High Speed Passenger Service Comes to Ocracoke

The Ocracoke Express, aka Martha's Vineyard Express waiting for passengers.
The Ocracoke Express, aka Martha’s Vineyard Express waiting for passengers.

They danced a jig and jumped through some hoops, but somehow the Ferry Division of NCDOT managed to get a high speed passenger ferry for the Hatteras/Ocracoke run.

When construction began on the Ocracoke Express at US Boatworks in Swansboro in 2017 service was supposed to begin last summer, then in the fall, then this summer. Construction delays and the failure to pass Coast Guard welding standards have pushed the launch of the 98 passenger catamaran back to fall of this year.

But NCDOT had promised there would be a high speed passenger ferry this year and they’ve delivered, leasing the Martha’s Vineyard Express from Seastreak, a company that operates ferry service in a number of northeastern states.

 The Martha’s Vineyard has been renamed the Ocracoke Express for the summer.

The high speed service is great news. Ocracoke is one of our favorite places to visit for a day trip, but when shoaling at Hatteras Inlet forced ferries to take a longer route between Hatteras and Ocracoke, long lines at the docks waiting to board the ferries have become frequent. 

The old water route to Ocracoke was a 40 minute ferry ride. The new route is an hour, forcing NCDOT to schedule fewer runs to the island that is only accessible by boat.

The new route is a 70 minute run, but the ferry docks at Silver Lake. Ocracoke Village surrounds the bay.

Ocracoke is part of Hyde County and the county is providing a free tram service to the outlying areas of the village, including the ever-popular Howard’s Pub.

Right now there are three runs daily—leaving Hatteras at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and departing Ocracoke at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The Outer Banks is filled with hidden treasures. Reserve your Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates home and begin your journey of discovery.

Blackbeard Exhibit Coming to Hatteras, Flag Flies from Ferries

Blackbeard the Pirate. His death 300 years ago marked the end of the age of piracy along the southern coast of America.
Blackbeard the Pirate. His death 300 years ago marked the end of the age of piracy along the southern coast of America.

300th Anniversary of Pirate’s Death Commemorated by State

November 22, 1718—the day Blackbeard the Pirate met his just desserts as Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy trapped him off Ocracoke and took his head…literally.

To commemorate the event, the NCDOT Ferry Division will be flying Blackbeard’s flag from ferries sailing to and from Ocracoke this summer.

There will also be a traveling exhibit of Queen Anne’s Revenge. The exhibit will be on the Outer Banks at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras June 2 through July 29.

Queen Anne’s Revenge was the most famous of the ships Blackbeard used, although it was not his only one. In 1718 he either ran aground or deliberately scuttled the ship and rowed ashore near Beaufort and proceeded to take advantage of Governor Eden’s offer of a King’s Pardon if he promised to never go a-pirating again.

It was a short-lived promise.

He was soon back at sea, this time with a ready market for his good in the poverty stricken colony of North Carolina. Although nothing was ever proven in a court of law, most scholars of history feel Governor Eden and other members of his administration either pointedly turned a blind eye to his activity or directly profited from it.

Under any circumstances it seems apparent the Secretary of the State, Tobias Knight was working directly with Blackbeard. When Lt. Maynard killed the pirate, a letter from Knight warning of the British fleet was found on him.

However, tried in NC courts, Knight was found not guilty of all charges.

Maynard was dispatched by Virginia Governor Spotswood after repeated entreaties Eden to reign in Blackbeard went un answered.

After defeating Blackbeard, Maynard mounted his severed head on the bowsprit of his ship, the HMS Pearl.

Hatteras/Ocracoke Passenger Ferry Perfect for Day Trips

New Passenger only Ferry to Be in Service by Summer

With the introduction of a passenger ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke Village this summer, it looks as though the ferry division of NCDOT got things very right.

The only way on or off Ocracoke Island is by water, and for the past five years the ferry channel between Hatteras and the Ocracoke terminal has been shoaling. Two years ago, the decision was made that the main channel could no longer be effectively dredged and a new channel has been in use.

Unfortunately the new channel added time to the ferry runs and the number of trips doing peak season feel from 52 per day to 42 according to NCDOT.

The new passenger only ferry service that is being offered is a partial solution to the problem.

Ocracoke is perfect as a day trip destination and the ferry division’s newest addition is designed to take advantage of that. Docking at Silver Lake in the heart of Ocracoke Village, passengers will have a day to walk around one of the most picturesque towns of the Outer Banks.

The ferry is still undergoing tests and is not yet in service, although NCDOT has indicated it will be available by summer. A confirmed schedule has not yet been published but tentatively NCDOT is planning on four trip a day with the first leaving Hatteras at 10:00 a.m. and the last departing Ocracoke at 8:30 p.m.

