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Old Codger Attends the 2020 B&B messabout


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                                                   Old Codger Attends A Messabout

   I asked Old codger if he would like to go to the B and B messabout this year and he excitedly exclaimed YES! I guess I should explain to y’all that he is a modified Jessy 15 Skiff with an added cabin. I built him back in 2018 to cruise the mountain lakes where we live. Over time, he has developed a rather unusual personality. He likes to poke his nose into places that no reasonable boat would ever go. He gets excited anytime he gets to go with me to a watery adventure, so of course I knew he would jump at the chance! I’ll post some pictures for ya at the end of this little report, but, rather than tell ya about all the folks and boats that attended, I’ll just tell about our little adventures. We did greatly enjoy meeting new folks and renewing old acquaintances. And it’s always a great joy seeing the B and B crew every year. So now, let’s get on with the story.

   Before we begin, I’d better explain to my reader who doesn’t know what a messabout is.A messabout is  just what a messabout is. Hmmm---sounds odd put that way. Anyway, A messabout is an event where a group of people get together to discuss and "mess about" in boats. It comes from a story in Wind in the Willows where Rat says to Mole, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing... about in boats — or with boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.”

   We got there midafternoon and had time to cruise around a bit before time to settle in for the night. We motored over to where Amos and Walkabout were anchored across from the docks and I talked with Amos while Codger snuggled up close. About the time it was fixing to get dark, Mr. Hatsu took us off a respectful distance and we dropped anchor. Mr. Hatsu is our Tohatsu 15hp motor that accompanies us wherever we go. He’s actually the “mature” one and tries his best to keep us out of worse troubles than we usually do get into.

   It was a beautiful night. Moon at half phase lighting up the surrounding puffy clouds. There was a screech owl hollering in the trees, and a couple of Barred owls were asking each other, “Who-who?” I don’t think they ever did figure it out. It was kinda like they were saying, “Who dat saying who dat when I say who dat?”

   We listened to some old big band themes on cassettes that were recorded off of a PBS program several years ago. I found them in an old house that I had bought to flip. There are at least 30 or 40 cassettes. Being a big band fan, I really love these. Then we settled down to read from the book Princess by Joe Richards. It is my favorite book of all time. I named my first several boats Princess, my boat building company was Princess Marine, and I called my wife Princess. It is about a young man who in 1938, bought an old Friendship sloop and rebuilt her board for board. Then they set off together to find a desert island to inhabit. Along the way they experience many adventures together. World War Two intervenes and Joe goes off to do his duty ferrying tug boats all over the Pacific. After the war, he and Princess are re-united, but princess has fallen on hard times and needs to be rebuild all over again. Eventually they do find their island, but now it is not just the two of them. Joe has a wife and kids.

   Next morning we woke up to a heavy fog blanketing the landscape around us. Off in the distance, a bunch of crows were arguing with each other with their raucous voices. What do y’all think a flock of crows is called? Would you believe a “murder of crows”? It’s true! Listen to a bunch of them and you can almost believe they want to murder each other.

   While waiting for the fog to lift, we plugged in my I-pod and listened to the Angelic voice of Jackie Evancho while eating a pre-packaged slice of apple pie and drinking some iced fru-fru coffee. If you don’t know what fru-fru coffee is, you still won’t understand even if I try to tell you. By the time we finished that, the fog had lifted. Time to up anchor---“Anchors aweigh, my boys…” and head out to see what we could see before everyone else is up and about.

   “Let’s go up to Bayboro”, says my boat, and I agree. I had forgotten just how almost desolate the shores are after boating on the mountain lakes with rich folk houses lining the shores all the way around. Much of the ground along the river is boggy or too low to build on. In some cases, ditches or canals lead from the river up to a dock near the house. But it’s a feast-for-the-eyes of an old salt-in-the-veins guy like me! We stop by hurricane Harbor to look at trawlers and cruising boats along the dock. As we head up river we continue to poke into little bays with the homes of folks who have made their living on the water for generations. Many are abandoned with docks long collapsed into the murky water.

   Before long we come to our goal. The home of the once proud fishing fleet at Bayboro. Only a few trawlers are at the docs. The rest are at sea or in the sound seeking what’s left of the shrimp harvest. The ones remaining in harbor are undergoing repair. One in particular appears to be mostly rust and patches, and doesn’t look like anything has been done for her in years. The buildings are rotting and slipping into the creek. It looks like the final days of a dying way of life. Like the apocalypse has occurred. There is a bright spot at the end of the proverbial tunnel, though. At the end of the creek is a pretty little park where families can pic-nic and children play in the shadow of the ruined fleet.

