Tag Archives: Ocracoke Island

Ocracokers still face threat, in Senate, of new ferry tolls

Since we just returned from Ocracoke, I’m posting this News and Observer Article in full in hopes some folks might call their legislators and speak out AGAINST charging a toll on the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry Route.

Remember, there is no way to reach Ocracoke Island except by ferry and their economy is totally dependent on tourism.  Day Trippers, who take the free ferry, are a big part of their income.  Not to mention the cost to the locals when they have to leave the Island.

As this article points out, this is really only an extension of the road system in North Carolina…


The ferry toll fight is not over for Ocracokers.

Senate Republicans are expected next week to propose that the state collect tolls on all four ferry routes that now are free – including the Hatteras-Ocracoke and Currituck-Knotts Island ferries – and to increase toll rates on three other ferries. The changes would be written into the Senate’s version of the budget.

“The tolls have been fairly low, and they’re just trying to get them up closer to what would be reflective of the current cost of service,” said Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican who co-chairs the Senate Budget Committee. “Not trying to cover the entire cost, but just a little bit more of it.”

The Republican-led House agreed a few weeks ago in its budget proposal to keep the Knotts Island and Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries toll-free. Ferries provide the only link between the two islands and the North Carolina mainland. Ocracokers protested that it would be unfair to make residents and visitors start paying.

Republicans in both chambers want the state Department of Transportation to increase toll collections by several million dollars a year. The House budget proposed to have ferry riders pay an additional $7.5 million a year, part of a push for $160 million in higher tuition, tolls and other user fees.

Hunt said some Senate leaders believe travelers should be charged on every ferry route. He said the Ocracoke and Knotts Island issue probably will not be decided until House and Senate negotiators meet to resolve their differences on the budget.

“That might become a conference item,” Hunt said.

The 40-minute Hatteras-Ocracoke ride is the state’s busiest and most expensive ferry route, carrying 339,000 vehicles a year at a cost to taxpayers of $9.4 million. The Knotts Island ferry serves 25,000 vehicles each year.

Tolls on three routes cover only 7 percent of the cost for all seven ferries. The highway fund, drawn mostly from gas tax collections, pays the rest.

Rep. Tim Spear, a Creswell Democrat, supported the House budget after GOP leaders accepted his amendment to keep the Hatteras route toll-free. Since other North Carolinians can drive to and from their communities without paying for each trip, he said, tourists and residents need a free route to Ocracoke.

“Anything that might discourage tourists from visiting the island, like a toll on the ferry, would be crippling to them,” Spear said Friday. “We don’t have a bridge there. The ferry is just an extension of the highway system.”

Spear said it will take more than the ferry issue to determine his final vote on the budget. He said he also is concerned about sharp proposed cuts to education spending. School buses are among the regular users of the DOT ferry from Knotts Island to Currituck. When the ferry across Currituck Sound isn’t running, drivers travel to the North Carolina mainland on a circuitous trip that starts on Virginia roads.

Rep. Bill Owens, an Elizabeth City Democrat who pushed the exemption for the Knotts Island ferry, said state spending on the ferries – $42 million this year – is about what it would cost to build six miles of highway in the mountains.

“We pave and maintain other people’s highways,” Owens said. “We should maintain the ferries to allow residents to get to their schools and courthouses.”

Ocracoke residents have flooded legislators with phone calls, emails and Twitter and Facebook messages seeking to keep their ferry toll-free.

Rudy Austin, a boat captain and Ocracoke civic leader, said the Republicans who took charge of the legislature this year don’t understand how Ocracoke depends on ferry service.

“I realize that you’ve got a bunch of people up there that’s just been voted in,” Austin said. “And they’re running around like crazy, throwing different ideas around. If they knew our situation and knew how fragile our little economy is, I think they would think differently.”

via Ocracokers still face threat, in Senate, of new ferry tolls – Traffic – NewsObserver.com.

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 4

It’s our last day on the Island….

This week has flown by…

We had a great time at the wine tasting at “Zillie’s Pantry” last night.  Those events are always great fun.  Then we began a new tradition by going back to our friends Lee and Michael’s cottage where Lee made us a great pasta dinner.  So much better than calling out for pizza as in previous years…

Today, we had lunch at “Jason’s” then drove down to the Cape Hatteras ferry dock just to see if anything was new.  It wasn’t.  We did enjoy a walk through the dunes out to the beach and a great view of the sound.  The scenery here really is breath-taking.

We still hope to make it to Springer’s Point later today when we take the bikes back.  Then dinner at “The Flying Melon” one last time for this trip.

Then the ferry ride to Swan’s Quarter tomorrow and the drive back to reality.

Sometimes, the ferry rides are the most interesting parts of the trip.  But the excitement is usually coming to, not leaving, Ocracoke.

