Abandoned boat, Pamlico River, North Carolina. Black & white.

Edge of Ordinary

Pamlico River
Beaufort County, NC

This was a dead man’s boat, I’m told.

I’m also told every boat has someone who could love it and every soul has its mate. Maybe that’s true; maybe the dead man loved this boat. Those who survived him, not so much.

They towed the dead man’s boat to a cypress swamp at the edge of the Pamlico River, moored to a bald cypress tree and a ruined wharf and left it for storms to send it to the bottom. The storms came and the boat now lies half submerged, its decks awash.

I have an affinity for old boats. Understandable since I grew up around boats, then earned my living for 15 years as a sailor.

I’ve delivered boats across the Pacific Ocean and sailed the length of both coasts, Mexico to Canada, Florida to Maine. I’ve taught spinnaker handling on the San Francisco Bay, captained an excursion boat in Monterey, a private yacht in West Palm, a dive boat in Key Largo, a towboat in Fort Lauderdale, but it’s not the polished yachts and shiny sailboats that interest me.

What intrigues me now are boats at the end of their lives, abandoned like an old dog on a country road.

It may be a similar motive that drives my interest in swamps and backwaters, places largely disdained or feared or simply ignored, the same thing that interests me about alleys and graveyards. They are all liminal places at the edge of ordinary.

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