   We turn and head back out of the creek to resume our journey. I notice that the Codger has a salty tear in his eye. Just before returning to the messabout, we poke into one more creek. Raccoon creek. We travel to the end and are confronted with a mystery. At the end of the creek where it is crossed by Hwy 304 is a big house falling into ruin. But it appears to be a new, unfinished construction. Siding falling off, windows missing or broken. But the roof looks like new! Dock fallen in just like the ones at old abandoned homes. But here is the mystery. The grass was mowed! I determined to ask about it later. Back at the messabout I did ask and discovered that a permit had been issued for the home to be built. It was adjacent to a property where a new park was to be built. The contractor was tossing all his construction debris onto the park property. He was warned several times to “clean up his act” but refused, so the permit was rescinded. The mown grass was where the park will be built.

   Old codger rested at the landing while I enjoyed a few hours talking boats, boating, politics, faith, and anything else that came up. Graham gave an informative talk on proper rigging and handling of his boats. But by midafternoon e Codger was getting impatient to get back to his journey. He wanted to get out to the Pamlico Sound and travel around to either the Neuse or Pamlico River and find a little hidden cove for the night. As you’ll see, we won’t quite make it that far.

                                                                            

   We set out to make our way out the river, checking out the sights along the way. The further we went, the newer and nicer the homes were. Codger really didn’t want me to tell you this one, but we had a bit of adventure along the way. As I told you at the beginning of this narrative, he like to poke his nose in where it doesn’t belong. He wanted to look into one more little creek. We were winding away along when I spied a man standing on a dock waving at us. I waved back when Codger yells out, “I’ve caught me a BIG_UN!” Sure enough, I look back to see a fishing line sparkling in the Sun leading from Mr. Hatsu’s foot all the way back to the dock! I instantly throw Hatsu into neutral and shut him off. Much apologizing comes next with the explanation that, “I didn’t see your line!” The man hollers back, “No big deal.” I push the button to lift the foot out of the water to try to untangle the line. Fortunately it isn’t around the prop, but it is wrapped around the “Doel Fin” which is an add-on hydrofoil to help plane the boat at low speeds. The hook. With a minnow head still attached is imbedded in the plastic fin. I try as best as I can, but leaning over the transom, I can’t get a good handle on the situation.

   I call out to the kindly man, “do ya think the line is strong enough to pull us into the dock? Maybe you can reach better from there. “Sure, it’s 50# test line. Been on that old reel for years and never broke. I’ll reel ya in. hang on.” With that he rares back and commences reeling. Slowly but surely we are pulled in. Along the way we are talking and joking. “Guess you’ll have a story to tell your buddies about the biggest one ya ever caught.” “Yep something to brag about for sure!” he replies. When we get there, he reaches over and easily unwraps the mess. By now I’ve found out that the man’s name is Mr. Wilkenson, who says, “It’ll be a good story, but I guess I’ll haveta toss ya back in”. “Worst part is that I’ve lost the fish head, and those dang things are hard to come by.” With that, codger and I sheepishly leave to continue our trip.

   Looking at Google Earth now as I write this, I’m fascinated by some of the names I see. Parch Corn Bay, Poorhouse Point, Graveyard Point, Box Point, Petty Point, Wise Point, Blossom Pond Creek, Deadman Point, No Jacket Creek, Dump Creek. I wonder about the story behind these names.

   Heading out toward the mouth of the Bay River, we pass Vandamere Docks and the fleet. Thankfully, things look much better here, buildings in good repair and trawlers in ship-shape condition, festooned with nets ready for a good haul. As we continue, we pass underwater plots that are leased to grow oysters. The signs on pilings say “Shellfish Bottom Lease #_____”. And “WARNING-submerged gear – navigate around all markers”. Each piling has a sentinel perched on top in the form of a sea gull or cormorant. Finally we pass by marker number four with several cormorants on guard.

    I’m reminded of my years as a kid growing up in Florida. My parents had a little summer cottage on a Master’s Bayou off of Tampa Bay. We kids spent our days summer vacation days swimming and boating on the water there. The channel in from the bay had channel markers, and were also guarded by cormorants. We called them “black ducks” or “gooney birds”. Gooney birds differ from other kinds of water fowl in that their feathers are not oily and become saturated with water making it difficult to fly. The birds solve that problem by spreading their wings in the breeze after several dives while sitting on pilings, branches, or anywhere they can find a perch.

