|Shooting the Breeze
|January 7, 2009
Jimmy Buffett likes driving the seashore
beaches for surfing, fishing, and solitude
UPDATE: Jimmy writes the fourth part of his Outer Banks Diary -- on his day
Check the link at the bottom of this article.
You might be surprised who you could run into driving the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The man who has been called the “world’s richest beach
bum,” Jimmy Buffett, spent four days on the Outer Banks this fall
– from Nov. 10-13.
One of those days, he spent in his custom-built, veggie-burning
off-road vehicle that he has dubbed “The Green Tomato,”
driving the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore – by
himself, which was just the way he planned it.
Buffett has written a lengthy, three-part saga of his
trip from Kill Devil Hills to Ocracoke for his Margaritaville.com Web
site. It is, he says, not the first time he visited the Outer
Banks. He writes that he has family connections going back to a
grandfather who, he says, was shipwrecked off the Banks. This
trip was, though, the first time he drove down Highway 12, in what was
apparently a maiden voyage on the sand for the Green Tomato.
We don’t know from his “Outer Banks Diary” if the
singer, songwriter, author, and business mogul, who turned 62 on
Christmas Day, is aware of the controversial status of ORV access to
the seashore beaches.
But we do learn that he likes beach driving and has for a long time.
He writes in Part 3, the part that covers his travels on the seashore beach:
Beach driving was a big
part of my adolescent years down on the shores of Dauphin Island and
Perdido Bay in Alabama. I had a great friend who had a Willys 4-wheel
drive Jeep that we used for beach parties, fishing trips and just
simply driving on the beach. To me, there is something very liberating
about leaving asphalt behind and cruising along the seashore with no
road signs, radar detectors or real destination. It is like sailing on
land. You can basically plot your own course and if you get stuck or
break down there is a community of like-minded “sanders”
out there who will stop and help you out.
Though I left Alabama
behind a long time ago, I kept the thrill of those early years lodged
in the fun chips in my memory bank, and the beaches of Long Island are
now my stomping grounds for alternative terrain. What some folks refer
to as “four wheelin” is largely the domain of fishermen
with trucks turned into beach cruisers sporting coolers the size of dog
houses and a literal forest of surf casting rods sprouting from the
bumpers. But on the Outer Banks, it is also the way surfers get to the
best and most isolated breaks. Accepting the fact that the waves looked
like a “no show,” I stopped at a tackle shop to pick up
some local flies before I left the highway.
Buffett flew from New York City to the airport at the Wright Brothers
National Memorial, where he met up with his van coordinator who had
brought the Green Tomato to the Outer Banks. He spent time on the
northern beaches, took an air tour of the islands, headed south to meet
with friends from REAL Kiteboarding whom he met in the British Virgin
Islands, and headed down Hatteras Island for his day alone on the beach.
He writes that he had hoped to spend the night in a campground in the
Green Tomato, which is really a very amazing shade of green, but that
the campgrounds were closed. We assume he is referring to the
National Park Service campgrounds.
So Buffett traveled to Hatteras village and rented a room at what seems to
be, from the photos, the Village Marina Motel. He mentions some of the
businesses and restaurants by name but not others.
The next morning, he writes about being awakened by the diesel engines
on the boats heading out of Hatteras Harbor for a day of fishing.
His Plan A was to surf, but a quick trip to the ocean confirms that
it’s not a day for surfing, so he falls back to Plan B, which is
to do some fishing on his stand-up board and chill out on the beach.
His geography of the trip gets a little hard to follow, but we do know
that he stopped at Frisco Rod and Gun, which he does not name but
where we know Kyle Perry, whose family owns the tackle shop, helped him
pick out some flies for his fishing excursion.
Then he apparently headed out to the beach at Ramp 49. And he writes:
I found a spot a good
distance from any other fishermen with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
just visible above the dunes. I guess it was the place. I parked,
turned on some tunes and began to unload. The big test was a success. I
rigged the stand up fishing board, assembled my fly rods, beach chairs
and writing table and pretty soon I had my home for the day all neat
and orderly and I hadn’t even broken a fingernail. My old
scoutmasters back in Mobile would have been proud.
Next is a rather comical sequence in which he describes his fishing expedition on the stand-up board:
Though it was a bright,
bright, bright sun shiny day, the wind was still chilly, chilly, chilly
and blowing strong from the northeast. It would be a full wet suit day.
The sight of the Green Tomato may have made some folks turn and stare
while I was driving but it was nothing compared to the looks I got
when, looking like a large seal in my wet suit and booties, I drug the
stand up fishing board to the waters edge, practiced a few false casts
and then headed out through the small waves of the surf break to where
I had seen bait working from the beach. I did not care about my first
impression to the surf casters, for I was on yet another mission. It
might be a second day without waves, but it would be one of those days
with a “first” in it, if I caught a fish from the board.
Past the break, there was a small stretch of fairly calm water
protected by the dunes but beyond it, the chop and the wind were
clearly waiting. The trick was going to be to gauge the wind and
current and paddle to that calm water, stow the paddle, grab the fly
rod and make a cast before I was sailed by the wind out to the Diamond
Shoals. I made several practice runs, hooking myself once in the foot,
and losing my paddle on another run and having to go overboard to
I can only imagine what the anglers on the beach thought about the sight they were witnessing.
Buffett manages to save face with the anglers by catching and releasing
a bluefish before he returns to the beach to chill out, read, and take
a nap under an umbrella.
