Sylvia's popularity on display again

May 14, 2009 

— The North Carolina Maritime Museum's Annual Wooden Boat Show was quite an event. I never did see all the watercraft on display, being too busy with old friends and boat lovers who came to see Sylvia II, which was, out of maybe 100 participants, the only old working boat attending.

The original plan was for the museum to furnish the delivery crew taking her to their docks, but there was a last-minute hitch, so I announced at breakfast that Sylvia needed to draft an all-volunteer crew. Despite protests, Mike Lewis and Dick Griffis were quickly enlisted.

Miss Sylvia seemed downright happy to have such a quality crew aboard, for she purred like a contented kitten, slid through the slight chop down the sound and across the harbor with a bone in her teeth. Once tied up outside the museum's Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Sylvia found herself and her guests in an ideal location to watch the boat races.

Meanwhile, I was able to make myself comfortable, seated in a deck chair listening to Sylvia's many admirers gathering to swap tales and pay tribute. Folks from all over the state seemed to be busy spinning their own tall tale of builders, engines, skippers, big fish, whales and storms, repeating all the folklore that is part of old communities that survive by the sea.

For those who missed Sylvia's attendance at the boat show, there has been a request for the old gal to drop her anchor off the Morehead waterfront for a couple of days starting on Saturday. The plans are for the Morehead City Fire Department, the Coast Guard and the Fort Macon Sail and Power Squadron, under the direction of its commander, J.B. Bagby, to escort Sylvia at about 10 a.m. back to the waterfront where she served for so many years. It has been requested that the Sylvia spend the weekend anchored just off the "big" docks where she can best offer photo opportunities during the Morehead City boat show.

Each community over time develops some sort of reputation, earned or not. Most think of the Morehead City waterfront as deriving its world-wide reputation from its renowned sport fishing fleet. Even so, not everyone gets the word. One story about Morehead's world reputation came from Buck Matthews, of Morehead City, in recalling the Englishman who some years ago crossed the Atlantic single-handed in his tiny sailboat. The adventurer, after studying the charts, chose Morehead City as his destination. However, upon arrival, he was greatly disappointed, because, it was the only place on our east coast listed as a city, and the community had shut down for a holiday. Matthews' family invited the British sailor to partake supper with them, and thereafter the sailor agreed the locals proved to be more friendly and helpful than most "city" types of past experiences.

There are those who quite reasonably argue that men get boats to catch fish. Some do, especially if one is trying to support a family, but for many, fish are the lesser part of fishing. How many of us would otherwise get up to see a summer dawn without the excuse fish bite best then? How else could anyone justify the pleasures of becoming a slave to a boat without some sort of fishy excuse?

bobsimpson@embarqmail.com

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