Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries seafaring was an enticement for young island men. For many years square-rigged sailing vessels carried trade goods from England to the North Carolina mainland, and coastal schooners plied the waters between Nova Scotia and the West Indies, often stopping at Ocracoke. In 1840 more than 1400 sailing ships were recorded as having passed through Ocracoke Inlet. Several schooners were even built on Ocracoke. It is not surprising that a number of islanders shipped out to sail before the mast.

After Hatteras Inlet opened in 1846, almost all of Ocracoke's inlet pilots eventually moved there (see yesterday's post). The men who remained on Ocracoke generally followed the seafaring tradition. The following table, culled from census records, reveals the growing role seafaring played in island history:
  • 1850..........10 mariners listed as living on Ocracoke
  • 1860..........18 mariners listed as living on Ocracoke
  • 1870..........21 mariners listed as living on Ocracoke
  • 1880..........66 mariners listed as living on Ocracoke
The story of commercial fishing on Ocracoke is a bit more complicated. Tomorrow's post explores that tradition.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is about Old Christmas in Rodanthe. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/old-christmas-rodanthe/.   


  1. Anonymous11:01 AM

    With all those ships making ports of call somebody-- slaves? had to unload them, right?

    1. Yes, slavery was part of the economic system during that era. Look for more information late next week.