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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Island Hopping

~Tuesday, May 11, 2021~

Day 331

Spent a day over at Ocracoke Island, only accessible by boat. The island is just south of where we’re staying, about an hour by ferry. The weather is an improvement from yesterday but not as sunny as we hoped.

On the way to the pier, we saw what must have been a 2 to 3 hour line for gas, due to the shortage of gas, mainly affecting the East Coast and South. Evidently (and we don’t know all the details since we rarely listen to the news anymore) there was a cyber attack on a pipeline that serves most of the eastern side of the U.S. So, they had to shut down the pipeline, which is affecting supply. So everyone is panicking, and thus, waiting in long lines for gas. We are a bit concerned since we have to leave in a few days for Williamsburg. Right now, we have a little less than half a tank and 5 gallons of diesel in the back of the truck. But we don’t think it will be enough. Definitely have to keep our eyes peeled for a gas station that A. has diesel and B. doesn’t have a 1-2 hour wait for gas.

Only about 15 minutes from our campsite, we arrived at the ferry building around noon but due to shortages of boats, things were delayed, so we didn’t board the boat until 2:00. They normally have a boat leaving every 30 minutes. Had things been running normally, we would have had time to see the visitor center and a few extra things before their 5:00 closing time. It was quite fun to just pull up in your car (most people stay in their cars for the entire ride since we’re all squeezed in like a bunch of sardines), and watch the open waters for the hour’s drive to the island. And it’s a free service to the public, funded by the state’s $1.1 million contingency dollars. From Hatteras to Ocracoke, it is the only free service where the other shuttles from the mainland cost money. Until we get out far enough to the more open, deeper channel, they really have some fancy maneuvering they have to do in those shallow sound waters. As we went across the Pamlico Sound, Sadie was very confused and quite curious what all the green buoys were bobbing up and down in the water.

Finally arriving around 3:00, the first thing on the agenda was a restroom and a restaurant. We found the perfect lunch spot at Smacnally’s Bar & Grill with its open air,

dog friendly space located right by the ferry docks on the beautiful Silver Lake Harbor. Since it was a bit windy, we asked our waitress to relocate us at the bar which offered a little more shelter. The crowd…..mostly locals, especially fishermen. Jeff ordered a burger and an IPA and I had a blackened Mahi sandwich and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Both meals were excellent!! Had we not moved our seat in the beginning, we may have missed the day’s highlight…...a fishing boat coming in at the end of the day, bringing in their catch of the day (somewhere around 20 Yellowfin Tuna). The boat backed right next to where we were sitting, where they unloaded their coolers full of fish while the waitresses handed out beer to the crew. It was funny how all of the sudden when that boat showed up, guys were coming out of the woodwork to cheer them on and take photographs. I was the only hovering girl trying to get a front row seat for some shots and video of the occasion.

After a delicious lunch, we drove to the Ocracoke Lighthouse, the smallest lighthouse

I’ve ever seen, but what turns out to be the oldest lighthouse in operation in North Carolina, and the second oldest in the United States. With its 65 steps and only 65 feet tall, it’s still enough to tower over the 4 square miles of Ocracoke Village with a beacon that can shine up to 14 miles. In 1822, the U.S. Government bought 2 acres of land on the island for $50, to construct a better lighthouse, in a more favorable location than the modest one built in 1794. With a fixed automated lens, it still operates today.

Next stop on the island was the small, modest British Cemetery of Ocracoke. In the early days of the U.S.’s entry into WWII, the Atlantic seaboard was especially vulnerable to attacks. In fact, North Carolina’s Outer Banks was dubbed “Torpedo Alley”. Great Britain offered naval protection while the American Navy revved up their recruits and production. One such British ship was patrolling the area when it was struck by a torpedo in 1942, where all 37 sailors on board perished. Only 4 bodies were recovered after washing ashore near the small town of Ocracoke. The citizens of this small town wanted to honor these 4 men and all who were lost. With the donation of a small piece of land next to their village cemetery, the British Cemetery was established.

On the way back to the docks to take the ferry home, I spotted a small line in the distance which triggered in my mind, a line for gas. And yes, they had diesel. Jeff was certain we wouldn’t find diesel on the island, so it was a very welcome surprise. $3.30/gallon it is and we were fortunate to only have a 10 minute wait. It was now or never with the concern that maybe we wouldn’t even make it to Williamsburg on Thursday, if the gas shortage worsened. The east coast has been greatly affected.

We had very little waiting time to get back on the ferry and we couldn’t have planned it better that we got a ferry crossing at sunset. We hadn’t seen the sun all day until just at sunset, when it peaked just below the clouds on the horizon only for a moment before retiring for the day.

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