August 2, 2013
The saga of the Little Hatteras boat people
By BARBARA SATTERTHWAITE
trip to work changed dramatically after Hurricane Isabel tore through
our little island on Sept. 18 and created an inlet between my home in
Frisco and my office in Hatteras village. It changed not only for
me but also for many other folks who had to get back and forth across
the new inlet to work, to shop, for appointments, to visit family or
We became the Little Hatteras boat people.
me, what used to be about a 13-minute drive in my truck was now a
30-minute trip by boat from Frisco Cove Marina to Oden’s Dock in the
village. Allowing travel time to and from the docks and extra
time to get in line for the boat added another hour or so to my
trip. My alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. instead of 6. I need
at least an hour’s quiet time to read my newspaper before I start the
My adventure as a boat person started at 7:30 a.m. on
Sept. 23, my first day back at work after the storm. I drove down
to Sunset Strip in Frisco to catch a small boat to Hatteras
village. Fortunately, Charlie Barnett, the husband of my
co-worker, Donna Barnett, has a 24-foot Sea Hawk moored at his parents’
house, and he volunteered to take us to the village. Donna and
Charlie live in Hatteras village, but were staying with his parents
with their daughter, Hannah, until power and water were restored in the
The three of us boarded the Sea Hawk on that morning
— after fighting hundreds of mosquitoes — and began our journey down a
small creek to the Pamlico Sound.
As we left the creek,
Charlie cranked up the motor and away we went. Water began
spraying us from both sides. I was glad I had brought my
foul-weather rain coat.
Motoring down the Pamlico Sound,
we all looked in awe towards the three breaches that made up Isabel
Inlet. Twelve minutes after leaving the creek, we were at Oden’s
Dock. What a trip! Charlie borrowed Steve Bailey’s truck to
drive us to our office. On the way, Charlie drove us out to the
eastern end of Little Hatteras — as it was called to distinguish it
from the rest of the island, Big Hatteras. The destruction looked
worse than what we had seen in newspapers and on television.
5 p.m. on that afternoon, Charlie was outside the office, honking the
horn. Off we went back to Oden’s Dock to begin our homeward-bound
boat trip. Rather than going out the breakwater to the sound at
Oden’s Dock, Charlie opted to take us home via the back creek. As
we motored along the creek, we saw mounds of trash piled along the west
side, which had washed up from the destroyed businesses and homes along
the oceanfront. We arrived back at Sunset Strip around
5:30, and were greeted by Hannah and Charlie’s parents, Irene and Wayne
Basnett. I got home around 6 p.m.
This was the
beginning of 10- to 11-hour days of commuting in Charlie’s boat.
The one positive thing about this two-week commute to Little Hatteras
from Sunset Strip was getting to know Charlie’s parents, who are
pleasant and gracious people. They were both born and raised on
Hatteras. Irene is retired, and Wayne is a commercial
fisherman. He knows the sound like the back of his hand. He
even cut five minutes off our daily commute by showing Charlie a
shorter route, closer to shore.
Donna and I finally
realized that by sitting down in the bow of the boat, it was a warmer
and more protected ride. We did have one hair-raising morning
ride during our two-week jaunt to Little Hatteras. Charlie came
close to running out of gas. We literally came into one of the
docks in the back creek on fumes.
On our return trips to Frisco,
Charlie was always offering other local people rides in the boat.
A number of them had homes and businesses that were devastated by the
hurricane. My heart went out to all of them. I was so glad
we could help them out a little by giving them a ride to where they had
parked their vehicles on the Frisco side.
finally had electricity and water on Oct. 3. Charlie and Donna
moved back to their home in the village. A short time later they
were able to bring one of their vehicles back to Hatteras on the ferry
from Stumpy Point.
This is when my next adventure as a boat person began.
Oct. 6, I started commuting on the small passenger ferries that ran
hourly between Frisco Cove Marina and Oden’s Dock. At 7:20 a.m.,
my husband, Jack, took me to the marina to catch the 8 a.m. boat to
Little Hatteras. Law enforcement officers were at the marina to
regulate who could and could not take the boats to Little
Hatteras. Before people boarded the boat, the officers announced
that village residents boarded first, followed by medical personnel,
daily workers, etc. I was finally given the green light to board
the Bayou Runner, which is a dive boat owned by Outer Banks Diving and
captained by owner, John Pieno, and first mate Bart Smith.
