|Ocracoke Update: Life without a highway
January 10, 2008
Businesses and vendors are going the extra mile to get supplies to Ocracoke
By JAMIE TUNNEL
on an island teaches you to appreciate the availability of the extra
things often taken for granted in the “outside” world. At
the same time, you learn to differentiate between what you need and
what you want because of the limited availability of certain items on
Ocracoke. Even in the middle of July when the island is at its peak,
you cannot buy a fresh doughnut, slip into a cool movie theater, run
your car through a carwash, or purchase a mattress on Ocracoke.
So, you learn to get back to basics -- food, water, and shelter. And
this winter, with our northern highway lifeline off limits while the
seven bridges are being replaced, major accommodations have been made
with food, beverage, and building supply vendors to make sure the
residents of Ocracoke are provided for.
Some of the major food supply vendors for Ocracoke are SYSCO, US Food
Service, Jennette Brothers, and Atlantic Dominion. In order to
continually serve Ocracoke this winter, each company made arrangements
to travel through Swan Quarter for deliveries or utilize four-wheel
drive vehicles and make the trip down the beach detour. In other cases,
businesses on the island have met supply trucks down at the north end
ferry or on the Hatteras side to make sure that supplies are here for
residents and the trickle of visitors.
Megan Vayette, US Food Service representative for Ocracoke and
Hatteras, is going the extra mile, or rather 3.3 miles, to make sure
the company’s customers are served.
“We deliver in the off-season once a week to Ocracoke on
Thursdays, and we have two customers right now -- Jason’s and the
Ocracoke School,” said Vayette. “I’m using my
4-Runner to transport the order down from Hatteras with freezer
blankets, dry ice, and freezer packs. I had a pretty big order this
week, which was the first one, but I had no problem driving on the
beach or fitting it in.”
One of the positives of this planned project is the time that
officials, businesses, and residents had to plan and make arrangements
for this 75-day limited availability to the north. With over a year of
planning, everyone had ample opportunity to prepare.
“I order from about 25 vendors year-round,” said Tommy
Hutcherson, proprietor of the Variety Store, the local grocery store
open seven days a week. “In some way, shape, or form, the product
is getting here.”
There have been some days where it is easier to meet the trucks in Hatteras, especially for light loads.
“It has definitely been a challenge,” said Hutcherson, who
is also a member of the Ocracoke Control Group. “I felt like
there was major planning involved to take care of these arrangements
for supplies, and it seems smooth for now.”
Jason’s, the only restaurant open for business during the beach detour, serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
“We depend on a few different vendors," said Jason Wells,
proprietor of the restaurant. “They have been very cooperative
and willing to deliver, even driving on the beach if they have
The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT)
campus, now set up in the old Coast Guard Station on the harbor, is
also adjusting to this winter’s alternate routes.
“That’s been one of my fears,” said Misty Walker,
Ocracoke campus coordinator for NCCAT. “If the ferry
doesn’t run and we’re expecting a delivery of food that
day, we would have a problem.”
could happen any time of the year with the wind and weather determining
on- and off-island travel for Ocracoke, but especially now. Their first
seminar of 2008 will begin next week, and NCCAT hadn’t worked out
a set schedule with the vendors yet.
“We certainly maximized our storage space, but it’s still
limited when thinking that far ahead,” said Walker. When the
week-long seminars are being held at the campus, the food staff feeds
26 people, three meals a day.
Coastal Beverage Co., which was scheduled was supposed to make its
first delivery during the detour today, plans to come once a month. The
company’s plans were detoured this morning when the delivery
truck showed up at the Swan Quarter ferry docks. The truck was too tall
to load the M/V Governor Hyde ferry.
“We could have loaded it on there, but once they were on
Ocracoke, they would not have been able to get back off because of the
steeper incline at that dock,” said Mitchell Newman, Swan Quarter
ferry office. “They could have taken the 9:30 ferry, the M/V
Silver Lake, over but that would mean having to spend the night in
order to get back on that same ferry tomorrow. The other option would
have been to go down to Cedar Island.”
Nash Finch, another food delivery truck, was re-routed to Cedar Island.
“The plan is to take that truck back to the Elizabeth City
warehouse, unload onto a side-delivery truck, which is a little
shorter, and then try again tomorrow,” said Steve Banks,
representative for Coastal Beverage. “Our customers include
Jason’s, the Variety Store, the Gas Station, and Zillie’s.
If that once-a-month schedule doesn’t work, we are willing to
Vendors and delivery trucks have been encouraged to use the Swan
Quarter ferry route during the bridge replacement project. In order to
come and go on the same day, they have to be on the 7 a.m. ferry in
order to take the 12:30 or 4 p.m. ferries back. "The two larger ferries
will be switched to the Swan Quarter route to accommodate the vendors
and delivery trucks," reported Jack Cahoon, director of the Ferry
Division. "That should be implemented today or tomorrow." The
Ocracoke Gas Station, the island’s only gas station, seems to be
have met some of the delivery trucks on the north end, but most have
made their way here,” said Shelly Oden, manager of the Ocracoke
Gas Station. “Some of the representatives have even used their
personal vehicles to get stuff to us.”
Oden faxes readings for the gas pumps into Cary Oil and Kenan Transport
each week. She notes that a lot of people have been filling up, but
doesn’t see a problem with gas deliveries
to the island when they will be needed. The gasoline truck requires
arrangements for a special ferry from Swan Quarter.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has its own diesel and
gasoline supplemental tank in its work staging area for its equipment.
And local fishermen are able to utilize an account system with the
Anchorage Marina for their marine fuel.
Construction on Ocracoke doesn’t stop for wind and weather and hasn’t been halted by the detour.
Dare Building Supply makes daily deliveries to the island and made a
special purchase to ensure delivery to the island contractors.
“We bought a four-wheel-drive Army surplus truck to help with our
deliveries this winter,” said Wayne Midgette, proprietor of Dare
Building Supply. “We can’t carry as much as the regular
10-wheelers, but we’re monitoring our loads by the pound and
haven’t had trouble yet. We have ordered different tires to see
if that also helps with the beach driving. And the contractors have
worked together on their end as well.”
Kellogg Supply Company makes the trip once or twice a week, depending
on the orders. They are using a four-wheel-drive truck with a flatbed
to deliver supplies.
The basics are covered, and it is an unusual 70 degrees during the
first week of January. With the exception of the first two days of
winter weather, the contractor and crews have been able to work hard
and almost complete the demolition of Bridge #49, the northernmost
bridge. A detailed construction progress report, along with photos and
important contact information, is available at www.ocracokebridges.com.
(Jamie Tunnell is the editor of The Ocracoke Observer and a contributor to The Island Free Press.)