North Carolina Hospitality: Elizabeth City and Edenton
Elizabeth City is a popular cruisers’ stop along the ICW. They call themselves the Harbor of Hospitality – and they are, particularly Monday through Friday. We arrived on a Saturday. The Visitor Center is not open weekends and the late afternoon cruisers reception that we had heard so much about doesn’t take place on weekends, either. Our little pack of floating wanderers (many of us who met at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center) decided to have our own welcome reception, borrowing the city’s tent. It was another lovely evening of socializing. On Sunday I (Ems) wandered up to the Methodist church . (You know, if I had just let you finish reading that particular sentence, there wouldn’t have been any need for me to specify which one of us walked to church, I suspect.) I was welcomed warmly before I even got in the front door. A lovely couple, Al and Dianna, adopted me for the morning. Turns out they have a son who lives on his boat in Charleston (SC) who has sailed to the Bahamas a number of times. The service and the music were very nice (a church that still has a pipe organ – hooray!) Al and Dianna offered to play tour guides around town that afternoon, telling me about an Arts and Crafts show at the local school. I declined the tour, but did take them up on the ride back to the docks where they came and met Frank and some of the other gang.
Three of us couples walked to the art show and enjoyed a well prepared comfort meal in the cafeteria. Then we proceeded to stroll around the city admiring the historic houses. As we were walking back, Frank’s radar went off. His ears perked up and his nose started twitching like a blood hound. “What is it???” we all wondered. His instinct told him there was ice cream close by. Sure enough . . . just a little further up the road we spotted the Dairy Queen he had been detecting. How does he know?
We spent Halloween in Edenton. Fun things that made it apparent that it was Halloween: 1) “Silence of the Lambs” was playing on the TV in the laundromat. 2) They had “safe trick or treating” in the downtown district with local business, police and EMTs handing out the candy. (The police officers couldn’t be in costume, but one female officer had a stuffed black cat attached to her shoulder.) After having dinner in a local restaurant with a perfect view of the Halloween festivities, we walked to the classic, local movie theater to see Capt. Phillips. If you don’t know, that’s the true story about the tanker ship captain who was abducted by Somali pirates and then rescued by the Navy Seals. Tom Hanks is great in it, but somehow it felt a little odd to get to the end of the movie and say, “Okay, let’s go back to the boat now.” No pirates in North Carolina.
The next day we enjoyed exploring town even more. There are many historic structures in the town. One story is about the Edenton Tea Party at the Barker House. Seems that the famous Boston Tea Party sparked outrage in Edenton, and the women’s group that met regularly for tea took a stand and decided to boycott tea in support of Boston’s act of defiance. Britain was used to people protesting, but in the 1700s it was MOST unusual for a women’s group to take a political stand of this sort and word got back to Britain and created quite a stir.
One of our favorite things about Edenton was meeting our new friends Gil and Barbara. They are Edenton locals, sailors and graduates of cruising to the Bahamas. While we were sitting in the harbor, Gil sailed by on his Sunfish. We struck up a conversation as he lithely maneuvered the little sailboat back and forth by Eleanor Q while chatting. By the end of the discussion he had invited us to his home for fresh oysters roasted over an open fire. (‘Tis almost the season – I am definitely changing the word “chestnuts” to “oysters” this year. Luckily that night, Jack Frost was not nipping at our noses.)
We met him on Wednesday and the invitation was for Friday. On Friday I decided to attempt to make an apple pie to take with us and Frank worked on some boat projects.
So on Friday night, Gil picked us up and took us to meet his wife, Barbara, and to visit at their home. Their 31 foot sailboat, Barbara Jean, is in a slip right behind their house. Gil designed and built the boat himself and the two of them sailed it to the Bahamas. Not a detail was overlooked on that boat! After our tour, we sat at a table in front of a fireplace in their home and ate oyster after oyster after oyster! They have a metal grate on a swivel in the fireplace. It just swings right out, oysters go on the grate, it swings back in over the fire and voila! You have wood roasted oysters! Gil just kept bringing pan-fulls of them to the table and we kept on gobbling them up! We seriously went through a half a bucket of them. There was still a half bucket left, but we cried uncle! They shared their cruising stories and experiences with us and we learned more about each other. It was a delightful evening. Again, individuals showing simple acts of kindness to other people = big deal! That evening is what we’ll probably take away from Edenton more than anything else. And we hope to meet up with them again on our way back through.