There will be some restrictions on what can be taken on the ferry. Luggage and coolers are prohibited. However, there are provisions for bikes and parents of toddlers and younger can certainly bring strollers.

The ferry will seat 99 and takes 70 minutes to make the run. Unlike the vehicle ferry which is free, the passenger only ferry will have a $15 fee. Reservations are recommended.

This will be a passenger, day use ferry. There is parking available at the Hatteras Ferry Terminal, but overnight parking is prohibited.

We’re pretty excited about this. Ocracoke is a wonderful day trip destination, and honestly driving a a car through those narrow twisting streets is difficult and we almost always park our car and walk about anyway.

Eclipse Captures Outer Banks Imagination

We didn’t have a total eclipse of the sun on the Outer Banks. Somewhere around 80%, so it wasn’t immediately noticeable on the ground.

The light though that does filter through at that point has an odd quality to it. A little bit dull, a little bit yellow, it’s still sunlight, but different.

The real show was in the sky and hopefully no one actually tried to look at the sun. Local businesses sold out of eclipse glasses by Saturday at the latest, but even without those specially designed glasses there were ways to view the eclipse.

A lot of people just went back to an old low tech method…a pinhole in a box and watch the shadow of the moon swallow the sun.

Some of us tried to get some pictures. It really took some specialized equipment to get something that that truly represented what was happening in the sky. The image with on this page was taken with a camera with every lens in the house—UV, ultraviolet and polarized. The sun still completely overwhelmed the camera, which is probably a good cautionary note about looking directly into the sun.

Jockey’s Ridge probably gets the award for the most popular viewing site. No trees and no buildings and the highest point around certainly has come advantages.

We haven’t heard much from farther south yet. Since the path of 100% coverage passed directly over Charleston, SC, the farther south on the Outer Banks the more profound the effects. There’s a very good possibility that Ocracoke is far enough south that a ten minute dusk fell over the Island about 2:50 p.m.

The weather was wonderful for the eclipse. Warm and sunny, but there was a nice breeze blowing all day. Even standing not Jockey’s Ridge, with no shade, was tolerable.

Eclipse Captures Outer Banks Imagination

Solar eclipse. The moon passing over the sun. Image colors from multiple camera filters.
Solar eclipse. The moon passing over the sun. Image colors from multiple camera filters.

We didn’t have a total eclipse of the sun on the Outer Banks. Somewhere around 80%, so it wasn’t immediately noticeable on the ground.

What the Eclipse Looked Like

The light though that does filter through at that point has an odd quality to it. A little bit dull, a little bit yellow, it’s still sunlight, but different.

The real show was in the sky and hopefully no one actually tried to look at the sun. Local businesses sold out of eclipse glasses by Saturday at the latest, but even without those specially designed glasses there were ways to view the eclipse.

A lot of people just went back to an old low tech method…a pinhole in a box and watch the shadow of the moon swallow the sun.

Some of us tried to get some pictures. It really took some specialized equipment to get something that that truly represented what was happening in the sky. The image with on this page was taken with a camera with every lens in the house—UV, ultraviolet and polarized. The sun still completely overwhelmed the camera, which is probably a good cautionary note about looking directly into the sun.

Jockey’s Ridge probably gets the award for the most popular viewing site. No trees and no buildings and the highest point around certainly has come advantages.

We haven’t heard much from farther south yet. Since the path of 100% coverage passed directly over Charleston, SC, the farther south on the Outer Banks the more profound the effects. There’s a very good possibility that Ocracoke is far enough south that a ten minute dusk fell over the Island about 2:50 p.m.

The weather was wonderful for the eclipse. Warm and sunny, but there was a nice breeze blowing all day. Even standing not Jockey’s Ridge, with no shade, was tolerable.

Power Restored-Hatteras Island Reopens to Visitors

Generator leaving Ocracoke after power was restored on Friday.
Generator leaving Ocracoke after power was restored on Friday.

Mandatory Evacuation Lifted Sooner Than Expected

Just nine days after a construction accident cut the line carrying power to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke, repairs have been made and power is flowing again.

That is really impressive. Original estimates put the power outage at two to three weeks with the possibility of an even longer delay.

Although bad, the damage was not quite as extensive as first feared. Repairs still included splicing high voltage lines and constructing a new set of overhead lines to get the electricity out of the construction zone as much as possible.

Once the repairs were complete on Friday, limited access to Hatteras and Ocracoke was lifted and all were welcome.

During the nine days it took to repair the line, the state and Dare County worked to bring in generators to provide minimal power. However, they could not provide adequate energy to run air conditioners. Even with the auxiliary power, rolling blackouts were mandated and concern about having enough power to pump water were raised.