Then he packs up and heads off the beach:
I stayed on the sand for
several miles just enjoying the freedom and the view until I had to get
back on the asphalt to meet Jason for lunch but still had time to stop
at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for a climb. You know me and
lighthouses. If there is one around, I will climb it. When I got to the
light - BUMMER! It was closed for the season, so I followed the signs
to where the original lighthouse had been back in the days when it
might have been spotted by members of my family becalmed on that ocean
so long ago.
By the time Buffett and his Green Tomato reached his last day on Hatteras, folks were onto him.
The Island Free Press got a couple calls about “Jimmy
sightings,” but I didn’t rush out to find him. After
all, he’s not exactly Richard Gere. I have to admit that I
could have pulled up next to him on the beach with his Green Tomato,
and I would not have had the foggiest idea who the old guy in the knit
cap with the elaborate rig was.
It’s interesting that, except for those couple calls, we had no
more information and no one sent us photos of his Hatteras or Ocracoke
trip – although plenty of islanders met him and had their photo
taken with him.
He mentions this in his diary and also mentions his rules for interacting with fans:
I was sitting in the van
spinning the ball on my G1 phone looking at surf reports, maps and
possible fueling places for the final leg of my trip down to the low
country of South Carolina, when there was a tap on the window. It
didn’t take long to figure out that I had again been spotted. I
guess the text messages had been flying on the Outer Banks for a few
days. It is hard to stay under the radar these days where videos and
photos have replaced autographs, so I guess I better take a moment to
give you the rules by which I operate in that regard.
1) I won’t sign
autographs when I am in the act of eating (drinking is okay). Eating is
a sacrament to me, and something, which is never to be interrupted. In
my world, it comes with the punishment of eternal damnation in the
fires of hell (can’t get away from that Catholic thing).
2) As for photos, it all
depends on your manners and what kind of mood I am in, and if I do take
photos I ask that you keep them as personal keepsakes and not post them
on the internet or blogs and not shared with the entire planet earth. A
photo should be a keepsake, not a calling card.
3) Finally, I don’t
want anybody bothering me when I am at home and that includes on my
boat. Other than that, I feel that I am fair game and it is all just a
part of the job, and I have found the vast majority of the time, fans I
meet out there couldn’t be more respectful and mannerly and I do
appreciate that. I still have a bit of a problem with that celebrity
stuff as I do still only see myself as a beach boy, ex-altar boy from
Mobile, who worked hard and got lucky and not much more. To me, it is
just my job.
The tap on his window was from some Coast Guardsmen while Buffett waited in line for the ferry to Ocracoke.
….the young man at my window
introduced himself as a member of the United States Coast Guard and
said simply that he hated to bother me but he would probably never get
this opportunity again. I thought to myself, hell, if I hadn’t
learned those three chords way back when at Auburn, Alabama, I might
have wound up in the Coast Guard. Anyway, I got out, met his friends
and snapped a few photos, shook hands and listened to his stories about
his times at our shows, grateful that he and a whole lot other folks
out there love our shows. In these days and times of instant
gratification and American Idol, real fans are the basis of any career.
Without them, you are just a karaoke crooner.
The bell at the front of
the line rang as the ferryboat approached the dock. I said good-bye to
the Coastie and his friends and climbed back aboard the GT, watching
them high-fiving and laughing as they walked away towards town. I
thought for a moment about a piece of advice I got from the late and
great Paul Newman, when I watched him deal with a crowd of fans at a
function up on Long Island years ago. I said something about how
gracious he was with them and he looked at me and said something like,
“Kid, it takes no more time to be thought of as an asshole than
it does to be thought of as a good guy. Give them a thrill.
That’s your job.” Wisdom from someone like that you cherish
and remember forever.
Jimmy Buffett ends the last part of his Outer Banks Diary as he is
riding across Hatteras Inlet on the ferry at sunset. He was to
spend the night on Ocracoke, but he apparently will not be writing
about his visit there.
Finally, we have a message for Buffett.
He writes about his musings on the ferry ride:
I am always intrigued by
the names of boats, as it is a very serious thing to those who venture
out on the water as to what namesake they trust their souls to. So, it
did set me to wondering why someone would name a channel ferry in the
coastal waters of North Carolina after a famous architect who was
murdered in New York in a sex scandal over a century ago. But maybe it
was just a coincidence and W. Stanford White might have been a famous
local seaman who rescued a dog or a baby in a storm. So, if anybody who
reads this can enlighten me on this subject, please send me an e-mail.
Jimmy, we can tell you that the W. Stanford White was not named for the
famous scandal-ridden architect from New York. It was named for
an Outer Banks politician who served on the county Board of
Commissioners in the ‘60s and ‘70s and also was elected to
the state legislature and was one of the first wildlife officers in the
“He and Melvin Daniels were instrumental in bringing the (DOT
Ferry Division) shipyard to Manns Harbor,” explains his son, Stan
White, who also served as a commissioner and now is a member of the DOT
To recognize Stanford White’s contribution to the county, the
commissioners recommended to DOT that a new ferry be named for
him. The W. Stanford White was commissioned in 2003. White died
We are sure you will enjoy Buffett’s diary of his Outer Banks
trip. You will recognize people and places you know in the
narrative and the photos – and he is a very entertaining writer.
To read Jimmy Buffett’s Outer Banks Diary, go to:http://www.margaritaville.com/index.php?page=obx