Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mailboat Aleta

Every now and then I mention the old mailboat Aleta that carried passengers and mail to and from Ocracoke in the 1940s & 1950s.

I recently re-discovered the following account of a memorable trip aboard the Aleta in Dorothy Byrum Bedwell's book Portsmouth, Island with a Soul.

"The mailboat was not designed for partying, and safety requirements were not as critical then as they are today. Those who imbibed while underway caused real hazards. Once...when my mother and brother were making the trip to Ocracoke, a tipsy lady, trying to walk the narrow strip of deck around the cabins [see photo above to picture this!], tumbled overboard as the mailboat was traveling abreast of the inlet where the tide is most powerful. My brother, an expert swimmer, dove in after her and pulled her back aboard. The mailboat captain was so genuinely grateful for the rescue of his passenger that he assured my brother free passage up and down the sound from that time on."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092111.htm.


  1. Anonymous10:29 AM

    Hmm, what time of day was this. Sounds rather early to be bending the elbow. Perhaps this woman was abusing her prescription drugs. There was a time folks were unaware of how medications interact with other medicines and this could be the case-- a misinterpretation of the events slighting this passenger as a lush. Is the source of this story a medical professional?. In addition, was it called whale mail back then when transported on a boat?

  2. debbie s.10:34 AM

    crazy dingbatters ;)

  3. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Safety requirements were not as critical then as they are today.... wait a minute-- it wasn't until Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle that muckracking journalist if ever there was one-- folks read the book and started getting upset at how business was conducted at the Chicago stockyards. people died in the course of events at the slaughter house due to unsafe working conditions -- But I think that didn't stop them from voting in local and national elections-- to this day.

  4. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Do you know the history of the others before the Aleta?

  5. I know a little of the history of other mailboats before the Aleta, but I'll have to do some more research. Maybe I will write a history of the post office on Ocracoke for a future Newsletter. Keep looking

  6. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Never miss a day--thanks for the reply.

  7. anita4:14 PM

    I cant start my day without reading the journal first, thanks Philip.

  8. Kevin7:41 PM

    I am curious as to another aspect of the story. What is the history of distillation on the island?

    Surely, so far from land, there must have been some need for a local source of, uh, industrial solvents.

  9. Kevin, check out this post: http://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2010/10/meal-wine.html

  10. Kevin8:08 PM

    Has there been an historical re-enactment? That's just so critical if one is to properly understand history.

  11. No "re-enactment" necessary. We old timers occasionally brew up a batch of meal wine. The tradition has not died out.

  12. Anonymous9:49 PM

    Wring out the rat?!?

    Oh, you've got me COLing again, Philip (chuckling out loud).

    Always a pleasure.

    And that recipe sounds like it just might be worth trying, sans rat.

  13. Anonymous10:04 PM


    Further review of the recipe you posted reveals some wiggle room (but perhaps that's what gives the wine its kick).

    For example, the recipe calls for five pounds of sugar, instructs one to mix the sugar (all five pounds I presume) with the other ingredients, but then goes on to indicate adding several pounds of sugar in a few days and then several more pounds of sugar yet again, in a few more days.

    Are you in a position to offer any further guidance regarding this matter? (And I understand if you'd rather not.)

    Thanks, as always.

  14. Start with all five pounds of sugar...and add more sugar later as necessary to keep the brew "working." Enjoy!

  15. Please check out my story on The Aleta!

    Somewhere I have a digital file of the Aleta Bow....maybe the boat...but will have to look.