Because of the uncertain nature of the power, mandatory evacuations were ordered. Only residents and essential personnel were allowed in the affected areas.

What Happened

All of the facts  have not yet been released. It appears, however, that workers for PCL, the construction company building the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge, severed the line when they were driving a steel casing into the ground.

The casing, used to hold pilings in place during construction, was being set aside for storage, What the worker were doing, according to reports, was the equivalent of driving a shovel into the ground.

If that is borne out after all the facts are examined, it is perhaps doubly tragic because it did not have to happen. What the workers were doing had almost nothing to do with construction and could be viewed as an action designed for the worker’s convenience and perhaps a little efficiency.

Hatteras Power Blackout-Northern Beaches Unaffected

Digging for the severed cable at the south end of the Bonner Bridge construction zone. Photo, Outer Banks Voice.
Digging for the severed cable at the south end of the Bonner Bridge construction zone. Photo, Outer Banks Voice.

The news just came out a little while ago, that Hatteras Island is being evacuated. This is a manmade catastrophe, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Mother Nature.

What Happened?

Early yesterday morning, PCL Construction who is building the new Bonner Bridge, was pounding a piling into the south end of Oregon Inlet.

When they cut through a power cable carrying electricity to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke the effect was immediate. All power south of Oregon Inlet was immediately lost.

Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates visitors, please note—this does not effect anything from Nags Head north, where our Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates properties are located.

But the effect on our friends on Hatteras Island and Ocracoke is dramatic and difficult to witness.

Although there are emergency generators on hand, and more are coming, they are designed to handle emergency power loads only. The generators cannot handle air conditioning and residents have been told to expect rolling blackouts.

Evacuations Ordered

Hyde County ordered Ocracoke evacuated yesterday, Thursday, and Dare County ordered Hatteras Island evacuated today. Governor Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency, allowing some weight restrictions to be lifted on trucks to more efficiently move supplies and more generators.

There is considerable uncertainty about how long repairs will take. Cape Hatteras Electric Coop (CHEC) who manages the power grid on Hatters Island put out a statement saying,  “CHEC is working to assess the extent of the damage and plan for the repair. Assuming that the cooperative has the materials on hand, repairs could take several days to complete. If materials are not available locally, repairs could take weeks.”

The latest information is the original contractor who laid the power cable is on hand and PCL is working to excavate the site and inspect the cable.

Chef’s Auction Brings Out the Best in OBX

Chef Donny King, Ocean Boulevard, at the 16th Annual Signature Chef's Auction.
Chef Donny King, Ocean Boulevard, at the 16th Annual Signature Chef’s Auction.

As a reminder of how great it is to be associated with the Outer Banks, the 16th Annual Outer Banks Signature Chef’s Auction is perfect.

Held on Sunday at Duck Woods Country Club, there’s a little bit of glamour, some great food, it’s for a great cause and the generosity of the Outer Banks is on full display.

A fundraiser for the March of Dimes, the Chef’s Auction featured 12 area chef’s at their creative best. That alone is a great reason to come to the event, but there is also the auction.

There’s a silent auction as everyone is sampling the food, but the fundraising highlight has got to be the Live Auction Items. Seventeen packages were bid on this year, and there were some spectacular packages.

A week on Ocracoke for six; personal chef service for a 25 person party; dinner and a sunset cruise on a yacht—there was something for everyone. And the bid reflected that, ranging all the way up to $6500.

But the evening was really all about the Outer Banks families who have children who may not have survived if it wasn’t for the March of Dimes and the research the organization has been doing.

The Nola Bryne was this year’s ambassador. Nola and her mom went through a tough time at birth and three-and-a-half years later Nola still has some issue, but she is an active, cheerful child with a smile that can light up the largest room.

That’s what the Chef’s Auction was all about. After the food has been eaten—and it was great food; after the auctions and everyone goes home and hugs their kids, the evening really is about hope and the generosity of the Outer Banks community.

Participating restaurants

Aqua Restaurant and Spa-Chef Cory Bryant

Black Pelican-Chef Jason Jordon

Cravings Steak and Seafood-Scott Foster

Duck Woods Country Club-Chef Joey Russo

Eastside Restaurant-Chef Jeff Readman

Mike Dianna’s Grill Room-Chef Mike Dianna

Ocean Boulevard-Chef Donny King

Red Sky Cafe-Chef Wes Stepp

Kimball’s Kitchen, Sanderling Resort-Chefs Tyler Powell, Brian Riddle

Steamer-Chefs Chris Braswell, Michael Blanchard

Stripers Bar and Grille-Chef Alfredo Landzuri

The Saltbox Cafe-Chefs Randolph and Amanda Sprinkle