Last year there were a group of drunk East Carolina University students on board.  One young lady decided to spend the crossing in the cab of their truck with her boyfriend.  The entire ferry had a show we used to only see at the porno drive in movies…

This year, we only had a bicycle club on the ferry with us coming out to Ocracoke.  They just  brought the entire contents of REI Sporting Goods with them.  It wasn’t nearly as entertaining…

It’s been a great trip with great food, beautiful scenery, peace and quiet- and time to spend with friends and to read and relax.  It’s been too short….

We just reserved the house again for next year….

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 3

Well, yesterday didn’t go quite as planned.

But that’s okay.

We’re on Ocracoke.

We had been looking forward to hearing Katy Mitchell sing at “Dajio’s” last night, but unfortunately, she canceled at the last minute.  We still had an excellent meal that seals Dajio’s place, along with “Jason’s” and “The Flying Melon” as one of the top three restaurants on Ocracoke- and on the whole Outer Banks.  I’ve never eaten anywhere else on the Outer Banks that could touch these three…

Hopefully, we’ll get to hear Katy Mitchell someday.  Her CD is really excellent.  This just give us something to continue to look forward to….

I just finished Michael Parker’s brand new book, “The Watery Part of the World.”  Anyone who loves Ocracoke and the Outer Banks should read it.  It is a work of fiction set on fictional Islands on the Outer Banks, but you will readily recognize Portsmouth Island, Ocracoke and their history as being an inspiration.

Speaking of history, there is a lot of it on Ocracoke.  Blackbeard, the pirate, was killed here.  There is a great historical museum on Ocracoke, run by the Ocracoke Preservation Society, that gives you a lot of other local history and a real feel for how life used to be on the Island.

For more history, visit Philip Howard at  “The Village Craftsmen” and take one of his Ghost Walks.  They may touch on the supernatural, but they really offer a great deal of fascinating local history.  Philip also publishes a great blog at the Village Craftsmen’s Website.  http://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/

Speaking of the Village Craftsman, this is one of several great shops on Ocracoke.  A lot of the art in our house- and we have a lot of art- came from these shops and Orcracoke and Outer Banks artists and potters.  Kathleen O’Neal’s shop- Island Artworks- is another stand out shop.  Just take the time to roam through them all…

We had a great walk down the Ocracoke Nature Trail, across from the Campground, this morning.  In all the years we’ve been coming to Ocracoke, we had never done that before..  It’s nice to know we still have more to discover here as we intend to keep coming back.

We also had another lovely walk on the beach…

Tonight it’s off to the wine tasting at “Zillie’s Pantry” with our friends Lee and Michael.  Then we will try to pull together dinner at their cottage.  But who knows?  Anything can happen on Ocraoke and those wine tastings can always lead to a change in plans!
More to come…..

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 2

We are a little more than halfway through our vacation on Ocracoke and I can already tell it’s going to be too short.

I’m not blogging much due to a dicey internet connection.  That also means I’m not really following the news….

It’s nice to take a bit of a break from it all and focus on simpler things that are more immediate and real…

We went for a walk on the beach yesterday.  The beaches here are amazing.  They are all protected National Seashore….No houses, condo’s, hotels, restaurants or bars are allowed.  They are natural- just as they have always been.

I’m not much for actually sitting on the beach.  That concept is, to me, much better than the reality.  I hate sand getting into everything.  I don’t like sticky smelly seawater and oily sunscreen makes my face break out…

When I first saw “From Here to Eternity” and the famous scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing and embracing in the surf as the waves crashed over them, all I could think of was that they had to be getting sand all up their bathing suits and that they couldn’t possibly be comfortable.  It seemed to me that they should have just checked into the Hilton like normal people in their, uh, situation…

But, still, I do love Ocracoke.   I do enjoy these walks and being around such beautiful isolation.

It’s nice to be away from it all and I could definitely use another week.  It’s been a stressful year and Ocracoke is the perfect place to de-stress and focus on the simple things in life.  Like reading and deciding where to have dinner.

There are really some excellent restaurants on this island.

Our favorite restaurant is easily “The Flying Melon”.  Imagine country French food made with local seafood only hours out of the water.  And fabulous deserts.  We eat there several times when we are here…

“Jason’s” is also a favorite.  In this case, imagine a New York Italian Restaurant that does seafood.  Great pizza’s and sandwiches and the best Pesto Pasta- with fresh shrimp or scallops- that I’ve ever had.
“The Back Porch is probably the most famous restaurant on the Island.  We ate there last night.  They are coasting on their reputation.  We only go every few years to check it out and see if it’s improved.  It hasn’t.  It’s just okay.  “The Flying Melon” has them beat in every conceivable way…

Tonight, it’s off to “Dajios.”  This is a new restaurant in a very nice space that use to be
“The Pelican”.  The food is much better than the former incarnation.  It’s great place with an outdoor patio and live music.  Tonight we are going to hear Katy Mitchell, a local artist who’s CD we bought a few years ago and greatly enjoyed.  There are a lot of talented musicians on Ocracoke and good live music is often available here…

Tomorrow night is a wine tasting at “Zillies”.  We always enjoy that, but usually end up too drunk to do anything but order pizza afterwards…

Our friend Michael, now from Portland, and his- now our-friend Jim were on Island Monday night.  We celebrated Michael’s birthday with a very nice meal at “Cafe Atlantic” and stayed up til midnight having entirely too much wine.

