The high seas.
Reading this week:
- China’s Second Continent by Howard W. French
Back over the weekend before the 4th of July, we went pirate hunting. For the holiday my mom went off on a cruise with some of her sisters, and so my dad, my brother, and I went off to go look at pirate stuff enroute to my grandma’s house for the holiday. Specifically, we were looking at Blackbeard stuff. Eddy Teach there, during his illustrious two-year career had made the Outer Banks island of Ocracoke his favorite anchorage. So, three hundred years later, my brother decided that Ocracoke was the land of his swashbuckling dreams.
Ocracoke is a lovely little island much better known for its beaches and touristy vibe. People drive around in golf carts, lifted trucks, and jeeps. We had a two-wheel drive Jetta. To get there we took a ferry from Hatteras, and I am always a fan of any high-seas adventure. I wasn’t in charge of this trip, and was literally just along for the ride, so I hadn’t done any research into where crap actually was on this island. Neither, apparently, had anyone else on this trip. After a brief consultation of a decorative illustration based on a 300-year-old map and a comparison of said map to Google Maps, we set off down a dirt road that quickly turned to sand that quickly turned to us getting stuck.
Luckily for us, the beach towing dude happened to be driving by and spotted us in our plight. I mean this is exactly where you’d get stuck if you were dumb enough to get stuck so I assume he just hangs out here all day. He was very nice though and gave us some directions. Personally, I had been pushing to visit the lighthouse first because Google Maps said it closed at 1700 and it was around 1500 by the time we got to the island and got some lunch. Our tow-line enabled friend told us in the midst of rescuing us that Teach’s Hole, which is where Blackbeard liked to anchor, was near the lighthouse and nowhere near our fateful sandtrap. So finally off to the lighthouse we went.
The lighthouse is pretty nice! The worry about it closing at 1700 was silly because you can’t go into it (I guess you can go into the bottom sometimes), so all you can do is stand nearby and look at it. It proclaims itself at the second oldest still-operating lighthouse in America and well um. Sure. Besides the above picture I took another picture from somewhat closer and both depict a 75′ tall brick tower.
But finally we set off down a trail in a little miniature state park and we came upon Teach’s Hole! There is of course nothing much to look at because by definition an anchorage is just a stretch of water and stretches of water look much like any other stretch of water. There were people swimming. We did not swim.
There is also on the site the above boarded-over well. This well was apparently used by Blackbeard. So that’s neat.
Ocracoke also takes advantage of its pirate history for some good ole-fashioned tourist stuff. One of these things is “Teach’s Hole,” which is mostly a pirate-themed gift shop with a small set of Blackbeard-themed displays. The entry fee for the displays is $4 (free with $15 purchase in the gift shop) and the displays were probably worth about $4. They’re very nicely done but my favorite was a diorama depicting “Blackbeard’s Beach Party” because they used Duplos to put it together. All the rest of the displays are well-done replicas and models and things but then out of nowhere they use kid’s toys to display a party so legendary we’re still talking about it three centuries later.
After a night on the island we set off the next day on the ferry back to the mainland, landing on Ceder Island and driving on down to Beaufort, NC. Beaufort is home to the North Carolina Maritime Museum and that place is really nice! First off the admission is free and let me tell ya it is worth every penny. We got there only 45 minutes before it closed so we didn’t have a long time to look around, but we got the gist of it.
The museum is most famous for hosting artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The QAR, as the museum referred to it, was of course Blackbeard’s ship. They found it a few years back and brought up a bunch of artifacts and stuck them in the Maritime Museum. The QAR section of the museum is the largest section, but they also have a lot of displays on other watercraft from the region, the local marine life, and maritime history. They also have a library that is decorated exactly how I would like a library in my own dream house decorated, so always nice to get some #DesignInspo along with my #nautical.
Our final pirate-related adventure was a block away to the Old Burying Ground which contained the grave of Captain Burns, an American privateer during the War of 1812. Mostly I wanted to go because it was on Atlas Obscura, but I got to find out his ship was called the “Snapdragon.” This is funny to me because on the submarine we had these exercises called Snapdragon and we hated them (maybe that was just me) so we called them “Snatchdragon” and this dude’s got a whole boat named that. Poor guy.
And so with that we were off to grandma’s house. Far fewer pirates at grandma’s house.