Monday, July 28, 2014

Salty Memories Part 3 - Time and Tide

If you haven't had a chance to read Salty Memories Part 1 - The Beginnings, and Salty Memories Part 2 - The Pier Years, please click the links and give them a read first. This post picks up at the end of Part 2.

Time and tide wait for no man - Unknown

"Old Baldy" The Lighthouse on Bald Head Island
Time has a way of slipping by unnoticed, and when I got a phone call from my Dad asking if my wife and I would like to take a trip to Oak Island and Southport for the Fourth of July, I was shocked to realize that none of us had been down there in four years. For most of my life, a trip down to the island was such a regular part of summer vacation that it seemed I took it for granted. Most years, especially after high school, involved two trips each summer - once for the annual fishing trip and a second trip with the family that also usually included a couple mornings of fishing. I knew that this would be a short trip and that there wouldn't be an opportunity to fish this time, but I was still looking forward to seeing the surf and sand and also seeing how things might have changed on the island.

Trina and I at Oak Island - 2009
The last two trips that I made to Oak Island with my family also were the first two trips that my wife Trina made with us. Our first time at the island together we were able to visit Cape Lookout and see the lighthouse along with some of the wild horses that call the Outer Banks home, and we returned to the beach house that evening just in time to find out that there were some sea turtles hatching just down the beach. We made it down to the water in time to witness the baby turtles making their mad dash to the surf, and that is a memory that I will never forget.

Provision Company
One of the most obvious changes, and one that we all noticed right away was the completion of the Swain's Cut Bridge onto Oak Island. The last time I was in the area, the bridge was under construction and there was still only a two lane bridge serving the entire 14 mile long island. The new bridge is in addition to the old bridge, and is a four lane bridge and road that seemed to help with traffic immensely. After checking into our hotel on Friday, we drove down to Southport for the NC Fourth of July Festival on the waterfront. We somehow found a parking space and spent the afternoon walking around Southport and taking in the festival. Our plans included lunch at the Yacht Basin Provision Company, one of my family's favorite places to eat in the area, but they were closed for the Fourth. I was glad to see that the Provision Company was still there, and we made plans to return on Saturday for some steamed shrimp and crab cakes for Dad and I, and a cheeseburger for Trina. Trina has always said they make one of the best cheeseburgers she's ever had, but I've only eaten one thing from there over the years - "Thee Special" - a half pound of steamed shrimp with a crab cake.

Oak Island Lighthouse from Southport Waterfront
One major change that I did notice was the nice big new houses on the oceanfront that occupied the site of the former Long Beach Pier. The last few years that I had been to the island, the former pier site was just an empty stretch of beach. A developer had bought the pier several years ago and tore it down, with the intentions of building condominiums on the beach, according to what I had been told. This was about the time of the major drop in the real estate market, and those lots sat empty for several years. Personally, looking at it from a fisherman's point of view, I always thought it was a terrible thing to see the pier go, but I guess that business is business. I worried at one time that the old Yaupon pier would suffer the same fate when it came up for sale, but luckily it was purchased by the town of Oak Island, who leased the pier to the former owner of the Long Beach Pier who now runs it.

Surf Fishermen and Old Baldy in the Background on Oak Island
Friday morning we spent time riding around Oak Island, and we took time to stop by Oak Island Pier and take a walk out to the end to see how the fishermen were doing. One major change I first noticed from the pier was the amount of people on the beach, but I chalked that up to it being a holiday weekend. I didn't see anybody catching much on the pier, but then again it was midday and Hurricane Arthur had passed through the night before and had the water stirred up and muddy.  Our best luck fishing was always early in the morning on days with a southeast wind that helped clear the water.

Southport Fireworks
We hung around Southport on Friday afternoon, and were able to see the fireworks display to end our day. The fireworks were launched from a barge out in the waterway, and it was one of the better fireworks shows I have seen. According to a little research I did, this tradition at Southport has its roots in the founding of our nation, when ships anchored in the harbor fired their cannons to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Saturday found us back down in Southport where we got the chance for lunch at the Provision Company and spent a little time walking along the waterfront. Southport didn't seem to have changed much from the last time I was there, although a few of the businesses and restaurants had new names and I'm assuming new owners. There were a few new changes on Oak Island as well, but some of our old favorite places were still there. All in all, it seemed that other than a new bridge and new houses being built in various places on the island, it was much as we left it four years ago. We ate at a few of the same restaurants, and bought some fudge from the same shop that we used to buy it from when I was a child.

Shells and Sand
Sunday morning we went for a walk on the beach before we had to head for home, and standing out on the beach watching the waves are where the inspiration for these blog posts came from. I couldn't help but think about the fish I had caught, the people I had met, and the memories I had of friends and family that were all tied up with this place. I hope that it doesn't take me another four years or more to return, and one day soon I hope to get out all the old pier fishing tackle and take a trip down memory lane while I watch the sun rise over the ocean. They say that time and tide wait for no man, and it is scary how quickly time seems to slip by any more. I only hope I have a chance to make a lot more memories and find more special places like Oak Island before my time on this earth runs out.

- Joseph


  1. Joseph you make me want to be there too I love the ocean and could easily be a beach bum love ya and keep up the writings your very good at it. Gram

  2. Hi, Joseph.
    Thanks for sharing more of your wonderful part of the country. Being a guy from out west, haven't had much opportunity to be on your side of the coast. Sounds like it would be splendid place to spend time.

    1. Thanks Mel! I enjoy it a lot, but I have to say I've made it out west once in my life, and I hope I get the opportunity to go again. You live in some amazing country!

  3. Very nice, Joseph. I've really enjoyed reading all three of the "Salty Memories" posts. Have you been up to fish Oil Creek lately?

    1. Thank you Bob! I haven't made it up to fish Oil Creek in quite a while, unfortunately. I think it's been a year or two since I was up there other than at Christmas time. Have you had a chance to fish it lately?

    2. I haven't fished it since the end of May, when the skunk was all I got. With all the rain we've had this spring, it's made for some tough fishing.

  4. Thanks for sharing this 3-part account of your experiences at the coast. This was an enjoyable read for me on several levels, one of which is my own special memories of our family "camp-outs" at the Cape from which the island was often visible.

    1. Thank you Walt! I've enjoyed writing about the island, it's helped me to remember all the good times we had down there.

  5. Looks like an awesome place to visit and great memories. Thanks for sharing.


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