & 1795) and place names on the Outer Banks.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Warm & Breezy

Hi! This is Philip again, back home to an unseasonably warm December. I guess I missed all of the excitement over Thanksgiving week, but I saw the storm effects as I drove down the Outer Banks -- dunes disturbed and pushed back with bulldozers, sand still on the highway, and even residual standing water in places. Ocracoke seems to have fared well, though I clearly had a bit of tide in my yard. All is quiet now.

While I was gone I noticed that one reader commented on what is perhaps our island's most famous date in history -- November 22. That is the date in 1718 (that's 288 years ago) when Captain Edward Teach (Blackbeard) was killed at Ocracoke Inlet. Recently I've read of research that suggests Blackbeard might have been the son of Captain James Beard, neighbor to colonial Governor Charles Eden in Bath, NC. It was a rather convincing argument. Perhaps I'll share more details in a future monthly newsletter.