Tonight and tomorrow, we’ll be enjoying the company of our friends Lee and  Michael- fellow Greensboro residents and Ocracoke devotees who usually come the same week we do.  It will be great, as always, to spend time with them here on the island.

The weather has been good, but questionable.  Always seeming to be on the verge of rain…

As I said, it’s a great place to get away– but not from too much!

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Ocracoke Island Vacation Journal: Part 1

One of the joys of being on Ocracoke is getting away from it all.

That used to include the internet, cable television and, occasionally, electricity.

Things have changed a lot over the last 14 years that we’ve been making this trip.

As you can see, I can now even post on my blog from Ocracoke.

But that is still a challenge.  The internet at our house is only available by using my phone as a hotspot, so my access is still somewhat limited.

Ocracoke still has the ability to take you away.  Being on an Island off the North Carolina coast that is only accessible by ferry can’t help but change your perspective.  With only about 800 year round residents, Ocracoke is a very special place.  Fresh seafood for our meals- either bought from local fisherman at the community seafood market, or cooked from one of the local restaurants.  There are no chain restaurants or stores on Ocracoke.

Yes, local food and local restaurants.  If they can do this on an island why can’t we do this at home?  It’s really quite wonderful.

Normally, the best way to get around on Ocracoke is to walk or ride a bicycle.  I’m sure I must have ridden a bike as a child- I dimly remember it- but only until I discovered the cross town bus.  It has been a challenge trying to get back in the bike mode.  They say riding a bike comes back to you.  It does.  But stopping does not.

When I last tried riding a bike on Ocracoke a couple of years ago, I ended up in a muddy ditch half full of water.  This time, I’ve already run into a fence and possibly sprained my hand.  Much to the amusement of the folks getting drunk at McNally’s Saturday afternoon.  Something about bike riding immediately seems to turn me into Eddy from an “Absolutely Fabulous” episode from the 1990’s….

Golf carts are becoming increasingly popular on the island.  Maybe I should take the hint….

What else do we do?

Enjoy the beach and nature.  Well, not too much…I still can’t spend much time in the sun due to my previous history with Melanoma, but it’s nice to spend short periods of time at a beach that is all protected natural seashore.  No houses or condo’s blocking it.  Just natural, as it’s been for thousands of years…

Read.  Books and magazines mainly as the internet is a challenge.

I’ve already read one wonderful book on my Kindle.  The Cranberry Hush by Ben Monopoli was just wonderful.  He really captures what it was/is like the first couple of years out of college when one is still finding out who one is and what the world is about.  It really took me back to how it was for me almost 30 years ago.  It’s nice to know it hasn’t changed all that much.  The characters where memorable and still with me a couple of days after I finished the book.  I wish it were available in print format so I could more easily share it.

Now I’m on to The Paris Wife, a novel by Paula McLain about Earnest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and their years in Paris in the 1920’s.  I’ve always been enthralled by that era- and by Paris- so I’m enthralled by the book.  At least so far…

Watch Movies on DVD:  We’ve also been watching some pre-code movies from the 1930’s.  They really make me aware of how the movie production code manipulated public opinion  and hid harsh reality from the American people.  It explains a lot about the older folks who went to these movies and formed their life view based on these depictions.  I’ve always said MGM screwed up generations of Americans….

More to come….

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Ocracoke Island Journal: Jimmy Creech, the Methodist Church and Gays

It’s no secret Ocracoke Island is one of my favorite places.  We go every year.  It has the kind of tolerance and mutual respect for others that one generally sees in places that are either very big or very small.

This is an interesting article about one of its former citizens from Philip Howard’s blog.

Thanks to my friend Madonna for sending this to me…

Jimmy Creech was pastor of the Ocracoke United Methodist Church from 1973-1981. His impact on the church and community was profound and lasting. While Jimmy served his Ocracoke congregation he was also active in the volunteer fire department, promoted local musical gatherings, participated in variety shows and theater productions, organized an active youth group, helped sponsor cooking classes in the parsonage, and contributed to numerous other civic and community projects.

After leaving Ocracoke, Jimmy served other churches in North Carolina, and in Nebraska. In 1984, a member of Jimmy’s congregation came out to him as gay and announced he was leaving The United Methodist Church because of its policies toward lesbian, gay and bisexual members. Increased knowledge of these issues in the church and society transformed Jimmy’s life and ministry. He began to publicly challenge the church’s teachings and policies about homosexuality and to advocate for the full inclusion and acceptance of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the church and society. Eventually Jimmy’s ordination was revoked in 1999 for performing same-sex unions.

In March, Duke University Press will be releasing Jimmy’s new book, Adam’s Gift, the story of his defiance of the church’s official position.

via Ocracoke Island Journal: Jimmy Creech.

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