Bayou Runner started the day at 7 a.m. in Little Hatteras and made the
30-minute run every hour until its last run from Frisco Cove at 6
p.m. — a long day for John and Bart with no days off. Thank
goodness I was there early on my first day because the boat filled up
quickly and left before 8 a.m. The morning and evening "rush
hour" of folks trying to get the boat became a daily occurrence.
Bayou Runner holds 20 people and does have a cabin below to seat 12
people comfortably. For the first few weeks I opted to ride
topside, since the weather was quite pleasant, and it was rather nice
to enjoy the view of the sound and its birds.
I began to get
into a routine, traveling on the Bayou Runner by getting to Frisco Cove
Marina around 7:25 a.m. I would get there just in time to greet
some people I know disembarking the boat after its 7 a.m. run to
Frisco. We would wish each other a nice day and tell them we
would see them again that evening.
On occasion when leaving
Frisco Cove in the morning, Captain John would ask everyone on board to
move forward to the cabin so that he could get out of Frisco Cove
without running aground in the channel at low tide. He was fine,
once he motored the Bayou out to the main channel in the Pamlico Sound
for deeper water, which is about 10 feet.
By the fourth week,
the weather turned colder, and I opted to ride below in the
cabin. I recall that on one particular return trip it was a rainy
day, and there must have been close to 19 people jammed into the
Weather played a major role in our daily
commutes. Some days were warm and sunny, and other ones were cold
and rainy. I learned to come prepared for the ride and got into a
routine of carrying a bag with me that contained a sweatshirt, winter
hat, rain gear (coat and trousers), and a towel for wiping off the
bench on the boat when it was wet. I also packed my cell phone to
call my husband if the boat was going to be early or late.
one morning, I arrived at Frisco Cove only to be told that the boats
were not running that day because of the high winds, which were blowing
between 25 and 30 knots. From then on, when I awoke in the
morning to the wind blowing over 25, I just rolled over and went back
to sleep for an hour or so, since I knew the boat would be running late.
daylight saving time began on Oct. 26, the boat schedules changed.
Rather than leaving at 7 a.m. on both ends, they began running at 6
a.m. and making their last runs at 5 p.m. Now I started
riding on the Little Clam at 8 a.m. rather than the Bayou Runner.
The Little Clam was then owned by Spurgeon Stowe and captained
by Randy Fagley with first mate David "Diamond" Foley. I learned
that Randy and Diamond had not had a day off in more than a
month. The boat was rather open on both sides. Spurgeon had
a canopy put on and some plastic put up on both sides of the boat for
protection from the elements for us boat people.
To take up the
overflow of people from the other two boats, the ferry system had a
pontoon boat available. Although the boat had a top canvas cover
and plastic sides for protection, people still could get wet in choppy
water from small openings at the bottom of the plastic covers, and the
bow of the boat is completely open. I managed to catch a few
rides on the pontoon boat. On one afternoon, I got to the dock as
it was leaving, and the captain was kind enough to back up and let me
hop on. Some friends of mine on the boat thought I was going to
take a flying leap from the dock to the boat before he backed it up.
morning of Friday, Nov. 14, was one of the roughest rides we had on the
boat. The forecast all had been for high winds on Thursday and
Friday. By Thursday afternoon, the winds were blowing out of the
northwest at more than 30 knots, and the boats stopped running. I
worked at home that day. The next morning, the winds had subsided
somewhat, and the boats were again running. I boarded the Little
Clam, along with 19 other boat people. We were grateful for the
plastic curtains, since the water was splashing onto the boat with a
vengeance. At one point, the water was so rough that we all
thought the boat was going to roll over on its side. There were a
few white faces in the crowd that day.
On the following Monday,
Nov. 17, the tide in the sound was so low that only the pontoon boat
could make it across in the shallow water. We ran aground
motoring out of the channel, but Captain Ervin O’Neal did a great job
of maneuvering the boat off the sandbar.
In an ironic twist to
the end of my time as a boat person, the pontoon boat stopped running
when Highway 12 opened, so I made my last trip on the afternoon of Nov.
18 in Darryl Henrick’s small boat, just as I had made my first in
Charlie Barnett’s small boat.
Even though it had been a
tough two months, I had a tear in my eye as we motored into Frisco Cove
for the last time and saw that the temporary ferry "landing" was being
As I was making my last ferry trip, a newly paved
highway was reopening. On the morning of Nov. 19, I drove to work
for the first time in more than two months, as did all the other boat
people. I am sure that they were as happy as I was that our
boating days were over. However, I’m sure that all of us will
never forget our adventures on the high seas and all of the nice people
(This article was first published in the December 2003 issue of The Island Breeze.)