Back From Carolina

I recently attended the 9th Annual Carolina Boat Builders Tournament, put on by the Dare County Boat Builders Foundation up at Pirate’s Cove in North Carolina. As you’d expect from an event with such a title, there were quite a few of the world’s best boatbuilders milling around. If you’re one of those fellows who can tell the difference between a Mann, a Spencer and a Bayliss from more than a mile away, this was the event for you! Boatbuilding legends past (Omie Tillet) and present (Ricky Scarborough Jr.) sat down and rubbed elbows and answered questions from any and all who asked. Paul Mann even cooked up some flounder and hush puppies for the crowd while the Bayliss boys slow-cooked an entire pig for pulled pork sandwiches.

The whole reason behind this charitable event is a noble one: All of the proceeds go toward secondary-education boatbuilding scholarships for local students interested in carrying on the Dare County boatbuilding tradition. The weather didn’t cooperate much this year; most boats had to lay off on the first day and weren’t too keen on going out the second and third days either, but these boys were fishing on Carolina boats, so they were fishing on platforms built to take the roughest conditions. Rigged Up, one of Omie Tillet’s boats, ended up barley squeaking by Tar Heel, a Ricky Scarborough. With all billfish counting for 100 points apiece, Rigged Up’s six whites, one sail and two blues edged out Tar Heel’s four whites and five sails on time of release! Nine billfish captures in two days ain’t shabby fishing.

I got to walk around both the kickoff and captains' meetings and took a few pictures of the crowd that braved the nasty weather. (Photos are here.) I sat down with some nice folks who either owned or worked on custom Carolina boats and was made to feel like one of the family. I don't get up that way very often, but every time I do I realize why a lot of folks from Florida end up retiring in North Carolina; the people up there are just so darn nice! And the food ain't half bad either. Peter B. Wright always says he's "never met a crustacean that I didn't like," and I have to say that I share that sentiment. One of my favorite things to eat is soft-shelled crabs, so every time I get up to the Outer Banks, I try to eat my weight in soft-shells before I have to leave. Unfortunately, as I get larger, that goal gets harder to reach. Like I said before, here are a few pics I snapped at the tournament and some scenic shots of Hatteras and Oregon Inlet — North Carolina is a special place. Be on the lookout next week for a tour of some of the great Dare County boatbuilders to see what I found them working on back in their "sheds."