                                                                            

   Kids being kids, we found our fun where we could. Some of the most fun was trying to chase the gooneys off their perches and chase them until they dove into the water. They would try to fly off of the pole, trying to gain altitude, but, because of their waterlogged feathers, they would be unsuccessful. They’d get lower and lower until they would be running across the surface while still flapping their wings. Finally, as we got too close for comfort, they would dive and submerge. I later was told by a marine patrol officer that this running behavior was called “didapping”. Before y’all get all huffy with me about what we did, let me assure you that no birds were ever harmed by us chasing them!

   By now the Sun was low in the sky, and darkness was spreading across the waters. Time to find a snug place to drop anchor. I conferred with Old Codger, and he suggested settling in behind Maw Point in a little cove called Fisherman Bay. Looked good to me, so that’s what we did. We dropped anchor in a protected spot, surrounded by Spartina grass growing on the mud banks. After a supper of Chow Mein from a “just add boiling water” meal, we settled in for the night. By now the Sun had dipped below the horizon after putting on a spectacular show of red and yellow colors. I love watching the channel marker lights sparkling out in the Pamlico Sound. The moon beams were reflecting on the rippling water.

    It would have been perfect except that the black flies and mosquitoes settled in, too. The files came in formation and attacked with vehemence! The skeeters swarmed looking for a place to settle and sink their proboscises! OWWW! But, I had a solution! I had been advised in a boating forum about a product called Buggins Insect Repellant. I retrieved it from the shelf inside the companionway and liberally sprayed it on. It was MAGIC! The black flies dispersed instantly, and the skeeters backed off, but continued circling hopefully, like old-west Indians circling a wagon train. To get away from their high pithed whine, I retreated below and skootched down into my soft sleeping bag.

   Codger gently rocked me as I looked out the windows at the channel lights. The rocking made them appear to be rising and falling like fireflies. The mood was dancing through the clear panel in Codger’s forward hatch. I listened to my favorite big band cassettes and read from Princess for a while waiting for sleep to come. Before long the skeeters made me aware of their continued presence with their annoying whining. Occasionally one would come in for a strike and ricochet off of whatever patch of bare flesh that he could find. The Buggins was doing its job, but the ravenous insects kept trying. Did you know that folks down here call the mosquito the state bird?

   By nine o’clock, I had had enough. I conferred with Codger and Mr. Hatsu and by consensus we decided to move back up river away from the Spartina marshes. Mr. Hatsu dutifully took us back in, leaving the pesky bugs behind, to finally anchor along the mainland somewhere between Deadman Point and Sand Point. There is a road there called Airstrip Road. I wonder what that is all about. No airplanes in sight. After reading some more, I drifted off in delicious, skeeter-free slumber.

   Next morning I woke up rocking and rolling in the wind. Codger was singing the old song to himself, Rain Drops Are falling On My Head. It was overcast, cool, and breezy. A cold front had moved in during the night. It looked like it was going to be one of those all day “We’ll let you know when we’re done” rain events. You know what I mean. Being fair weather boater, the pitter-patter of rain on my head just spoils the fun. I suppose I should be thankful for the bugs that had chased us in. It would have been an uncomfortable slog in the wind and rain.

                                                                       

    I called my wife on the cell phone and asked her to look up the forecast for me. She informed me that it would be raining all day. You’d think an old boat guy like me would have some way to keep up with the forecast myself. I used to have a handheld V.H.S. radio with a weather channel. Also a little weather radio. Over the years they had died and never been replaced. This old codger is too cheap to part with any of the limited boating budget to buy new ones.

   By now the rain had slacked off to a light sprinkle, so we decided to head back to our spot across from the dock where the messabout was centered. I was prepared to spend the day reading and listening to my music. But, doggone if the rain hadn’t stopped completely by the time we got there. I tied up the Codger at the landing and wandered over to where my friends were gathered on the dock talking. Some were even casting off to sail. Would you believe that it didn’t rain another drop all day?! It sure was a delight to talk with all my friends. These are my kind of folks.

   Finally, I drug myself away, climbed back aboard, and headed across the creek to anchor for the night. Next morning it would be time to part from the gang for another year. So ends the saga of Old Codger’s visit to a messabout.

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