Friday, March 04, 2016

USLSS Beach Drill

Yesterday I published a photo of members of the United States Life Saving Service practicing a "breeches buoy" rescue operation on land. Below is another photo from the Outer Banks History Center. This one shows life savers practicing on the beach with their surf boat.

On the extreme left is the 1,000 pound "beach cart" loaded with all of the equipment that the life savers pulled along the surf. In the foreground is a portion of the "faking box" (with rows of wooden pins around which the shot line was woven in a zig-zag pattern to prevent tangling when emptied beside the Lyle Gun).

Rescues were rarely performed when the surf was as calm as in this photo, or the temperature as mild.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Beatrice Wells, child evangelist, who preached at Ocracoke in the late 1930s/early 1940s. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Eagle scout alert digitizing the historical photos for posterity and a worthy project. This Winslow Homer-esqe image needed to clicked on to see the fading men in the boat. This is priceless. Honor Courage, dedication and it looks like a boat load of fun. Hooo Weee!

  2. Anonymous9:40 PM

    Q: Watching the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," set in Atlantic City, NJ during the Prohibition era, I wondered how that time period may have impacted life in the areas of Ocracoke and Portsmouth, with its history of lightering and channel pilots. To your knowledge, any evidence of rum running, homemade stills, revenooers, or similar activities?

    1. I guess you missed my monthly Newsletter of June, 2015: It should answer your questions.

    2. Anonymous4:35 PM

      Hah! You're right, I DID miss it, Philip. Thanks--as always--for the details.

    3. gsmith (outsideofapex)2:17 AM

      That was great! I somehow missed that newsletter. Here's an obviously old and distorted version of the song "Booze Yacht":
      A newer and cleaner sounding rendition:

      My wife is from Appalachia. Her cousin told me a story about how his parents and another couple visited Ocracoke in the early 1950s. Seems once they got to the island and found a place to lodge in the upstairs of someone's home, the wives, while unpacking, to their dismay, found one of the trunks full of Appalachia's finest moonshine. Being God-fearing women they gave their menfolk an earful. However, after a day or two of observing how their husbands used that bounty to get the best meals, sunset boat rides, tours of the beach and so on, they grudgingly admitted that it was a brilliant idea!

      Maybe 20 years ago, maybe more, I was visiting my wife's brother at the family farm. The property goes from the top of one mountain ridge, through the valley below, to the top of the next mountain ridge. Shortly before I arrived, a beer truck going down the mountain lost its brakes. The driver jumped safely out but the truck, which happened to be pointed straight down the mountain, ran off the road, jumped the fence, and careened down a pasture that went halfway up the mountain. It finally lodged in a thicket of mountain laurel that surrounded a sinkhole/spring. In other words, there were no skid marks, broken fence, or visible truck. Naturally, word gets out pretty quick and plenty of people show up to "help" but could not figure out where the truck ran off the mountain. Turns out, the truck was on the farm next to my brother-in-law's. They ride up to the site the next morning just as a tow-truck driver is bringing down a long cable to extract the truck. He starts unloading the truck and is asked what is to become of the contents. He replies that the insurance company declared the contents a total loss and it had to be disposed. My brother-in-law and his neighbor said they would gladly help him dispose of the cargo. They got about a half dozen pickup truck loads, with the beer bottles and cans piled higher than the cab. They made a huge mound in the neighbor's yard, and that's after carrying all the good stuff inside (it was a Miller truck, after all). That mound lasted a good couple months; I saw it when it was about 10 feet high.

      Just goes to show you that Ocracoke and Appalachia are kindred in spirit if not in location.

    4. Thanks for the stories, especially the Ocracoke story. I plan to use it for a blog post soon.